To Doug Schneider,

Hi there—I live on the west coast of Canada. As your website is Canadian-based, I am writing to ascertain the availability of Apple Music’s lossless and HD content in Canada. I have been trying to access it for most of the month of June, and so far have come up with nothing. So, do you folks know if Apple Music lossless is available in Canada? If not, why not, and when will it be launched?

Thom
Canada


Hello Thom,

Doug Schneider has forwarded your email asking about the availability of Apple Music’s lossless and high-resolution service in Canada. It has in fact been available in Canada since June 7. SoundStage! Simplifi will publish a feature on this subject, as well as Apple Music’s spatial audio offering, on July 1.

To get lossless and high-resolution audio from Apple Music, you have to update to the latest version of iOS, iPadOS, or macOS. On an iPhone or iPad, you also have to enable lossless and hi-rez playback in the Music menu of the Settings app. On a Mac, you have to enable lossless and hi-rez playback in the Preferences menu for macOS’s Music app. This is spelled out in an Apple support page on the subject.

As I outline in my upcoming feature, there are some serious limitations that affect the ability to play hi-rez music from Apple Music through external components. If you want to write back and describe your system, and how you hope to play lossless and hi-rez content from Apple Music, I’d be happy to give whatever guidance I can.

Best regards,
Gordon Brockhouse


Thank you, Gordon.

My intent is to connect my iPad Pro to my audio system: a McIntosh Laboratory C2500 preamplifier (with USB DAC), a PS Audio BHK Signature 250 amplifier, and Wilson Audio Specialties Sophia Series 3 speakers. I understand I will need a Lightning-to-USB dongle, and a USB cable between that and my preamp.

My confusion comes from the fact that when I go to the Music settings on my iPhone or iPad, I do not see the Audio Quality option. Would this be because I’m not currently an Apple Music subscriber?

Note: I also subscribe to Tidal HiFi, which I access through a dCS Network Bridge. I like the potential to access hi-rez files from Apple Music at a good price.

I look forward to reading your upcoming piece on this subject.

Regards,
Thom


Hi Thom,

I strongly suspect you’re right about iOS not displaying the lossless and hi-rez options in Settings until you subscribe to Apple Music. But the setup you describe—a USB connection between your iPad Pro and McIntosh C2500 (via a Lightning-to-USB adapter)—should work.

You mention price as a factor, and the fact that Apple Music costs half as much as Tidal HiFi is certainly compelling. But I think there are other things to consider. For instance, Tidal’s Masters content uses MQA decoding, while Apple Music uses ALAC, a true lossless format. I haven’t poked around in Apple Music enough to get an idea of how much hi-rez content they have, compared to Tidal HiFi, but for me, the biggest issue is the user interface (UI). So far, I like Tidal’s UI a little better, Spotify’s even more, and Qobuz’s a whole lot better. (Too bad Qobuz isn’t available in Canada yet.) Of course, UI is an area where personal preferences vary a lot.

All the best,
Gordon Brockhouse

Hi Gordon,

I hope this email finds you both well and staying healthy. I read your “tweaks” article today (which was great, by the way, as it reveals some opportunities to fine-tune an integrated system), and it reminded me that I’ve been meaning to ask you something.

After our e-mail exchange last year, I came across an exceptional buy for an open-box set of Elac Navis ARF-51s (in the Gloss Ebony Emara finish). I hadn’t been able to consider them before, given my budget, but they are now in my house! Your review, which is one of just two I’ve found out there on the web, and your comments on these speakers are much appreciated. I subsequently purchased NAD’s C 658 BluOS streaming DAC.

Now that I’ve had the Elacs and the C 658 for several months, I’ve noticed the treble performance seems to be a bit “soft” in terms of detail. Has this been your experience? I remember you mentioning some sibilance in your original review and a follow-up reader letter, which leads me to believe you have not. Perhaps my experience is attributable to the Elacs’ soft-dome tweeters vs. the aluminum domes on my previous speakers (bookshelf Totem Acoustics)—I think the Totems are known for being lively. Your thoughts are appreciated when you have a spare moment to respond. Keep those Simplifi! articles coming!

Jack
United States


Hi Jack,

I wouldn’t call the ARF-51s “soft,” though they’re definitely not as lively as any Totem speaker I’ve heard. Only on a few recordings do I hear that sibilance I referred to in my original review. I just looked at the Dirac curves for my NAD C 658 and the Elacs, and the response starts falling off modestly at about 5kHz. I continue to enjoy this system a lot, and have felt no need to change anything (other than adding the tweaks I discussed in the article you mentioned).

I have a couple of suggestions and a couple of questions.

Have you tried boosting the highs and/or mids with the rear-panel EQ controls on your Elacs? A +1dB lift to the highs, and maybe the mids as well, may deliver the liveliness you’re missing.

