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 Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Wed Dec 28, 2016 9:33 am

Greetings Michael and Zonees

Sonic has been working through the shortlist with the help of some very helpful store owners and proprietors.

Early in the process, Sonic has decided to drop all the digital amps from the list – so out goes the Audio Alchemy and the NAD M22. This is for reasons of the talk that digital amps do not sound as powerful as their specs say they should. Too many people have reported this from enough varied viewpoints to indicate to Sonic that there is no smoke without fire.

I had to decline Bill333’s suggestion of building an amp based on the Sure Electronics Class-D board – such a project is outside of Sonic’s range of skills and there is the real risk of mixing inexperience with high-voltage power supplies resulting in Sonic getting dispatched to eternity.

Also influencing my thoughts round digital amps is a recent listening test of a pair of second-hand digital monoblocks that Sonic participated in which rather underwhelming. The sound of familiar CDs was bland, the treble was a little dulled too. The vendor told Sonic and those gathered to listen that day that digital amps had this kind of sound which he described as “tube-like” and easy on the ears. Yes, it was easy on the ears but not tube-like in the best sense of the word. A better word will be “boring”.

Given that the problem I am out to solve is one of a lack of power makes Sonic adverse to using a digital amp.

The Rotel RB1590 sounded excellent and punchy in the test system. Lots of bass slam. The tautness of electric bass and string bass was impressive. I would have gone for it but then Sonic found it is not recommended for 4 ohm speakers which the Magneplanar MR1.5QRs are. The nice people at the store helping Sonic with the amp choice was very honest with me on this point of specification – no sales talk of “give it a try…other customers have used it with 4 ohm speakers and found it worked etc etc”.  Rotel RB1581 Monoblocks are suitable but expensive and a bit excessive.

The NAD C275BEE could not be auditioned in any way convenient to Sonic and I a bit perplexed that it has the same rated power of 150W into both 8 and 4 ohms.  Anyway 150W is not enough of a step up from 90W.

So we are down to the Parasound range of amps.  For what Sonic listens to, the JC1 Monoblock pair appear excessive in power output and cost though anything that doubles its output from 8 ohms to 4 ohms has Sonic’s attention. Any amp that can do this has top notch power supply control.

Sonic is doing some in-depth testing of the Parasound A21 amp which outputs a rated 250W and 400W into 8 and 4 ohms respectively. I am being helped by a dealer/entrepreneur whom Sonic has trusted for years and is one of the best shop proprietors in this town who has a great “think like the customer” mindset.

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Fri Dec 30, 2016 12:38 pm

Greetings Michael and Zonees!

The Parasound A21 is here in Sonic’s system  Exclamation

As we bid goodbye to 2016, it is farewell to the Rega Maia and the Rotel subwoofer amp.

After heaving the 60+ lb amp into place, Sonic powered the system up and told myself that I must be prepared for some disappointment initially as the system recovers from what Michael calls “system shock” and before Tuning is done.  

The initial impressions are indeed mixed as Sonic expected.

First: till now I had concluded that my old 90W amp was underpowered particularly in the bass but Sonic underestimated the degree of the underpowering  Shocked    

With just a few hours of running in the Parasound A21, the bass was solid, much flatter and extended, the 50hz test was passed without struggle and the system is playing bass notes I have not heard without a subwoofer  Very Happy  The whole bass range is extended though lower in level compared to the mids.

Second: the midrange is elevated in relation to the bass and the midrange as presented now is thin.  Speaking voices reciting poetry show this thinness clearly.        
I called the good proprietor. He said, “You said you are using solid core speaker cables? The amp may not be agreeing with them.  Come down to the shop tomorrow and I’ll loan you some speaker cables that you can try over the weekend.”  

So here is a picture of the Parasound A21 running in with unfamiliar cables to the speakers (they are what Alan Shaw uses in his Harbeths) and a short run of old MIT coaxial interconnect from another system in Sonic’s dwelling to connect the Quicksilver preamp to the A21 because all my Picasso interconnects are too long. At 1m length they run all over the floor and come into contact with the T1 mains cables connecting the distributor strip to the equipment.  

Zonees can see that the placement of the preamp and the main amp are nearly back-to-back.

Settling commences.


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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Sun Jan 01, 2017 8:03 am

Greetings Michael and Zonees!

Happy 2017  cheers  cheers  cheers

Over four days the sound with the Parasound A21 is improving nicely. The midrange is less peaky and coming into balance with the low end. With days of almost constant music play except overnight, the Parasound A21 is showing what it can do, particularly in bass extension and impact plus a treble with extension and detail the system has not displayed before  Very Happy  

Sonic is hearing a new suddenness in transients, actually transients anywhere in the frequency range that can make a listener jump. Now Haydn’s Surprise Symphony has real surprise  Exclamation

On the other hand, a downside development has appeared in that Sonic is now hearing intermittent electrical interference in the system.

This shows in momentary as clicks in the sound from gear like aircons and fridges in my dwelling switching on  Crying or Very sad   Not loud but noticeable over the music and happening too often for Sonic’s peace of mind. This occurs both on digital and analog playback. This stuff could be coming in through the mains or by wireless means (that is through the air). I did not notice this before – Sonic does not think it is a case of the A21 being more susceptible to this sort of hash than the old amp. It is more likely the Rega Maia was masking this stuff.

Michael – any views of how the Tune can be used to deal with these RFI/EMI clicks?

This interference is definitely something Sonic must struggle against.  

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Michael Green

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Tue Jan 03, 2017 1:52 am

Happy New Year!

Hi Sonic

My only comment at this point would be, when you start to get past the changes you will begin hearing the "locked in" character of your new setup. This may take weeks or it could take years. At that point you will then be able to judge Fixed vs Variable, Complicated vs Simplistic, Push vs Flow.


For now just enjoy the ride Exclamation

michael green
PH 702 762 3245
Email mgtune@yahoo.com

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Michael Green

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Tue Jan 03, 2017 2:10 am

"On the other hand, a downside development has appeared in that Sonic is now hearing intermittent electrical interference in the system.

This shows in momentary as clicks in the sound from gear like aircons and fridges in my dwelling switching on  Crying or Very sad   Not loud but noticeable over the music and happening too often for Sonic’s peace of mind. This occurs both on digital and analog playback. This stuff could be coming in through the mains or by wireless means (that is through the air). I did not notice this before – Sonic does not think it is a case of the A21 being more susceptible to this sort of hash than the old amp. It is more likely the Rega Maia was masking this stuff.

Michael – any views of how the Tune can be used to deal with these RFI/EMI clicks?

This interference is definitely something Sonic must struggle against."


I have found that the interference happens more with systems that are more complicated, therefore locking the interference in rather than letting the system flex. Keep in mind that simplicity is far more powerful than complicated.

also on Bill's comment

D-amps do seem rolled on the top and shy on the bottom if not used properly, however when used with all things being equal, in the simplistic department, these smaller amps do amazing things. Again if you design a system that flows instead of pushes Bill's comments are right on the button from what I have heard.

It's kind of like this, if you start down the more complicated route the simplistic stuff doesn't do so well (sometimes), but if you keep it simple the true dynamic ranges are able to flow because blockage is not an issue as much.

Remember when I talked about the huge differences between the recordings I play? This is noticeable because there is more dynamics making it's way through the system. It's also why I tune many times per recording instead of per system.

two different ways both fun


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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Wed Jan 04, 2017 9:27 am

Good points Michael as you always make them
Very Happy
Sonic is surprised to read Michael says that the point when the sound gets “locked in” can take years  Shocked

Anyway I am on this path now with the Parasound A21…..did Sonic have a choice? No  Exclamation

The Rega Maia was clearly incapable of driving the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs – with its 90W, the bass was uneven, the bass extension was poor (possibly damping issues), there were problems in the mids and the dynamics were compressed. The more powerful amp showed all this up and that some of the problems Sonic was tuning to fix came from the inadequately powered amp.  Not to criticize the Rega Main – it is a good amp and very nice with the right speakers.

The other good thing is with the Parasound A21, Sonic no longer requires bass lift from the JVC Nivico SEA-10 equaliser to provide bass to compensate for the system. The JVC Nivico SEA-10 is used purely to EQ programme material – like LPs and FLAC files that might be too bright, too thin in the bass, or too muddy sounding, shouty in the midrange and such.

Yes I might as well enjoy the ride for now.

On interference, to fix it Sonic will probably replace the grounded casings for the device which is “dirtiest” in terms of EMI/RFI --  the DAC – and the device which is most susceptible to the EMI/RFI – the phono stage with its high gain.  Let’s see what this results in over the next few days.

Sonic also found this description of the venerable Quad ESL 57 by Alan Shaw.  I find it a good read because some of his points apply to the Magenplanars too.  

Shaw in this instance is fair in his comments (he owns a pair of Quads of some type himself) the only fault I find with his writing here is he did not go sufficiently into the many things the Quad ESL 57s do right and well.


Alan Shaw on the Quad ESL 57s

Source: http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/forum/the-science-of-audio/speaker-design/1891-harbeth-and-the-quad-esl-57-speaker-a-common-though-process

Now, I am not an expert on the Quad 57's, but they were the first quality stereo speakers I ever heard, and I can still recall the room, the system and the music I heard on them in about 1970: The original cast recording of Hair, and Arrival of the Queen of Sheba (Marriner, Decca). As reported recently, I acquired (a swap, actually) a pair of later electrostatics, my first personal, long-term exposure to the sound.

There are a few important points to make about 'stats in contrast to conventional speakers ...

1. A conventional well-designed coned loudspeaker is a combination of a sound generating diaphragm (the cone) edge-damped by the diaphragm surround: it may be of foam, rubber, plastic or similar. It's a mechanical shock absorber, just as you have shock absorbers in your car suspension, and the mating of the surround shape and material to the characteristics of the cone is one of the most critical design loops in a conventional moving-coil speaker system

2. The electrostatic loudspeaker diaphragm has no "edge termination" equivalent to the rubber cone surround. The thin diaphragm under tension is attached to the frame by clamping. Any shock waves that travel on and around the diaphragm cannot be suppressed or absorbed as they radiate to the frame and hit it because there is no edge damping. Those reflections have only one course of action: they bounce off the edge just as a ball does off a wall, and travel onward, bouncing around the frame until they dissipate

3. Just as we know that the cone material of a moving-coil speaker defines its sound quality, so does the chemistry of the diaphragm film material define the sound quality of the electrostatic speaker. Change that chemistry, and the sound will be different

4. As I understand it, the original, carefully selected, diaphragm material from the '57 went out of production many years ago. An alternative has been used since. Expect a change in sound associated with the newer material.

5. The absence of diaphragm edge-termination in the electrostatic speaker means that the theoretical advantages of a weightless diaphragm are always counterbalanced with the constant sonic reflection issue from the frame edges whilst music is playing. I have not investigated this myself, but I have it on good authority that if you look under the sonic microscope at what happens in the milliseconds after the musical note has ceased, you find what is called chaotic behaviour. That means that there is mass of sonic reflections as the diaphragm quietens itself down to silence, as the residual energy bounces around the film, and the frame. A rubber edge-termination would quash those reflections immediately

6. The frequency response of the '57 is not flat, not even new ex-factory. The mid frequencies are dominant. Married with the right sort of recording (the barber shop quartet is a great example) they come into their element. I recall the objective review in Studio Sound of the '57 (remember the picture of Ravi Shankar and his sitar?) where this mid prominence was shown in the technical measurement of frequency response

7. The bass quantity and quality is completely different to a conventional speaker. It is much tighter (lower Q) and dryer, and there is less of it

8. The electrostatic is a dipole: it drives the room in a completely different way especially in the bass and middle frequencies

9. The human mouth is reproduced as far larger than reality on a pair of 'stats. This takes some getting used to, if ever

10. The lower treble (on my pair) is unnatural. There is a tizzy coloration which, when you lock onto it (after 10 mins. or so) is fatiguing.

