Jump to content
IGNORED

Achieving the The Absolute Sound, on a reasonable budget...


Recommended Posts

Sorting out digital playback systems is a nightmare; just look at all the issues brought up in this forum. And after all the struggling it takes to get bit-perfect out of PC or Mac, then what? Are we done?

 

No way. All this has accomplished is getting a "music-like sound product" to emerge (one hopes) from the speakers. Does what we hear at home have anything to do with the reality of the concert hall, and, for example, what real violins sound like?

 

I doubt it, in the case of most of our systems. And that's why the overall experience isn't really that enjoyable, although tinkering with gear has its pleasures.

 

How can one make the audio experience at home sound more like the real thing?

 

From my own experience, there's a hierarchy of issues that need to be resolved:

 

1. The most important component in your listening room is the room, namely its dimensions, which determine to a large degree how the air in the room, which transmits the music to your ears, behaves.

 

2. Keep in mind that air is free.

 

3. Speaker placement is probably the single most important element in achieving really, really good sound, regardless of the cost of the components. Cheap speakers, well positioned, will outperform very, very, expensive speakers that aren't. I'm talking $1500 used monitors on stands being much better than $310K speakers and amps.

 

3a. Don't keep upgrading and upgrading your computer, DAC, speakers, cables, etc., thinking that this really will solve fundamental problems caused by room acoustics. Really expensive will has the potential to sound way better than bargain stuff, but most of the time, the benefits of the high-end equipment get considerably diluted in the room.

 

4. Read the attached article on how violins actually produce sound.

 

5. Then, go to a concert and listen to the violins. Betcha they don't sound anything like that at home. But they can! And for reasonable amounts of money. At the concert, notice how the violins are, firstly, not very loud at all, and that their sound appears to come from a more or less delocalized, living cloud, not isolated pin-points. In fact they sound sort of like a chorus of butterflies most of the time. That's real.

 

The edgy, sharp, over-defined "violins" you're hearing at home have little to do with reality.

 

6. Of course we all know that recorded music involves microphones, cables, etc., and that the entire deal is a crude approximation of The Real Thing, but one can often at least capture the essential, natural, delicate, soothing essence of real music quite well nonetheless.

 

7. Watch this video by Dave Wilson on concert halls. Music is mediated by the air in the room; the properties of the air are determined by the hall dimensions and surfaces primarily, just as is the case in your house.

 

http://wilsonaudio.com/company_html/conversations_part5.html

 

8. Enjoy!

 

Link to comment

Hi Nicholas!

 

You made some good points and remarks on what (and how) we "audiophiles" should think about in the first place.

 

Speaker placement - dependent on what kind of speaker is in use, and (!) what capabilities the speaker has (think about radiation pattern, low frequency response ...) - and of course listening position "alignment" are VERY important points to take care off!

Roome treatment is absolutely essential, but it is not a simple task!

A lot of reading might be essential for some understanding of acoustical issues in our listening rooms.

There is no "one size fits all" resolution for every ones rooms (and equipment associated)!

 

If you ever had the experience of listening to music in a dedicated and well treted environment, you might get the picture. Results could be real stunning, even with "mediocre"equipment (as Nicholas stated above).

 

Cheers

Harald

 

Esoterc SA-60 / Foobar2000 -> Mytek Stereo 192 DSD / Audio-GD NFB 28.38 -> MEG RL922K / AKG K500 / AKG K1000  / Audioquest Nighthawk / OPPO PM-2 / Sennheiser HD800 / Sennheiser Surrounder / Sony MA900 / STAX SR-303+SRM-323II

Link to comment

Attached is a fascinating, and highly educational brochure from a company that does acoustical engineering.

 

One of the more important take-aways is that the room is a three-dimensional volume, and if you take advantage of this (say, by mounting a subwoofer up on the wall) all kinds of benefits can accrue.

 

The software that Keith Yates and others use essentially models the properties of air, meaning how acoustic waves propagate and interact, and does this at a wide range of frequencies. These calculations are in the general area of CFD or computational fluid dynamics.

 

Fix the room acoustics, and then go shopping for gear. Also attached is the Usher speaker placement guide, which is a very good place to start.

 

One early realization of this stems from my ancient Proton table radio, which had a satellite speaker (Alan Goodwin sold this to me in 1985). Eventually it got very rusted and decrepit, so I threw it out, but it ran for 20 years without a hiccup.

 

Anyway, in my house on Kauai, I set the two modules up on a wide fireplace mantel, about 10 ft apart, and le voila, a broad and deep soundstage filled the room, along with highly listenable renditions of music from FM radio. Live shows such as Prairie Home Companion were thrilling.

 

Live and learn...

 

Link to comment

Yes, I agree, and was also a little bit concerned about the "commercial" issue as well. The idea was to "illustrate" the discussion about room acoustics, and how imporant (and complicated) it is to get them done "fixed".

