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Old 29th June 2012, 11:34 AM   #1
fas42 is online now fas42  Australia
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Default A Zen of Audio

This flows on from the thread, The silk purse project: a musical studio monitor ..., and is a take off on Shaun's comment that I seem to be about "The Zen of Tweaking". So the changes are changing the "The" to an "A", because this is about my philosophy of what audio is all about, not what every else's should be. And it's now "Audio" and not "Tweaking" because it applies also to new designs: one of my projects was a chip amp incorporating all my ideas up to that point, and though it was in essential areas identical to all the others out there, it would appear quite bizarre in layout and construction to many.

So, initially at least, this thread is about a way of going about creating and modifying audio systems which I have developed over 25 years, and which is still evolving, which, for me, when everything falls into place creates immensely satisfying sound. The last comment in the old thread by DavidL was querying in some sense what my take on "hifi" was - a simple explanation is that "hifi" makes you aware of the process of sound reproduction: you hear the woofer, the tweeter working, you analyse whether the treble is harsh, airy, all the other adjectives; the machinery of the music making is very obvious, like being in the wrong position listening to a pipe organ, and hearing all the mechanical bits and pieces of the organ doing their thing, all too clearly. Whereas, "music reproduction" means that the only message registering in your brain is the sound event that was recorded in the musical track. The latter experience is what I'm after, that I have been pursuing for over 25 years, using an approach and philosophy that if followed carefully will in the end yield good results ...

Frank
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Old 29th June 2012, 01:44 PM   #2
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terry's just replied on the other thread, I hope to keep the non-project patter solely here, so will respond as if he posted in this thread ...

Thanks for the good thoughts, terry, and your invitation, maybe some day ...

With regard to the HT, you do realise that standard studio monitors use the same amplifier setups within them as the Philips does? From an EE's point of view, electronically, there's no real difference between them except the monitors have extra protection circuits. And no-one laughs at a Mackie or Dynaudio in a studio, they go plenty loud enough to please most people. But, in standard form they are not capable of generating a "big" soundscape, hence designated near-field, etc. Thus, the project ...

With regard to bass, for me, it has to balance with the rest of the sound. The last high end beast that delivered that material in spades, heard a few weeks ago, had a total of 8 12" drivers facing me in dipole configuration, and playing a jazz track was ludicrously lopsided. No live jazz ensemble ever sounded like that, and that's what I base my opinion on. I want my bass to be sharp, tight, the kick in the chest variety, the sensation you get standing next to a real bass drum.

Cheers,
Frank
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Old 29th June 2012, 10:52 PM   #3
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here's the rub, Frank, it seems that you don't actually own any of the things you are talking about?? Or do you? Inquiring minds want to know!

Now, at one time, I was pretty darn broke. So, I modified stuff and built my own stuff out of other people's junk, garbage and throwaways... of course I did not at that time have as much information, knowledge or access to a mentor - the internet was not yet invented. Books were difficult to digest, being EE texts for the most part. It took me a long time to figure out all sorts of stuff, some of which is made excessively obscure for no apparent reason... yeah it is all there in the math and the texts but the *realizations* come from other places, mostly figuring it all out urself over time, and by doing.

Now we have things like DiyAudio and other great resources - look at John Broskie's site for example.

So, you could go from zero to 100 in almost no time at all.

That's what a lot of people here are doing or have done. Pretty much you have to brew it up yourself if you want seriously great results. I suggest you look at the F5 amplifier, and then at some of the "build" threads. Just to see the possibilites!

Its all well and good to do the best with whatever you happen to have in hand, but these days there are all sorts of parts and complete amps, PCBs and designs around, not to mention speaker designs and ideas... I think you are underestimating by an order or two of magnitude what is going on here and what is available right here and now.

The basic idea is that you might want to explore a bit more, poke around a bit, and perhaps update your ideas and notions in light of what you find?

Listen, I have never been to Australia, but I can imagine based on the population density that there isn't a critical mass in audio or pro audio happening - maybe some in the major cities - so it's sort of like working solo in a vacuum to a great extent.

Rejoice! You've walked into the biggest audio happening *ever* in the history of the world. Truly. Take advantage of it. I learn something new here almost every single day.

Otoh, if you have something different and special, go ahead and try to put that out there. But it's not enough to just talk about this or that, you'll need to get specific in some way before too long.

A side note, so far I am seeing that your point of reference, the way that your ideas are being framed may perhaps be indicating a certain naivete regarding the state-of-the-art and where the leading edge is compared to mid-level semi-pro gear and the like... the frame of reference is at least with regard to and in light of what the state-of-the-art is, and where the leading edge is currently even when discussing mid-level semi-pro gear. Fyi and all that...

Tally ho!

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Old 30th June 2012, 12:28 AM   #4
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Nice input, bear, thanks!

