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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   Tue Feb 07, 2017 9:54 am

What a Dialog! (Part 3 of 3)

Quoted text:

Let me point out that I have no problem with the main thrust of the thread. I accept and even have begun to experience that one must use ones ears and not rely on testing. I've begun to hear how mechanical and acoustical aspects of tuning my room and system have a great effect. (Haven't done much with the electrical aspect yet)

The problem I have with the above example is it just seems too pat, too obvious. The components are not level or shifted off center and so the soundstage is shifted off center... It just makes my BS meter go wild!

Funny, if you had said that the room furnishings and surfaces were not symmetrical and that was what made the soundstage off center I could readily handle that. Thats intuitive. This example just doesn't seem intuitively correct. If the components are not level does it effect the ability of the rack to tune them? More specifically, does it slow down, speed up, or otherwise alter the ability of the rack to draw vibration to the floor? A shifting of the soundstage implies more of an effect on one channel than on the other. Thats where the sticking point is for me. Why would not level shelves effect one channel more than another?

Maybe the problem is that I don't understand the mechanism, the mechanics of the tuning rack. Perhaps Jim or Michael could explain that.

Mark H

Hi Mark,

I'm thrilled that you asked this. We need to get down to the bottom of the BS issue in high end. The sky has become so cloudy in this industry that most of the people participating have lost their sense of reality. This is why TuneLand is so important because this is where you're going to get the real issues under control. I'll probably post some more on this later, but here are some real life "musical" questions.

How far do you have to turn the string key on an instrument to get it to go out of tune?

If you have a 4' x 8' x 3/4", how much energy does it take to knock it over if it's standing on edge? Can you even get it to stand on edge? Why not?

If you have 2 garden hoses, one is 3/4" id and one is 1" id and you run the same amount of water through each one, which one will spray the furthest and why will either spray at all?

If a wave length is 64 feet in length, can you hear it an inch away from the source?

Now, if a rack is set up uneven and the mechanical energy exchanges out one side faster than the other, can you hear the effect?

My friend, many people in this industry don't even know the fundamentals of physics and how they apply to audio. We didn't make the laws of the universe. We just use them. Wink
Michael Green

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Thu Feb 09, 2017 9:20 am

Tips from July 2008 (Part 1 of 2)

Quoted text:

For those who own Michael's speaker cables, the following is a tweak with which you may want to experiment to improve their performance even more. Michael's speaker cables come with tightly twisted ends on both ends of the runs of speaker cable. If you are not getting enough body or harmonics in your music, "loosen" the twist on the each end of the speaker cable. The more you loosen the twist, the more the sound will open up. So, loosen the twist until the sound is right for your speakers and amp.

Also, when connecting speaker cable to binding posts, do not tighten the binding posts with binding posts wrenches nor even too tightly by hand. Tighten them just enough that the speaker cable is held securely in place without falling off. We wouldn't want that would we?

Check the tension on the binding posts on a regular basis. Just like tuning bolts on racks, they will loosen themselves from vibrations from your amp and speakers (as well as from the vibrations from the signal flowing through them -- remember, the audio signal is energy and all energy vibrates) over time.

Jim Bookhard

Regarding Jim's comments on the tension on the binding posts on the amps and speaker binding posts. If you have the post too tight you will get a tighter, harder sound with less air.

Another comment on tuning. I have always been a tweaker. I am always fiddling with things to hear the affect, to see what improvement I can get. I do most of my tuning at the rack. I can change the sound of my system by tuning a single nut on my rack. I love putting on a Diana Krall CD and seeing how real I can get Diana to sound by doing nothing more then just changing the tension on the CD player. I can change the venue she is performing in from a big hall to a smokey jazz club just by making a few adjustments at the rack and tuning a few screws on my PZCs. That is the beauty of tuning. I love it. It's fun.


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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Fri Feb 10, 2017 11:52 am

Greetings Zonees

Good discoveries this week!

Sonic discovered a DIY audio store that has Mundorf resistors in various values and some quick research I did showed Mundorf components (resistors, capacitors and inductors) are well respected. They are used (resistors, capacitors and inductors) in the new Yamaha NS-5000 loudspeaker.

Consequently Sonic picked these up:

These are the Mundorf M-Resist and are rated at 20W and +/-2%.  I got them because they are also non-inductive and look like what Magneplanar recommend.  

One contributor on diyaudio.com says that at relatively low values of the resistors in crossover applications, they “do not affect the sound one iota” given that “There isn't that much wire in them and the inductance is negligible with low Q even if they're inductively wound.”   Sonic however has learned from Michael that everything affects everything else.

The resistors are installed in the Left Hand terminal pair of the Low to High terminal pairs of the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs (separate cables go to each of these if biwiring is employed, or jumpers of some nature if not biwiring) and the Right Hand terminal pairs connected with a jumper if not biwring.

Source: http://www.audioasylum.com/cgi/vt.mpl?f=mug&m=145015

I suppose that if biwring, the resistor goes in series with the treble cable connecting to the Left terminal.

Much of this week has been spent testing resistors.

What Sonic did was quick checks to find a value that was in the ballpark that I could let settle over a lengthy period. Meaning a value that was out would never become right even if it were settled in for years.

First, I tried 1 ohm.

It didn’t work.  The result was pretty bad -- the treble was rolled off but not the mids so the midrange became super-prominent and because the ear locked on to the midrange level, the bass sounded thin even nothing in the bass side of things were changed! This is a demonstration how tricky listening tests can be and how difficult it will be to design a speaker by ear. The ear can deceive.

Next Sonic tried 2.2 ohms.

Now this has gone to the other extreme.  The midrange is audibly shelved down and the treble dulled off severely.  I now have to turn the volume up a lot to get any midrange attack and treble. Sonic thinks “so this is what it sounds like to be going deaf.”

From this, it is logical that the sweet spot lies somewhere in the midpoint between 2.2 ohms and 1 ohm.

The only other value at hand is 1.5 ohms.  I installed this and found the sound to be suitably changed and about right though I could do with a tiny bit more effect.

So this is the value that Sonic will run in the system with.  Normally with several tens of playback hours, the sound will become more musical and warmer so this might turn out right in the end.

The bass in comparison has become HUGE and deeper. Voices are warm and one audiophile CD (now FLAC) which features a female voice that has sounded like nails on blackboards to Sonic is actually OK and listenable.

The soundstage width is good and if the sound gets better along this path, Sonic will definitely not be toeing in the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs.  I remember how Mr Green moved from toed-in speakers (because his marketing people advised he should to make customers feel more comfortable toe-in the speakers) to his preferred no toe-in.  

Michael advocates no toe-in even for extreme near-field speaker placements – that is with the speaker baffles just a foot or two ahead of the listeners’ shoulders. The late Harry Pearson did not like toe-in for different reasons.  Robert E Greene does recommend toe-in settings OTOH.

However, I have come to trust Michael’s listening. So no toe-in of the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs for Sonic.

As Sonic lets the system go on long music play cycles and I listen and tell Michael and Zonees what I hear, here is a wonderful picture of a wild Japanese audio set up.

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Sun Feb 12, 2017 9:17 am

A few things are working well (with settling)!

The setting of the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs’ distance from the side walls is being re-tested. At 25 inches (from a bit less than 20 inches previously) we got good balance, imaging and “beyond the outer edges” imaging.

In my post of February 3, I talked about going to 30 inches.  To see if this is the right spot Sonic has done my dial-in routine.  Going from 30 inches to 32 inches resulted in a dropping low bass, a pushed up upper bass and a shrunken image with mono recording. Not right.

I tried 31 inches (keeping the same toe-in and distance from the front wall) and got the same rolling off low end.

This points to the possibility that even at 30 inches from the sidewalls, performance might have been already on the decline. So Sonic will attempt to dial in the right distance by working closer to the 25 inches end to get the optimum distance of the panels from the side walls.  From the front wall, the best distance is 57 inches.

The 1.5 ohms Mundorf M-RESIST resistors are about right. Good mid and treble balance is in evidence as settling progresses. We have about 20 hours of music play so we have a possibly right match.

Sonic recently had a visitor -- an audiophile who is a Harbeth HL-5 owner. He has owned a series of HL-5s, upgrading as new versions of this model appeared. This friend uses Krell power and other powerful amps. He came over with his wife to Sonic’s listening room for a listen.

He went  Shocked saying something like “your system sounds very good….I never thought Maggies can sound like this, so transparent but no irritation….I never heard a soundstage this big and there is depth (motioning with hand from to back of the room).” Compliment indeed from a good listener who is low-key in the audiophile circles but knows his sound.  His wife said, “your room is very quiet.” She is not an audiophile so it is observations like this that give Sonic reliable guidance.  

We played some jazz and then Beethoven’s 5th Symphony (John Elliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique -- Archiv) performed with period instruments.  The playback levels for both recordings (FLAC) were LOUD as preferred by my guests and the Parasound A21 and the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs performed effortlessly.

