Quarter Notes


Dear Get Better Sound & Through the Sound Barrier owners & backers,

Welcome to the twenty-fifth issue of Quarter Notes, published on April 25, 2021. Quarter Notes is a free newsletter for Get Better Sound and Through the Sound Barrier 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 Barrier order.

If you have an e-mail address that you’d prefer to use to receive Quarter Notes notifications, send it to js@getbettersound.com. Be sure to include the e-mail address that I used originally, along with the one that you want to use to replace it.


In this issue:

1. AV Room Service CVPs - Cable Vibration Protectors

2. RPR room redo completed for TTSB video/DVD

3. Heart of Hearing?

4. Balance issues the last two years or so

5. Cervical Spinal Stenosis surgery

6. WOAH!!! That's good news re TTSB?

7. A recent RoomPlay client review


1. AV Room Service CVPs - Cable Vibration Protectors

It was back in QNs #23 that I introduced AV Room Service EVPs. My admiration of their performance continues as solid as ever.

In fact, I started on a major re-arrangement in the RPR room months ago; replacing every expensive component with one that cost less than half of what I was using. The overall system is now about one-fifth (!) of what the other had cost.

In each case, the goal was to replace every relatively expensive high performing component with very good components at a much lesser price, to assist in showing audiophiles/music lovers, that getting a system setup to work with a room will achieve a much higher level of ME (Musical Engagement). No more slightly cynical observations that the RPR demo was one of the best sound/listening experiences (short of live music) that they had heard, but after all - it should have been - as expensive as the system's components were.

So I replaced my equipment racks that cost thousands of dollars with three $150/apiece Pangea racks. Yep, that was a step (or three) backwards.

But I had in mind a way that they could compete on the same level, or even exceed the performance of exotic racks & footers, ESPECIALLY those that are installed in a non-optimum location - which from the many FaceBook images that I've seen, appear to be approximately 75% of all systems.

To achieve my goal, I mounted every electronic component on AV Room Service EVPs – based on the needed size & weight. Now we were in the game, at a mere fraction of the prices that most audiophiles pay.

A while back, I thought that I'd give the AV Room Service CVPs (Cable Vibration Protectors) a try for my RoomPlay Reference sessions. So I called Norm Varney at AV Room Service. We worked out approximately how many that I needed and he shipped them promptly.

Above is an image of the CVPs from the AV Room Service website.

I've never been particularly impressed with the overall results from the various cable vibration protectors on the market, but have suspected that it might be somewhat due to my lightweight and unshielded Duelund ICs & Speaker Cables.

After receiving the CVPs, I slipped all of my Duelund ICs & Speaker Cables into the CVPs that were delivered that day. For this application, I used tracks from my extremely familiar RoomPlay playlist.

FWIW - although I don't think it's particularly necessary, my cables are lightly twisted - maybe 2-3 turns per foot or so - it just didn't show up in the image blow after I pulled the EVP cables out a bit for the photo below.

Here is an image of one of them supporting my Duelund speaker cables:

This time, I had no expectations. Honestly speaking, after a fairly brief listen, I thought that my system sounded pretty much the same as they did pre-CVPs. In fact, I can’t say that I initially heard any significant differences in the sound quality.

But something did happen – not sure if it was the Duelund cables or the CVPs, or some combination thereof…

Not hearing the typical “Sound Quality” differences – for better or worse – I began to focus on a TTSB topic that I had been wrestling with. So I moved over to my office in the room across the hall to work on it.

Running the RPR demo system as a music source, actually in the adjacent demo room, it was simply a source of background music to me.

Except for one anomaly – I found myself becoming engaged in the music – from sound emanating from my RPR room next door (!) – and from tracks that I’d heard thousands of times…

So I went back over to the demo room and listened some more. Except that this time, I wasn’t listening for sounds.

The effect was as if I were being immersed in the music more powerfully than before! But still no obvious difference in the sound. NO WAY!!!

So I went next door and asked my wife Pam to come over & listen for a bit. Her reaction – un-promoted by me – was almost the same as mine!

This may sound a bit ill-defined – but musically there was simply more THERE there…

It may be a lowering of the noise floor, but I cannot say for certain. If/when you try them out, let me know what you hear!

A couple of observations re the CVPS:

1 – At $24 apiece, they are not inexpensive, at least from my current room-to-system voicing viewpoint/efforts here in the RPR room. Even so, they are still less than most of the high-end audio competitors.

2 – I am unsure as to what the effects might be with heavier & more costly cables. IMO, they were most likely designed for those types of cables. I simply haven't heard such a set-up yet with CVPs.

3 – One of the primary reasons that I endorse such products from Norm Varney's AV Room Service is Norm's willingness to refund your money if – for whatever reason – you are not completely satisfied. From numerous reports that I have received, I don't think those events happen very often, but just in case…

4 – Another interesting product, which I hope to try soon:

Note: the following sections, with the exception of the last one, all have to do with the progress of the Through The Sound Barrier project.


2. RPR demo room update:

1 – After some slow-down issues related to my recent surgery, the RPR demo room is finally updated and ready to shoot the TTSB DVD/Video.

2 – The RoomPlay Reference room has always been there to help audio hobbyists understand how to take their existing systems to higher levels of ME – Musical Engagement.

And to do so without spending much - if any - additional money to get there. To my knowledge, no matter how far they may have travelled from around the world, all visitors have felt it was among the best - if not the very best by far – investment they ever made in their music systems.

3 – The TTSB DVD/video – to be shot in the RPR room, will show TTSB backers & owners how to go about unlocking their music in a much more powerful way. While it will have an initial technical basis, the subsequent steps shown are all about increasing your musical involvement well beyond merely listening to "great sounds".

