Quarter Notes #26
Dear Get Better Sound & Through the Sound Barriers owners & backers,
Welcome to the twenty-sixth issue of Quarter Notes, published on January 18, 2022. Quarter Notes is a free newsletter for Get Better Sound and Through the Sound Barriers owners, expanding on both, as well as introducing new and timely subjects.
Best email address
If you’re reading this from an e-mail link, the e-mail address with which I sent this QNs must have worked. However, the only e-mail address that I have is the one associated with your initial Get Better Sound or Through the Sound Barriers order.
If you have an e-mail address that you’d prefer to use to receive Quarter Notes notifications, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include the e-mail address that I used originally, along with the one that you want to use to replace it.
Also, since we moved to our new website, it has been possible to keep all of the QNs readily accessible here, on the Quarter Notes page...
In this issue:
1. A simple technique to get your system to be more musically engaging.
2. GIK Acoustics panels
3. Recent RoomPlay Reference comments
4. New product announcements
5. Health updates
6. TTSB status
1. A Simple Technique
Note – This is about addressing greater musical involvement from your system. Whether you do it yourself (which is what this tip is about) or you hire someone to voice your system, this is about unlocking greater engagement with the music as it is reproduced in your listening room.
I must say that it does depend somewhat upon having already achieved a greater sense of musical involvement with your set-up. I call it the ME Factor – Musical Engagement…
Part One - As I have worked on Through The Sound Barrier, and voiced many hundreds of systems to rooms, I have become increasingly aware of the sheer emotional power of so much of our music, if only we will seek to unlock it.
This tip is relatively simple, and is not suggested as a replacement for better set-up. It’s actually a next step after better set-up. In fact, if the set-up has a solid ME Factor, practically anyone can successfully employ this simple technique.
The first observation is that it is not some repeatable technical adjustment. It depends upon your personal taste alone.
Part Two - Once the finally accepted set-up has unlocked the ME factor from the music, slightly reducing or increasing separation & tweaking toe-in can yield even more Presence while also creating a warmer Tone. IMO & IME, more Presence and warmer Tone will always yield greater musical engagement.
Here is what I mean about "slightly" – My left & right speakers ended up being pulled a total 3/4" of an inch closer together (just 3/8" each!). The toe-in ended up being decreased in width by slightly sliding the mains so that they were each 3/8" closer to the center in the front, while the rear of the speaker was not moved. Therefore the total separation at the front was decreased by 3/4".
It so happens that I was also evaluating another DAC (to compare to the Schiit Yggdrasil), and after it was installed and broken-in, l found that the ME factor was better when the recent 3/8" each adjustment was simply returned to its original location!
Note – these sorts of small - even tiny - adjustments are not necessary until you have found what has seemed like the final adjustment. Be sure to carefully record/mark your accepted final position, in order to be able to return to it with confidence in case subsequent small adjustments don't further unlock your music.
Please understand – hopefully, at this point, your system is already delivering ME. This further adjustment is according to your personal taste, related to your system and your room only. It could be that you have already maximized the ME factor with your system/room set-up.
This was accomplished solely with vocals! Interestingly, at this point, greater vocal Presence will bring positive improvements in Presence & Tone to most instruments as well.
Most of my Room Play clients can attest to the fact that when I listened to my Room Play tracks as I worked to reach a higher ME factor, when I found myself falling into the music from tracks that I have heard thousands of times, I usually turned to the client and said, "We're done!"
Except that now I know that I should say, "Now, let's get serious!!!"
This additional improvement can be easily achieved by the system's owner over the next few days, maybe even taking a week or two. The good news is that this additional process is not draining physically and emotionally as most set-ups can be, but the opposite, as the ME Factor emerges more powerfully…
A bit more info…
In order to prove that I wasn't fooling myself, I invited a number of recent local RoomPlay Reference clients and other friends/gifted listeners to return and evaluate the adjustments here from a ME Factor test, including my wife. The good news is that 100% reported a noticeable ME improvement!
If you have interest in more details, it can be easily detailed in a StraightTalk session, or detailed in the new RoomPlay Reference T&T session.
