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Dear Get Better Sound & Through the Sound Barrier owners,

Welcome to the twenty-first issue of Quarter Notes, published on April 9, 2017. 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.



Mass loading loudspeakers

I used to (over 15 years ago) employ this tweak on certain systems, but had frankly forgotten about it. Recently saw a post on Audio Asylum.com by Jeff Medwin (aka Dr Lowmu on AA) and it all came back.


Mass loading – adding weight to your loudspeaker – can result in some pretty amazing improvements. Contrary to what you might think, the system will sound louder than pre-mass-loading. The sound takes on a purity & authority that you didn’t know was there. Musical dynamics improve as well. The result is even more musical involvement, for relatively little money.


IMO, a slight increase in weight has an exceedingly slight effect. With mass loading, I tend to think of percentages. In past experiments, I found that – whenever possible - adding about 50% or more of the original speaker’s weight made a significant difference.


My Tannoy Canterbury loudspeakers weigh 150 lbs each. My REL 212/SE subs weigh 122 lbs. each.


I added two 57 lb. patio blocks to the top of each of my Tannoys. So I added approximately 114 lbs each – over 75% increase in weight!


I added four 15 Lb. patio blocks to each of my RELs – for a total of 60 Lbs./speaker (about 50% of the REL original weight).


Although the results were a wonderful improvement to my already musically engaging sound, the issues that accompany performing this tweak are many:


1 – Ummm, it does not improve the appearance!!! At minimum, you will probably need a dedicated room or a man-cave for such a tweak.


Here’s a look at mine, before I substituted another 57 lb. block for the 3 15 lb. blocks on top. This is also before I ever thought about reducing the visual effects:

After a quick ‘n easy attempt to cover up my work:

Still not exactly “attractive”, but I am still working on it. That’s a REL 212/SE behind my left channel Canterbury. It has four covered 15 lb. patio blocks on it as well.


I will add some weight (about 65 lbs.) to the bottom (Canterbury stand) as well – in this case, for stability, in case someone bumps into the speaker. Who knows, there may be a further improvement to sound! Fortunately, this time it will not be visible. :)


2 – You have to have a speaker that is amenable to adding weight. In other words, you need somewhere to mount the weights.


3 – You need to be sure that your speakers are in their best location, as moving them post mass-loading will be difficult…


4 – Never tried it on inherently solid and weighty speakers such as the larger Magicos & Rockports, so I have no idea if it will work for them.


The good news:

1 – As already noted, the improvement is quite noticeable, with no negative sonic effects. Well, you may need to isolate the blocks from one another, as they can find amazing ways to vibrate against one another. I used foam-core poster board. Not the thin, almost paper-thin stuff but the compressible thicker stuff (eighth inch thick or more)


2 – This is cheap!!! I got my 16 patio blocks at Lowe’s hardware store for less than $40.00!



Evolution of RoomPlay Reference

This service was not much more than an afterthought back in 2009 when it began after I did some RoomPlay sessions around North America. Clients loved it and I subsequently began to think of ways to make it more valuable. Now, it has evolved into something considerably more worthwhile.


For many years, I have realized that audiophiles simply do not have a reference for what is possible. They have thought that if they could only acquire the latest & greatest component, they would hear a tremendous improvement in their systems.


I guess it depends to some extent on what they would call tremendous. The fact is that if they depend on audio shows or audio dealer sound, they will not likely be able to establish a usable reference for what is possible with their existing systems (without buying more equipment).


If and when they do acquire a “new & improved” component, they will actually be able to recognize improvements that they probably wouldn’t have before. And they may hear that the component in question does indeed produce a different sound, but not necessarily a sound that is more musically involving.


So the RPR sessions became as much about what to expect as how to get it yourself. Some call it teaching. I was a teacher briefly, and this is NOT teaching. :)


Here are a couple of comments from recent RoomPlay Reference clients. FWIW, they are knowledgeable audiophiles and each is multi-degreed in their fields:


