Tag Archives: dr z

I’m an “audiophile”… and no one needs ultra HD displays

I play music for a hobby; I am a musician part time. As of now I have about 270 guitar/piano videos on my Youtube (which you can check on the media page on the side). So yeah, I care about audio alot and audio tone. The irony is that I care about audio more than I care about video. Mainstream consumers are the opposite. They love their 4K super high resolution displays and stuff, but for me, video quality has always been secondary to audio quality.

I remember when HD first came out (720p / 1080p) I couldn’t see much of a difference between that and 480p DVD quality videos. But maybe my eyes are just used to 240p/480p VHS/VCD/DVDs. All my computer resolutions have been 720p (that is, 1366×768) and lower, until this year. That’s right! It took me until 2015 to get a computer with a full HD resolution! so yeah no 4K for me for a while. I also don’t like 4K because I would have to redownload all my movies and tv shows and anime in 4K which takes up a ton of space. I would prefer just a FHD OLED display instead.

Now we have smartphones rocking 4K resolution. Which is absolutely ridiculous because 4K is questionable even on a flat screen TV. At the distance we sit from the TV I doubt many people notice the difference in resolution. Having super high resolution also impacts another big factor in battery life. I like my stuff with good battery life thats why I chose a regular 720p laptop which gets me 20 hours of battery life (thanks to the dual batteries in the Thinkpad X240!) and a regular 720p phone as well, the Sony Xperia Z3C which gets me 2 days of battery life. For my 17 inch gaming laptop I “only” have a full HD resolution. Having Ultra HD 3200×1800 resolution on a laptop will both kill the battery life and alot of windows apps don’t scale well beyond FHD anyways.

Anyways for me audio quality has always been more important, thats why I own tube amps and a record player and 180gram vinyl LPs. I listen to FLACs (lossless) whenever possible (My Sony Xperia Z3C has a built in walkman and support for high res and lossless audio), and have owned countless pairs of headphones and earphones. The irony is the average consumer doesn’t really care about audio that much. They are happy listening to their lossy MP3s, listening on their Mac or PC with a terrible built in DAC, or using cheap quality iPod or Beats headphones.

Let me take a head count here. How many of you have heard of these audio companies: Bose, Sennheiser, Fender, Marshall, IK Multimedia, Apogee, AKG, Beyerdynamic, Shure, Etymotic, Ultimate Ears, JBL, Altec Lansing, Cambridge Audio, Boston Acoustics, Polk Audio, Klipsch, Onkyo, Dynaudio, Denon, Pioneer, Philips, Creative Labs, Monster, Beats, Hifiman, Woo Audio, Linn Audio, Meridian Audio, Apple, Audioquest, Focusrite, M-Audio, SRS Labs, Jays, Dolby, DTS, Audyssey, Wave Audio, Grado Labs, Audeze, THX, Grain Audio, Audioengine, Master & Dynamic, Audio Technica, Skullcandy, Sony, Samsung, LG, Harmon Kardon, Bowers and Wilkins, Bang and Olufsen, Infinity, Sol Republic, Yamaha.

I even know most of the various amp, effects, and guitar pickup makers: Fender, ESP, Gibson, Jackson, Ibanez, Dean Martin, Epiphone, G&L, Gretsch, Rickenbacker, Kramer, Vox, Marshall, Mesa Boogie, Dr Z, Two Rock, Victoria Amps, Tone King, Line 6, Digitech, Orange, Crate, Boss, Behringer, BBE, Korg, Roland, Maxon, Dunlop, MXR, Way Huge, Xotic, Lovepedals, Keeley, Dimarzio, Seymour Duncan, Lace, Lindy Fralin, Bill Lawrence, TV Jones, Fishman, Electro Harmonix, Visual Sound, Teese, Fulltone, Analog Man, I could go on and on….

That’s a wide range of audio companies, from mainstream to boutique, from headphone makers to DSP and effects makers. But anyways you get my point; I know all these companies because I care alot about audio. I even made an article about the best portable bluetooth speakers, and the Best over ear headphones.

Here’s the audio gear I currently use:

Guitar equipment:
Swart Atomic Jr (Tube Amp)
Fender 60s Strat relic w/ handwound Alnico III/V single coil pickups
Martin OMJM acoustic guitar
Boho Moonshine guitar
Boss Looper
Digitech Trio
Lovepedals Dover drive
RambleFX Plexi Drive
Xotic compressor
Xotic booster
Maxon TBO9
Seymour Duncan 805
Keeley magnetic echo
Keeley Oxblood
BBE Wah

Audio recording equipment:
Shure MV88 iphone mic
Shure MV51 computer mic
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB interface
IK Multimedia iRig 2
MXL 770 Condenser Mic
Shure SM58 Dynamic mic
Behringer XENYX502 Mixer

