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Old 3rd October 2011, 02:08 AM   #1
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Default I don't need great equipment to enjoy great speakers

I keep reading how revealing the various Alpair's are and how they they point up all of the warts in the signal stream. Well, maybe, but I am here to tell you that the impression that this gives is overblown and I'll bet that there are folks out there that avoid these very good drivers because they don't have kilobuck electronics.

At this moment, I am listening to a Haydn string quartet on a pair of A7.3's in my folded transmission lines. The feed is from Sirius XM through Dish Network. The signal is most likely 256K or 320K AAC decoded in the Dish receiver/DVR (Model #722). That passes to a Yamaha RX-V665 7.1 receiver then to the A7.3's. Very musical, clean and clear. A bit rolled off at the top and moderately compressed dynamically. What I am saying is that the detail and resolution of the A7's does not make the suboptimal signal train unlistenable.

Two days ago, I took and afternoon to compare amps. I has slapped a pair of Pensil's together for a pair of A10.2's I just received. I put the drivers in the boxes, hooked them up to my shop amp (a $100 2-channed Sony STR-DH100), cranked them up to ~70dBs, pushed the boxes together face-to-face and walked away for three days. When I came back, I gave them a listen. Sounded OK, so I took them to my listening room and started listening and swapping amps.

I have three amps in my listening room, an old Yamaha 5.1 receiver that I use most of the time because it has remote volume control, a custom built tube amp (6BX7 pp, 9w/ch) that I use for all of my demo's, and a Dayton DTA-100 (50w/ch T-amp). My signal source is a laptop running Foobar2000 USB to an M-Audio Fast Track Pro. Again, the speakers are Pensil 10.2's

The first thing that I did, just because I do those things. was run an RTA through each of the amps. The traces lay on top of each other except at the very top where the tubes started to roll off a bit. Of course, an RTA doesn't necessarily say anything about how the amps sound, and indeed these do not. The cheap Sony has a definite grain to it. (This amp was not in the test, but I need to mention it anyway.) The Yamaha does not,butis a bit glassy on top. The 6BX7 has the best bass, probably because of the higher output Z and has a nice warm sound but indeed a bit rolled of on the top. The DTA-100 in clearly the most detailed. One of the track I played was a Vivald bassoon concerto. The DTA-100 as the only amp where I heard the bassononist breathing. Very subtle, but there. This amp also does wonders with one of my favorite guitar tracks -- Jim Croce's "Operator".

So, what I am trying to say is that you can put together a very listenable system to work with Alpair drivers for not a great deal of money. I assume that if you are reading this, you already have the computer and the player is freeware. A new M-Audio Fast Track Pro will run you ~$175, a Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1 Pro ~$70, Parts Express has a USB DAC for $65 (this I have -- it works fine!). The DTA-100 for $100. A computer and $200 of outboard parts and you are good to go.

I can't say the same thing about bad recordings. One day, my son-in-law brought over two U2 CD's -- "The Unforgettable Fire" and "No Line on the Horizon". We played these on a pair of TB W8-1772's (not Alpair's, but the logic applies). The former sounded great. The latter was absolutely unlistenable. The loudness wars completely destroyed an otherwise great CD.

Bob
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Old 3rd October 2011, 08:00 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Brines View Post

So, what I am trying to say is that you can put together a very listenable system to work with Alpair drivers for not a great deal of money. I assume that if you are reading this, you already have the computer and the player is freeware. A new M-Audio Fast Track Pro will run you ~$175, a Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1 Pro ~$70, Parts Express has a USB DAC for $65 (this I have -- it works fine!). The DTA-100 for $100. A computer and $200 of outboard parts and you are good to go.

I can't say the same thing about bad recordings. One day, my son-in-law brought over two U2 CD's -- "The Unforgettable Fire" and "No Line on the Horizon". We played these on a pair of TB W8-1772's (not Alpair's, but the logic applies). The former sounded great. The latter was absolutely unlistenable. The loudness wars completely destroyed an otherwise great CD.

