Dear Get Better Sound & Through the Sound Barrier owners,
Welcome to the eighteenth issue of Quarter Notes, published on November 23, 2015. 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 email@example.com. Be sure to include the e-mail address I used originally, along with the one that you want to use to replace it.
Cheap ‘n Cheerful
I have to blame some of my Cheap ‘n Cheerful impetus for this Quarter Notes issue on Jeff Day.
Although the Belden 8402 interconnect and the Western Electric 16 gauge speaker wire idea came from his Jeff’s Place blog - http://jeffsplace.me/wordpress/, when I finally got around to checking it out, I was sufficiently interested that I discovered some other affordable products as well.
You may know that the recordings you listen to were probably made with Canare, Mogami, or Belden wire for microphone cable. I have a couple of sets of Canare 4E6S. One pair is 25 feet in length. I think the pair cost me less than $35(!). I have long used them to make master recordings and in other applications – their sound is quite good. So some may ask, why do I need a better cable than was used to make the actual recordings?
That’s always been a bit of a conundrum for me. I admit to owning and using cables that cost FAR more than the cables that were employed to make the recordings that I love. But that is most likely a topic for another time…
But first, the Belden 8402 interconnect –
I read about the Belden IC and the WE speaker cables on Jeff’s site at about the same time. The Belden was available in the US relatively quickly. I got mine from Best-tronics - http://btpa.com/. I ordered a 1.75M pair, with the nickel/gold RCAs. They were $70 for the pair, about 10% of the price of the IC cables that I have been using (and enjoying) for several years!
After burning them in, I engaged in an A/B session of sorts. First, were the Beldens as detailed as my current favorite cables? Actually, no… Did the Beldens have superior dynamics? Well, not really.
But they had something. I realized that they had a certain rightness to the sound. Yazaki-san (Jeff’s mentor along this path) refers to it as Real Sound. Presence and Tone were unmatched. It felt as if I could reach out and touch the musicians. Not in the sense of being hyper-detailed, but in the sense of a believable event, thereby allowing me to suspend my disbelief. And out of that grew greater musical involvement, with virtually every recording I tried. I admit that for me at least, it was kind of hard to give up the hyper-detail. But the illusion of real music in my room won out. Once I became acclimated to the Belden, going back to my high-end audiophile cables was increasingly less desirable. I wanted more music, not more sound effects.
During this time, I had several clients come for a RoomPlay Reference session. We went though the usual routine, although I do admit to having made it more refined as to the information and musical involvement I want to convey. Both clients pronounced the sound as their best listening experience (and both had considerable experience with far more exotic/expensive systems than mine). This was with the $70/pair Belden ICs between my DAC and integrated amp!
Western Electric 16ga speaker wire -
Jeff mentioned this speaker cable in his blog months ago. Initially, I didn’t pay much attention, as I was busy with TTSB and GBS issues. But when he kept referring to it, and since it was so inexpensive, I decided to give it a try. I managed to get 23 meters of it from a trusted source in Japan. I would identify him, but he can no longer find any, and I don’t want him to be inundated with e-mails.
The WE cable goes against what we as audiophiles are often told. First, it is only 16 gauge, which is considerably smaller in diameter than what we think is acceptable for “serious” cable. Second, it is relatively inexpensive. Third, it was designed many years ago, so it is hardly representative of the latest thinking in cable design. Fourth, it employs tinned copper, and we KNOW that is unacceptable! Fifth, when possible, it works best without being attached to spade lugs or banana plugs. Just wrap the tinned copper leads around the terminal or push through a binding-post hole.
To establish if I thought this was even remotely possible, I simply made up a dual pair of 3m pair of cables (my system is bi-wired). I did burn them in on the AudioDharma (Audio Excellence) cable cooker. I removed my high-end (and high priced) speaker cables that I truly loved. Once the WE was installed, I checked to see if they were working and once they proved they were, I left the system to run on music for a couple of days. When I got around to listening to them, here’s what happened…
Basically, the things I noticed with the Belden 8402 were similar, only much greater in effect. This time, there was no interest in going back to my original high-end speaker cables. None!
So I decided to wire my outboard Duelund bi-wire crossover with the WE as well as the wires from the crossover that go directly to my Tannoy Canterburys’ concentric drivers.
Now things were really cooking! I should mention that this use of 16-gauge wire may be most applicable to higher efficiency loudspeakers, such as my Tannoys and the Altecs of the day back when Western Electric was making this wire. The main thing is, don’t be afraid to try something that might be less expensive if it has a musical raison d'etre. More musical engagement for less money – what’s not to like?
Bicycle inner tubes for innervating music reproduction –
If you look closely at the image of the WE cables going from my outboard Duelund crossover to the back of the Tannoy, you can see a black bicycle inner tube supporting the x-over (between the top of the REL sub and the bottom of the Duelund board). Before I inserted the inner tube, I had been using a set of high-end (expensive) ‘isolation’ devices. The inner tube cost me around US $7.00. It is best used when only about 50% inflated – never fully inflated. I inflate mine just enough to be able to take shape. This gives it the best opportunity for true isolation. I was exceptionally pleased with the increase in musical dynamics and overall freedom from a grunge that I didn’t know I had until it was missing! After that, I tried one under my MacBook Pro Retina as well as under my Ayre DAC. Same effect again!!!