Incidentally, these are not some new techniques. They are essentially the same ones used in somewhere around 1,000 highly successful system-to-room voicing projects. Also, they are the same techniques that won 7 Best of Sound awards at various CES & other shows in a period of just 5 years, when I was the North American distributor for Avantgarde Acoustic loudspeakers.

Perhaps the most recognized & memorable show report was the one in San Francisco in 2003, when Robert Harley and Srajan Ebaen each reported on the attendees standing & applauding at the end of each session!


3. Heart (?) of hearing?

As my surgery was recently approaching, a local audiophile went w-a-a-a-a-y beyond my expectations for him to help me, as he and I had discussed how I wanted to finish getting the RoomPlay Reference demo room ready for the upcoming TTSB video.

With the balance problems associated with my upcoming Cervical Spinal Stenosis neurosurgery, I was relatively useless. Even picking up small items was risky.

I had been corresponding and occasionally meeting with Michael (last name removed for privacy) about this shared hobby of ours and working towards bringing his system further forward, so as to unlock his music in a more powerful manner.

Michael lives about 45-50 minutes away from here. So a day's visit by him also included an hour-and-a half of drive time…

He was relatively insistent upon helping me out – expecting no pay, I might add…

Among other projects (some of which were a bit tricky) that were outstanding – in which he helped immensely - I needed to relocate all of the ceiling lighting in the RPR room.

This required moving each of the 5 rotating track 4-light sets exactly 14.25 inches to the right. Michael took on the job. It wasn't enough to move them exactly, he also had to repair the 5 previous holes in the ceiling so that no one could see that they were ever there. In fact, the ceiling repair took the most of his time.

Since the ceiling was double layers of sheet-rock, reinforced with substantial wood studs, with a flooring above them that I use for storage, he had to go upstairs, relocate a lot of stored items, and peel the flooring back just so that he could get at the receptacles from the top.

And now, the refurbished ceiling - after relocating the track lights - is completely void of visible damage from the prior installation. Amazing!!!

Although I have helped him obtain a few acoustic treatment items at a very good price, he continues to check on me regularly, even after having a biking accident in which he broke several ribs!

This mention of what he has done is simply to recognize his efforts, which have gone well beyond what I expected.

Thank you, Michael!!!


4. Balance issues the last two years or so

In the past two years or so, my RoomPlay clients have especially noticed my increasing instability. In fact, most of them politely commented about it. And they readily assisted in getting the heavy load of equipment out of and back into my car.

RoomPlay Reference clients noticed it as well.

I finally decided to tell my M.D. about my growing balance issues, as rarely a day passed that I didn't fall at least once.

She referred me to a neurosurgeon who ordered several MRIs.

He uncovered the root cause of my balance issues. Apparently, it's not all that uncommon, although I had never heard of it. It is called Spinal Stenosis. Vertebrae in the spine can pinch the nerves in the spinal cord, delaying vital messages back & forth between the brain & the muscles.

Hmm, would better interconnects help? 🤔

So we scheduled the surgery, without even considering substituting highly detailed ICs... 😉

Below is an edited (for brevity) description that my insurance company sent to me, pre-surgery:

Cervical Spinal Stenosis surgery:

"Fusion of spine bones with removal of disc in upper spinal column, using anterior approach (this means that to get to my spinal cord in the back of my neck, they had to enter through several incisions in the front of my throat).

Insertion of anterior spinal instrumentation for spinal stabilization, 4 to 7 vertebrae segments, and fusion of vertebrae."

It's now been about three weeks since the surgery. My wife and others have noticed that I seem to have already begun to recover from some of the most noticeable instability issues.

However, according to my neurosurgeon, it's gonna be a long road back (at least I shouldn't be falling on it anymore) – he estimates up to a year or longer…


5. WOAH!!!

How can the above info possibly be good news re TTSB? Can Bad News ever contain Good News?

In my case, the bad news is that at 5:30 AM Monday, April 5, I had to be at the hospital for the five-hour (!) surgery to address my Spinal Stenosis. The three surgery procedures were Laminectomy, Foraminotomy, & Spinal Fusion.

Afterwards, the medical team cautioned me not to lift anything over 10 lbs. after the surgery, and to stay away from any physical activity for at least three months, if not longer. The actual complete healing time period is projected to be about a year. Of course - my office & RoomPlay Reference demo room are located in the adjacent building…

That's Enough of the Bad News!!! Anything good?

In 2008 I was in a bad car accident. Among the many issues, my back was broken. I was confined to a lengthy healing time period after the surgery.

Some of my clients contacted me and said – in general – "Hey Jim, why don't you write the book that you've always said was needed so badly?" And so I did – Get Better Sound. There was really little else that I could do.

I am actually a bit excited about seeing Through The Sound Barrier move ahead to completion during the earlier part of this time period, as it should be enough to easily get this unbelievably delayed project completed.

A few days ago, I spent time getting my spare laptop up to speed since I can't easily work at my office desktop – can't even walk over there (the office) - without a walker for some time.

Works great! I can write/edit with little distractions.

And that is how Bad News may even be Good News in some instances, especially this one!!!


6. A recent RoomPlay review

Many of you will want to read the entire review, but it may be simply too long to be in this newsletter. I will eventually get it posted in the RoomPlay Reference section of the GBS website.

It was originally written expressly for members of an Audio Society/Club. FWIW – it's written in a very casual style, as the writer considers the members of his group to be his personal friends.

This RoomPlay session took place about two weeks before my surgery. I would never have taken the project at this late date, except for two deal-making issues:

(1) The client(s) lived about 45 minutes from our daughter's house, so Pam & I could visit with our grandson, our daughter and our son-in-law, prior to the somewhat complicated surgery.

(2) The other deal-maker was that the prospective clients promised to do the heavy lifting of all of my gear if I would agree to come.

