An Aksa story.
Greetings to you, and all the rest of the Aksa devotees.
You may or may not remember me. If you do, that may or may not be a good thing. But I do remember you.
It’s been awhile since I looked into what’s new at Aksa and I must say Hugh…you don’t sit still very long.
After reading a bit here and thinking about it for awhile now. I’ve decided to share my “Aksa story”…I hope you don’t mind.
Back in February of 2003 Hugh was kind enough to take a chance on selling several kits, an Aksa 100n (Ver.1.74), a TLPn (Ver 2.0) and shortly thereafter a pair Aksonics (Ver 1.65) to someone who was clearly a novice.
My only electronics experience to that point was to solder some crossover kits for my first pair of truly nice speakers. I had up to that point labored under a false idea of what Hi-Fi was. Needless to say, I was most assuredly…Lo-Fi.
So, my search was on to find an amp and preamp that was quality and affordable…enter Hugh Dean and his Aksa kits.
Hugh, I still have a lot of our email dialogue…my, my, my…the patience of Job!
Well, with that patience and well documented assembly instructions, I did in fact succeed in building a TLPn and an Aksa 100n, in that order.
Being more familiar with wood and not metal, I fashioned the enclosures entirely from lumber, hoping to remedy that at some later date.
I remember the first song I played upon completion. Before the song starts you can hear the singer take a breath (which I had never heard before).
It sounded as though it came from behind me…I jumped! Goosebumps…it was that astounding!
I was beside myself. The fact that I had, with a great deal of help, built something that sounded this good.
I had succeeded in making the jump from Lo-Fi to Hi-Fi, and missed mudding around in Mid-fi altogether.
So you know what I did next? I proceeded to short out an amp module. Not more than 10 min play time and I boned the whole thing up.
Try as we might to fix it thru email, it ended up on Hugh’s bench. He even called it a “headscratcher”. The bright side was that he had found there was yet another way to screw up a module.
Finally after the longest 3 weeks of my life…I was enjoying the Aksa’s. Listening to everything I had. Hearing it all again for the first time.
I then sold the afore mentioned speakers and ordered a pair of Aksonics. Again I was not disappointed.
I then modded, with Hugh’s help, the TLPn with a selector switch and a line out for a sub. The Aksonics have a lower end, especially when tweaked according to the supplied instructions. I just happen to like a bit more.
Well that was it…I was hooked on good audio. So what next …“I know…the car”. So I worked that for awhile, again, success, building on the confidence I had gained from the Aksa projects.
So from there, I was building various speaker kits and even modeling some of my own.
When my brother found me a pair of AR3a’s, I was on to restoring vintage speakers. AR, KLH, Norman Labs, Heco and many others. Whatever the Goodwill and thrift stores offered up, would find new life in my basement…refoam, recap and refinish.
Some sounded good with the Aksa’s and some not so good. Well, then came the castoff vintage receivers and integrated amps, Adcom, Kenwood Trio, and Onkyo’s, etc, to go with the “other” speakers.
Then…then came the tubes…oh my! Now here was something special. A Fisher 800c with all original tubes, save one. Restored! Then a pair of Eico HF-22 mono blocks. Restored! Man, I was in audio nirvana.
I know this may sound very familiar to some of you and maybe you can even relate. But I said all that to say this.
Somewhere in all that excitement, the Aksa’s got rotated out of the audio chain and just sat. I can’t really remember when it happened…it just did. Probably 3 or 4 years ago
I even wondered at one point if someone in the Aksa forum might be interested in buying them. So after finishing the Eico’s, and being short on pre’s, I decided to try the TLPn. It took nearly 3/4 of the volume to get the Eico’s up to listening level, but “wow…that sure sounds nice”.
That’s when I started reading some of the threads here again. Needless to say, some of it got my ire up.
Anyway, I got to thinking about the rest of the Aksa gear and pulled it out. I just looked at it for a while and thought about all that had taken place since that winter of 2003.
I started thinking about how to I might now build those better enclosures. So after carefully checking it over, resetting the Aksonic’s ports and hooking up my best CD player…I fired it up.
That was a week ago and the Aksa’s don’t appear to be leaving anytime soon. I forgot how special these 3 pieces sound together.
Eight years ago I had nothing that was “hi-end” to compare them to, so of course they sounded great.
Now, with some “road” behind me, I can tell you most emphatically that they do sound great!
One thing I’ve learned about audio gear is that they all have their own sonic nuances’.
You may have three hi profile pieces that are great in their own right, but can sound less than desirable together.
The Aksa pieces are like a good, strong family that lives in harmony, each special. But, together, make up a better whole, complementing each other.