Bob
Hi Bob, guys,
Goes to show that its worth experimenting with audio gear. I've heard good things about Hypex amps recently. Personally, I've always shopped around. Can't think the last time when I bought from the "high street". Apart from having Tony and Kenneth custom 300B's, all my gear is second-hand, mostly from Japan. I'm in Tokyo this weekend guesting at the Tube show and the Hi-Fi show, also doing lectures/workshops on Full-Range with Tokyo Diy groups. Will be busy but still hope to see what bargains can be bought in Akihabara. I've got my eyes fixed on a rather nice Luxman 503S.

Like Bob, I'm very fussy about source material.

Cheers
Mark.

Last edited by markaudio; 3rd October 2011 at 08:02 AM.
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Old 3rd October 2011, 08:09 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Brines View Post
<snip>
At this moment, I am listening to a Haydn string quartet on a pair of A7.3's in my folded transmission lines. The feed is from Sirius XM through Dish Network. The signal is most likely 256K or 320K AAC decoded in the Dish receiver/DVR (Model #722). That passes to a Yamaha RX-V665 7.1 receiver then to the A7.3's. Very musical, clean and clear. A bit rolled off at the top and moderately compressed dynamically. What I am saying is that the detail and resolution of the A7's does not make the suboptimal signal train unlistenable.
<snip>
Bob
Got a new car last month with the upgraded Sony stereo including 6 months of SiriusXM. Is that different from what you're listening to? What I'm getting is LOW bitrate with a 'metallic' sound. It certainly won't get me to PAY for that sound. I like the programming but just can't get past the awful sound. The stereo using CD is not at fault and is quite good.

G
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Old 3rd October 2011, 09:38 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Brines View Post
I keep reading how revealing the various Alpair's are and how they they point up all of the warts in the signal stream. Well, maybe, but I am here to tell you that the impression that this gives is overblown and I'll bet that there are folks out there that avoid these very good drivers because they don't have kilobuck electronics.

I can't say the same thing about bad recordings. One day, my son-in-law brought over two U2 CD's -- "The Unforgettable Fire" and "No Line on the Horizon". We played these on a pair of TB W8-1772's (not Alpair's, but the logic applies). The former sounded great. The latter was absolutely unlistenable. The loudness wars completely destroyed an otherwise great CD.

Bob
Hi Bob,

Obviously better electronics should improve your system and of course it is worth optimizing your system but to me it seems illogical when some argue that "having more distortion will make the sound better" yet this is basically what someone is suggesting if they say better speakers will make a system sound worse. Well made modest cost electronics can be pretty good, we all know they will measure better than highly expensive high grade loudspeakers.

Loudspeakers virtually always remain the most imperfect part of the chain so if the drive units distort less, diaphragms break up less obviously or more gently, produce a smoother sound with better driver integration, the box has less boomy bass, the cabinets add less colouration then they contribute less harmful distortions to the sound.
The only times I feel this does not apply is when you try to drive totally inappropriate insensitive speakers with a difficult highly reactive load with very underpowered electronics.
Another thing to consider is that often budget loudspeakers will be voiced to sound "polite" so they do not expose inferior budget components, but this could just as easily be to disguise the drive unit deficiences too, such as harsh strident treble.

However, great equipement should definately improve any decent speakers, it should be quite obvious when you get better drive electronics. The less colouration from the speaker the more obvious that should be.

The iPod (and decent earbuds) are capable of far superior reproduction than the horrid compressed rubbish all too often being pumped out today and they do not contibute significantly to bad sound, indeed they are probably far superior to the average portable devices such as the majority of walkman style product owned by the masses 20 yrs ago.

U2's recent efforts are painful to listen to. Somehow I doubt they would sell less records if they increased the dynamic range.

