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LETTERS TO AN AUDIOPHILE - Batch # 3
[Continued from LETTERS to an AUDIOPHILE 'Home' page, WAJ on AUDIO writes emails to a reader. This is Batch # 3 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 Grado cartridgess is continued before moving on to other issues....].
In the following instance below, a discussion on Grado cartridgess is continued before moving on to other issues....].
Grado wood-body cartridges - some of the most natural-sounding carts on the planet
Different Strokes: Boston-Bland’ and ‘The Grado-Sound’ & Rear-Horns and Phase-Cancellations
03/19/ at 1:55 AM Message body
Re; the Grado (I'm familiar with the high-output version of the Sonata, btw): For sure, you’re not a fan. I guess this just serves to further illustrate the truism; "Different strokes for different folks."
I'm not too surprised, tho, since I know the so-called Grado-sound isn't for everyone - I know it's 'different' (and perhaps too much so).
Perhaps you're right (i.e. you and perhaps 95% of audiophiles) perhaps the Grado is crap, after all. And no, I'm not being hypocritical since I've had a few niggling 'concerns' about my the cartridge, for some time.
There are times I suspect that the Grado sound has been 'engineered' to be what it is. With the Sonata, for instance, the highs are all there, but they're definitely subdued in intensity, compared to the typical M-C or even most good M-Ms. It's almost as if Grado agrees with me when I suggest that too-prominent highs, in reproduction, detract from realism. Unlike most others, the Grado Sonata presents highs as they would be heard from a distant perspective at a live performance. That's point #1
Point 2 relates to the midrange. Once again, and unlike any other cartridge excepting Koetsus, the Grado displays a midrange that is almost too good to be true (i.e. with proper speakers). One is inclined to ask one's self; Why is it that no other cartridge sounds like this (outside of Koetsus, to a degree) are they falsely manipulating certain aspects (trebles and mids) or 'cheating', to achieve such realistic reproduction?
Or is it realistic reproduction, after all? And would really realistic reproduction be the popular choice for audiophiles?
Well, let's look at the history of audiophillia or, more specifically, at an aspect or two of our history. Let's see if the audiophile community in general displays a propensity to opt for really realistic reproduction, when presented with a more glamorous choice. But first, let's recognize the uncanny similarity in characteristics shared by the Grado sound, and the 'New England Sound', or 'Boston-Bland', of a previous era. Both Boston-Bland and the Grado sound feature a full and robust midrange, especially at low-mids, and both feature slightly subdued highs. (Did I say the resemblance was uncanny?).
By way of numerous and widely publicized live vs recorded demos, Boston-Bland, by way of Acoustic-Research, was established and acknowledged as undeniably realistic and highly representative of the live sound (dynamism notwithstanding). Yet, when BBC/Spendor introduced the BC-1 and, later, when the BBC's LS3/5A was introduced, among others from the British Isles, audiophiles gravitated in droves toward this sound (at the behest of the press, of course).
Well, despite the fact that Boston-Bland was demonstrably and accurately representative of the live sound, many reviewers and audiophiles criticized it for being... well... 'bland' (Could it be that they didn't recognize the similar characteristic in live music?) The 'British Sound', on the other hand, could be described as the antithesis of Boston-Bland (and of live music, by extension) in that it featured a leaner midrange (due to the limitations of the smaller mid-woofers of those models that became popular) with much brighter highs. And this is the sound which dominates audiophillia today - well loved by most, but far removed from that of the real thing: http://wajonaudio.webs.com/HiFi%20vs%20THE%20%20%27LIVE%27%20SOUND.html
Arguably, a similar scenario applies to the phono-cartridge; with the pre-existing moving-magnet ousted by the more 'glamorous' moving-coil, many of which featured the glitter of enhanced and 'airy' high-frequencies. Nevertheless, there's a small clique of die-hards, including reviewers, tt-builders, and studio heads and engineers who maintain that M-Ms are more accurate in replicating master-tape and the live sound.
