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LETTERS TO AN AUDIOPHILE - Batch # 2
[Continued from LETTERS to an AUDIOPHILE 'Home' page, WAJ on AUDIO writes emails to a reader. This is Batch # 2 of these 'letters.' There are many instances where I address issues raised by the reader (my friend) and though the latter's mails are mostly omitted, the issues will not be difficult to follow especially if the fore-going is taken into account.
In the following instance below, a discussion on Wharfedale's Gilbert Briggs and other hifi icons is continued before moving on to other issues....]
Obviously, you're a veritable repository on most things hifi, and all things Gilbert Briggs.
Thanks for all the info you just sent on the great man, and his work. I'm so sorry I can't reprint much of the info so as to pass it on, but here's a snippet I picked up from a source linked below: "Famous demonstrations involving Wharfedale loudspeakers with Quad and Leak amplification took place at London’s Festival Hall, and at Carnegie Hall. There, the audience had to decide if they were hearing live music from live musicians, or recorded music from the Wharfedale speakers.
These demonstrations cemented global recognition of Wharfedale as a manufacturer of outstanding loudspeaker systems. Gilbert Briggs also published a guide entitled ‘Loudspeakers: The Why and How of Good Reproduction’. It was a sensation, being reprinted numerous times and spreading Gilbert Briggs’ fame worldwide."
As you know similar demos were conducted by other hifi entities, such as RCA, Edison, and including the famous ones by Ed Villchur's Acoustic-Research. These were from an era where it was important for hifi gear to replicate the live sound - and many were very successful. But now this is not so important anymore as dishonest and incompetent entities and elements of the audio-press have since put imaging and minute detail-resolution as priority over the real purpose of high-fidelity. VMPS' demos in the early 2000s is the last time I heard of similar efforts.
Check out a few related links here: http://www.audioaffair.co.uk/blog/history-wharfedale-loudspeakers/
Look around you today, and tell me how many iconic figures are there who really genuinely care about hifi, and about where it's going? Who really cares about upholding high standards anymore? How many are there of the calibre of a Gilbert Briggs, a Henry Kloss, Ed Villchur, Saul Marantz, Paul W. Klipsch, Guy R. Fontain, Ronald Rackman, J. Gordon Holt (yep) Peter Walker, James B. Lansing, or so many others? How many of today's industry-players could claim to be able to even walk in these guys' shoes?
I was just wondering about that. That's all.
Re: Some Other Paragons
My short-list of paragons was by no means comprehensive. If this were so, then I could never have left out two of the greatest, who are also closest to my own situation.
It's funny that you should mention Tim De Paravicini. He's the designer/builder of my E.A.R. 834P phono-stage which outperforms many that cost much more, according to the reviews. It's a bargain, just shy of 2-grand, new. But the thing about it is this; the expensive units it outperforms are maxed-out with the more expensive and best parts (caps, resistors, etc). Yet the 834 equals or betters them using ordinary and much less expensive parts. Simply modifying the 834P with these premium caps, resistors, etc, elevates the level of performance even further past its expensive rivals. The man's a genius.
But Tim de Paravicini is most renowned for his design of studio-gear - he's the modern-day guru, as far as that's concerned (his hifi amps are also revered). However, the second great figure close to my own situation is Bill Putnam - also belonging firmly on any list of audio paragons. He's the founder of Universal Recording Electronics Industries, a.k.a. UREI, and designer of my long-standing favorite ss amp (also a part of my current system). He's the inventor of the studio-console, in its current form, I believe, and the designer of one of the most desired mixers in the DJ field - Bozak notwithstanding. In fact, almost every piece of equipment in the typical recording-studio owes either all or some aspect of its development to Bill Putnam: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Putnam
Bill Putnam is the original trail-blazer, Tim de Paravicini continues the tradition, in the same mold.
Ruddy Bozak is another notable omission. Like Henry Kloss and the likes of the Klangfilm, RCA, and Wester-Electric/Altec engineers/designers, Ruddy Bozak's obsession wiith achieving 'good tone' in his speaker/driver-designs is very-much appreciated by; you know who. No-way would I have excluded him from any comprehensive list of mine, regarding iconic figures in audio.
Oh, and the designers of my main tt and pre-amp, Ivor Tieffenbrun and William Z. Johnson, would both deserve mention since they're arguably almost single-handedly responsible for maintaining public interest in the turntable and tube, respectively
I'll leave it there, before I get too carried-away.
Re: More reading
Here's a link to a site with some real high-end stuff. Perhaps you should join them too - really. Though I'm sure that if you do, yours will be the best there. I'm sure you know that, while many h-e systems similar to yours may rival your system's quality in most aspects, only a very few systems in this world can claim parity with yours, regarding bass-reproduction. In that regard, yours is head and shoulders above most others - I'm sure. http://www.cpskal.gr/pop_simop.htm
There's a guy at the site linked below (can't find him now) He built two bass-horns on his roof (they seem to be at least 40' in length - sorry - height) firing thru his ceiling. There are one or two others who built bass horns of similar length in their yards, blowing out a wall or two to accommodate the mouths of these humongous horns in the listening-rooms. Perhaps these guys' systems could compare to yours. Not many others. (Tho Mr. Doppler may have some relevance, here). http://www.audiovoice-acoustics.com/forum/showthread.php?t=168
Have you any more pics of the system? Especially full-length pics of that sub, in situ. Obviously I'm still in awe of an outstanding system. Heartiest congrats on your achievement. Sincerely!.
Well, that Harry Olson was really something-else. He loosely copied Altec's A-7, I believe - so well that some claimed his version, the LC-9, was better. Yet, when Ed Villchur claimed to have invented acoustic-suspension, Harry/RCA sued him, claiming authorship of the concept, on paper - tho he/RCA never ever even attempted to build a working model. In any case, his claim was dubious, to say the least, tho poor A-R opted not to contest it. OK, so Harry only worked for RCA, but I see the whole affair no less hypocritical, and convoluted.
.Re; The outstanding RCA LC-9 in the picture below:
Topics discussed in the 'letters' of BATCH # 2:
*Some other paragons
* More reading - Exotic Cables & Live vs Recorded Demos
*Next missive - Birth of current WAJ on AUDIO ref system
*Describing some components of WAJ on AUDIO ref system
*How to be an idiot 2 - Speakers
*Amps & Speakers
*Of Grados & super-tweeters, etc, etc.
*More on super-tweets
*Mids thru large cones. And mids thru too-large cones
*Tannoys, Altecs, Digital Music Servers, and other issues.
More reading - Exotic Cables & Live vs Recorded Demos
I confess. My interconnects are pretty-nifty - mostly from Wire-World and Monster-Cable. Speaker-wire lengths are like small garden-hoses, and from Esoteric-Audio.
Perhaps I should be the last one to advise people not to buy expensive inter-connects and cables. But the truth is, I never deliberately sought to buy these. They came automatically as part of a deal. - didn't even know they were part of the deal.
But, do they make a difference? I confess, again - not really. Sure there may be very minor differences. But I would never tell anyone that these very minor changes are worth anything much - if at all - I wouldn't say it's better. And I've gone out of my way to compare these premium inter-cons and cable with the cheapest of sh-- I could get my hands on. Not much difference of any significant consequence.
While in the process of designing a reader's system recently, I was asked what premium cables I'd recommend. I advised the gentleman to concentrate on getting the very-best equipment for the money. I went further to suggest that it's much better to acquire the best equipment, even if he had to use Rat-Shack cables, initially. As far as I was concerned, he could always run out and buy such cables after I'd secured the best equipment (I saw where he was determined to ride the cable-bandwagon) but he certainly wasn't going to do so with any help from me, and not at the cost of the really worthwhile gear. I simply can't bring myself to recommend what I don't believe in, regardless of how popular and in-fashion the item may be.