Yes, all the things I talk of indeed I own, have access to. There seems to a bizarre concept out there that if you can post a photo of something, somehow that makes it real, proves that what one is saying is the goods. Well, if someone wanted to fake it it would be drop dead easy to do so by grabbing a shot from somewhere obscure, or wandering around to someone who's got gear like it, photoshopping, etc, etc. Sounds like bloody hard work to me, but if a dog wants to fake being human on the Internet, the means are there ...

So, as regards the Behringer, I could post an image of the minute circuit board within, but I hear the company is a bit protective of its goods, so they might decide to give me a crack across the head about doing such. And I am not in the mood for playing those sort of games ...

With respect to normal DIY, I went through that eons ago, early 70's. Built massive enclosures for Goodman's Axioms, stereos from kits, tubed guitar amp for my brother, speakers to match, etc, fiddling with turntables. This was straight up and down DIY, typical for the time.

Slowed down, and then picked up speed in the mid 80's when CD turned up. Went for broke, and got the top of line Yamaha CD player of the time. This, in hindsight, was the smartest move I ever made, because it had enough intrinsic quality for a breakthrough, for me, to occur. I had got to a pretty savage level of tweaking because it kept paying dividends to try things, until one day, completely unexpectedly, a bit of magic happened. This was a level of sound quality that went beyond "hifi", it sounded like the real thing. Wow, I thought!! Trouble was, it was extremely fragile, the quality faded very rapidily for reasons I didn't understand. Now, this is a quality other people experience from time to time, and a very rare few more or less to order, but again with not all that much true understanding.

Australia has a thriving high end culture: last listen in a showroom was a full Gryphon electronics path talking to Wilson speakers: I can go up the road to another mob for Krell, Musical Fidelity, B&W, Meridian, etc. A couple of years back I belonged to the local audio club, did the rounds to member's homes with the intention of calibrating my understanding of what people were getting in their setups currently, easily a few million dollars worth of kit listened to in that period.

So I believe I have a fairly decent frame of reference from which to move forward ...

Quote:
Otoh, if you have something different and special, go ahead and try to put that out there. But it's not enough to just talk about this or that, you'll need to get specific in some way before too long.
That's exactly the angle I'm coming from. But it's a message that only people who have already got it, get!! I learnt that, the hard way, on the other forum. A very small number knew precisely what I was talking about, but they were drowned out by the rest proclaiming that I was talking rubbish! Sometimes, you can only lose, no matter what! Ah, well ... .

Specifics? Can you be more specific ? A trite response is that I'm aiming for sound reproduction to sound like the real thing. And I know what the real thing is, I grab every opportunity to eavesdrop on live musical sound, not that which has been mangled by your typical PA monster, so I don't lose that perspective.

A quick and easy test for sound reproduction: wind up the volume to realistic levels, and then start to talk earnestly to a person standing next to you. A measure for quality is the number of seconds it takes before you or the other person runs to the volume control ...

Frank
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Old 30th June 2012, 01:49 AM   #5
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All fine Frank - your measure for quality is reasonable... but now you have to show how you or how to achieve that.

I have my methods... but it's ur show!

Doubt you can get there with store bought mini-monitors of any sort, but who knows?

I sure can not...

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Old 30th June 2012, 02:50 AM   #6
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The mini-monitors can get there, as the Philips HT has already done. In spite of what terry at one stage said, it is possible to raise the bar of performance of practically anything to quite dramatic levels, IF you have the right attitude to going about the exercise. To repeat, I've found the essential element IS the attitude, that's where the Zen comes in. You need to believe that the gear can perform that well, otherwise you'll pull back and go in another direction, just when you're starting to get somewhere. How many stories have I already noted here, on this forum for example, where people build, say, one speaker after another, after another. Each one does something well, other things not so well, none completely satisfy. Otherwise, why keep doing it? My approach would be, grab any of the literally hundreds of designs detailed in the threads here, doesn't really matter which one. Build it, listen to it ... why is it not working quite right? Start fiddling, keep fiddling, the key is to persist until it comes right, there's that good ol' Zen again! It's worked for me for 25 years, so, strangely enough, I believe it will work tomorrow as well ... !

One way of looking at the "problem" of sound reproduction is using simple dB maths. The speaker is yay sensitive, say 90dB; an amp produces 60W. This translates, for a single speaker to 108dB max SPL, at a metre. For stereo, this goes up to 114dB, the studio monitor manufacturers, naughty, naughty, all do this. Now that's pretty loud, good enough for orchestral from an audience position. And, surprise, surprise, that's what my Behringer is rated at. But an orchestral recording doesn't sound right on the monitor - a typical response would be, add a subwoofer. Well, doesn't work for me, I would get bulging bass but the rest of the audio spectrum still wouldn't improve.

So what's going on? The monitor should deliver the goods, but it ain't, so there's some screw loose. And here I draw upon my experience, which tells me that the number one culprit is the power supplies, that's going to get the "treatment". Until it's no longer a problem, but then it will be obvious that other things are also not quite right. And so the process continues ...