Thanks again Hugh for the very cool experience, both then…and now.
Enid, Ok. USA
Well, fancy you turning up on the Aspen forum after all these years!! It's almost nine years, y'know, incredible!
You've had a long, long journey, and I salute the work and patience you put into it. You are now well informed about high end audio, and know what you are listening to. This takes a lot of hard work to achieve, much like being a pro photographer, huh?? (You can see I remember you like yesterday!)
Since those early days, Aspen has grown, the product line has become more and more refined, and I like to think these days not much can beat my creations. I don't sell kits these days, but I do sell built and tested modules and even plug and play amplifiers, and this releases me from lots of emails and allows me to put even more time into development.
Just today, for example, I made another minor breakthrough; I'm still creative, which frankly surprises me.....
Welcome to our forum, Martin, thanks for stopping, and I hope you stay another nine years!
I am interested to hear your views on this. How do you make any judgements about the sound quality of your amplifiers? First of all do we agree that an amplifier doesnt have a sound? It clearly does not make any sound on its own it simply takes a signal at the input and amplifies it at the output. So what we hear is a combined result of the different choices of cd players, speakers, room acoustics and so on. There are many possible combinations for any given amplifier. In the quote above you say that not much can beat your amps. What does it mean to compare one amp to another? Do you claim that the differences in sound between one amp and another are consistent no matter what the rest of the equipment and room used?
At the risk of starting another long winter of discontent, I would say that amps do have a sound of their own. It is subtle, but if you are well accustomed to your source and speakers you can certainly tell the differences between different amps.
I suspect that this is due to the harmonic profile of the amp, the intermodulation distortion produced, and just how it behaves in difficult, transient conditions, such as very loud passages and sharp percussive sounds.
When I see you saying things like 'do you claim' I become very guarded, however, as one thing audio over the years has taught me is that there are no categoric statements.
Really enjoyed reading your ‘story’ as it rang a few bells. It’s not just threads that sometimes head off to ‘tangent land’.:D
I had reasonable stereo kit for many years before succumbing to the lure of multichannel surround. Great in many ways and of course I still have it for movies etc. but got tired of the compromises it meant for pure stereo music. With me it wasn’t rediscovering AKSA gear, it was more about rediscovering stereo itself but fortunately I did this based on Aspen power and pre amp components that likewise, ‘don’t appear to be leaving anytime soon’.:cheers:
Cool story Martin. We often come full circle in this hobby, and it can be quite a journey.
I can relate to that story. Since I built my first AKSA in 2004, I have built 20+ amps and tried several commercial offerings but the AKSA in one form or another always remained my main amplifier.
Due to various reasons, my last AKSA was sold last night and had a final listen today. It has been a great association with Hugh's products from 2004 to 2012.
You definitely need a NAKSA in your life......
How the hell are you? You need to consider becoming an Aussie, mate.
+1 to NAKSA
Many thanks for the vote of confidence!! Trust you are well and the info highway above Brindisi remains clear!
Lots of mysteries, Kenjie. Let me list them:
#1 It is uncertain to what extent the various harmonics of the distortion profile are objectionable. It is generally held that odds are worse then evens, and higher order is more objectionable than lower.
#2 Some distortion cancellation may be taking place between amp and speaker. Reason: phase of the harmonic might be 180 degrees removed from the phase of the speaker excitation. Of course amplitudes will almost never be identical.
#3 Phase of the harmonics from the amp may have profound impact on subjective perception. This issue remains clouded.
#4 Masking may well be taking place; H2 and H3 tend to mask higher order harmonics and this psychoacoustic phenomenon, as it applies to recorded music, is reasonably well understood.
#5 Multiplicative v. additive distortion mechanisms are probably more complex than we think.
#6 I think the distortions produced by speakers and amps are qualitatively and quantitatively different; speakers, being electromechanical devices, don't do much over the seventh harmonic, whereas amps, particularly AB PP SS amps with hefty feedback generate a very long chain of artefacts into the forties and beyond.
#7 Level is significant for all components including the room.
#8 Phase shifts take place electrically within the crossover of the speaker and this has profound effect an octave above and below the crossover frequency. This impacts sound quality as well, as you quickly find when you play with crossovers.
I agree that amps have lower distortion than speakers, by perhaps two orders of magnitude. But while this should be factored into our subjective perception, I believe it's still possible to distinguish between amp and speaker distortion, particularly if one is thoroughly acquainted with the music, the speakers, the source and the room. But short, twenty minutes listening sessions are unlikely to be the best way to tease out these differences; several days of careful listening with a variety of genres, moods and times might be needed.
Doesn't answer your question, but defines and assays the problem.
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