Sonically, the moving-flux Grado arguably bridges the gap between m-m and m-c with, perhaps, aspects of both. However, and returning to my 'concerns,’ I can't help wondering whether a measure of 'enhancement' is involved in the Grado sound. No other cartridge sounds like it. Yet, when I compare it to those live instruments next-door, no other cartridge sounds as close to those instruments, and by a long way. Oh sure, there are some which sound spectacular, detailed, and even exciting, but none sounds as real. That's only my opinion, tho, I could be wrong. (Btw, I'm eternally grateful to those instruments and players, next-door, as they've kept me from going astray, over the years, while exposing highly-regarded imposters for what they are, re; my BC-1, for instance. In my opinion, there's no better way to assess audio-gear than direct A/B comparisons with the live sound. In fact, it's the only way for the most accurate assessment).
Nobody would ever accuse the Sonata of being perfect. It's strong-suit is in mimicking the tone and overall balance of real instruments. (Of the features most wanting in modern systems, I believe tone and dynamics are the two most important, and in that order. Though I'd prefer to have both, in equal measure, the Sonata epitomizes my order of priorities). Others better it at transients and dynamics. But none I know of combines both to present as convincing a compromise. However, if an audiophile gravitates more toward transients/dynamics (not to mention sur-realistic highs) than toward tone/balance, then other carts will more suit that individual. And I can certainly see where some could opine that the Grado is crap. I'd suggest it's the king of tone. You could be right, tho.
Different strokes for different folks.
The Grado Statement below is similar to the-above, but even better. I believe it more or less does what an after-market upgrade of the Sonata's stylus does. (I also believe - and others have proved - that the Sonata's main limiting factor is its stylus, a theory I may confirm some day for another 300-bucks. Correction of this foible is reputed to facilitate performance more closely approaching that articulated in the link below – a link previously presented). Spending over 3-grand on a Statement 'saves' the trouble, tho.
Regarding phase-related (midbass) cancellations of back-loaded horns: I rather like the midbass presentation of the rear-loaded Klipschorns. Slightly reticent though it may be, it's certainly much better than MOST large bass-reflex enclosures I've encountered. (Btw, bass-reflex must be the most bastardized and cobbled design in the history of audio - very few ever get it right). Many horn 'purists' posit that a straight front-horn is the best at midbass presentation. Nevertheless, some of these hornies seem willing to accept that other options are viable. Roamy The Cat, a highly opinionated horn-advocate roaming the 'net, declares that some of the best midbass he's heard was that of a Vitavox (model 191, I presume - tho I could be wrong here) which is a clone of the rear-loaded Klipschorn. So, I'm sure (and I'm sure you'll agree) rear-horns can be made to be great at midbass.
[Later it was learned that the ‘Cat’ might have been referring to the drivers only – and not the 191 cab. However, this doesn’t deter from the point made about the Khorn’s lack of a direct-radiating aspect causing it to be much less prone to phase-cancellations than BLH designs which utilize both rear radiation and front (direct) radiation directly from the driver competing with the rear-radiation and causing phase-cancellations.]
Nevertheless, there seems to be some substance to the arguments of the naysayers. In the pro-sound world, and to the degree that this design is also used in hifi, JBL Scoops, another RLH – front and rear-radiating - are deplorable in their relative lack of realistic midbass punch, IMO. (In my region, btw, a popular practice among pro-sound rigs, was to place 18" woofers into the smaller ‘scoop’ boxes designed for the 15s – effectively raising the resonance frequency. This resulted in an exaggerated 'punch' at midbass, but with virtually no lo-bass as a consequence).
One local sound system operator (Chubby’s) didn’t resort to this as the practice came after his ‘reign,’ but was crazy enough to use massive full-size Jensen Imperials (which is basically a scoop-type horn with front and rear radiation). And I can attest to the fact of absolutely awesome deep-bass reproduction, but with a midbass woefully short of a similar level of excellence (likely a consequence of phase-cancellations– tho perhaps partly due also to Chubby’s own manipulations for the sound he wanted).
Regarding my own future speaker-building plans, though I'm not rushed by a need to do anything, I'd been looking at options, as we all do - bass-options, to be specific. One idea was to employ a separate sub, as I do now, with a version of the GRF for mid-bass, up. Am I mistaken, or did you mention the use of GRFs, at some stage? If so, were they used with 15s, and could you describe the relative level and quality of said region. Obviously, I'd not want to wind-up with less performance than I'm experiencing at the moment. Nevertheless, the prospect of horn-bass is appealing.
