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Happy October 2020

Love Themes III: Un-Wired for Sound!

Way back when, in the late 1970s, I studied to take the professional test to become a certified television-repair technician. The timing was terrible. The tube-tv was quickly being replaced by electronic components and by wave-form energy that got re-waved and re-routed from a defective circuit board to one capable of handling the load. Sony had already perfected the dubious art of eliminating TV repair altogether through the necessity to buy a new Sony!

As the result of some studied smarts and a lot of instinct, I was pretty good at trouble-shooting the video problems that had stumped a couple of certified electronics technicians. One afternoon, I strolled into the repair workroom of an independently-employed technician who had spent several days, and nights, with Miss Zenith. The screen of this solid-state wonder kept rolling, rolling, rolling — vertically. The repairman kept checking the vertical sync (synchronization) circuits with the oscilloscope.

The horizontal sync circuits are out of sync,” I quipped.

“Nah,” Mr. Elec-Tech said. “Can’t be.”

“The problem appears vertically on the screen,” I stated, “But it’s the horizontal circuits that need to be adjusted. That’s why the raster is out of whack.”

I was right, although I didn’t get any money for my correct diagnosis and treatment of Miss Zenith.

My love of electronics goes back to childhood, and it has never really gone away. The other day I was thinking of some of the information and diagrams that I’d studied intensely in the TV Troubleshooting and Repair Textbook. I read that book from cover-to-cover. The tome must have been 300 pages, filled with graphs and drawings and highly detailed text. With sadness, I had to return it to its owner, a newbie electronics technician for the Associated Press.

I used to be able to recite, from memory, that the naturally occurring unit of electric charge, or electron charge, is a physical constant of 1.6020176634 x 10 to the negative-19th coulomb. I especially liked the “x 10 to the -19th coulomb” part.

By the late 1970s, I’d learned a good deal about the technology of electronics that was being used, conceptually, in digital data transmission. I’d invested, monetarily and professionally, in the VDT, the Video Display Terminal, as it was called back then by one of its first patented inventors whom I met at a press party. He’d made a small bundle selling his design to U.S. News & World Report, a magazine where I worked in the Photo Department for about a year. A few years later, my stock investment in the VDT gave me back just a little more than my $1000 investment (which was not a small sum in those days). I dourly concluded that the development of digital hardware was sluggishly lagging behind an undervalued need for this new technology.

The Carter economy was partly to blame for the lack of capital investment in the world of computers, but the larger hindrance was the refusal of many major U.S. industries to move toward that digital future. The Media, in particular, where the medium is supposedly the message, was stuck back in the Cretaceous era of photocopies, hard copies (paper paper paper), manila folders, glossy printed photographs, and typewriters.

I’ve recently observed the same feet-in-a-bucket-of-concrete style of moving forward among certain sound specialists in the world of wireless radio. More specifically, I speak of the company behind the BOSE speaker, the device that spawned the BOSE wave radio.

One concept, electronically, that I’ve kept in mind to this very day is the idea of the Front Porch and the Back Porch for the precisely-timed insertion of visual and audio data into segments of the transmitted sine wave. This industry model of the sine wave was an enormous building block for analog broadcast transmission.

I’ve pondered whether the problem with the compression of binary units for the lousy Bluetooth sound quality is the absence of a Front Porch for the insertion of addition digital info, even though a Back Porch would be quite unnecessary. This vexing problem of fully sufficient, or even adequate, data-loading has not been resolved through the Bluetooth, but a different technology — the WiFi — appears ready to tackle the successful transmission of large amounts of digital information, both visual and audio.

The more binary digits of sound to be sent, the higher the quality of the sound. For those of us with ears that yearn to soar beyond MP3-level atrocities, we aspire to listen to the textured tones of all of a singer’s voice, and for the complete range of tonalities of any other instrument being played. Symphonic sound can then sound like the complete orchestra again!