My opinion on tweaks is quite similar. As I mentioned not too long ago, apart from a few, like speaker-spikes in certain circumstances, many tweaks are worthless. Perhaps I'm old-fashioned.
However, I thank you for the literature corroborating my stance on these issues. I'd felt like a lone-wolf on this one, as I do on several points in hifi, but such articles as these help to strengthen my resolve - I'm encouraged. Still, I really can't understand why it is that so many intelligent people are so prone to what amounts to superstitious beliefs, and the panacea-effect - not to mention; sheer stupidity. What a monumental waste of money?
Oh, and thanks for that full-length pic of your sub-woofer. It's now linked by the appropriate word in your review - 'extreme'. Nice write-up too. And TNT is a great resource to utilize in exposing it to many readers, their readership is a lot greater than that of little WAJ on AUDIO, which only started relatively recently. This is also why I was encouraging you to also display this system on that site I linked to, or similar, in my previous e-mail.
Your system is inspirational, and I think it should be shared with as many people as possible. If nothing-else, it serves to counter the dishonest arguments of those nay-sayers who claim hifi will never be really close to the live sound. This is why I spent so much effort in my preamble, seeking to refute this notion. I appreciate your mention of comparisons with live instruments, in assessing your system - obviously most people don't even consider such things anymore. And I'm grateful to you for the reminder regarding those LvR demos of Gilbert Briggs, et al - nothing could have illustrated the point any better (in refuting misinformation) than the facts of those widely-publicized demos - awesome.
Next missive - Birth of current WAJ on AUDIO ref system
I note, with interest, your similar views on cables. Though, given your use of high-quality silver-wire, this comes as a mild surprise. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised for this reason, though, since I also use some fairly nifty wire myself, even as I question the necessity of such extravagance. Enough said on that, I suppose.
You also mentioned; "I seem to have missed your mail with a description of your setup. Or not yet found it on your site. Will try harder!!!"
Here's a direct link to the article which best describes my system, and its sound, though changes have been made since then; http://wajonaudio.webs.com/systembuiding-for-lifelike-sound-my-system-by-waj.htm
Pictures of the system are here; http://wajonaudio.webs.com/apps/photos/album?albumid=13058663
That is the article which actually started WAJ on AUDIO, since somewhere around the first 10 articles started life as a part of that mega-essay - actually written long ago. I'd been brimming with elation, for a number of years, regarding how close the system now sounded to an acoustic 30-piece band that frequently played in the open-air next-door. (This band/orchestra had/has always been my reference-source. It's also the reason I was so frustrated with the incompetence of my 'highly-rated' Spendor system, previously). That immense joy actually stemmed from the satisfaction I now experienced whenever I compared my system to those instruments next-door. And my road to where the system is now actually appeared when I bought a cheap and incomplete pair of KLH speakers.
Perhaps I should explain this point a little further.
The fault I found with the Spendor (and most modern speakers) in comparisons with the live sound, is (a) a lack of realistic dynamism and (b) a paucity of realistic tone and tonal weight. I also found that pro-sound systems, including my own, were prone to exhibiting much more realistic dynamism. And though many such systems also displayed somewhat more realistic tonal weight, most didn't sound quite right - crude, amongst other things. The best I heard were not really pro-sound systems; Tannoy and Klipschorn. I was also familiar with Altec, from a distance, and closer to home since 12" 417s (not their best for hifi) were a part of my own pro-sound system - very loud/efficient but....
Long story short, I embarked on a quest to find Klipschorns, come hell or highwater. I didn't! (I eventually I found a damaged Model 19, but that's another story). This is about when a friend sold me a pair of cheap KLH 7500s (post Henry Kloss) with one of the 12" mid-woofers missing. The original intent was that this was for a secondary system but, out of curiosity, I hooked it up to the main system. This was encouraging, so I decided to keep it there as a reference while I tried to find another brand of driver with similar tone (of which I could obtain a pair to replace the cheap KLH).
And this is how I've come to realize that very few drivers display realistic tone today. Countless drivers were tried (bought, begged, or borrowed) none could match the tone of that single KLH 12. Why was it so important for me to match it? Well, that's because that cheap KLH was the one that came closest to the tone and tonal weight of those instruments next-door. Not even the 18" Goodmans, of those I'd already owned, came close. Others weren't even as 'close' as that, with even 15" drivers lacking the tonal weight of the KLH.
Bear in mind that I was using a passive pre-amp set-up, at the time.(I've since discovered that these, themselves, also lack tonal weight). Therefore, the difference I speak of is really very subtle, at this stage. At this stage, the KLH only very slightly hinted at things to come. Then came my purchase of an active ARC LS-3 - magic. Now the lower-mids, previously restricted by the passive pre-amp mode, was now unleashed. It was only now that the full lower-mids attributes of that single KLH 12 were made much more apparent. It was now that the KLH resembled the tone and weight of the live instruments even more - further distancing itself from the others I'd tried.
Still I wanted something that was just as good, but with more 'prestige'. And voila, a pair of JBL 4430 studio-monitors were advertised, locally. Perfect. Now this would be goodbye to that cheap KLH (not too bad, since no Klipschorn had yet turned up). The seller had agreed to bring the JBLs over, and confidently agreed to a sale based on the outcome of an A/B comparison with what I already had. He was even more confident when I told him the comparison would be against a cheap KLH (Spendor had been long discarded - damaged by the sun, in the back of my car - no regrets, really)
Most would find it difficult to believe the rest, but I'll say it anyway. The single KLH was hooked-up to one channel, and one of the JBLs connected to the other. After level-matching by ear (the single KLH is 91db/w/m, btw) we spent a fair amount of time switching between both. This was un-necessary, really, since the winner was apparent from the very first round. Oh yeah, the LS-3 does have a 'pure' passive pre-amp mode, and both speakers sounded similarly 'neutral' here - scarcely a difference between the two, except for the JBL's better treble (KLH was still equipped with its cheap Boston-Bland tweeter, up to then). However, on switching to the active mode, the JBL was left in the dust, it could not approach the superior tone and tonal weight of the cheap KLH, which had already proven itself, in direct comparisons, to be very near to the characteristics of live instruments. The difference between the JBL and the cheap KLH was significant, really significant - no, really, really, significant.
After that test, I decided to live with the cheap KLH. I bought two more pairs on e-bay, double-stacked two pairs (now the tone/tonal-weight almost perfectly resembles the real thing) and extensively modified the thing for improvement in other aspects. The doubling of 91db/w speakers would bring the efficiency-rating to 94db/w and, I figure, this combination along with a crossover-less 7" driver from a Yamaha NS 10 studio-monitor, adds another 1db for a total of around 95db/w/m efficiency. This combination gives me the previously missing tone/tonal-weight and much of the dynamism of live music. It's now a pleasure to 'A/B' between my system and that live band/orchestra nextdoor. Previously with the Spendor this would bring pure frustration and disappointment. I'm happy, now!
Oh, perhaps I should explain the reason for the NS-10's 7" driver, and even the extended purpose of my sub-woofer.
That cheap 12" KLH may be as good or better at the lower-mids than almost any driver I can think of - I'm certain of that. But I'm also certain that that's the ONLY area it's really good at - middle-mids aren't great and bass is OK, but the leading-edge of mid-bass is atrocious, and mid-bass tone isn't great either (similar to the Spendor in these aspects).