If you want to experience the difficulty that the electrostatic speaker engineer is working against, attach a piece of clingfilm to a kitchen bowl and tension it with heat (a hair dryer). That tension is approximately equivalent to that of the electrostatic panel film. Now tap the taught clingfilm with your finger nails, and listen to the characteristic 'taught-diaphragm' tonality. A prominent twang.

Alan A. Shaw
Designer, owner
Harbeth Audio UK

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Fri Jan 06, 2017 10:10 am

Greetings Michael and Zonees

I think progress has been made in my struggle against the clicking noises from EMI/RFI  Very Happy  

In an audio system, “low-level signal/high-gain” components like the phono stage are the most susceptible so Sonic started there.
Sonic does not think the interconnects (am using Picasso) are conduits of the interference.  All the Picassos in use are braided so there should be adequate shielding. Other cables used in the system are coaxial like the USB cable from the computer to the DAC and the cable from the Quicksilver preamp to the Parasound A21.  

The phono stage is logically where RFI break-in might be occurring given the high gain of 41dB of gain for MM cartridges (with MCs the gain is up to 62dB) so this device is an obvious place to start with a solution. Also in my system, this device is tubed (2 x 12AX7s) and the phono stage has been separated from its metal casing. So I put the metal casing back.  

As clicks have been heard when we are running digital with the phonostage off, the next place to work on is the DAC which are as a class of equipment known to generate lots of high-frequency electrical hash from the chips processing data at ultrasonic frequencies. Consequently Sonic put the Aune x1s DAC back in its aluminum casing too.

In the “re-boxing” process, Tune principles as taught by Michael have been observed: mounting screws and nuts are done only finger tight, no rubber feet installed, instead wood supports equipment – like 3 Low Tone Redwood blocks under the phonostage and 2 Low Tone Redwood blocks under the Aune x1s – and all cables inside equipment are loose.

These Low Tone Redwood blocks under the equipment as well as Basswood (Magic Wood) squares under the table and stool carrying the preamp and DAC and the ASUS laptop are critical in maintaining tune and tone.  A briefly placed re-boxed DAC on its rubber feet and the sound went down a sinkhole.  If one did not know better the AUNE x1s on rubber feet is pretty good but put it on Low Tone Redwood blocks without any rubber feet adhered to the casing and the DAC goes from pretty good to Solidly Good!

The clicking noises appear to have ceased (let’s wait a week before proclaiming victory).

A few hours of music play later, the system also appears to sounds quieter. I detect some closed in effect – let’s see how Sonic tolerates this. With the wood from Michael creating some tuning to the cased gear, I might have to live with this instead of experiencing the interference which may be “clicks” at frequencies that Sonic can hear but who knows what kind of ringing or pulses may be occurring at frequencies beyond what I cannot hear?  

Listening to musick, Sonic is thrilled with the system powered by the Parasound A21 and my new found bass extension, the midrange smooth and the punchy dynamics of the system. Listening to a FLAC of the Bee Gees’ This Is Where I Came In and the drive behind the songs and the bass on this record is making Sonic bug-eyed.

Next Sonic played Cream’s Disraeli Gears and found Jack Bruce’s bass is thunderous (analog). In addition to the weight of the lowest notes there is a controlled evenness of the notes in rising and descending bass figures.

Then Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane’s only studio album ever made and after that Haydn’s 1st Symphony…..Sonic drifts away into the musick.

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Michael Green

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Sat Jan 07, 2017 11:37 pm

Hi Sonic

Might I make a suggestion.

Now might be a good time to begin another thread where you talk about your latest direction.


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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Sun Jan 08, 2017 10:55 am

Greetings Michael

A new thread.....yes, a good idea. Maybe soon once I get the present path of where my system at a stage when this episode is concluded or it extends to what will be a new chapter in my learning the Tune.

Sonic observes that now with about 85 hours of music play time with the Parasound A21 an encouragingly rich tonal balance is forming. The bass from the Magneplanars MG1.5QRs is good with extension downwards and slam too. The little thing in the back of Sonic's head is whispering that this "richness and slam" might end up a characteristic that stays with every recording being played -- like what I observed in the AudioNote 0.1x DAC that was tested last February which in that case was an easy-going musical sweetness that stayed the same from recording to recording. 

Now I have not done any Tuning on the Parasound A21 given the warranty.  As soon as I can or be prepared to take the chance Sonic will open it up, cut cable ties (there are quite a few), crack screws and remove the amp feet. All I have done is use Low Tone Redwood blocks from Michael to support the amp and they work well. Much better than when the amp is directly on the floor.  

With this parquet over concrete floor in my room, Sonic has found wood interface layers to be a must. More rather than fewer is the rule. Any wood under the equipment changes the sound (such as kitchen blocks from Ikea) but only wood from Michael such as Magic Wood (basswood), Low Tone Redwood and Dried China Poplar gives correct musical tone.  

Audiophiles say pine wood kitchen blocks from Ikea are good.  Sonic found they give my system a sour, narrow frequency band sound if I remember from years ago.  Never tried them again. Anyway they work well in my dwelling’s kitchen and giving useful service there.

For now Sonic is using four Low Tone Redwood blocks, one block under each of the four stock feet of the Parasound A21 sitting on the Michael Green Brazilian Pine board. I have tried the Low Tone Redwood blocks directly in contact with the casing rather than the equipment feet and one block is always loose. Time to test the best combination and placement -- like one Low Tone Redwood block under the transformer and so on.

Listening to David Munrow’s soundtrack for the TV series Henry VIII and his Six Wives (EMI LP). This is recording is beautifully rendered by Sonic’s system. There is slight mistracking from worn grooves on a couple of tracks but it is so easy to hear through the mild distortion to the musick and the harmonics. No emphasis of record noise.  

Then Sonic put LP of Mstilav Rostropovich playing Tishchenko’s Concerto (1963) – Angel Melodiya – on the turntable, and next was John Lennon’s Voices (for String Quartet) played by the Kronos Quartet (CRI LP). This is John Anthony Lennon, not John Winston Lennon.

Also listened to Emma Kirkby and Gothic Voices singing sequences by Hildegard of Bingen “A Feather on the Breath of God”. Sonic feels I am melting in the beauty of the musick and the words sung.

Sonic finds the 3D projection particularly of the centre images realistic and musical. Also find the sense that the sound and images have no relation to the speakers visible in the room is very good too.

We are a long way from the what the sound was like one year ago!    



Last edited by Sonic.beaver on Sun Jan 08, 2017 11:56 am; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : Correct an incorrect equipment model number in text, added a better description)
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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Tue Jan 10, 2017 9:58 am

Greetings Zonees

Now that the Parasound A21 has more than 100 hours musick play time – still far from settled to any extent – and finding that no more interference “clicks”, Sonic is cautiously starting to tune the room and system to take into account the changes.  The presence of casings on equipment does not make good music. Sonic is looking at using my collection of wood from Michael to ground equipment and to treat the sidewalls now that the Magneplanars are moved further towards the front wall. Sonic will be always a tunee at heart and in practice.

More on this progressively over my next few posts.

The good thing is that the system has less wires and pieces of equipment about means less chance of tripping and pulling stuff down.  While Michael’s idea of a “simplistic system” as he puts it is simpler than this, Sonic is sure that any move in the direction of simplicity must be good.

Now about simplicity, here is something from the forthright Alan Shaw on what he thinks of the simplicity of CD players and the Sony/Philips’ system.

In case there is misunderstanding among good Zonees, Sonic needs to say this --  I quote Alan Shaw frequently because Sonic finds how he present ideas abrasively funny, he holds ideas diametrically opposed to what we as Zonees know are true though his points of view have their internal logic and he undoubtedly has good ears as evidenced from his speakers.

Quoted text starts here:

Comment from a Harbeth User Group member: Last evening I read an interesting passage on the operation of a CD transport... Due to the great complexity of a CD transport, I am convinced that they would account for many of the audible differences heard between various CD players...

Alan Shaw: Er, no! Have you allowed your preconviction that 'CD players sound different' combined with your abandoned belief that 'DACs sound different' to grasp for a second belief that 'the all important element is the CD mechanism' (I summarise).

There may well be sonic differences between CD players - I'm not listening for them but I don't doubt that something is audible - but you are barking up the wrong tree if you think the CD mechanism is complex and hence, likely to be the source of any differences. The miracle of the CD concept (as I've discussed long ago) is not its complexity but its extreme electro-mechanical simplicity. I repeat - the Sony/Philips designers intentionally, deliberately and wholeheartedly approached the design of the discs and the players with cost minimisation (aka engineering simplicity) at the very top of the design specification. And were they proved right: absolutely. It was a wonderful collaborative effort between European and Japanese engineers who shared different cultural approaches to engineering perfection, but found a solid common ground.

The reason is this: driven (rightly) in the early 1980s by marketing predictions of the likely consumer uptake of audio CDs (billions of discs, tens or hundreds of millions of CD player mechanisms), combined with the persistent and costly returns of mis-pressed LP records by the public, the engineers wanted a completely foolproof 'sell and forget' system. Discs that were (are) cheap to duplicate, indestructible, almost totally immune to even severe scratching and with player mechanisms that would cope with anything thrown at them. And that translated in the engineering design to the CD system's ability to cope with a huge spread of manufacturing tolerances in the discs and mechanism plus likely consumer/environmental degradation (another set of wide tolerances). So they anticipated every imaginable scenario of player and disc edge-of-tolerance: just a little bit too fast or too slow, a fresh laser or a weak one after years of use, dust on the laser, rotational bearing wear leading to non-concentric rotation, bearing oil/grease becoming sticky, laser misalignment laterally and vertically, scratches along and across the disc, disc data pits with fuzzy not sharp edges, flaking reflective CD top layer, likely power supply variation country to country, hour to hour etc. etc. etc.. In microcosm, they 'put a man on the moon and brought him back'.

And what did they conclude? They appreciated that the entire CD player/disc system had to have built-in significant error correction and feedback systems, mechanically and electrically. And these systems themselves had to be robust and reliable, fast acting, completely transparent to the user, automatic, and that the user could not even if he wanted to, 'go manual' and bypass layers upon layers of complex interlinked self-regulating feedback control systems. And that was a genius decision. There could be no tweaking of the transport, no re-writing of the control code, no user controls other than basic play/stop/search and no possibility at all to reinterpret, reinvent or improve upon the transport system devised by the collective genius of the worlds best consumer electronics working across two continents. And that's how it stands today.

