Tag Archives: tweeter

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.


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)

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.

Don’t agree with all of this one and there are lots of better things than CD cases to use to tilt speakers one way or another. Some speakers aren’t to be listened to with the tweeters pointing directly at the listener. I know mine aren’t.

A good use for CDs

We love our CDs. I have hundreds of them, perhaps bordering on a thousand. Many have been memorialized on a hard drive and that gives me easy access to build playlists, something I cannot easily do with physical media unless I make my own. But still, I have my stack of discs at the ready to play.

But, there is another use for CDs that might just surprise you. CDs can dial in your speaker’s performance and adjust them to different height chairs. At least their cases can.

When I help people get their systems to sound right I have two tools at my disposal: the first I described in this post, pulling the speakers out from the front wall. The second is to angle the speakers forward or backward using CD cases to match chair height.

Matching seating height to the tweeter axis is pretty easy to do and even easier to see if it’s needed. From your seating position move your head up or down to see where the tweeter sounds its best, then adjust the speaker’s angle to match. Often times I can hear the tweeter sounds more alive when I stand up, or the opposite. It’s then a simple matter to place a CD case or two underneath the speaker cabinet’s rear or front to lean it forward or backward.

If you want a more permanent solution use a furniture leveler instead.

Getting the tweeter pointing at your ear can often be the difference between good and great.

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.

Cover up

I was never quite sure why this was a thing back in the 60s but instead of guys taking showers my college classmates seemed to like the idea of applying cologne to cover up their stink. I can’t tell you how much I wound up detesting the stench of BO covered by Jade East.

My view has always been a simple one. Fixing the problem is always preferable to covering it up, though that’s not always so easy. A bright tweeter can be tamed by any number of cover-ups which might make more economic sense than replacing a pair of speakers.

But, the core of the problem remains and it’s a tough discipline to instill in one’s self. Whenever I hear a system trapped in the speakers I first turn to setup. If setup doesn’t release the sound from the speaker’s grip we work ourselves back through the chain to find the culprit rather than start the great cover-up.

Quick fixes are always easier but usually less effective. This is one good reason I agree with my friend Bill Low of Audioquest in his mantra to do no harm. He and I both recoil at the idea of using audio cables as equalizers, yet sometimes there’s little choice if you can’t fix the core problem.

The first step in this process is as mentioned. Find the root cause of the problem. Once you’ve narrowed it to the culprit it’s ok to mask the problem until you can figure out the best way to fix it.

If only I could have handed a bar of soap to those classmates so many years ago.


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.

Line sources

Kevin in Wappinger Falls New York (wherever that is) asked me an interesting question recently.

“Arnie Nudell popularized the line source loudspeaker design and many of his most revered Infinity speakers such as the Quantum Line Source, the IRS 1B, the IRS V, and the Genesis 1 (and apparently at least the two larger members of your forthcoming AN series loudspeakers) are all line source designs. Why don’t we see more line source loudspeaker designs? Is it strictly due to the cost because of the many more drivers, the larger cabinet, the increased manufacturing labor cost – or are there other attributes that have made them less popular?”

This is a really good question and one we don’t talk about much. Perhaps it’s a good idea to first get on the same page. The classic two-way or three-way loudspeaker has two or three drivers in a box. The multiplicity of drivers—tweeter, midrange, woofer—is needed to break apart the frequencies so each driver only has to handle a specific range: tweeters handle the higher frequencies about 2kHz and the woofer handles everything from that point down.

A line source handles the frequency divisions in exactly the same way—tweeters, midrange, and woofers—but instead of relying upon a single driver for each range multiple drivers are instead employed, typically with a line of many tweeters and sometimes many midranges. The advantages of multiple drivers in a line are manifold: each driver has fewer demands and the waveform comes out in a long, vertical, cylinder rather than a single driver’s ever-expanding circular wave.

The advantages of a line source vs. a point source can be summed up fairly easily. A point source sound radiates in all directions from the driver and quickly loses energy as it floods the room in a 180˚ plane. Worse, this expanded radiation pattern hits the ceiling, walls, and floor and reflects back into the room out of synch (time) with the initial launch. Only those listeners in a narrow sweet spot get to enjoy the best sound. A line source radiates a more focused pattern in the shape of a tall vertical cylinder that, above about 500Hz, has nearly no floor, ceiling, or sidewall reflections to dissipate energy and add to sonic confusion.