Many thanks Jim for a rich and rewarding session!  I learned a lot and very much appreciated expanding my musical horizons as well.  I have a number of questions and will send them along as soon as I process a bit. It is certainly clear to me that there is so much more contained in my cd collection that I have never really heard before and that the quest for hi-res and multi-channel is not where most listeners should be putting their energies (and money).  There is a whole world of music on my shelves waiting for the right room conditions to emerge!!... ...As you can tell, I was blown away by listening in your room… I have 'seen the light' (or heard it as the case may be.)" – S.K., RI.
Hi, Jim. I just wanted to write and say again how much I enjoyed seeing you, and how much I learned. My brain was on overload on the way back. It seemed so surreal, going there and back in 24 hours and listening and learning so much from you. Your generosity and willingness to spend the time and share your expertise was heartwarming, and meaningful. Thanks again so much! BTW, you were right - I checked when I got back and the Quads are sitting with the center of the speakers ~6-9 inches down from my ears. Even with the spikes added and the weight, they’d be a minimum 4-5 inches down, and maybe still 6-7 inches down. So this is job one. After I raise and forward-tilt them, I’ll work with moving them closer together and play more with toe, then see what moving them forward on the toed axis reveals, to see if I can’t get more of the 'you are there' sense I felt in your room. Once again, thank you hardly seems adequate. Take good care and stay well. Looking forward to talking with you again…" – J.B., VA.

If you are interested in taking your music system to a higher level of musical engagement, we should talk about a RoomPlay Reference session. Plus, should you ultimately decide on purchasing a RoomPlay session later, the RPR fee is credited to your RoomPlay account!


http://getbettersound.com/roomplay.html


RoomPlay Reference sessions are held here, at my office/listening room, next door to our house (about 40 miles north of Atlanta):



Latest Copper e-mag issues #26, #28 & #29:



Effects of equipment cabinet between your speakers explained. – from Copper Issue #29 reader reply


Reader blang replied:

Thanks for your continued contributions to this magazine, Jim. I understand why keeping the space between the speakers unoccupied is ideal, but I’m surprised by just how important you feel it is. My number one reason for placing my equipment rack in between the speakers is just because it allows me to run shorter cables, which make a significant price difference. Also, I think it’s widely accepted that shorter runs of cable sound better if it can be helped.

My reply:


Blang,

As my answer, please permit me to tell this story (similar events have occurred numerous times as well).

I was at a RoomPlay voicing session. The client did not want to move his equipment cabinet to the sidewall, as his relatively short – but very expensive – speaker cables would not reach.

I suggested that we go up to the nearest hardware store and purchase 50 feet of 18 gauge lamp cord(!) I said that an unsullied acoustic wave launch into the listening room was well over ten times more effective than the type of cable he used, no matter its claims or its price…

Even though he seriously doubted me, he went along with my suggestion. We moved his equipment to the sidewall and replaced his exotic speaker cable with 18 GA lamp cord.

He was astonished at the sense of presence and sheer musical involvement he now had.

I asked him if he would rather go back to using his short & expensive speaker cables and he said NO WAY! You would be amazed how at often this happens.

That doesn’t mean that I am against better sounding cables. In fact, quite the contrary. But there are priorities, even in audiophile land!

I suggested that the client invest in longer cables of the brand & model that he liked. In some cases, the amp can stay by itself and the user can employ longer ICs. Depends a bit on the component, especially the preamp’s ability to drive a longer line…

But NO cable – at any price – that affects how electrons flow in the wire – can come anywhere close to the effect of a vastly improved acoustic wave-launch into the room.

IMO, of course.



New TTSB Podcast!

Until now, Randall & I have not had a chance to produce another Breaking Through podcast (Since #10).


We have just produced a new episode :)


If you haven’t heard them yet, I suggest you give them a try – you might pick up a useful tip or three.


Here is a link to all of the Breaking Though podcast episodes on iTunes:

The Breaking Through Podcast (iTunes)


If you are not an iTunes subscriber or user, go here for the latest podcast:

http://breakingthrough.libsyn.com/episode-eleven-we-like-mike


Go here to access all eleven episodes:

http://breakingthrough.libsyn.com/



Facebook Updates

As I mentioned in the previous QNs, there are times that there may be news that I might want to send sooner than the next Quarter Notes newsletter. In fact, that’s now happened on several occasions. 


So I have combined my Facebook pages to include occasional audio info as well as the personal posts that you would expect. If you have a Facebook account and you are interested, go here:


https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1057521805


Ask to make friends & let me know you are a GBS owner, or simply click on Follow. If for any reason you change your mind, it’s easy to un-friend or un-follow someone.



TTSB Update

Pretty much the same news as last issue - The CD has been fully licensed and has been mastered. It is ready.


Book One is complete.


I am ready to begin the DVD production, but cannot just yet, as Book Two needs to be completed.