2. GIK Acoustics
We all want to be sure that our rooms do not sound either too dead or too reflective. Having voiced so many systems to their rooms, I have encountered most - if not all - of the better acoustic treatments out there. This article is not about deciding which brands/products are the absolute best for a particular situation. It is about my experience over the years, and a recent - somewhat unexpected - outcome.
I have found, as have many readers, that it's too easy to make your system/room sound dead & boring with absorbent panels only. In fact, I no longer use ANY purely absorbent panels.
I happened on this solution almost by accident. I wanted to try some other options, but the manufacturers were usually far away from here (in the Atlanta, GA area).
Then I discovered that GIK Acoustics was a local company! So I tried some of their various acoustic panels. To my surprise, one particular panel – if not employed to excess - seemed to NOT change the natural acoustics of the room. Yet, when employed properly, these panels allowed the music playback to be much more alive and musically engaging! Every before & after listener has commented re this aspect.
These panels also worked for first reflections as well, although I did end up using a related panel from GIK.
Below are some images of my RoomPlay Reference room. With the exception of the two columns of three black GIK three quadratayic diffusors on the front wall between the corners and the thee center Alpha panels, the ONLY acoustic panels in the room are GIK Alpha panels. The black GIK 4' x 2' absorptive panels on each side and back have a built-in diffusive panel directly behind & against the outer panel fabric. These are used at the first reflection points in the room. The tall corner panels are stacked Alpha panels, which are in front of ASC tube traps in the corners.
FWIW, GIK sells direct, which is one of several reasons why their prices are a bit more or less than half of those from other manufacturers that use retail high-end audio stores.
3. Recent RoomPlay Reference comments
Actually, in this case, these are comments from experienced listeners, not so much on the RoomPlay Reference session so much as their – somewhat unexpected from their viewpoints – emotional reactions to what happened in the RPR room:
Review in the AudioShark forum by Mark Powers, the forum's Moderator –
I recently spent some time with Jim in his dedicated listening room getting acquainted with his new system. I've been there before on a few occasions, but that was listening to his previous setup, which included his big Tannoy speakers with outboard crossovers and some very expensive ancillary gear.
Jim invited me to come because he's gone through what happens to many of us on our audio journey. And as many of us have, his views have evolved. At the beginning of our journey, some of us are really paying attention to how correct or realistic the sounds we are listening to are. We want to have our music be as realistic as possible. And for some of us it can become sort of a quest to get there.
There's nothing wrong with that goal until it becomes the only reason you're an audiophile. What I mean by that is that in acquiring speakers and other gear that only gives us the technical truth of the music, we lose the very thing that we loved about music in the first place.......the way it makes us feel. Music and lyrics that bring out emotions from deep inside us!
Jim put together his new system for a fraction of the money of his previous setup. (Edit by Jim – Actually the entire system costs less than just the power cables cost in the previous system!) Fyne speakers, a Pass integrated and cheap wires.
His purpose was to show that a fairly inexpensive system, set up properly, could bring out those emotions that we all enjoy so much when listening to a piece of music that touches us.
After spending a few hours there listening to music that I wasn't even familiar with, I can assure you that he totally succeeded. It was even better than his old, much more expensive system.
One of the things we talked about was when a music system achieves the goal of being emotionally involving, it also becomes something that we can share with the people we love. I know personally that since the arrival of the Kharmas and the Gryphon integrated that my wife has wanted to sit with me, and she has commented on how beautiful it sounds.
Overall it was another ear opening day in my journey through the audiophile universe.
Thanks for the listening session at your studio that you provided for me this past week. The afternoon was quite enlightening.
I have never experienced music with the detail, depth and clarity that I heard on your system. My system is much more expensive but does not come close to the musicality that your system exhibits.
Very evident that the setup is the key ingredient in the success of a finely tuned and really impressive music experience. I look forward to you helping my system achieve its potential.
Your setup sounded terrific! The presentation was amazing ... so full and deep. Not only did the speakers completely disappear, but music from floor to ceiling, deep, and SO wide, extending well beyond the location of the speakers, was amazing! As if there were no boundaries to the room.
