* Posts by Johan Vavare

14 posts • joined 24 Jul 2008

MIDI: 30 years old... almost

Johan Vavare

@David Given - Re: Midi is an optical connection

Nowadays when MIDI messages are transported via USB those MIDI delays are all gone.

However, I have to say I kinda liked them. When running a whole arrangement - drums, bass line and a number of samplers and synths from, say, the Creator sequencer on an Atari ST. which was the standard setup in the late 1980s, it was indeed important to think about what tracks to put on top of the list, as they were played "first" with high priority. Drums at the top, slow attack things like strings at the bottom, and the bass in between.

It was an artifact, and it could add a certain groove to songs. Just like the electric guitar distorsion initially was an unwanted side effect that became musically valuable, I think the MIDI delays and its sometimes chunky resolution are somewhat similar, albeit less acknowledged.

Johan Vavare

Re: Midi is an optical connection

Having met in person and talked to several of the people involved in designing the initial MIDI protocol I can confirm your statement in the last paragraph.

One main requirement of the protocol was that it should be really cheap and simple to fit a MIDI interface on to a synthesizer. That's why they chose the DIN connectors, and that's why they intentionally made both hardware and software simple to implement.

Before MIDI the electronic music world was bitterly divided between different electric communication standards, such as Moog's "Volt-per-Octave" CV signals and ground-loop-closing S-trig envelope triggers versus Yamaha/Korg/'s "Volt-per-Hertz" CV signals and +5V Gate triggers. MIDI was built to overcome that, by allowing just any cheap keyboard and any manufacturer to adhere to the same standard without needing to raise the price - or the complexity - of their products. It was this clever strategy that is the real reason MIDI took over the musical world, in spite of its shortcomings.

Ten technology FAILS

Johan Vavare
Paris Hilton

Re: Dean Kamen's 'IT'

And it ultimately killed him. All that's left behind are gangs of Star-Wars-looking security guards at airports driving their Segways whilst on their walkie-talkies. At least in Schiphol anyway.

Paris because she also likes to hold a pole with two round things at its base.

Johan Vavare
Paris Hilton

Before Second Life - Active Worlds

I remember what I think was one of the earliest attempts at creating virtusl worlds online, in 1996. It was called Active Worlds, and I got a job to setup a licenced server running a virtual world for the Swedish Federation of Worker's Unions ( "L.O." in swedish ) The idea was to give a free account to each of the members - about a million of them nationwide..

Well.. ..I built the initial world, and there were like three people in there or so,. not a million. One of them was really skilled in building and very active. When I felt it was time to bow out I asked him ( we had daily chats in there for several months ) if he wanted to take over the role of the admin. He dropped dead silent for a minute, then he typed "I have to ask mummy first"... ...it turned out he was 10 years old! I had been there with him for months assuming he was a Union member in his 20's or so.

After that, I never used Active Worlds, but I know they had an online community giong on. Maybe they eventually transformed into Second Life ? If anybody else remember them let me know,

Technology fail it was. Indeed,

Paris icon because I felt so stupid, just like she must feel everyday.

Mobile money for the masses: Do the numbers add up?

Johan Vavare
Thumb Up

More on this..

Nice article. :)

I find the development of these 'mobile economies' very interesting, indeed. It is really one of all the ongoing transformations of society that eventually will have a huge impact on the way people live in the next decades, and it is probably also going to shift some massive financial power from today's institutions to emerging new players, whoever those may be.

There's a good talk about this on the TED Conference website by Jan Chipchase, who is a Nokia researcher, if anyone wants to hear more about how these things actually works out there in the 'wild'. You can find it here: http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jan_chipchase_on_our_mobile_phones.html

Taliban man loves his iPhone

Johan Vavare


iSlam ?

Microsoft smooths Windows 7 snafu

Johan Vavare

only IE7, and now blocked from Thailand !

To others above, yes, you can only download in IE. But that's not very surprising.

