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Despacio Sound System - Critiques
Despacio Sound System - Critiques
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Old 22nd May 2020, 04:05 PM   #1
DeuceEx is offline DeuceEx  United States
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Default Despacio Sound System - Critiques

Hi all - long time lurker, first time poster. Still relatively early on my audio journey. One of the reasons I'm here at all is James Murphy/Soulwax's Despacio sound system. I've been through most of the threads on the subject and it's clear there's not a lot of love for the design around here, but so far I haven't found any direct critiques of specific things you experts would change about the design. I've found a few things puzzling myself, but considering my limited knowledge I would love to hear what faults you all can identify in this system.

Here are a few links if you're not familiar:
DFA Monitors - Gearslutz (Scroll down for notes from the designer)
klett's Despacio Sound System project page
Inside Despacio – the world’s greatest sound system


A few oddities I noted:
1. Crossover frequencies seem odd based on component choice (hi-mid horn upper and lower XO point in particular, as well as the low mid-hi mid point in general given the low mid is using 12" drivers)
2. 12" drivers for low mid (would start to beam at about 1.3khz, no?)
3. Vented bass and low-mid cabinets (guessing that the crossover freqs are well above the inherent tuning frequency in the "minimally tuned" design; why vent at all, or why that way?)

Some critiques I've read here that I had thoughts on:
1. This system was clearly designed to be 1) old school, and 2) excessively and visibly lavish. McIntosh amps probably have little business in this sort of application, but the target audience (myself included) thinks they're pretty cool and fit with the ethos. More practical choices abound... but that wasn't the point.
2. The system was a DIY-style project from the beginning. In one of the articles above Klett talks about franken-klipsches as the genesis of this. Fair to say the were trying to avoid the latest technology. When I think of vinyl DJ's (love it or hate it) I don't think of Void or L-Acoustics.

Final thought - I've tried twice to hear this system live, and been foiled both times, the latest being the NYC show last month that was postponed for... well, you know why. Would love to hear the thoughts of anyone who has seen/heard it!
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Old 22nd May 2020, 05:16 PM   #2
kevinahcc20 is offline kevinahcc20  United States
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I would expect it to sound slow...literally!
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Old 22nd May 2020, 09:51 PM   #3
conanski is offline conanski  Canada
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DeuceEx View Post
A few oddities I noted:
1. Crossover frequencies seem odd based on component choice (hi-mid horn upper and lower XO point in particular, as well as the low mid-hi mid point in general given the low mid is using 12" drivers)
2. 12" drivers for low mid (would start to beam at about 1.3khz, no?)
3. Vented bass and low-mid cabinets (guessing that the crossover freqs are well above the inherent tuning frequency in the "minimally tuned" design; why vent at all, or why that way?)
The main threads are old now.. I remember seeing threads on this system back then, and I didn't wade through all of them.. what crossover frequencies were used? I see in the later thread some 18" subs were added. I too question the use of 12" low/mids... like why bother with the massive 4" CD above them. I have my own stack with dual 15 low/mids crossing to a 2" exit B&C CD at 1khz with no issues at all, a little DSP EQ and time alignment and the results are "crisp" as my DJs like to describe the system. Subs are 18" reflex.

I also read that there is nothing in the speaker signal chain except the crossover and amps.. clearly a bit of the "EQ is BAD" audiofool thinking was involved here which clearly... I don't subscribe to because it's idiotic... but to each their own. Some restrained use a parametric EQ can be the difference between ho-hum and WOW.. and corrective EQ in the right places can even improve phase and impulse response so ruling it out "just because" is dumb... IMO.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DeuceEx View Post
Some critiques I've read here that I had thoughts on:
1. This system was clearly designed to be 1) old school, and 2) excessively and visibly lavish. McIntosh amps probably have little business in this sort of application, but the target audience (myself included) thinks they're pretty cool and fit with the ethos. More practical choices abound... but that wasn't the point.
The thing is... if you remove the amps what's left isn't much to look at. Any dance stack (which this is) based around horns looks infinitely more interesting, but personally I got no problem with that because for me it's all about the sound and I don't care what's powering a rig if it delivers the goods.


