Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What does your system do for you?

So, from my understanding, there are two different types of audiophile.

The first type is one who is obsessed with low distortion, everything in the signal path must have very low distortion.

The second type prefers to create a system which is enjoyable to listen to irrespective of distortion or specifications.

I fall into the second category. The sound is of most importance. I like to create a system which sounds the way I like it.

With my system I have aimed to have excellent frequency extension in both directions. Bass must be strong and with impact, but also be tight, and convey the tone which would be expected of a double bass live in your room. The mids should also have good attack and snap, and detail, but not alter the tone of vocals.
The highs I prefer to sound soft, but detailed. The mids and highs should never bite, or become tiresome to listen to. A fatiguing sound system has no business in my home.

A sound system should be designed for the room in which it is located. It should reproduce the full range of frequencies and it should have the ability to play louder than you would ever actually want, and maintain a sense of sonic composure at low and high volume, in other words does not get harsh or bite at louder volume, and equally does not loose detail at lower volume. It should always sound balanced. In practice this is challenging to achieve, but good selection of equipment helps a lot with regard to this.

Amplifiers should be matched to the speakers they will drive. When selecting an amp, always consider the sensitivity, power handling, and impedance of the speaker. The amp should be able to deliver the power to driver the speakers to the full SPL you require without clipping, and have more power on tap.

Speakers should be auditioned in a similar size room to the one you intend to place them.
These days it is difficult to go to a shop and buy a large speaker which reproduces bass with much impact or
low frequency response. There seems to be a trend by manufacturers to build narrow cabinets with small drivers, and perhaps accompany these with  a subwoofer. This is not ideal. To take advantage of this style of system requires an active crossover to cut the low frequencies going to the tower speakers, otherwise integration of a subwoofer can be very difficult as low frequencies will be overlapping and coming from multiple locations (the main speakers and the sub) and this will create a confused sound stage, amongst other issues not discussed here.

I won't offer my opinion on speaker selection, but will say that modern tower speakers with small drivers are not really full range or enjoyable to me.  I prefer to feel the bass as well as hear it.
If you have ever been at a band rehearsal or concert you will know that an amplified bass guitar moves a lot of air. you can feel it. Likewise with drums. If a speaker can reproduce or replicate this same impact by moving lots of air, and SPL then the music will seem more real, or more enjoyable.

However not everyone tries to recreate the original event in their own home and are happy to listen at quieter volumes, but basically the same rules apply, the speakers must reproduce the full range of frequencies, but have the capability to move some serious air! Most small tower speakers just cant do this! Music is not just about the frequency range but also about the impact. Small drivers in tower speakers can reproduce some low notes, but the sound has no authority, and effectively sounds unbalanced. This effects the enjoyment of the music.

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