I could be wrong, but the reason I feel the GRF may be outstanding at mid-bass is this: It's seems similar to the JBL Scoops, which were approximately 40"x25x30" deep for the 18" version, and 24" deep for the 15" version (other outside dimensions remained the same). If, as I alluded to, the use of a large driver in an undersized scoop elicits an increase in mid-bass, then, if we look at the GRF as an undersized scoop, then the equivalent of a 15"er (2x12s, in my case) in this 19" deep cab could elicit a similar effect as to when an 18 is placed in a 24" deep cab.
Are you confused as yet? (Btw, it could well have been someone-else who'd mentioned rectangular GRFs, now that I come to think of it, nevertheless I'd appreciate your opinion of its midbass presentation, relative to even a passing encounter with it. I think I may have heard one long ago, but wasn't really listening critically, I'm sure).
Now I'm confused - obviously!
A few thoughts on the BASSic issues
Since this issue arose, and since I'm again contemplating a restructuring of the system's bass-architecture, I sat down to listen critically to what I already have.
The end-result of these critical listening-sessions is that I'm, again, wondering whether I should really tamper with anything. Sure it would be impressive to boast of horn-loaded midbass and beep-bass enclosures. But I've found that a focus on running with the crowd and impressing the general audiophile community by adapting to convention has proven unsatisfactory to me in the past, time and again (re; my long and frustrating association with that Spendor-system, for instance - impressive on paper, but.... blaah....).
I'll explain further, below.
[But first, and by the way, thanks for those attachments. Though I'm not sure of what you meant here; "Playing them side by side using HPD’s in both sets the modified one went slightly lower on organ bass which was the aim, and the ???? was a fuller (louder) in the mid bass and lower mid range."
Did you mean to say; ...and the other (the standard-sized un-modified GRF) was fuller (louder) in the midbass and lower-midrange... - as my own experience with similar types had suggested? Please clarify!]
Now to return to my 'problem', here's the thing: Of all the designs I've long been contemplating (i.e. including Klipschorns, Jensen Imperial, short front-horns similar to the said section of the Altec A-7/A-5, JBL Scoop-types, and countless others) I've never heard any of them render better bass overall, than what I have now - not really - and certainly not overall.
For instance, the Imperials are mightily impressive at deep-bass. And the fore-mentioned undersized JBL-Scoops are seriously devastating at midbass (if also lacking in nuance/detail, generally). The Klipschorn is not as impressive as these at either trait, but it's better at the combination of both midbass and bass, in my opinion.
However, and even so, the Klipschorn, for me, would still be a compromise, compared to what already exists. (We'll leave the Imperial and Scoop-type for later). Before expanding on that, let's take a wider view of bass-requirements in general:
For those of us who listen to a wide variety of musical genres, and especially for popular music, I believe it imperative for us to get the bass (especially midbass) of our systems correct - even more so than for lovers of the classics.
Why would I say that? After all, the fan of the classics would like to have correct midbass too, for sure. But it's also a fact that the classics do not engage the midbass frequencies (for large drums, for instance) with anywhere near the regularity as it would apply to popular music, and especially with regard to the percussive, transient, and dynamic aspects of bass reproduction. Indeed, one could spend an entire listening-session without encountering the fore-mentioned elements of bass - countless sessions, in fact.
Not so with popular music. Midbass (especially regarding the kick-drum) is the back-bone, the very foundation, of popular music.
Very nearly every single track is dominated by it. This is why I say it's extremely important for a system to correctly reproduce the midbass, if it is to properly reproduce significant amounts of popular music. This is less of an imperative for a system playing mostly classics, not because correct midbass would not be appreciated here, but because the irregularity with which it is encountered would cause deviant reproduction to be less bothersome - even un-noticed. Not so with popular music since this deviant mibass would be noticed on every single beat, more or less. This is why I say there is much more of an imperative for a system playing significant amounts of popular music to be exemplary at midbass and bass reproduction, along with all else.
Incidentally, I also believe most designers of typical high-end speakers are staunch classical listeners. Just look around at the multitudes of high-end speaker-systems which are deplorable at midbass and you'll see what I mean. These must have been designed by those who are not exposed to much midbass, at all. Yet these speakers are highly rated (reviewers must be biased toward the classics too) I can't understand it. I'm sure you're aware of the wonderful reputation of the Spendor BC-1, well, I can tell you; it absolutely STINKS at midbass. Only someone listening to the classics exclusively could have rated this speaker-system so highly - that's the point I'm making, here.