The NS-10 driver is excellent in almost every area in which the KLH is mediocre (and vise verse) they complement each other. The details may be gleaned from the relevant article but, suffice it to say, especially since no x-over is used on the 7"er, the leading edges at mid-bass are as sharp as (or really sharper than) than that of the typical mini-monitor. Similarly the tone of the NS-10's mid-bass more accurately resembles that of real instruments (a kick-drum, for instance) and better matches the tone of the Goodmans sub-woofers. Therefore, upper-bass/upper-midbass is dominated by the NS-10 drivers, and mid-bass to low-bass is dominated by the 18" Goodmans.
The transient quickness of the small driver, and the sledge-hammer power of the large (18s) are both combined to better represent the characteristics of the real thing, better than either type of driver by itself, in my experience. Suffice it to say; I'm no longer looking-out for Klipschorn.
Finally, the relevant article still expounds on my use of the Altec compression-driver without its matching horn (a smaller horn was also once adapted since I felt the 811 was too colored - further tests and mods have changed my opinion, tho). Yep, I'm proud to declare that the 802/811 Altec combo is an integral part of my DIY speaker-system (augmented by Philips tweeters utilized as super-tweeters, in this application). I've previously hinted at this in the article entitled; 'The Ultimate Speakers Are Within Reach'. However, I'm overdue a system-update since, obviously, a few things have changed since those articles were written.
That's it, basically.
WAJ on AUDIO ref system. (Subs are the black monstrosities glimpsed behind the towers)..
Describing some components of WAJ on AUDIO ref system
I saw your article about your record-cleaner - nice piece.
I'm also happy to know our correspondence inspired renewed success in your experiments, regarding those ribbons.
However, I'm surprised by your comments, here; "I read all you have on your system and I hate to say this but not one of your components bar the turntables are familiar to me. I know of the good reputation Kef has and your Goodmans must, almost by definition, be excellent but otherwise I am a bit flummoxed. Notice I kept my trap shut about Revox!"
That's strange, since several of my components are household names - literally. More so, coming from someone as knowledgeable as you are, about hifi. You hint that you know Linn, Thorens, and Goodmans. But I'm shocked that you'd imply ignorance concerning the likes of the following:
Audio-Research Corporation; This is the company (along with its founder, W.Z. Johnson) most tube-lovers credit with saving tube-components from the junk-pile of history. You say you're mostly into horns and tubes, and I'm sure you are. But for a tube-lover to be ignorant of Audio-Research is perhaps the equivalent of a Buddhist being ignorant of Buddha - it's similar to a christian being ignorant of one J. Christ. LOL (The LS-3 is perhaps ARC's best ever ss pre-amp, by the way, highly recommended by several mags - 'Class A', for what it's worth, at Stereophile - and despite its reasonable cost).
E.A.R.; You're the one who suggested, "For your hall of fame perhaps Tim de Paravacini? http://www.ear-yoshino.com/tim_bio.html." And just as your own link indicates, de Paravacini is the founder of E.A.R. (Esoteric Audio Research). Obviously you know this. And the E.A.R. 834P (similar to my own) is arguably the product most commonly associated with E.A.R. and Tim de Paravacini - literally synonymous with his name. As an audiophile who's aware of the gentleman, it's difficult to fathom how you'd not have known this. Anyway.....
KLH; This was one of the companies formed by the very famous, Henry Kloss (in partnership). Others were Advent, Acoustic-Research, and Cambridge SoundWorks. We all know this, I'm sure. Leaving Cambridge aside, accomplished in its own right, all Kloss' previous designs are still world-acclaimed for their realism - due, mainly, to his reputedly obsessive dedication to the accomplishment of "good tone" (i.e. the currently-neglected low-mids accuracy, especially) in his designs. Henry Kloss is arguably single-handedly responsible for the famous/infamous 'Boston-Bland' or 'New-England' sound, which features an uncanny resemblance to the live sound (as Ed Villchur's LvR demos have proved) despite an obvious reticence in the treble-region. All Kloss' designs featured this similarity with the live sound, and the companies he was associated with featured this trait in their products even after his departure - or, at least, shortly there-after. The most obvious of these being Acoustic-Research (re; AR-3, etc). [And, based on my own experience, I'd suggest that the cheap speakers KLH produced immediately after Kloss' departure also featured the most valuable of the Kloss/Boston-Bland traits; realistic lower-midrange heft & detail (though mods are required for excellence at other traits). My choice of highly-modified versions of these KLH cheapos over JBL and other highly-rated examples may, or may not, serve as an indicator of its, albeit, little-known potential.] Nevertheless, it does feel strange to be explaining Kloss & KLH to a seasoned audiophile. LOL.
Yamaha NS-10; This is THE most popular, most successful, near-field studio-monitor in the history of the recording industry. This little white-coned speaker is hard to miss, it's featured in many, many music-videos which highlight the control-rooms of certain studios - even with classical music. (Ironically, one of its most unloved traits - a sharp, flat, 'cardboardy', mid-bass - is, in fact, its most accurate, if also unusual. Superior, in this regard, to the softer and seemingly more tuneful, bouncy, 'pretty', well-liked mid-bass of most popular speakers). Perhaps 75% of recordings made within the past 20 years, or so, were monitored at some stage on the Yamaha NS-10 - winner of a one-of-a-kind Grammy-Award, for its unique accomplishments. Most of us are familiar with this little white-coned icon, even if some of us don't know its full name.
Grado; It's difficult to imagine an audiophile who's not aware of Grado. Especially for users of moving-coil phono cartridges, as you are, it's common knowledge that Joe Grado was the inventor of the moving-coil - though his company shuns this type, for quality-reasons.
Altec 811 mid/tweeter horn; Perhaps you may have missed it, but this is the very same horn you used for many years with your Goodmans rig, if I understand you correctly. And you're not familiar?
Considering all the above, this statement seems difficult to reconcile; "I hate to say this but not one of your components bar the turntables are familiar to me."
UREI; Since this is mostly a studio-oriented amp (and brand) it'd be understandable if an audiophile pleads ignorance in reference to it, generally. However, in our very recent discussion of audio-icons I'd mentioned UREI and its founder, Bill Putnam, with relevant references/links. Considering, also, your interest in recording, and your understandable familiarity with Tim de Paravacini, in this context, one would have expected a similar familiarity with UREI and Bill Putnam - especially since UREI and its founder were the trail-blazers in the field. By the way, in certain quarters of the audiophile community, these amps are rated as 'audiophile quality'. One of my own very-experienced readers rates it as one of the best amps around - better than certain models of Krell and Levinson he'd also owned, amongst others, for whatever that's worth. http://wajonaudio.webs.com/%27Cheap%27%20UREI%20&%20QUAD%20Amps%20Better%20Than%20KRELL%20&%20LEVINSON.html
ReVox; I'll leave it there - except for your comment, here; "..Notice I kept my trap shut about Revox!" Ever since you related your experiences with such machines, I've been searching for evidence to substantiate your general allegations. And, aside from the extremely rare negative comment, like yours (which we'll always find for any product) the overwhelming-majority of people's experience with ReVox have been purely positive - like mine. Based on its stellar reputation, and on my experience with it, I consider ReVox to be one of the very best machines of its type, as its well-earned reputation suggests - and with all due respect to you.
Anyway, for the next couple of weeks, I'll be away in the country. I regret to say I may be away from a computer (and civilization) and unable to communicate with you. Nevertheless, I must say that correspondence with you has been interesting, for the most part. And I must thank you, once again, for sharing your awesome system with my readers.
All the best to you and yours.
Re: How to be an idiot 2 - Speakers
I saw your latest e-mail as I was sending-off my own, previous to this.
