Best sounding music albums

A Dutch hi-fi website recently posted the results of a survey find the best sounding music albums. I was surprised to find two albums I own in the top 30: Trentemøller – The last resort and Elbow – The seldom seen kid. I agree that these albums sound really terrific. Last year I already wrote something about the latter album and the fact that it had embraced the TurnMeUp initiative. It is really unfortunate that not more artists do this.

When I have some time, I need to listen to some of the other albums in that list. There will definitely be some more gems to discover!

Fight the loudness war: TurnMeUp

This week-end, I bought The Seldom Seen Kid, the latest album by Elbow. The album is already some time out, but I only started paying attention to it recently when hearing the song Weather To Fly on the radio. I had already heard The Bones Of You and One Day Like this before too.

The album is really awesome. Not only is the music superb, I was also pleasantly surprised to read this in the booklet:

Turn Me Up
To preserve the excitement, emotion and dynamics of the original performances this record is intentionally quieter than some. For full enjoyment simply Turn Me Up! (

The TurnMeUp initiative battles the notorious loudness war. In the majority of recent commercial compact discs, the dynamics of the sound (which was one of the huge advantages of compact discs when they were introduced) is completely ruined because the sound is remastered as loud as possible in order to try to stand out from other music. This is done by dynamic range processing, where the difference between the loudest part and the most silent part of a song is made smaller, this way destroying the dynamic range of the music.

This is the first album I know of which supports the TurnMeUp initiative. And the music sounds very nice indeed! Let’s hope more and more artists and producer will follow this example. Spread the word!

Two other albums I bought some time ago, are The Best Of – E Ritorno Da Te and Primavero in Anticipo by Laura Pausini. These were again not brand new albums. I knew a few songs of Laura Pausini from when she brought out here first songs which became popular hits here in Belgium in the first half of the nineties, but I rediscovered her music after some recent interviews with her in newspapers. A completely different music style than Elbow, but also great music. However, the difference in sound quality between these two albums is big: if I first listen to E Ritorno Da Te and afterwards to Primavera in Anticipo, I have to turn down the volume a lot. Primavera In Anticipo is clearly a lot louder and Laura Pausini’s voice is standing much less out of the music than in E Ritorno Da Te. It seems like the difference between those two albums is an unfortunate example of how the loudness war reduces sound quality…

New toys

Since Friday I have my new hifi system. The new components are:

  • Marantz PM8003 amplifier
  • Marantz ST7001 DAB tuner
  • Focal Chorus 816v speakers

For audio CDs I still use my old Panasonic DVD-RV32. Although this is probably not of the same class as the other components, I don’t hear anything wrong with it, so I don’t see any reason to replace it soon.

I am really amazed by the sound quality of this system. The sound is very detailed, with impressive treble and a very nice and not too overwhelming bass. It’s great to be able to enjoy the real sound quality of audio CDs now. Although DAB radio sounds clearly worse than audio CDs (not very surprising knowing that DAB radio is using 160 kbps MPEG 1 Layer 2 compression here), even with DAB I hear a more detailed sound than on my previous system.Hifi set

Focal Chorus 816v speaker

Music For Life

For the third year now, the radio station Studio Brussel is organizing an action to collect money for the Red Cross, this year for homeless mothers and children fleeing war. 3 DJs of the station, make live radio 24/24h for one week from a studio (called “Glass House”) which this year is in my home city, Ghent. Listeners pay to request songs, (youth) associations organize all kind of actions to collect money and bring in the money live on the radio, VIPs organize auctions of all kind of objects,… During that week the DJs don’t leave Glass House and don’t eat. They live on fruit and vegetable juices.

The action is very popular. Because the Glass House is in Ghent, I went there to take some pictures. The quality is not too great because of the bad lighting conditions, the glass, and the many people standing there. Not to mention that I’m just a basic amateur photographer with a very simple camera (Canon Ixus 800IS for those who want to know). Actually I felt a bit like watching the monkey cage in a zoo :-) There’s quite a great atmosphere though and the DJs are doing an amazing job.

The same action was held last week in Sweden too, and this week also in The Netherlands.

Watch and listen live on, till the evening (GMT+1) of 24 December.

Music For Life 2008 House in Ghent
Music For Life 2008 House in Ghent
DJ Tomas De Soete, painter Kamagurka, DJ Sophie Lemaire and DJ Siska Schoeters in the Music For Life house
DJ Tomas De Soete, painter Kamagurka, DJ Sofie Lemaire and DJ Siska Schoeters in the Music For Life house
Singer songwriter Selah Sue performing for Music For Life 2008
Singer songwriter Selah Sue performing for Music For Life 2008

By the way, this is my first post in WordPress, to which I migrated from Serendipity. There’s still some work left to do to make it look perfectly, but the basics should be fine now.