And the consequence of superb engineering foresight was that both the discs themselves and the transport mechanisms could be punched out in sweatshop conditions without the need for a super-clean environment, using simple machinery in the hundreds of millions. No need to tweak and adjust every mechanism. Just bash them out and flog them in vast quantities. And that ensured (as Sony/Philips anticipated) that the cost of producing the mechanism would fall to little more than the cost of producing the disc, wholly unlike the LP record and its player mechanism.

Attached is a scan [not attached to this post] from a current (and rather pricey) trade catalogue listing CD and DVD players for the PC. They sell the mechanism in a tin case to suit a PC, in a nice cardboard box with instructions, screws, audio cable etc.. Item B, cost GBP 12.95 will have a mechanism that is functionally identical to what you'll find in an audio CD system (plus lots of additional features incl. Lightscribe, ability to read and write up to 48x - CD audio is only 1 x). Item D can read BlueRay which is a far, far more complex disk to read and interpret than CD audio. It's cost, GBP 42.95. From this I suppose we can assume that the cost of the mechanism itself, made in China, can be no more than a few dollars.

And as for 'jitter'; the implications of that certain inevitability was fully considered by the Sony/Philips designers who built-in perfectly adequate and completely robust correction systems to guarantee that it just would not be an issue at all for the consumer.

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Thu Jan 12, 2017 9:02 am

Greetings Zonees

Sonic bought the DG Archive Production double LP of Georg Philip Telemann – xi Research Period: The German Pre-Classics (1700 – 1760) Musique de Table (Banquet Music) Production III, Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, August Wenzinger cond., and it cost me about $12…. a steal for recordings on this label of this vintage. This was the early Archive (spelt that way back then before the ‘e’ was dropped) with the academic looking plain brown covers. The two records were scratch-free but kind of grimy.

I had them cleaned at one of the record shops on a Keith Monks wet and vacuum cleaning machine and while the vinyl is quiet, there was noticeable distortion on loud passages.

Sonic thought this was due to the records being played over their >50 year life on poor or worn equipment resulting in groove damage and now my Rega P5 turntable with the RB700 arm and the Ortofon 2M Blue is showing how much damage has been sustained.

Sonic likes the musick very much and I return to this record several times, tired to listen through the distortion and felt that I had just landed a bad one and Sonic should accept this as something that happens in the life of a record collector.

Then on the hunch that the discs were incompletely cleaned – sometimes this happens when the suction arm seal of the Keith Monks is worn and the fluid and dirt is not properly evacuated from the grooves -- I returned to my friendly record store and asked them to clean the Archive pair of discs again for the usual fee.

They said that if the Keith Monks could not clean it, no point trying again. The grooves had to be cleaned by an ultrasonic Audio Desk Systeme Vinyl Cleaner. If that didn’t work, then the record was damaged without doubt. They pointed me to a store that provided the service.

So off Sonic went to the establishment that had the Audio Desk Systeme Vinyl Cleaner. And when I played the re-cleaned records, the distortion had vanished, the noise floor went down and the records are sounding as good as new!

The Audio Desk Systeme Vinyl Cleaner works! Though I want one, the fly in the ointment is this machine costs $3,995.

The Audio Desk Systeme Vinyl Cleaner rescued this rare Archive from being consigned to the list of the near-unplayable. It works wonders!

Here’s a link:


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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Fri Jan 13, 2017 11:44 am

Greetings Michael and Zonees  Very Happy

Sonic has made a discovery which if correct means I now have an explanation for the complex course of my tune journey.

As my system has been settling in with the Parasound A21, Sonic noticed that the hard midrange glare I hear in the system/room is gone. It was there up to the point of the amplifier switch. Now the midrange is smooth, slightly overdamped, and in correct level with the bass.

Then on a whim, Sonic brought out an album I normally avoid – English folk songs by June Tabor accompanied by Martin Carthy and others.  Till now this recording has played poorly in my system – there is an F-sharp in Tabor’s alto range that honks and resonates in the room when she sings it softly or loud.  It is as if a parametric equalizer was tuned to just that note, run through a bit of reverb, and played +10dB louder than everything else. The effect is ugly.

This time when the F-sharp came……and nothing  Shocked  What Sonic heard was a controlled, completely natural presentation of a woman singing in her lower register and the room resonating with her voice, the waves expanding into the room spherically.  I have heard this effect in live vocal recitals. The “honk” was a distorted and upshifted version of the voice coupling the room and the sphere of sounding expanding.

The earlier problem is gone  Exclamation  

The hard midrange that has been attributed my room’s concrete ceiling, walls and parquet-over-concrete floor is  what Sonic has been working on deal with for some eight years using the FS-DRTs, FS-DTs, FS-PZCs and the panoply of acoustic treatment from Mr Green. While there was improvement, it could never be completely removed until now. No matter what I did there was some of the hard midrange signature that pervaded the room and sound.

Contrast the sound now – Sonic is hearing extended bass, a sweet if somewhat damped midrange and no artifacts in the reproduced sound that can be attributed to hard room surface problems.

Sonic’s theory in three points:

There were not one but two problems that showed themselves in similar and overlapping ways – that is in an exaggerated and hard midrange. One issue was the hard walls but it was less severe than I thought. The other part of the midrange problem was due to the main amp that was either faulty or incapable of driving the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs.

As Sonic always thought that the midrange issue was acoustical in nature, so tuning proceeded along this line to treat the room. This only dealt with half the problem – the other of half of the cause was unsuspected and went unaddressed.

Sonic assumed the tunes I did were wrong or insufficient so round and round in circles we went for years tuning the room and gear, backtracking, tuning more gear, more room.

Now with the amp changed, Sonic can tell my room has actually been controlled by Michael’s products.

The BOO! is long gone, the hardness tuned to the point where it is unnoticeable. Now that the basic system and room is neutral, I can feel more ready to use the Japan Victor Company Nivico SEA-10 as a tuning tool, record by record, FLAC file by FLAC file as Sonic has a better grasp what the starting point is.

What went wrong with the amp?  The Rega Maia amp was bought second hand so it may have had this problem from the outset but I did not notice anything because the room was much more heavily damped back then.

There is the possibility the fault, worsened over time. This was eight or so years ago when I moved into this room and started tuning it using Michael’s methods.  About five years ago, the transistors blew along with a few other components in the Rega Maia and these were replaced by a serviceman.

All this could have left me with a marginally performing amp, prone to overloading, with a weak bass due to the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs’ power requirements and impedance (so midrange was emphasized), the components possibly showing some ringing behavior which meant I could never play at any high levels without a highly unpleasant sound developing which I kept blaming on the room.

Sonic did not have another suitable amp – an 8 watt tube Pioneer SA-400 even in fine condition need not apply -- so there was no way to break out of the cycle.  A couple of years back, a friendly shop offered me a trial of a Carver Sunfire.  I declined  Embarassed

Could Sonic prove this theory by simply testing my Rega Maia or reintroducing it for a bit? This cannot be done because a week after the Parasound A21 was brought into service and working stably and long before Sonic had this insight into this Twin Problem causing my years-long walk through the tuning labyrinth, I gave the Rega Maia away so its parts could be cannibalized for a project. So it no longer exists in one piece that can be tested.

Sonic wishes the Sunfire offer had been accepted since the dual problem might have been identified.  Oh well….

With the Parasound A21, Sonic finds I can go very loud cleanly. VERY LOUD indeed.  I must check my playback volume to ensure no irritation is caused to other dwellers in my dwelling or any stress to personal hearing.  I am listening now to some large orchestral works by Copland and the sound went from a whisper to over 95dB unfussed and effortlessly. Last evening I played a FLAC file of some Jimi Hendrix and remarked how much bass there was in the tracks. And it was way louder than I have played this recording and Sonic enjoyed every moment of it.  Enough now, go back to Sebastian Bach and saner levels.

If this is correct, the years of Sonic’s sonic frustration have been resolved  cheers  

Sonic can and must say that Michael’s RoomTune products work as advertised and have been working all along.

This means I also should gradually revisit tuning in all portions of the Trilogy and expect more predictable results.

Now this is progress indeed  Very Happy  Very Happy  Very Happy


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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Sun Jan 15, 2017 9:41 am

Greetings Michael and Zonees
Sonic thinks the interference “clicks“ are gone  Very Happy  

Two more days of music listening and with the amp close to 150 hours of music/speech reproduction time, I am very happy with the overall sound and the soundfield in Sonic’s room.

Sonic played Copland’s Connotations on a CBS CD (FLAC file). This somewhat raucous recording has not much below 60hz, the bass rolls off from this frequency down (looking at the frequency spectrum on the Foobar 2000 dashboard) yet the midrange is rounded even with the orchestra playing loud.  When there is an occasional strong note below 60hz, there is good weight and girth.  The room is contributing no hardness at all. Trombone and tuba are brassy and weighty.

Sonic next played a Bill Evans Trio record – and I am observing that with this kind of recording the soundstage is now sitting ahead of the speaker plane.  The images are spherical, large and apart from the drums the piano and bass sit forward of the speakers. It is like the Trio is in the room. The piano forward of the Right speaker, the sphere bigger than the width of the speaker panel, the bass is forward of the Left speaker, another nice sphere closer to the centre of the room   Exclamation   Very Happy  

Now I am listening to Alfred Brendel playing Schubert sonata and impromptus – the piano sits as a sphere round my equipment tables.

With renaissance and baroque ensembles, this forward projection happens often too and the depth of goes far away through the front wall when this is in the recording.

All this is a probable sign that Sonic’s hypothesis in my post of January 13 that there were actually two problems to address (the room + amp) not just one (a room with hard walls) has substance.  As the sound develops over the next few days, Sonic will elaborate.

Michael, your thoughts?


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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Tue Jan 17, 2017 9:25 am

Greetings Zonees

Here is a comparison of the Stanton 881 MkII and the Audio Technica ATML-70 by Dr Robert E Greene.  There are some portions in the review that represent good points of interest for us Zonees.

A good thing is the great Stanton 681EEE is again in the product line, which is largely a range of cartridges aimed at the tuntablist market.  From what Sonic understands the new Stanton 681EEEs are as good as the earlier ones in sound and quality.

Quoted text starts:    

Two Moving Magnet Cartridges :
Stanton 881 MkII and Audio Technica ATML-70*

Source: http://www.regonaudio.com/Stanton881AudioTechnicaATML70.html

Seven years of writing for TAS has not diminished my enthusiasm for reading it. I remain an inveterate rereader of back issues, and my typical work break involves thumbing through the miscellaneous spare copies of old TAS's lying around my office. One of the articles that frequently catches my attention is "Assessing the State-of-the-Art in Storage Media" in Issue 40. In this, J. Tamblyn Henderson reports on a listening session comparing digital master tape, analogue master tape, direct-to-disc lacquer and the "live" mike feed; the report consists of a long conversation among J. Boyk, Keith Johnson, Doug Sax, and JTH himself. Direct-to-disc emerges as closest to the live feed (and digital as by far the furthest from it). The conversation contains the following decisive statements:

Sax: I listened more critically to the disc than to the other storage mediums, and I listened not so much to its virtues as to its faults. I heard the one quality from the disc that I didn't expect to hear. When the sound got busy, when the whole orchestra was playing full tilt, the disc had the lowest distortion of all ... It sounded the least congested, the most "not there" in the circuit.

Boyk: I think you could have fooled a professional engineer, if you didn't tell him, that he was hearing a direct mike feed. Maybe not if he had just heard that mike feed.