All that said, tomorrow we’ll look at some older Infinity designs.


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.

Extreme solutions

Middle of the road is as its name implies. Boring.

Extreme, on the other hand, is far more exciting. When we take it to the edges we’re excited to see our horizons move and our expectations exceeded. We’d much rather know that the tweeter in our new speakers is better than “a reasonably good driver” and much happier to learn “state of the art with extension beyond human hearing”. Extremism, where it matters, is a good thing.

Yet sometimes taking things to the extreme is at the expense of the intended. A little salt enhances the food, too much and its unedible.

Recently I’ve been hearing about extreme solutions to the problems of achieving clean AC for use in our home stereo systems. There’s everything from battery power, ultra caps, isolation transformers, exotic rare earth filters, to expensive mystery boxes intended to clean the hash and noise riding on our home AC. Several of these are extremely good at what they do, but all of them do their work at the expense of addressing AC power’s real problem. Missing energy from the sine wave and unregulated power.

Clean power is good. Regulated, low distortion, regenerated power is what really matters when it comes to enhancing performance.

Extreme solutions to the wrong problems often times steer us in useless circles.

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.

Adding another way

When loudspeakers were first introduced they were essential 1-way designs: a single driver that carried the limited frequency range possible in those days. Soon we added a tweeter to augment the single driver’s high-frequency response in what became known as a 2-way and there the state of the art sat for many years.

Hardly satisfied with a woofer’s performance in the demanding midrange area a third way was later added in the form of a midrange driver that fit in between the woofer and tweeter and thus the 3-way was born.

It is certainly possible to add even more ways and speaker designers have by the addition of internal subwoofers for the lowest octaves and super tweeters for the ultra high harmonics.

What all these ways have in common is fundamental to their task of producing a full range musical performance. They divide up in ever smaller chunks the job of frequency reproduction. Regardless of the number of frequency divisions, not much has changed in the art of loudspeaker design for the last 50 years. That is until Infinity founder Arnie Nudell introduced the Variable Midbass Coupler.

Arnie always had a love of midbass (the range of frequencies between 100Hz and 600Hz) because this range is the basis of tonal balance. It’s fundamental to voices and many primary instruments and, coincidentally, where the loudest peaks of music happen. When we set up a pair of speakers it is this midbass region we struggle with most. When the left and right speakers are too far apart the midbass sounds thin and we think of it as strident or anemic. Too close together and it’s the opposite requiring a diet to remove unwanted fat. Yet, every time we move the speakers for best tonality we screw up the imaging. It is a never-ending battle.

Arnie’s invention of the VMC changed everything. By building 4-way speakers with an internally amplified subwoofer and VMC, the difficult setup process suddenly vanished. Now it was possible to place the speaker pair where it imaged best and adjust low bass with the subwoofer controls and tonality with a turn of the VMC control. More than that, by separately amplifying the VMC it would be possible to achieve stunning amplitude levels in the very area nearly every speaker on the planet cannot come close to reaching.

When we launch the line of AN speakers in 2019, you will have your first chance at experiencing for yourself the power of Arnie’s invention that we believe will fundamentally change our expectations of music reproduction in the home.

Stay tuned.


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 EQ and know how to use it properly. I don’t add, but only cut!

Taming the top end

Perhaps one of the most frequently asked questions is how to tame an aggressive top end within an audio system.

The culprits are almost always dome tweeter offering greater detail to the music. And that’s the catchphrase to be wary of.

It’s not that I have something against domes. I’ve heard a number of fine examples over the years. It’s just that the trend in speaker designs today seem pointed at folks who are attracted to the heightened sense of detail, like an over-etched picture or an oversharpened video screen. But whatever the reason, owners of these speakers seem prone to fatigue over time and then search for cables and electronics to tame the high-frequency aggression.

By the time the question gets presented to me it’s usually at the point of wit’s end: Too late or too deep in and hopeful to fix the problem by tailoring system synergy.

