PS Audio is a pretty amazing company. They build all sorts of power re-generators, stereo amplifiers, stereo preamplifiers, DAC’s and now, loudspeakers and do it all in the USA. They also make high resolution recordings, which they release in all sorts of formats, including LP’s. Paul is the ultimate audio nerd and I say that in a good way. I have a lot of respect for his passion.
Cat’s out of the bag
In case you have yet to see the latest issue of Stereophile Magazine, I wouldn’t want you to be the last on the block to know what’s going on.
In that latest issue is a two-page color spread showing for the very first time our long-awaited FR-30 loudspeaker.
At 60″ tall it’s not as big as the IRSV it’s pictured in front of, but it’s not small either. The FR-30 features 4 custom designed ultra low distortion long throw 8″ woofers supplemented by 4 10″ side-mounted passive low-frequency radiators. Ribbon tweeter front and back and a 10″ ribbon midrange. No internal amplification, this speaker will light up the room with as few as 100 watts per channel.
It’s been a long time coming. To my eyes and those of the few that have been lucky enough to see them, they’re are a thing of beauty.
Hopefully you can make it to RMAF this year to hear them (and hopefully RMAF actually happens!)
And sonically? Hang on to your hats my friends. Hang on to your hats.
Point of first reflection
In yesterday’s post, I wrote about acoustically treating the room. I had used a term unfamiliar to some.
The point of first reflection.
This is the point along the room’s sidewalls where sound from the loudspeaker first strikes and then bounces off back to the listener. When this happens we get a delayed reflection in addition to the direct sound reaching our ears. (The sound is delayed because it is taking a longer path than the direct route)
Here’s a drawing I scrounged off the internet.
By absorbing or diffusing that point of first reflection along the sidewall, you can dramatically improve the performance of your stereo system. If you refer to yesterday’s post, I had recommended placing a tall bookshelf on both sidewalls as an attractive and effective means of diffusing/absorbing that reflection.
Finding that point where sound first strikes is easy if you have the luxury of an assistant and a small mirror. Have your volunteer hold the mirror against their chest and place their back against the sidewall. As you sit in your listening position have them scootch along the wall until in the mirror you can see your speaker’s tweeter.
That’s where you place your bookshelf.
(These tricks and tips are all covered in my book, The Audiophile’s Guide)
Yes indeed, but not always practical.
It is ironic that the best acoustic treatment I know of is made from ordinary stuff. Books, LP’s, Albums.
We go to great expense and long lengths to acoustically treat our rooms, yet when it comes right down to it, the best sounding rooms are typically filled with ordinary stuff. And lots of it.
How do you know when your room is acoustically correct? Just listen to your voice when inside the room. If it sounds natural you’re 90% the way there.
More than a few times I have recommended to people interested in damping or diffusing the point of first reflection to simply purchase a pair of tall bookshelves and fill them with either books or albums. My preference, by the way, is books. Books are uneven and that randomness helps diffuse sound in a very natural way.
Nothing I know of works better.
And, you don’t even have to have read the books. 🙂
As of late, I am receiving in my inbox a surprising and delightful increase of messages and heartfelt letters of thanks for our HiFi Family.
Thanks for reinvigorating people’s interest in HiFi. Seems that folks coming to the website find a place where they can once again feel part of a community that they once had.
How cool is that? Just when many thought our numbers were shrinking, along comes a new crop of people interested in what we all love. High-End audio.
I believe the need for like-minded people interested in music and its reproduction in the home has never waned and, in fact, grown.
When the culture changes from one of neighborhood dealers to online communities there’s always going to be fallout. Once things begin to settle in it’s natural for those who always wanted to be part of the community to rejoin.
And that’s a good thing.
I am aware it makes some of us a bit uncomfortable to admit we use our stereo system’s status as our calling card, but I’d like to suggest it’s fine.
There’s nothing wrong with rating yourself by the status of your audio equipment.
“I am an audiophile,” said the first, proudly.
“Yeah? What’s your system?” asked the second.
As the list of prized components gets rattled off, a judgment forms as to the seriousness and the caliber of the first. This is perfectly normal behavior and one I encourage.
