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Tech: How audio has improved

Dave the Gnome 11 Feb 18 - 08:25 AM
G-Force 11 Feb 18 - 09:36 AM
michaelr 11 Feb 18 - 01:02 PM
GUEST,Rigby 11 Feb 18 - 01:10 PM
Acme 11 Feb 18 - 01:47 PM
GUEST 11 Feb 18 - 02:42 PM
Acme 11 Feb 18 - 02:53 PM
robomatic 11 Feb 18 - 03:44 PM
Bonzo3legs 11 Feb 18 - 04:16 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 11 Feb 18 - 08:04 PM
GUEST,Lou Judson 11 Feb 18 - 09:32 PM
Steve Shaw 11 Feb 18 - 09:45 PM
Joe Offer 12 Feb 18 - 02:41 AM
DaveRo 12 Feb 18 - 03:01 AM
BobL 12 Feb 18 - 03:43 AM
Steve Shaw 12 Feb 18 - 08:32 PM
robomatic 12 Feb 18 - 09:41 PM
Bonzo3legs 13 Feb 18 - 12:54 AM
DaveRo 13 Feb 18 - 01:53 AM
Bonzo3legs 13 Feb 18 - 03:17 AM
BobL 13 Feb 18 - 03:24 AM
Joe Offer 13 Feb 18 - 03:51 AM
Bonzo3legs 13 Feb 18 - 04:12 AM
Joe Offer 13 Feb 18 - 04:23 AM
Will Fly 13 Feb 18 - 04:37 AM
Bonzo3legs 13 Feb 18 - 08:50 AM
Dave the Gnome 13 Feb 18 - 09:03 AM
Steve Shaw 13 Feb 18 - 09:19 AM
Bonzo3legs 13 Feb 18 - 10:04 AM
Acme 13 Feb 18 - 10:17 AM
robomatic 14 Feb 18 - 11:30 PM
GUEST,Some bloke 15 Feb 18 - 12:29 PM
Acme 15 Feb 18 - 10:58 PM
Dave the Gnome 16 Feb 18 - 02:57 AM
GUEST,Some bloke 16 Feb 18 - 05:05 AM
Dave the Gnome 16 Feb 18 - 05:16 AM
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Subject: Tech: How audio has improved
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 11 Feb 18 - 08:25 AM

Sat here listening to James Taylor on an Amazon Echo. Brilliant sound. Got me thinking how much money and time I spent looking for good audio reproduction not that long ago. Say 30-odd years? What I can get now from the Echo or over my phone and with budget headphones knocks anything I had in the 80s into a cocked hat.

Or my memory at fault rather than old HiFi?

DtG


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: G-Force
Date: 11 Feb 18 - 09:36 AM

What's the stereo image like?


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: michaelr
Date: 11 Feb 18 - 01:02 PM

Any process that digitizes sound uses compression - various formats to varying degrees - which means you're not getting the full spectrum of the original audio information. In effect, part of the sound is cut away to create manageable file size.

The only thing that has "improved" is convenience.


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: GUEST,Rigby
Date: 11 Feb 18 - 01:10 PM

I once spent a very interesting evening at the home of someone who designs six-figure hi-fi systems. He reckons that the art of sound recording hasn't really advanced since the Fifties, except in terms of cost and convenience. And it was true that on his system, old records made with one microphone sounded amazingly realistic, as though you were in the room with the artist, while modern recordings mostly sounded like a mess.


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: Acme
Date: 11 Feb 18 - 01:47 PM

A conversation on public radio this weekend said the CD is dead, that stores like Best Buy will no longer sell them. And they speculated on how long it will take people to wax nostalgic about the sound of CDs compared to digital media. ;-)


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: GUEST
Date: 11 Feb 18 - 02:42 PM

wax nostalgic about the sound of CDs compared to digital media

Erm, CDs are digital media...


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: Acme
Date: 11 Feb 18 - 02:53 PM

They're a physical item on which the digital media is stored. But you understood that, you just want to complain. Streamed files are liable to be more compressed.


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: robomatic
Date: 11 Feb 18 - 03:44 PM

ANY system that records sound on some sort of media is imperfect. You can call it sound compression or something else, but I think it's true that the current era has enabled lower cost higher resolution sound capture (and video capture, for that matter) to be available to just about anyone who can rub two bitcoins together.