I fully expect to produce the entire package before the end of this year, and hopefully in the next six months or so.



Questions or comments?

E-mail me: js@getbettersound.com


That’s all, folks.

Keep on listening!


Dear Get Better Sound & Through the Sound Barrier owners,

Welcome to the twentieth issue of Quarter Notes, published on February 4, 2017. 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.



EarPlanes importance

If you travel by air, you may want to consider EarPlanes. They make altitude pressure transitions more comfortable (less popping of the ears – or at least – the popping is less strong). But I always use them when I am going on a RoomPlay voicing session, or any trip that will require my hearing to be intact, to reduce the effects of air travel – both pressure changes, as well as noise reduction.

You need to insert them just prior to take-off. The instructions say that you can remove them when at cruising altitude, as long as you reinsert them prior to reducing altitude. I’ve not done it (remove them mid-flight), so I cannot say for certain how that works, but I believe the manufacturer has to know, or they wouldn’t say it was OK.


If you value your hearing, especially for acoustically-related events that happen soon after you arrive from your flight (such as attending an audio show), EarPlanes get the job done. If you do not know where to find them, they are typically available at most pharmacies and airports, as well as at Amazon.


There is a new model available – ep2. I have not tried it yet. The standard earplanes have been my choice for a number of years.


https://cirrushealthcare.com/collections/earplanes



IBE - Irrational, but Efficacious

Yes, I have mentioned it before, but this CD from Cardas/Ayre Acoustics - especially Cut 7 - continues to amaze. Long ago I imported it into my music files on my computer.


I have no clue as to why it works – but here’s what happens each time I use it:


Musical detail and natural musical flow is noticeably better. This is not something only a few golden ears can hear – IMO, anyone can hear it. For example, something as simple as the sound of a choir taking a collective breath between or before certain musical passages is unmistakable, when previously it was barely noticeable.


I don’t use this cut every day. But I do use it prior to a RoomPlay Reference session, or at a show, etc…


You do NOT need to play it loudly. I run mine at about half my typical playback volume. I do use it after a week or so of personal listening (I don’t mean continuous listening – just typical use over a week).


Back when I was doing those CES shows as the North American Avantgarde Acoustics distributor, each morning I ran IBE (cut 7) just prior to opening the doors. Now I am NOT saying that the IBE disc was the reason we won all those “Best of Show” awards, but I will say that – IMO – it definitely helped…


I’ve not tried the LP, but strongly suspect it works there as well.


https://www.amazon.com/Cardas-Ayre-Acoustics-IBE-Burn/dp/B00OY8UXME



Copper articles - and time required

Many of you have commented on the series of articles I have been submitting for PS Audio’s bi-weekly Copper e-mag. I just want to mention that these are not entirely original – indeed they are edited versions from work previously done, either in Get Better Sound or Quarter Notes, etc… So I have spent very little time producing these – I am acutely aware that TTSB Book Two still needs completion. :)

That’s all so far, as of Jan. 31, 2017…



AudioShark Forum – Fun, Helpful, & Polite

As you may be, I am also a member of many Audio Forums. Frankly, there is so much misinformation on them that I ignore most of them these days. Too many include the arrogant “know it all” types (who actually do not seem to know much at all), the ubiquitous trolls, and the generally argumentative post bashers. And some forums allow political rants as well, as if we didn’t already have enough to go around…


That being said, I have found one that is atypical.


AudioShark Forums have a membership and leadership that aspires to maintain mutual respect for each of the participants. They love their hobby and are constantly seeking out new & interesting concepts & products. All this without the usual deprecating and demoralizing arguments back & forth.


I have come to know some of the members, including the founder and a moderator. They are men of integrity. Suggest you check AudioShark out.


http://www.audioshark.org/forum.php



Acoustic Wave Launch & Sliders

Over the many years that I have spent voicing audio systems to listening rooms, I have come to believe that nothing is more important than a successful acoustic wave-launch into the room, and - of equal importance - how the listener receives it.


More often than not, the system owner may have some issues with the room layout from a décor standpoint.


This often means that the loudspeakers cannot be moved forward enough to present the sort of musically involving Dynamics, Presence, & Tone that is waiting to be unlocked from recordings. Restricting a high performance speaker to – or near to – the plane of the wall behind it is a sure recipe for a lack of musical involvement.