As I tried to listen critically, the sound was so satisfying and "correct" (proper tone, with no frequency anomalies, and no noticeable physical room), my brain quickly switched from critical mode to enjoyment mode with each track. My experience there clearly proves to me that, without having to invest great amounts of money for gear, with proper setup, one can obtain truly satisfying, world-class sound. Having modest gear myself, this is very encouraging to me.
That I too could potentially have such wonderful music in my room with proper setup. Where the speakers AND the room both disappear, leaving just the music to enjoy.
Thank you again for the opportunity to visit. It was really fun and informative speaking with you.
Best Regards, Dan
The RPR session was an excellent and low-cost investment towards improving my sound. I expected your room/system to sound excellent going in and it didn’t disappoint (it exceeded my expectations).
However, it was the educational element that I wasn’t anticipating. Upon leaving the RPR session, I had learned some things about our rooms and systems that I likely wasn’t going to learn elsewhere, and that’s after reading Jim’s book and watching his DVD several times.
Note to readers: The process Jim goes through during the RPR session provides you with information, sounds, tones, presence, placement, etc. that allow you to know how various songs and performances should sound.
If you’re serious about your sound and system performance, I highly recommend taking the time to go to Jim’s for an RPR session, it will be enjoyable as well as a tremendous learning opportunity you can apply towards your room and system (no matter how basic or extensive it is).
Just one small tip Jim provided during our session, I incorporated when I arrived home and OMG! - luckily that’s just the beginning. Thank you Jim for offering the RPR opportunity to the audio community!
A recent set-up was also posted onto my Facebook page:
Lee Scoggins is the CEO @ NextScreen, who owns The Absolute Sound here and Hi Fi+ in Great Britain, as well as some high-performance-auto mags.
Lee Scoggins Dec. 9 @ 5:34 PM
Lee Scoggins Dec. 14 @ 3:13 PM
Lee Scoggins Dec. 14 @ 10:32 PM
Lee Scoggins Dec. 16 @ 10:16 AM
A comment by Lee after hearing my setup, before I worked on his system:
Lee Scoggins Nov. 2
4. New product announcement -
Actually, there are two new products:
1 - There will be an addition to RoomPlay Reference that features the various – inexpensive but vital – tools & specialized techniques to assure the best possible outcome. There hasn’t been time to cover these in the past, and this will be an extra hour or so at the end of a session for those that want it then, or it can be accomplished a bit later with a one hour StraightTalk sesson as well.
It is called RoomPlay T&T (Tools &Techniques). The price is $75.00. We will have it up on the Get Better Sound Store page soon. If you have questions and you do not wish to wait, e-mail Jim at email@example.com.
2 – The second has been tested for its effectiveness and I am pretty excited to offer it at a much lower price than RoomPlay, but with a solid track record of outstanding results.
This all came about from my unwillingness to travel by air during the Covid mess. I had – and still have – dozens of potential clients who have waited patiently though this pandemic. How could I help those who wanted it, without traveling by air (going through the sometimes risky airports, renting cars that were most likely not cleaned properly, staying in a hotel with its issues, etc…)?
I do still handle those projects within driving distance, but of late, it seems demand is tilted a bit away from those sessions within driving distance.
That being said, the second new product almost developed itself, as I had no previous thoughts or plans about it.
It is basically a series of StraightTalk meetings, often with Facetime or even Zoom incorporated. We actually do some of the same basic RoomPlay set-up techniques to start, and as the results improve, they become more personalized to that person’s specific system/room requirements.
As I write this, I have decided to name this new service RoomPlay Now.
I will say that it is significantly less expensive than a RoomPlay session – especially with all of the associated travel expenses added. The good news so far is that the results far exceed any improvement you could get from buying any component, no matter how expensive.