There is a recent mini-series out there, "American Epic" where modern musicians dress up in 1920s fashions and record onto a mechanical, gravity-driven recording system, the only working example in existence, where a hundred pound weight on a fabric strap provides all the energy for cutting the master. It gives everyone three minutes. As Los Lobos gets ready to play, the strap breaks and Jack White has to take the strap a couple of blocks down the street to get it re-sewn at an upholstery shop. (I believe Jack does it himself).

Every technology has its day. No one built pyramids the way the Egyptians did. In the 1950s and 60s Mercury records issued special recordings called "Living Presence" which represented the acme of then analog recording. I think they stand up well for most present day listeners. But I don't know who would record the same music the same way nowadays.

I grew up with certain record albums which developed skips or had musical errors voluble on 'em. To this day I expect to hear the scratches at certain places in pieces of music I've long loved.


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 11 Feb 18 - 04:16 PM

"Any process that digitizes sound uses compression - various formats to varying degrees - which means you're not getting the full spectrum of the original audio information. In effect, part of the sound is cut away to create manageable file size."

When the BBC broadcast in lossless flac, the audio is not compressed.


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 11 Feb 18 - 08:04 PM

You'd get much the same talk over tube-v-transistor, &c.

Listening or visual grading, most "experts" I know have never had their ears or eyes checked... ever.

Between Aerosmith and gunsmith, the weakest link is almost always the human.


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: GUEST,Lou Judson
Date: 11 Feb 18 - 09:32 PM

"Lossless flac" is indeed compressed, meaning smaller than PCM WAV files. May not be lossy, but it IS compressed.

And yes, CDs carry digital audio, but it is a specific format that needs to be converted to whatever format you use, be it WAV or mp3.

But saying CD audio need to be "digitized" is a effect of media and public stupidity, to us audio engineers. The great unwashed (meaning non-engineers) thinks making an mp3 is "digitizing" :-)


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 11 Feb 18 - 09:45 PM

Lossless and not-compressed aren't the same thing.

All CDs have dynamically-compressed sound. The skill of the engineer is to compress the sound to get the thing to play on typical home or car hifis without it sounding too unnatural but with everything between ppp and fff audible without having to turn the volume up too high.

What's more lamentable is the modern-day acceptance of low bitrate MP3 sound. It's alleged that the average person can't hear the difference between MP3 and CD-quality sound. Well it isn't hard. Great if you're in the car. Crap if you're listening privately at home to classical music. My hearing is gradually going so I suppose it won't matter to me after a few more years, but it matters now! Anyone who can't hear a difference between 128kbps MP3 and the original CD sound has cloth ears.


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: Joe Offer
Date: 12 Feb 18 - 02:41 AM

I bought my KLH speakers in 1970, the year I graduated from college. I used smaller, more modern speakers with a subwoofer for a while, but I went back to my KLH speakers recently - and they still sound terrific.

But I much prefer the sound of CDs and MP3s over tape and vinyl. The scratches and stretches and squawks were really annoying. And it's so nice to make a recording with a digital recorder.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: DaveRo
Date: 12 Feb 18 - 03:01 AM

There are two different sorts of compression being discussed here. Digital sound (PCM) is not inherently compressed*. Much digitally recorded sound may be compressed by sound engineers (dynamic range etc.) Digital sound files and streams may be compressed to make them smaller, which may (mp3) or may not (flac) be lossy - i.e. discard some of the sound.

*Assuming a theoretically 'ideal' microphone and electonics.


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: BobL
Date: 12 Feb 18 - 03:43 AM

I think two fundamental changes to audio have happened in my lifetime.

1. Almost anyone can afford studio-quality recording gear (though whether they have the expertise to get the best out of it is another matter).
2. Digital sound recordings can be copied repeatedly, without loss of quality. The revolution in home computers means it is being done without limit.