I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a Bluetooth, but for some people, the obnoxious ear Thingee is just swell to stick on the ear and hear a cheap MP3 download. We Audiophiles do not deign to listen to audio files as if they are disposable commodities. I suppose garbage sound moves merrily through garbage transmission hardware, but those cheap components are not the wave of the future.

The exotic and mesmerizing melodic strains of the classical composer Alexander Borodin, as expressed in his String Quartet in D, aesthetically anticipated and inspired the creation of the musical Kismet. That Russian genius gave to us the rudimentary rhapsody for “Baubles, Bangles and Beads”. A true music lover does not treat instrumental gems and vocal diamonds like auditory trash!

As a long-time owner and admirer of the BOSE wave radio/CD player, I was horrified this past spring, of 2020, when the model — received as a Christmas present in 2016 — ate, completely gobbled up, my cherished 2-CD set. (Chance, my hound, is actually the more enamoured of the soothing tonalities of “The Most Romantic Classical Music in the Universe.”)

Dear Husband felt a bit sick about it. He promptly bought the replacements discs, and then he put together a speaker-component/CD player configuration that plugged into the BOSE.

“I thought the idea was to get away from components,” was my comment to Dear Husband.

Yes, it was.

Dear Hubby then did some research into the newest listening audio technology; and it seems that many many customers have experienced the auditory trauma of BOSE making lunch and dinner, a steady diet, of their most precious CDs. Those CD-buyers are not yielding to the pressure to purchase MP3 downloads. Once an audio snob, always an audio snob.

Our first BOSE, which we still own, is a top-loading CD model, purchased in 1999. It lasted almost 20 years before the CD player got skippy and patchy; the device is now used as a radio receiver. Our 2nd BOSE model endured less than 3 years, mostly because the CD-playing mechanism is front-loading, and the mechanical quality is awful. It’s cheaply abysmal.

For those of us still clinging to our guns, religion, and CDs — the BOSE of the future, or even of the here-and-now, does not bode well for a music-CD-loving market. The BOSE does not include a broadcasting capability for the listening medium of the CD. The company employs rinky-dink, horribly useless software that attempts to do the impossible with its patented, time-tested old technology.

Whoever is advising the Suits at BOSE does not believe the Sound CD is here to stay. The Company believes the MP3 is the wave of now. There are, subsequently, hordes of people furiously waving goodbye to BOSE. The parting is not amicable.

Basically, that beloved sound system is now an overpriced clock-radio with a sound quality that diminishes daily, due to cost-cutting measures that rudely cut the ear off of the customer, at least the highly tuned ears of a connoisseur customer.

It’s a sad ending to a business success story, one that did indeed revolutionize the world of radio. The Bose sound system brought a marvelously superior sound in a small package. That wonder box subsequently got paired with the CD player, an innovation that BOSE has now deemed passé. (I did find the symphonic and instrumental modulations to be of inferior quality from the BOSE; its strong selling point was vocal fidelity.)

There are large numbers of irate consumers who (unbelievably to me) bought their 3rd, and 4th, BOSE Wave Radio, along with the peripheral devices — the Smart Speakers and the Soap-Dish-Black Box, expecting an integrated home-audio system. They soon discovered that this once-revolutionary Wave Radio is a dumb device with clunky wi-fi software.

Those customers purchased a technology that does not exist!

The most vital function, the isolated CD player, is integrated into a component that is NOT inter-active with any other component parts. The Sound-Touch is not worth much as an Internet radio. The BOSE apps are worthless. Its Sound-Touch isn’t touching — or connecting with — anything! The BOSE company has failed to invest in the digital aspects of their products because those products are essentially a mechanical-hardware-based technology. This once-innovative company has not invested in the technology of any connectivity to the sound-of-music sources.