As we listened and swapped time at the central listening seat and chairs to the right and left of the listening seat brought in for the visit, we realized the soundstage focus and bass were tight at the central seat but a bit de-focussed and loose at the sides. This is not an issue since serious listening only done from the listening chair.  

The only exception is when Sonic plays SPs and 78rpm records where a different seating arrangement is used.

As we changed listening chairs, we also noticed that the soundstage is the same whether sitting or when standing up. The whole soundstage plane rises with the listener.  


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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Tue Feb 14, 2017 9:59 am

Tips from July 2008 (Part 2 of 2)

Quoted text:

Hi TuneLand,

Have you cracked the screws on your Cable grounds lately?

Here's a tip

Barely untwist your Bare Essence Cable (I mean BARELY) right where it sits on your Magic Wood Cable Grounds (6" to 10"), and crack the screws on either side of the cable ground. Wait (playing music as much as you can) 2 or 3 days and watch what happens to your soundstage.

After a week, the change will really have jumped
Michael Green


Hi Sonic,

Why do I start off my post this way? Because you are showing us some of the changes that occur when we start playing around with the energy fields that develop and are in and around our systems.

The first thing that I did when I saw you making your cable changes was go back to your pictures and compared the size and configuration of what comes before the cable.

When you changed types (down sized) your cable you didn't change only that part of the system, but everything in the system.
I'm not saying what type you are going to ultimately end up with, but for the fun of it. Take the T-1 jumper [that connects the woofer/mid sections and quasi-ribbon tweeter section of the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs] and make it into a spring shape 12 coils 1/2" OD (outside dimension). let it burn in for 5 days, then compare it to the T-2 with a relaxed wined.

On the sub, take the T-3 and un-tighten it slightly as well.

Also be sure to look at the mass that you have in your system, and get a sense for what is opening up, and what is shutting down the signal. Try to think of everything in your system having a magnetic charge and the signal is trying to pass through.

This is where the fun begins.

Michael Green
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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Thu Feb 16, 2017 9:47 am

Greetings Zonees

There are things Michael has said in his advice to me over the years that didn't make a mark on Sonic's Tuning Thought at first.  Here is one which makes sense to me now and the emphasised portion tells me what Sonic has neglected and which I should work at now -- Tune the rear of my listening room in particular the zone around me at the listening chair:

Quoted text:

Hi Sonic,

Air pressure!! probably the most overlooked part of the hobby. It doesn't take much air pressure to change everything.

I remember when we talked about these guys who are turning it up hoping that this will force the system to sound good. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is the room is already filled with the pressure needed, all we have to do is balance it in a way that builds the full musical range around out ears.

In the rear of your room is where the closest pressure zone is to your ears. It's natural for us to look forward cause that's where the speakers are but when you start seeing where the pressure is in the room this changes our perception of how we need to balance the room. We can do as much to the front staging from the rear of the room as the front of the room easily.

Your going to go through some big jumps the more you look behind you.

michael green
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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Fri Feb 17, 2017 8:51 am

Greetings Zonees

Good learnings this week  Very Happy

Sonic been testing the distance of Magneplanar MG1.5QRs from the sidewalls.  On getting less than conclusive results, I am leaving the distance at 25 inches from the sidewalls for now.

The difficulty here mentally is this: the closer setting to the sidewalls (25 ins) gives better lower bass weight and extension -- example, in listening to Schubert’s Trout Quintet, the weight of the piano and the deep bowing of the double bass is excellent but the cello range is weakened a bit.

With the further placement (around 30 ins) I get better upper bass projection but slightly less low bass and weight – so in the Trout Quintet, the cello can be clearly heard but the bass playing the same notes an octave lower has less satisfying weight.

So till another day when the system can be re-tested, 25 inches from the sidewalls it stays.

The Mundorf M-RESIST 1.5 ohms are right.  The tone is where I want it enough after 10 days of settling. Sonic wonders if the reason why the M-RESIST 1.5s work is because they are used in MG1.5QRs   Laughing    

Now with the tone of the system broadly correct (after the use of the Mundorf M-RESIST 1.5 ohms with the MG1.5QRs), Sonic is hearing the effect of the cabling from other brands.

The contribution of these cabling products in terms of “fixed tone” might be in evidence though I cannot be certain Sonic is not influenced by what Michael said.

Sonic next brought back the cables from Michael gradually – these Picasso and Bare Essence products have been untwisted and well used though they will need some settling in.  The first step was the removal of an interconnect pair (MIT) connecting the phono stage to the Quicksilver preamp and replaced with a Picasso, plugs inserted to just make contact.


A couple of LPs played and I find the Picassos from Mr Green are telling the truth and transmitting the tone nicely.  We shall progress this way gradually.

This was so good that after a couple of days, Sonic connected the Quicksilver preamp to the Parasound A21 with another pair Picasso interconnects, again with plugs just inserted into the female RCA jacks.

Then I selected Eric Clapton’s Timepieces (Best of…). Hearing Cocaine, Willie and the Hand jive, Promises then Swing Low Sweet Chariot, the bass is shaking Sonic and the room  Very Happy  It is big and meaty  Smile  I have not heard this effortless, deep coherent bass even with the Janis W-1 subwoofer  cheers
The cables from Michael Green were telling the truth all along about the sound of the rest of the equipment.

Sonic is glad to have to the Picassos back. This experience has shown how good these wires from Mr Green really are! The return of the Roomtune cabling continues.

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Michael Green

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Sat Feb 18, 2017 7:32 am

You know, sometimes learning the shortcut only gets done by going all the way around the block.

It's so easy to put on a recording, or have a listening season, that takes us on a journey of exploration that we would swear will lead us to a certain result, only to find, it was a physical event (physics) that dictated a particular sound and wasn't really what we theorized in our minds to be true. Physics is a science that has it's own mind. Within physics it's a steady flow seeking the simplest path to efficiency as the variables continually happen.

I was talking to a buddy this week who told me "it took me a long time to understand the power of simplicity". We tend to think and are taught that power is related to complicated, when in reality true power is accomplished through controlled simplicity.

Physics works at it's best when we let it tune itself. We can make the adjustments, but it's motion and time that puts things in order. The more sympathetic the path, the truer the settling.

I know I'm the designer but Picasso and Bare Essence never stop to amaze me.

michael green
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Email mgtune@yahoo.com
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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Sun Feb 19, 2017 8:55 am

Greetings Zonees

Michael is very humble in what he said yesterday because while he is the designer of the Picasso and Bare Essence, there are many other solid core wire products out there that just sound coloured and give a fixed sound in that they have a signature that can be heard on everything that is being played. In fact many people avoid solid core completely because of this strong colouration.

I think Japanese audiophiles describe a pervading characteristic of colouration as “a smell” Razz

Observant Zonees may notice in the picture of the Picassos and the phono stage that then cabling from the Rega RB700 arm is not Picasso but the stock Klotz. The reason for this is the cable is captive, there is no detachable plug-in so a change of cable means opening up the arm which is a lot of work and risk. Sonic has heard too many cautionary incidents of Rega tonearm rewires that went wrong. So I am sticking with the OEM Klotz.

In the process of settling, I left the entire system powered up one day this week – computer, DAC, tube phono, pre-amp plus the Parasound A21 on standby – for more than 12 hours. When Sonic came in after work very late that evening and started listening….what I heard immediately was so good, so dimensional and realistic that Sonic realized that the sound quality even after three hours after a power-up-from-cold and music play is not going anywhere near this in quality Shocked

It was like Sonic heard another week’s worth of settling Exclamation

Till now I have only been turning on the Parasound A21 to Standby in the mornings for listening in the evening because designer John Curl recommends the amp should be left on all the time and once in Operating mode, you get nearly all the sound the amp is capable of almost immediately.

Now I know how good the sound is when the rest of the equipment is left on yet there is safety to consider.

However the most important front end for Sonic – the Rega P5 turntable -- cannot be left spinning all day and the cartridge cannot be “left on” though the sound from the cartridge/turntable system does sound better after playing two sides of an LP.

One other thing that Sonic has to say that Michael is correct is his idea of “system shock”. If I switched off the Parasound A21 instead of returning it to Standby Mode to change a cable of something, the effect of powering down and powering up even for a few minutes is to lose nearly all the warm up that the gear has accumulated over many hours. Just like starting almost from cold.


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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Tue Feb 21, 2017 12:05 pm

About Mini-Monitors

Celestion SL6 - Vintage
Innovative when released, the Celestion is still capable of entertaining results

Source: http://www.hifinews.co.uk/news/article/celestion-sl6--vintage/9405

Launched at the Harrogate Hi-Fi Show in 1981, the Celestion SL6 looked different, and it was more different than it looked. In essence, its all-new drive units had been designed with the help of Celestion’s then-unique and revolutionary laser-based vibration analysis measurement system. It was the first British speaker to use a metal-dome tweeter, but the bass unit was equally innovative.