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 12 Feb 18 - 08:32 PM

We have two radio stations dedicated to classical music in the UK, BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM, a commercial station. I do listen to some Radio 3 broadcasts on catchup on the BBC Radio iPlayer app (am listening right now to Brahms 1 as I type this!). I understand that the bitrate online comes in at 320kbps in (obviously) a lossy format, but, late at night with me headphones on so as not to wake up Mrs Steve, I find the sound quality clear and spacious. I mostly listen to the stations on FM during the day. I understand that the broadcast quality varies on Radio 3 FM but I always find it to be excellent. Not always in the car, though, as the wide dynamic range sometimes can't cope with tyre noise and I'm forever turning the vol up and down. On the other hand, the sound quality on Classic FM is ruinous. There's hardly any dynamic range at all and a single flute can sound louder than the rest of the orchestra and there's no sense of placement of instruments or sections of the orchestra. The station appears to use a very crude form of compression. It can be OK in the car but it's murder for listening to their Full Works evening concerts. I'd rather not bother, unless I'm driving.

I agree about the irritating clicks and swishes on vinyl. Not to speak of the "wow" if your turntable was not running at rock-steady speed. Cassettes were just downright bad technology, what with wow and flutter a constant presence and hiss that you could reduce significantly only by screwing up the sound. I'm a bit of a CD fan!


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Subject: ADD: Song of Reproduction (Flanders & Swann)
From: robomatic
Date: 12 Feb 18 - 09:41 PM

SONG OF REPRODUCTION
(Flanders & Swann)

I had a little gramaphone
I'd wind it round and round
And with a sharpish needle
It made a cheerful sound
And then they amplified it
It was much louder then
And used sharpened fibre needles
to make it soft again

Today for reproduction
I'm as eager as can be
Count me among the faithful fans
of high-fi-de-li-ty
High fidelity
Hi-fi's the thing for me
with an LP disc and an FM set
and a corner reflex cabinet
High frequency range
Complete with autochange
All the highest notes
Like a sharp or flat
The ear can't hear as high as that
Still I ought to please any passing bat
With my high fidelity

[Spoken part]
Who made this circuit up for you anyway?
You bought it in a shop?!
Ooh what a horrible shoddy job they fobbed you off with
Surprised they let you have it in this room anyway
the acoustics are all wrong
If you raise the ceiling four feet
Put the fireplace from that wall to that wall
You'll still only get the sterophonic effect if you sit at the bottom of that cupboard
I see you've got your negative feedback coupled in with you push-pull input/output
Take that across through ya red-in pick-up to ya tweeter
If you're modding more than 8
You're gonna get 'wow' on ya top
Try to bring that down through your preamp rumble filter through ya woofer
What'll ya get?
Flutter on ya bottom!


High fidelity
FFRR for me
I've an opera here that you shan't escape
on miles and miles of recording tape
High decibel gain
Is easy to obtain
With the tone control at a single touch
'Bel Canto' sounds like 'Double Dutch'
Then I never did care for music much
It's the High Fidelity


link compliments of the Mudcat Cafe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fJmmDkvQyc


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 13 Feb 18 - 12:54 AM

The trick with cassettes was to have a best quality deck and high end cassettes. I squandered £300 in the mid 1980s on a Dennon DR-M22 which has a separate record head with an option to monitor the recording and compare with the input in real time. Using TDK AR cassettes without noise reduction gave excellent results until the motor started running fast about 6 years ago! My Sony Pro Walkman still gives excellent results after 27 years!


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: DaveRo
Date: 13 Feb 18 - 01:53 AM

robomatic wrote:
With the tone control at a single touch
'Bel Canto' sounds like 'Double Dutch'
I remember this as
With a tone control at a single touch
I can make Caruso sound like Hutch...
..which puzzled me as a child.

I used to obsess about cartridge compliance and anti-skating force. I was happy to see the back of vinyl. My TD150 is soon for ebay and my LPs are probably destined for a charity shop. The music is all on a hard drive, crackles pops and jumps included. The quality doesn't bother me any more.

A lifetime of lost playlists
(Needs an update!)


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 13 Feb 18 - 03:17 AM

Tired ears like mine!!!


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: BobL
Date: 13 Feb 18 - 03:24 AM

I transferred all my LPs and cassettes to MD when that technology was state-of-the-art, using a reasonably decent Hi-Fi. Sony's ATRAC may be a lossy compression format but suffice it to say it sounded good enough for me. And it meant less to carry when calling at a dance club - a case of CDs, a box of MDs and their respective players (which afforded some back-up if there were problems). Now I have everything on computer, Audacity-cleaned as necessary.