You can only get your XP updates in IE as well.

What's more of a surprise to me is that - after verifying, switching to IE and verifying again,

i press 'Download now' and get this:

- - -


The web site you are accessing has been blocked by the requested of The Communication Authority of Thailand."


And, in Thai, an obviously (in this case) misplaced comment that the content is illegal, obscene or otherwise inappropriate... :)

Well, I guess they just don't want to give the bandwidth for it.

Did you say 16 GB. ? Then imagine how many surfers here (in the dreamland of pirated software) who wants to download this beta right away. Probably more than the CAT think they can manage on their overseas connections...

But, I kinda like that Microsoft gets blocked for 'inappropriate content' - hehe

Cheers :)

Jaw droppers of 2008 - what they'd rather you forgot

Johan Vavare

AMFM and Turing tests

I think the posts by AMFM could be used as a kind of 'inverted Turing test':

- if you actually understand them you are probably a computer..

(like Gary Sinise's character in the movie 'Impostor' - an android who thinks he's human until he explodes in the end..)

Merry XMAS EL REG - you make my life a bit brighter every day.

Keep up the great work!

Merry XMAS AMFM! To me, you are definitely a part of El Reg, [ well.. sort of.. ;]

- seeing/reading your posts regularly gives me a certain feeling of safety in this dynamically changing world..

Cheers :)

Meat Loaf gets Q gong

Johan Vavare
Thumb Up

am I the walrus ?

I am sooo tired and all worked out, I've been up for some 29 hours now trying to fix

a broken server from hell.. ..I jump into a quick check on El Reg just to stay awake,

and there it is: "capering about like Mick Jagger inside a walrus"

Now, thinking about Mick Jagger jumping into a gutted walrus corpse to impersonate

Meat Loaf will not only serve to keep me awake for another hour, but it is also adding a well-needed smile to my wrinkled face.

Thanks Sarah for that one! :)

Apple is Fisher-Price of sound quality, says Neil Young

Johan Vavare
IT Angle

Back to the future

As long as compressed audio is used for direct listening ( without processing ) and there are alternative high-quality formats available, I think this discussion is more of a 'style debate'. However, I read lots of articles/reports talking about the future of music sales as being COMPETELY BASED ON DOWNLOADS. The day when you have to download a free-but-advertisement-financed stream as the ONLY format available for a new album/song the compression formats will actually really start to matter. Let's hope that there will be some remnants left of the culture that actually led to the development of audio recordings, compression, etc.

When the CD format was designed by Philips, they consulted many classical music experts, like Herbert von Karajan etc. to make sure the format was good anough to carry all music styles. Will that happen with online streaming formats, or will they be chosen only to fit +-3dB dynamic commercial mainstream music ?

Worth thinking about, really....

IT?, because this is a job for the IT community..

( Sorry for talking too much, but this is interesting )

Johan Vavare
Paris Hilton

MP3 information


I have to say I really agree with the points you are making. If you read my post above I'm sure you will notice that.

However, when you say: "it's those frequencies which you can't hear which give the space between the band members, and the ambience of the studio etc,"

it's actually a bit screwed up.. it not FREQUENCIES it is TIME DOMAIN artifacts that kills the acoustics, combined with a 2xsingle-channel analysis rather than a stereo image analysis during encoding that does that. There are no 'frequencies you can't hear' - except above/below your hearing range.. but there are acoustics/ambience such as early reflections ( echoes in the <30ms range ) and late reflections ( >30ms ) that gives the space between the band members. And, yes, audio data compression has a tendency to destroy that information.

Another important point about MP3 quality;

The MP3 protocol does NOT specify the encoding method, only the DECODING method. Since it's all about psycho-acoustics and predictions of a listener might or might not hear, the encoding algorithm has a big significance in the resulting quality. And, there are many different encoding algorithms out there - all encoding to MP3. Thus, only focusing on bitrates might be slightly misleading.