Back when I was making recordings, there was no way that I would allow a performer to be that close to the wall! The resulting sound would lack Presence & Tone. So why do we allow our loudspeakers to be boxed in, restricting much of the musical involvement they could freely supply, if only a little care was applied to their set-up?


Often it’s a matter of décor requirements. Hey, after 47 years of marriage, I kinda know how that can happen… :)


Whenever I voice a system in a room where these requirements need to be followed, there has always been a way – when listening seriously - to hear the sound for which you have paid.


Although there is going to be a lot of frustration – and maybe tension - if you do not put the speakers back when you are done! Who needs tension when we are listening to our music?


Part of the problem is that audiophiles insist on their favorite feet, spikes or isolation devices for their loudspeakers. May I suggest another solution that will yield FAR more engaging sound?


Place your loudspeakers on furniture sliders! They come in all sorts of sizes & shapes.

Here’s the thing – leaving your loudspeakers on the “best” footers, spikes, etc. – but in a very compromised position - is nowhere close to the listening experience you can have with your speakers slid into position for your listening session!


There is no way that you would ever want to go back to serious listening with your loudspeakers in a compromised position. For example – on a recent RoomPlay session, the client’s loudspeakers weighed over 500 lbs. apiece! Once he experienced them producing a hugely involving illusion of live music from a proper acoustic wave-launch, he was hooked. Yet, he could move his speakers back into the appropriately décor-minded place by himself!


There is no way that worrying about high-end footers (no matter how expensive or how outrageous the claims) – can begin to compare to the acoustic wave launch actually doing what it is supposed to do.


If this idea interests you, but you have questions, it would be most efficient to have a 30-minute StraightTalk session. You would need to send me a few images of your setup – can be from a cell phone.


http://getbettersound.com/straighttalk.html



LPS for my Mac computer & PS Audio LanRover

Nope, I am not suggesting vinyl records for your computer-based digital audio source. LPS is an acronym for Linear Power Supply.


A while back, I read comments from folks I trusted that called for replacing the outboard switching power supplies (typically a wall-wart, but not always) that come with some components. A linear power supply has lower noise & less unevenness of waveform.


So when I got mine, I listened to see if I could appreciate these desirable aspects. Yep, it was better in those areas. What I didn’t expect was a higher level of bass dynamics, with tuneful, more powerful and deeper bass!


If you have any components that employ the typical wall-wart or switching outboard power supplies, you might want to investigate some of the LPS products out there now. I won’t mention my somewhat obscure and expensive supplier because we had some issues with continually delayed delivery. There are at least a half dozen companies in this field that are worth checking out. Computeraudiophile.com has comments about them.


http://www.computeraudiophile.com/



Duelund

Jeff Day - http://jeffsplace.me/wordpress/ - is a trouble-maker! He keeps finding things that I have to try. I loved the Western Electric 16 GA speaker cable that he recommended. Then he announced that the Duelund 16 GA is even better!


So I had to try it. The good news is that both cables are very inexpensive. In fact, my 10’ bi-wire runs to each channel of my Duelund outboard crossovers (that’s 40’ of wire plus wire for the crossovers and the leads into the Tannoys), plus the interconnects cost me under $300 TOTAL! Was it worth doing?


I’d say with complete confidence that it is the most musically engaging sound I have ever heard. The caveat may be that this is only because I have 96dB efficient loudspeakers. Jeff’s are even more efficient. So I cannot say with any certainty that they will be as good with low efficiency loudspeakers.


On the other hand, it’s not too costly to give them a try…


BTW – trouble maker or not, Jeff’s blog is always a source of useful info, and always from a musical involvement standpoint.


There are many other audio blogs out there. I also recommend Jack Roberts’ blog – Boppin’ with the Beatnik – A Journey in Music and Audio:


https://boppinwiththebeatnik.wordpress.com/



Cable isolation

I’ll assume that you know why some audiophiles use cable isolators. Although I use them, they are way down on my list of effective system tweaks, well below such items as were discussed above & elsewhere in various QNs & in Get Better Sound.


But they can make a difference. I confess to having tried a number of the available products in this area. All of them seem to help to some extent. But – in my opinion - none of them were sufficiently good enough to offset some of their not-so-good effects.


And that’s how I ended up making my own – also with their own pros & cons. Seems that those (factory produced or DIY) that employed a soft support surface seemed to make the bass less agile, less tuneful. Dynamics were reduced slightly. Those that employed a hard surface sometimes resulted in a more mechanical sound.