Audio Review:

My System/Room Setup Session with Jim Smith of

Get Better Sound

What would cause one audiophile to invite another one over - and without reserve - allow him to dismantle his valuable and expensive two channel audio system? If the audiophile invited over is Jim Smith, hey, that makes the audiophile who invited him damned smart!

Yay me! I am very danged smart because – since I invited him out to take my system apart, it sounds better than I thought it ever could in my room. I brought Jim out because I thought there was certainly more performance than I was able to find, but that I knew was almost certainly there somewhere

My audiophile friend Bill (full name edited for privacy) and I have talked about hiring Jim for the last two years based on the testament of plenty of audiophiles who have hired him previously to voice their systems. Of course, I said I was not buying any new equipment until we got him out.

Well, that’s not exactly how it came to be… Many thousands of dollars in new equipment purchases later (!), my friend Bill and I finally decided that it was time to call Jim and bring him to town. We had pushed our systems' performance to as far as we could in order to get the best out of them. We finally realized that it was time to take action. So, we called Jim up and began discussions about what we wanted.

Interesting to note, we were asking Jim questions, and at the same time, he was interviewing us. He is in enough demand that it is as much about the fit between him and the expectations of the clients he chooses to work with.

Additionally, I believe Jim had not agreed to work on two systems during one trip since 2010, saying it was really debilitating - physically, intellectually, and even emotionally. He thought that it simply wasn't fair to the second client.

I can attest that going through one entire set up in a bit less than a day & a half is a total energy draining process. I am still trying to recuperate from the experience myself, now two days since the session.

So here is the play-by-play:

Prior to coming to see us, Jim had me take 91% rubbing alcohol and clean electrical and connector plug contacts of each unit in my rig. I did so, and it seemed to yield a less veiled, crisper sound coming from the units.

Jim scheduled to come out to us on the weekend, Bill on Friday night and me on Sunday night. He schedules about two to three hours the night before the system-to-room voicing day to simply sit and listen, in order to evaluate the system’s efficacy.

By the way, he does not travel by airline anymore since Covid 19 and carries loads of equipment to complete the sessions. His car is loaded to the gills and is unloaded on arrival.

The only instrument reading that he performed this first listening session was to check the system's acoustic polarity. He applies a polarity signal at the preamplifier, and measures it at the loudspeakers' output. My system passed - all was in correct acoustic polarity – which is the difference between the sound being clear, rather than being slightly muddy.

Jim brings his well-known-to-him RoomPlay playist music – to be reproduced via a Schitt 'YGGY' Dac - which I have to say sounded sweet to my ears.

He sat and listened to about 30 - 40 songs. He listened no more than about one to two minutes each at specific areas to certain tracks, and with over half of them – maybe only 30 seconds or so.

He sat quietly, closing his eyes and listening intently - then, as if on cue - switching to the next tune. Occasionally he would nod his head in approval as if he discovered a hidden marker in the music. Alternatively, I would notice a slight head shake from left to right as if he heard something not as good as he wanted to hear. Not once did I see any written notes about what he heard, but let me assure you he saved every nuance heard in his head, as I would learn later.

By the way, the play list he used to run this evaluation session was killer! After doing this for a couple hours, he announced that he had heard what he needed to hear and prepared to depart. In this case, his daughter lives near here and he stayed with his family there, instead of at a hotel.

Being able to get some needed rest between sessions was possible this way, and was the main reason that he agreed to do two sessions on one trip.

The next day he showed up ready to go to work. I had no idea what to expect - the man is a working and dedicated machine once he gets started!

The first task we carried out was to check AC polarity of the various electronics' internal circuits' wiring. He noted that he often finds manufacturers will inadvertently reverse the polarity of the a/c circuitry in their equipment. It was interesting that all of my ARC equipment was reverse AC polarity.

He noted that my later year model ARC gear only showed a slight variation in electrical output at either polarity connection. The early ARC Gear showed much larger differences as in 15 volts at the plug pin when reading in one direction and 95 volts at the pin when reading in another. Using a voltmeter, he read by measuring from the power cord of each piece of electronics in my system. To correct inversions, we put an adapter plug in without third wire ground and simply flipped the cable plug in from normal to reverse.

He said that this procedure might only make a small difference in the sound but accumulative small differences add up, as I would see once we got everything established and setup.

During this process, we took my system completely apart to read power-plug pins. I used the time to correct some of the wire and cable nests I had made previously. It also allowed Jim to suggest better placement and finding reflection points to place reflectors and absorbers (thank you for those of you who either provided or offered panels to me after my request to find more. They really helped).

This prep work completed, he set up his measurement equipment to detect any room nodes, peaks, suck-outs, or anomalies that would be harmful. His reading showed my room was relatively smooth in spite of some challenges, such as a huge glass mirrored wall on one side of my room. I was astonished at the relative smoothness with exception of an annoying 10 to 15 db rise in the 60 to 100 Hz bass range, which gave a bloated bass result in my sound. Jim said that in most rooms and systems he visits, he has to find ways to increase bass to yield the smoothest response. My room actually produced too much (!) and we needed to reduce the area of increased bass response.

I want to interject this part - not so much as a boast (although it did make me feel good coming from him) - he said that my room and system was relatively well set up, and many of the dimension measurements he took were very close to where they should be. He asked how I got the room set up so close. My response, it was very simple, I used his book Get Better Sound, following his directions closely. I then listened by ear to make minor adjustments on my own. I am saying this to signal to you the effectiveness of his book in helping to bring your system close to peak performance. You may find it not necessary to pay to have Jim or someone like him come voice your system to your room.

Next, he set about finding the perfect chair placement for smoothest bass. Jim calls this the Anchor Point for all future work. He actually knew many manufacturers’ preferred X/Y ratios (X being the distance from the listener’s ear to the tweeter and Y being the distance the tweeters are apart - center-to-center) of many manufacturers' suggested listening positions, and strives to achieve these ratios as a starting point, unless his experience has already found that some other ratio works better. My X/Y ratio was in the 80 to 82% range, I believe.