Sometimes a simple repositioning of the hot tweeter to a more off-axis focus (not directly at the ear) works wonders. Cables, vacuum tubes, and even careful music selection can ease the problem too, but it’s not the perfect solution.

Here’s my advice. If in the market for new speakers be careful of that shiny object called a “detailed” tweeter. Live music rarely is as detailed as these products suggest.

Enjoy the extended detail and then get down to brass tacks. Does it sound like live music?


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.

From  Paul about the room..
Simple tricks

Let’s imagine you’ve read my post from yesterday about disappearing speakers and rear soundstages. You crank up the system and find the opposite. What to do?

One could write a book on the subject and unfortunately, this post won’t cover but a minuscule portion.

Just about every factor in a high-end system contributes to the good and bad of reaching our goal. Electronics are probably the most likely candidates. When a less than great piece of audio electronics is in the chain there’s a good chance it will draw attention to itself, especially if its failings lean towards bright or harsh sound.

I was reminded of this very fact when, at the Japan show demonstration, we drove the same loudspeakers with different electronics. As I listened to the first set of electronics the sound came from the speakers and the soundstage was shortened and at times jumping out at me, other times recessing into the back. With the same speakers in the identical placement, as soon as we switched to the BHK/DirectStream setup, the speakers disappeared and the soundstage moved to the rear where it belonged.

I don’t write this to toot our horn, only to point out the importance of electronics in the equation.

There are things you can do to help without rebuilding your electronics.

Had I been stuck with the first electronic chain, I could easily have optimized speaker placement to help improve imaging. For example, less toe in doesn’t direct the tweeter straight at your ears and makes the sound more diffuse. This helps speakers disappear.

Thin midbass draws attention where you don’t want it. To improve midbass performance, place the left and right speakers closer together. This improves midbass coupling.

Pull the speakers away from the front wall. The more the speakers sit alone in the room without being close to the wall behind them, the greater chances of increasing soundstage room behind them. It’s an illusion, but this helps.

Add diffusion on the wall behind the speakers. This technique, more than any other, really opens up the soundstage and helps speakers disappear.

Perhaps the greatest tip of them all is clearly understanding how it is supposed to sound.

That’s the simplest trick 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.

From Paul..

We’re rarely wrong

Before I get into the substance of today’s post I wanted to apologize. A snafu on the website prevented a number of customers from ordering Stellar beta units. The problem’s been fixed.

There are still units left. If you want to participate in the Stellar Beta test, click on this link.

My apologies for the website error. Use the drop down menu next to the pricing to select which Stellar products – stereo or mono amp, Gain Cell DAC, or combination you want to play with. The trade in box works now as well.

Good luck!

We are rarely wrong when it comes to what we hear, but often incorrect as to why.

I’ll offer you an example of a multi-driver loudspeaker vs. a single all-range.

If you were to listen to a poorly executed two-way speaker design, most would instantly hear the crossover point between tweeter and woofer.

That’s the easy part.

The problem comes into play if you make the erroneous conclusion that multi-driver loudspeakers are flawed by design. They are not.

A properly designed multi-driver system is seamless.

We’re rarely wrong in what we hear. We’re sometimes wrong when we assign blame as to why.

Understanding the difference is critical to your success in building a system.

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.

Woofers and tweeters together

Yesterday I shared with you what a single tweeter looked like. If you’ll recall, it was anything but smooth and flat.

But we don’t listen to tweeters alone. Our systems use both woofers and tweeters in the hopes of reproducing flat sound.

Here’s a response curve from Stereophile’s review of the YG Anat professional monitor.

The blue line represents the output of the woofer, the red, the tweeter. Together they present a pretty flat response from 70Hz to 20kHz.

Note where the blue and red lines meet. This, of course, is the crossover point and, depending on how well the designer managed to pull rabbits from hats, will hopefully add together in the right places to present an even response to the listener.

You see the difficulty faced by speaker designers. There’s little to be done with all the wiggles, bumps and dips of this response—and frankly, this is pretty good.

Imagine if this were an amplifier, the bottom end handled by one approach, the top end by another, the two hopefully meeting in the middle.