The laser analysis system used could scan the surface of a driver diaphragm, and produce still or animated images to show how the diaphragm was actually behaving. It was now easy to see whether it was vibrating evenly in response to an input signal, or whether it was ‘breaking up’, with different parts of the surface going their own way.

This made it possible to produce drivers that behaved in true pistonic fashion within their operating ranges, and to eliminate problems caused by some constructional aspects in conventional cone drive units. For example, the usual glued-on dustcap was found to cause breakup modes, as did the usual type of bonded surround.

So in the SL6’s bass unit, the dustcap was dispensed with and the concave centre was made as part of the 165mm ‘vinyl homopolymer’ cone. The surround was made of compatible material and welded to the cone, with almost no increase of thickness at the joint. Attention was also paid to the effects of the leadout wires from the voice-coil.

In Celestion’s metal-dome tweeter, the curved diaphragm and voice-coil former were made in one piece, the coil former being a cylindrical continuation of the domed top. Copper was chosen mainly for good heat dissipation. This moving element was made by electroforming, and was only 32 microns thick, but even so its mass was such that the upper resonance was only just above 20kHz. A notch filter was added to remove this resonant peak from the response, and in production each filter was individually tweaked to the correct frequency for that specific tweeter.

For the cabinet, the team wanted the enclosure to be as rigid and light as possible. Rejecting Aerolam as too expensive, the SL6 was clothed in a sealed-box cabinet instead. This was made of 19mm veneered particle board, strengthened by internal fillets at the corners and with damping material on all the panels. Inside was a loose filling of BAF wadding.

Spinning up Jazz At The Pawnshop [Proprius PRSACD7879], the SL6 gave a great first impression, conjuring up the sound of the expectant audience with fine space and well-layered depth. Bass was tidy, though it didn’t really have a satisfying sense of freedom. Although the double-bass sound was even and free from boom, effort was needed if you wanted to follow the bass line. In the midrange, there was a feeling of a warm coloration which could sound like a thickening of the sound. Yet the treble was sweet and nicely detailed. It could give a good tactile sense on the attack of vibes notes, for example, and cymbal sounds were good too.

Female vocals generally were well handled. Ana Caram’s rendition of ‘Blue Bossa,’ collected on Jazz Latinas [Chesky JD290] played charmingly, although you could start to feel that everything was too polite. Yet when it came to the luscious-voiced Rosa Passos, singing and playing ‘Garota de Ipanema’ with Ron Carter on bass later in the same Chesky sampler, things didn’t quite gel. There wasn’t anything ‘It conjured up the sound of the expectant audience with fine space and depth’ overtly wrong about the bass, yet the sound didn’t hang together.

With a blast of Baroque from the Archiv box set of Bach concertos by Trevor Pinnock and The English Concert [Archiv 463 725-2], it was hard to fault the SL6. It wasn’t fazed by the concertos for harpsichords, retaining good clarity and openness.

Still admirable in so many ways, the SL6 still seems a slightly strange compromise, not free from coloration and lacking bass extension and ‘oomph’. You feel that inside this 12-litre box is an excellent speaker trying to get out. Maybe not one for rockers, but it can still make a nice sound.

(Originally published in the Yearbook 2011)


by Roy Gregory  December 16, 2011

Source: http://www.theaudiobeat.com/blog/small_wonders.htm

Britain has a long history with -- and a proven fascination for -- small loudspeakers. "Quart in a pint pot" is a phrase that could have been coined to sum up what amounts to a national obsession with trying to get the biggest bass and most defined soundstage from the smallest possible box. Further, and in typically xenophobic style, we always tended to assume that not only was this our obsession, but that nobody else could or should share it. Fortunately, none of our near neighbors paid any attention, and having observed a market opportunity, they busily beavered away in response. The rest, as they say, is history.

It might have started with the Goodmans Maxim, but it kicked off in earnest with the LS3/5a, a BBC design intended for the location monitoring of spoken program in outside broadcast trucks. The inside of what amounts to a motorized caravan (or RV in current parlance) gets pretty full pretty quickly once you start installing a complete broadcast studio, so space was at a premium, resulting in a loudspeaker design about the same size as a Jimmy Choo shoebox -- diminutive dimensions that never seemed to discourage audiophiles from using them to reproduce the full orchestral repertoire! Despite the enthusiasm with which it was pursued (or, in some cases, because of that enthusiasm), it was an endeavor that was doomed to failure -- most often foretold in the death rattle of a B110 bass/mid driver hitting its end stops. And if that didn’t do it for the speaker, then the 15-ohm load presented to those early solid-state amps caused them to outrun their power supplies all too quickly, driving them into clipping and sending the T27 tweeters on a one-way trip to the audio hereafter.

I for one never actually understood the fascination with the LS3/5a -- or the equally limited Quad ESL for that matter. No matter how well these speakers could work across a limited bandwidth and dynamic range, as far as I’m concerned high-fidelity reproduction has always meant having at least a decent stab at representing something approaching a realistic sense of scale and musical impact. But that didn’t stop a dedicated cadre of designers from pursuing the small-box solution. First came the Linn Kann, a speaker that tried to overcome the LS3/5a’s dynamic limitations by simply dispensing with any semblance of flat frequency extremes. But the real breakthrough product was the Celestion SL6. Twice the size of a '3/5a and with a 6 1/2" bass driver coupled to the first serious metal-dome tweeter, it delivered something approaching the sort of bass weight and scale that real systems should have, albeit at the expense of severe dynamic limitations.

It wasn’t until people stuck bigger and bigger -- and then even bigger -- amplifiers on them (this was the heyday of the Krell monoblock) as well as building a lighter, stiffer and far more expensive cabinet dubbed the SL600 that it dawned on us all that the problem wasn’t cripplingly low sensitivity -- which was actually about the same as the LS3/5a’s -- but horribly sluggish drive units that simply sapped energy. The newly fashionable laser interferometry (see those drive units move in real time!) might have produced drivers free of in-band break-up modes, but it failed to point out why that was. It’s pretty hard to make a mattress enter a resonance mode, but that doesn’t mean we should make drive units out of it. The original SL6 cabinet certainly contributed to the thick and sluggish bass, but even the Aerolam-sandwich-version couldn’t overcome those lossy, turgid drivers.

Arguably, we’re still recovering from the popularity of the SL6 -- and the blind alley of audio development it turned us down. Harsh? I don’t think so. Without the SL6 we wouldn’t have had a decade of dreadful metal-dome tweeters forced down our throats, followed by a backlash that dismissed any form of metal or ceramic material, no matter how promising the results. We also wouldn’t have had such widespread acceptance of the belief that suddenly it was okay to foist the sole responsibility for system dynamics onto the amplifier. The SL6 opened the door to a decade of low-efficiency, flat-frequency-response loudspeaker designs that led to systems that were so well behaved that they completely missed the point. It’s children that are supposed to be seen and not heard -- not hi-fi systems; but when systems sound this polite and dynamically constricted, it’s no wonder that listeners lose interest.

The next homegrown pretender to the small-speaker throne was Acoustic Energy’s AE1. Somewhat more dynamic and extended than the SL6, although even smaller, this promised to solve the dynamic issues, but ultimately the all-aluminum drivers failed to deliver -- although they did form excellent heatsinks, meaning that you needed to go some to overdrive an AE1. End result: ever-bigger amplifiers trying to squeeze even more sound from another tiny box.

By now you might well be wondering why anybody bothered with what was apparently a hopeless task. Well, that’s partly down to a limited frame of reference: compare one small speaker with another small speaker and one will be pronounced "better." Compare that "winner" to a large full-range loudspeaker with higher sensitivity and greater dynamic capability and its shortcomings will be all too apparent. The problem was that nobody did -- partly because of the audio obsession with comparing like with like, but mainly because most simply couldn’t accommodate the larger speakers. That’s the real driver behind this story: the fact that UK homes have smaller rooms and fewer of them than houses in the US. Add to that the predominantly brick construction of UK housing, a feature that adds a useful measure of bass reinforcement (in stark contrast to the drywall midbass absorbency of most US homes) and you can begin to see how a small speaker might flatter to deceive -- and why a listener might be all too willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. In any house where the listening room is also the lounge, you’d better believe that when it comes to speakers, size matters!

But it’s not only the UK that suffers from small rooms and limited accommodation. It’s a Europe-wide phenomenon, and as I hinted earlier, it was the Europeans who made the first serious steps towards a solution of this particular problem. Sonus Faber first hit the UK’s shores with the Electa, a compact two-way speaker with a 6" bass driver and a solid-wood cabinet. But the model that really changed the game was the next one up, the Electa Amator. This used a mass-loaded, paper-cone woofer -- heavy but stiff -- and finally, with enough sheer grunt injected up its fundament, the results were spectacular. The combination of the Elector Amator and the Audio Research M300 monos was justifiably legendary, the scale and weight generated from this compact pair of two-way loudspeakers truly astonishing.