From there, we would adjust the speakers after plotting room dimensions by laser-based measurements. Once done, we set about getting exact speaker distances set from each other, from the walls and both sides and behind the speakers.

Remember, I said earlier that the dimensions were already set close to where he suggested they should be. You should know that "close" is not good enough for Jim; he would get measurements to several 32nds of an inch and – depending on the issues at hand – even that might not be good enough. He would get it better before he was ready to go on to the next stage.

Finally, we began to put the equipment back together and he would play his RoomPlay playlist music to listen for specifics - dynamics, presence, and tone. This process (including speaker separation, tilt, & toe) took a long time, including using some math to calculate ratios and lasers to confirm placement and finally the ear to determine overall correctness in order to deliver increased Musical Engagement. Jim calls this the ME factor.

Using all of the music that he played the night before, he would sit in my chair in the sweet spot and play a segment. Sometimes he would then tell me this particular track should have a more upfront sound stage presence, or this one should come from the back and this image should appear right, this image appears left or center and how tall the performer should appear. He would get up and make further adjustments. Damned if everything he sought from every tune he was able to find!

He had used each track from his playlist to portray a specific element that – in his opinion - a system should reveal to confirm our exacting placements. Finally, he invited me to sit in my seat and he asked to listen to a track that he was going to play. He asked me to tell him what I heard, and where was it located.

On one test track, there was a dog barking that appeared way outside of the speakers on my right side, over 90 degrees to the right, and slightly behind me. Next, a radio announcer broke in and began to speak in the opposite position on the left side of my body! It was truly 3d imaging, unlike anything I’d ever heard from a two-channel system. He said that what I heard was the final test to let him know that ear-to-loudspeaker path-lengths were equal.

By the way, we started work just after 10 AM that morning. We did not finish until nearly 10PM that night (!). Curiously, he worked throughout the day & evening without taking a drink or accepting food. He said that it was too distracting & time consuming, and he had to stay on task. I hung in there with him but it nearly killed me, I snuck in a few orange bites here and there and drank water as we went.

Conclusion: One of the first questions most people ask is "what does something like this cost"? It is time charged per hour, plus expenses to travel. In my case, that is almost two thousand dollars and my friend Bill and I split the travel expenses for Jim.

The next question I often hear is, “Your system sounded good, as it was - what more did you expect to get?” A very fair question!

My first response is that hiring Jim Smith to come set up your system is something most everyone can do, but at the same time is not for everyone! In my case, several thoughts were in my head to come to this decision…

First, I will be retiring sometime in the near future and really will not be able to spend this kind of money to buy and upgrade equipment. As a result, I have stretched to buy the best I can afford with the goal of playing my music the best it can be - as close as possible to what the artist(s) intended for me to hear/experience. It is a wonderful hobby, but one where I will not be able to replace components on a whim, in order to see how it makes a difference. I simply do not know what I do not know about high-end electronics and how it all should sound. Being in the (edited for privacy) Audio Club is a great help and experience in that regard, but there is only so much useful expertise to be gained from so many directions.

One of the many thoughts that I had while working with Jim was “Ohhh, now I get it” – now I can see reasons for - and understand - some of the terms that I've seen & heard in various audio discussions. I finally could understand from a true professional audio set-up person’s perspective exactly what my room looked and sounded like and gained a very good idea of what it should sound like.

I have spent lots of money, from my point of finances, and always had this nagging thought that my system was not giving me anywhere near what is capable! Sheesh!!! - I was right in this thought!

Did I get stronger bass response? Nope, just smoother. More agile & tuneful.

Does it play louder? Not necessarily, but when I do play it louder there is little mud to accompany it.

Music is much more engaging and full-bodied when it reaches my ears now. My speakers consistently disappear more often.

The "Air" around instruments is clear and the imaging very stable and clearly defined. The soundstage is spread out, stable and multidimensional in scope. It just sounds great now!

I am so glad that I spent the money and do not think I will ever have reason to look back and think it was a waste! I am so-o-o excited to have each of you come & have a listen.

Best regards,

Larry – Glad to be an (edited for privacy) Audio Club Member!

P.S. -I’ve been thinking about it, now that I’ve had Jim over. There is not even one cable purchase I’ve made recently that was close to the cost - let alone less money - than the couple thousand dollars I spent for Jim to come tweak my system!

Yet, nothing I’ve added equipment-wise has had the impact that Jim’s 1.5 day visit has had on my musical enjoyment and satisfaction with my rig!

Nothing! Think about that!

Dear Get Better Sound & Through the Sound Barrier owners,

Welcome to the twenty-fourth issue of Quarter Notes, published on January 10, 2021. Quarter Notes is a free newsletter for Get Better Sound and Through the Sound Barrier 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 I have is the one associated with your initial Get Better Sound or Through the Sound Barrier order.

If you have an e-mail address that you’d prefer to use to receive Quarter Notes notifications, send it to js@getbettersound.com. Be sure to include the e-mail address I used originally, along with the one that you want to use to replace it.

In this issue:

1. The Get Better Sound website has finally moved!

2. New GBS website features

3. Huge update to the RoomPlay Reference room:

a - What were the changes & why were they deemed necessary?

b - Acoustic wave-launch vs. electrons in cables & circuits. Changes due to this phenomenon.

c - Implications for the Through the Sound Barrier DVD, and its direct connection to unlocking your music.

4. Sheesh!!! I knew better...…

5. A different X-Factor

6. TTSB update

1. The Get Better Sound website has finally moved!

Although it was absolutely necessary, it has been way too involved (effort & time) & frankly, a real chore. My son Randall of Breaking Through Podcast fame, has helped me to make this changeover. Without his assistance, I don't see how it would ever have happened. THANK YOU, RANDALL!!!