 

If you head towards the back of the document, there are several pages with some incredible computer graphic renderings showing room acoustics at various frequencies. They're well-worth the price of admission. And there's also all kinds of generic information about building high-end sound rooms, placing acoustic amendments and so forth.

 

I tried to "lift" just the picture out of the document, but wasn't able to do so. If you have Acrobat Distiller, feel free to "edit" it. Next time, I'll run such a publication by you beforehand.

 

At least in the post I tried to make it clear that this brochrue was from one of several companies doing this kind of work, and so it's really an example of the breed, as compared to promoting one company over another. These acoustical engineer guys are a rare breed.

 

Link to comment

"I'm talking $1500 used monitors on stands being much better than $310K speakers and amps."

 

Can you name us some brands. I also find active speakers much better and cheaper than the classical approach of separate amp + sp.

 

Very informative article Nicholas, thank you.

 

M2Tech Young DAC - Graham Slee Solo SRGII - PSU1 Power Supply - Grado GS 1000i

Link to comment

The monitors in question are the Usher Be-718s, reviewed in TAS by Robert Harley. As you may know, the Be for "berylium" tweeters have been superceded by "diamond" tweeters, and the new list price will be $2,999. Picking up a used pair of the Be-718s on Audiogon should be roughly $1500 (make sure they are U.S. market serial numbers, as the world market version is substantially different in ways that matter).

 

I'm driving them with the wonderful Odyssey Kismet monoblocks, about 180 watts per channel, and something like 60 amps of current. They run about $4-5K depending upon the case and specs. And the AudioQuest Meteor speaker cables anchor the music to the floor, so to speak, and seem transparent and natural to me.

 

The expensive speakers and amps that were running into room problems will not be named, because the issues weren't their fault, so to speak, and they're otherwise superb products that will allow you to hear the angels sing.

 

What's nice about the monitor form factor is the ability to separate bass transducers from the mid-range and treble. An inexpensive subwoofer placed correctly, in three dimensions (meaning not limiting oneself to the floor) may sound much better than SOTA units that aren't.

 

Now, as you suggested, active speakers (Meridian for example) are also a great approach. Imagine being able to build and voice an amplifier for one crossover only. You're eliminating all kinds of problems. And if you have separate bass modules, it seems to me that you've got the potential for optimal results.

 

Link to comment

Interesting guide from dCS. When it talks about configuring Mediamonkey with ASIO, is says to use the Mediamonkey ASIO plugin AND to use ASIO4ALL.

 

Currently I use the plugin only, without ASIO4ALL. Is the latter necessary? I have not experienced any problems without ASIO4ALL.

 

Thanks,

Dan

 

There are 2 types of people in this world - those who understand binary and those who don't.

Link to comment

Nicholas, I do feel maybe a few odf your comments here need picking up on...

 

"The monitors in question are the Usher Be-718s, reviewed in TAS by Robert Harley. As you may know, the Be for "berylium" tweeters have been superceded by "diamond" tweeters, and the new list price will be $2,999. Picking up a used pair of the Be-718s on Audiogon should be roughly $1500 (make sure they are U.S. market serial numbers, as the world market version is substantially different in ways that matter)."

Okay ... so not Active Monitors as (I think) some people took you to mean but smaller stand mount speakers.

 

"I'm driving them with the wonderful Odyssey Kismet monoblocks, about 180 watts per channel, and something like 60 amps of current. They run about $4-5K depending upon the case and specs. And the AudioQuest Meteor speaker cables anchor the music to the floor, so to speak, and seem transparent and natural to me."

So now $1500 has become somewhere upto $6500.

 

"The expensive speakers and amps that were running into room problems will not be named, because the issues weren't their fault, so to speak, and they're otherwise superb products that will allow you to hear the angels sing."

With all due respect ... you can equally have positioning problems with "small monitors" as you have with larger systems. And given a good room your $310k system could sound out of this world. All you are saying is that small monitors suit your room/situation better. Not a global "small monitors are always better" which you were seaming to imply initially.

 

"What's nice about the monitor form factor is the ability to separate bass transducers from the mid-range and treble. An inexpensive subwoofer placed correctly, in three dimensions (meaning not limiting oneself to the floor) may sound much better than SOTA units that aren't."

What do you consider "inexpensive"?

 

"Now, as you suggested, active speakers (Meridian for example) are also a great approach. Imagine being able to build and voice an amplifier for one crossover only. You're eliminating all kinds of problems. And if you have separate bass modules, it seems to me that you've got the potential for optimal results."

Now we're onto active monitors which I think the original comment referred to. Mentioning Meridian maybe slightly left field for most people as Meridian speakers work with digital input, carry out cross over duty in the digital domain using DSP, then have multiple DACs.

 

Eloise

 

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×
×
  • Create New...