But it seems they're the ones who set the standards. I say this because even speaker-systems you'd have expected to be geared towards popular music display the same deplorable characteristics. For instance, that JBL 4430, I tested against my cheap KLH, displayed very similar bass/midbass to that of the KLH. And the KLH, itself, displayed very similar bass/midbass to the Spendor, which epitomizes the bass of most popular speakers. A trend toward tighter (though light) mid bass seems now to be in process amongst popular speakers, but the general reality (i.e. since the ousting of theatre-horns and acoustic-suspension in the 70s) has long been the soft , wooly, pretty mid-bass of those like the Spendor - copied, to a 'T', by all and sundry (by way of cobbled bass-reflex designs, mostly).
Have you ever heard a soft kick-drum, by the way? Or Tom-Tom, or Timpani, or Kettle. I just wondered.
Yet this soft, pretty, midbass is so dominant, and so accepted by audiophiles, that many don't even recognize tight, accurate, and superior midbass when they hear it. I like relating this next story, bear with me: One of the main drummers of the 60s' Motown's studio-band recently revealed to an interviewer, in a documentary, that the best kick-drum sound he'd ever managed to produce is once when he substituted a cardboard beer-box carton for his damaged instrument (I forget which recording this beer-box features on). On hearing that, I went out of my way to take stock of what such drums really sound like, in real life. I discovered that the guy's implication is absolutely true - this is many kick-drums what (not all) really sound like; a thick-cardboard beer-carton. Pound on one with the ball of your hand (not the knuckles) and you'll see.
Now let's switch, for a moment to that little white-coned monitor found in most studios around the world - the monitor many love, and many love to hate. I once read an account of one user's vehement criticism of this speaker, and was galvanized into action. Why? This user complained that he didn't like the Yamaha NS10m because its 'bass' sounded 'cardboardy' (his wording). He complained that the NS10 sounded different from 'normal' speakers; it lacked deep-bass (really now - a 7"er lacks deep-bass - amazing) and most annoying of all is that its midbass, with kick-drums for instance, sounded 'cardboardy'. Needless to say, on reading that, I immediately launched into a search, and wouldn't have stopped until I'd found a few of these 'awful' NS10s, which did what most other speakers simply couldn't.
And, yes, it's absolutely true – as I’ve verified in my own system. With some drums NS10s do sound like they're reproducing drums that sound similar to cardboard boxes (as they absolutely should) and furthermore, they highlight and match the similar, but less distinct, trait of the Goodmans 18s - together they're inimitable. Without the NS10 shaping the response (and even with the KLH 12s functioning by themselves at midbass) the Goodmans become nearly ordinary - this region ceases to be outstanding in its quality and accuracy. Who'd have thought such a small driver would've made such a large difference in such a large system? Wonders never cease, it seems.
But how remarkable is this? The user was exposed to the accuracy of the NS10 and never recognized it as such. He lamented not having the type of midbass most speakers produce (as described above, re; Spendor, etc). Now, how nonsensical is that? I suppose this gives credence to the saying; 'Some wouldn't know good sound even if it were to come up and bite them on the ear'. Too true!
[I've discovered that having such a light, tight, and accurate driver working in conjunction with the large woofer causes the response to be just as 'quick' as that of a small woofer by itself - except that the small/large-driver combo is more realistically weighty. I've further discovered that neither the small nor the large driver, by itself, is anywhere near as good or as realistic as when both are combined in this manner. I also believe that Wilson Audio's employment of a similar strategy (if not as radical) accounts for the renowned alacrity of the bass-response in their flag-ship model, despite issues elsewhere.]
Returning to the bass-response of speakers, in general, here's one way I'd describe it: Let's imagine bass, including deep-bass, as a body of water, a pond. Let's also imagine midbass-transients (the sound of a kick-drum, for example) as a ball, a soccer-ball - no, better still, we'll imagine it as a bowling-ball, since this can be easily submerged.