Here are some images –
Total cost for all four from Walmart (one under each xover board and one under the MBP and the Ayre DAC – less than $30.
Curious cable – including 200MM Curious REGEN jumper
I tried out the Curious USB cable that everyone has been discussing. I found that it continued along the path of less mechanical sound and more musical involvement. While it isn’t exactly cheap, it handily outperformed the far more expensive USB cable that I had been using, in all of the ways that I value musically. I also picked up the special 200mm cable for the REGEN that I mentioned in the last QNs to replace the hard adaptor supplied by Uptone Audio. Another nice improvement! You can pick one up yourself at http://www.curiouscables.com.
Ayre Codex DAC – not exactly cheap, but when you compare it to its performance competitors…
This image shows just how small the Ayre CODEX DAC really is.
I found that it easily competed with DACs in the $5K-$10K range, at only US $1795.00. The fact that is also has a volume control makes it even more of a bargain (although I still like using it with a preamp or – in my case – an integrated amp with DAC volume control bypassed).
Initially, it was the size and weight that appealed to me, IF it could be usable, as I am always aware of the weight and bulk of all of the RoomPlay equipment that I have to struggle with on voicing sessions. Imagine my delight when it played at a magnificently high musical level, while being smaller and less expensive than the competition! Yes, I bought it...
Here’s my upgraded system, before re-installing the greenery around the cables. Sorry for the soft image, I guess I need to practice more with my iPhone.
Bottom line – most decidedly Cheap And Cheerful!
The Missing Reference
I continue to be struck by the performance level of audiophiles' high audio systems. Actually I am struck at the lack of performance…
With one possible exception, I have not heard any that performed at the level they should have achieved. Interestingly, it seems that the more expensive the system, the further it seems to fall short of its potential. Yet I see countless individuals on the various audio forums discussing the next new thing in components as if the purchase of said item will transform their system. Of course it will not, and pretty soon, they’ll be back on the audio buy-&-sell merry-go-round.
Sadly, there are almost no dealer demos or audio shows where the full musical impact of a system if delivered. Usually, it is not even close.
So it is not the fault of audiophiles. No matter how bright or gifted they may be, if they do not have a reference for what is possible, how can they know what to do to improve their systems? They simply do not have a reference for what is truly possible.
This saddens me because I cannot possibly do enough RoomPlay Reference or RoomPlay voicing sessions. But now it appears that there may be another two or three folks doing voicing sessions. YAY!!! I have not heard one of their efforts yet, but hopefully they will be better than what most audiophiles have now. I do not see them in any way as competitors. It’s as if help is on the way - and that is a good thing!
Dynamics, Presence, & Tone
By now, you probably have heard me use these terms a lot. However, I continue to believe they are fundamental to satisfying, musically engaging listening experiences.
Every RoomPlay voicing session and RoomPlay Reference listening session is built on these foundational issues. Indeed, the Through the Sound Barrier project is focused on Dynamics, Tone, and Presence as well.
I thought you might want to read some links related to employing Dynamics, Presence, and Tone for musical engagement. Here are a couple of recent threads on my favorite audio forum, AudioShark. I like it because of the people, and most importantly, the increasingly rare civility that seems to be missing all too often on the other forums these days:
RoomPlay Reference - http://www.audioshark.org/hometown-meet-greet-170/day-jim-smith-8128.html
The other Internet site I visit regularly is Jeff’s Place. FWIW, Jeff Day has contributed some wonderfully informative insights to TTSB Book One. Here is a link to Jeff’s list of favorite Christmas gifts. I highly recommend # 1 in his list – Understanding the Fundamentals of Music DVD set by Dr. Robert Greenberg. I also am biased especially to his #2 pick, especially paragraphs 2 & 3 … :) http://jeffsplace.me/wordpress/?p=8445
All of the Through the Sound Barrier CD licensing issues are settled. The CD has finally been mastered. Book One is complete. Book Two is waiting on the next round of edits. The DVD will be produced quickly once the first three part of TTSB are completed. The entire process has been excruciatingly delayed, but it is continuing apace.
Through the Sound Barrier - Increasing the Value of your Kickstarter investment
I want to make up for the delay in some tangible manner. I have a general outline of something that will make the TTSB investment worth much more – not going to get into it now as there is enough distraction to already go around. I believe it will make the wait even more worth it for KS backers. The handful of “trusted insiders” with whom I’ve shared the plan certainly agree.
RE: my recent Quasi-leave-of-absence
Thanks to everyone for allowing me the time to spend with Pam during her recent surgeries. Turns out I had to spend the night in her hospital room for an entire week on each occasion. Her recovery has been good and the doctors have pronounced her healed. She still has a bit of rehab to do, but all is well. Thanks again for your thoughts and prayers!
The Breaking Through podcast
I haven’t had a chance to do another Podcast lately. So there have still been nine of them.
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:
Questions or comments?
E-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org
That’s all, folks.
Keep on listening!