When you aired your views on recordings and the antics of engineers, days ago, I'd automatically assumed that you'd already read my own views on the subject. This is, especially, since your thoughts on several of the related issues mirror mine, exactly. Naturally, I'd assumed that you highlighted these issues to indicate your agreement with the points I'd already made in my article. Surely, you'll understand how scary it is for me now to learn that you've only just-now discovered my article on the subject.
I repeat; this is absolutely scary!
Speakers: OK, though I like both Tannoy and Altec, I'd gravitate more towards Altec. This is mainly because it seems to me that though both may be tuned to display similar traits in my favorite region (the lower-mids) apparently more effort is required (with more assistance from a tubed amp, for instance) in order to access those lower-mids with Tannoy. I could be wrong, but to me it seems the Altecs (416, 604, 414, 515) are more naturally inclined to deliver those low-mids, more so than JBL, Goodmans, and Eminence to name only a few among most, today. I wondered what your take on this issue would be. I wondered, for example, whether you discern a difference, at low-mids, between your 300Bs and your semi-digital amp, and as to which amp sounds more realistic in this particular range. On a wider scale, I wondered what your experience may have been with regard to the differences between amps, generally, in the said range. And I also wondered whether you may have discerned a difference, at the said low-midrange, between passive and active pre-amps,
Concerning your thoughts on Tannoy-shortcomings, we all know that no driver, speaker, amp, or anything in this world, is perfect. The fact still remains, regardless of the faults of various iterations, Tannoy drivers are among the least imperfect of drivers in existence, generally speaking, and all things considered. Its record, reputation, and performance, are all testament to this.
Spendor and its plastic cone? Perhaps later. (Oops - maybe bextrene is the more politically-correct term - sorry). But this plastic is what led to its demise, in the back of my car - the sun melted and warped the plastic cone, goo and all. One thing about that BC1, though, it had the ability to make almost any other speaker sound colored. Even with its own shortcomings, one listening-session with a BC1 spoils the listener for almost everything else that doesn't match the Spendor's level of 'uncolored neutrality', and only a handful really did - this was a truly amazing speaker (despite my frustrations with it in LvR comparisons). In fact, I'm sure their 12"-equipped SP100 will have been built to similar standards and, because of this, I'm sure a double-stacked pair of these should be awesome and outstandingly realistic in low-mids tone and detail (lagging only in dynamism, perhaps). I'd really love to hear a double-stacked pair (though I doubt it could challenge my current rig, overall - seriously).
Amps & Speakers
I'm happy to report that I've safely returned from the 'wilderness'. (Truth be told, I kinda enjoyed my stay, in some ways). However, I'm quite sure I'm not cut-out for too much of that - I'm really no 'Nature-Boy'. Furthermore, I really missed my music, among other things.
OK, I see you've raised a few diverse issues since I've been away, so I'll try to address some of them in this and in subsequent e-mails to you.
First-off; that rendition of Bach's music was fascinating. I think it actually sounds damned good, especially considering that only a bunch of glasses are being used to such great effect. Perhaps my judgement has been clouded by the fact that that piece of music is another of my classical favorites (though I'd be hard-pressed to remember the name).
The amp you cited is also interesting. I don't doubt that it's outstanding. Perhaps I should also mention that I'm especially fascinated by the ancient relics which outperform modern gear. Up until recently, I was on a quest to find an example of an old tubed Ampex amp from a stereo-console. Renewed respect/demand has now pushed the price to over US$1300, in some instances (add the cost of refurbishing to that). The reason for the hike in price/demand is that this amp is reported to be better than the very-good Manley Neo / Retros, which cost over 7-grand. Also on my radar was an example of Quad's ss 520 or 510 amps, alleged by a few to be among the world's best amps (tubed or ss). However, my local search for these has been put on hold since a response to a 'want-ad' I placed for all these has produced a Magnavox 93-Series console amp (I'm taking it to my techie on the morrow, for assessment, etc). The claims some have made for this relatively newly-discovered piece of antiquity are incredible. Depending on when it's ready, I'll let you know whether the outrageous claims for it are true - hard to believe since it costs next-to-nothing at the moment. In reading my articles you'll be aware that I'm quite happy with my main amp; UREI 6150 (also a little-known giant-killer). However, from various descriptions of its sound, the Magnavox seems to be the one most likely to render the elusive and uncommon realism I mentioned regarding that Philips TV of my youth - the sound I've never heard replicated by any amp, to this day. Wish me luck.
Regarding those speakers you auditioned, I sometimes wonder if I'm the only one who writes-off small-coned speakers, based on the fact of their small cones and their inherent limitations. I'm sure some would suggest it's unfair to discard any of these I haven't heard. But, tell me if I know from experience that a pint-glass cannot hold a quart of beer, do I really need to sample every pint-glass in existence to confirm what I've long discovered? Truth is; the small-coned speaker is as inept at realistic reproduction as is the pint-glass at accommodating a quart of beer - these are facts of life. If I were you, I wouldn't even have bothered with that audition. Hopefully, you enjoyed the drive to, and from, said audition, at least.
I'll leave it there, for the moment.
Bear with me, I'll try to address some of the other issues as we go along.
Of Grados & super-tweeters, etc, etc.
Thanks. It's great to be out of the bush. Though, as I'd said, that scene does have its own limited attractions - nice place to visit, but.....
I believe you mentioned something about 'encyclopedic knowledge' of equipment, etc. Who, me? Not at all. Like you, and many other audiophiles who endeavour to know at least a few things about the discipline, I'm just another hifi-nut who's learned a few things along the way. Sure I may be a little more versed in one or two areas, but I'm also sure you're much more versed in others; classical music, for example. Pretty-much the same scenario repeats itself whenever and where-ever audiophiles meet to 'shoot the breeze'. Of course, this is indeed a healthy situation since, except for those of us who're bone-headed and close-minded, we all stand to benefit from the experiences of others, even as we share our own.
And now... oh-my-Gosh... it seems I've finally put my foot in my mouth. Did those speakers belong to your good friend? How could I have been so insensitive? Don't get me wrong, I'm firm in my convictions regarding small-coned speakers, but then perhaps I should've exercised a tad more tact in expressing my opinions, under the circumstances. I apologize if I came over a little abrasively, on the subject.
Nice to know your friend also finds my ramblings at WAJ on AUDIO somewhat tolerable. It's also interesting that he opines that his system may be lacking in 'warmth' after contemplating the issue in comparison with his recent memory of the tonal-characteristics of the instruments at a live concert. This is in absolute accordance with my oft-repeated point about most modern speakers: Unlike the best of the previous era; RCA, Acoustic-Research, Wharfedale, KLH, Advent, Tannoy, Altec, etc, etc, most modern speakers absolutely fail to resemble the live sound, when conscientiously compared. (Trouble is; most do not indulge in such comparisons anymore, including manufacturers and reviewers, let alone consumers). I don't mind repeating; compared to live music, modern speakers feature a falsely thin midrange (severely lacking in realistic tone) a paucity of realistic dynamics, and an excess in trebles. (The latter is exacerbated with the use of some M-C cartridges, which are acknowledged to exaggerate the trebles - a fact erroneously appreciated by fans of this trait, even as they fail to realize this feature is unlike the live sound).
This bring us nicely around to the issues you raised about super-tweeters, and the wood-bodied Grado cartridges.