Johnson: The direct disc captured the most fluid sound of any of the mediums. I did not hear the mike feed that much to make a comparison, but the direct disc did very well until high level passages, and then it began to break up a little. But the fine resolution of the miking was all there to an uncanny degree, much more so than from any of the other mediums ...

What cartridge, what exotic audiophile wonder of disc playback, was producing these marvels? What cartridge could have the "lowest distortion of all," "uncanny" resolution, better than master tapes? The answer is (I wish I could put a page turn here): The Stanton 881 Mk III, retail price $180.

The scene shifts.

Kavi Alexander, auteur of the remarkable Water Lily Acoustics series of analogue vinyl discs, is monitoring disc production by comparing test pressings to the master tape. What cartridge is he using? Another moving magnet, this time the Technics EPC 100, Mark IV, unfortunately no longer available in the US. But he describes the Audio Technica ATML-170 as very similar, and very close to the actual sound of the tape. In this comparison, he says, virtually no moving coil does so well; most have seriously apparent colorations.

The contrast between these views of moving magnet cartridges and usual audiophile opinion is striking. On the one hand, we have assurances of these leaders of the High End recording industry that the best moving magnets are very close to the master tape (or live mike feed, for direct to disc) and that they are capable of "uncanny" resolution.2

On the other hand, we have the prevailing perception, amounting almost to a shibboleth, of the High End listening community, that only moving coils are realistic in some sense of that word and that moving magnets are incapable of sonic truth. While it is clearly beyond the scope of a single review to resolve this conflict entirely, a couple of points come to mind.

In direct comparison of two "sounds", tonal balance differences show up very conspicuously. Good moving magnets can be very nearly neutral tonally, as well as being (apparently) low in the kinds of distortion that are audibly significant. Moving coils are low in distortion, too, but typically they are quite far from neutral tonally, with a "presence range" suck-out followed by a high frequency rise.

Most High End cartridge reviewing, my own included, is done against recollected reality he absolute sound!), not against master tapes. This type of reviewing will quite naturally put less premium on exact tonal truth than direct comparison to master tape or live mike feed could. It puts correspondingly more premium on spatial aspects of reality. We know a priori that orchestral music must have happened in a big space. What we don't know is exactly what its original tonal balance was.

To this, one has to add that it is easier to talk or write about space than about timbre. Considering the vast variety of timbres that are distinguishable--a conservative estimate would be tens of thousands--it is surprising how limited our vocabulary is for describing them.3

The verbal/analytical part of our brain is far better equipped to deal with space than with tone color-or visual color, for that matter.

Perfect reproduction would reproduce e everything perfectly. But to ask which imperfections are most disturbing or which near perfections are most musically pleasing is ask questions about musical aesthetics. We must answer for ourselves; another person cannot do it for us. I surely feel that some large sense of space has musical significance, especially for orchestral music. As Michael Flanders once said "Personally I can't think anything I should hate more than to have; orchestra actually playing in my sitting room". 4

For almost all music some sense of an appropriate acoustic environment-not your own listen room-is indeed needed. But to sacrifice tone colors, the literal sound of the music toward this cause is a debatable decision. A rough sense of space and precisely correct tone quality can certainly be argued to be better musical compromise than precisely correct space and incorrect tonal character. And ironically it is not possible to have space exactly right unless tone is exactly right, too, since tonal perception and spatial perception, interact. With most (all?) digital, both are wrong: space is truncated and timbres homogenized For all its flat response, digital doesn't get tonal character right in practice; not so surprising perhaps, when one recalls that initial transients, not just steady-state sound, are involved in our perception of timbre.

Back in the real world, where this is supposed to be an article about budget audio, the issue isn't really whether or not these moving magnet cartridges are more or less true source than the far more expensive exotic moving coils. Rather, the issue is whether the cartridges produce musically satisfying sound.

I have been listening to them alternately some weeks, and I add my own resounding second to the views of Alexander et al: They really do sound good. In particular, even at this low budget level, analogue disc playback far outstrips CD.

So what do these moving magnets, Stanton and Audio Technica, sound like? First off, they don't sound exactly alike. Perfect cartridges would sound identical, but all are to some extent imperfect. Still, these two are closer to each other than to moving coils as a breed. Both are clean and low in perceived distortion. Both track flawlessly. Both have the upper midrange vividness and associated "upfront" spatial character that would seem like forwardness compared to the usual moving coil. But this tonal aspect is quite likely truth to source (remember most moving coils have quite a significant suck-out in presence).

The Stanton sounds a bit more "mid-rangey" than the Audio Technica, perhaps because of a little less in perceived high treble. Both have a smooth-sounding top end, but the Audio Technica sounds more extended, with a bit more cognizance of treble detail.5

Both have precise bass in the right arm set-up, though the Stanton has more bass than the Audio Technica in every set-up I tried. (I'll return to the arm matching question momentarily.) The overall balance difference is that the Audio Technica is slightly lighter and brighter than the Stanton.

In theory, perfection in a cartridge is quite well defined: the RIAA standard specifies almost completely what kind of signal should be produced by a specified groove shape. In particular, the frequency response of a cartridge is also well defined-in theory. If I had to guess, I would guess as follows: The Audio Technica is slightly elevated in the highs, slightly attenuated in the bass, virtually flat in the midrange. The Stanton is slightly subdued in the' lower treble, slightly up in the extreme highs, also basically flat in the midrange, slightly up in the bass. These would be my guesses relative to the theoretical standard. But I want to emphasize that guesses is what they are. Test records are notorious for their inconsistency, and their irrelevance to actual music listening. Impulse response tests and the like where the stylus tip is agitated mechanically, also bear debatable resemblance to the actual results of playback. And listening gives one just a sampling of how cartridges sound with typical vinyl cutting-which is itself not flat in any demonstrable sense, not to mention that the (tape) recordings themselves have erratic balance.

For these reasons, I am always a bit hesitant to make detailed judgments about absolute cartridge neutrality, if "detailed" means detailed enough to declare the midrange of one essentially neutral cartridge more neutral than the other. And both the Stanton and the Audio Technica fall in this essentially neutral range. How then can they sound tonally different? That's easy: ±0.5 dB is excellent performance for a cartridge. But, if the threshold of audibility for broadband tonal shifts is, say, about 0.1 dB and if we suppose these ±0.5 limits over an 8 octave range (leaving out the extremes), then there are, even so, on the order of millions of possibilities within these limits that are in principle audibly distinguishable.

In spite of all this-which I hope has served to provide some much needed skepticism about the subject of absolute neutrality as a practical reality-what is verifiable in listening is the absence of large colorations, gross imbalances. Both these cartridges meet this test, for all the small differences between them. (Relatively few moving coils will pass this same test.) Personally, I marginally prefer the Stanton's balance with most systems I tried. On the other hand, the Audio Technica has, to my ears, a lower level of the mechanical sounds that all cartridges exhibit to some extent, though the Stanton does well in this regard, too.

What all this adds up to is that tonally you are hearing something very close to what's in the grooves with either of these cartridges. The choice comes down to fine details of balance, finer than you are likely to be able to hold your speakers to, in particular. (Virtually no extant speaker gets even close to ±0.5 dB over eight octaves. The tonal coloration battle is very far from over.)

Taking it for granted that these cartridges are very close to neutrality, albeit with some small divergences at the frequency extremes, the question arises of their ability to resolve detail, especially spatial detail. Resolution is after all the raison d'être of moving coils, and would suppose that moving magnets would lag far behind here if anywhere. I would certainly not claim that either of these has the kind detailed spatial presentation of, say, the Ortofon MC-3000. If you are intent upon hearing the fine structure of wall reflections, then the moving coils maintain an edge.

One might theorize that in fact moving coils can exaggerate detail perception, given the description quoted of the resolution of the Stanton vs. the mike feed itself. Perception of information can be exaggerated: Information cannot be created that isn't there, but perception of existing information can be artificially enhanced: E.g., speech intelligibility can be enhanced by boosting mid-highs. On the other hand, information is surely lost in recording and processing, so some enhancement, it could be argued, is needed to regain realism. This is the kind of philosophical argument that audiophiles can pursue indefinitely, to the despair of any nonaudiophile present!

Regardless of philosophy, these moving magnets are not so far behind in resolution as you might expect. Indeed, in resolving inner instrumental lines and the like, both would be hard to fault. The moving coils seem to have little advantage here, in this type of resolution, other than that attached to their rising top. The main difference, rather, has to do with spatial matters. Aside from tonal balance, it is in soundstage behavior that these cartridges differ most significantly from the moving coils. The expansive soundstage has firmly established itself as a desideratum of the High End. These cartridges can certainly produce width and depth, with the Audio Technica being somewhat more expansive than the Stanton. But on routine material, both, and particularly the Stanton, produce a narrower albeit precisely focused stereo presentation; narrower that is than many moving coils.

In psychological terms, it is as if these cartridges are emphasizing amplitude stereo--which is always by the speakers-compared to phase and time stereo, which can be outside the speakers and in fact anywhere. There are again two possible viewpoints: (1) the moving magnets obliterate interchannel phase and/or subtle reflection cues to image location, or 2) moving coils generate spurious interchannel phase differences which can exaggerate soundstage. Probably both those statements are true!

Incidentally, in theoretical Blumlein stereo, the speakers are supposed to be far apart (90 degrees seen from the listening position!) but the direct image is all between the speakers, although ambience can be everywhere. This is the kind of stereo these cartridges do perfectly. But the phase-driven ultra-expansive wall-to-wall soundstage arising (usually) from spaced-microphone recordings--that is narrowed down and foreshortened somewhat by these moving magnets. (If you want controversy, wait until the next installment, when I'll tell you Harry Weisfeld's theory of why moving coils can and do push the soundstage wider than the master tape !)

The sound of an audio system is a composite off all the components in it. As components of different types change and, one hopes, improve, the component behavior needed somewhere else in the chain may change, too. Audiophile disapproval of moving magnet cartridges arose at a time when the rest of the components in the chain tended to lack transparency in the high frequencies.6 In a system otherwise transparent in the highs, the best moving magnets are revealed as having themselves surprisingly transparent highs and indeed as being surprisingly satisfying altogether.

According to report, the latest moving coils, e.g., the Lyra Clavis, have scored a breakthrough in combining neutrality with unprecedented high resolution. This is, everyone hopes, part of the revolution to come, when amplitude vs. frequency, time and phase will all be reproducible correctly-perfection, in short. But this revolution7 has yet to reach the budget sector. An attractive feature of these controversies about cartridges is that you can check out the moving magnet side at such a low price that serious audiophiles might well check it out just from curiosity. If you already own a moving coil, one of these moving magnets is hardly more than a surcharge.

The one extra thing you do need, to try a moving magnet, is an arm that is compatible with rather higher compliance cartridges than typical moving coils. The undamped, high mass arms, the "clunk" arms that depend on the low compliance of cartridges to work right won't do for high compliance moving magnets. I haven't surveyed the possibilities systematically, but I do have a suggestion that is at least fairly close to the budget category: the Morch UP-4. This is a damped unipivot with interchangeable arm tubes for mass adjustment (so with a heavier tube, you can use it for moving coils, too). It has a very low-level resonant signature, competitive with much higher priced arms, and ultra-low-friction bearings. And you can get the arm-cartridge resonant frequency where it belongs by using the right tube-plus the damping will control that resonance, too. These considerations sound like the things people used to think about in the Sixties, but physics doesn't go away. The Morch DP-6 has the same virtues, including adjustable mass and a more controlled sound, but it costs more, too much to be a budget item. The UP-4 will do the job. And, because moving magnets generally put less energy back into the arm than do the moving coils, the control of the DP-6 is not needed so much for moving magnets. Again, both these arms are competitive with much higher priced products and should be considered seriously by anyone seeking an arm for any cartridge.