Are you using Dirac Live room correction on your C 658? (I hope you are.) If so, are you using the standard limited-spectrum version (correction to 500Hz) provided with the C 658, or have you upgraded to the full version? I’m using the full version, and find it worthwhile. With NAD’s standard target curve in the full version, HF response tilts slightly downward. You may find it worthwhile experimenting with the target curve. You can perform one set of measurements (or use measurements you’ve already performed and saved), and then drag points in the target curve (bold yellow line) in the Dirac app to produce flat HF response (or any other target curve you want to try) and then save the results into a different Dirac slot on your C 658, and compare the results in the Player section of the BluOS app’s Audio menu.

Dennis Burger recently wrote an interesting article on SoundStage! Access about room correction, which you may find useful. Dennis prefers not to do full-spectrum correction. On the other hand, other SoundStage! writers (Diego Estan, Wes Marshall) favor full-spectrum correction. I’ve experimented with both approaches. I use full-spectrum correction most of the time, but after reading Dennis’s article, I tried setting the target curve in Dirac to limit correction to frequencies of 800Hz and below. The sound was livelier with that setting, but smoother and more inviting with full-spectrum correction. I personally prefer full-spectrum correction, but I certainly see Dennis’s reasoning, and understand why many listeners would like his approach.

Hope this helps. If you try any of these suggestions, please write back and tell me how they worked for you.

All the best,
Gordon Brockhouse


Hi Gordon,

Thanks for taking time to reply so thoroughly to my question. I appreciate your insights; perhaps the one that will be most valuable is running Dirac Live—I completely forgot that I hadn’t tried it (I’ve been a little busy here evidently!). I’ll pop for the optional full-range solution to receive the optimal benefit in the upper frequency ranges. To answer one of your other questions: yes, I have the treble on the Elacs set at +1, but have kept the midrange at 0.

I played around with things the other day after reading your reply and here is the most interesting new observation: the perception of soft treble disappears when I crank the system up! I probably mischaracterized the sound as “soft in terms of detail” in my earlier message, as all of the detail is present. Elements such as hi-hat and ride cymbals are there and easy to recognize at higher volumes. They are just less prominent at lower volumes.

After I thought about it, perhaps the Totem Dreamcatchers I was using for years prior are overly lively. The Elacs are in a different league when it comes to oomph across the music scale and are likely much better balanced. I’ll know more when I run Dirac Live. Or I just need to turn it up when listening!

I enjoyed your tweaks article (and all of the Simplifi content). After setting up Dirac Live room correction, I may try iFi Audio’s AC iPurifier on my NAD C 658 to see if there is any noticeable benefit. I like to DIY on the cable side (having constructed a pair of XLR cables using some well-reviewed Mogami cable to connect the NAD with the Elacs). I may eventually try the same with the power cables for the speakers if I get motivated.

Jack
United States

Hi Gordon,

I just read your review of Elac’s Navis ARB-51 active speakers on Simplifi. Thanks for your great insights on these speakers. I am wondering if you think these speakers would be a good option for use in the nearfield at my desk, about 12″ from a wall? My usage is about 70% nearfield in the evening when I want to play at lower volumes, and then playing out into a large room from time to time.

Thanks in advance if you are able to provide any further insights!

Nathan
Canada


Hi Nathan,

Thanks for your letter. I don’t have a definitive answer to your question, as I have never used the Navis ARB-51s for nearfield listening. But I have used them at close-to-nearfield distances, as documented in my reviews of the HEDD Type 07 and Focal Shape 65 analog studio monitors. For both those reviews, I did some of my listening in my basement family room. The speakers were 4′ apart and 5′ from my listening chair. And as you envision for your nearfield application, the speakers were 12″ from the wall behind them. All three speakers sounded wonderful. You can read how the Elac, Focal, and HEDD speakers compared to each other in those two reviews.

My question to you is this: how close will you be seated to the speakers? The HEDD and Focal speakers are designed specifically for nearfield listening, though as my reviews stated, they work really well for listening at regular stereo distances as well. The Elacs aren’t designed as nearfield monitors, but in my experience, they sound wonderful in close-to-nearfield conditions. If you’re going to be sitting very close to the speakers, you might want to consider a speaker specifically designed for nearfield monitoring. But if you're listening from 4′ or more, any of these speakers should work really well.

Thanks again for writing, and I hope this helps. Please write back and let me know which choice you make, and how it works out for you.

Best regards,
Gordon Brockhouse


Hi Gordon,

Thank you so much for the reply and linking those reviews. I had heard about the Focals, but not the HEDDs, so I will read through both reviews. I did decide, kinda spur-of-the-moment, to buy some used Elac Carina [bookshelf] speakers, as I got a great price on them, and I still have my amp. But I am still intrigued about active speakers.