In my view, the way most speakers depict the midbass/bowling-ball transients (as presented by a kick-drum, for instance) are in such a way that virtually the whole ball is submerged in the murky waters of the pond (which represents other bass frequencies). Concentrating on the typical type of response offered by my Spendor, I'd say seven-eights of that ball is generally submerged in that murky pool. Midbass is indistinct with such speakers with perhaps a faint depiction of the initial transient, in evidence (i.e. the exposed one-eighth of that ball) above the murk of surrounding bass. The rest of that kick-drum note, the body and the end of the note, are hidden beneath the murk of the accompanying bass frequencies, and even modulated by them.
Better speakers like the rear-loaded Klipschorn would display as much as a half of that ball, above the surface of the pool, above the accompanying bass. More of the body of that kick-drum note is exposed. Very good, in my opinion – much better than the Spendor and the vast majority of popular speakers which mimic the Spendor in one of its worst traits, IMO. But, despite the vagaries of the recording process, is it possible to reproduce nearly all of that note?
I believe so. And, in my view, this involves the combination of the large driver working in unison with the small - specifically; working with a light, tight, low-compliance, paper-coned, small-driver, which is outstanding at the the leading edges (in addition to the initial substance and tone, and even the actual ending of notes) at midbass. I'd suggest that such a combo would expose three-quarters to the whole of that kick-bass note (recordings permitting) regardless of any other accompanying bass frequencies. (Note that I'm not referring to latter-day digital recordings, which are better, BASSically, than recordings of the 50s to 70s, for instance - I refer to the playback of the more difficult recordings of that vintage-era).
I recently linked us to a 6moons review of a Jean Hiraga speaker utilizing one of my favourite brands, type, and size of driver; Altec (604, in this instance). That review pointed out that; good though the Altec was at conveying the weight of instrumental tones, it failed to articulate the 'quicker' components of those tones. The review further highlighted that another system on hand, featuring small-coned-drivers, was much better at the attributes the Altec lacked, but that the small-coned system could not convey the Altec's realistic weight. Recently, in an article entitled; 'Why the Small Driver Can Never Be As Realistic As the Large..' I made the very same point I'm making here. I believe the way forward is a combination of the old with the new, a combination of the large-driver with the small. I could be wrong, but from what I've witnessed, this does seem to be a viable course of action in the quest for higher levels of accuracy at bass/midbass.
Returning to my dilemma, under normal circumstance I would jump at the prospect of building a horn, again (my first DIY speaker at age 13, or so, was a scaled-down slot-loaded 'corner-horn', and several others since). Normally, I'd advise anyone to build bass-horns, especially for their transient alacrity. But now I'm not so sure - i.e. unless a similar small-coned scheme is incorporated - since I'm now convinced that no horn can induce a large and heavy cone to be as quick as the small.
But why am I even looking at these issues? I certainly don’t have a major problem with my current set-up. So why?
I know you can't tell me what to do, per se. But I'm airing my views just the same. This may sound like a ridiculous question, but since I know you're similarly satisfied with the Double-Tannoys, may I ask whether you'd contemplate building a replacement? It would seem audiophiles are never ever satisfied, and I'd certainly have to count myself among them. We always want to see what's around the next corner. Why? Is it boredom? Are we always reaching for the next 'high?’ This would certainly explain 'upgrade-itis'
Are audiophiles, by definition, afflicted with a compulsive disorder?
I'm off to get myself fitted for that straight-jacket I've been secretly admiring!
A few more thoughts on the BASSic issues - with emphasis on the Jensen Imperial - Recordings too
Please don't get me wrong (I doubt you have, but just to be sure). My rant should in no way be construed as an attack on classical music, or on fans of it. It's an attack on the poor mid-bass quality of speaker-systems, in general.
Apart from midrange tone and dynamics (or the lack there-of) I believe mid-bass is another region where most systems fail dismally. Let's face it, many otherwise-good systems can render a fair facsimile of the blat of a trumpet, the strike of the stick on a snare, the sonority of a violin, or even the tunefulness of a vocal note or two. In listening to a recording on such a system, we may even begin to accept that the reproduction may be closely approaching some semblance of what the real thing could conceivably have been like.
But then it happens.
Yep. The moment, the very instant, a poorly reproduced kick-drum assaults our consciousness, the illusion crumbles. That's annoying, to say the least. And, with popular music, most annoying is the fact that this soft, mushy, 'pretty,’ and disgustingly unrealistic depiction of the kick-drum is inevitably repetitive throughout the track - track after track. It's sickening.