2. New GBS website features

Now I can send QNs directly from the site. Podcasts can start again as well, since they can also be hosted directly from the site.

3. Huge update to the RoomPlay Reference room

Below is an image of the RPR room & system, before the big changes. Over the years, this set-up received "Best Sound" comments from about 80% of attendees, with the remaining 20% or so saying things like "In my Top Three", etc…

a. So what were the changes & why were they deemed necessary?

The entire point of the RoomPlay Reference room had been to give visitors a reference for what was possible especially from a musical involvement standpoint. The sessions always included a good bit of 'how to get there' information for the attendees.

Although I truly appreciated the positive comments & reactions from everyone, I began to worry that they held high expectations primarily due to the cost of the components in the system. Of course, this viewpoint is exactly the opposite of what I have always intended…

So, I sold off the speakers, amplification, power cables, and many of the ASC Tube Traps that I had on hand.

b. Acoustic wave-launch vs. electrons in cables & circuits, and changes due to this phenomenon.

The new system and room acoustics, whatever they would be, had to cost a fraction of the one that I had used for many years. Having visited a large number of RoomPlay clients who had great systems, but that were not initially set up to unlock their music, and having to show them the powerful musical involvement effects that come from properly achieving & receiving the best acoustic wave-launch into the room, the last thing I wanted to do here was have them think that if only they spent more money on their system & room, all would be good.

I should mention here that I am NOT against buying better components. Actually, I'm all for it whenever possible, but only after you have discovered how to achieve & receive the best acoustic wave-launch into the room. To do so without unlocking your music is largely a waste of your money, because the system & room are not set up well enough to truly appreciate what a better component can do.

Not to wear you out with this viewpoint, please let me conclude with this statement: Worrying about how electrons flow through circuits & cables can NEVER achieve the results that addressing the proper acoustical wave-launch into your room and receiving it properly at your listening area. IT'S NOT EVEN CLOSE, ESPECIALLY WHEN THERE IS A SIMPLE & AFFORDABLE TECHNIQUE AVAILABLE TO ACHIEVE BOTH MUSICAL HARMONY & DOMESTIC HARMONY

Here is an image of the new RPR room & system, which is approx. 25% of the price of the previous system, but with the same - or perhaps a better - level of musical engagement:

Two more images:

In the images above, you can see more of what the new room offers in layout flexibility. The image just below is what I see in approximately 75% of the systems/rooms that I come to voice. The loss of presence & tone in such a set-up is massive, truly a sad event, especially if the system is relatively high-end.

Back when I was recording for NPR, there was NO WAY that I would allow a performer to be in the same location as the speakers are in the image below. If live sound is compromised in such a position, why do we think ANY loudspeakers will work there?

Although it's only a small improvement, the first – worthwhile - step is to place a fabric cover over the flat TV screen when listening to your music…

The next step is to bring the speakers forward of the cabinet a bit, not shown here, but will be shown on the TTBS DVD. This can easily be accomplished when the owner wants a more immersive listening experience, a greater dose of musical engagement. Of course it needs to be easy to return to the original position when necessary.

c. Implications for the Through the Sound Barrier DVD, and its direct connection to unlocking your music.

The good news is that the new RPR demos really make the TTSB Book Two & DVD come alive in a powerful manner

4. Sheesh!!! I knew better…

For most of my career in retail audio, one of the things that I tried to require of my sales staffs was that only the pair of speakers that the client wanted to hear would be in the room. All others HAD to be removed.

Why? Whenever other – unattached – loudspeakers are in the room, they ALWAYS detract from the sound of the ones that you want to hear.

I am always disappointed when I visit a high-end dealer or see photos that show multiple speakers in the room.

Furthermore, back when I was a LucasFilm-Certified Home Theater Consultant, whenever a HT owner indicated that there were times when he or she wanted to listen to music through the left & right speakers only, they were nearly always skeptical at first when I suggested that they leave the center & surround amplifiers on, but turned down all of the way.

Why would that make a difference? With the center & surround speakers under the control of their associated electronics, while it might not be as good as removing the speakers completely, it was still substantially better, as the other speakers' drivers were not nearly as free to move around in response to the left & right pair playing at a standard listening volume level. Over the years, I probably helped over 300 system owners with this issue, some with extra unused speakers in the room, and some when using their home-theater system as a stereo music playback system.

So you would think that what happened to me a couple of days ago was simply a huge brain fart. I was finishing up on fine-tuning (Fyne tuning?) the Fyne Audio 703s as an alternative to the Joseph Audio Graphene 2s.

Woah! Somehow the bass wasn't nearly as deep, nor powerful, nor as articulate as I had experienced just a couple of hours previously, before I had to handle some e-mails & book shipping. Or maybe I was wrong when I thought it was spot on???

Then I noticed that I had brought the Josephs into the sound room to clear a space for moving some equipment around in the hallway. When I moved the Josephs (it could really have been any speaker, it just happened to be the Josephs), back out of the room, and replayed my RoomPlay test tracks – Voila! Everything was back as it was.

I should have immediately known better, but I simply got sidetracked…

So here's some advice that came directly from my mental mistake a few days ago:

Do remove any unused loudspeakers from your listening room, and if you are using a Home Theater system in the same room, remember to turn on the amplifier/amplifiers connected to the surround speakers & a center channel speaker if you have it. Simply turn down any volume controls, muting the volume if possible. Having the HT amplifier(s) exert control over the loudspeakers isn't as good as removing them, but it's much better than allowing their drivers to flop around, subtracting from your musical involvement.

If the home theater is entirely separate, make sure that ALL of the HT speakers are connected to their associated amplifier/amplifiers and that the amps are powered up. But please make sure that they are without any signal, and/or the HT volume control is turned down all of the way.

Please don't misunderstand - it's not just the bass, it's all of the sound that is compromised by having an extra loudspeaker or more in your listening room.