When I am at my desk in the evening I normally sit about 3′ away and listen at quiet levels, or use headphones. If I have some time to myself in the daytime, I will play louder at the same place, but I also move around the open living area in my house where my desk is. It’s about 12′ × 30′, so I like to be able to listen loudly while working out or cooking, etc. I am playing with placement a bit, but the speakers won’t be much more than 12″ from the back wall. I previously had some MartinLogan Motion speakers and they seemed fine, but I wanted a speaker with less depth so I could play with placement a bit.

Nate
Canada

Hi Gordon,

Thank you for your review of the Marantz SACD 30n SACD/CD player and streaming DAC-preamp. I have one question: After the player has been set up on my Wi-Fi network using the HEOS iPhone app, am I able to stream via Apple AirPlay 2 to the SACD 30n without using the HEOS app? In other words, if I’m using iTunes on my MacBook Pro, can I select the SACD 30n in the AirPlay dropdown menu, and not have to fiddle with the HEOS app?

Sincerely,
Brian Woodahl
United States


Hi Brian,

Thanks for your inquiry. Yes, you can indeed stream directly to the SACD 30n via AirPlay 2 from your MacBook Pro, any iOS device, or an iTunes library on a PC, without having to use HEOS. I should have stated this more explicitly in my review, so your letter has given me an opportunity to clarify this point.

I don’t know if this matters to you, but AirPlay sends everything at 16-bit/44.1kHz resolution. If you’re playing high-rez files from your MacBook, they’ll be resampled to 16/44.1 when you stream them via AirPlay.

One other note: You don’t need the HEOS app to get the SACD 30n on your Wi-Fi network. You can do this from the Wi-Fi Settings menu on your iPhone, as I explained in my review.

Kindest regards,
Gordon Brockhouse

Dear Mr. Brockhouse,

Thank you very much for your thorough review of the Bryston BDA-3.14 streaming DAC-preamp. Unlike other reviewers, you mentioned that its HDMI circuitry is based on the HDMI 1.4 standard. Bryston’s current specs for the BDA-3.14 state that its HDMI ports are still based on HDMI 1.4.

In your review, you said that Bryston plans to upgrade the BDA-3.14’s HDMI ports, so that they will pass through HDR video and support HDMI ARC/eARC. I am thinking of buying this product, but want the more advanced HDMI connectivity. Do you have any more information about Bryston’s plans?

Thanks in advance for your help.

Kind regards,
Peter Eder
Germany


Hello Peter,

I couldn’t answer your question about when Bryston plans to upgrade the HDMI board in the BDA-3.14, so I asked my contacts at the company to provide the information you need. Gary Dayton, VP Sales at Bryston, replied: “We will most likely update the unit to include HDMI 2.0a on all four ports and include ARC on the output. It's not clear yet when that will happen since we’re still trying to understand how much software development is required to enable that on an HDMI board upgrade coming later this year.”

Thanks for writing.
Kindest regards,
Gordon Brockhouse


Hello Gordon,

I want to thank you and Gary Dayton of Bryston for your quick reply to my question about HDMI updates to the Bryston BDA-3.14. The Bryston BDA-3.14 would match the rest of my system very well, and I will follow the development of this feature closely. If this update could be realized sometime this year I would be very happy.

Best regards,
Peter Eder
Germany

Hi Gordon,

What a great review of iFi Audio’s Neo iDSD DAC-preamp-headphone amp! I’m currently thinking about adding a DAC to my Bluesound Node 2i. I’m currently using the Node 2i’s internal DAC, and wondering if the Neo iDSD would be a significant upgrade. The rest of my system comprises an Audia Flight Three S integrated amplifier, Monitor Audio Gold 100 speakers, XLO Reference speaker cables, AudioQuest power cords, and a PS Audio power conditioner. I’d really like to know how far the sound quality would jump if I purchased this DAC.

Thank you for your great reviews, and keep up the great work.

Gerald Greene
Canada


Hi Gerald,

Thanks for writing, and thanks for your kind words. That sounds like a really nice system you have. The short answer to your question is yes, I think the Neo iDSD would be an upgrade over the built-in DAC of the Bluesound Node 2i. I’ve never compared the two, but based on my comparisons of the Neo iDSD with the NAD C 658 streaming DAC-preamp (which I use in my current system), and the C 658 with the Bluesound Node 2i (which I previously owned), I think that adding the Neo iDSD would deliver a ballsier, more dynamic sound, as well as a quieter background and improved microdetail. Of course, I can’t be certain about this, never having directly conducted the comparison myself.

Best regards,
Gordon Brockhouse