There was more at work here than just the big-amp/small-speaker thing: the combination of the Esotar tweeter (a term I use loosely -- at least as far as extension goes) and the hard, white transparency of the first-generation ARC hybrid amps was, if not exactly a case of two wrongs making a right, definitely in the category of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. In fact, I’d go even further and categorize it as a guilty pleasure: you know it’s wrong but somehow you just can’t help yourself.

This Sonus Faber marked the realization that the one thing you can’t afford to lose from a small speaker -- indeed, the one thing they can actually do quite brilliantly if allowed -- is a coherent sense of musical dynamics. It’s not a lesson learnt by the entire range, or the product category as a whole, but since the advent of the Electa Amator, the game has definitely changed. Nowadays, small speakers are all about delivering open, expressive dynamics with just enough bass to underpin them convincingly. It’s a careful balancing act, but done well the results can be quite remarkable. Successful examples include the original Totem, the B&W CM1, the Focal Micro Utopia (and now the Diablo), the Sonus Faber Cremona Auditor M and the Wilson Duette. It’s ironic that, given the departure point for this piece, on this list, only the B&W (and its derivatives) are a British design. But then the list is far from exhaustive, and a recent addition would certainly be Spendor’s SA1, a brilliant small speaker that shares its name with an earlier model, a contemporary of and rather more convincing alternative to (to these ears at least) the original LS3/5a.

Of course, none of this would be worth bothering about if speaker designers hadn’t made some significant progress, and while I’m not sure they’ve finally cracked it -- or even if "it" can be cracked -- the latest entries in the stand-mount speaker market offer a far more balanced musical perspective while retaining and extending the traditional virtues. When you start with a small box, it presents some pretty severe challenges -- but it offers opportunities too. That small volume will inevitably impact bass extension and system sensitivity, but the small panels are inherently stiff, the small drivers have good dispersion and the small front baffle helps that even more. What’s more, the lack of deep bass also means the absence of the problems that occur when it’s there -- so you should find timing, articulation and midband clarity far easier to come by from such a small cabinet. There are other benefits too: the two-way crossover might suggest a ticklish transition point, right in the upper midrange, but it also generally means fewer, physically smaller components -- both of which are good things.

Finally, there’s the whole question of a stand to go with the speaker. Whilst there’s no doubting that the wrong stand can kill a speaker’s performance, the opportunity to control or at least distance the interface between the cabinet and the floor is a potentially massive advantage, especially when it comes to dissipating all the energy from that small, stiff enclosure.

Roll all those things together and it should be a recipe for an articulate and spatially precise performer capable of delivering real clarity and musical insight -- if the designer can get the balancing act spot on. That means that the designer needs to deliver enough bass to satisfy without crippling the speaker’s efficiency or drive characteristic. That bass needs to be agile enough to time, weighty enough to fool the listener into thinking the speaker is bigger than it is, but not so loaded that it muddles or slurs the midrange. The top end must also be balanced against the bass or it will end up sounding bright and exposed. Tonal warmth and harmonic weight must be balanced against clarity and transparency, resolution and detail against body and presence.

All in all it’s the audio equivalent of walking a tightrope across the Grand Canyon in a savagely gusting crosswind -- with about as much margin for error. There’s a considerable performance gap between the really great small speakers and the also-rans, and those that fail to make the mark are at best inoffensive and at worst they crash and burn.

Why this rambling dissertation on the history, appeal and the UK/Euro flaws-and-all fascination with small speakers? And why now?

Because the latest wave of two-way stand-mounts has just washed up upon the doorstep of my listening room. From Crystal Cable in Holland we have the Arabesque Mini, the compact follow-up to the astonishing glass floorstander; from Raidho in Denmark we have the Ayra C1.1, a speaker design that takes the term "in-house" to new levels of obsession; from Audioplan in Germany we have the Kantata, a distinctly different design to its predecessor, the highly regarded Kontrapunkt; also from Germany comes the elegant Lindemann BL10. Factor in the aforementioned Spendor SA1 and Focal Diablo, the current incumbents, as well as throw in a few other contenders that are bubbling under.

It looks like it’s going to be a small-speaker winter-into-spring. Let the fun and games commence.

The outer fringe
Two other small speaker designs stand out as worthy of mention, partly for their excellence, but also for their individuality. The Spica TC50 was a US design that nevertheless achieved a passing popularity in Europe and the UK. Its unusual triangular-section cabinet, basic drivers and felt-covered baffle did little to endear it to potential customers, but boy could it image, and as with a lot of speakers for which that’s true, it exhibited considerable rhythmic articulation and coherence too. With a premature roll-off in the highs, as well as limited power handling, this design was even more about the midband than most others -- but it really was a glorious midband. The Spica tragedy was that it never developed into something bigger or better, but simply faded away.

Our other quiet contender is the ProAc Tablette, a genuine miniature of elegant proportions and surprising musical accomplishments. It established the slim-but-deep cabinet proportions that soon became de rigeur, whilst delivering an astonishingly subtle and sophisticated musical performance. In many ways a significantly better-balanced overall performer than the LS3/5a, the Tablette suffered for the reticence of its manufacturer, who was unwilling to shout its virtues from the rooftops in the fashion of certain competing products. Even more ironic is the fact that it enjoyed a spiritual cousin in the shape of Audioplan’s extremely similar Kontrapunkt, a speaker that suffered exactly the same malaise.

But perhaps the Tablette got the last laugh after all: with so many pretenders come and gone, the little ProAc is still in production. Now in its ninth iteration and still recognizably the same product, it continues to provide understated yet unfailingly musical results despite its diminutive dimensions.

-Roy Gregory
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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Thu Feb 23, 2017 11:49 am

Too often audio systems get set up with windows behind and between the loudspeakers. They may not have a good effect from what I read from a posting in June 2012 that Michael made in response to a question from Sonic.

Quoted text starts:

Hi Sonic

This is a lot of ground to cover but I'll walk through a few things.

First, at my own place I've been doing things that have required me to deal with a window. Because of the window being directly in front the effects of it is catastrophic when changes are made to tune it. You can hear everything off of a front wall and it can make or break the sound. Finally after all the tuning I did on the window studying each move and step I decided to cover the window with Drywall and the difference was nothing shy of shocking. Keep in mind I did the cheap fix, one support stud in the middle wedged into place and the Drywall placed over the whole window. The drywall is .5" thick and sticks out that much from the rest of the wall and no doubt would sound better framed in and flush, but even doing the cheap fix removes having to mess with the window's effects. For people who don't care about loosing the light (I prefer a darker listening room) this is a super easy tune that I think will fix tons of problems for folks.

Secondly, because I needed to paint the drywall I again feel like I'm flashing back to the tuneland archives and talking about paint. The sound of paint has a major effect on the sound of the room. Again an easy tune with a huge effect. Paint can change the sound of pressure zones big time and can help turn harder walls into walls that are a lot easier to listen to. Quick evaporating water based paints in flat have the lowest Boo factor, and while painting my wall I started to think about your room and wondered what type of paint you have.

michael green

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Fri Feb 24, 2017 9:10 am

Greetings Zonees!

Finding Michael's comments to me about the window has got Sonic thinking (see yesterday's post). I might make some effort to tune that -- maybe bring back the bamboo blinds or even the drywall idea.  Though a cutting off daylight to my room is a no-no as far as those who own Sonic's dwelling go.

Sonic has been testing the Clearaudio/Souther Clever Record Clamp – I am balancing the things it does right with the switching the Rega turntable off and on between LPs, which unlike a weight you cannot remove it “on the fly”. And even with weights removing it while the platter is in motion is risky – imagine dropping the weight on a spinning record/platter…

What does the Clearaudio/Souther Clever record Clamp do right? It gives slightly better focus though it warms the sound yet without removing from violins the “scratch of the real”.

Sonic has also been experimenting with FS-DTs to tune the side walls.  First I used them with the reflective side out then eventually went to this:

Zonees should know that these are not placed at the “first reflection points”.  I have not checked where these points are. Sonic just moved the FS-DTs along the wall till the sound was good and the image became most focused.

If I moved the FS-DTs along the wall closer than this towards the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs, I get a lot of images outside the speakers. A literal, lateral wall to wall soundstage that will make readers of the Abso!ute Sound go  Shocked  – but it sounded phasey to me.

Sonic is fascinated by those wonderful Japanese systems and been following the adventures of Jean Hiraga-san.

Jean (he of mixed Japanese and French parentage, born in 1943 making him 74 years old this year) was one of the first to ask in 1977 or so if connecting cables affected the sound and if the distortion spectra of amplifiers indicated how the device would sound.

He is well known in the horn speaker and tube amp world and is an authority. Michael, have you met him?

Hiraga with an acoustic horn:

Here is Monsieur Jean at Silbatone:

Sources: 6Moons and Lencoheaven

Sonic is reading up on Hiraga’s adventures and writings…..a fascinating gentleman.  


