Alpha in 2020
In 2019, we had a weird year. Even though it ended well. In 2020 everything will be about continuing with live streams. At the beginning of the year we didn’t know anything about what was coming (yes, that Corona…lockdown, etc…). If we had known that, we might not have made the investments that have been made now. Think of two Rode TF-5 microphones, Grace M108 microphone amplifier, a very fast / expensive streaming server with very expensive capture cards … et cetera. Anyway, nobody’s got a crystal ball. Fact is: we can now stream live at a very high level. And the tests are fun to do.
The experience at the office is quite bizarre honestly. If we turn on a piece of music in the listening room and – in the server room – we take a pair of headphones, connceted to the Grace mic-amp, it’s as if we are sitting on the couch. That also counts for live music. It’s incredibly accurate. We can now also ‘sample’: make recordings of the test-equipment. We’ve recently started to do that: check our YouTube channel for examples.
For the best results, we advise you to use a good pair of headphones – to avoid double acoustics.
Of course, we continue to improve the live stream set-up. The last steps we made, are the Grace M108 microphone amplifier, Benchmark AD converter and an 8-core Xeon server for processing the stream (along with a good graphics card). Cables are Grimm TPR and mid-end Sommer-cable. It’s bizarre how much that matters. In fact, all the rules that apply on the playback side also apply at the recording side!
Apart from the Live Stream set-up, we made the next step in measuring headphones. We found Minidsp’s EARS through some links on the internet. A super down to earth measurement system for headphones. The nice thing is: we can now also measure in-ear. The results are almost the same as our older setup with the exception that we have correction files. These compensation curves show how you as a user experience the headphones. And that’s something we couldn’t do yet. Very nice.
If we can live test speakers and amplifiers with sound, then we should be able to do the same with headphones, right? Well… that’s a lot more complicated. However, the tests with Harriëtte in ‘stereo’ turned out to be very promising. With some adjustments, isolation and felt we have come a long way. Fortunately the DPA microphones are quite transparent and neutral! This was also a very nice experiment!
An exciting step for Alpha is that in February 2020 we launched our English-language website: alpha-audio.net. The competition in English is fierce, so we’re going to see how it develops. We still haven’t had enough time and haven’t collected enough data to say anything meaningful about it. We hope we can get a spot.
Now we’re doing more in English on Youtube. However, we are going to upload most things in both Dutch and English. Live Stream multitests we will do in English because of the fact that Youtube is English orientated, but we will do the Q and A’s in Dutch. Partly because most questions just come from the Netherlands. But English speaking viewers are of course more than welcome.
Extension of reference equipment
The latest news of 2019 is that we are busy expanding our reference equipment. Both at the office – especially new speakers to combine more with amps – and at authors’ homes. Yung Lie, for example, now has a considerable range of headphones and headphone amplifiers. Author Geoffrey Vanhouwaert – active since 2018 – now has an impressive amount of mid-range amplifiers and monitor speakers.
The reason is that we want to be able to combine better. After all, matching is everything with reviews. If we can make more combinations, we get a better idea of the device to be tested. Useful for us, the manufacturer and for you!