Incidentally I've kept all the original tapes and LPs for the sake of copyright - I can plead that my digital copies are entirely for technical convenience, which seems to be generally acceptable even if not strictly legal.


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Feb 18 - 03:51 AM

I'm going to hit 70 years old in just 6 months, and I have to admit that my hearing has been impaired since I was 21 and fired an M16 without earplugs (they fell out). I don't notice all the subtle differences in "lossy" sound - but yet I still enjoy the music...and I still like a live performance best.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 13 Feb 18 - 04:12 AM

Can't beat live performance. I have heard some interesting gig recordings made from in ear monitor wireless feeds mixed with a touch of ambience from a separate mic recording.


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: Joe Offer
Date: 13 Feb 18 - 04:23 AM

For some reason, my hearing loss and tinnitus don't bother me when I'm listening to a live symphony performance. I consider live symphony to be the most beautiful sound there is. I like folksingers a lot, but nothing beats a live symphony.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: Will Fly
Date: 13 Feb 18 - 04:37 AM

I still have all my vinyl. There's a warmth to the sound which you never got on the first CDs. They still sound great - and some of the recordings have never been re-issued in digital form.

For me, the great sound revolution is the ability of everyone to be able to do their own quite reasonable recordings for a few pounds. When I think of the money we spent hiring sound studios many years ago, and then switch on my Zoom H2 whenever I need it, that really is a sea change. True, it still takes skill and thought to make a decent recording, but the technology is amazing.

And I still have my grandparents wind-up gramophone, plus a portable wind-up gramophone fom the 1930s, plus a stack of 78rpm records. Wonderful fun!


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 13 Feb 18 - 08:50 AM

Audio files downloaded from the BBC iplayer using youtube-dl seem to be almost at the magic 384kbps maximum, and free of DRM or whatever it's called!


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 13 Feb 18 - 09:03 AM

Maybe the type of stuff I listen to has a bearing on it too. As I mentioned in the opening post I was listening to James Taylor - Quite simple music that may not be as affected by range loss? Or am I barking up the wrong tree? Or barking mad? Mind you, I also listen to a lot of prog rock from my yoof and that does not seem to be affected either. I enjoy the occasional orchestral music but cannot honestly say I am in a position to make a comparison between old and new tech on that front.

Purely on the advice of someone yonks ago my self-digitised music is all done initially to a lossless format and then copied to a high rate MP3 for portability. From what people have said on here I seem to have got that right :-D

Thanks all for your interesting contributions.

DtG


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: Steve Shaw
Date: 13 Feb 18 - 09:19 AM

"I used to obsess about cartridge compliance and anti-skating force."

I had so many LPs that distorted like mad in loud passages once the stylus was getting close to the inside of the disc. It used to drive me bananas and I never managed to resolve it. I once bought a cleaning system called Permostat. It worked like a dream when first applied, but once the disc had been back in its sleeve for a week or two it adhered disgustingly to the inner liner and came out with more static than ever. You could even see swirly residue marks all over it. It was the clicks that you knew exactly where they were and that you sat there anticipating that were the worst. With cassettes, I'd sit there waiting for long, steady notes on pianos, clarinets or oboes, a dead giveaway for detecting wow and flutter and it never failed. The thin tape and slow tape speed must have had a lot to do with it. And don't get me started on bogus degaussing kits and yards of tape getting jammed in the mechanism. CDs were a liberation. Minidisc was very good, as was said above, except for Sony's neurotic obsession with not letting you make digital copies of stuff and providing just about the clunkiest music platform (SonicStage) known to humankind.


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: Bonzo3legs
Date: 13 Feb 18 - 10:04 AM

Some of the best reproduction I ever got from vinyl was from Les Paul & Mary Ford 78s on the Capitol label. Somehow they managed to squeeze on just that little bit more volume and dynamic range!


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: Acme
Date: 13 Feb 18 - 10:17 AM

Les Paul was an electronics genius of his day, that probably has something to do with it.


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: robomatic
Date: 14 Feb 18 - 11:30 PM

This is not particularly new, but there exists a multi-laser device for picking up the once-new sounds of LPs. The lasers find the groove, measure down from the most worn part of the ridges to a part not scraped by the original stereo needle, then interpret it as sound. Cost is under $10,000 well within the extreme audiophile's sonic grasp.