The other thing about which I am excited is that I will offer it at a special price to all of the Through The Sound Barrier backers as a way to try to make up for the ridiculous delays in delivering that product. And it definitely demonstrates the emotional effect of music as it is empowered when we break through those sound barriers…
I was gonna reproduce some of the comments from users, but this QNs has already gone on for too long. So here is a recent one, from a client in the midwest:
“Having read Jim Smith's columns over the years, I had hoped Jim would visit and bring my system's performance to the highest level possible. But I never made a visit happen. And as someone who is often impatient and terrible at following directions, I didn't think anything short of a visit would help.
Jim proved me wrong in spades.
Through a series of phone calls and emails and now, personal experience, I've learned that using an audio system without properly addressing the listening room is something like driving a sports car with the parking brake engaged. There’s plenty of performance hampered by a completely addressable issue.
I never fully appreciated how much my speakers were sonically interfering with one another and how much my room was detracting from what my system could produce. In almost every regard, the sound is now more expressive, natural, exciting, and addictive. It’s hard to believe that I’m having this experience without having changed any components. In fact, I don’t believe any single component could have brought me the same level of improvement. The exact placement of the speakers in particular is far more critical than I realized. And these improvements were realized with no room treatment as my living room won’t allow for it.
Jim is something of an audio missionary. He genuinely cares about and works very hard to improve the audio experience of other audiophiles.
I can’t thank him enough for his remarkable help."
As I mentioned, it is called RoomPlay Now. $750 total, which is a bit less than half of the average total for local RP sessions, and perhaps one fourth of the total price for sessions on the west coast & Canada, including travel expenses. We will have it up on the Get Better Sound Store page soon. If you have questions and you do not wish to wait, e-mail Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And I will repeat my earlier statement - The results far exceed any improvement you could get from buying any component, no matter how expensive.
Frankly, I had thought hard about ranting about the images of high-performance components in sadly compromised set-ups as shown on Facebook & Instagram. I would say that - conservatively - at least 80% of those pictured systems fall into that compromised category.
The comments directly above were the ones that finally made me decide to offer a similarly efficient and relatively inexpensive program to help more people.
IME, there is almost always a way to address these issues, even if it means that - after listening - sliding some seats or speakers back to their former position that assures that Domestic Harmony matches the new & greatly enhanced Musical Harmony.
5. Health updates
Frankly, I don’t particularly enjoy including this info in the Quarter Notes, but so many of you have been especially kind, inquiring into the status of my unusual sequence of health issues, that I have included this info in the past few issues…
Cervical Spinal Stenosis surgery results – ten months later…
After having my throat cut so that the surgeon could get to the twisted spinal vertebrae at the top of my neck (which were pinching my spinal chord, cutting off communications between my brain and my legs) I am happy to report that instead of falling several times per day, I haven't fallen once since my surgery in early April 2121! I still occasionally use a cane, which is common with this procedure. The good news is that at the end of 12 months or so after the surgery, the cane is rarely required.
Hiatal Hernia - Unexpected surgery two months afterwards. Fortunately, this didn't take long from which to recover.
Esophagitis Stage D - This was an unexpected recent development. Still doing all I can to get it to heal, prior to and maybe even to avoid invasive surgery. Here are a few of the requested (and honored to date) changes in foods & drinks: No caffeine, alcohol, no tomatoes in anything, nor tomato sauce, tomato juice, chocolate, lemons, limes, oranges, etc… No fun, either …
Last minute news - Upcoming surgery for lower back or right hip, plus an encouraging recent Esophagitis Stage D report, as my symptoms have gotten noticeably milder!
6. TTSB status
Update: Book One is done. Book Two is in final editing. I have decided to give everyone a System Log, as it is crucial to have one if we are to break through our sound barriers. I have engaged Lee Scoggins to be on the TTSB video, as he is not only an exceptionally knowledgeable audiophile/music lover, he actually experienced some RoomPlay system/room tuning that I performed for him recently.
CDs and/or streaming are still being evaluated. I spent thousands of dollars on licensing my RoomPlay tracks, only to have them expire timewise. Sheesh!!! We are looking at several options in that area, as well as streaming.
So that’s the end of Quarter Notes #26! Thanks for your patience with reading such a long newsletter!!!
Best wishes, and let’s unlock your music!