As ASP pointed out in Issue 70, the audiophile consumer (and dealer) community is massively arrayed against moving magnet cartridges. But experimentation is interesting, and in this case inexpensive. If your audiophile friends give you a hard time, you'll certainly have a pat answer: you can say if it's good enough for Kavi Alexander, Jim Boyk, and Doug Sax, it's good enough for me.


TAS issue 94 Spring 1994

Manufacturer/Importer: Audio Technica, 1221 Commerce Drive, Stow, Ohio 44224. 216 686-2600. Source: Manufacturer Loan. Serial Number: N/A. Price: $3458 Warranty One year parts and labor.

Manufacturer: Stanton Magnetics, 101 Sunnyside Boulevard, Plainview, New York, 11803. (516) 349-0235. Source: Manufacture Loan. Serial Number: S5138. Price: $180 Warranty: One year parts and labor.

Manufacturer: H.H. Moerch, Copenhagen, Denmark. Importer: Audio Advancements, P.O Box 18, Verona, New Jersey 07044. Source; Manufacturer Loan. Serial Number: N/A Price: UP-4 $595 (up to $750); DP-6 $109E (up to $1495). Warranty: Three years parts and labor.

* See ASP's comment on this cartridge in his AT-OC9 cartridge review in issue 70. -LAD

1 Confirmed in conversation with Doug Sax. The Stanton is the usual monitoring cartridge of Sax's disc mastering. (While selected samples are used. the individual calibration by Stanton should in fact make sample-to-sample variations small.) The Stanton is also used regularly by Boyk in his recording production (Performance Recordings) and his work as a sonic consultant and researcher.

2 Incidentally, the Boyk/Henderson/Johnson/Sax listening session definitely did confirm the belief that digital recording does serious damage to the signal. This view is also strongly shared by Alexander. Harry Weisfeld is another expert who is also a proponent of moving magnets. His fascinating views on the question will be covered in detail in my review of the Shure Type V, to come in a later issue.

3 Similarly startling is the contrast between the enormous number of distinguishable (visual) colors, and the few words we have for describing colors.

4 Michael Flanders and Donald Swan, At the Drop of a Hat [Angel S 35797].

5 The ATML-170 has tip resonance at 40 kHz, and hence response that extends to that frequency at least. Flanders again: "The ear can't hear as high as that. Still, it ought to please any passing bat." Seriously, though, such ultra-extension does seem to be associated to exceptional top end clarity.

6 The same cause led to the use of microphones with bright top end. These, alas, are too much with us late and soon, even though they are surely no longer needed.

7 For which I am taking my colleagues' word: I have not yet auditioned a Clavis in my own system, though a brief brush with a prototype Parnassus was highly impressive.

8 Moving magnet cartridges are generally heavily discounted. However, my remark in Issue 70 that the ATML-170 is available for $150 turned out to be unduly optimistic: the actual going rate seems to be from $180 to $200. Incidentally, the 881 Mk II is not Stanton's most expensive cartridge; I hope to investigate the top-price 981 models ($250) later.

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Thu Jan 19, 2017 9:39 am

Greetings Zonees!

Here is one of the articles by Michael on the old Tuneland site that formed my thinking on audio and got Sonic on the Tune-path, a path that has led to my present state of discoveries and musick play.

From Mr Green in April 2008

Quoted text starts:

Hi Tuneland,

Amplifiers the "Step up stage" of a system has been around for quite a while. Even before Hi Fi got it's start we used devices to send signals around the world.

For the Audiophile there is a great love between the relationship of the amplifier and himself. I too spent years bowing to the golden calf. Even to this day a sexy amplifier can catch the eye of the hobbyist and make the head turn.

I've dealt with hundreds if not thousands of people who did not understand what an amplifiers job was. They just plugged it in and hoped, sometimes even pretended that magical sounds were being produced.
Now that I go back and read the articles in the High End journals of 30 years ago till now, I can't help but get a kick how we were got like fish on a hook and reeled in. I'm just as guilty as anyone. I think what helped me wake up was having my own audio stores and so many systems. Man did I have some love affairs too. It was until I was taken by surprise one day that I started to realize that maybe my thinking about amps was all backward. In reality my thinking about the whole system was backward.

Even then I think I was in denial for a long time.

Well here is my story.

I had a cousin that was really into Hi Fi back in the 60's. I use to go into his room and go wow look at all this cool stuff. I would go home and try to build my own by reading some old magazines, but it wasn't as cool as his because his looked way cool.

One day he was going to clean the inside of the amp "WHOA" I'm there! He left the amp playing while he was doing this. I'm thinking "my cousin is the coolest", "watch he won't even get shocked". Then the weirdest thing happen. He took off the cover  Shocked  

He didn't hear it, but I was blown away at how much louder it got, and how the room filled up with so much more music. I didn't say anything, but that thought must have stuck with me some how, because from that point on I always found myself playing with the weight of amps.

So what is an amplifier : one that amplifies; specifically : an electronic device (as in a stereo system) for amplifying voltage, current, or power: to increase, or expand, enlarge, or even and most importantly "multiply"

So what are we multiplying?

Music : the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity b: vocal, instrumental, or mechanical sounds having rhythm, melody, or harmony : tuneful sound : melody

2 a: the combination of simultaneous musical notes in a chord
b: the structure of music with respect to the composition and progression of chords
c: the science of the structure, relation, and progression of chords

3 a: pleasing or congruent arrangement of parts

And what are harmonics?

1: overtone; especially : one whose vibration frequency is an integral multiple of that of the fundamental b: a flutelike tone produced on a stringed instrument by touching a vibrating string at a nodal point

2: a component frequency of a complex wave (as of electromagnetic energy) that is an integral multiple of the fundamental frequency

So lets go back to the beginning for a second.

What is the job of an amplifier?

To increase or expand the multiples of a fundamental frequency.

Got your thinking cap on here Idea cat because this should be turning on some lights.
Michael Green

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Fri Jan 20, 2017 11:52 am

Greetings Zonees

Now that Sonic has got my speaker position locked down I can mention to Zonees that:

a. the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs are 99 inches apart measured from the midpoints of their width – the room is 14 feet in width.

b. the speakers are 57 inches from the front wall at their midpoints (the panels are slightly toed-in), that is 23% of the length of the room betwixt 1/4 and 1/5 length.

c. the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs form an equilateral triangle with me sitting at the listening position – FWIW though some audiophile friends seem to think this is good, to Sonic it is unplanned.

d. the speakers are tilted back – Sonic found this to be the best for tone and soundstage after several back and forth attempts.

e. the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs’ magnet plate sides face the listening chair.

The good thing that Sonic is discovering is how much dynamic range there is in both analog and digital sources; with digital definitely ahead in displaying overall more slam and startling bursts in volume from low levels Shocked

My theory that it was a dual problems of the room and amp look more and more like the right explanation of what confused Sonic’s tuning all these years Idea Very Happy

I am also hearing a more projected cello line in orchestral works. This is a goal Sonic has been tuning long and hard to achieve.

A thing I learnt from reviewer Robert E Greene made an important observation when he reviewed the Spendor SP1/2s which he observed were tonally correct: “The SP1/2s are almost exactly neutral in tonal balance in real listening rooms……Audiophiles who listen to the SP1/2s will probably be inclined to think that they are too warm and are over-projected in the upper midrange. They aren't. They just don't do the wrong things many people are used to.” Abso!ute Sound Issue 90.

Sonic has noticed that many ultra expensive audiophile speakers lose the celli in the mix even though their low bass go down to subterranean frequencies. They also weaken the alto line in a SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) choir. This can sometimes be due to woofer to floor cancellation, creating a dip in the 100 – 300hz. For planar speakers this cancellation notch will not happen but the bass could be lean for a variety of reasons.

As I tuned my system and room, I have been hunting for the right cello range without boominess in the bass and a realistic “sharpness” in the upper mids which give violins their characteristic bite. Real musical ensembles have this upper bass and mid projection. Sonic knows this from listening to ensembles such as string quartets live. My system is now moving towards this tonal balance, getting close.

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Sun Jan 22, 2017 9:34 am

Greetings Zonees Exclamation

Sonic can report that the interference in the form of “clicks” is completely gone.
Some might ask if Sonic had ever considered power conditioners.  Earlier my answer would be “yes” though now my answer would be “No”, which puts Sonic outside the audiophile circle of acceptability. I am glad that I learnt from Michael that mains conditioners are actually unnecessary.

Why “yes” at one time?

Before Michael became an audio influence on Sonic, I did run my system with a set of conditioners that were highly recommended in their time. This product came in three weighty boxes – one for low-level equipment, one for power amps and high current draw devices like video projectors, the third was some sort of a filter unit that you plugged into an adjacent power outlet next to those that the other boxes were plugged into.  These cost me in total about $4,000 back then if I recall. Back then this product was highly recommended by every magazine out there.

With my system powered through these devices the sound was clean but I heard a dulling of transients. The music seemed to play slower (some may call this a loss of PRAT – Pace, Rhythm And Timing) and became uninteresting. Not unlike the effect of applying acoustic foam to a live room, maybe a tube amp with tubes past their prime (sans the noise).  

After being guided by Michael, Sonic has been using no conditioners.  When Michael first brought up the subject, Sonic ran my system them without any conditioning and  Very Happy  the music came alive.  I expected all sorts of problems during high electricity demand periods in the evening but heard none, no mains hash.

For Sonic, after I heard how good the sound is without treatment, I never went back.
And Sonic doesn’t buy the argument “oh, you used one of those cheap conditioners….if you heard the state-of-the-art Super Brand ABC Conditioner Of Mains costing $25,000, you will change your mind.”

Yeah, sure I will.  

Today there are all sorts of boxes and devices available to treat mains and the earth.  Some can cost multiples of what people spend on entire their entire hi-fi systems.  Sonic read of a box that is purported to treat just the electrical ground – it is presented in a beautiful wood box with a mains inlet and a few binding posts to connect the ground wires from the equipment to.  This box weighs as much as a large amp and costs $12,000 – just to treat the earth.  

Are these ultra-expensive devices really what it takes and costs to fix a known problem? Let’s face it mains and air-borne electrical, electromagnetic interference are not an unknown or a new problem.  The medical, computer and defence industries have known about these forms of interference for a long time and have developed effective solutions. So if someone comes in with a solution that costs 100x more than the norm to fix a known problem, that solution had better be super innovative or else it might be a high-priced piece of poor engineering that could not do the same job at a lower cost.  Worse the device on offer at those sky prices might be just scams.

This is why Sonic salutes Michael and the Tune – here we have products that are truly innovative and work, yet are priced at levels that are sensible given what the devices can really do.

There is however one source of grunge that Sonic would like to make an attempt at addressing to see if there are any improvements to be heard – to deal with the grunge generated by wallwarts and the USB 5v which are known to be measurably dirty and there are inexpensive devices available that might work.


