Tag Archives: loudspeaker

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Yep!!

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.

Bingo!

That’s where you place your bookshelf.

(These tricks and tips are all covered in my book, The Audiophile’s Guide)

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Over etched

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.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Moving lines

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.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Spiral journey

For many years I got frustrated in my stereo journey because it felt like I was moving in circles. In my quest for greater dynamics and realism, I would move from speaker model to speaker model and always wound up back in the same place. Forced to add a subwoofer to augment what I had.

This was years ago before I came to the understanding that all full-range systems require subwoofers—either internally or externally. Back then, I had wanted a single loudspeaker system that kicked ass on all fronts: transparency, dynamics, depth, width, realism, full range.

Out of those years of effort came an interesting observation. Though it felt like I was endlessly circling back to the same place I started—a desire for a single-speaker full range experience—what I began to notice is that at the end of each cycle I had made overall progress.

I was not in a circular pattern, but rather a spiral, constantly moving up the improvement ladder.

With every attempt and failure, we grow and learn so that the next round is better than where we started.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

On the playground

As a kid in school, I was likely not alone in my favorite class, recess. The bell would ring and we kids were released onto the playground.

Some kids liked sports, some the swings, others the monkey bars. Me? I liked the groups. The clans.

Like-minded kids would gather together and plan and talk about “stuff”. Some of it was devilish, some of it was inspiring, some of it was…well, thank goodness we never followed through with half our plans.

Playground groups remind me of audio shows. Not the devilish bits, but the group get togethers of like-minded people.

I get a daily taste of the camaraderie here at PS Audio, but it’s just not the same as an audio show where for two to three days in a row every person in the building is there for one reason and one reason only. Our passion for high end audio.

We’ve just signed a contract for the upcoming Rocky Mountain Audio Fest to be held October 8th through the 10th in Denver.

If you’re vaccinated, into high-end audio, then this is where you’ll want to be come this October.

And yes, we will be playing and displaying the long-awaited FR-30 loudspeaker.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

This depends a lot on the loudspeaker design. Paul uses Infinity IRSs, which are line source, planar magnetic drivers for the tweeters and midranges and they are designed to be used the way he uses them.

Fractions matter

In yesterday’s post, we looked at long wavelength bass notes—some exceeding 50 feet in length. Today, let’s have a look at their shorter cousins, high frequencies.

Where bass frequencies are typically multiple feet in length, higher frequencies are generally in inches or fractions of an inch. 1kHz, for example, is right around 1 foot, while 10kHz is a little more than an inch.

When it comes to system setup what makes these frequencies challenging is their very short wavelength. You can imagine toeing in or out one channel’s loudspeaker a “skosh” and making a very big sonic difference.

The short wavelengths of higher frequencies are one reason I have long been an advocate of relying upon the off-axis response of the system for best imaging (as opposed to pointing tweeters directly at your ears). In my setups you’ll almost always notice the left and right speakers are nearly without toe-in, pointing instead almost straight ahead. The energy distribution of the off-axis response is much smoother and less prone to laser-like problems we get when we rely instead upon a perfect triangulated setup of speakers.

Fractions matter when it comes to higher frequencies but one can mitigate some of this specificity by relying instead upon speakers with excellent off-axis response.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Headphones vs. speakers

I’ve never understood the rift between headphone and loudspeaker advocates.

Chat rooms, forums, and blog posts by the hundreds are rife with strong opinions why one’s superior to the other. It is constantly pointed out that headphones are more full range, lower distortion, generally have only one driver, are easy to drive, and so on. Defenders and provocateurs of loudspeakers point out that headphones miss out on any visceral feel, they cannot recreate a true sense of room, and they do not encourage sharing.

The arguments and battles seem rather endless.

I take a different, more moderate view. I like both.

Instead of pointing out the flaws inherent in each, I prefer to instead focus on the positives afforded by these very different methods of playing music.

Each is high-end and each provides an entirely different and unique listening experience.

It’s not that one’s better than the other.

We could safely suggest that both bring us closer to the music in ways the other misses.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Who’s on first?