As for "At the Drop of a Hat" DaveRo, I interpreted the lyrics exactly as you do from the LP I listened to as a child, but I input the version I located on the internet. Flanders and Swann made many performances on both sides of the pond, so maybe, just maybe the internet version was one of them, but I remember with certainty Swann singing "make a Caruso sound like Hutch" and I never made sense of it either.

Storage is a caution. I have recovered some old recordings off of reel to reel tapes and found the DECCA albums in very fine playable shape, alas the London tapes with Gilbert & Sullivan were subject to the 'sticky shed' phenomena. I 'baked' these tapes and was able to play them into a digital conversion process.

I trust magnetic media more than CDs or DVDs. They have a better track record. I'd be interested to know what the better libraries and private storage facilities are doing.


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: GUEST,Some bloke
Date: 15 Feb 18 - 12:29 PM

Dave is right.

The technology has now reached the point where techno wizardry can and does rely on how our brains make up the difference.

An excellent example is a small Bose bluetooth speaker that the reviews reckoned had bass it had no right to possess. We are all aware that under a certain frequency we don't know where the sound comes from but at a slightly lower frequency and below, we don't know the pitch either. The Bose unit vibrates a bass reed at the same frequency and our brains bring it in tune. This and other medical aspects of hearing and neurofunction are used to ensure high quality.

Now... It is a fact that keeping the waveform of analogue true from origin (needle) to destination (brain) has been a wet dream industry for years but frankly we don't need it any more. Digital compression used to be crude (16 bit can only provide 16,384 y axis references on a digitised waveform) but 32 bit provides over four billion.

If a studio recording is less than 25 years old, it has been digitally encoded anyway, even if you are presently listening to it on your Linn Sondeck. The human ear, no matter who you are, cannot differentiate between 32 bit encoding and pure analogue if a decent DAC is decoding and amps, speakers etc are the same.

Two things here. My Rega record deck has joined my CD player in the cupboard and I recently offloaded loads of hifi gear on Ebay. I link Amazon Unlimited and Apple Music through an Airplay receiver with a decent DAC into my hifi. In the other room, an Amazon Alexa is coupled to a Ruark speaker. My vinyl? 99% of it is on either streaming service and if not, I rip it into iTunes in 32 bit and upload it into my iTunes Match.

Russ Andrews Ltd sell a kettle lead for over ?2,000.00 to power your amplifier. They say that the reduction in rf gives you a better bass response. (From the substation in town, said cable is protecting 0.00001% of the cable length...) and their platinum USB leads, carrying a series of 0 and 1 pulses does something sweet to the treble. (Don't even begin to go there.) Needless to say, they have fallen foul of trading standards. They also know if you are thick enough to believe their claims, your embarrassment will have you convincing yourself there's truth in their sharp practice

I applaud anyone who has a hobby preserving and playing analogue sound. If you want to pay silly money and you have the money, great.

But luddite nonsense about technology not advancing is frankly silly. Reality is, software adequately fills in the gaps. ?50 nowadays can give you a sound that took thousands a few years ago. Even my car uses antinoise to give me and my passengers individual hifi triangle reception, and that was only a ?200 option... It reduces car noise too. Still, its only a car so isnt really that good.


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: Acme
Date: 15 Feb 18 - 10:58 PM

👍

Good information there, Musket. (BTW, you might consider re-upping as a regular Mudcat member. Your main nemesis that caused you the most trouble has been sent to the hinterland.)


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 16 Feb 18 - 02:57 AM

Yes - Agreed on both counts :-)


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: GUEST,Some bloke
Date: 16 Feb 18 - 05:05 AM

Musket was three of us who got a bit fed up of the hypocrisy and general acceptance of bigotry. One Musket complained that reading posts from one particular creature saying that being gay he must be a paedophile was bad enough. When I sent him a copy of the email Joe Offer sent me (it was my email address on the account) saying Joe didn?t think the creature was being homophobic, that?s when it kicked off.

I doubt any of us did more than respond in kind.


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Subject: RE: Tech: How audio has improved
From: Dave the Gnome
Date: 16 Feb 18 - 05:16 AM

It is that particular creature that is no longer an issue. Not saying that there will not be other issues but at least the water is free from that danger now. Come on in :-)

DtG


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