First; the Grado: There are four main models at the top of that line. (There are also low-output and high-output versions of each model, btw). The Platinum you auditioned is the cheapest, and least accomplished. This is not an excuse, I simply state the fact. Even so, with gear conducive to displaying the Grado-strengths, the Platinum would also have hinted at its appeal - i.e. its similarity to the live sound - believe it or not. The irony is that it's not well-liked because it's as un-spectacular as real music is, most times - no outstandingly prominent 'airy' high-frequencies here, especially from the Platinum. Do you remember how 'Boston-Bland' was reviled by many? (This is what cleared the way for the 'British-Invasion', world-wide, with regard to the introduction of the lighter, brighter sound - introduced by my own Spendor BC-1, I believe, and further established with the popularity, and copying, of the LS3/5A, unfortunately. Both were excellent in their limited scope, btw, but should not have been so universally copied, in my opinion). History, and live-vs recorded demos, have proven 'Boston-Bland' to be more closely representative of the characteristics of live music. (Modern speakers emulating the 'British-Sound' are today distinguished by their deviation from the live sound - some misguided souls even claim this sound superior to the real thing; pathetic).
The top Grados could be seen as the phono-cartridge equivalent of the realistically accomplished 'Boston-Bland' Acoustic-Research, for instance. Like the Boston-Bland speakers, their main sonic-features are (a) a not too prominent treble, and (b) full and realistically robust lower-mids (realistic TONE, in other words). More than any other cartridge, Koetsus and Grados are renowned for this realistic mid/lower-midrange TONE. No other cartridge, not even the most expensive, can approach these in this area. And if we recognize that the midrange is THE most important region of the audio-spectrum, by far, then we'll also recognize how superior a cartridge which excels in this area really is. Such a cartridge is best at the region which constitutes approximately 90% of the sounds of nature and music.
However, if such a cartridge is demonstrated in a system which, for whatever reason (speakers, for instance) is unable to convey the Grado's mid/lower-midrange superiority/realism, then all we'll be privy to are the Platinum's reticent trebles (neither will it be particularly outstanding in perceived dynamism).
A failing grade is virtually guaranteed, in such a scenario. This leads me to wonder whether the Grado was tested in the same system your friend Alan now recognizes to be somewhat lacking in 'warmth', compared to the live sound - or one similar. (This would be like testing a rally-car on a Formula 1 race-track, or a Formula 1 race-car on a rough rally-course thru the forest. Or we could liken it to attempting to carry water in a basket. Not a great idea).
.OK, on now to the matter of super-tweeters.
First, let me declare that I do use pseudo super-tweeters (I also use some serious subs capable of loosening dental fillings, etc - not as 'serious' as yours, tho). Nevertheless, I also believe that bass and treble are relatively MINOR players in the quest for realism - i.e. once a minimum level of competence in these areas have been acquired. i.e. RELATIVELY. By far the MOST important region of the spectrum is the midrange.
Furthermore, I believe that treble, especially, is the region of reproduction that most highlights the reproduction as a reproduction - i.e. not more closely resembling the real thing. (In fact, bass is a similar liability in many systems, for different reasons - but let's stick to treble, for now).
The irony with treble is that, while many audiophiles crave oodles of high frequencies, the trebles of live music are rarely as prominent as many highly-rated high-end speakers and M-C cartridges depict this range. And the further away from the stage we are, at a live performance, the less of these trebles are apparent in terms of prominence.
I rationalize my stance on this subject in this manner: If attempting to reproduce trebles in the manner apparent only very close to the stage, at a live performance, results in exaggerated levels of 'falseness' betraying the fact of the reproduction (poorly done) then perhaps it is better to aim at replicating the performance as it would have been perceived from a distant-perspective - with its diminished levels of trebles, though no less 'sweet'. (Perhaps this is another reason why I respect Grados like my own Sonata, which seem to portray trebles at about 1 or 2db below midrange levels - though, also, no less 'sweet', with the better and the best of them).
I'll leave that there.
However, I suspect you were seeking a response more along the lines of whether another crossover-point is justified, in accommodating a super-tweeter . (Not to mention another source taking away from the ideal; 'point-source'). The 'perfectionists' would argue to the contrary. But the fact is that no speaker is 'perfect' - and certainly not those of the 'perfectionists'. Therefore, until a truly perfect route is found, I believe all reasonable approaches are valid. If a super-tweeter provides real benefits in a particular system, then it should be implemented, despite any theoretical argument to the contrary, especially if such arguments aren't substantiated by tangible and incontrovertible evidence as to their veracity and relevance. (Pure theory means nothing without proof of benefits - if this were not so then we'd all be using cheaper passive pre-amps, for instance; theoretically 'perfect', but woefully lacking).
I'd certainly like to hear your own take on this issue, and/or any other you'd care to expand on. Like the Grado-issue, we definitely will not be agreeing on everything. And why should anyone want to do so? Isn't diversity/variety the spice of life?
You also said; "Your website is proving to be one of those things one has to read and reread...". Coming from one as knowledgeable as you, I take that as one of the highest forms of compliment possible. I'm not sure I deserve it, but I sincerely thank you for the sentiment, nonetheless.
I'll leave it there, for now.
More on super-tweets
Ahaa! Wladyslaw Szpilman. Listening to him as I write. Thanks for sending.
You'd alluded to the quality of the recording (or lack there-of). And I have to concur; it doesn't even warrant a discussion on quality, per se. Let's just say this is nowhere near the better piano-recordings, and leave it at that. For starters, it fails to properly portray the 'body' of the instrument's tone, etc. Nevertheless, I enjoy and appreciate this modest addition to my 'collection'. Perhaps this is partly due to the fascination at the marvels of modern technology. The fact that a friend (and I do recognize you as a friend) could send a piece of music from half-way across the world for it to be enjoyed by another, within an instant of the sending - such things never cease to amaze me.
Also, you mentioned; "I was and am serious about sending you some CD’s and do not expect you to reciprocate,..."
And, contrary to my prior reservations, I accept the kind offer since you've asserted that it's really not much of a bother for you (which was my main concern in hesitating). Based on that, I'll gladly accept, absolutely. Oh, and to address your point about reciprocating, I really never thought of that, perhaps, since I know that many aficionados of the classics eschew other types of music. And, especially since you've never mentioned other genres, one would've assumed (rightly or wrongly) that you harbored little more than a passing interest in other genres - if at that. [Bear with me as I'm basically indulging in retrospective speculation ('retrospeculation?' - LOL) as to why reciprocity never even occurred to me.]
I find myself in accord with your modus-operandi, here; "...No problem though as I had said the same thing to him before they arrived and after explaining that unless the mids were right along with the dynamics any system is wimpy, issued the stirrer with an invitation to come and listen to my system and judge. He, along with the others duly made the trek and were suitably depressed. I can’t abide stirrers. Speaking the truth however is always appreciated."
I'm in total agreement that whatever one says, in another person's absence, one should be man-enough to say the same in the person's presence - ideally before said utterance in said person's absence. (Only tact should perhaps have a bearing on the wording. But the gist will have been the same). By "stirrer", I'm assuming you mean those meddling instigating types who like to 'stir-up' mischief. Am I right? I absolutely hate those types, and try to avoid them as much as I can. Over the years I've cut-back on my cadre ('inventory') of friends since so many people in this world display exactly that, or similarly-obnoxious, behaviour. I've always wondered what would motivate people to do such things. Anyway - 'to each, his own'.
OK, so let's talk some more about treble, and super-tweets:
You rightly alluded to some instruments with reach into the lower-trebles as you asserted that such frequencies are unlikely to diminish much, at reasonable distance, in relation to other frequencies. (Obviously, I've taken the liberty of simplifying your sentiments, for my own understanding). Nevertheless, I'm in total agreement. Instrumental tones in the lower-treble would be just as intense as the mids, for instance, at least to our ears, and within the confines of the performance-arena, regardless of distance. My point about diminishing trebles at distance referred to those very-high treble-frequencies which would be handled by my idea of a bona-fide super-tweeter - let's say; above 12khz, in my estimation - i.e. the issue we were discussing. It's a well-known fact that such very-high frequencies are easily prone to absorption even by the bodies of the members of the audience and, perhaps, the very atmosphere, if I'm not mistaken.