One would have hoped that, with so much of music (apart from the classics) based on mid-bass in general (and on the kick-drum in particular) speaker-manufacturers would have gotten this region right, at least. Not so. As it stands, this region is absolutely, indisputably, the worst-reproduced region of the spectrum, and most noticeable as such. It's a sin of commission; the worst sort. (It's actually worse than the sin of omission most speakers commit at low-mids. Perhaps I should address the topic at my site too).
Regarding those recordings you plan on sending, I'd rather to defer to your judgment, generally. As to a broad view of what I like, I may have mentioned symphonic works ('upbeat' types like the 1812 Overture and Beethoven's 5th). Chamber music including the piano would also be nice. (I'm not a big fan of opera, tho). That 'Pictures at the Exhibition' recording you cited would also be great. And I haven't yet collected a copy of the recording of those Japanese Kondos, so that would be great too. I also like the idea of 'rich and realistic' recordings 'where every single instrument sounds correct'. One or two pieces with deep organ-bass should also be interesting, and I'm also intrigued by your mention of that Akai recording of the Hammond with drums. I'm afraid I'm not so versed in the classics to be much more specific than that. And I appreciate your gallant attempts at schooling the uncouth in the finer arts - Bless your soul.
Getting back to BASSics, I'd mentioned in my previous e-mail; We'll leave the Imperial and Scoop-type for later. OK, so I'd intimated that the Klipsch, with its less extreme characteristics, may have been the ideal compromise, for some purposes. This is not to imply that 'better' performance may not be had from a combination of the Imperial at low-bass, and an undersized Scoop (GRF?) at midbass - not to mention; better than my current rig too. The thing is, for me, there's such a thing as too much of a good thing. Though I'm not an apartment-dweller, I do live in close proximity to next-door neighbors, on both sides and to the front. (Thankfully my backyard adjoins a large grassy-field, the site of numerous musical performances by that 30-piece acoustic band I keep making reference to. Nevertheless, the proximity of those other neighbours precludes the use of gear imbued with the potency of the Imperial, for instance. Perhaps it may not be a great problem, but I'm not sure. I do know that the current system is both acceptable to the neighbours and awesome in its performance - perhaps at the limit of neighbor-acceptability - I hesitate to tamper with that level of acceptability; a delicate balance.
I have had the pleasure of witnessing what the Imperial can do (courtesy of the now-defunct; Chubby's HiFi). It's mind-bendingly awesome. (I believe the system comprised more than a dozen of those boxes) Whenever that system was in operation, I'm sure employees at seismic-research centres were pressed into service, working overtime, to decipher the cause and epicentre of the ensuing 'event'. Even operated at moderate levels, bass from the Imperial demonstrates an ability to permeate concrete walls as if they were meshed curtains. This is the feature I most fear.
That aside, I will admit to fantasizing about the Goodmans 18s operating from Imperials at lo-bass, and GRFs enhancing the midbass of the KLH/Yamaha combo (Oh yes, the Yamahas are indispensable, not to mention the KLHs). Another deterrent is space: I tell myself that the Imperials aren't much bigger than my current subs, however, the GRFs would be a full 10 inches deeper than the current full-range sealed-towers. This would not be a problem if I still used my former 33'x12' room for hifi, but the current smaller room, compounded by the proximity of a door, both conspire to complicate matters, somewhat.
So then, what about the Imperial, by itself, as a full-range unit? Oh yeah, this takes the space-issue out of the equation. And, it is alleged that Decware's modifications for the Imperial cater to the use of separate drivers specializing at bass, and at disparate bass frequencies - i.e. woofer and mid-woofer. (This model is also alleged to address the fore-mentioned phase-cancellations issue, I believe). This could be the ideal (bass-incursion into neighbors' abodes notwithstanding). And I tend to like the idea of one truly full-range system, sans subs, which can be a pain to properly incorporate, at times.
However, in the event that the-above should be less than excellent at mid-bass, I may well have to revert to something like the GRF with a view to eliciting exemplary performance in said region. Which brings me to what you said here;
"I will answer the bit about the GRF horns later."
Yep, looking forward to that too!
Bye the way, I can't help wondering where the Dickens you'd get such things like; "Back in the time before Pontius got his Pilates license,..."
Ha! What a hoot?
