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Old 8th July 2013, 01:15 AM   #1
ChrisA is offline ChrisA  United States
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Join Date: Jan 2008
Default If you could "start over"...

Home HiFi systems seem to use a certain standard for cables and interconnects. Not because that is the best way, but mostly just historic reasons.

For example speaker cables. Why even have them? place the amp near the speaker and use 1 foot long wire. Why single ended line level cables, why not balanced. Why in "line" level not 5 volts? Why binding posts or banana jacks when we have 8 pole Speakon.

So the question is if you could "start over" and not have to worry about compatibility I wonder what would be best.
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Old 8th July 2013, 08:35 PM   #2
Enzo is offline Enzo  United States
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OK< first, define "best." Seriously. Try speaker connectors. What does best mean to you? (And will it mean the same to everyone else too?) We could look at resistance, and maybe one connector has some tiny fraction of an ohm less, that might be better. But maybe ease of connection is more important than 1/100 of an ohm? And are we talking permanent/semi-permanent use? Or systems being struck each night and moved? I know that as a soundman in live sound, I sure would prefer the speakons to binding posts, but that is so I can quickly and reliably set up my cables without screwing around.

Or flexibility. Ever try to stack two speakons on one amp output? Not nearly as easy as with dual banana posts. Or reverse polarity.

Why even have speaker cables? Most people have a stereo amplifier, which feeds two speakers separated across the room. That pretty much requires cables. Unless you have the speakers a foot apart. You could specify a mono amp for each speaker, not uncommon, but that would be the exception. If you want that, make your speakers powered speakers, and put the amp right inside the enclosure.

Balanced lines have certain advantages, in pro audio they allow us to run long lines without signal degrading or picking up a lot of noise. Within the rack, those 12" cables really do not give us the opportunity to show that advantage. In consumer audio, balanced ins and outs adds to the circuit complexity and thus cost. Three conductor connectors are required instead of two conductor. Three wire cable instead of coax. And it yields no particular advantage.

Sure there will be some golden ears types who can hear the difference between anything and anything else, but the industry does not revolve around audiophiles.
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Old 8th July 2013, 09:25 PM   #3
ChrisA is offline ChrisA  United States
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I think you are describbibg why it is done the way it is today. Because most gear is commerccial built in a factory. The speaker factory makes speakersm the amps factory makes amps and Apple builds iPods.

But if you were 100% DIY building everything from the ground up. Would you build a stereo AM/FM Stereo Receiver?

I would likely place at least the power amps near the loads. I'd place some kind of small controller near the listener (maybe it would be wireless, maybe the "controller" is just an iPhone app.) Line level stuff could go anyplace.

Next I think about speaker crossovers. Those would limey go too. They make sense for a factory built speaker that has to interface with a standard amp. But way not power each speaker driver with its own amp and use lower powered crossovers? Cost is not so much an issue for DIY

Just looking at what an engineer would do with a blank sheet of paper when the goal was NOT to build "standard" components that could sell into the current market and be required to interface with other components.

The need to interoperate with existing stuff drives current designs. Take that away and what could you do?

Certainly the first thing I see is the need for short lenght interconnect cables disappears. You'd place all the stuff that needs to be close by all in the same box. the only cables would be long cables



Quote:
Originally Posted by Enzo View Post
OK< first, define "best." Seriously. Try speaker connectors. What does best mean to you? (And will it mean the same to everyone else too?) We could look at resistance, and maybe one connector has some tiny fraction of an ohm less, that might be better. But maybe ease of connection is more important than 1/100 of an ohm? And are we talking permanent/semi-permanent use? Or systems being struck each night and moved? I know that as a soundman in live sound, I sure would prefer the speakons to binding posts, but that is so I can quickly and reliably set up my cables without screwing around.

Or flexibility. Ever try to stack two speakons on one amp output? Not nearly as easy as with dual banana posts. Or reverse polarity.