Regarding your point, here; "...When we got to the subject of super tweeters and why they should work even though we can’t hear most of their output a somewhat bored and by now condescending organ builder asked (in Dutch) if we had not heard of harmonics..."
I see where you're headed, I agree totally. And to that I'd add transients. Elements in the creation of even the deepest tones of the bass-guitar, for instance, also display high-frequency components derived from the initial plucking of the string. (I'll leave the analysis of organ tones to you). But the same, or similar, applies to several other instruments including bass-drums where a lot of the components comprising the initial strike of the mallet are conveyed thru the tweeter/super-tweeter of the reproducing audio-system.
However, in so far as the alleged benefits of ultra-sonic reproduction are concerned, this remains a 'grey-area' for me as I've not taken the trouble of ascribing a definitive opinion on the matter. My previous rant on the issue indicates that I'm disinclined to ascribe much importance to such reproduction. Nevertheless, some of the arguments (including some you've presented) do display a measure of merit. I'm still on the fence here, though.
We also need to establish what a super-tweeter really is as there seems to be 'different strokes for different folks'. There are some who slope the response of their mid/hi horns at around 5 or 6khz, for instance, to facilitate the addition of another tweeter for the rest of the spectrum. This they call a super-tweeter. No problem, that's their view, and I'm willing to accept that. But I tend to consider a super-tweeter as one which operates above 10 or 12khz, for example, and perhaps augmenting the main system.
Perhaps. But we'd need to establish such parameters before we contemplate this guy, for instance: "An example springs to mind of a chap who had destroyed his hearing above 10 kHz through years of hunting with a high powered rifle but even he was able to detect the removal of the super tweeter from his system"
If that guy's system is similar to the 5khz system illustrated above, then he'd certainly be missing the frequencies above that x-over point since the system slopes to relative inaudibility from 5khz, still well-within the scope of his hearing-ability.
By the way, sad thing about that Pistorius-affair, isn't it? On both sides.
Re; Mids thru large cones. And mids thru too-large cones
You mentioned; "Whilst on the subject of mids through large cones the Tannoy has a very high crossover to the HF pressure unit so most of the mid range is produced through the main cone. By the way the Tannoy cone has a shape that differs from the norm. Do you know off hand if the Altec has a straight conical shape. If you haven't already seen this: http://www.44bx.com/tannoy/history.html for more on the Dual Concentric."!
Before addressing your question on the Altecs, I must say that, in reading your linked article, I'm reminded of several reasons why I like Tannoys (though Altecs are very slightly more appealing to me, for their tone and somewhat higher efficiency, generally). Perhaps I should mention that; were it not for the fact that I accidentally stumbled upon a scheme which easily affords somewhat more realistic tone than even that of the Altecs, along with more transient alacrity at upper-bass & upper-midbass, then I too would've been using either Altecs or Tannoys (Oh yeah, Klipschorns also once factored in my contemplations, along the way).
But my scheme is complex. This was born from basing the system on a driver which is absolutely outstanding in only ONE area - low-mids (the very best I've ever heard). However, since other areas of its performance was only average, other drivers were necessary to uplift the rest of the spectrum to the level of the lower-mids - hence; the apparent complexity. The end-result is a level of performance I prefer to others I've heard, especially where tone and transients are concerned. And somewhere around 95db/w/m ain't too shabby either. Nevertheless, I would've been happy if I could've simply x'ed-over my 18"er to the horn at 500hz, or so, as others like Martion, E-V, and Sunny-Cables have done with their 18s. I may return to this later but, for now, let's just say I respect the brilliant simplicity of a Tannoy Dual-Concentric. In the same context, the two-way Altecs (and the likes of the 2-way Sunnys, just mentioned) are also refreshing, compared to the the fore-mentioned complexity.
And now I'll reprint an exerpt from my article on the Altec A-7, in addressing your question, here; "...Do you know off hand if the Altec has a straight conical shape."
According to an article by Greg Boynton, in 'Sound Practices' magazine, issue #1, 'reprinted' by 'Enjoy The Music'; by the profile, constitution, and suspension of their cones, 515s were optimized for a x-over point no higher than...etc...etc...
...[Interestingly, for those who may have wondered why these Altec drivers are so superior to most others at the lower-midrange, etc., I believe that (in addition to substantial cone-surface-area and enclosure-volume, which most similar competitors also have, to their credit, in also enhancing lower-mids' realism) manipulated parameters, including those articulated by Greg Boynton, are among the reasons why. ....]
Regarding your sub, you asserted, "My sub is only there for reinforcement of the very low, sub (sic) 20Hz bits. The crossover slope is very sharp at 16dB per octave, cut off at 30Hz. As it is active, there is a gain control and a boost for extra vooma which is not used and the cut off frequency can be varied. The cabinets go down to a genuine 20Hz and being a horn, roll off very sharply after that. Switching the sub in and out listening to orchestral works makes no audible difference apart from smacks on a big bass drum. Even listening to an organ with only 16' (32Hz) bass the sub is not discernible. The reason for the extreme size and 4 X 18" speakers is to generate enough air movement at stupidly low frequencies."
Of course you know you're preaching to the choir, here, since I'd long established the fact that you're no bass-freak - regardless of the extreme nature of that sub. Based on all I've gleaned, from our chats, I'd already surmised that the effect of your sub would be exactly as you've now described it - and as it should be. I've no doubt though that your system, like mine to a slightly lesser degree, is capable of dislodging dental fillings (or nearly so - ha) in the appropriate circumstances, given the requisite source-material - rarely, I run movies thru mine, for instance. [By the way, I wasn't aware that Autographs went down to 20hz (flat?) even when doubled - amazing. Hopefully, you'll expand on that and, in the process, give me your opinion of the Jensen Imperial since I'd always rued the fact that it seemed to go deeper than most, even today, at the cost of such monumental size. A 20hz Autograph would be an attractive alternative, if I ever decide to change my main system. Oh, and what's your take on the allegation that rear-loaded horns are less proficient at mid-bass than others (sealed-boxes & front-horns, for examples) due to inherent phase-cancellations?]
My own sub assumes more of the duties of a woofer than yours. I'll explain. But first, and to return to the topic of; mids thru large cones, I'll illustrate why I didn't just go 2-way, with the mid/hi horns and the 18s. Coarseness is the answer! 18s are generally coarse, in my opinion, anywhere other than bass. Thru my years in (semi) pro-sound, I've encountered and used many drivers, and many 18s, specifically. I've never encountered an 18" driver that really sounded acceptable to me, at midrange. I ponder how the likes of E-V (in their Patrician model, previously) and, currently, Martion and Sunny Cables manage to coax world-class sound from such a crude device as an 18" driver operating to perhaps 500hz or there-about.
