A high-end idiocy (one of many!)

Rip Van Woofer

Rip Van Woofer

Audioholic General
When I arrived at a slightly diagonal speaker placement for the sake of smoother bass in my room it seemed I'd given up some of the precise imaging I had enjoyed with the more linear arrangement. C'est la vie, I thought; audio is full of compromises and I'd rather have spectral accuracy.

Well, I fixed it a few days ago and now all is bliss. How? Simple! But I coudn't have done it with any number of very expensive "high-end" preamps.

See, when I was listening to a mono recording recently (Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos, re-released on EMI's 'Great Recordings of the Century' series with the composer at one of the pianos - very nice, and very listenable even in 1950's mono) it seemed skewed to the left speaker. So I simply turned the balance control (that unfashionable device) on my ancient preamp a bit to the right. It fixed that immediate problem but lo! when I listened to stereo recordings...all was right with the world again! It seems my speaker arrangement somehow slightly emphasised the left channel via some sort of room interaction but I didn't recognize it as such in stereo. Or maybe it was something else. Whatever.

Which brings me, willy-nilly, to High-End Audio Idiocy #1246: leaving off things like balance controls and tone controls (simple, useful devices for correcting or at least ameliorating any number of problems) on preamps and integrated amps on the baseless grounds that they somehow "degrade" the signal. You know, the same signal that's traveled thru miles of cabling, PCB tracks, and innumberable passive and active components between the microphone and one's golden ears. Especially when this "design feature" is found on tube equipment and other supposedly "musical sounding" high-end multikilobuck gear that likely uses elevated second harmonic disortion and non-linear frequency response in the form of a high frequency roll-off (a fixed, non-controllable tone control) for that "musical" effect -- signal degradations, in other words.

There, I feel better.
 
jeffsg4mac

jeffsg4mac

Republican Poster Boy
Rip, if you had a multi-channel setup, that would not have been an issue. As with mine and most of the others one can bypass the the tone controls yet still raise and lower each channel independent of each other to get matched levels :D Therefore achieving balance bliss and sonic heaven both at the same time.

Why is it every time I type the word independent I think of that Rudolf the Red-nose Reindeer puppet show from my childhood?
 
Last edited:
Rip Van Woofer

Rip Van Woofer

Audioholic General
Multi channel is in my future for sure. But first, prospective employers need to quit using my resumes for paper airplanes...or maybe I should emigrate to India. :(

Of course, your post brings us to High-End Idiocy #1365: that multichannel is supposedly a "step backward" from "pure" stereo!

Don't have an answer for your Rudolph question, sorry! :D
 
Last edited:
jeffsg4mac

jeffsg4mac

Republican Poster Boy
Correction, I meant the word independent not work. Now it makes more sense right? IN DE PEN DENT Just like the elf said.


ahhhhhh never mind.
 
O

O'Shag

Junior Audioholic
Balancing your speakers and Tube Gear

Rip,

a good way to establish correct balance for your loudspeakers is the following:

First place your speakers close together facing each other about 5 - 7cm (2 - 3 inches apart). Reverse the polarity connections of one loudspeaker. Put the signal on your preamp to mono, and rotate the balance control on your amplifier on eather side of 'centre'. You will hear a point at which the signal almost disappears. At this point the output from both loudspeakers is the same. In an ideal symmetrical listening set-up this should be the setting adopted. You may need to use the balance control to compensate for an 'off-centre' listening position, or asymmetrical speaker positions within the room. Your spot on in that the best imaging can only be obtained with the correct balance. By the way don't forget to change back the polarity on the speaker that you changed.

I agree that balance and tone controls are a neccessity, but you will find that most tube components have them. I understand that you as well as most of us may be slightly sensitive when it comes to spending large sums of money on audio, and I admire your project to build your own speakers (I hope to do this in the near future also). But its a mistake to believe that more 'esoteric' gear (inevitably having a higher price tag) cannot yield much better results.

Take tube audio electronics for example. I'm not one of those 'dyed-in-the-wool' tube personages that will only use tube gear or think that anything other than tubes is inferior, although I do have friends like this. The very best sound reproduction I've heard however, has come from tube amps and preamps. I do have some tube components, but have listened to systems belonging to friends of mine that are far superior to my own. If you have the opportunity to listen to a Sonic Frontiers tube amp and preamp driving a good set of speakers and being fed from a really good CD player for example, you will 'see the light'.

Yes - there is inherent second order distortion with tube technology (which is not audible for most circumstances), but solid state/ FET technology needs to use massive amounts of feedback to cancel distortion, and this can and frequently does change the nature of the sound for the worse. Its all to easy to throw a superficial glance at a technology and judge it - I know I did. For years I felt the same way as you - that most of this stuff is just snake oil, but when I got the opportunity to listen to the pronounced differences 'high-end' audio (not neccessarily overly expensive), especially tubes can make, I had what Stephen Covey may describe as a paradigm shift.

There are positives and negatives to both Solid State and Tube technologies. My experience with the best tube gear is that the sound is full of presence, effortlessly smooth, very tight and extremely detailed (rather like uncompressed SACD compared to CD). Even at higher listening levels which is usually harsh and unpleasant with all but the best SS components, the tube amp produces tremendous detail and outstanding imaging, and most importantly without any harshness whatsoever.

I agree that the technologies setting a new benchmark in audio, such as multi-channel SACD or DVD-A -are truly outstanding. I also believe that the future is inevitably in multi-channel. But comparing two-channel systems, consider this - A Subaru Impreza WRX overall is more sophisticated technologically and can get probably get you from A to B as quickly as a Ferrari Daytona. But can it do it in the same way, or can it provide the same experience? At the end of the day its what your human ears hears, and what your human heart feels that counts - and some tube systems can bring you so close to the music that it will move you. Unfortunately it will also infect you with that horrible disease known as upgrade-itis, with symptoms generally including a continual desire to get that amazing sound at your home.
 
Last edited:

newsletter
  • RBHsound.com
  • BlueJeansCable.com
  • SVS Sound Subwoofers
  • Experience the Martin Logan Montis
Top