Meier audio "Country": a DSP including EQ, Crossfeed and more with real knobs and sliders.

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by sacredgates, May 20, 2019.

  1. sacredgates

    sacredgates Audio-Technica's high priest

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    Jan Meier himself introduced his new project "Country" here at SBAF a few days ago. Jan posted in the already existing "Soul" thread.

    I feel however that this deserves its own thread as the Country might be of wider interest. Also a DSP unit does not really fit in the Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (Dac/Amp) Units forum.

    The Country is still not finalized, but Jan did already put up a page specifically dedicated to his new DSP project with many interesting details. The page also shows a design study for the unit:

    [​IMG]

    I will copy here what Jan wrote in the Soul thread last Tuesday and will add the consecutive conversations in the next post...

    @Jan Meier:

    Dear friends,

    quite a few people did like the concept of the integrated DSP of the SOUL but were not in need of the amp/DAC sections and/or simply were not able to spend so much money on one single device. The wish for a stand-alone DSP was expressed by many.

    Over the last year I have been working on such a device and a "rough" first design now can be found on my website. I called it the COUNTRY:

    http://www.meier-audio.homepage.t-online.de/country.htm

    Again, like with the SOUL, there will be a regular newsletter on the progress of this project. Should you be interested in this project and want to be on the mailing list, please let me know.

    Cheers

    Jan
     
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  2. sacredgates

    sacredgates Audio-Technica's high priest

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    Listing of posts related to the Country project as posted in the Soul thread so far.
    Please continue anything related to the Country in this thread from now on...

    Of note is Jans ´ reply to my inquiries where he mentions the possibility of specific EQ bands to be customized through different firmware.

     
    Last edited: May 20, 2019
  3. Jan Meier

    Jan Meier MOT: Meier Audio

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    Dear friends,

    the SOUL is rather unique in its concept and decision making is not always easy. What features do people need/want, how strong should certain effects be, what inputs and outputs are needed, ... ?

    Your opinion on the project therefore is very important. Please provide me with as much feedback on the design as possible!

    :)

    A description of the current status can be found at:

    http://www.meier-audio.homepage.t-online.de/country.htm

    Some actual questions:

    - Do you think the psychoacoustic bass-enhancement is a valuable feature? Please take a listen to the examples on my website. Have you been able to identify which file (TestA or TestB) uses bass-enhancement and how easy was it?

    - The same with reverb. Do you see any use for it? If so, do you feel the low and medium reverb levels to be adequate? The reverb algorithm takes up a lot of computational resources so it should only be implemented if people feel a real need for it.

    - Right now all algorithms are separately tested with audio signals upsampled to 192/24. However, due to limitations in computing power the implementation of all algorithms suggested into one single DSP-chip will only be possible when upsampling is limited to 96/24. Can you live with this lower frequency or should one try for a two-chip implementation? Or leave the reverberation out?

    - Are there any other algorithms/features that you would like to see implemented?

    - I'm sure many of you would like to see analog outputs (internal DA-conversion). This is possible but would increase costs considerably. How strongly do you need this feature?

    For me the COUNTRY is a fun-project and it will only be produced (by Lake People) when there are enough people interested in getting one. Of course there will be a special pre-order price (like I did with the SOUL-project) but it can not be calculated yet, as the design is not finalized.

    If you have an interest in this device, please let me know and I will put you on the mailing list for the regular COUNTRY-newsletter.

    Cheers

    Jan
     
  4. Priidik

    Priidik Friend

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    Hi. Cool project.
    I really like the physical controls.
    One thing that I think many would like to have is the ability to tune the individual frequency bands.
    Perhaps a toggle switch that ups/downs the frequency +/- 10..20..30% ?

    I vote the main focus to be on the quality of the EQ, other things secondary, or omitted.

    Hehe, the 6.2k band is for HD800 :D ?
     
  5. TomNC

    TomNC Facebook Friend

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    For headphone use, please allow adjustment for 4-5K (e.g. Hifiman headphones) and 8-10K (e.g. HD650; JPS 1266). If such bands can be fairly easy to adjust with good precision, I will buy one for sure. 160Hz, 400Hz, 1K, 2.5K, 6K are all good central frequencies. Very good news for head-fiers.
     
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  6. sacredgates

    sacredgates Audio-Technica's high priest

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    It is a bit hidden in the second post of this thread, but Jan Meier already answered it will be possible to have your EQ bands customized:
    „The good thing is, that it's very easy to adapt the firmware of the COUNTRY and change the frequencies. So people may well choose different frequencies, if they wish so. Has been done with some SOUL-customers also.“

    It would be nice to know if this needs to be done with Meier Audio or if it can be changed by the customer with an app. It defenitely would broaden the appeal if this could be done at home over something like an USB port...
     
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2019
  7. Jan Meier

    Jan Meier MOT: Meier Audio

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    Dear Friends,

    Just corrected my website. For those who tried before, the reverb-files now also will run.