I ended up using Cardas Myrtle Blocks (as shown in QNs Vol. 4, #1), attached to each other (to achieve a bit more height) with double-stick tape. Then, as I realized through trial and error, I would sometimes inadvertently knock the cables off of the blocks when I had to be in the area where the cables were located.


To help with this issue, I started using double-stick (carpet) tape on the top sections of the Cardas blocks. Not bad, and I left it that way for a couple of years. But then I had an idea…


What if I had a more stable wooden surface that made very little contact with my cables and therefore didn’t produce the slight softening treatment produced by the top layer of carpet tape?


After trying a few things, I came up with a relatively inexpensive solution:

Two 4” square bamboo coasters, standing on their sides, joined in the middle by a wooden spool. I used E6000 glue to join the Bamboo coasters to the spool.

I got the spools from Michael’s Arts & Crafts, the glue & bamboo coasters from Amazon.


Total price per stand about $6-7 USD.


Here is one of my DIY isolators in use:

I’d say they are the best – from a musical involvement standpoint – that I ever heard and they cost significantly less than a number of the “audiophile approved” cable isolators out there. FYI…



Facebook Updates

As I mentioned in the previous QNs, there are times that there may be news that I might want to send sooner than the next Quarter Notes newsletter. In fact, that’s now happened on several occasions.


So I have combined my Facebook pages to include occasional audio info as well as the personal posts that you would expect. If you have a Facebook account and you are interested, go here:


https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1057521805


Ask to make friends, or simply click on Follow. If for any reason you change your mind, it’s easy to un-friend or un-follow someone.



TTSB backers – fulfilling parts of pledges where possible

I’ve had a number of TTSB backers that invested in RoomPlay or RoomPlay Reference sessions. I’ve tried to fit them in whenever I could make it happen without conflicting with the overall progress of the TTSB project.


If you are one of those who have not yet had your session, e-mail me and we will get it scheduled. This also goes for Forty Five for Forty Five & Barrier Talk backers.



Importance of Book Two for TTSB

Book Two is a promise that I made as a courtesy to all backers – as a way to partially atone for the interminable delay from licensing the CDs (including the ridiculous delays for CD cuts that were ultimately not approved for no good reason), as well as a couple of health-related delays.


Nevertheless, excellent progress has now been made on Book Two. The folks who have had a look at the TOC and have seen the info in Book Two seem to think it may be the most valuable piece of TTSB. I agree. Meanwhile, it continues to grow in scope & value.



TTSB update

The CD has been fully licensed and has been mastered. It is ready.


Book One is complete.


I have made more progress on the DVD production, but I am still not ready, as Book Two needs to be completed. Additionally, I have found that I cannot accurately predict progress, as I get hundreds of e-mails daily, and I still have ongoing projects (such as room designs), and therefore I simply cannot predict my schedule.


I fully expect to produce the entire package before the end of this year, and hopefully in the next six months or so.



TTSB Podcast

Randall & I have not had a chance to produce another Breaking Through podcast since #10.


If you haven’t heard them yet, I suggest you give them a try – you might pick up a useful tip or three.


Here is a link to all of the Breaking Though podcast episodes on iTunes:

The Breaking Through Podcast (iTunes)


If you are not an iTunes subscriber or user, go here for the latest podcast:

http://breakingthrough.libsyn.com/episode-ten-eq-and-room-setup


Go here to access all 10:

http://breakingthrough.libsyn.com/


Questions or comments?

E-mail me: js@getbettersound.com


That’s all, folks.

Keep on listening!


Dear Get Better Sound & Through the Sound Barrier owners,

Welcome to the nineteenth issue of Quarter Notes, published on June 21, 2016. 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.



The silence between the notes

“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.” – Claude Debussy, composer


"The silence between the notes is as important as the notes themselves." – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, composer


“The notes I handle no better than many pianists. But the pauses between the notes – ah, that is where the art resides.” — Artur Schnabel, pianist


"Music is the space between the notes. It’s not the notes you play; it’s the notes you don’t play." – Miles Davis


"It's the silence between the notes that makes the music" – Zen proverb


There are other quotes referencing this topic as well, but these are the most commonly referenced.


The “silence between the notes” occasionally gets mentioned in various musically oriented communities, but I have recently realized that its importance has largely been ignored in our “audiophile” circles.


In fact, the only one that comes to mind is by Myles Astor – recently in his forum http://www.audionirvana.org: “For me, one of the biggest effects of the silence between the notes is feeling the pulse of the music.”