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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Tue Jan 24, 2017 10:47 am

What a dialog! (Part 1 of 3)

This is from May 2004. How Sonic wishes we had this sort of dialog among us and with Michael today!

Quoted text starts:

In a way, I rather regret that you (Michael) must take time away from the creative process to get involved with these types of topics. I know from where this topic emanates and it is obvious no one has stopped to even realize that during the eras of the creation of the greatest classical music ever composed (i.e., the eras of Bach, Beethoven, etc.), there was no test equipment to measure the performance of a pipe organ or the performance of the cathedral built and “tuned” by “ear”. These ancient cathedrals remain, to this day, some of the greatest sonic performance venues ever built. And, if we go back even further to the Greek amphitheaters which used the forerunners of Helmholz resonators, there was no test equipment nor objective data by which they could measure the results. Again, they had to use their ears. Then we come into the modern era with all sorts of sophisticated test equipment and the renovation of the historical Carnegie Hall sounds much worse than the original! This whole discussion of objective testing is quite boring to true music lovers. And, rather than defend use of our “ears”, those of us in The Tune let our system's performance speak for itself.

I have posted of this before, but I have had the privilege of having both the music schools of Yale University and Columbia University visit my home and listen to my system. One of the visitors was actually writing his doctoral thesis on acoustics and his most difficult task was how to quantify what he had heard and how to “measure” what his ears heard. This individual was accompanied by the Dean of the music school at Yale on a subsequent visit and he too left scratching his head at what he had heard. Not only were they at a loss for words to describe what they heard in a variably tuned system, but they were left clueless on how to even begin to go about measuring what they had just experienced.

If people could only understand one fact about the Tune, they will have made tremendous strides in understanding the futility of test equipment. If a user can tune the acoustics in a room to shape it differently, test results should obviously vary – or will they? How do you measure the expansion of a soundstage and quantify that. And, if we can tune our acoustics, our room and component mechanics and our electrical parts of our system to produce different sonic results, why does it not occur to the “objectivists” that we can also “tune” and tweak the test equipment to produce different results on the equipment itself since it is simply one or more of another component(s). We could tune the test equipment to produce results anywhere from terrible to excellent and never touch anything else in our system/room.

I regret having to see Michael’s post and I regret having to post this one because these discussions on testing really lead nowhere. I’ll give you just one small example. In 1999, when I visited Michael’s facility, he was testing prototypes of his then new hardwood shelves and the composition of the finish. When the new prototypes were put on his rack and the “old” MDF shelves were replaced, from another room, after the music started playing Michael could hear that the shelves were not level. We both walked through the Tunable Room into the equipment room and, sure enough, the shelves were visibly un-level.

Each of the staff members, Michael and I took different turns listening to the effect of the un-level shelves while listening to music in the Tunable Room and we all heard the same phenomenon. The soundstage shifted “off center” due to the components residing on un-level shelves! When the shelves were leveled properly, the soundstage returned to its dead center positioning in the room with no hint of any "shift". Now, what does one think would happen to the results on a piece of test equipment if it too were inadvertently set on an uneven surface? Perhaps, the same thing – different results than when on an even surface? If sound can change with altitude (i.e., a decrease in speaker efficiency due to a decrease in air pressure at high altitudes), wouldn’t a microphone have to be recalibrated in the higher altitude to assist in “tuning” a speaker to a room? But, audiophiles will go out and purchase spl meters and realtime generators to measure their rooms/systems without any knowledge of the necessity for recalibration every time you change from one environment to another. And, how does a piece of test equipment perform on an ordinary test bench versus residing on a Vibraplane or when set up on a set of MTDs? A piece of audio equipment will sound different in all three cases, so why would not all three setups produce different test results when measuring with a piece of test equipment? And, if the test equipment didn’t produce different results, what would that also prove? Perhaps that the test equipment may not be "sensitive" enough to adapt to "change" in its environment? A little common sense is needed here. You must use your ears when evaluating sonic phenomena because test equipment is far more fallible based on the environment in which it is placed.
Jim Bookhard

One would think that the words "technique" and "technical" would be in the same family. I know many audiophiles, videophiles, and recording engineers that do think this way. I however see it more as the "family feud". There is a huge ocean between technical and technique. Technical is based on a fixed mathematical set of equations and technique is based on intuitive and learned experience. Most times good technique is born from common sense. This almost always flies in the face of the technically trained. Heated subjects are bound to get started when you put these two together.

In this crazy world we live in there's even a third group called the "kill it" people. Their belief system has the weakest foundation of all. They consistently fall into the traps of "over-do" which leads to the loss of musical content. This is without a doubt the biggest problem and misunderstanding in the recording and playback industry.

There are "over-kill" products and technologies born every minute to rob us of our sound. Yet the thoughtful proccess and technique of the science of variable tunablity is growing by leaps and bounds. The art of tunablity is the glue that is bringing this world into the age of efficency and accuracy.

Sometimes "technique" makes "technical" look outdated. As "technical" has to consistently be reborn, "technique" lives forever Exclamation
Michael Green

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Thu Jan 26, 2017 10:07 am

Alan Shaw on Differences between DACs and Power Supplies + Analog vs Digital

Q: The threshold of human hearing is something not only "theoretical", but factual and measurable under various conditions with properly conducted tests. Maybe you have finer ears than average, but before positively telling to be able to perceive differences between DACs and so plain and straight as night and day (as it seems to me you're implying), you have tried under properly conducted tests, i. e. double blind, level matched and time aligned samples, no other telltales etc... do you?

A: I'm sorry to have to say this (yet) again, but unless you arrange to compare DACs (or amplifiers or anything actually) under controlled conditions where there is no more than a maximum of a second or so of a gap between A and B, you might as well flip a coin. I would. You have as good a chance of reaching the best choice.

There is absolutely no way, no way at all, for even the most gifted listener to be able to arrive at a valid, factual, objective conclusion about the merits of something as perfect as a DAC (compared to the human ear) if that 'comparison' involves swapping around cables and a long silence. It simply cannot be done that way.

This is not Alan Shaw's personal theory: the paucity of human memory is at the heart of psychoacoustics and human perception awareness and a little reading around the subject would pay massive dividends for the serious investigator. This forum is definitely not the place to advertise the costly investment in accessories which perform many times better than the very best human ear. If, however, the claims can be supported with details of how a controlled comparison was undertaken, what confounding variables were addressed and regulated, we really are most interested in the results, and empowered to repeat the procedure for ourselves.

Fair enough?

BTW: Background research: I strongly recommend you watch this clip in its entirety

Key points: LOUDNESS defines everything. The handbag thief incident is very worrying indeed.

Q: Alan - what is your view on linear power supplies and all of that ilk? Sorry for the direct questions but this site seems to be the only place on the internet where the truth can be found.

A: I'm not quite sure what you're seeking, but surely a well designed PSU is nothing more or less exotic than a fancy battery that lasts forever. How can that be exciting in any way or truly upgradeable other than to provide more volts or more current, or both?

Designing perfect PSUs is probably the most mature part of electronic design because from audio equipment through washing machines and space vehicles, a robust, well designed PSU is vital. Every trick in the book has been thoroughly explored by two generations of designers and it is beyond credibility that somehow, miraculously, any circuit novelty can be discovered at this late stage in the game that the normal forces of competition (size, cost, reliability, heat dissipation, protection) have not already flushed out.

Differences between analogue and digital:

Alan Shaw: Lest you think this is an attack on "the vinyl experience", surely as valid as any other love affair, the point is that the spectral balance is different between analogue and CD.

In simple language what that means is, and I have to say it's not negotiable or arguable, it is a fact:

If we make a recording using impeccable equipment, whether digital or analogue (although all first division recording engineers would obviously choose digital for its demonstrable lack of hiss, harmonic distortion, intermodulation distortion and 1000 times wider dynamic range) and we cut a vinyl record and also a CD from that same, unaltered master; and we played them side by side on the world's finest replay equipment - cost no object - we would notice a couple of things just by listening with average ears ...

1. Vinyl sounded 'warmer' at the bottom and less 'toppy'
2. Digital sounded 'brighter'

But see the problem? One of those two mediums has, without our consent, modified the replay experience. It has reinterpreted what was on the digital master tape. Now, it's entirely legitimate, in the interests of art, to paint a picture or take a photograph of the same scene. One is an interpretation, the other is an objective fact. Both can co-exist, happily. But in a court of law, under objective scrutiny, only one is a universal truth.

Please can we always keep in mind when comparing (any) analogue with digital, that like it or not, one is a painting and one a photograph.

Source: http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/forum/subjective-soundings-your-views-on-audio/electronics-sources-stands-cables-accessories/analogue-sources-incl-vinyl-discussion/1916-an-honest-appraisal-of-vinyl-v-digital-reality-v-romance

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Fri Jan 27, 2017 10:26 am

Greetings Zonees

This week, some discoveries in the sound now that the system with the Parasound A21 has got more than 200 hours of musick play. Sonic is hearing a dimensionality I have not got from this system till now Very Happy It is a 3D presentation with a nicely forward projecting centre imaging.

Much of this came after Sonic left the Parasound A21 in standby mode all day before an evening of musick play, better if it is left on 24/7– when this is done, the sound is excellent.

The Bill Evans Trio is projected into Sonic’s room! The piano on Moonbeams is projected forward, the bass is huge and deep and images beyond the RH speaker, a 4 ft sphere with its edge at the outer edge of the panel. Listening to the system you might not think the bass had anything to do with the visible speaker panel, the drum kit is “on” the LH speaker yet extends behind it and not sounding like its generated by the panel, at the end of a track where there was a cymbal played with mallets, it sounds exactly like that -- a flat disk 3 ft diameter extending out to beyond the LH wall.

Very good.

There are still some things that Sonic plans to work at:

Optimizing the toe-in of the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs because sometimes I feel the coherency is off, sometimes I could do with improved image focus. Since the speakers are at near zero toe-in, this means experimenting with more toe-in.

Sonic wonders if some treatment to the long side walls would be beneficial as a residual hardness once in a way and given the sound is now so musical and warm, this hardness sticks out when it happens. See the pix in my post of December 16, 2016 for views of the side walls. I will test FS-DTs along the side wall and see how the tone changes.

Sonic also tried placing a cotton duree (a type of carpet) on the space on the floor between the equipment table and my listening chair. Very quickly I noticed that the sound did not get warmer as Sonic expected but there was an upward shift in a way that made the music more like what would come from an audiophile hifi system. The sound/tone colour was “fixed” in that everything played was sounding the same.

The duree was removed quickly.

Discovering Pop Wink Music
Sonic has also been listening to synthesizer music – Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream along with groups like Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer were creating what they wanted us to consider were serious musical works. Yet I recently came across a quirky little piece on vinyl from the dawn of the synthesizer era.

It’s a hoot, something Sonic thinks was hardly intended as a serious statement of art. You cue the cartridge….first a high pitched whine and then out comes this popping noise.

From 1972, a hit called “Popcorn” by Hot Butter.

That silly tune became a meme in Sonic’s brain for days…..

