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Old 13th April 2013, 12:31 AM   #1
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Default The tweaking imperative

I'm not just referring to New Age tweaks, but whether there is an absolute need for audiophiles to make major changes to their system on a frequent basis.

My experience is that I assemble a dream system and it sounds so good that I simply want to spend as much time as possible listening to it. I've done it! Maybe now I can simply leave it be and listen to the music. This happy state lasts for maybe a month or six weeks but then it gradually palls, eventually reaching the point where I no longer can remember what I liked about it in the first place. It becomes flat, two dimensional and more of a chore to listen to it than a pleasure. Even leaving a gap of a week or two doesn't help by then - so it's not listening fatigue as such, and there's nothing obviously grating about the sound.

The natural reaction is to want to make it better - obviously I have grown used to that level of quality, and I must therefore improve it. It will probably involve the expending of some money, time and energy.

I wonder if this cycle is inevitable. Some DIYAudio-ers have suggested that if you tire of a system, it must be because it has some flaws and that once you discover the perfect synergy between source, amp, speakers and room you will never look back. (The strange thing is that they never seem to achieve this state of contentedness themselves, and seem as keen on ceaseless tweaking as the rest of us.) I'm not convinced: I am beginning to wonder whether it is simply impossible to listen to a stereo system - even a perfect one - in the same room ad infinitum. In fact, perfection will forever remain a mirage you can never reach. I suggest that it is like going to a concert every night in the same hall and sitting in exactly the same seat, so that no matter what the performance, you are endlessly hearing the same acoustics superimposed over it. After a while, your ears are incapable of being surprised by what they're hearing, and surprise is one of the main appeals of music (to me anyway).

Moving to DSP-based active, I have found that it, too, isn't immune from the problem: there isn't a single perfect setting that doesn't pall after a few weeks. However, I find that I can then obtain the necessary aural refreshment by relatively small tweaks to the crossovers. There's no overtly obvious change (as indeed there shouldn't be), but the element of surprise is restored; the system suddenly regains its colour. I presume that changing the crossover of any multi-way speaker in fact performs quite a complex modification of its interaction with the room that is different from simply applying EQ to the signal, say.

I now intend to include a 'randomize' option to the software, so that every time the program is started, it applies limited random variations to crossover frequencies, slopes, phase correction and so on. I see this, potentially, as another on the list of advantages of active over passive: get a new pair of speakers every time you listen to them.
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Old 13th April 2013, 12:10 PM   #2
fas42 is offline fas42  Australia
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No, I don't believe it's inevitable. Decades ago I became aware that audio can achieve a very high state of quality, where the speakers in every sense become "invisible" acoustically. When this is arrived at the pleasure in the sound is immense, I've never tired of, or lost interest in what I was hearing when the system was working at this level.

This is difficult to achieve though, requiring extreme focus and fastidiousness in tweaking to make happen. If you don't know what I'm talking about, then you haven't got there yet; and when you do, all that restlessness will be put behind you ...
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Old 13th April 2013, 01:06 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by fas42 View Post
If you don't know what I'm talking about, then you haven't got there yet; and when you do, all that restlessness will be put behind you ...
Hi fas42

Yes, I have been told something like that before, but as I say, I am doubtful that a real system in a real room can ever be 'perfect'. Each driver is putting out a wavefront that strikes the walls and is partially absorbed or reflected in complex, but endlessly repetitive ways that you, from your listening position, must ultimately become bored with over a period of time (I suggest). Maybe an occasional tweak of the speakers' orientation or elevation might alleviate this. Maybe a move around of the furniture may help.

But how many people in these forums ever leave their equipment for weeks at a time without tweaking in some form or another? Very few I would guess! If anyone had reached the audio nirvana you suggest, why would they be hanging around here anyway..?!
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Old 13th April 2013, 01:23 PM   #4
fas42 is offline fas42  Australia
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Originally Posted by CopperTop View Post
But how many people in these forums ever leave their equipment for weeks at a time without tweaking in some form or another? Very few I would guess! If anyone had reached the audio nirvana you suggest, why would they be hanging around here anyway..?!
Well, in my case because I'm working with fairly cheap gear which is rather fragile -- so part of the exercise is refurbishing to keep it together. Also, no-one knows all the answers as to what needs to be done to get optimum performance, so there is a decent component of straight out investigating, to try and understand what counts, and what doesn't.