Dumb does not begin to describe the backward thinking, and lack of thinking, of those audio-ologists — the sellers, not the buyers. The BOSE experts live in a bubble, or a cloud, and the rest of us are done trying to pop the bubble or fly above that cloud. Those marketing geniuses might believe that if they insist, for a long enough time, that something impossible will come true, then that market demand of an inter-active sound system will go away.

“Make the World Go Away,” by Eddy Arnold, can be their advertising theme song!

Mr. Bose, may he rest in peace, would never have heard of the current and adamant refusal of the engineers of his company to flow with the time. Instead, those experts fake it, and peddle wanna-be WiFi audio technology to unsuspecting buyers. They are currently ruining their reputation by pretending to be something they are not, and claiming to do something they cannot do.

The market demand for hard copies is increasing, and not going away. Hard copies — of anything — have become the only trusted source of info, music, entertainment, history, literature, film, tv shows.

A company named Denon, among others, has taken the concept of the Home Theatre and extended it to the Home-Stereo Audience through a WiFi Receiver. This type of in-home broadcasting is at least the Front Porch of the Front and Back Porches of tv-transmission of yesteryear. A CD player by Denon, and bookshelf speakers from Crutchfield, form the old-school answer to the new-age dilemma for aficionados of how to listen to digitized tunes in stereo. Such cutting-edge aesthetic parts and pieces are paving the way to . . . how melodic strains and refrains used to sound!

For true lovers of music, real music — aspiring to the warm dulcet tones of the good old vinyl — is the wave of the future. The BOSE Wave will never reach that shore. As radio technology, it’s stranded itself on a beach of its own making. This American company, born of the research technology at MIT, seems unable to leave its ivory tower as an expensive wireless clock radio that hawks non-functioning wireless connectivity.

The sound-sine wave of the future is shifting, moving toward that lovely shore of wireless sounds that sound wired. That audiophile dog is nipping at the feet of the Bluetooth tenderfoot, and at the toothless dog of audio archives, resting on past fame and name. The App is the Audio Front Porch. Since there is no need for digital units transmitted AFTER the music is played, there is no need for a Back Porch.

I’ve even been able to locate an Internet provider that offers a Front Porch. Rural Internet HQ operates out of Kentucky, USA, for customers, like me, thriving in the rural middle-of-nowhere in California. There is also Middle-of-Nowhere Internet in Alabama, but that guy is a definite self-starter. He’s the one-man-entrepreneur that has been obliterated in California through the enterprise-killing regulations and anti-business laws of the Golden State. Those Southern locales are really racking up customers looking to buy those unlimited, dedicated data bundles.

There are scads of innovative digital-solutions providers whose wireless systems are selling like hotcakes to the dudes and gals of the Western U.S.A. The Southerners are making a killing, fixing those unlimited Internet problems for the residents of California who do not live within the 5G Urban Utopia. And there are quite a few of us. Millions, in fact.

How green was my Silicon Valley! It’s a slag heap now.

These small business entreprises bulk-purchase unlimited AT&T cellular data for which the rural customer can contract on a monthly basis. The customer can also opt for an Industrial Data-Byte Plan which prioritizes his usage ahead of the Residential and Business customers. The wireless signal is amplified by a Super-Hot-Spot box router that inserts a “gain” on the feed to you, as well as filters out “static”. (If only we could obtain that feature in real life!) The problem of a weak signal is thereby solved for the Cowboy or Country Lady in the home-in-the-sticks. This enhanced data stream can also be used for music! The emphasis on sound quality is a real emphasis.

The sounds from my Front Porch are happy tunes, although I still like the symmetrical concept of a back porch, somewhere, to digitally insert the afterglow of a soft and low hum somewhere after the song has ended!

For the disappointed acoustic experts, wishing to bury their useless BOSE, there is no music to that wake. As one audiophile reviewer wrote online: “It too late for me, but if you’re reading this, then you still have a chance.”

Where there is music, there is hope! Go forth, in search of your own components to create that unwired-for-sound nirvana that soothes the ear!