If you want to hear this oddity and have it echo round your head, go to:

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Sun Jan 29, 2017 11:14 am

Greetings Zonees

After lots of concerted Laughing listening, Sonic can say that sound of analog on my system is more enjoyable, more emotionally satisfying, than digital by a notable distance after the inclusion of the Parasound A21. Digital is clear and precise, analog just sounds beautiful. Any ticks and pops from records (and there are only very few) are subdued and separated from the musick/speech in a way so the brain can put them apart. The low end is warm and big.

I know Mr Shaw says that digital is like a photograph and vinyl analog like a painting. To him Sonic replies “good analogy! I am not into this hobby for reasons of forensics – the purpose is to enjoy musick and poetry. And the LP sounds gorgeous despite or because of its limitations.”

For Sonic, analog play is more a Friday to Sunday evening listening thing for Sonic. Digital has it beat for convenience. On weekdays, back from a day in the office I can select a playlist off the computer screen and not hunt for records and the whole thing plays without a break while Sonic eats, answers emails and such.

There is a nice vinyl disc playback thing I found recently – a new addition to Sonic’s LP, EP, SP replay system is the Clearaudio/Souther Clever Clamp:

[url= https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RZ1_NtWvJE] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RZ1_NtWvJE[/url]

Cheap and good. This record clamp is a plastic dish that is a good fit on the spindle and holds a record to the platter nicely. It works on Rega spindles that are shorter than most TTs – Roy Gandy (Rega’s boss/designer) is said to have deliberately designed short spindles for his products so people could not fit weights and clamps to them because he thinks they are nonsense. Yes, Mitchell have a special clamp option that can lock on Rega spindles.

Using the Clearaudio/Souther, the sound is changed mostly for the better in the direction of a “sense of precision”. The nice thing is this is a lightweight hard plastic clamp so there is no stress on the turntable bearing. In Sonic’s audiophile acquaintance group there was one member who famously used an Audio Technica AT618 Disk Stabilizer (1.3 lbs/600gms) on his beloved Linn Sondek LP12 and wore away the bearing leading to a costly replacement and repair.

Sonic is now weighing the benefits of its use – you see, I follow Roy Gandy’s advice to keep the turntable spinning all the time during a listening session and just lift off the LP by the edges so there are no starts and stops to stress the belt. This means if I use the Clearaudio/Souther Clever Clamp, Sonic will have to stop and start the Rega P5 at each record change over cycle. Is the improvement in sound from the use of the Clamp worth the effort?

Discerning Zonees can tell that the change/improvement is not of any degree that Sonic thinks it is worth it without equivocation. But I thought there will be Zonees who might be interested and I would recommend this device if Zonees are looking for an inexpensive ($30) record clamp that does not stress bearings, is easy to use and does some good things to the sound as reproduced.

I read from various sources such as Lenco Heaven that clamps do make a difference (and Sonic can personally attest to that). Some say the heavier clamps give more bass, different materials like wood (Shun Mook made one for over $1,000 Shocked ), various metals and minerals all give different sounds. You can have lots of adventures, spend lots, go crazy though a better sound might be your reward!

Experiment to toe-in loudspeakers deferred

As Sonic thought about starting the experiment to try toe-in of the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs.

I realized that there is something Sonic has not done in this whole loudspeaker placement project.

Sonic has locked in the front back placement and found 57 inches from the front wall to be ideal – an inch more either way spoils the bass extension (closer to wall), or the image is worsen (closer to me) but I have not done a similarly disciplined test for distance from the side walls to get the “Spot”.

From about 19 inches to 25 inches (measured from the outer edges to the side walls), Sonic has tested with good improvements and then testing did not proceed to the point where we got to an optimum.

So I deferred the toe-in experiment and started bringing the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs closer together in steps while keeping exactly the same toe-in and distance from the front wall.

Initial movement inwards is very promising. The image specificity is very good, images/sound spheres are going outside the speakers and the bass/upper bass is more satisfying.

Sonic says to myself “go a bit at a time, allow for settling, trust my ears, put out of my mind ratios or dictates from audio magazine gurus” and enjoy the musick.


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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Tue Jan 31, 2017 9:04 am

What a Dialog! (Part 2 of 3)

Quoted text:

Less Is More and More Is Less

One misconception and/or trap audiophiles and designers fall into is that of getting away from simplicity in the building of their systems and/or products, in the case of manufacturers. But, simplicity does not mean that the product’s mode of operation will either be understood or even accepted by the audiophile community. As a matter of fact, the simpler the product, the more it will probably be shunned by audiophiles. Unfortunately, it really takes the opportunity to hear, firsthand, what a true reference system sounds like that has been built around “simplicity”. What I mean by simplicity is simple circuits with few parts and lightweight chassis which will tune easily. The fewer parts in a component, the less the chance of the audio signal becoming corrupted through the passing through more and more mechanical conduits in the component. As the component becomes more complex in its design with more and more parts, the more interaction there will be between the audio signal and the component through which it is passing. So, here in the Tune, we are always on the lookout for products which perform well and these always end up being the ones with the simplest design. “Simplicity” has nothing to do with “inferiority” although I think sometimes the audiophile community, in general, equates these two words. Those who have explored the Tune at its higher levels know this to be true because all their systems have components of very simple design.

Although Michael’s PZC products have been on the market now for seven years, most people, including users, do not really know how they work although these products are born out of a very “simple” design. And, there is nothing on the market which can compete with them acoustically. For the same reason, many people say “The RoomTune acoustical products cannot work because they are too small.” But, those who have used them know they work and these are an even simpler design than the PZCs.

I am currently in the process of assisting Michael in exploring some new “reference” products which can be recommended to audiophiles who want the highest quality sound for their systems. The key to finding these “reference” products is actually to find products which have very simple designs. Our experience tells us that very simple designs are easiest to tune. This is where “technique” comes into play and a good sounding product of simple design can be made to outperform the most expensive of its competition in the hands of a tuning master. It is fascinating to look inside the chassis of a component and listen to Michael’s directions on how to get the most performance out of that product. We have been able to do this simply by my exchanging pictures with him showing him the insides of a component and then his “techniques” take over after analyzing the topology of the design layout and parts used. But, he also reviews specs which give him “hints” as to what he is looking for. But, as has been pointed out in this thread, specs never tell the tale of what a component really sounds like nor does “weight”.

One other misconception among even veteran customers is that of looking at the “weight” of a component and assuming that just because it is low, the component will tune well and perform well. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Take a lightweight component that has been shoe horned into a tiny chassis with rigid walls and inner parts which do not tune well and you will end up with a product with a very analytical sound and not a product with a very musical sound. There are many products out there like this. These are to be avoided if you want a product that will tune well in your system.

So, the products we are looking at will be simple in design, but powerful in performance because they will have been chosen based on proven criteria, not just specs which will say next to nothing about a component’s performance in terms of its "musical" sound qualities. Hence the title of this post, “Less Is More and More Is Less”. We have some surprises for you which we will post about in the near future, but there will be no hints as to what we are looking at or why we are looking at certain components until we are both convinced that the chosen products perform up to or surpass the level of components which are known to provide state of the art performance through tunability.

Unfortunately, there is still a large community out there which believes in heavily dampening components to improve performance and to kill vibrations. But, they have yet to realize that the audio signal is energy and that all energy vibrates. So, when you dampen a component, it is unavoidable that you do not also absorb some portions of the audio signal along with the mechanical vibrations inside the chassis. Those mechanical vibrations are the audio signal also, just in a different energy form as a result of the mechanical conduit through which the audio signal has passed. Do not confused electricity as being separate from the audio signal. The audio signal sources its energy from the wall AC outlet which powers everything in your system and room. Along the way to your ears, this energy source goes through many transformations (electrical, mechanical and acoustical) in energy forms and hopefully, the tuning techniques used in the system will not have corrupted too much of this energy before it reaches your ears for processing by the brain. So, if people want to dampen, they should at least consider the ability to apply variable amounts of dampening instead of fixed dampening methods which may work with one product and not with another. So, in the Tune, we use variable tuning to maintain the highest level of integrity of the energy that is passing through your system so that all that is in the reproduction reaches your ears and has not been needlessly converted into heat through dampening. That’s what dampening does – it converts energy into heat in order to dissipate it. For this reason, a room overdone with acoustical traps or foam can sound very dead, very analytical or a combination of both. Again, keep your systems “simple” if you want the best performance out of them. Don’t overdo anything in your system and that includes applying too much of any kind of tuning. There is always a “right” balance and that’s what variable tuning allows you – to gradually find that balance point that makes the component perform at a level which is optimum in terms of its harmonic and musical potential. This applies to the audiophile community, pro and commercial world, and school acoustics environments.
Jim Bookhard

Do you know that technically speaking there has never been proof that supports the notion that the music signal inside a component or speaker can be separated from the vibration around it? This is also consistent in all froms of technology using moving or vibrating parts.

In all forms of technology, you will find similar patterns when it comes to preserving signal. "Less is more" is one of the main criteria for product design in every industry. Likewise, every time this philosophy is applied properly within the audio industry, you will always find huge sonic benefits.
Michael Green

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Thu Feb 02, 2017 9:47 am

Something on Loudspeaker Phase

For the full thread and the diagrams and links to sound clips go see:

Quoted text starts:

Alan Shaw: In theory, whether both the left and right speaker cones suck air from the listener or both push air towards the listener to make music should not be audible. That's a technical way of saying that whether, relative to the microphone, the cones are in phase with the microphone or 180 degrees anti-phase to the microphone, the listener is unlikely to hear the difference.

Which begs the next question - how can we ever know whether from the mic to the speaker the entire audio system is in push mode or suck mode? We can't. And nor should it make any difference.

Indeed, some amplifiers are internally out of phase between the input and output - QUAD pre and power amps for example. So the inputs signal to the power amp says move the cone outwards, but even though the user carefully wires the red output terminal to the red terminal of the speaker, in actuality, the signal that the speaker receives commands it to move the cone inwards.

Phase and the human listener
There are a number of issues here, some rather deep, and I'm conscious that I cannot (must not) engage in a highly specific dialogue which will be of little interest, and worse, no meaning to or positively misinterpreted by the vast majority of readers here. We most definitely are not a club of geeks discussing highfaluting concepts! Quite the opposite: I strive hard to make everything here accessible to someone just like me at the age of 15 or so. I wish I'd had a pragmatic guide when I was exploring the wonders of audio.

That said, just a few comments.

1. Whenever I see the word 'phase' in a hifi review I shudder, because it almost always is misused. It's one of those buzz words which is sufficiently vague in every day speak that it sound impressive, but is nebulous, except when discussed in a defined engineering context. Outside that, it has about as much meaning as the word 'cool' or 'dude' as 'he's a real cool dude'. Meaningless - or is it? I'd go so far as to say that if the world 'phase' appears amongst a non-technical wholly-prose audio review, the reviewer has revealed that he has no understanding of the technology that brought the product into existence. It's a highly specific term which is short-hand way of codifying a highly specific concept which we all, even those of us who make a living by manipulating audio signals have to grapple with in the real world.

2. All this talk about using digital processing power to change phase bahaviour in an audio system is all well and good, and exciting in its own way if that rocks your boat, but all that matters is will the sonic benefits be worthwhile. It's one thing to purr inwardly knowing that we have now a phase perfect system (or some other objective) but can we or our best audio buddy actually hear a difference? And is that difference beneficial? On all music, all of the time, everywhere in the listening room?