Various things

A bit of various things I quickly want to write something about:

Mandriva (1)

Mandriva decided to end the contracts of at least Adam Williamson, Mandriva’s community manager and Oden Eriksson, maintainer of the Apache, MySQL, PHP stack and other related packages. I’m disappointed to see that all the trouble Mandriva has gone through during the past years, still has not ended yet and that people who play such an important role for the distribution, have to leave the ship now. This has triggered a heavy reaction from the community now, with a public letter to the CEO being written, an online petition and people deciding not to spend money anymore to Mandriva, but instead spent it on other free software projects.

While I totally agree with the support for and the solidarity with the people who are victim of these cost cutting, and while I think that this definitely was not the smartest move from the management, I’m not sure these actions are really a good idea. I fear that it’s only a matter of time, until the big sites will start to pick up this story, resulting in yet more negative publicity for the distribution, which will definitely not help preventing this kind of trouble in the future. I can already imagine the style reactions this would provoke on Slashdot: “Mandriva is dead, I left them years ago for X”, “Does anybody still care about Mandriva?”, “Now competitor X can hire them!”,… Now of course, if the management had not decided to end the contracts of these people, this would never happen… Actually I was doubting for that reason if I really wanted to post this here on my blog, but on the other hand: this blog is not that popular anyway, so, it won’t make it worse than it already is :-)

I’m not too sure what to expect from Mandriva in the future. The lack of manpower has always been a problem, and this will only become worse now. Especially seeing that most Mandriva employees are currently working on OEM stuff, and almost the whole Cooker distribution is now maintained by the community. Even big updates like KDE 4.2 beta, 1.5 and others, are almost entirely being done by the community. While there is nothing wrong with a community based distribution (I’m thinking of Debian), together with those contract endings it gives me the feeling that the community is more and more seen as a cheap way of distribution development for the benefit of the company.

Mandriva (2)

Today a broken Evolution update was released as an official update for Mandriva 2009.0. It’s disappointing that there are not better QA procedures to prevent such a major breakage. Packages were just being uploaded to the updates repository, while these updated package did never get even the most basic testing. These kind of serious problems together with the many other annoying and sometimes major problems in 2009.0, make that I really cannot recommend this release for normal computer users. KDE 4 is too unstable and unfinished (even the 4.1.3 update does not fix that. The first time I started KDE after the update and clicked on the Mandriva menu button in the panel, plasma crashed…), even GNOME has annoying flaws (the gnome-screensaver-dialog hang when the screen is locked is a major annoyance for me, because I hit this problem numerous times a day), is still an RC version with known and fixed bugs,…

Hifi stuff

Speaking about music, it’s really time that I get some decent hi-fi gear, because my old stuff is actually crap and barely works anymore. I need a stereo amplifier, tuner and a pair of loudspeakers. I’m tempted by the Focal Chorus 816V speakers, which seem to get positive reviews, together with a Marantz amplifier (I have some experience with them, and like them a lot). I was thinking of a Marantz PM8003, but I don’t think it’s yet available here, and I really need something now. Either I could get the older PM7001 KI, or just the PM7003, about which I read some positive comments on a Dutch forum. The Denon PMA-1500AE could be yet another alternative. I’m not sure about this yet, so if anybody has any comments or experience, you’re welcome :-)

Last week I ordered the tuner already. It’s a Marantz ST7001 DAB tuner. While I’m quite skeptical about the quality of DAB (160 kbps MPEG 1 Layer 2 defnitely cannot be CD quality), and DAB reception quality could be difficult here (it’s very realistic that there will be drop-outs in the signal now and then, so maybe I’ll need to try with a better antenna), I can always fall back to plain FM with this system.

15 great music albums

About two weeks ago, I bought 15 music albums from an action by a Belgian newspaper. Those are 15 albums which take up an important place in the modern pop and rock history:

  • Oasis – (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
  • The Police – Regatta de Blanc
  • dEUS – In A Bar, Under The Sea
  • Radiohead – OK Computer
  • Coldplay – A Rush of Blood to the Head
  • Lou Reed – Transformer
  • Michael Jackson – Thriller
  • Bob Dylan – Highway 61 revisited
  • Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms
  • Lenny Kravitz – Mama Said
  • David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust
  • The Cure – Seventeen Seconds
  • Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
  • R.E.M. – Murmur
  • Eric Claptop – 461 Ocean Boulevard

I have been enjoying these albums a lot during the last two weeks. It’s difficult to choose which ones I like best. But if I really try: Oasis, Radiohead, Coldplay, Dire Straits, Lenny Kravitz. It is such a shame I did not had any of those great albums before!