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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Sun Feb 26, 2017 10:08 am

Greetings Zonees

Sonic had many hours of listening this weekend through Friday night till now. In the pictures that accompanied my last post of Friday Feb 24, Zonees may have noticed that the Sound Shutters on the forward side walls are folded parallel to the wall.  It appears this might be contributing to a fuller bass with my present state of Tune.

Been playing lots of LPs these few days including works by Ornette Coleman, Bach’s Church cantatas and Viola da Gamba pieces by a less known composer Louis de Caix d’Hervelois (1680 – 1760).   Performance by Frantisek Slama (gamba) and Josef Hala (harpsichord). Also a rare mono LP of Tschaikovsky’s Piano Concerto Nr. 1 Emil Gilels (Pno) and the USSR State Symphony Orchestra (Konstantin Ivanov, cond.) released in 1959. Excellent music all this.  

I am noticing a tonal difference between my analog playback and digital playback. Sonic will try to explain this one – when one listens to any music, there is a “tonal centre of gravity”.  In the live classical and acoustic jazz Sonic listens to, the centre of gravity is low, in the bass and cello range.  From the little rock and funk I have heard live, the bass is huge and there are gut punching toms – the tonal centre of gravity again low in frequency.  

In too many high-end audiophile systems, the tonal “centre of gravity” is higher, in the guitar range. The bass is there and the toms are there but they do not form the foundation and downward slam of the music. Yes, downward slam if Zonees know what Sonic is trying to describe.

In Sonic’s system, the tonal “centre of gravity” of my analog playback is quite a bit lower than in the digital system. What I get correspond to my experience of live classical music.  True it is this tonal “centre of gravity” is something analog gets very right often. In Sonic’s exploration it is a pretty maladjusted analog system that goes the other way.

I suspect this higher perceived tonal centre of gravity with digital is an artifact of the computer front-end of the digital part of Sonic’s system.  Time to look for solutions.

More on Jean Hiraga.

It was he who not only created a stir in 1977 claiming that cables had audible differences, he also introduced the idea that cables needed burn-in and the Japanese practice of using specific different cable types for the woofers, midrange and tweeters (such as oxygen-free Litz cables for the tweeters. Litz cables are made from a lot of individual thin strands which are insulated from each other and braided according to some established pattern. They were once talked about a lot for hifi applications).

In the pages of the magazine La Nouvelle Revue du Son which he edited from 1977 till 1995, Hiraga opened the world of the Japanese audiophile to a western audience.

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Tue Feb 28, 2017 9:21 am

Greeting Zonees

Here are a few things that are brewing here:

a. Sonic said I got better low end response by folding the sidewall Sound Shutters against the wall. True this is only for the forward pair adjacent to the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs. More is not better, the rear pair should not be folded flat but left set at 90 degrees to the wall. Bass goes uneven.

b. On computer audio artifacts that Sonic suspects lie behind the upward shift/higher tonal centre of gravity with my digital set up, there are a number of interesting ideas and solutions from iFi Audio that address computer and USB power supply grunge. Their Active Noise Cancellation technology adapted from defence applications makes sense. I will be doing some study in their direction. Audioquest has a popular product too but some good Zonees who Sonic corresponded with via PM have shared their experiences with me, their impressions warning Sonic from moving in that product’s direction.

c. This week Sonic is due for a cleanup of my listening room. Here’s an idea -- ahead of tuning the window there is something I should try: Sonic has enough signal cable length, mains cable length in this system and power outlets so I can test what the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs sound like when positioned without a window between them – that is move the speakers and place them along the long walls so a continuous concrete wall behind them. Michael once suggested that Sonic try a long-wall placement. This is something I will do in the next couple of days and report on as it will show what that window is adding to or subtracting from the sound. Who knows this might start a new chapter in the Tune here!

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Thu Mar 02, 2017 10:29 am

Following the Celestion SL6 Post (Feb 21)

Sonic comments on the shared posts on Mini-Monitors made last week.

One of the listening experiences (maybe THE listening experience) that made me realise how good reproduced sound could be was listening to an LP of Paul Simon's Graceland on a system made up of:

Turntable: Maplenoll with parallel tracking air bearing arm

Cartridge: Audio Technica OC9

Step up and phono stage: cannot recall

Preamp: Quicksilver preamp (I bought mine after this listening session)

Amp: Quicksilver 60W tube monoblocks

Speakers: Spica TC50s by themselves no add-on subwoofers

The sound was beautifully dimensional and musical that conveyed the meaning of the recording to me despite any shortcomings in bass extension. It started me on the road which stretched out to the Tune.

On the other hand, one of the nastier listening experiences I was to hear ProAc Tablettes driven by a very good system that included a Linn Sondek LP12 front end. Though Sonic cannot recall the rest of the equipment chain, I can remember the Tablettes were up against the wall and the record played was Sheffield’s direct-cut LP Growing up in Hollywood Town. What I heard was a laser-like high end, highly clear midrange though no bass weight at all, low instruments MIA. This was a system that was flat from 150hz to 20khz and no bass below 100hz.

Of course there are Tablette fans who make the usual excuses “the stands were not massive enough, wrong height, wrong material placed between the bottom of the speaker cabinets and the stands, wrong cables, amp too weak, amp wrong type, needs different room placement” and so on. Then there are those who will add subwoofers to recover the missing bass but which will open the door to other problems.

Sonic likes my LS3/5As and listens to them a lot, even using them sometimes as a tonal balance sanity check (discounting the bass of course).

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Fri Mar 03, 2017 12:06 pm

Long Wall Placement Experiment

Sonic got the opportunity to do this test which involved a set up like this:

It was surprisingly easy to do – pivoting the table was the most delicate. The Magneplanars MG1.5QRs were easy to move and the swap over was done in half an hour.

The first position of the speakers was 57 inches from wall with no toe-in.  They were laterally centred between the wall with the window and the BookCase Wall.

From the diagram, Zonees will see a rudimentary tune-up using the FS-PZCs, FS-DRTs and FS-DTs.

A BOO! test performed showed everything at the listening seat was alright.
Power up and let everything warm up for a couple of hours – then a listen.  

Sonic knew that without extensive retuning, the sound would not be great.  However, what I was looking for was potential.  That is potential of the centre imaging and bass response when the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs have a continuous wall behind them. If potential was discovered, then Sonic will open a new chapter in tuning.

It was not to be  No

The centre images of instruments and of voices sounded the same as when the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs faced the length of the room with the window behind them. No banana soundstage but no improvement in realism or dimensionality. The soundstage width did not go extend beyond the outer edges of the speakers.

The bass dropped like a stone below 80 – 100hz Exclamation    

Undeterred, Sonic started moving the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs back towards the front wall in 4 inch steps. The bass started coming back which each step closer to the wall. However by the time I got to under 3 ft from the wall, there was still no satisfactory bass extension below the 60hz range and the imaging depth and dimensionality started to worsen.

Another FLAC file was played and Sonic muttered to myself “this is getting nowhere.  I am now at a point much further back in musick quality and than with the loudspeakers and system placed facing down the length of the room.”

Nevertheless, Sonic got the answer to questions in my head for a long time:

1. what does the window do to the sound (covered with builders’ paper as Michael teaches Tunees)?

A: the window did not do anything such that when going to the Long Wall placement made me go  Very Happy  Shocked  Very Happy

2. does a Long Wall placement improve things?  

A: No, the Long Wall mount does not improve things but causes major problems in the bass.  

The next morning Sonic dejectedly cleaned the room and started the migration of the system back to the original placement.

Fortunately Sonic has obsessively mapped the room so everything has its placement measured out or marked. Getting back into position took care, effort and time.  On a power up to check if all was in order, the sound was pleasant but ragged.  The system and room has gone through what Michael calls “system shock” and therefore needs to settle for a few days of musick/speech replay before it sounds right again.

No pictures were taken in the process so the diagram was drawn.

All this means to Sonic that the original placement where the Magneplanar MR1.5QRs point down the length of this room is the better of the two placements and in some minimal sense is the right set up.  Michael, care to make some comments?

Here are pictures from J Hiraga’s La Nouvelle Revue du Son to cheer things up:

Source: http://www.asrr.org/biblioteca/Revue%20Audiophile/FICHIERS/NDRS/TAMARU/TAMARU.html

This is possibly the audio legendary system that has been described in words in several English language magazines like HiFi News and Record Review but seldom seen – that is the legendary Japanese audiophile (perhaps one of several!) who has built horns into his house or built his house as a horn  Exclamation

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Sat Mar 04, 2017 7:22 am

Hi Sonic Very Happy

We've been busy but wanted to stop by.
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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Sun Mar 05, 2017 9:17 am

Good to hear from you rotelguy cheers

While we are waiting for Michael to upload the pictures, here is an observation Sonic made:

The system is nicely settling in again after the attempt with a long-wall speaker placement.