    " Hehe, the 6.2k band is for HD800 ? "

    No, definitely not, since the equalizer band is much wider than the resonance peak of the HD800.

    However, the notch-filter of the COUNTRY can be set to the resonance frequency of the HD800 and by experience this really helps to tame the HD800 and makes it a much more enjoyable, less nervous headphone.

    As mentioned, it is well possible to have the frequencies of the equalizer adapted. It's an easy exercise to custom-specific adapt the firmware. However, the user will not be able to do so himself.

    Some people asked for a parametric equalizer. However, the programming language (SigmaStudio) of the DSP does not allow for an easy implementation of such. Moreover, it would necessarily add quite a few of control elements (and display) and would make the use of the COUNTRY much more complicated.

    Cheers

    Jan
     
  8. TomNC

    TomNC Facebook Friend

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    If customization is feasible, I would choose 100Hz, 1K, 2k, 4K, 6K, and 9K. These are the frequencies that from my observation were most likely be problematic with headphones.
     
  9. TheIceman93

    TheIceman93 El pato-zorro

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    @Jan Meier

    I’ll be totally honest. I’m disappointed that this is now a DAC/Amp combo. Most of the members here are already running setups with separate amps and DACs and I can’t imagine that many will be looking to ditch their setup.

    I would strongly urge you to still build a DSP only version that is more affordable. I imagine that adding the analogue section will double the cost of the unit and make it considerably less appealing to many members here. You already stated in your first post that quite a few people expressed interest in a unit with just the DSP functions.

    I understand that you want to appeal to as many people as possible but sometimes a specialist product is exactly what people are looking for. All you have to do it sell a version missing the analogue section in the same box. I’m pretty sure Lake people has released amps with the option to add or delete a DAC section. The Schiit Loki has sold very well and that is just a 4 band analogue EQ box.

    I’m just worried about the cost because this thing is being built by Lake People which charges a ton for what you get. I have one of their amps and it’s not exactly a value monster. A version built by Schiit would probably cost half as much.

    Anyone else feel the same way?
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2019
  10. Jan Meier

    Jan Meier MOT: Meier Audio

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    Dear Thelceman93,

    please don't worry, adding the analog section will certainly not double the price of the unit. Most of the material costs is with the enclosure and the large number of control elements. They will be nearly the same.
    A rough estimate is, that the analog section adds maybe 20% to the costs.

    In teh past I had all my amplifiers build by Shanling. A large and renowned factory in Shenzen/China.
    However, they only produce in large batches of at least 400..500 pieces. That's not feasible with the current market anymore. There are so many manufacturers/models around nowaday that production batches are much smaller. And with smaller batches Lake People certainly is my first choice. They deliver quality stuff. Yes, Schiit maybe cheaper, but did you ever ask yourself why they don't sell in Europe? (Hint: CE-regulations!).

    This week I finally got the prototypes of the final design working. Nicely in time for the upcoming Audiovista Show (14/15 September).

    To be honest, I was very positively surprised by the sound. Warm, smooth, and nonetheless highly resolving. Just visit the show and you can hear for yourself.
    [​IMG]
    http://www.meier-audio.homepage.t-online.de/bilder/prototypescountry.jpg
    [​IMG]

    Cheers

    Jan
     
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  11. Baten

    Baten Wow, I made it this far without being a friend?

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    Hi Jan. About this, as far as I know Schiit does sell in EU via schiit-europe who seem to be the same guys behind aune-europe, importing the gear and selling it with what seems like CE regulation.. (sorry if this is all off-topic but just wanted to mention)

    https://www.schiit-europe.com/ https://www.auneaudio-europe.com/
     
  12. Jan Meier

    Jan Meier MOT: Meier Audio

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    Dear Baten,

    Ooh, that's new to me. Thanks for the correction.

    " and selling it with what seems like CE regulation "

    Impossible. Various Schitt models do have exposed tubes. These are not allowed by CE-regulations.

    Sure, their amps may carry the CE-symbol but in Europe the manufacturer of audio-equipment just has to guarantee that his equipment fulfills regulations and put the CE-symbol on by himself. But if something goes wrong and the regulations are not met, despite the CE-seal, then he is in real trouble.

    Lake People makes high quality stuff and Fried Reim is very concerned with safety. Both are very important to me.

    Cheers

    Jan
     
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  13. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

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    Just my 2cents but sometimes 20% is the difference between being within budget or not. I think having a specific product, that people seem more interested in, that's actually cheaper, would be a better idea but since you are a business owner you are much more knowledgeable than me.

    A question does come to mind, do you have a perspective on how much the product will cost? 20% of 200€ and 20% of 1000€ are totally difference.

    I hope that the question is not inappropriate but i am very curious to why you decided to take this route.
     