Making a decision as to which model of loudspeaker, amplifier, phono stage, or preamplifier can be daunting. There are more brands than one can count and, within those brands, many models.

In the days of dealers, we relied upon their curation skills to narrow the field. The only problem with that model is that most times big dealers carried not what they believed you needed most (after all, how could they?) but what worked best for them.

Fortunately, that wasn’t the norm in our small high-end industry. The dealers we loved and honored were those that stocked what they loved and eschewed brands and products that didn’t meet their standards. Those were the good guys in our industry. Personal pride and a love of audio drove their interests and formed their opinions.

Sadly, many of those heroes are gone. (Lyric HiFi recently announced the closing of its New York City store)

Despite the shrinking number of honest and heartfelt curators, it is still possible to cut through the cruft to narrow down the field to a few choices.

That happens through trust. Trust built through a magazine, an advisor, a reviewer, a manufacturer, or a friend.

Who’s-on-first gets less confusing when we’re working with people we trust.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

I use a bit of an unorthodox approach to loudspeaker placement here for my Daedalus Ulysses and it works wonderfully. I think it probably looks different to many audiophiles, however there are good reasons for how they are placed and it sure does work.

However, this does not mean this positioning will work for all loudspeakers in this room, as my GPA Altec 604E based speakers do not sound best set up the same way as the Daedalus speakers.

Auditioning speakers

If you go to a big box store, or even a medium-sized store, you’re likely to encounter a switch box approach to speaker selling. Multiple pairs of speakers are lined up as if in a forest and the salesperson can play any of the many speaker models at the push of a button.

This same switch box method is also used in the smallest of shops where there’s not enough space for a proper listening room.

The advantage of a switch box audition is its rapidity. While playing the same track of music, one can toggle through speaker models quickly.

The downside, of course, is that none of the speakers are properly set up to maximize their potential. In fact, none are set up at all. Plunked down upon a shelf, typically standing side-by-side like soldiers at attention, one can make accurate gross judgments about tonal balance preferences but not much else.

Contrast that demonstration mode with what used to be called the single speaker audition favored by some high-end audio shops. In this demonstration model (pioneered by UK brand Linn) only one pair of speakers were allowed in the room at a time.

The advantage of this approach is the potential for proper setup without any distractions. The downside is comparisons are more difficult for the inexperienced listener. Those not spending a lot of time auditioning and comparing audio products haven’t yet built the skills necessary to hold in one’s memory what one system sounds like when comparing to another.

Auditioning any products is a challenge.

Speakers are the greatest of them all.

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Subwoofer history

In one of my Ask Paul video questions, I was asked how far back subwoofers go in 2-channel audio. The community member had only become aware of subs as they related to home theater.

Of course, many readers of Paul’s Post know subs date back much further than home theater.

From Wikipedia: In September 1964, Raymon Dones received the first patent for a subwoofer specifically designed to augment the low-frequency range of modern stereo systems (US patent 3150739). Able to reproduce distortion-free low frequencies down to 15 Hz, a specific objective of Dones’s invention was to provide portable sound enclosures capable of high fidelity reproduction of low-frequency sound waves without giving an audible indication of the direction from which they emanated. Dones’s loudspeaker was marketed in the US under the trade name “The Octavium” from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s. The Octavium was utilized by several recording artists of that era, most notably the Grateful Dead.

Two years later, in 1966, my former partner in Genesis Technologies and the co-founder of Infinity, Arnie Nudell, along with his airline pilot friend, Carry Christie, launched the second and perhaps most important subwoofer of its time, the Infinity Servo woofer, based on an 18″ Cerwin Vega driver.

My experience with a subwoofer began a few years later when I was first introduced to a true high-end audio system. There, in the living room of local audiophile Norm Little, was serial numbers 1 and 2 of aerospace engineer Eugene J. “Gene” Czerwinski’s creation, a pair of 18″ Cerwin-Vega subwoofers capable of producing 130 dB at 30 Hz, an astonishing level during its time (or any time).

I suppose I have never gotten over the experience of hearing for the first time, all there is in the recordings, including subsonics.

Until you hear it all, you’re not going to know what true high-end audio really is.