I am not sure, but I think AAC was developed by Dolby, and that the encoding algorithm is specified in the format. That would make it at least a bit more reliable than MP3, but not necessary better..

Paris, because she sure shouldn't be compressed.... :)

Johan Vavare
Paris Hilton

@Tam Lin

You have a point about the iPod docking stations, and as Apple has a very high reputation on design, I guess most people assumes that it's valid for sound quality, too...

Hmmm, in all honesty, I have found many comments being quite 'right' here throughout the years.. but thanks anyway :)

Paris, cos she wont know the difference anyway..

Johan Vavare

Some points lost in the general ranting..

OK, I am an audio engineer since 25 years. I know I might listen a bit 'different' to music and sound quality than the avareage iPod user, but I think Neil has some points in what he is trying to convey, albeit he both simplifies and exaggerates..

My five cents as follows:

1) Dynamic compression is NOT a part of audio data compression algoritms like AAC, MP3 and the like. I agree, El Reg should consider editing that, as it is misleading in a discussion on compressed audio quality.

2) There IS a quite easy method to clearly hear the effects of MP3 [ and AAC ] encoding of stereo material - as the encoding/compression process does not work with balanced stereo images but rather on a one-channel-at-the-timel basis. Since a lot of the spatial information is contained in the acoustics/revebation that tails the direct sound, and this information is processed by our brains based on the sum of the input to both ears AND most of this information is quite low in sound level, this stereo imaging is often destroyed/damaged by compression algoritms. To hear the effect without any double blind test ( and prove it, yes! ) you only need to invert the phase on one channel and mix the result to a mono signal, phasing out the main part of the audio information. You will be amazed to hear how the compression is switching reverb and acoustics on and off very sharply as the signal fluctuates around the threshold set be the algoritm.

No, this is not snobbery - even though the explation might sound like that. Actually it affects any type of music that contains passages of reasonable silence, like classical music etc. Just because many people today are used to a constant-level wall of sound with one song mixed into the next to AVOID silence at any price, it doesn't really mean that that's the complete definition of music... there are still millions of people out there who enjoy other styles.. ..like in Asia, where I live...

3) The artifacts of audio compression does NOT really involve frequency loss, even though lower sample rates does. The biggest artifact of audio compression is in the TIME DOMAIN - it adds 'delays' and 'echoes' to the music. Thus the sizzly cymbals ( it's a phase phenomenon ) and the tinny hihats etc. The timing between low and high frequencies is affected, which can not be corrected once it happens. To be fair, digital EQs does the same thing - a low-quality real time digital EQ can make any lossless playback sound MP3-ish..

4) The main problem - that is not addressed in any of the comments above - is that compressed - and re-compressed - files are NOT EDITABLE. The artifacts of audio compression becomes very obvious once you want to edit/process an audio file - just like editing a low-quality jpeg in Photoshop. Now, lots of music today is based on sampled sounds - most taken from other music recordings - albeit a whole loop or just a snare drum. This recycles the 'blurry hihats'etc. back into what is supposed to be prime-quality material, and we are - as I understand Neil claims - slowly losing our references.

So, it's the culture of ignoring sound degradation ( and I don't mean using it as a creative tool ), ignoring dynamics, adapting all music to fit the maximized super-compressed style of background music ( so you can still hear it whithout really listening ) that I think he is actually reacting on. I am anyway.

Does really easy, streamlined, no-listening-effort-required, stereotypical music streams HAVE to be the de facto standard for all music ?

However, I can't really see why Apple should be more to blame than anyone else.

Could it be because they are supposed to represent ambitions of quality in user experience....

NZ judge saves girl from bloody silly name

Johan Vavare
Paris Hilton

Posthumous silly names.

What about a girl born 1379 named Diot Coke ?


Just plain luck that Oliver Cromwell was called Oliver Cromwell and not Toyota Hiace..

Paris, because it's another silly name...


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