I think we DIYers must be careful in walking a thin line when it comes to mids from large drivers. !5" drivers or, the equivalent, are ideal, for the typical listening-room, in my opinion, and based on my own discoveries. (Personally, I use 2x12s, the equivalent of one 15 per side, tho I'd certainly consider 2x15s, if I occupied a similar size listening-room as yours). But there can be consequences, and one can certainly go too far overboard. Let's look at the impressive but intrinsically heavy-coned 18"er, for example:
Sure, it would have sounded mightily impressive for me to list my speaker components as; horn-loaded Altec compression-drivers crossed-over at around 500hz to Goodmans 18Ps in 5' enclosures - impressively simple too. Perish that thought. Once the cheap KLH 12s were discovered, nothing, and I mean nothing, could render as close a resemblance to my live reference-source next-door - at low-midrange. Lots of alternatives were tried, including JBL 15s and the Goodmans 18s, nothing was as realistic at the troublesome and elusive lower-mids as those obscenely cheap KLH 12s. They're deplorable at midbass tho (especially at the leading edges) and just as bad here as my previous Spendor, and most popular speakers. The tightness, transient-response, timing, and tone of a crossover-less Yamaha NS10 mid-woofer is what was needed for exemplary performance, here, at upper-bass and upper-midbass. This put the system in good stead for the bass of the 18s to follow.
Steps had also been taken, including sealing the enclosures, in order to tighten and subdue the 'pretty' bass of the KHLs - bass-reflex vents are now redundant. This is because the much more realistic middle-midbass (in tone, density, and intensity) of the 18s combines now with the quick and tonally-correct upper-midbass of the NS10 to render an unbelievable level of bass performance (deep-bass is also outstanding). We're talking here about the quickness of the small driver combined with the power and authority of the large. Kick-drums never sounded so real - and complete - deep-bass too. If I take out the NS10 the quickness and a lot of the midbass-tone goes away - it's absolutely indispensable.
In my experience I've found that large drivers are absolutely necessary for realism. But even the best of them are relatively slow, even some of my favourites. Here's a review illustrating exactly that, about Altecs, of all things - in a highly-aclaimed design, at that, Re; page 2: http://www.6moons.com/industryfeatures/hiraga/hiraga_2.html
I believe large drivers are at their very best in horns, like yours, or in sealed-enclosures like Dunlavys or Duntechs. (Bass-reflex can be OK when done right, but they're notorious for wooly bass, generally, as designers over-reach for extension, at the expense of definition; 'wooliness'). However, I believe for the large driver to compete with the small, in transient alacrity, it must be aided by the small (well, not just to compete, but to be more realistic, actually). I believe this is also why the Wilson X-1 / X-2 is perhaps the world's best, at this particular trait (despite shortcomings elsewhere). The fact that that system is similar to mine (in its use of small drivers to assist the large) is purely coincidental, I assure you - I actually arrived at my more radical scheme by accident.
Returning to the question of its seeming complexity; it's not, really. If we leave-aside the sub and super-tweeters, per side, then the single NS10, doubled KLH 12s, and the mid/hi horn really only constitute a 2-way system since the only crossover-pont is between the KLHs and the Altec horn (Super-tweets and subs are blended in to augment these from the points of the natural roll-off of the relevant drivers). The NS10 is run crossover-less (enhancing its transient-response even more) and seamlessly blended into the rest of the system - take it out, though, and it'll be sorely missed. Even so, the outstanding lower-mids performance of those cheap KLH 12 is THE main facilitator in the system's close resemblance to the live sound next-door (in addition to exemplary transient and dynamic response, among other things) though all other factors are also important. And all are absolutely indispensable for this level of performance, in this scenario.
As I said, I don't know how the likes of the Sunnys and the E-Vs above attained world-class performance derived from 18" drivers operating thru the lower-mids (Martion Orgons have dedicated lower-mids drivers/horns, now that I come to think of it, btw and, for that matter, I think the 18" Patrician/Georgian by E-V did too, if I'm not mistaken, leaving only the Sunny HW18S*, that I can think of at this moment, as a world-class 2-way with an 18" mid-woofer). Perhaps a fair amount of crossover equalization has been administered to tame the 18's midrange 'crudeness' and excess 'weight' - I really cannot imagine this being accomplished otherwise.
I guess what I'm saying amounts to this: As you know, I literally wrote the book advocating mids thru large cones (OK, perhaps I should combine those articles in a book too, for real - there's a thought). But I also view the 15" driver (or its equivalent) as both the ideal and the limit, in optimum size. Unless someone can illustrate to me how to engineer-out the 18's intrinsic crudeness at midrange, then I'll continue to discourage its use for the purpose - don't even mention drivers large than that either.
So yeah; mids thru large drivers, for sure. But there are caveats. And there's a limit, in my book.
From all I've gleaned, that limit is 15.
[Eventually I'll be made to eat those words disparaging mid-woofing 18s, however. - Ed]
Re: Tannoys, Altecs, and other issues.
Perhaps I would agree that the best Altec mid-woofer, the 515, may be better than the best Tannoy (in mid-woofing respects) ....perhaps... I'm not sure since there are many Tannoy versions. But the 515 is not Dual-Concentric. That DC facility, with Altecs, is limited to variants of the 604.
If you've read my article on the Altec A-7, then you'll see where I've articulated the observation that the 416, in the A-7's enclosure, displays a 'slight' propensity toward midbass 'bloat' (the same issue you're seeking to avoid - and whether this is relatively less with the 416, vis a vis the Tannoy, I don't know).
The 515 in the same A-7/A-5 enclosure, on the other hand, is renowned for its leaner more accurate bass/midbass (ironically, the reason most prefer the 'bloat' of the 416). The 515 is also slightly more enriched with Altec's beguiling and realistic mid/lower-mids abilities than the 416 which, itself, is already better than most, in this particular region.
What I'm trying to say is that I believe an improvement at the midbass-'bloat' you mentioned may very well be wrought with the use of the Altec 515, absolutely (it's no DC, tho).
Incidentally, and referring to my link to the review of Jean Hiraga's '604'-equipped speaker-system, allusion was made as to Hiraga-San's contemplation of building his own version of the 604. Knowing his bias toward the 515 (or, more so, toward its Western-Electric 'predecessor'/progenitor) I've good reason to suspect that Hiraga-San is/was thinking along similar lines - that is; a 604 with 515 cone/suspension.]
But wait, there's more (as the saying goes).
I would not 'blame' the Tannoy driver for the apparent disparity in the level of mids vs bass, as you alluded to (as in the reason you employ ribbons to assist the mids/treble). This 'discrepancy' is absolutely due to the 'over-achievement' of the folded-horn enclosure. NOT to any 'shortcoming' of the Tannoy mid-woofer/tweeter DC drivers, in this regard - strictly speaking - and in my opinion.
I'll explain. Bear with me as we walk, or 'beat', around the bush, so to speak!
I too am a fan of horns and folded-horns. (My one major concern, long-precluding my own indulgence, is the issue of phase-cancellations compromising midbass performance - an issue I'd raised with the hope you'd articulate your own experience on it). I'd long been seriously investigating the likehood of my building a version of the Jensen Imperial (direct-radiating/rear-loaded folded-horn). In the process, I came across one or two threads, on discussion-fora, with a couple of individuals citing exactly this phenomenon with the use of integral driver/tweeter combos such as 604s and/or Tannoy DCs. The consensus these individuals eventually seemed to have arrived at was that the Jensen's horn increased bass-efficiency so much more above the level of that of the enclosures such drivers were designed for that such a disparity (between mids/highs and bass) is inevitable. I tend to agree with the obvious logic of that argument.
My solution, re; the Jensen? Use such a direct-radiating/rear-loaded horn only with separate mid/hi horns whose efficiency/sensitivity can be adjusted to match that of the mid-woofer's bass-horn. (Either that, or use only such 'Dual-Concentric'-type drivers which feature tweeter-segments modified along similar lines - i.e. if such a thing is feasible - and not the ideal solution, for several reasons. So I'd perhaps rule-out DC-types for such enclosures as the Imperial).