  14. Jan Meier

    Jan Meier MOT: Meier Audio

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    Dear Walderstorn,

    Yes, 20% can make a substantial difference when it comes to budget. But the integrated headphone amp and preamp outputs also allows you to save money. It all depends on personal situation.

    Prices are not known yet, but for sure will be more closely to 1000,- then to 200,-. This is a very sophisticated device made with first class components.

    Sorry,

    Jan
     
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  15. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

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    Unfortunately i thought that it would come to that.

    Thank you for your time.
     
  16. Jan Meier

    Jan Meier MOT: Meier Audio

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    Dear friends,

    just a short note:

    People do argue that for their applications the implementation of an analog section does add unnessarily to the costs.

    However, be aware that the analog sections make this device interesting to more people and if this means that the COUNTRY can be produced in a larger batch, then this implies that the device actually becomes cheaper per unit. Also because development costs can be spread over more units!

    Sometimes more is less!

    :)

    Jan
     
  17. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    @Jan Meier: Do you still make the Corda FF? It's been a long time since I've heard your amps. The last time I saw one at a meet as in the early years of this decade. I haven't seen once since they headphone meets are not all heavily commercialized leaving smaller boutique vendors to languish.

    I am considering purchasing a Corda FF for our loaner program. Many times we get asked what would be a reasonably priced headphone amp by people in Europe. I think this may be a suitable candidate.

    I read up on your FF technology. Very ingenious.
     
  18. Jan Meier

    Jan Meier MOT: Meier Audio

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    Dear friends,

    the AudioVista headphone show, a few weeks ago in Germany, as always was a very pleasant event. Not only did I meet a lot of friends and colleagues but there also was a lot of feedback on the prototypes of the COUNTRY.

    In general the feedback was a very positive one. However, some people indicated that they would prefer a more "full-bodied" enclosure. Therefore sketches were made of 4 different possible designs and the people on my COUNTRY-newsletter-list were asked for their opinions. A picture can be found at:

    http://www.meier-audio.homepage.t-online.de/countryenclosureshigh.jpg

    Please do not hesitate to let me know your preferences.

    Not surprisingly (at least not to me! :) opinions differ stronly. Some like it small and inobtrusive, others prefer a larger enclosure. Options 1 and 4 were liked most so now it's time to make the calculations for the production costs for these two.

    Not only opinions on the enclosure differ. The appreciation of crossfeed, equalizer, reverb, ..... varied strongly. Some liked the reverb a lot whereas others so no need for it. The same with crossfeed, .....

    Everybody is different! :)


    Dear Purr1n,

    The CLASSIC-models are no longer produced. However, the JAZZ-FF is also a very fine amp, especially if you like acustical music (Jazz, Classic, .....). Should you want to have more information, just drop me a mail.

    Of course the SOUL also incorporates the FF-technique, but unfortunately for many it's out of budget.

    Cheers

    Jan
     
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  19. sacredgates

    sacredgates Audio-Technica's high priest

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    Dear Jan, as good as you might be engineering the "internals" of this project, I feel outer product design of the Country can still be improved upon ergonomically as well as aesthetically...

    I took the freedom to reshape the layout of the 4th possibility with 2 suggestions based on that design. My time was limited to one hour, so this surely could/should still be fine tuned... (ideally I´d still like a bit more space around the 4 rotary dials and general alignment of the elements can still be refined. I´d also like to see if it´s not nicer and clearer to move the top row numbers + ON indicator above the equalizer sliders underneath the sliders, and change the font of them also to normal, not italic).

    Feedback welcome...


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    edit: inserted link to smaller photos as the pictures did not show up in all browsers.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2019
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  20. Jan Meier

    Jan Meier MOT: Meier Audio

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    Dear Socrates,

    thank you for the work you did. To do so in just one hour is quite impressive.

    Personally I prefer the second design over the first one. The rotary controls are then grouped and somehow it "feels" better to have the equalizer placed to the left.

    However, when making my own sketches I not only took into account the optics but also some technical aspects.

    The small rotary controls as well as the slide potentiometers are placed on a PCB that is parallel to the frontplate. Therefore these elements can be placed anywhere on the front. However, the switches are the elements that connect the PCB to the frontplate so that's why two of them are placed on both sides of the equalizer. It's mechanically the simplest and most stable solution.

    Also, the headphone socket, the volume control, the powerswitch, and the two toggle switches are placed on a PCB that is positioned horizontally inside the enclosure. This strongly limits the possible vertical positions of these elements as well as their relative horizontal positions. It is for example not possible to place the toggle switches in one vertical line.

    Yes, your designs are more pleasing to the eye than my own. But they stronly complicate mechanical construction.

    Of course some further refinement of my own sketch is still possible. I just wanted something quick. But I will only do so when the decision has been made which enclosure has the preference of the people. Right now the first sketch seems to be the most favourable.

    Cheers

    Jan
     
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