Topics discussed in the 'letters' of BATCH # 3:*
*Different Strokes: ‘Boston-Bland’ and ‘The Grado-Sound’ & Rear-Horns and Phase-Cancellations
*A few thoughts on the BASSic issues
* A few more thoughts on the BASSic issues - with emphasis on the Jensen Imperial - Recordings too
* More ramblings of a demented ‘Imperial’ mind!
* Altec 605/604 Differences & Tannoy in Imperial
* Photos, Musical-Preferences & Reasons to be Cyber-Shy
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.
Altec 605/604 Differences & Tannoy in Imperial
Seems I was off a bit. The Altec 605 was the one with the 416 cone. The 604 came with the slightly better 515 cone I was touting, after all;
Altec 605Posted by Tom ) on November 9, 2005 at 13:57:59
In Reply to: Re: High effeciency Coaxial as alternative to my DX-4/Medallion III's? posted by chopper87 on November 9, 2005 at 13:16:24:
chopper---The 605 is like a 604 but with smaller magnets on the woofer and compression driver, therefore a little less efficient but better bass in a smaller box.
The 604 was basically a 515 woofer with a 802 compression driver, the 605 is more like a 416 woofer with an 806. The 605 was made in the late 50s and early 60s.
There's a small 605 cult that holds it's more accurate in the midrange and more robust in tonal balance than the 604. Personally I don't know, I haven't heard a 604 in years and even 604 guys get into duels and brawls over which 604 is the best, like Dickerson and Benton with Andy "By God" Jackson. Out come the dirks, pocket-pistols, Arkansas toothpicks, cane-swords, Bowie-knives and pepperbox revolvers.
Oh, and there's at least one full thread discussing the point raised in the last sentence below (Decware forum). Can't seem to find the thread from that other forum, for the moment, tho:
Re: 15" Tannoy dual concentrics in original Imperial
Reply #5 - 10/29/07 at 04:31:01
I can say one thing. Tannoy Monitor Gold 15"s in my cabinets are THE BOMB. I removed the drivers and crossovers from the GRF cabinets, and cut new baffle boards to use them in my Imperial cabinets. Had to cut a 3/4" hole to get the crossover-to-driver plug through it, and then seal it up with plumber's putty, but now I can really compare the performance of these drivers and crossovers in a set of considerably larger backloaded horns.
WOW, this is the best biggest bass-ingest sound I EVER heard out of Tannoys. I'm using deHavilland Aries 845 amps, which can do 30 watts but are probably hitting 5. This is SERIOUSLY good. I'm amazed I still haven't come across anyone using vintage Tannoy dual concentrics in an Imperial-type cabinet. Am I really making audio history here?!? I doubt it, but I know I've got something REALLY good going here.
My speaker buddy is telling me that eventually I'll figure out that the 1" Tannoy HF driver isn't enough to keep up with the big bottom end with these cabinets, and that could be true, but DAMN I've got something special to listen to while I figure it out!.
The preceding were some of the views expressed by users of various drivers in various cabs, including the Imperial.
Will write soon
Photos, Musical-Preferences & Reasons to be Cyber-Shy
Sorry, it seems I didn't quite understand your previous request for pictures, given that I'd already linked you to the site's photo-gallery - with my audio system in various configurations (captured at different times).
I've now attached two of my own pics, taken by my Sandra just now. Also, I've again linked the gallery. http://wajonaudio.webs.com/apps/photos/album?albumid=13058663
I'm really a private person and, given the ills that prevail in cyber-space, I hesitate to call attention to myself, lest I'm attacked/misrepresented in some way. (Call it paranoia, if you will). Nevertheless, I've grown to trust you enough to expect that I'll not, in time, regret letting-down my guard. If you've read the full thread of my attempt to assist a reader in his system-build, you'll have an idea of the reason for my coyness in similar circumstances.
[Briefly; That reader approached me for the design and assistance in building his system and, on receiving it and on being elated by the result, attempted to publicly claim responsibility for the design, then threatened me with a trumped-up law-suit (for not protecting his identity enough - B-S, really) when I used the evidence of the thread to refute his false claims. (Btw, such a false claim would have defeated the main purpose of my endurance of this obnoxious character for so long - i.e. proof of the principles, practices, and policies WAJ on AUDIO advocates. Therefore, I could not allow his lies to prevail). Understandably, this experience has caused me to be very wary of my dealings in cyber-space, added to my previous apprehensions] http://wajonaudio.webs.com/6%20System%20U%20Described%206;%20The%20%27Review%27.html
I know there are other issues outstanding: I'll deal with those in a couple days time. Please bear with me!