Last edited by rob g; 3rd October 2011 at 09:40 AM.
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Old 3rd October 2011, 06:35 PM   #5
jimbro is offline jimbro  United States
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Very much appreciate the opinions, Bob as I am one of those people you refer to. I also appreciate the well-meaning advice of those who warn of the alpairs or whatever of revealing all the warts in your system. To some of us even a couple of hundred dollars is a lot of money. My approach is to build some inexpensive speakers to start with and listen to while I save and aspire to something better. When that time comes I'll be ready to remove those warts like a good audio dermatologist. Can't hang with the Jim Croce though - sorry.
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Old 3rd October 2011, 08:00 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stratus46 View Post
Got a new car last month with the upgraded Sony stereo including 6 months of SiriusXM. Is that different from what you're listening to? What I'm getting is LOW bitrate with a 'metallic' sound. It certainly won't get me to PAY for that sound. I like the programming but just can't get past the awful sound. The stereo using CD is not at fault and is quite good.

G
SiriusXM has a serious bandwidth problem. They simply have too many channels for their allocated bandwidth. They solve their problem by reducing bitrate and bit depth way too much. What they pass to Dish Network is a small subset of the SiriusXM channels and Dish is not nearly so bandwidth limited. The same thing happens with all those internet radio stations. So many of them are 128k bit or less and that is unlistenable. Once you get to 256k, it is at least listenable as background music, Once you get to 340k, you have to listen close to hear the compression. Dish won't tell you what the bitrate is on there music, but comparing Dish's onwm music channels with the SiriusXM rebroadcasts, The SiriusXM are clearly superior. Hence my guess that the bitrate is at least 256k, probably 340k.

Bob
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Old 3rd October 2011, 08:16 PM   #7
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I am not going to argue that really good electronic will make really good speakers sound better. They will. My point is that once you start searching for the last few %, price goes up exponentially for diminishing returns. Consumer grade electronics have improved markedly recently. Once you get out of the entry level junk, most consumer grade stuff is actually pretty good. My Yamaha 7.1 receiver is a good example. On the digital side, DVD and Blue-Ray have forced even the cheapest players to handle 24 bid 192k data streams. That's why a $70 Sound Blaster sounds as good as a kilobuck DAC of only a few years ago.

Being a speaker guy, I think that you should spend as much as you possibly can on speakers and what's left on electronics. The warts on the less than stellar electronics will only be apparent if you have some really good stuff to compare it with.

Bob
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Old 3rd October 2011, 08:28 PM   #8
EUVL is offline EUVL  Europe
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About exactly a year ago, MarkL & I visited Mark F at his factory. TonyW was also around. I happened to have the 3886 chip amp that I built for my sister with me, and we had a listen side by side to a few of Tony's tube amps, as well as MarkF's Accuphase.

I think both MarkF & Tony would agree that even as simple as a 3886 (you can knock one together for << USD100) gave really very enjoyable sound.

Probably it is true that the difference between electronics these days is less than the difference between transducers.


Patrick
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Old 3rd October 2011, 08:34 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Brines View Post
SiriusXM has a serious bandwidth problem.
Hi Bob,

Just out of curiosity, how does a 128K AAC compare to this in your view. I don't have Dish or SiriusXM.

SomaFM.com has a free 128K AAC stream at http://somafm.com/groovesalad130.pls

Thanks,

Scott

Last edited by scott17; 3rd October 2011 at 08:36 PM. Reason: in your view
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Old 3rd October 2011, 08:50 PM   #10
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With the 7.3's, I have to agree that source material is a bigger enemy than amp. I have hifi and lofi and the thing that jumps out more to me is the material. No doubt better electronic improves things, but they are a truth meter when it comes to the recording. This driver is what you want to listen to if checking recording and mastering quality. It is simply amazing how good they can sound with good material. I wish I could compare them to a quality set of studio monitors, because I believe that would trounce them on all but the most dense music and I would say the only limitation here is in the LF. Nearfield I may even argue that the last part doesn't t really hold water.
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