Your equipment is, after all, a reflection of you.
And we should never feel bad or inadequate for being who we are.
We are the best we know how to be.
I love this term (though I don’t appreciate its sonic impacts). It’s used to describe an unnatural emphasis on some higher frequencies some of the time.
It is typically associated with solid-state amplification gear.
We rarely ever use the term to describe the performance of a loudspeaker. Here, we would say it’s bright or has a glare to the sound.
Over-etched seems to track along with the music as if it were added as opposed to inherent.
Why would this matter?
Because the causes of over-etching are typically dynamic distortion products generated by specific combinations of frequency or amplitude events. We know this because once identified by competent circuit designers it can be reduced or eliminated through changes in the basic circuitry topology.
For example, it is not uncommon to experience over-etching in high feedback circuits yet extremely rare (or non-existent) in zero or low feedback topologies.
Segregating the differences between bright and glare vs. over-etched can be a real key to the circuit designer of stereo equipment.
Where have all the experts gone?
As our audio industry morphs from its heyday of local experts to a more globally connected version, we see a shift that affects us all.
I remember well the differing areas of influence exerted over localities. Big, influential high-end audio dealers in one area would have their favorite go-to stereo systems peppered throughout their spheres of influence. Thus, audiophiles in New York might have systems very different than their west coast brethren.
Now that we are increasingly connected together by the internet, there’s a homogenization of systems around the world.
I think this is a good thing because it allows us to share together information and ideas we might never have had access to.
There are no fewer HiFi experts than there were before.
You just have to look for them online.
I find it ironic that at the end of our audio chain lies some really ancient technology based primarily on magnetism.
Loudspeakers, with few exceptions, are moving coils of wire in magnetic fields: technology invented hundreds of years ago by names like Michael Faraday, Nikola Tesla, and Thomas Edison.
The system that powers those ancient technology speakers is state-of-the-art: microscopic bits of silicone.
Of course, there are exceptions: electrostatic speakers, and the rare ionized gas oddities, but for the most part, we’re using magnets and copper to move air.
This effective blend of old and new is fascinating to me.
Perhaps it’s accurate to suggest it’s on occasion difficult to improve on a good idea.
Not sure about this.
In the center
When I look at the wonderful collection of system photos from our HiFi Family photo album, the one thing I notice is that most people place their electronics stack between the speakers.
I too do this when at a tradeshow, but almost never do this in my personal or reference system if I can help it. In fact, for many years, almost no one would consider placing their electronics in the center of the front wall and between the speakers.
Before there were remote controls, it would have been a real pain in the keester to have to jump up and down to change volume levels for each track.
I understand most folks don’t have the luxury of extra real estate to be able to put their electronic stack to the side, and some are anxious to keep their cable lengths short, but I am guessing there’s also another reason.
We like to see the stereo equipment when music’s playing. After all, most of us own some pretty cool looking gear.
So here’s the thing. My recommendation is to keep the equipment stack—or anything for that matter—out from between the loudspeakers. Equipment racks, tables, televisions, all wreak some level of sonic havoc.
It’s not always easy nor convenient, but if you can manage, put the shelf-full of kit off to the side.
As we’re growing up it’s our job as children to test limits. How far can I go before my fingers get burned or I get caught?
As a parent, I was greatly pleased (as well as amused) watching my four sons stretching their boundaries. I would often give them at least two shots at upping their game before I would draw the proverbial line in the sand. While one doesn’t want to stymie their growth, there needs to be some sort of guidelines for them to grow with.
Once the line in the sand had been drawn they’d inevitably ask me what would happen if they crossed over and my answer was always the same.
“I think you should cross it and find out.” The threat seemed enough for them to never challenge it.
(Truth was, I had no clue what punishment I would inflict.)
I think that as we grow older we tend to move our lines in the sand to better fit our experience and knowledge.
How many times have I declared I would never consider doing something like giving up the clarity of the electrostatic loudspeaker, listening through high-end headphones, or moving from vinyl LP’s to digital?
Our boundaries are all made up. They help us tell our story.
They are not always so easy to move but knowing they are self-imposed helps.