Author, neuroscientist, & musician Daniel Levitin does an excellent job of explaining musical concepts like pitch, timbre, tempo and harmony. He makes the point that the art in music can be just as easily found in the absence of things as in the presence of the aforementioned properties. The moment between each note being just as much a part of the music as the actual notes themselves.


I agree somewhat with Myles Astor’s comments above, although for me, this intended silence between the notes serves to highlight - even embellish - the emotional intensity that was intended for a given piece of music. It can be dynamic contrast, and even tone, as we await the next note.


As such, it behooves us to reduce the likelihood of obscuring this key to the music. Since this aspect of reproduced music can have a profound effect on our musical involvement, we need to take a look at how we might best preserve it. Actually the topics that follow are directly related, so let’s go there…



Two not-so-politically-correct techniques to gain even more musically engaging results from your listening sessions

  1. Absorption vs. dispersion I know that many “acoustic experts” call for dispersion in rooms. In earlier times, I have done so myself. But as I have become more conscious of musical involvement as the main thing I want to achieve, there have been some revelations that I’d like to share. The first topic relates to the original recording. As a location recording engineer myself, I made the recording to include the applicable reverberant space. If my choral recording included the reverberant space of the recording venue, the last thing I want to hear is that listeners injected the sound of their rooms into the playback of my recording! Here is an example – With choral recordings, when the sound of a chorus falls to silence, it’s expected to hear some of the recorded hall reverberation. Since audiophiles often add dispersion to create a more live sound, the natural decay of the recorded sound will now have a new and even longer delay. And musical information will be obscured. Audiophiles who are used to adding dispersed speaker/room reverberations to their sound are always amazed to hear the natural sound from the same recording when it is revealed. It’s almost as if the emotional content of the music had been hidden. And the system sounds more realistic, and surprisingly, even more live. When we consider the import of the silence between the notes, why should we wish to diminish what the composers and performers intended? In other words, do we want our system to continue to reverberate and change the impact that was intended? Speaker manufacturers of yore presented “live vs recorded” demos. One of the most successful in their demos was Acoustic Research. AR discovered that even a recording of solo voice could be changed unacceptably when room effects were added to the recording. The solution? Record the soloist in an acoustically dead space. Then the playback room sound being added would work better for the comparison when compared to the same live voice in the same room. Otherwise, allowing the room sound to add to the natural acoustic of the voice recording fundamentally changed the sound, on many levels. Why disperse ugly sound? Seriously, you ask! What I mean by “ugly sound” is the sound of a loudspeaker off-axis. When measured off-axis, the response of any loudspeaker isn’t very pretty. In fact, it is seriously compromised. This is due to beaming at crossover points as well as the natural roll-off of certain frequencies off-axis. The overall frequency response is far removed from smooth or flat. So why would we wish to disperse an admittedly poor sound – a sound that will introduce unnatural acoustic colorations into our playback listening experience? When I wrote Get Better Sound, I mentioned that I thought the best audio playback listening environment was probably slightly “live”. In the past eight years or so, that opinion has evolved a bit. Now I would prefer neutral and even slightly to the “less live” side of neutral. Amazingly, “live” concert recordings sound even more live (because we aren’t hearing the room interacting which provides a somewhat false sounding reverberant field). I sometimes describe this live recorded sound as atmospheric – it’s almost uncanny how the audience reacts to the performers. The same occurs with acoustical recordings of all types. The performance simply sounds more real, more believable and this more musically involving. After having discovered this aspect of musical involvement, I modified my listening room to be slightly less acoustically live than neutral. FWIW - I had always received outstanding comments about it, even before the most recent changes. However, since this was done, RoomPlay Reference visitors have consistently raved more strongly about the listening experience. Comments have ranged from “Didn’t know this was possible” to “Best (or “One of the best”) I ever heard”, to “Most Natural”, “…the whole system was absolutely incredible!”, etc. If you can, you should book a RoomPlay Reference session to hear what optimum Dynamics, Presence & Tone can do for your musical engagement. This preference is generally better served with so-called "dedicated" listening rooms. Of course the majority of rooms are not dedicated. So how might we make our listening rooms reveal more music, while keeping them as rooms that are enjoyable to live in? For living areas, the solution may lie in portability. For music listening while entertaining, or as a wonderful background music system, leave things as they are. When you want to hear what you paid for, with enhanced musical engagement/emotional response as the goal, there are several inexpensive/portable options to consider. Due to the time restraints in producing this newsletter, they will have to be presented in the next issue. If you want to get started before then, or if you simply have specific questions, we can do individual 25-minute StraightTalk sessions - http://getbettersound.com/straighttalk.html. This would apply to those who have dedicated rooms as well. The goal is to be able to adjust your living area room for optimum dedicated listening in about five minutes (which means that another five will be required at the end of the session to restore your home to its former look and feel).