'Perfect' is not a word to be used, because the recordings aren't "perfect". But they can be made to reproduce in an immensely satisfying way, and that's good enough for me! Reflections in your room don't matter at this level of playback, they become irrelevant. Of course, if one happens to be a person who would get bored with top notch musicians playing live in their listening room, then I don't think there's much hope for them - what are they doing listening to music at all?

Cheers ...
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Old 13th April 2013, 01:31 PM   #5
SY is offline SY  United States
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CopperTop View Post
I am doubtful that a real system in a real room can ever be 'perfect'.
If you wave your hands and keep repeating the same meaningless mantras, sure it can.

I'll confess that I rarely "tweak" or change anything once a system is set up and running properly. My hifi is for playing music, not for exercising some imagined creativity- I prefer the creativity of the musicians whose recordings I own to the storytelling of audiophiles.

The exceptions are when I have to change out a component to accommodate a new source (e.g, my soon-to-be-installed MM preamp). And room acoustics, which is a constant challenge when you move as often as I've been forced to do. Every once in a while, I'll also throw in some sort of test box if I get curious about someone's claims about an electronic device (for example, my Bastard Box), but I much prefer listening to music than listening to hifi.
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Old 13th April 2013, 03:47 PM   #6
DF96 is offline DF96  England
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My equipment stays unchanged for years, as I think about what to build next - I am a slow designer and builder!

Exception is repairs: two new EL34 (one developed intermittent red-plating so I changed the pair), and two new anode resistors (I had underspecified them originally and they were only lasting a few months).

I could not conceive of anything worse than tweaking every few weeks or months. This would ruin music for me.
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Old 13th April 2013, 06:13 PM   #7
Cassiel is offline Cassiel  Libya
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I thought once that I could build a great sounding amp anytime I wanted to, so, for the sake of experimenting, I have killed many great amps for parts. Recently, I ended up with bad sound and couldn't get it right. I was trying to like SS stuff. Unbelievable - a lesson to learn. I have lived with good sound so many years, it has become a natural thing and then one day it was gone. DISTRESS. I just built a 6AS7 PP amp in a hurry because I felt like a JUNKIE. This one is not my best work but sounds GOOD and my nerves are OK now. It will do for the moment. No more SS for me - lesson learned. Oh and always keep at least one tube amp alive - another lesson learned.
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Old 13th April 2013, 06:29 PM   #8
Jay is offline Jay  Indonesia
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Originally Posted by fas42 View Post
This is difficult to achieve though, requiring extreme focus and fastidiousness in tweaking to make happen. If you don't know what I'm talking about, then you haven't got there yet; and when you do, all that restlessness will be put behind you ...
What tweaking??

Too much tweaking might be a sign of cluelessness

A good system starts with a good speaker. A good speaker starts with a good driver. First, find drivers that can be filtered with second order electrical without notch. Second, know that driver sound is mostly the sound of the cone material (surprise!). So pick your cone material properly. Everything else is just simple science.
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Old 13th April 2013, 08:01 PM   #9
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The thing I have in mind is that if you think about real speakers in a real room, conceptually it is no different from feeding your music through a reverberation effects unit on one setting, forever. Simplifying it, when that drumstick hits the drum, a delayed echo then hits your ear 16.34 ms later, and it happens every single time in the same way, over and over again. You may play a wide variety of music, but it all gets passed through that effects unit on the same setting. You may move around the room a bit, but on average the effect remains the same. It's OK at first, as the combination of reflections, and the complexity of the music keeps your ears interested, but eventually surely your ears are going to become jaded. It doesn't mean that the speakers or room acoustics are bad, merely that you are listening in a real room and not an anechoic chamber.
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Old 13th April 2013, 10:00 PM   #10
fas42 is offline fas42  Australia
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay View Post
What tweaking??

Too much tweaking might be a sign of cluelessness
I have a strange abberation, I want the music that I like to sound good; and it was very apparent in the earlier years of hifi that it works in reverse on many system: only "correct" recordings work properly, and that's no use to me. I want to put on a rough 'n' ready rock and roller, a Faces album is a good example of that, and it should blow me away. Not because it's loud or distorted or grungy, but because it sounds as "good" as a pristine, audiophile recording. Standard systems are a million miles away of being able to do this, you can tell it every time because they make a mess of the drumkit sound, cymbals only very roughly resemble anything that a real drummer ever hears.

So, the point of tweaking is to get, say, the drumming on a "crude" 70's rock recording to have the impact and finesse of an uber recorded audiphile effort ...
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