Quote:
Originally Posted by DeuceEx View Post
2. The system was a DIY-style project from the beginning. In one of the articles above Klett talks about franken-klipsches as the genesis of this. Fair to say the were trying to avoid the latest technology. When I think of vinyl DJ's (love it or hate it) I don't think of Void or L-Acoustics.
Reflex bins do sound good close up and that is how these are meant to be used.

Last edited by conanski; 22nd May 2020 at 10:03 PM.
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Old 23rd May 2020, 12:44 AM   #4
DeuceEx is offline DeuceEx  United States
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Quote:
Originally Posted by conanski View Post
The main threads are old now.. I remember seeing threads on this system back then, and I didn't wade through all of them.. what crossover frequencies were used? I see in the later thread some 18" subs were added. I too question the use of 12" low/mids... like why bother with the massive 4" CD above them. I have my own stack with dual 15 low/mids crossing to a 2" exit B&C CD at 1khz with no issues at all, a little DSP EQ and time alignment and the results are "crisp" as my DJs like to describe the system. Subs are 18" reflex.

I also read that there is nothing in the speaker signal chain except the crossover and amps.. clearly a bit of the "EQ is BAD" audiofool thinking was involved here which clearly... I don't subscribe to because it's idiotic... but to each their own. Some restrained use a parametric EQ can be the difference between ho-hum and WOW.. and corrective EQ in the right places can even improve phase and impulse response so ruling it out "just because" is dumb... IMO.
In one of the threads he describes a 'very very general house style EQ curve', so there must be something in there. Hard to imagine that system doesn't need an EQ in a vacuum, let alone in a range of different venues and configurations. Believe that comment was specifically about compression/dynamics - in one of the interviews the Dewaele brothers talk about how dynamic variations in certain tracks were met with applause...

Frequency ranges and driver sizes:

2x21" 'off the shelf' powered subwoofers: <100hz
2x2x15" vented bass cabs: 100-300hz
2x2x12" vented low-mid cabs: 300-2k hz
1x ""1.5" throat 4" compression driver on 90 x 50 horn"": 2k-10k hz
4x bullet tweeters (looks like they're splayed out both V&H): 10k+

Where I'm confused - and maybe it's because I don't see many 1.5" throat CD's - is how the 12" low mids are the better choice than the horn at 2khz. That horn should go far lower easily, and the 12" have to run out of gas comparatively at that range.


Quote:
Originally Posted by conanski View Post
The thing is... if you remove the amps what's left isn't much to look at. Any dance stack (which this is) based around horns looks infinitely more interesting, but personally I got no problem with that because for me it's all about the sound and I don't care what's powering a rig if it delivers the goods.
I love the raw lacquered wood look of this. That said, I agree... without the blue lamps and the dancing VU meters, it's pretty bland and comparable to any other 'soundsystem' sound system.
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Old 23rd May 2020, 12:49 AM   #5
DeuceEx is offline DeuceEx  United States
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kevinahcc20 View Post
I would expect it to sound slow...literally!
Agreed. For those not familiar, the whole concept is "slowly" (<120BPM, and mostly well below that) - hence the name. So the question is, what benefit of the design outweighs slowness for its application?
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Old 23rd May 2020, 02:46 AM   #6
conanski is offline conanski  Canada
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DeuceEx View Post
In one of the threads he describes a 'very very general house style EQ curve', so there must be something in there. Hard to imagine that system doesn't need an EQ in a vacuum, let alone in a range of different venues and configurations. Believe that comment was specifically about compression/dynamics - in one of the interviews the Dewaele brothers talk about how dynamic variations in certain tracks were met with applause...
Agreed, I have not met a passive rig that didn't need at least some correction, and no I don't use any dynamics control on recorded inputs because they are already overly compressed in many cases, but open mics are another story.
Quote:
Originally Posted by DeuceEx View Post
Frequency ranges and driver sizes:

