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.

The setup dance

In my new book, The Audiophile’s Guide, The Loudspeaker I liken the challenge of system setup to that of a dance.

As in my earlier post about devilish details, the setup dance can either be feared or embraced.

Fearing the dance inevitably leads to shortcuts: desperate attempts not to get sucked into the vortex of one-change-leads-to-another.

In the end, it’s better to embrace the dance as something to look forward to.

This is your chance to really make better that which you have invested so much time, love, and resources.

The end results of dancing with your 2-channel partner can be breathtaking.

If you have a chance to pick up a copy of the book, the associated SACD/download will be available at the end of September, beginning of October (and you will need both).

I’ll keep you in the loop.

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.

Yes, everything does matter and well beyond high end audio.

Everything matters

Back in the 70s, 80s, and even into the early 90s there was no such thing as Power Plants or power conditioners for high-end audio. Heck, there weren’t even high-end power cables.

Back then we just plugged into the wall and went about our business.

And we had some great sounding systems back then because everything we knew about mattered. We paid attention to cables and amplifiers and loudspeaker placement. And it all mattered.

AC power issues that we now know held back performance were not a thing. So we did the best we knew how to and got great results unaware of how much better they could be.

I remember the first time I heard a power conditioner. A passive one from MIT. Arnie Nudell and I were shocked at the difference it made.

It took us about a week to realize that while the sound was cleaner and quieter it also had been stripped of its life (as all passive conditioners do to some degree) and so we returned to plugging into the wall.

Everything matters in the audio chain.

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.

In the winter, when static is in the air, loudspeaker audio cable lifters are a good thing to keep static discharge from coming out of the loudspeakers.

Cable placement

A great deal of angst can be had when it comes to the proper placement of cables.

The worry is getting audio cables too close to noisy power cables and vice versa.

Truth is I have never found this to be a problem. Yes, my OCD gets the better of me when I see a tangled mess and yes, my system seems to sound better after straightening them out. I suspect that’s more psychological than practical.

Truth be told the psychological is every bit as important as the practical. It all has to do with mood. If our mood is good our music digs deeper and resonates more.

Like having the lights on low, I think it’s every bit as important to clean up the cable mess as it is to make neat the entire room.

It simply sounds better.

 

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.

Conventions

Ever wonder why salad forks are smaller than dinner forks? Is it easier to pierce a shard of lettuce with a smaller instrument?

I suspect it is merely convention. Sometime in the past when we were worried about being fancy there likely had to be a way to distinguish between the proper etiquette of which utensil to use, which side of the plate the napkin went on, and so forth.

Downton Abbey style.

When it comes to audio we too have our conventions. The hot seat listening position. Long interconnects and short loudspeaker cables. Long speaker cables and short audio interconnects. Wash the vinyl before playing. Warm the equipment before listening. Turn the lights down low.

The list is likely exhaustive.

Some conventions are born from experience while others are simply “that’s the way we’ve always done it”.

The thing about conventions is to always question them.

Are they helping or hindering?

Sometimes we realize our conventions are holding us back. That’s the time to reevaluate and readjust.

Else we get stuck in a rut.

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.

Endless variations

It is fascinating to me the myriad of seemingly endless variations designers apply to sound reproduction equipment.

Take the rarely seen today bipole loudspeaker. The last mass-produced version I remember was by the Canadian company, Mirage.

Let’s start with a smidge of reference. Most loudspeakers are monopoles: sound comes out of one plane of the speaker box. A smaller number are dipoles: sound comes out of two planes (front and rear) and the rear plane is out of phase with the front. A bipole is like a dipole in that it too has front and rear radiating planes, but instead of being out of phase the front and rear are in phase.

Perhaps the easiest way to picture a bipole is the idea of a pulsating cylinder, though not in the same way you might think of an MBL (which literally is a pulsating sphere). In the bipole, the same woofer, midrange, and tweeter drivers that you find in the front of the speaker are duplicated on the rear of the speaker—all wired in phase.

The acoustic pattern that is created is somewhat of a figure 8.

The bipole had some advantages, like fewer sidewall issues than monopoles, but for the most part I never really found the configuration very attractive—and it had a number of the problems we associate with dipoles and open baffle speakers—sans the bass cancellation problems.

If you’re curious about the Mirage speakers, there’s a well written review by Tom Norton in this issue of Stereophile.

What’s interesting to me about this design is that it’s but one more attempt by clever people to build a speaker that differentiated itself from the pack. One more twist to an ever-evolving evolution in the art of making high end audio products.

The variations at times seem endless.

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.

High jumping

If I believe something to be correct it’s easy for me to jump to a conclusion that matches that belief.

On the other hand, if an observation doesn’t match my belief, I don’t jump anywhere near as high or quickly.

In fact, it takes a great deal of energy to jump in the opposite direction.

It’s more like swimming upstream.

Let me give you an example. I believed for years in the superiority of servo woofers. The greatest systems I had ever heard had servo-driven bass. And the logic behind a servo control just makes sense: any quality of woofer and enclosure can be made near-perfect by the addition of active feedback.

At the time, every subwoofer I’d ever heard without servo control sounded wimpy and flabby while the opposite was true with those properly controlled.

The first crack in the dam occurred with a Velodyne servo woofer. Ugh. Constrained, tight-assed, uninvolving, amusical.

Turns out it’s possible to design the musical life out of a product if you’re intention is more theater than music.