By the way - referring to the attached photos - in my hand is my copy of the 1812 Op 49, by the London Symphony Orchestra (it also includes the Romeo & Juliet Fantasy Overture with the Hamburg Radio Symphony Orchestra, and two others I won't bother to mention). This is, without doubt, one of the crappiest recordings I've ever encountered in my life (I believe I bought it at some department-store - so perhaps I deserve it - no real high-end stores here). Oh yeah, I do like the music, but the sound-quality on this CD stinks.
Talk about sound-quality; there's an LP of "Dizzy Gillespie Live on the French Riviera" the brown album-cover of which was temporarily placed behind the Linn while it was being played, in one of the pics at the photo-gallery. (CD link provided more for the write-up, than anything else. LP-link is below, just in case). It may not be anything special in audiophile terms; expensive 'heavy-pressings', etc., but it's one of my 'desert-island' recordings (not that I have many, since the cracky's raid) it's exquisite, the epitome of natural sound. I repeat; it's nothing special and there are faults to be found (and I can't vouch for the quality of the latest pressings/editions) but if all my favourite popular recordings were 'only' as good as this, then I'd be moderately-happy. (Like you, I abhor what so-called 'recording-engineers' have done to so much of the world's music, over so many years - some of these guys should be shot with sh!t, for what they've done - pardon my 'French').
Again, to address your query as to where my musical interests lie; I'd say they're all over the place, as my interests are very eclectic - I like all types of music. But the centre of my interests lie in those genres I grew-up with, along with others I went out of my way to be familiar with. Mainly though, and by far, my favourite music is 60s-70s R&B; Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The Spinners, The Dells, The Delfonics, etc, etc. Well... you asked. I could go on and on; I also like Reggae, Funk, and Disco music from those eras, and soft-rock (with mostly acoustic instruments). Big-band acoustic music from the 30s/40s thru 60s also feature, as do 'mid-century-modern' "orchestras" such as The Ray Conniff Singers, Bert Kaempfert & His Orchestra (with acoustic instruments and stylings much like the band next-door; very good for comparisons, additional to said band's own rare recordings) Burt Bacharach, etc. Acoustic-jazz and the popular classics were also always among my interests, even if not as prominent, especially in relation to the need for acoustic music in gauging the quality of my system(s) over the years - other types of acoustic music always featured, tho, including that of the military. (Never ever liked the opera, tho - I find it depressing, for some reason). Nevertheless, my interest in jazz and the classics has significantly increased in latter years, as I've previously indicated. By the way I like Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela. I also like Paul Simon, and his experiments with African music.
Really, it would have been better if you'd asked me which music I don't like - that would've been much easier to answer. And in that context, apart from opera, I really can't think of any, at the moment. As long as the sound-quality is good I'll listen to it - live or recorded.
Can you believe this was only to have been a very short intro to the-attached photos?
Speaking of which (and here I go again) in terms of scale, I'm 6' tall. The towers are somewhere above 5' including the horns atop (super-tweeter experiment in process - hence; the variety there). Also all previously-used bass-reflex vents are now blocked to facilitate preferred sealed-box mode of operation per the full-range towers. And 5" hi-mid driver, between white NS10 and KLH 12", has long been disconnected (driver remains in place to seal cavity since the back of the driver is suitable sealed). Note; these speaker-systems are obviously veterans of countless experiments, hits and misses - no doubt it shows. Absolutely outstanding sound, tho, even if I say so myself!
Re; equipment-rack: Lap-top computer removed to type this (former PC no-longer used) R2R is temporarily atop left sub-woofer, barely discernible in one of pics, top-left. Btw, a recently acquired Magnavox tubed 93-series amp has not yet returned from the tech's work-shop where it's being refurbished/updated for possible front-line duty, potentially replacing my UREI as the full-range amp of choice - we'll see. Oh, I'll add a pic of it being extracted from the dusty console, taken on the day I bought it
That's it for now.
MORE TO COME.