Listening equipment:
Philips Fidelio X2 open back headphones/monitors
Sennheiser Momentum closed back headphones
Master & Dynamic ME03 Earphones
Bose Quietcomfort 25 Noise-cancelling headphones
Creative Soundblaster E5 USB DAC/Amp
Creative Soundblaster Roar 2 bluetooth speaker
Audio Technica LP60 Turntable
Creative T4W Speakers (for connecting to anything including record players)
Klipsch R10B Soundbar

Not a bad setup. Unlike some people, I don’t have particular brand devotion to anything. Some people like to have all their equipment the same brand, but I actually embrace diversity of brands. I like experiencing difference. My TV is Panasonic. My phone is Sony and Apple. My tablet is Apple and Nvidia. My computer is Asus and Lenovo. My keyboard is Aorus. My mouse is Logitech. My microphones are Shure. My speakers are Creative and Klipsch. My headphones are Sennheiser, Philips, and Bose. My camera is Nikon and Canon. So yeah I am not a ‘fanboy’ of anything although you could say the closest I come to that is Sony. I have a Sony phone, Sony camera, Sony UMPC, Sony PS4 and Sony PS Vita. But even then.. I like to diversify.

Best small (<15W) tube guitar amplifiers

What can I say.. I love technology. I do my due diligence when researching audio gadgets, guitar pickups, amplifiers, headphones, speakers, portable computers and portable displays.
This is the list for those lovely Fender tweed type tones or Marshall bluesbreaker-like tones… the small, boutique style handwired tube amps that pack a punch.

Edit: I did make a top 20 list for both headphones and bluetooth speakers here:
Top 20 bluetooth speakers
Top 20 over ear headphones
best Overdrive pedals

Best small (<15W class A) handwired tube guitar amplifiers

Vox AC-4HW

Vox AC4HW

Vox AC4HW


Price: $799
-4W
-2x 12AX7, 1x EL84
-12″ Celestion Greenback speaker
-Weight: 30lbs
-top boost
-hot/cool mode

Fender Eric Clapton Vibro-champ

Fender EC Vibro Champ

Fender EC Vibro Champ


Price: $999
-5W
-2x 12AX7, 1x 6V6GT, 1x 5Y3GT
-8″ Weber speaker
-Weight: 16lbs
-Tremolo
-Attenuator

Swart Atomic Jr (this is the amp I own)

Swart Atomic Jr

Swart Atomic Jr


Price: $1200
-5W
-1x 12AX7, 1x 12DW7, 1x 6V6GT, 1x GZ34
-8″ Weber speaker
-Weight: 14lbs
-Hot/cool mode
-Spring Reverb

Rivera Venus 3

Rivera Venus3

Rivera Venus3


Price: $1600
-15W
-2x 12AX7, 2x6V6GT
-12″ Celestion Heritage speaker
-Spring reverb, presence

Bogner New Yorker

Bogner New Yorker

Bogner New Yorker


Price: $1600
-12W
-2x 12AX7, 2x 6V6
-12″ Celestion speaker
-4 way rotary switch

Tone King Falcon

Tone King Falcon

Tone King Falcon


Price: $1700
-12W
-3x 12AX7, 2x 6V6GT
-10″ Eminence Speaker
-Weight: 30lbs
-Attentuator

Dr Z Maz 8

Dr Z Maz 8

Dr Z Maz 8


Price: $1749
-8W
-4x 12AX7, 1x 12AT7, 1x EL84, 1x GZ34
-12″ speaker
-Weight: 37 lbs

Matchless Baby

Matchless Baby

Matchless Baby


Price: $1799
-6W
-1x 12AX7, 1x EL84, 1x 5AR4
-12″ speaker

Divided by 13 CJ11

Divided by 13 CJ11

Divided by 13 CJ11


Price: $1950
-11W
-2x 12AX7, 2x 6v6GT, 1x 5AR4/GZ34
-12″ Speaker
-Weight: 46lbs

65Amps Lil’ Elvis

65Amps Lil' Elvis

65Amps Lil’ Elvis


Price: $2495
-12W
-3x 12AX7, 2x EL84, 1x EZ81
-12″ Celestion Greenback speaker
-Weight: 29lbs
-Tremolo speed/intensity
-Attentuator

Marshall 1974X

Marshall 1974X

Marshall 1974X


Price: $2499
-18W
-3x ECC83, 2x EL84, 1x EZ81
-12″ Celestion speaker
-Tremolo

So.. the options range from the relatively inexpensive $799 4W Vox Handwired AC4HW to the $2500 18W Marshall Handwired 1974X. I personally own the Swart, so I can say for certain that the Amp possesses phenomenal reverb for its size, breaks up rather easily, but has lots of good clean tones as well. And its probably the lightest out of the bunch, at only 14lbs.