Frank
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Old 1st July 2012, 01:08 AM   #7
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There's a marvellous thread in this forum, Sound Quality Vs. Measurements, which I'm sure contains somewhere in it every concept that I could add to this thread. If I were a real smarty pants, I could make every post nothing but a quote from that conversation. Which proves, but of course, that there is nothing new under the ...

For example, a couple of weeks back, there was a full on, back and forth on the significance of power supplies; dvv, here, Sound Quality Vs. Measurements, expresses almost perfectly my point of view ...

Frank
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Old 1st July 2012, 02:36 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fas42 View Post
There seems to a bizarre concept out there that if you can post a photo of something, somehow that makes it real, proves that what one is saying is the goods. Well, if someone wanted to fake it it would be drop dead easy to do so by grabbing a shot from somewhere obscure, or wandering around to someone who's got gear like it, photoshopping, etc, etc.
Perhaps you are a bit "Internet naive" but that's not likely to get very far. In fact folks have been busted for that on this very forum. It's not that hard to spot a fake, the members here are fairly savvy. Google images is a handy tool.

But that isn't really the issue. Prevaricating about the bush is. This is supposed to be a forum about doing and building things. Sure, there is more talk than action, but that's true offline as well. The trouble comes when a forum newb starts spouting all sorts of "revolutionary" new stuff, but never comes forward with any actual real work. It's hard to take that seriously. It all seems like so much hot air. Hot air we have in surplus.

Until we have something more than a nebulous philosophy from you, you should expect a great deal of cynicism. Shootz, even those who post real work have to run the gauntlet! The posting of vague ideas isn't likely to be met with much enthusiasm. It's a tough crowd here, but a smart one.

Brass tacks, as we say in America.
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Old 1st July 2012, 04:43 AM   #9
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The only real work that is of any value is that which performs per the poster's "claims". And, the Raison d'etre for what I do is the quality of the sound, and no picture, etc, is going to indicate anything noteworthy there, it's just another round of pretty messy fiddling with parts, and other bits and pieces, hanging off gear. My god is the achievement of an audio goal, and being a neatness freak is well down the pecking order, until I get there.

The only thing that's going to "prove" anything is having something that can move around and do a convincing demo somewhere. And, guess what, I've been chasing the "dream" of creating a decent, transportable version of what I talk of for donkey's years, and I'm still not there yet !

THE biggest headache in pursuing what I'm after is that it is so fragile, at the moment, that the slightest problem anywhere knocks the stuffing out of it, for me at least! Simple shifting the stuff around is out of the question! That in part is what motivates me to do the studio monitor exercise: there you can have a pretty clear, before and after ...

That "Everything matters!" mantra I mentioned earlier is what always kneecaps the best intended show off of gear; and the more ambitious the components, the worse the problem gets. I've listened to too many pretty nothing demos to go through such an embarassment ...

Quote:
The posting of vague ideas isn't likely to be met with much enthusiasm
The last thing my ideas are is vague. A space capsule has to be air tight, otherwise the people inside die: sort of getting some or even most of the leaks fixed is not going to be good enough. In the same way, a musically convincing playback will not occur until all the weaknesses in the audio system are plugged, otherwise my interest in listening will rapidly "die". How people go about plugging up the leaks doesn't matter, so long as they know they have to persist until all are fixed ...

Frank
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Old 1st July 2012, 05:23 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by fas42 View Post
<snip>

One way of looking at the "problem" of sound reproduction is using simple dB maths. The speaker is yay sensitive, say 90dB; an amp produces 60W. This translates, for a single speaker to 108dB max SPL, at a metre. For stereo, this goes up to 114dB, the studio monitor manufacturers, naughty, naughty, all do this. Now that's pretty loud, good enough for orchestral from an audience position. And, surprise, surprise, that's what my Behringer is rated at. But an orchestral recording doesn't sound right on the monitor - a typical response would be, add a subwoofer. Well, doesn't work for me, I would get bulging bass but the rest of the audio spectrum still wouldn't improve.

So what's going on? The monitor should deliver the goods, but it ain't, so there's some screw loose. And here I draw upon my experience, which tells me that the number one culprit is the power supplies, that's going to get the "treatment". Until it's no longer a problem, but then it will be obvious that other things are also not quite right. And so the process continues ...

Frank
The monitor does not deliver the goods at high SPL. The measured distortion is way too high. You also have non-linear distortion products at high SPLs where those SPLs are near the limits for a given speaker system or driver.

For example this was a problem with John Dunlavy's speakers - they were designed for good phase response, good freq response flatness, and to be able to reproduce a credible square wave on axis mid-band. All things that are difficult to achieve and important to realistic sound reproduction. Problem was that he used a 1st order xover, so the distortion levels from his drivers, especially the tweeters were problematic as SPL rose in level.

These issues and problems do not yield to simple analysis nor simple solutions. The limitations are always present, and do not go away, even when the specific implementation is optimized.

You will always have a balance between positives and trade-offs.

The clever designer must pick and choose between them. The better sounding designs are the ones that have decided to trade-off those aspects that you as the listener find least objectionable vs. those that are absolute requirements.

There is just no simple or easy path.

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