FWIW – there is another solution to having to keep unused loudspeakers in your listening room. E-mail me at js@getbettersound.com.

5. A different X-Factor

We've probably all heard or used the term X-factor. And many of you have probably seen some X-Factor tv shows.

But this version is totally different.

When I think of X, it's always related to multiplication. Such as 2 X 3 = 6.

I hear these x-factors all the time from RoomPlay and Roomplay Reference clients. As such, it seems appropriate to explain the x-factor value as they see it.

Essentially, they say things like "Wow! That session was worth x-times what I have ever spent on any component!

And you know what – I agree! Not because of ego (at least I hope not), but because these sessions contain the key to powerfully unlock your music at a level that you most likely haven't experienced when listening to your audio system…

Addressing how electrons flow through wires, tubes or transistors, etc. – assessing virtually ANY audio component – doesn't begin to compare with addressing the system's acoustic wave-launch into your room, and receiving it properly at your listening seat.

In other words, spending money on a "better" component cannot come close to the results from actually spending less money while getting far greater results from one of the RP or RPR sessions.

Now, I am not against buying better components when possible. In fact, I endorse it highly. But why not hear the real differences between components, so that the money you spend on them is not wasted? Plus, your musical involvement will be greatly increased.

And that's my X-Factor explained. Of course, an explanation is one thing, experience is quite another… ♬ ☺

6. A Through the Sound Barrier update…

I am working on the DVD set-up just now. It required a major change in the set-up of the RoomPlay Reference room, but that is finally complete. We hope to be filming the DVD/video soon.

Having said this before, I can only say that I am still learning a lot about my ability to meet TTSB deadlines. Yes, the project has grown a lot in complexity and size – in fact, it's about three times the size that I had originally planned. As such, I am afraid to give an ETA, as I have so badly underestimated the size & complexity of this project. Workdays continue to begin before sunup and end a bit after sundown.

I have also asked this question before, but time has slipped by and there have been some changes in many audiophile/music lovers' habits around the world – at least from the relevant e-mails that I receive. Do you still watch DVDs and play CDs?

Please reply by e-mail. However, please note that my e-mail address has changed from jim@getbettersound.com to js@getbettersound.com.

Although it should have been a fairly straightforward move, we had some issues with the previous web host, including the unexpected necessity to change e-mail addresses. We selected the new host in anticipation of being able to send out newsletters again, host podcasts, and to be ready for the coming fulfillment of the TTSB Kickstarter project.

If you are a backer with an additional pledge, such as RoomPlay, RoomPlay Reference, or StraightTalk, we have already fulfilled these pledges to over half of the backers. If you backed at one of these levels, please contact me so that we can fulfill your pledge requirement. Again, contact me at js@getbettersound.com

In anticipation of the TTSB DVD/video, the RPR system & room have been completely redone. We hope to be filming it soon.

There is a powerful new benefit that has been added to the TTSB project. It has been completed, and I will announce it when TTSB is ready.

Referring again to changes in listening habits & styles, I am investigating streaming as a possible alternative for CDs for some folks. Please e-mail me at js@getbettersound.com if you have any comments/observations. We welcome your input!

I do continue to think that probably the only positive thing about the Covid-19 mess here has been that I am no longer voicing as many systems in clients' homes who live out of reach when driving; or doing many RoomPlay Reference sessions here, hence I have more time to devote to TTSB.

Therefore, not as many distractions…

My wife Pam can readily attest to the long hours of each day - from before daybreak until after sunset - as I try to complete two books, a system logbook, three CDs, and the DVD/video, plus another highly valuable surprise item, as mentioned above.

AFAIK, I am still at the top of my game re sound system set-up & unlocking the music, but producing such a massive project is obviously not in my highest skill set. Even so, we are definitely making progress…

That's all, folks!

Best wishes,

Jim Smith

Dear Get Better Sound & Through the Sound Barrier owners,

Welcome to the twenty-third issue of Quarter Notes, published on December 10, 2018. Quarter Notes is a free newsletter for Get Better Sound and Through the Sound Barrier owners, expanding on both, as well as introducing new and timely subjects.

Best email address

Since you’re reading this, the e-mail address with which I sent this QNs must have worked. However, the only e-mail address I have is the one associated with your initial Get Better Sound or Through the Sound Barrier order. If you have an e-mail address that you’d prefer to use to receive Quarter Notes notifications, send it to js@getbettersound.com. Be sure to include the e-mail address I used originally, along with the one that you want to use to replace it.

Time doesn't wait for anyone

Wow! It's been about 10 months(!) since the last Quarter Notes newsletter. Most of my health issues are handled at this point, and we are underway again!

This issue features several items:

  1. A to-date-not-too-well-known isolation system - compared to most of the audiophile products in this category, significantly less expensive - and at least as good...

  2. Computer audio updates

  3. An affordable product that can help you to make major inroads in your system's level of musical involvement. This same product is related and will be connected to the pending Through the Sound Barrier project.

  4. Special thanks & recognition

  5. TTSB update

QNs #23 features


I only recently discovered the Equipment Vibration Protectors (EVPs) from AV Room Service. Honestly speaking, on first glance they resemble some other "component isolators" that are not too effective, IMO. So I didn't pay much attention, until I saw Tom Gibbs' review in Positive Feedback, and Bob Katz's testimonial, both edited for brevity:

The overall effect of the EVPs in the listening room is an audiophile’s dream: deeper, blacker backgrounds; a less congested midrange; and more tuneful and well-defined bass. Here’s the part I wasn’t expecting: not only have the EVPs totally transformed the listening experience inside my room, but the EVPs underneath the subwoofers also have helped reduce the amount of vibrational noise transmitted to the main level of the house. I can now listen to most everything I normally listen to at my preferred volume level, without creating complete chaos elsewhere in the house. I’m blown away by the EVPs; the difference isn’t subtle, and the time I’ve spent listening over the past couple of weeks has been in amazement at the improvement wrought by these relatively unobtrusive devices. Very highly recommended! -- Tom Gibbs - Positive Feedback 9/1/18
When AV RoomService’s specially-designed and constructed EVP isolators arrived, I replaced the wood blocks and the difference was 'night and day': The sound not only tightened up, but it became quieter. -- Bob Katz, Mastering Engineer & 3-time Grammy winner

So I contacted Norman Varney at AV Room Service, and he sent me some EVP 4s to try out. They are far more thoroughly designed than I originally thought when I first saw pictures of them.

