As a former dedicated (obsessed, really) landscape photographer I spend hours hiking up mountains to reach perfect locations where I could practice my art. A waterfall or a rushing stream littered with wildflowers on its banks might be the object of my desire. There I’d plant my tripod, mount the 8×10 view camera and spend the next 30 minutes composing the shot and then snap! it’s captured.
Once I got home I would develop the film, print the picture and if it’s good enough hang it on the wall like a trophy. That part, the trophy hanging bit, or publishing it on a website. That was always anticlimactic for me until I figured something out. I enjoyed the taking of the photos more than the end result.
I was reminded of this just yesterday in Music Room One. I haven’t spent time in there recently and Joey, who works in our sales department and runs customers into Music Room One for tours, asked me to investigate a problem with the woofer towers of the IRSV. Seems these 30-year-old 350-pound beasts get cranky from time to time and they were making odd noises.
To investigate, she and I fired up the system and I began playing the tracks I knew had the deepest bass notes, notes that I suspected would piss off the woofer if there was something wrong. Turns out whatever had gone awry was no longer there, but something else happened. I immediately began tapping my foot and swaying to the music. I was there on one mission but quickly got lost in being there on another. Enjoying the moment.
It’s often true that we lose sight of what’s really important when we focus too hard on achieving specific goals.
DSP and bass
One objection many of us harbor towards DSP (Digital Signal Processing) is the necessity to convert analog to digital then back again. While I have nothing against digital—my system is pretty much all digital—I am still a purist at heart. The idea of working as hard as we do to get perfect analog out of the DAC and into our amps and speakers, just to convert it back and forth again, seems an injustice. Of course, one can argue that DSP is innocuous if done in the DAC, but that leaves all our friends with turntables in the cold.
There might be a solution if one is selective. Where I would draw the line with this purity is right about 200Hz and below. When audio frequencies head down into the basement the foibles of back and forth digitizing seem to go away. Whatever crimes digital stands accused of seem to happen above 200Hz, leaving everything below an open field ripe for improvement.
As long-time readers know I have never felt comfortable correcting room problems by changing the signal to the loudspeaker. Instead, I have consistently advocated fixing the room and leaving the audio signal as pure as possible. That dictum still stands above…you guessed it…200Hz.
Subwoofers are the obvious place to put a DSP that can smooth the peaks and ignore the dips. And I wonder why more subwoofer companies don’t include DSP. We’re not worried about mucking up the sound where it matters, but we are hopeful of smoothing out the peaks that plague systems.
As we move into our own loudspeakers inspired by the late Arnie Nudell, DSP for the bass will be one of the hallmarks of the new models. It’s an exciting prospect and one I would heartily encourage others making subwoofers to embrace.
I believe it will help the music.