Monday, March 16, 2020

Hi-Fi, Speaker Philosophy, BOSE, Apple and Andrew Jones

Been watching different things on YouTube in the last weeks. Something of a Rabbit Hole, of the videos offered to you after searching for something.

Rick Beato, in one of his videos is asked would he release his stuff in WAV format, and he said no,  as mp3 320kps is indistinguishable from uncompressed, and then presented a test with a young lady that proved that.  He also then went on about all these old guys in their late 50s and 60s who are world famous mixers, who cannot hear above 12~14 kHz and that wasn't relevant to what makes music sound good. In there somewhere the small Yamaha NS-10s is mentioned as a boring speaker, even though it was the speaker of choice for mixing with. 
Basically, some ideal of hi-fi has nothing to do with what makes music sound good.

Dr BOSE, and his philosophy of doing things differently, made BOSE a very successful company, even though Hi-Fi people hate them. BOSE is always overpriced for what it is, like Apple, and you can get much better products for less. But the way BOSE was sold meant you didn't get to see the competition, and the marketing scheme was very well executed.
Now the original BOSE 901 was a very interesting speaker and did get some large percentage of the market at the time. They have an exaggerated bass, as do all BOSE audio products.

Apple took note of that and their Dr.dre have exaggerated bass too, as does the HomePod, so these products also aren't "Hi-Fi".

Now Andrew Jones is an English man who is now a famous speaker designer, that originally worked at KEF inventing speaker measuring systems. Went on to design stuff at Pioneer, and recently at ELAC.
In a TESTED interview, he admits that measuring is more important then listening, and that designing the drivers is very important.  The original idea of Hi-Fi was to reproduce what the original concert was, but now, with everything from EDM and multi-tracked, multi-mic'ed electric guitars, there is no original "natural" source being reproduced.  You have to make that sound good. And "good" is the personnel taste of the speaker designer, and it seems that many agree with him. He doesn't like a bright top end, and that may seem to help.
His ELAC UB5 are apparently not expensive and very good. BUT also Hi-Fi.

Steve Guttenberg Audiophiliac also has some interesting things to say. It isn't about absolute accuracy, but does it sound good. And you can get a system that sounds good for under $150.
Massive amplifies can make a system sound more effortless, than a small amplifier, but that isn't the same as better. But bigger speakers are usually nicer than small ones.

Audio is an interesting area and my own DIATONE 8" 3 way bookshelf speakers are currently powered by a tiny Nobsound NS-01G Pro Bluetooth Class D Amplifier in our new room. They are in a bookshelf, and angled into the room and listening position.

With the provided 12V PSU, it is probably about 12W RMS a channel. I have some polyfuse devices in series with the speakers, just in case.  Haven't found cheap Chinese made stuff to last very long.

An interesting video on using REW (Room EQ Wizard) and Equalizer APO, to correct for some room effects talks about  a "home curve".  This one:

This being the Harman desired response of the speakers in a room. Now a speaker that measures flat in an anechoic chamber doesn't measure that way in a real room. It has a falling output with increasing frequency, and that is what this "home-curve" is.

The red trace in a plot above shows the unfiltered response of our bookshelf speakers driven by the small Nobsound amp. The big dips are room nulls. This response is actually fine and shows a to be expected fall with increasing frequency.

To actually improve this, the first step is to acoustically treat the room, rather than use EQ of any kind. EQ doesn't get rid of slap back echo, reflections, standing waves or other effects. Treat the room with absorption at the first reflection points (this improves imaging) and  bass traps to reduce the bass area nulls.  The tech in REW and Equaliser APO is cool, but not really the first step to take to correct a room.

Here is the way to fix a room, this using RealTraps products, even if this is a VERY extreme approach, and not practical for a normal house you actually live in.

But after all that, the biggest difference is the source material. The quality of recordings, mixing and mastering is enormous. Even a great system will sound poor with badly recorded, mixed and mastered material.   There are "mixed for vinyl" albums (like Rainbow) that have no bass on them at all. Any "HITS OF '71" vinyl is terrible, as the music was mastered to take up little space on the each side of the disc.
The original DEEP PURPLE- BLACK NIGHT 7" single is thin and weak without dynamics compared to Rodger Glovers' remastered version from a few years ago.

After some listening in my new room, I think I can go back and improve my own musics mixing and mastering. My new room has given me a new perspective on my recordings.

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