2x21" 'off the shelf' powered subwoofers: <100hz
2x2x15" vented bass cabs: 100-300hz
2x2x12" vented low-mid cabs: 300-2k hz
1x ""1.5" throat 4" compression driver on 90 x 50 horn"": 2k-10k hz
4x bullet tweeters (looks like they're splayed out both V&H): 10k+

Where I'm confused - and maybe it's because I don't see many 1.5" throat CD's - is how the 12" low mids are the better choice than the horn at 2khz. That horn should go far lower easily, and the 12" have to run out of gas comparatively at that range.
Yep, I have some RCF 1.4" CDs here now.. they're only 2.5" voice coils but have no problem with a 1.2khz crossover. The 3" VC/2" exit B&Cs I have are crossed at 1khz again with absolutely no sign of strain.
The other crossover selections are puzzling too. The 2x15 cabs were originally the subs if I understand correctly, and that would mean those drivers are not well suited to low-mid duty so when they added the 21's(thought they were 18s) they moved the 15's to kick. OK. And I kinda get the stack of 12" mids, physically they might look more impressive to a certain clientele than a stack of 6" and dynamically those large diaphrams will impart more impact to the sound, but what's up with the 2khz crossover? You just know there is going to be a lot of beaming and comb filtering from the 12's at and above 2khz. And that massive CD is more than capable of a 800hz crossover so why aren't they using it that way? Maybe they found it had a bit too much bite crossed lower and erred on the side of smooth sound but that seems like a strange choice for a "spared no expense" kind of build where they could have any drivers they wanted.

Last edited by conanski; 23rd May 2020 at 02:49 AM.
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Old 23rd May 2020, 02:48 AM   #7
conanski is offline conanski  Canada
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DeuceEx View Post
Agreed. For those not familiar, the whole concept is "slowly" (<120BPM, and mostly well below that) - hence the name. So the question is, what benefit of the design outweighs slowness for its application?
I thought I knew what this was referring to but now you have confused me, what does track BPM have to do with speaker design?
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Old 23rd May 2020, 01:06 PM   #8
DeuceEx is offline DeuceEx  United States
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Originally Posted by conanski View Post
I thought I knew what this was referring to but now you have confused me, what does track BPM have to do with speaker design?
The intent was/is to play bass heavy downtempo disco edits, on vinyl, really loud. Therefore the system doesn't need to go super low, and volume/sensitivity/headroom was probably more important than response & accuracy given the need to set it up at different venues.

I think I just answered my own question
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Old 23rd May 2020, 02:48 PM   #9
chris661 is offline chris661  United Kingdom
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I do think they've done things more for the look than the sound.

Any way up, though, I don't see the logic behind 4x 12" mids, and only 2x 21" subwoofers.

I don't really get the reason behind splitting the LF range up so much, either - a good 21" cab can do 30-80Hz just fine.

If it was mine, I'd do:

4x 21": 30-80Hz
2x 15": 80-600Hz-ish
1x Coaxial compression driver - 600Hz upwards.

FIR processing to linearise above, say, 500Hz (IIR below to minimise latency), and off we go. Nice and simple.

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Old 23rd May 2020, 02:54 PM   #10
conanski is offline conanski  Canada
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Yet somewhere in there they claim it is "the best sound system ever" so these crossover choices seem out of sorts with that goal. With all the bands they have chopped the system into, the amount of amp power behind it and the fact they typically run it at 25% the system is overbuilt and none of the drivers are being pushed hard at all, that big comp driver in particular might only see 10-20w peak.
I bet I would like the sound this system generates particularly with some nice dynamic source material.. the type of stuff I grew up with, it would be a welcome change from the overly compressed junk we have today. But I also think they missed some opportunities with the design, the system is more complex than it needs to be and the crossovers aren't quite right so there is still room for improvement.
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