A bit of the reams of info from the AV Room Solutions website:

The EVP core is a matrix of precisely compressed high density molded glass fibers, which allows controlled air movement through the fibers. This action provides viscous damping, reducing physical motion, while widening the frequency bandwidth of attenuation. As sound energy moves fibers against fibers, the friction transfers sound energy to heat energy. The annealed fiberglass is produced by a multiple flame attenuation process which generates fibers having modulus of elasticity of 10.5 million PSI (738,223 kg/sq. cm) and nominal fiber diameters of less than .00027 inches (6.8 microns). The matrix of the glass leaf springs is bonded at all fiber intersections with a low VOC water-resistant binder during the molding process under controlled heat and pressure. The material is then stabilized by multiple precompression cycles to many times the maximum published load capacity for the specific density of the media. The cold-rolled steel plates on the top and bottom of the pad function to evenly deflect the weight across the whole surface for even weight distribution. They also allow cone or spikes to be used without damaging or compromising the performance of the pad. Our own RoomDamp 2 constrained-layer damping compound is used to bond the steel plates to the fiberglass core, and the rubber to the steel plates. This damping further improves the EVP absorption properties by lowering the Q-factor, which broadens the bandwidth, reduces ringing, etc. RoomDamp 2 is a viscoelastic paste that remains pliable and never hardens. The paint applied to the fiberglass pad is a very special formula that allows flexing. This elasticity means the pad can be compressed without the paint cracking or flaking. The formula contains low VOCs and is UV protected. The flexible paint does cause slow shape-return after pad compression. Unlike other elastomeric materials, EVPs are resistant to water, mold, sunlight, humidity, age and extreme temperatures. EVP materials, manufacturing and assembly is U.S.A. Made. They are not sexy, but they are very functional and affordable.

So how did they work? I was frankly amazed - especially at the huge improvement from my REL 212 SE subs. Countless audiophiles had said that the bass here was the best, most natural they had heard. But now, the bass is at an entirely different level. Not wanting to miss any benefits, I ended up using them under all of my components.

The things that impressed me most were the increased Dynamic contrast, the enhanced sense of Presence from the performers and their instruments, as well as the overall more pure sound, which meant more musically involving Tone.

Rather than go on & on, below is a link to the AV Room Service section re the EVPs. Pricing and more is there, as well as all that you need for determining which model best meets your needs. Best of all, Norman allows a full return if you are not satisfied!

Click here --> http://avroomservice.com/evp-2/

Below is a photo that I took to more easily compare the size of the EVP 4s. The EVP 2s (not shown) are about one-fourth the width & length of the 4s. The two different finishes depend on the surface to which they will be mounted. They operate the same:

EVP 4 HDs under my REL 212 SEs. These (in this case, they are mounted on carpet) have the foam grid as shown above on the left. The plate between the RELs and the floor is not about acoustics -- it helped me to get the RELs (mine are mass weighted to 225 lbs.) mounted on the EVPs. FWIW - the little copper wire is used to ground a nearby component, unrelated to the RELs. :)

EVP 4 HDs under my ASR Emitter II amplifier:

EVP 4 HDs under my Tannoy Canterbury loudspeakers:


For those of you who use a computer as a source for digital files to go to a server or DAC, I recently ran into some issues that could affect the overall sound quality of such a set-up. Some of you probably know all about this, but I confess it was larger than I had considered, so I thought it might prove worthwhile to some QN subscribers...

I think it was way back in QNs #2 that I mentioned that some CD players sounded significantly better if - after beginning the playback of a CD - you put them in pause for 30 seconds or so, then restarted the playback. Not all CD players exhibited this behavior, but more than a few did.

Recently, with one of my laptop computers, I noticed a similar phenomenon. Somehow, the track pre-load function (I assume this was the culprit) was not working so well, as I noticed that if I restarted a track after 5-10 seconds, it sounded better -- not a subtle difference at all.

I also noticed a lesser quality sound if I hadn't restarted my computer before using it, in order to clear out all of the unneeded memory info that had collected from the latest use.

On some computer music programs such as Audirvana, you have the option to adjust the track preload capability, in conjunction with the size of your computer's ram storage. IME, it takes a bit of listening to find the optimum settings. If you choose 'play' and then restart after 5-10 seconds, and the sound is better, you probably have some investigating and adjusting work ahead of you.


One thing has become very apparent in the last couple of years, and I regret not having discussed it adequately.

The reaction to the RoomPlay Reference sessions here has been overwhelmingly positive - in fact, 100%. The idea is to give audiophiles a reference for what is possible, and to show them how they can achieve it, without spending more money on equipment. I am NOT saying don't buy more equipment. I AM saying that getting your system to 'play the room' will literally SWAMP the effects of any new audio gadget, no matter how highly reviewed.

Additionally, many of my RoomPlay & RoomPlay Reference playlist tracks are licensed for TTSB. A RPR session literally makes the TTSB project come alive. Honestly speaking, I no longer have the time to perform as many RoomPlay sessions as I once did. The RoomPlay Reference session is intended to assist you in learning how to do it yourself. No amount of money spent on the latest & greatest electronics, cables, & other tweaks can remotely compare to the value of RPR.

