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Going crazy

This appeared on the noticeboard at work.
Keep calm and carry on?
Keep calm and carry on?
It's a notice saying that the current Covid pandemic is stressing everybody out. Therefore, until the end of the year, the top-up policy will pay for up to four sessions with a psychologist (up to €60 per session, prescribed by your doctor), noting that the health service pays for visits to psychiatrists, not psychologists.

Me? I might need this service once "normality resumes". Once people feel it's totally okay to walk around coughing without wearing a face mask. Once people feel it's okay to gather in large groups. Once people feel it's okay to physically interact.
We'll be back to a world of air kisses and handshakes. Ewww. People. Ewww...

You know, if you grab a hold of my penis and start shaking it, there's a word for that and it involves the police. Yet grabbing hold of my hand and shaking it vigorously is supposed to be a sign of trust? Leave my appendages alone. Leave me alone.

In fact, if I don't know you (as in, you haven't invited me to your home and you to mine), then simply please don't touch.


Those two Op-Amps

Those two Op-Amps.
Those two Op-Amps.
There are two 4558 Op-Amps in my amplifier. Even stranger, they are different types. The one on the left is a KIA part, and the one on the right is a JRC part. They are both clones of the Texas RC4558.

The KIA, obviously, is for pre-amping the microphone inputs. This would be necessary (given it's an unpowered and unbalanced phono input) to bring the weak microphone input signal up to something that can be mixed in with the music (with or without the echo facility).
The other one? Well, this is where it gets interesting. You see, when there are tone controls, these can be either passive or active.

A passive tone control acting as this amplifier provides would work by splitting the audio into two bands (the bass and the treble) and then having a control that subtractively removes part of that from the signal. With the controls on maximum, you have more or less the original audio. But turn the bass down a little and the treble will sound better simply because there is less bass. And vice versa.

An active tone control, on the other hand, is functionally similar (audio split into bands, control adjusts how much of the band is present in the output) but the difference is that the audio is passed through an amplifier circuit. Proper expensive devices would have an amplifier for each band (this is sort of how a graphic equaliser does it) but a cheaper device (like this one!) would recombine the audio and then amplify. The result being that "output resembling input" should happen with the controls sort of in the middle. Turn them down, it should reduce the amount (bass or treble) present. Turn the controls up, it should be effectively boosting them.
This is why I don't have the controls set to maximum - I feel like doing that creates a sound that is too bright (in the treble) and with a bass that is too heavy (it distorts).

What is interesting, of course, is that the amplifier uses the 4558, twice. Head over to the world of guitar amps and you will find so much crap about the 4558. How they are supposedly rare. How the JRC sounds better. How the original JRC sounds better but the new ones sound rubbish...
The truth is that different 4558 chips do have minor differences (the KIA is rated at a maximum output of 500mW, the JRC claims 600mW) and there may be minor differences in frequency response (I can't tell as the KIA datasheet doesn't provide this information), but to be honest I would not expect to hear a great difference should I replace the 4558 with a socket and swap in a different Op-Amp, even an LM833 or the like. Why? Because the Op-Amp isn't really what defines the feel and timbre of an amplifier. It's the diodes and capacitors and circuit layout that are more responsible. Here's a YouTube video where a guy does exactly that. He busts all these dumb myths about the 4558 and tries various different Op-Amps in a pedal comparing it with a 4558. The one that people heard a slight difference? An MC14577. I'll let you Google that. ☺

So, there we go then. That's why there are two of them. As for there being two different types, I would need to look at photos of the board (or similar types) taken by others (as I'm not buying a second amplifier just to check this!) to determine if there is a specific choice of which one goes where, or if the company that builds these things simply has a big bucket of 4558s and you get whatever one gets picked...


Spammed by Amazon

Amazon sent me junk mail.

I'm not sure what's more surprising, that they decided to send me junk mail, or that they sent junk mail...

What I got from Amazon
What I got from Amazon.

As a Prime subscriber, and somebody who uses Amazon Music from time to time, I guess they feel that I might be interested in four months free! to listen to Unlimited's 70,000,000 songs as I wish (standard Amazon Music offers about two million songs). Four months free, then just €9,99 a month thereafter.

Sorry, not interested. I think it's expensive considering that I'm already paying for Prime and Music Unlimited costs a whole two euros a month more than Netflix's range of offerings.

Now, I get that Amazon is probably constrained by a need to pay the record companies, but it's worth pointing out that two artists that I discovered (and enjoyed) using Amazon Music (Kate Heidke-Miller and Polly Scattergood) all led to purchases. I got Kate's "Vertigo" album as a digital download, and I got three of Polly's CDs (the main album releases). Indeed, the most recent album wasn't on Amazon Music (only Unlimited) but I got it on the strength of the other two albums.
However... Ayreon, Delain... the first two that came to mind and they were "Sorry, you're not elegible to access this content". Fair enough, they are Music Unlimited, not the regular service. "L'Âme Immortelle" on the other hand appear to exist, but trying to choose them as an artist just threw up an error.

Not to worry. I'll still get to listen to the music, I'll just go to YouTube or dailymotion or whatever.
Now, here's the thing. This will not translate into an album sale.
Why? Simple. I will be going to pick up a specific song that I heard (most likely on PPN Radio or Gothique13). This will be presented entirely devoid of other context. There may or may not be suggestions to other songs by that artist or similar, but they won't be organised into "an album". I won't be able to hear what an album sounds like without making the effort to find out what songs are on any particular album and looking them up individually... and life's too short.


I wonder if those greedy record execs could explain why Polly's CD costs €5,67 and downloading the album digitally costs €7,49 and downloading each track individually costs €1,29 per track (or €12,90 for all ten). This pricing doesn't make sense. Don't think I'm picking on Polly here. The Very Best of Bob Dylan is €5,10 for the CD (plus €2,49 P&P), €10,99 for MP3 download, and €1,09 for a regular song (11) and €1,29 for one of the better known ones (7) or €21,02 if bought individually.
Hmm, there's also a two-disc deluxe version. This time it's €13,99 for download and €14,71 for the CD (supplied by Amazon).
If you wonder why I'm comparing between CD and digital so much, remember that these downloads are offered as lossy MP3, not something like WAV or FLAC. Granted, when I rip a CD to put the songs on my phone, I rip to MP3, however I still have the original disc. So if in the future I prefer the sound of AAC or get something capable of dealing with FLAC, I can recreate the rips from source. With a downloaded MP3, there's no source. Hell, I've never even received a PDF containing the stuff you get in the CD tray. You know, that little booklet with the lyrics, some random photos, and two pages of credits...

So, there you go. Music Unlimited... might be interesting if it was my primary source of music (though I still think it's expensive). But since I would use it for discovery, no, sorry.

Hmm... Queen. Unlimited. Are you freakin' kidding me? I can buy the three-disc platinum "everything they've done" CD set for €14,99 and have it delivered on Monday!


I'll let you know if it actually turns up on Monday. ☺



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