In the time when the system was put back and the room cleaned, the adjacent area of my dwelling had cleaning so furniture items were being moved about. Sonic took the chance of bringing in soft cloth-covered cushions from two large easy chairs and placed them on either side of my listening chair to simulate the effect if a large fabric sofa had been introduced into the listening room at that spot.

A BOO! test and speaking on the mobile phone in the room told me we had a much more damped environment.

When music was played from the system, an odd effect Sonic did not expect was observed – the front of the room behind the speakers now sounded too live and ringy while the zone around me was acoustically deadened.

This is a strange effect and made a strong contrast as if there were two acoustic environments in the room at the same time.

Not natural sounding at all.

When the cleaning was done, the cushions exited the listening room.

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Tue Mar 07, 2017 1:34 am

"This is a strange effect and made a strong contrast as if there were two acoustic environments in the room at the same time."

pressure zones


michael green
PH 702 762 3245
Email mgtune@yahoo.com
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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Tue Mar 07, 2017 10:05 am

Interview with Alan Shaw on the Genesis of the Monitor 40.2

From Abso!ute Sound’s review of the Harbeth 40.2 (Paul Seydor)

Source: http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/harbeth-monitor-402-loudspeaker/?page=2

Please compare the Monitor 40.2 to earlier iterations.

The main improvement in the Monitor 40.2 is its completely redesigned crossover network. The obvious functions of the crossover are the division of the audio spectrum among the drive units and the level adjustment of the contribution of those drive units. The less obvious function is that the crossover overrides the ear’s sensitivity to sound coming from more than one source. In nature, the sounds we hear emanate from point sources that give them directionality. For me, seventy-five percent or so of the total design for any new Harbeth model is precisely this issue of making a convincing junction between the sonic contributions of the drive units in order to simulate a point source. Also, the work in developing the SuperHL5plus opened up techniques that I could weave into the Monitor 40.2.

It’s often about small, incremental steps that can cross-fertilize from one model to another if they’re appropriate.

One difference I immediately heard between the new model and the original is the slightly deeper bass extension of the 40.2 but slightly less overall bass around, say, 100Hz, the so-called warmth region.

The Monitor 40 was originally conceived as a drop-in replacement for the Rogers LS 5/8, a speaker in wide use in the late nineties in the BBC and elsewhere in British broadcasting. It was quite a shock to procure a pair from a disbanded studio and measure and listen to them under domestic conditions, which they were never designed to be used in. The entire frequency response had been tuned to the highly absorptive acoustic environment of “old school” studios of the era. Nobody could foresee how the architectural minimalist trends would become so popular among consumers, and even among studio designers. Since the Monitor 40 project now covers over fifteen years, the bass has been progressively optimized, that is, made drier, for those less damped acoustics. So the 40.2 is better balanced for the majority of modern rooms.

I’ve always found your speakers to be notably coherent, yet so far as I am able to tell, you don’t employ special methods to achieve this, such as physically staggering the drivers so their voice coils line up, etc. Can you comment on this?

Coherency is primarily a crossover issue. Conceptually the difficulty lies in the way the ear/brain interprets the junction between the two or more sound sources. It doesn’t take much of a mismatch in level or phase for the subconscious to needle the brain with awareness that there is something wrong. I was lucky to be sensitive to this matter as a rookie designer some thirty years ago. By trial and error I developed an approach to getting the best out of the drive units, an approach I’ve basically replicated in all subsequent Harbeth designs. I’m sure other loudspeaker designers have their own lexicon of tricks.

Both the coloration and integrality of Harbeth speakers is really low, yet your drivers are not made from the same materials.

Coloration takes many forms. I recall asking my predecessor, Dudley Harwood, from whom I purchased Harbeth, as he handed the keys of the company to me, for a definition of coloration. Taciturn at best, he replied, and I quote, “You will know it when you hear it.” When I started designing, coloration seemed so extremely obvious, to my ears anyway, that even though I didn’t technically understand where it came from, I kept designing until I had eliminated it. Loudspeaker drive units are energized by the music, which causes their diaphragms to be shocked into motion. These shockwaves substantially radiate through the diaphragm and generate sound waves in the room.

Unfortunately, a proportion, a very small proportion, bounces around inside the diaphragm itself and interferes with successive musical events. You can imagine that within the first thousandths of a second after the music starts that a background of residual energy will have built up in the diaphragm and will be topped up by successive notes. It’s this sonic mush that at best fogs the overall sound and at worst introduces audible coloration, where some notes are dominant. The pioneering research that we, in collaboration with government funding, conducted in the 1990s proved beyond doubt that all commercially available materials, including all the popular ones, used in loudspeaker manufacturing are really unsuitable for the task. Their molecular structures, particularly the inter-chain bonds, have characteristics that nip energy from the music they’re attempting to reproduce, particularly in the presence and lower treble region. The low coloration that you hear in the Harbeth loudspeakers, especially in that critical musical band, is a direct result of us conceiving, proving, and blending different materials for their acoustic properties.

Do you still employ recordings of your daughter’s voice to do a final voicing of the speaker?

My daughter is now in her early thirties and has quite a different voice to the nine-year-old that I recorded all those years ago. Good news, though—my granddaughter is nearly four years old and I am grooming her for a life in loudspeakers! Seriously, the ear/brain is highly optimized for detecting subtle nuances in human speech. If we guess that our ears have been under development for some millions of years, we know that the first musical instrument appeared around fifty thousand years ago. This is far too recent to have had any physiological impact on the development of the human ear. It follows then that to use our ear as an analytical instrument when grading loudspeakers, it’s the reproduction of voice that can tell us a lot about the mechanics of the loudspeaker. Note that the human vocal tract is a soft tissue structure with plenty of “damping” thanks to being nourished by warm blood and elastic tissue. All of the undesirable characteristics of loudspeakers that are commonly mentioned such as spitty, ringing, wiry, harsh, biting, gritty, bright, brittle, and so on are likely to be the consequence of hard materials in undamped resonance. No wonder then that convincing natural sound is so elusive in home hi-fi.

I have always been curious about this whole matter of voicing. How do you “voice” a speaker system without the use of, say, an equalizer, whether analog or digital?

“Voicing”—I don’t like this word and don’t use it. All it means in a fancy way is of setting the contribution of the drive units so that they are blended adequately to fool the listener’s ear into thinking that he is actually in front of the performers, live. Present one hundred loudspeaker designers with a cabinet fitted with drive units and a box of crossover components and you will end up with one hundred different voicings. Which one is correct? That’s a tough question because those one hundred designers will have two hundred different ears. They also evaluate sound differently, different instruments will appeal to them or not, they’ll be sensitive to different colorations and some may see themselves as wizards with the power and right to “interpret” the recordings. Some may use test and measurement equipment that will guide them towards a relatively neutral contribution of the loudspeaker, others may voice entirely by ear. Whatever the strategy, expect a wide variation in sonic performance. If, however, a degree of objectivity is introduced, those speakers could be graded. One attack would be to record a human voice under non-reverberant conditions and to switch between that human sitting next to the loudspeaker and his or her voice reproduced over the loudspeaker. My experience is that ninety percent of the candidate loudspeakers would be dismissed as having characteristics not at all present in the live voice. It’s a great pity that the word “voicing” is rarely associated with the concept of listening to a human voice over the loudspeaker!

Also, how do you control the dispersion of the response?

In reality there is not much that can be done to control the dispersion of loudspeaker drive units unless they are fitted with horns or similar diffusers. The BBC’s view was that it’s the on-axis response that’s paramount. This has merit, providing the listening environment can absorb the off-axis sound that is splashed onto the sidewalls. In the domestic environment often the sidewalls are untreated, even though there may be snug carpet on the floor. We’re back to the issue of careful selection of crossover frequency and contouring the fade-out and fade-in of drive units so that off axis, where they are becoming beamy due to their diameter relative to the frequencies they are reproducing, the transition is smooth.

You still use a relatively thin-walled enclosure with lots of bracing for support and stability, but no heroic measures, so far as I can tell, to dampen resonances as such with the use of synthetic materials or super-rigid construction.

Cabinets: We do indeed live in a world where visual impressions seem to count for so much. The physics of panels—those forming a loudspeaker cabinet—say very clearly that thickness and stiffness do not guarantee low sonic contribution. Indeed, rigid panels can move the latent resonances away from the bass region and up into the midrange where they are energized by the music and can sound extremely objectionable. After extensive research the BBC concluded that a relatively thin-walled but sturdily braced cabinet could be steered by the application of damping into a state of relative inertness, in a way that no thick panels could be. This gives the thin-walled cabinet designer a whole armory of tricks for better sound.

One of the arguments you make in Harbeth literature is that exotic parts and wire are not necessary for state-of-the-art performance, merely parts and wire of requisite specification that will be reliable under dynamic conditions and for a very long time. I’m sure you know that many, perhaps most, Harbeth users ignore this when it comes to selection of speaker cable (and interconnects).