But then, unlike the Imperial, yours are also front-loaded (in addition to being rear-loaded horns). That difference is significant. Why? Well, let's look at the current Westminster Royal SE, for an example: Though it's also a rear-loaded horn, with similar overachieving bass issues as the Imperial (albeit, somewhat less so) I believe the front-horn of the Westminster serves to raise the efficiency/sensitivity of the driver's lower-mids response, there-by, nullifying the adverse effect apparent with such as the Imperial. (Perhaps this is also why, like you, the Westminster employs an additional tweeter, bringing the trebles, at least, to the levels of the low-mids and bass - crossover manipulation perhaps increases the middle-mids to match, as well).
[By the way, I recently noticed that the flare-rate of your Double-Autographs' front-horn differs from the original - with yours being straight-sided, not curved, if I'm not mistaken. This could be minor, but whether the full benefits of front-loading are being reaped is an issue which could also be relevant in the scenario which causes you concern - i.e. with the-above issues re; Imperial/Westminster, etc, as a backdrop.]
But perhaps we could be accused of 'nit-picking', here, since that system is still so obviously superior to most others. May who've spent countless tens of thousands would perhaps donate their left-nut in order to achieve the likes of audio-reproduction I'm sure your system provides - if only they knew what they're missing, and if only they knew how to achieve such levels.
'Be thankful, my son'. And enjoy the music!
And now, briefly, to ride a horse of a different colour; you asked, "Have you any thoughts on streaming music via a server?"
Not really - except to say that I admire its convenience. (I also appreciate digital-reproduction's lack of surface-noise and other annoying analogue features. If the former were as good as the latter, I'd say goodbye to analogue in a jiffy. But then, it's not. So I don't indulge too much in aiming for the best in digital. Yes, I use it quite a lot - but casually. The performance of near-rudimentary digital is good enough (for casual-listening) that I'm not inclined to stress over achieving the highest levels of digital performance - which never exceeds that of a moderate tt anyway. Better to use something better than a moderate tt, for critical listening. Me? I'm on the 'upgrade-path', in the realms of this strain of 'digititis'. I'm seeking a $30 Sony PlayStation 1 to play my CDs since it's alleged to be better, and more like analogue, than CD-Ps and DACs approaching the 6-grand price level. Good enough for me. But that's just my view.
Yeah, I like the idea of a server but, given my expressed proclivities, I might not be the best resource for advice on the matter. For what it's worth, I'd simply suggest the acquisition of a good DAC, at reasonable cost. (And my idea of such is a Pro-Tools M-Box since, with regard to the cost/performance-ratio, I fail to see the sense in spending much more. Well, perhaps I'd also 'splurge' on a tubed buffer-stage for use in conjunction with said M-Box. But that's it. I also like your idea of using that Behringer you'd mentioned, especially since my research indicated that cost-effective mods elevate it to phenomenal levels of performance. Refer to the link I'd provided - I can't seem to remember where I found that info)
Now, where's that other-coloured horse you mentioned?
Oh yeah, here you suggested; "I would imagine yor KLHs are in the same class as the Axioms. Highly efficient and indestructible."
I most certainly would think NOT.
That Axiom is a great driver, overall. The cheap KLH driver, which I accidentally stumbled upon, is most certainly not - overall. It is exceptionally good in only ONE area; lower-midrange. It's also mediocre in all others, in my opinion (And the fact that the complete and as-yet-unmodidied-at-that-time cheap KLH speaker-system bested a highly-regarded JBL 4430, in my opinion and in direct comparison, is no recommendation. I see this more as a manifestation of the mediocrity of some 'highly-regarded' speakers; such as my former Spendor and this JBL, than any real indication of this KLH's overall quality. (Previous KLHs were much better, overall, btw). I reiterate; this KLH driver's ONLY outstanding feature is its exemplary lower-mids performance (better than all I've ever heard, in a controlled setting, and directly compared to live music). But its use in my system is the reason why so many steps have had to be taken to assure exceptional performance in other areas. I didn't opt for such a complicated route voluntarily. This route became necessary after I discovered this driver's unsurpassed abilities in the fore-mentioned region. The other extra-ordinary measures featured in my DIY system are mainly to compensate for the KLH's shortcomings. The irony is that, in addressing these shortcomings by employing drivers (Yamaha and Goodmans) which are specifically outstanding at the KLH's compromised traits (i.e. added to the KLH' supreme low-mids) we seem to have arrived at a system which excels more at these areas (low-mids, upper-bass, upper-midbass, midbass, and low-bass) than would have been achievable with any one mid-woofer, regardless of cost or reputation. Neither is this KLH driver particularly powerful (it's a wimp, by itself) or particularly efficient (at 91db/w/m, by itself).
You also said, "18" speakers to me are more air pumps than speakers so that's what I use them for."
I'd tend to agree. And this is also why I confine the use of mine to the only regions where they are outstanding; middle-midbass and bass. This is also why I'm puzzled as to how others can justify the use of 18s to 500hz, or there-about. (If I were privy to their secret of success, then I'd probably employ such a strategy myself. But knowing what virtually all 18s sound like, at midrange, I simply cannot believe that state of the art designs could employ them without there being some mitigating forces at play; crossover-equalization, for instance
Oh, and in answer to your query; my subs were once a part of my 'semi' pro-sound DJ system. These particular boxes were built by me somewhere around 30 years ago, based on the formula for bass-reflex gleaned from a book on speaker-design I had at the time. At 5' high by 33" wide, each of these boxes was actually two separate enclosures in one - harbouring a total of four 18s. - and delivering decidedly better bass than most that seemed similar at the time. I've since relegated them to only one 18 per side, for more tamed use. I'd also embarked on a process aimed at evaluating how they'd perform as sealed enclosures; quasi infinite-baffles. In this unfinished process, I'd removed the structure that had parted each box into two separate enclosures - each is now one big box. Both ports were to have been blocked, but since I find the current performance surprisingly acceptable, I've decided to continue to use it in this manner (only one port currently blocked) until I'm visited by the urge to change it. [For domestic use, I'd also been contemplating a switch to horns, here, and was discouraged by the fact that these would offer only a similar low-frequency cut-off limit. So then, why bother with all the hassle of building horns, especially considering the current level of performance?]
However, in their current guise, I'm sure they'd never survive the demands you seem to place one your own system. I suppose I'm only able to get away with current practices/configurations because of the fact of a less cavernous/demanding listening-room and, perhaps, less of a propensity to listen at high levels.
One-note bass-reflex bass?
Absolutely not! Being a regular listener to a Klipschhorn system, I'm a staunch advocate of horn-loaded bass. It's generally 'faster', less boomy, more articulate, and more natural than the typical bass-reflex type, over the whole bass region. (Infinite-baffles or sealed enclosures are generally better than b-r too, in my opinion). However, thanks to the small size/lightness of the Yamahas at upper-bass/upper-midbass and, perhaps, also due to the fact that the doubled 12" enclosures of the KLHs are sealed, among other reasons, the upper-bass to mid-bass performance (including the portion handled by the 18s) is alive with articulation and definition. It's outstandingly amazing, in fact - better than most others I can think of, and for the reasons alluded to earlier. Contrary to the case with most speakers, the ubiquitous kick-drum, featured in most popular music, is now complete and outstanding, similar to the way it's perceived in real-life - recordings permitting. Absolutely exemplary, in my opinion. Deep-bass is no slouch either, though I'm not certain as to how low it goes, currently. (Originally, 30hz was no problem, and equalization could easily bring 20hz to the fore, especially at normal listening levels - rarely ever used, tho, as it's not really necessary for most music).
OK, I guess that covers it. And thanks for confirming my notion that you're a classical fan, exclusively, more or less.
MORE TO COME NEXT WEEK.