The new issue of Stereophile - that comes out in January - has this ad:

Get the keys to unlock your music...

Fabulous electronics and cables, as well as the latest and greatest tweaks, in a system not fully integrated with the room, will most certainly NOT sound as fabulous as they could have.

Having observed this event occur constantly, Get Better Sound author and RoomPlay system set-up guy Jim Smith wanted to offer audiophiles a rewarding way out of the “I just need to buy the (“latest & greatest)” morass. He calls it RoomPlay Reference.

RoomPlay Reference

Designed to help audiophiles establish a true reference standard for their systems’ sound, and—more importantly—to learn how to achieve it with their own systems, RoomPlay Reference has achieved a 100% success rate for its participants, with everyone indicating the extraordinary value of the session.

During your session, you’ll be hearing and learning about the importance of addressing Dynamics, Presence, and Tone to unlock previously unattained musical involvement from your system. All of the common audiophile aspects are improved, but your focus will be on the music.

Getting your system optimized to work with your room—rather than against it—will not only mean vastly increased musical enjoyment and involvement, it also will mean that when you do try out a new audio device, you will actually be able to fully evaluate its performance in your system.


A RoomPlay Reference session (about 3-4 hours) is $370, including the listening session, the Q & A, the training, and 90-days access via phone or e-mail.

Additionally, should you wish to engage Jim's services for a RoomPlay session, the $370 is fully credited against the RoomPlay session.

Much more detail can be found on the Get Better Sound website. Jim encourages those that are interested to contact him with their questions. See contact info below.

RoomPlay Reference comments (addressed to Jim, edited for brevity)

Jim has received a huge number of satisfied comments. Here are a few of the briefest ones:

I’ve been pursuing this hobby for about 35 years. The improvements I’ve gotten with equipment upgrades through the years have all been good, but just incrementally better. Yesterday really gives me hope of taking things to a whole new level. —W. T., Alabama
…I learned a lot! It’s certainly clear to me that there is so much more contained in my CD collection that I’ve never heard before.... I was blown away by the session in your room… I have ‘seen the light’ (or heard it as the case may be.) —S. K., Rhode Island
…Monday’s RoomPlay Reference session was one of the top three audio experiences of my life. (the other two were intimate live concerts.) I had three goals, going in. #1 was to better understand what I should be listening for. #2, I wanted an opportunity to hear 'what great sounds like,' truly benchmarking my reference. And #3, I wanted to pick up some insights into a roadmap I’m building for a new ground-up system. You absolutely hit all three goals right out of the park! I think a RoomPlay Reference session is one of the very best values in hifi. I could not recommend it more highly. —M. O., Georgia

Take Action

Visit www.getbettersound.com for info on RoomPlay Reference, as well as Get Better Sound. For additional info, contact Jim at js@getbettersound.com, or call 770-777-2095.

Doesn’t it make sense to hear all of what you purchased? More musical involvement and less money wasted—what’s not to like?

Get Better Sound: Reference Set-up Manual, DVDs, Quarter Notes, StraightTalk, and RoomPlay™ System/Room Voicing Internet: www.getbettersound.com • Phone: 770-777-2095 • E-mail: js@getbettersound.com


I want to shout out a special thanks to the AudioShark audio message board - www.audioshark.org. So many boards devolve into a meaner-than-I-want-to-read style. Not AudioShark. The owner, Mike Bovaird, has kept it fun & informative. I highly recommend it.

I also want to thank Mike for allowing/making numerous posts about my work. Here is a recent thread:


Also, Mike is involved in bringing a high-end audio show to Florida this coming February. The list of exhibitors to a totally new — untested — event is impressive. If you can get there, it should be a good one!


Finally, a Through The Sound Barrier update. I just replied to a backer in New Zealand, so it's easier if I simply repeat most of what I said to him:

Hi Xxxx,

Thanks for your note.

Some updates:

I have largely recovered from the unexpected (& expensive) health issues I had for the past nine-ten months.

Due to the ridiculously long delays, for which I am deeply embarrassed and so sorry, I have felt that I needed to add to the value of the project.

The good news is the project has expanded even more in its capabilities for the owner, so that I don’t know of anything else like it.

Here is the relevant info/update:

  • Book One is completed.

  • Book Two is a bit over ¾ completed. As this is being written, I am working on the description/application of each music track (of 45) from my RoomPlay playlist. I'm at the most complex part - slow going. That’s the bad news.

  • The System Log is underway.

  • All 22 (not just 10 as was planned) (also at my originally unplanned & considerable extra expense) of the CD tracks from my RoomPlay voicing playlist (CDs 2 & 3) have FINALLY been fully licensed, and are at the mastering facility, as well as CD #1 (5 mechanical tracks with one requiring approval and which is now fully licensed as well).

  • The DVD will be produced when Book Two is completed. It has very helpful info that I’ve not seen elsewhere. It should go fairly quickly.

  • The System Log booklet can be produced relatively quickly, at any time when the design and copy is completed.

There are a couple more items that will be included (not small in time nor expense) - but I plan to announce them when all is ready.

Given that info, I would say that TTSB is still several months out.

Hope to get a QNs out soon as well (within the next week or so).

a) Last QNs issue's question re the DVD content - best as is, online, or other options - requesting your feedback concerning the video format question. I was quite surprised to receive only about two dozen replies that requested an online version, rather than the DVD. So it will remain as a DVD.

b) For those of you that pledged at the RoomPlay, RoomPlay Reference, or Barrier Talk (StraightTalk) level, you can use your pledge at any time. No need to wait for TTSB to finally arrive. Fully half of all backers at those pledge levels have already done so. Contact Jim - js@getbettersound.com - to discuss scheduling your session.

That's all, folks.

Keep on listening!

Questions or comments?

E-mail me: js@getbettersound.com