Why even have speaker cables? Most people have a stereo amplifier, which feeds two speakers separated across the room. That pretty much requires cables. Unless you have the speakers a foot apart. You could specify a mono amp for each speaker, not uncommon, but that would be the exception. If you want that, make your speakers powered speakers, and put the amp right inside the enclosure.

Balanced lines have certain advantages, in pro audio they allow us to run long lines without signal degrading or picking up a lot of noise. Within the rack, those 12" cables really do not give us the opportunity to show that advantage. In consumer audio, balanced ins and outs adds to the circuit complexity and thus cost. Three conductor connectors are required instead of two conductor. Three wire cable instead of coax. And it yields no particular advantage.

Sure there will be some golden ears types who can hear the difference between anything and anything else, but the industry does not revolve around audiophiles.
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Old 8th July 2013, 11:33 PM   #4
Enzo is offline Enzo  United States
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Location: Lansing, Michigan
But you skipped the most important part: what do you mean by best?

Quote:
Next I think about speaker crossovers. Those would limey go too. They make sense for a factory built speaker that has to interface with a standard amp. But way not power each speaker driver with its own amp and use lower powered crossovers? Cost is not so much an issue for DIY
I mentioned powered speakers, but I am not sure what you are proposing. Unless you have some serious new speaker, we would be using conventional speakers and tweeters. They need a crossover to keep the bass out of the tweeter and vice versa. What do you mean low powered crossover? You mean like an active one to biamp? That is fine, but now you are building not one amp for the enclosure but a separate amp for each driver in the enclosure. Easy enough to do, but what advantage does that give me?

You suggest cost is not an issue for DIY. I'd counter LABOR cost is not an issue, as long as you take the hobbyist approach that his labor has no value. But as soon as you spread little sections of the system around, each one needs a power supply, so now instead of one power transformer, you now have a pile of them. As parts go, power transformers are among the more costly. And those cables? You now need power cables going all over to each thing .

We are back to defining what is better. We have a stereo receiver, which incorporates everything I need in one box. I connect speakers to it and listen to music. I could build powered speakers, I could even build digital FM tuners into each box with a remote to set them, so I could listen to an FM broadcast. But in what way is this better than a nice Yamaha receiver on the shelf? I mean other than that I built it myself? We CAn do many things. We could arbitrarily change our signal levels to 5v instead of the current line level standard. OK, make a case for doing so. What do I get out of making that change that I don't have now?

We don't just do things because they always did them, we do things because they work. You mentioned speakons. They didn't exist forever. Remember when EP connectors came along? They were going to be what speakons actually became, a new standard for speaker connectors. How about mic connectors? They were not always XLR plugs. When I was in school, microphone connectors were those thread-on things. They were invented long ago, but phono plugs, aka RCA plugs, were simple and inexpensive connector for shielded low level signal lines. Easy to wire up, unambiguous. Just stick it in the jack, no need to orient the plug. When something new comes along, if it is worthwhile, and genuinely better, it gets adopted into the industry.

If I have a preamp here, and speakers across the room, I have to send the signal to them. Alternatively I can have a stereo receiver and send speaker wires across the room. Those speaker wires will not pick up any noise, won't need shielding. Signal leads will pick up noise, do need shielding, and can roll off high end signal with cable capacitance. That is a real consideration.

But you ask this:
Quote:
Just looking at what an engineer would do with a blank sheet of paper when the goal was NOT to build "standard" components that could sell into the current market and be required to interface with other components.
Just look above here in the solid state section. We have people very day coming up with their latest ideas. Many are just tweaks on standard ideas, sure, but we also see guys with all manner of ideas, some totally unworkable, and some that would indeed work well.


You mentioned preamp control by iPhone app. That sounds to me a bit beyond the average DIYer. I surely couldn't write one, not to mention create the interface in the amp system for it to control. Maybe you are a computer geek type and it is simple to you. Not to me. But take that approach and run with it. You want different? Put up a router and have internet enabled ports in all your subsystems. ANy connections would be USB cables. Enter something on your computer/laptop/ipad,iphone, and your local wifi LAN will send it to all parts involved.
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