My pragmatic view is that without lifting more than a finger or sliding a mouse (or rolling a trackerball in my case), and definitely without spending one single cent and getting ourselves all hot and bothered with panting anticipation of this glorious new listening future, can we mock-up a listening experiment which demonstrates the sort of sensitivity the human ear actually has to phase, as opposed to what those who bandy about the word phase as a general adjective for something audiophilic. As with the amplifier listening experiment (on hold, I'm building up the energy, slowly), what do previous researchers have to report on phase audibility? Do any of them indicate that 'phase' is a primary factor in audio subjective quality, or do they tend to conclude that its largely irrelevant, explaining that our ear is extremely deaf to phase issues? And if that is so, is it or is it not good engineering to throw complexity (such as DSP) to what is a non-issue?

"Absolute" phase: As I understand it, the claim, which I find hard to believe, boils down to the listener being able to detect, with certainty, and by listening alone that:

1) He can hear whether the microphone generates a positive going voltage from an incoming pressure wave or a negative going voltage. Note: most/all reference microphones, including the B&K mics/preamps, generate a negative going voltage for a positrive pressure displacement i.e. their electrical signal is out of phase with the phase of the incoming pressure wave

2) That any phase reversal anywhere in the chain is detectable by ear

3) That whether a performer of a stringed instrument pulls the bow or pushes the bow to create the note is detectable

As I understand it, the term absolute phase is widely used (and perhaps incorrectly so) as a substitute for absolute polarity. There are those who claim that they can hear a definite difference in sound quality if they reverse the connections to both loudspeakers.

The issue is that none of us know about the polarity, relative to the sounds hitting the microphone, of the entire audio system. The first instant of the sound hitting the diaphragm may well press-in that diaphragm (let's assume that), and theoretically, the loudspeaker at the far end of the chain should, presumably, push away air from it when reproducing that pressure moment. So positive air pressure on the diaphragm generates positive air pressure in the listener's room advancing towards his ears.Maybe.

But what if, due to some phase (polarity) reversal along the chain (could be in the microphone itself, the speaker or anywhere in between) that positive pressure on the mic's diaphragm actually invokes the opposite response in the listener's room: the movement of the speaker cones is not outward towards the listener, but inward, sucking air away from the listener's ears. Would we hear a difference in sound quality? Let's find out what a 180 degree phase shift sounds like.

I took a wood and metal ruler and smartly snapped them together a few times. The audio waveform looks like this L/R channels (mono recording actually).

[Go to Link for diagram]

Then, as shown in the lower two tracks, I inverted the phase of a copy I made of the waveform. That's the same thing as saying that instead of the speakers initially blowing to produce the note, they suck. We can see that zoomed in on the leading-edge of the clack ...

[Go to Link for diagram]

Can we hear a difference between the phase reversed and absolute phase sounds?

Clip A

Clip B

[Go to Link for the Clips]

This is the same sort of issue as deciding if we can hear the difference between a cello string being bowed away from the player or being dragged towards the player by the bow strikes me as fanciful. Should be a trivial matter to prove or otherwise.

There is no automatic correlation between phase and (volume) level and you may or may not be right. It's a matter of relatives. The important thing about phase, unlike volume, is that phase must be expressed as relative to something. Volume is not relative to anything, although audio voltages are often expressed, say, relative to the threshold of hearing or to 'all bits lit' in a digital signal chain.

A voltage, which is what volume really is, can exist relative to nothing at all. We can say 'this signal has a peak voltage at this instant of 3.675V' and that's a complete statement because the definition of a volt is established by international treaties.

We cannot (logically) say 'this signal is phase retarded....'. We have to put a stake in the ground and define our baseline. Retarded against what? The first instant after the big bang that created the universe? The last note played on the same instrument of the same pitch? Relative to my neighbours audio system? We can say 'relative to the input signal, this signal has a 25 degrees lag at 1kHz...'. We have to be really scrupulously careful about defining phase, because it only makes sense in a relative way.

So the perceived loudness of any signal, and that includes your musical harmonics, may depend on some interaction between their phase and their amplitude in the instrument itself, on top of which we have the ability of the human ear to respond to that combination of harmonics and phase. Are you aware of what researchers have concluded about that?

Originally posted by richerm
Our ears and brains evolved to process the time-related properties of sounds in order to determine the direction and nature of their source. Clearly if a loudspeaker has significant time-dependent behaviour of its own, that would compromise the time analysis our hearing system is performing on the original recorded sounds.

One simple way of checking any signal processing system for time accuracy, or phase linearity, is to see how it responds to a square wave signal. A square wave only remains square if its Fourier components (ie. its sinewave constituent components) maintain the same mutual time relationship. Amplifier designers routinely test with square waves to prove the quality of their designs, and I remember (I think from an old HiFi-News article) the Quad Electrostatic gave a reasonably good account of itself on this basis. One wonders why more loudspeakers are not routinely tested in the same way. Perhaps the results would be too uniformly awful to be revealed?

Alan Shaw: A couple of thoughts in response.

1. Yes, I do recall the marketing around the ESL63 which showed it could generate an approximately square wave. Doing this involved delaying the contribution of the concentric elements in the speaker diaphragm, and as I recall, involved kilometres of fine wire in a delay line.

2. Acoustic music does not contain any square waves, only sine waves, so the reproduction of square waves is of academic interest only (although a very nice demonstration piece!)

3. If qood square wave reproduction was the arbiter of loudspeaker quality above all other standard metrics of frequency response, distortion and to the human ear, low coloration, then it would be a useful tool for grading speaker performance. But we find, as we so often do, that it illustrates just one narrow aspect of speaker performance that seems to be of curiosity value only. Familiarisation with speakers that do claim to have good square wave performance amply demonstrates that they are neither coloration free, nor have a flat frequency response, nor can be considered truly neutral, and that a well executed dynamic speaker, say an SHL5+, beats them hands down in those areas even though, without the use of delay lines, their square wave performance is not as impressive.

Alan A. Shaw
Designer, owner
Harbeth Audio UK

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Fri Feb 03, 2017 9:49 am

Greetings Zonees!

Sonic has made a discovery  Very Happy

I have been testing a placement of the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs closer to each other.  Sonic now reached a reduction in separation of 10 inches (ie: 5 inches per side). This means the outer edges of the panels have been moved in from 25 inches from the side walls to 30 inches from the said walls. From what I hear, this appears to be promising with a nice improvement in bass fullness and depth.

The reduced separation has not been accompanied by a shrunken soundstage.  There are spherical images of instruments that extend beyond the outer edges of the Magneplanars.

Sonic is letting this settle in for some time before possibly testing toe-in.  However, I trust Michael’s observations and given that he himself has gone from toed-in speakers to zero toe-in, so this Sonic must proceed with discerning caution in the direction of toe-in given the number of times Sonic observed how it caused curved "banana" soundstages in systems.    

Here are two pictures to give Zonees a sense of what the speaker placement now looks like:

Don’t mind the foam pieces behind the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs – they are for some testing as will become clear as good Zonees read on.

My latest discovery: Zonees will know that Sonic discovered, after the introduction of the Parasound A21, that I was battling two problems with my equipment/room system.

1.        the underpowered, possibly faulty main amplifier

2.        the contribution of the hard concrete walls to a hardness and ringing to the sound.

My discovery is that Problem 2 have 2a and 2b components.

The hard concrete wall contributing to hardness and ringing to the sound is 2a.  We know about this from all Sonic’s records. Now 2b is the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs’ interfacing with the walls.  

Magnepan’s user manuals say that in rooms with hard reflective surfaces that:

“The Magneplanar Quasi Ribbon Tweeter is very efficient in its total "energy dispersion." If the surrounding walls are exceptionally reflective, the overall perceived acoustical balance will be tipped towards a "hot" high end.”

There is some evidence of this remaining in my equipment/room system though it is by now mild.  Sonic only noticed it after a few days of listening to my Rogers LS3/5As and then comparing the tonal balance with the Magneplanar 1.5QRs. Yes, there is a midrange prominence and treble forwardness compared to the BBC mini-monitors.

And the solution offered by Magnepan is simply to pad down the midrange and tweeter (the acoustic crossover point is 1 khz) using a 1 ohm non-inductive resistor inserted in the tweeter terminals which according to Magnepan will give 1 - 2 dBs reduction in the Quasi Ribbon’s output. “Other values are available from your Magneplanar dealer.” say the user manual.

Sonic is going to give this try because once I linearise the frequency power response in this room, I may  be  able to again use Michael’s RoomTune products the way he intended -- that is with their reflective sides facing into the room.  Zonees will notice that I have a lot of Mr Green’s products used with absorptive sides out.  They work this way yet Sonic takes it that this odd configuration is not completely right.  Just like my having to use stranded speaker cable instead of the Bare Essence T3s from RoomTune to get the tonal balance I want.

It is possible that Michael’s gear was all the time telling me the truth and calling out the underlying issues in my equipment/room set up.  As the onion layers of the equipment and room problems got peeled, it is time to install my treasury of Tune gear and tuning the soundfield in this room.

When I introduced the Parasound A21, Michael did say I would learn a lot. He is correct.


Last edited by Michael Green on Sun Feb 05, 2017 12:31 am; edited 3 times in total (Reason for editing : formatting and text edits)
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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Sun Feb 05, 2017 9:21 am

Continuing on from Sonic’s Post of Friday February 3

To test if the Quasi-Ribbons are indeed interfacing with the walls of my room is really easy and Sonic has done the evaluation.

I simply used the Japan Victor Company (JVC Nivico) Sound Effect Amplifier SEA-10 (equalizer) and introduced this setting 40Hz 0dB, 250Hz 0dB, 1kHz -2dB, 5kHz -2dB, 10kHz -2dB.

This simulates a midrange/tweeter Quasi-Ribbon reduced in output.

Sonic started listening to familiar FLAC files of classical and jazz and then some recordings from Sonic’s “troublesome few” list that had midrange glares particularly in closed-miked female voices.

The sound was initially perceived to be duller -- which is expected. A couple of hours of music later and Sonic thought “this is enjoyable, the tonal balance is of the BBC monitor genre.”

More listening and I found most of the recordings on the “troublesome few” list were not as, even not “troublesome” any more.

The next day and more hours of listening, Sonic is contemplating “this is the sort of tonal balance I was targeting to get”. And “I wish I had done this years ago…..”

Q: Was there any drawback that Sonic perceived?

A: Possibly. The sound on occasion is now felt to be more “there” than “here”. Not in the disembodied sense when I did the Rooze test. Here I am hearing full frequency, focused recordings but they are playing in a foreign acoustic, less of a sense of being in my room.

So the next step is to find the resistors. Magneplanar’s recommended 1 ohm will be the starting point, yet the actual value that works best for me in this room, will be different Sonic is sure. Does the the JVC SEA-10 setting give clues? Yes, it is likely that the attenuation on the EQ is -2dB, it might mean more than 1 ohm which is said to cut the Quasi-Ribbon output by 1 – 2 dB. All this is guesstimate since though the JVC SEA-10 is a nice tool, it is not a precision device so there is no guarantee that a -2dB click is this exactly, it could me more or it could be less and the error/variance could be different for every one of the 5 frequency bands of the equalizer.

So let’s see what a 1 ohm resistor does and we go from there. Now who makes musical resistors? How long do they take to settle?

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