I listen to Lee Ritenour’s 4 to 6, by Wes Montgomery as my first music selection, when listening to a new stereo component. Why this? Simply because I love it!!
What to first turn to
When evaluating a new piece of gear—perhaps that new Power Plant, DAC, cable, or loudspeaker—what’s the first track of music you turn to? Is it always the same? Does it vary from type to type of gear?
In my experience we all have a few go-to pieces of music we rely upon to evaluate equipment. It occurs to me that much of what we think of how a product presents itself may in part depend on this go-to piece of music.
For example, I almost always go to an acoustic piece with a vocal. This is a quick and easy way to tell if the voice sounds right or if it’s off base. From there I can branch off to other tracks. But, what if that practice leads me astray from the truth? Perhaps the strength of the new product is in the top end, or the opposite. Maybe its strengths or weakness fall outside the bounds of my first impression piece.
I’ll bet that, for many of us, that first piece of go-to music has a lot of bearing on how we feel towards a particular piece of gear—half full or half empty.
What we first turn to may be more important than we sometimes give credence to.
This may work for some, but depends on type and size of the loudspeaker, as well as the listening room. The Red Norvo piece of music is great!
Tilt ‘er back
If you’re looking for a quick and easy fine-tuning technique, try tilting the speakers forward or backward relative to the listening position.
This is a time-honored tweak that not everyone’s familiar with, but it sure works great. The easiest way to do this is by using a CD jewel case under the front of your speaker for tilt back or under the rear of the speaker for tilt-forward. The half inch or so depth of a CD case is about perfect for a tilt change. You can use multiple cases to arrive at your final position.
What you’re doing is aiming the tweeter slightly above or below your ear—off-axis. Tilt back and above your ear will open the soundstage and offer a more airy presentation. Tilt forward and the opposite happens.
For this exercise, I like to start a well recorded multi-instrument piece like Reference Recording’s Red Norvo How’s your mother in law. As I tilt back the speaker the image gets deeper, wider, and more open, but it also loses a bit of upper harmonic energy. Heading in the opposite direction I increase the HF energy (depending on how your tweeters are now aimed) and gain more life.
Once that recording is dialed in I put on one of my favorite setup discs, Buddy Holly’s True Love’s Ways. Here I am listening for the immediacy of the voice and make my final tweaks to get it just right.
Nice to have an easy tweak we can try at home.