  2. Quasi-near field (NF) listening This one is not so popular either, if it is considered at all. But it too is based on the goal of preventing room sounds from contributing to the recording, which will not only affect the space between the notes, but the musical presence as well. If you are unable to address first reflections from the front and side walls, this is even more dramatic in its efficiency, as it minimizes late arrival reflections when compared to direct sound arriving at your listening position. It might require you to mark the standard positions and use sliders or some technique to set the speakers up in the NF position - when you want to truly experience what you have paid for and enjoy an elevated musical experience. And, as always, you’ll need to put the speakers back in their “normal” everyday use position when you are done. :) In case you think that sliders will harm your sound, or you need longer speaker wire, rest assured that they are not remotely the biggest problem. The biggest obstacle to be addressed is the acoustic wave-launch into the room and how it is received at your listening position. On voicing sessions, I will often use 16 or even 18-gauge wire from Home Depot to determine if we will ultimately need a longer speaker cable. In fact, I have often voiced systems with that wire, because the client’s expensive speaker wire is too short. It’s always a revelation when they hear better sound with vastly less expensive (and less audio performance) speaker cable, but optimized acoustic wave-launch and reception at the listening seat. When I refer to quasi-near field set-up, I am referring to a speaker whose treble driver or diaphragm is maybe 7-9 feet away from your ears. Before going any further, there are some brands and types of loudspeakers that will not play well with this concept. The main one that I am thinking of is Vandersteen. They employ individual phase-and-time aligned drivers. I have never ended up voicing them closer than about 10 feet or so from my ears. I have thought that Richard Vandersteen optimized them for time arrival beginning at maybe 9 feet from the listener. I don’t know this for certain, but it has been my general experience. But any speaker with separate drivers will be problematic as you get closer. Getting closer means getting the seat height or front-to-back speaker tilt exactly right. Even then, if the drivers are spaced too far apart, the sound will not be cohesive. My dual-concentric-driver Tannoys work well in this regard as do Quads, Magneplanars and other full range or two way speakers. When I wrote about the optimum distance for most speakers being from 9’-13’, I was thinking that side wall first reflections and the front and rear walls might need some absorption. When we have our speakers at 15’-20’ (or more) from the listening position, it becomes very difficult to enjoy a musically involving sound as too many reflections arrive at various times after the main signal, therefore blurring the information contained in the music. And you definitely will NOT be experiencing the composer or musician’s intended “silence between the notes” as discussed above. Don’t forget - it’s the timing... the beat... the pauses... that assist musical dynamics, presence and tone in plucking our emotional heartstrings. Try to get as much of it as you can. One last point – no recording engineer who wanted to capture a realistic sound would allow live instruments to be played close to a wall. Why do we think that our stereos – when listening seriously– could overcome the same issue?



4 on the floor

Okay, that’s an old automobile term from the 60’s & 70’s :)... Actually, depending on how you look at the image above – it might be three and it might be 6. :)


I am talking about the three line level components on the floor - well out of the acoustic sound-field - as well as any pressure zones that could negatively affect the performance of the MacBook Pro computer, Schiit Yggy DAC, or the ASR Control Center. The two black boxes in the front of the room are the ASR integrated amp power supplies, one for each channel. The battery power supply for its line-stage is behind the ASR Control Center.


The greenery is not acoustic treatment. It’s there to hide the wires. :)


This set-up works exceedingly well to remove interference with the acoustic wave-launch while keeping cables short as well. If you get a chance to try it or a variant, I think you will be pleased with the results.



Relative importance of components – a subjective ranking

I keep seeing so-called experts on audio message boards raving about the sound of a new DAC, amp, cable, etc. I often agree that they make a worthwhile improvement. But establishing the acoustic wave-launch into your room as well as possible and insuring that it arrives intact at your seat literally swamps the importance of such components. That’s not to say that they cannot be fabulous and rewarding. But on a relative scale, it’s the set-up and how it works with your room (rather than fighting it) that is the elephant in the audio room.