During my teenage years, music was my escape, and my interest in radio and broadcasting led to an involvement with the local BBC radio station. It was then that I was introduced to the BBC monitor. What impressed me was the pragmatism of the BBC designs, a total focus on simplicity, cost-effectiveness, and real, solid, honest engineering. I’m well aware that consumers can select whatever they like, but I worry when the hardware becomes more important than the music and seems to trap consumers in a cycle of dissatisfaction.

Having said that, I’m acutely aware that it’s the ongoing sale of accessories to consumers, who rarely change their core system components, that helps keeps the audio dealer in business. I’d just make a plea for common sense. If the consumer has the interest and the cash to invest in exotic audio accessories, do so. But do so without feeling compelled to apply what may be pseudo-science.

The 40.2 is among the first Harbeths to use drivers made from Radial2, a new formulation of your proprietary RADIAL material. What’s been changed?

A small few-percent adjustment of the ratio of the key elements in the diaphragm polymeric compound.

What do you say to those audiophiles who ask, “Well, if you had no constraints as regards price or size, what would an all-out, no-holds-barred Alan Shaw speaker look and sound like?”

Looking back I can see how fortuitous it was that the BBC control rooms are approximately the same size as a typical British living room.

Had the BBC control room been three or four times the size of the home listening room, the magic simply wouldn’t have been translatable. But your question is about my so-called “Magnum Opus.” Assuming I had the time to develop a speaker for myself, with no need to be concerned about commercialization, what would it look like? Actually, now that I have dictated that sentence I can’t actually answer my own question. What I do know is that the speaker would unquestionably sound like a Harbeth of today, but I can’t decide what to sketch on that blank sheet of paper when it comes to its physical configuration. Perhaps things will become much clearer after a couple of pints—they usually do!

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Thu Mar 09, 2017 10:31 am

Sonic learns of the acoustic port from Michael (June 2012)

This is something I might attempt soon  Exclamation

Quoted text starts:

Hi Sonic

Your learning some very important things about materials and that is priceless. Your also learning about space. It has been my experience to hear everything presented in the room and in time if not immediately it shows up in the music. Materials don't burn energy then disappear like we would hope. They always leave a signature. This is one reason why I try to stick with the barricade approach as much as I can. This way the burn can happen without the absorbent material itself sticking out sonically. I do use cotton but very sparingly and I also treat it so that the fibers pass energy and don't burn it too much. Yes, it does sound exactly like the room sighs. When you get closer the room relaxes.

Heatsink fins can be nasty and is another reason I try to make the room have as much energy as possible. When an amp over works the vibration of the heatsinks goes up and the distortion from them gets worse. Heatsink distortion goes directly back into the signal path and causes a hashy sound. The problem with tuning them is if you put the wrong material on them they get even more hot. What I use to do before I started using equipment that didn't heat up is either drill the sinks and use metal bolts to tune them or wrap them in copper mesh or even set them on aluminum rails. Keep in mind that a heatsink changes pitch as it heats so if you find the right temp that makes the fins vibrate the least they don't get that noisy.

When you were working on the simple system and I was traveling I wish I would have caught you before you put the sub back in. Reason being I feel that if you use your room as a place to make vents and such behind you, you might find a way to use the room as an equalizer. The interesting about going down this road is going to be the height of the room. In all honesty your space would be the perfect candidate for building a room inside of a room. Do me a favor and build a wall out of what ever you have that is wood, and make wall as if it went across the room where the bookcase is. You will start to hear the energy in the room divide itself from the front part of the room to the rear part. Once you get the sense that this is happening you can then start shaping the sound in the back to effect the sound in the front like a port.

The best way to know what your walls sound like is to walk around other walls in other places or walk outside by an area that has a very balanced sound to you. You will get the sense of presence. Like if you take your guitar outside and talk to the back of it. You will hear this very clean dynamic sound that is full. Once you hear this full range balanced sound then go into your room and talk to your wall and listen to what is missing or what is gained. Usually hard walls will sound like they are missing body and warmth. Setting something close to that wall that has this warmth will start to tell that area's pressure zone to sound warmer.

Let me also say that if the vent/port starts to work for you it can tell the front listening area what to sound like without hurting the soundstage.

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

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Fri Mar 10, 2017 12:16 pm

The iFi Audio Adventure

Yes, Sonic knows this thread is called Tuning A New World of Computer Audio Playback but really except for the first coupled of pages, everything else is about Tuning the room, gear and of course posts of the audio curiosities that I happen upon.

Now here is a new experience that is directly connected with the New World of Computer Audio.

Sonic chanced upon iFi Audio’s accessories in the Japanese Audio Accessory magazine.

Reading more (in English) from iFi Audio’s website, I learnt their core technology appears to be Active Noise Cancellation. Sonic got intrigued.

(Sections within parentheses and in italics are quoted from the iFi Audio website).

“Active Noise Cancellation®️ by AMR/iFi is in-house technology developed to cut out noise in a very significant way in the audio field. It is now the bedrock of iFi signal/power products because…they need to address the issue of noise in both signal and power situations.

What is the Active Noise Cancellation circuit design?

Drawing from the military field (specifically the Thales Spectra radar cancellation system deployed in the French Dassault Rafale jet fighter), iFi adapted this technology to exclusively introduce the Active Noise Cancellation®️ (ANC®️) audio power system. It is now a cornerstone of the ever-improving iFi USB audio technology, looking for new products to feature ANC®️ ,and ANC+®️.

An air defence radar is transmitting at a certain frequency; the signal is bouncing off the aircraft; a receiver on board the aircraft picks up the signal and a computer analyses its base frequency/modulations and an identical, out-of-phase signal is generated by an on board system to cancel out the enemy radar signal.

By generating a signal identical to the noise signal but in the exact opposite phase, it actively cancels all the incoming noise. ANC®️ is the perfect ‘antidote’ for power supply noise, the bane of USB audio.”

From reading about their views on USB and checking the prices, Sonic saw their products as a low-cost way to try and bring the Tonal Centre of Gravity of my digital sound to match or better the Tonal Centre of Gravity of my analogue gear.

It appeared to me that the most promising device was the iPurifier 2.

What is the iPurifier 2?

“The USB transmission standard was not designed for high-quality audio: audio/power/ground are all ‘lumped into one’ cable for printers, hard-disk drives and the like. In the pursuit of the highest-quality of USB audio playback, this is akin to placing dedicated audio interconnects and high-current power cables together, which is clearly far from ideal.

Electro Magnetic Compatibility (EMC) issues inevitably arise, characterised by a harsh, edgy sound.

The iPurifier2 does one job and one job only; it cleans and filters audio + power at the end of the digital chain; just prior to the digital signal entering the DAC .

The specially-designed circuit restores the ‘signal waveform’ and puts the ‘analogue’ back into USB audio for a true, life-like presentation.

Most effective at the end (rather than the beginning) of the ‘digital USB audio chain’ the iPurifier 2 cleans up the USB transmission. There is an iPurifier 2 perfectly suited to every DAC.”

The mention of “harsh, edgy sound” and the ability to get rid of it is exactly what Sonic is interested in. More so since the device has features that are claimed to Reclock, Rebalance and Regenerate the signal and offers a claimed up to 100x reduction in noise.  
Sonic bought one.

This little box is plugged into the USB B port of the DAC and the USB cable from the laptop connects to the DAC through it.  A tiny light comes on to indicate it is powered up from the 5V USB feed and a second light comes on when a data signal is detected.

So all was connected and ready to go.  A Miles Davis FLAC file started, volume turned up and……

Perfect silence  Surprised   Question  Shocked

Sonic checked everything and nothing was amiss. I disconnected the iPurifier 2 and connected things normally and the music came back on.  Perplexing  Question   Sonic thought it was faulty so  Idea  I borrowed another AUNE DAC connected every up with the iPurifier2 in the chain and out came musick  Exclamation  It works.  Back in my system with the AUNE x1s it was silent though the indicator lights showing 5V power and music signal were on.

The only difference between the two AUNE DACs is the second AUNE DAC is an earlier, cheaper unit with no XMOS driver.

This is very strange since the iPurifier2 is part of a family of products with DACs that use XMOS drivers.  Perplexing.  I returned the device and arranged for a product swap since Sonic still wanted to deal with the USB grunge and hash.

Of the other accessories, the DC Purifier was an option. This would be used with the ASUS laptop.  The AUNE x1s power connector is a DIN plug not the usual DC wall wart plug that the DC Purifier is fitted with.

“The DC iPurifier; a noise-cancellation product aimed to enhance the existing, ubiquitous Switch Mode Power Supply (SMPS).
Generic SMPS designs are very noisy because they were never intended for audiophile applications.

The DC iPurifier sits in-between the SMPS and the device such as; router, DAC, set top box, media streamer, laptop or desk mixer. And with the latest Active Noise Cancellation®️ technology, from 5 volts all the way up to 24 volts (up to 3.5 amps) the DC iPurifier sharply reduces noise to improve the quality of the device.