The final straw was when Darren Myers and Chris Brunhaver cornered me into letting down my guard long enough to hear a very different viewpoint. That servo control limits what’s possible in reproducing the impact and musical dynamics of music.

Turns out that while a servo system can indeed turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse (average performance woofer into a real performer), it cannot compete with a purpose-designed state-of-the-art woofer like the one Chris designed for the aspen FR30 loudspeaker.

It’s easy to jump to the conclusions that reinforce our beliefs.

It’s a lot harder to reverse course in the face of being proven wrong.

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.

Here’s one for audio geeks like me, but maybe not for you? My Daedalus Audio Ulysses speakers use inpregnated pleated surrounds on its two 8″ woofers per speaker, commonly seen on professional loudspeakers, but not often on home loudspeakers. This allows for large travel distances for the woofer and in combination with the magnetic gap, gives their woofers a lot of room to move. The cabinet and crossovers in all Daedalus loudspeakers are unique. The whole speaker is very unique with all hard wood construction, not veneers over MDF and not well known because the proprietor of Daedalus has a lot of interests, including putting on the Pacific Audio Fest show, coming up from July 29-31 in Seattle. I wont make this one, but hope to next year.

Space vs. bass

Sometimes I get lucky.

Our loudspeaker guru, Chris Brunhaver knows more about the art and science of loudspeaker design than anyone I have ever known (and I’ve known quite a few).

He recently answered a poster’s question about bigger vs. smaller woofers in the same size cabinet. His answer is so well said that it bears repeating here in this post.

“Well, it comes down to “space versus bass” like a lot of speaker design decisions. It might seems counterintuitive but, all things being equal, using a bigger driver in a given enclosure actually gives you LESS bass extension. Larger drivers will give you more output capability (all other things being equal) but require a larger enclosure.

The amount of air displacement required for a given output level quadruples every octave you go down. For instance, to play 20 Hz at the same volume as 40 Hz for a given cone size, the drive needs to move 4 times the amount.

If you can double the excursion of a driver for a given distortion level, you can gain 6 dB of output at low frequencies (where displacement is the limiting factor). There is an IEC standard around the level of distortion for this rating (measuring the limits around the motor force, suspension compliance and inductance vs excursion). If you can optimize these curves (to give you more excursion for a given distortion), you aren’t adding distortion or creating issues.

It’s not so much about low mass or a strong motor – those are related to sensitivity, not excursion and linearity versus stroke, it’s about how linear these parameters are with excursion.

For what it’s worth, your use of transient response in this context is probably better described as “large-signal behavior” or dynamic linearity or something like that. I know that you are referring to reproducing big transients but the term doesn’t mean that in this context.

Here’s a little poster on the causes of these distortions and how speakers are optimized for greater excursion. We used these techniques in our woofers too.

Of course, it would be even better to have a larger driver with a higher level of excursion but the resulting enclosure size would need to be proportionally larger to the cone area difference.

Thanks, Chris.

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.

Now, this guy Paul sure is an audiophile!!! I agree with him regarding loudspeakers and set up, however, perhaps he should maybe name his newest book ” The Loudspeaker”, instead of “The Speaker”, as maybe that could be interpreted as a book about public speaking?

Order to chaos

Over the past few months I have been hard at work writing the next book in our series, The Audiophile’s Guide.

That first book, The Stereo, was an all-encompassing work covering the complete stereo system from electronics, to cables, to speakers.

This newest book, The Speaker, is a much more detailed work specific to the challenge of setting up a pair of speakers.

I can think of nothing more important in a high-end audio system than properly setting up the speakers. Even with the greatest electronics in the world, a less-than-great setup saps the life out of the music.

One of the issues I kept running into during the research and writing phase was the amount of opinion and chaos among audiophiles as to the best way to set up speakers.

(Wait! Audiophiles, opinions, and chaos?)

Fortunately, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and I have confirmed it’s not a train!

Seriously, this is one exciting project for me to work on. We’ve just finished an extraordinary group of recordings in the new Octave Studio that will accompany the book in a step-by-step fashion and I cannot wait to share it with you.

Fingers crossed for a July 2022 launch.

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 get this, but to me, the design of the loudspeaker, as well as the size and  shape of the music room dictates the set up. I am lucky enough to have a large room, listen in the far field and can get intimacy I want by turning the volume up to 11!

Near vs. far

Upon hearing a well set up near-field loudspeaker system or, for that matter, a properly set up far-field rig, it is hard to say one is better than the other.

For example, the near-field setup is more intimate. There is less room but more detail and closeness.

And our “normal” setup where the speakers are equal distance from the listener as they are apart have depth and room the near-fields cannot touch. But at the expense of detail and closeness.

The tradeoffs between the two are inevitable.

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

They are simply different.

Which one appeals to you more?

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.

Boy, can I relate to this one on a couple different levels. It’s only taken me about 15 years to get it mostly right here and I’m close. Big rooms like mine, which also has three seats, give more options for loudspeaker placement and as components change, even cables, so can the optimum place for your stereo speakers.

The hot seat

When someone says you’re in the hot seat it’s usually either frightening or bad.

But not in the case of HiFi listening.

The seat of honor; The hot seat; the best seat in the room. That’s the coveted space we all work hard at optimizing.

In PS Audio’s Room 2 where the FR30s live there are three listening positions yet only one is perfectly optimized.

That magical spot in the room where everything gels to perfection. Where the imaging is best. Where the tonality rings true.

The listening position we have all worked so hard to make perfect.

The hot seat.