I find most of these rankings questionable at best, and mine should be too. Anyway, here is my relative ranking as another so-called expert... It’s simply another opinion. The percentages are approximate from voicing hundreds of systems, and may vary with your room and system. Use it as you will:

  • 50% - Proper system/room loudspeaker set-up (which ALWAYS requires finding the best listening position for the smoothest bass first, then adjusting speaker location – and sometimes, component location)

  • 25% - Loudspeakers

  • 20% - Source

  • 15% - Amplification (includes preamps)

  • 3% - AC power (may or may not include power conditioning)

  • 2% - Cables and other tweaks

Note – After you have accomplished proper room/loudspeaker system set-up, then the relative importance of the others seems much more important.



Strip down

If you are using a computer to drive your DAC, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of stripping away the computer’s background operations. This is audible.


For my MacBook Pro, I want to get other processes down to below 60, if possible, but always below 70. With a Mac, you can monitor the number of processes with Activity Monitor.


With Windows, monitor with Task Manager.


There are Windows and Mac programs to optimize your computer for the best music reproduction. One that I use for my Mac is Cocktail. For Windows, there is Audiophile Optimizer.


Since I use Audirvana+ to run the music library instead of iTunes, I can also remove some programs with Audirvana. Don’t know about Windows, but I would think that playback programs would offer similar assistance.


Once you make it easier on your computer to process the music files, you’ll appreciate the improvement in clarity, ease and sheer musicality when listening.



EQ & DSP

Umm, that’s Equalization & Digital Sound Processing… :)


Some readers have come to the conclusion that I am against any form of EQ or Digital acoustic correction. Well, not exactly…


I have two main concerns with EQ and DSP:

  1. It’s not a panacea. Some people think that if they get the response relatively flat, or “fix” time arrival and such, that is all it takes. If you wish to use these programs (as I have), don’t even think about it until you have first done all of the basic set-up as mentioned in GBS. I refer to this as the organic process rather than the electronic.

  2. Sadly, I’ve heard too many systems that sound technically correct, but were utterly boring musically because the owner or system tuner felt that once the measurement goals were achieved, they were done. Not so!



Facebook & Friends

Most of you know that we had a Facebook page for Get Better Sound. The only problem with it was that I rarely ever paid any attention to it! So I took it down recently.


However, there are times that there may be news that I might want to send sooner than the next Quarter Notes newsletter. So I have combined my Facebook page to include occasional audio info as well as the personal that you would expect. If you have a Facebook account and you are interested, go here:


https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1057521805


Ask to make friends, and include Following. If for any reason you change your mind, it’s easy to un-friend someone.



Mono & Stereo rant

A recent post on Mono and Stereo commenting on the state of the audio industry hit several chords with me. Especially of interest is the section about the audio industry’s attitudes towards its customers. Thought you might find it of interest as well. It’s written by their Editor-in-Chief, Matej Isak:


http://tinyurl.com/h8rgyhd



TTSB update

The CD has been fully licensed and has been mastered.  It is ready.


Book One is complete.


I have made more progress on the DVD production, but I am still not ready, as Book Two needs to be completed. Given my poor track record at meeting ETAs, I am no longer going to provide them.  Actually, I have found that I cannot predict progress, as I still get hundreds of e-mails daily, I have ongoing projects (such as room designs), and therefore I simply cannot predict my schedule.


Additionally, we didn’t have much progress the past six months due to some health issues in the family, but work is continuing, including the free upgrade I mentioned in a recent Quarter Notes newsletter.


There is more detail in the linked TTSB podcast #10.



TTSB Podcast

Randall & I just completed the Breaking Through podcast #10. As usual, the latest updates to the project are the first topic discussed. Afterwards, we cover several topics on audio. I hope you will find the audio topics interesting and informative.


If you haven’t heard them yet, I suggest you give them a try – you might pick up a useful tip or three.


Here is a link to all of the Breaking Though podcast episodes on iTunes:


The Breaking Through Podcast (iTunes)


If you are not an iTunes subscriber or user, go here for the latest podcast:


http://breakingthrough.libsyn.com/episode-ten-eq-and-room-setup


Go here to access all 10:


http://breakingthrough.libsyn.com/



Questions or comments?

E-mail me: js@getbettersound.com


That’s all, folks.

Keep on listening!


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