Generic Switch Mode Power Supply designs are noisy – but they were only intended for mainstream use so noise was never a consideration. Just insert the DC iPurifier between the existing noisy power supply and the source; noise is reduced by a factor of 316x to 100,000x.”

After a think, I preferred to use products that directly dealt with the contamination in the USB line since about 50% Sonic runs the laptop off the battery. So the next option was the iSilencer 3.0.

According the iFi Audio “The iSilencer3.0®️ is an instant upgrade for all USB ports; it adds the following features to the USB ports:

1. Active Noise Cancellation®️ technology
2. Reduce jitter + packet errors
3. REbalance®️ the USB signal
4. USB3.0 technology for optimal transfer”

This is what the device looks like:

This is how it is connected.

I loaded some files into the Foobar and hit “Play”.  This time, I heard music.  OK good. Now to let it run in so Sonic left the room. The entire system had been powered up fully or on standby mode for a whole day as the test started.

Two hours later Sonic returned and played Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos (Karl Richter and the Munchener Bach Orchester – Archiv).

What I heard practically made Sonic fall over.  The Tonal Centre of Gravity has gone deep down to the same range as analog. I was hearing more of the interplay of the instruments, a haze that clouded the sound giving it an inner opacity was gone, dynamics jumping out of silence was much improved. Treble is now sweet and clean.

Then I played Bill Evan’s Waltz for Debbie -- the bass had a deep impact like the real thing, the soundstage came forward while the bass was a focused instrument ahead of the speaker plane, the piano had weight and the snare played with brushes was musical and cymbals had delicate shimmer.

More musick was played well into the next morning and yes, this is the sound from digital I always dreamed for. You hardly hear this tone in the audio salons even with gear that cost as much as a car.

For sure I will no longer say that digital sound is inferior to analog.

While analog may presents itself more musically, digital is giving me detail, dynamics and deeper real bass.

So after all the years of struggling and tweaking my digital audio devices (CD players, DACs, DVD players and computer audio since Februrary 2016) all it took was a US$50 device to change everything and win the struggle.


Last edited by Michael Green on Wed Mar 15, 2017 6:48 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : Formatting and adding more details)
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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Sun Mar 12, 2017 9:26 am

Greetings Zonees

Sonic’s very happy with the way the digital side of my system is sounding.  The Tonal Centre of Gravity of digital sound is right where it is giving weight and grounding to musick. Foundation.

Given that I have claimed to be super-satisfied before only to reverse course, Sonic will be circumspect in my comments till time proves if I am right or wrong.

In recent Tuning over the last year, the biggest improvement that Sonic experienced in sound (or it was a significant correction to a problem) was with the introduction of the Parasound A21 along with the 57 inch placement of the Magneplanar MG1.5 QRs. Now this little gadget, the iSilencer 3.0, made the next biggest improvement.

This weekend Sonic has been playing lots of music, not to test but to enjoy the sound and the works of art.  The digital and analog sides of my system are indeed very close as Sonic alternates between FLAC files and LPs.

Just now was playing a FLAC file of musick by Christoph Willibald Gluck (Hogwood and Academy of Ancient Music) and now it is an LP of Walter Piston’s Symphony No. 6 (Boston Symphony Orch. Charles Munch cond.). Also played was a FLAC file of Miles Davis’ Tutu.  Miles was a boxer as a hobby – this recording punches hard with bass and drum impact.  Next up will be an LP of Music from the Court of Burgundy – music by Guillaume Dufay of the 15th Century (Musica Reservata – Philips).

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Fri Mar 17, 2017 10:48 am

Greetings Zonees  cheers

A few somewhat disparate discoveries this week.  Though Sonic finds that the musical satisfaction I am getting from the system is being sustained, even improving as settling progresses.

Finding 1

Sonic considered using an additional iSilencer 3.0 plugged into another USB port of my laptop.  This is because the iFi Audio product blurb says this:

More than one iSilencer3.0®️ brings exponential benefit

The iSilencer3.0®️ can be used not only at the active USB ports but also at unused USB ports where it will reduce radiated EMI and as the ANC®️ circuitry is bi-directional and usually as all USB ports share one power bus. The iSilencer3.0®️ cuts noise, system-wide for all USB ports, including for example an active port that has another iSilencer3.0®️ plugged-in which is the one connected to another device.

A tempting idea so I got a second iSilencer 3.0 and plugged it into a spare USB port on the other side of the computer. Unfortunately I could not fit two iSilencers side by side in adjacent USB ports.

The sound did not improve  Sad  Midrange became harder and the bass tightened up but now the music became lighter in sound and the Tonal Centre of Gravity seemed to have shifted up.  Overnight  burn-in and settling fixed this sound rather than moving things in the direction Sonic was hoping for.

Consequently the second iSilencer 3.0 was returned and Sonic is using just one iSilencer 3.0 which I even more certain now has improved my digital playback to the extent that Sonic has is not getting into analog vs digital debates anymore.

Might Sonic get more gear from iFi Audio?

Perhaps – the iDefender 3.0 with its claimed ability to lift ground loop and keep the dirty, dirty 5v USB voltage out from the DAC is attractive.  You plug it into the computer USB port first, then the iSilencer 3.0 plugs in followed by the cable to the DAC.  

The other product is worth a thought is the DC Purifier to clean up the wall wart DC feed to my tube phonostage that takes the output from the Ortofon 2M Blue.  

Finding 2

Sonic has found this placement of FS-DTs along the side walls beneficial towards producing improved forward projected dimensionality of images.

The FS-DTs with the natural wood stands came from the front wall.

The position of these FS-DTs were selected by ear and do not correspond to any idea of “first-reflection points”. I have not bothered to get a mirror and attempt to find where these “reflection points” might be. Sonic is just tuning the wall zone.

Sonic tried the FS-DTs conventionally placed with their reflective sides outward.  I however found that placed this way, they emphasized a “wall ring effect” that Sonic has come to recognize.  I have to recognize that this room which a good fellow Tunee referred to as a “concrete bunker” has ringy surfaces, bass-lossy points like the window and doors.  The parquet floor lessens the hardness only slightly so all the use of Michael’s gear to give acoustic burn is something that only those who have heard the before and after effects can appreciate.  It is a good thing that Mr Green’s products are versatile.

Finding 3

Do I like the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs toed-in? My Rogers LS 3/5As are toed-in to be on axis to the ears at the listening spot and it works very well.  The Fostex single driver Tapered Quarter Wave Tube loudspeaker requires an on–axis toe-in as well or it will be seriously deficient in treble.

Trusting my ears and musical instinct, Sonic’s view of the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs toed-in is the warmth, musicality and bass weight is exchanged for an “analytical” though more coherent sound that lacks something in the warm/realism side of things.  

For this reason Sonic is running with very slight toe-in.  This is partly because from my listening chair, I find zero toe-in looks like the Magneplanar MG1.5QRs are actually toed-out which I find disconcerting.

As I was writing this post, Sonic was playing The Essential Lester Young (FLAC file), a double CD reissue of his early works in mono.  As I get to this point of the text, I am finding the mono presentation has a realistic dimensionality  it is not a tiny shrunken signal but a big, brawny, bassy performance that is placed ahead of the plane of the speakers and so big that it takes a bit of time to notice the signal is not stereo  Very Happy  

Listening to LPs now.

On the platter spinning are Indian ragas played by Sisirkana Dhar Choudhury (violin) and Sankar Ghosh (table).

Good stuff,  the things from Mr Green and the Tune  Exclamation


Last edited by Michael Green on Sun Mar 19, 2017 6:07 am; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : formatting)
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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Sun Mar 19, 2017 9:54 am

Greetings Zonees

Sonic has been playing some nice LPs:

America – Hat trick  (One of trio’s less popular albums.  It’s a nice record though.)

Brahms – Quartet in C minor, Op. 60 (The Boston Symphony Chamber Players) RCA Victor

Handel – Water Music (Yehudi Menuhin conducting the Bath Festival Orchestra) – this is Water Music performed in the Classical style. To those like Sonic who are accustomed to original instrument and performance practices, this interpretation would appear to be pompous and slow. Nevertheless, this is a valid performance conducted by a Maestro and enjoyable if taken for what it is.  Given that this recording dates to the 1960s, I wonder if it stands as something of a counter-statement from Menuhin to some elements of the original instrument/performance movement?)    

Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two – Original Golden Hits Vol. II (Sun)  

Music for Trumpet and Orchestra – works by Purcell, Vivaldi and Haydn (Roger Voisin and Armando Ghitalla, Unicorn Concert Orchestra, H E Dickson cond.)

Paul Williams – Just an Old Fashioned Love Song (A&M)

Telemann – Blaserserenade (Extracts from “The Constant Music-Master”) Archiv Produktion.

Now Sonic has got both my digital and analog source to be subjectively similar in quality, Sonic is working to get a little more bass weight from the system while preserving all the other virtues like imaging and tonal balance. Perhaps Sonic is turning into a bass-head of some sort?

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