Quarter Notes, Volume 4, Issue #2

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Dear Get Better Sound & Through the Sound Barrier owners,

Welcome to the fourteenth issue of Quarter Notes, published on April 11, 2014. Quarter Notes is a newsletter for Get Better Sound and Through the Sound Barrier owners, expanding on both, as well as introducing new and timely subjects.

 

Best email address

Since you’re reading this, the e-mail address with which I sent this QN must have worked. However, the only e-mail address I have is the one associated with your initial Get Better Sound or Through the Sound Barrier order. If you have an e-mail address that you’d prefer to use to receive Quarter Notes notifications, send it to jim@getbettersound.com. Be sure to include the e-mail address I used originally, along with the one that you want to use to replace it.

 

Finding old newsletters and receiving new notifications

A regular reader writes:

…I wanted to check what the latest issue number was - it seems to me that it has been awhile (Note, I routinely check my spam folder.). Finally, while I do save each newsletter, I was wondering if you have an archive link? It would be nice if I could just check in from time to time for each new issue rather than interrupting you with these inquires. An added benefit would be the sorting of each issue which would be vastly better than my abilities in archiving each issue.

FWIW - I am working on making the QNs more intuitively accessible - concurrent with a (badly needed) reworked website. But even now, if you look at it, the URL is predictable. Here is a list of all QNs links. Click on each to view it.

  • Volume 1, Issue #1
    Topics: Tesa tape • Master the mister • Why single-ended amplifiers can sound so good • Why single-ended amplifiers can sound so bad • Bi-wiring • Room temp/humidity/Rives • The Concert Experience • Twenty Minutes vs. Two Hours to Nirvana? • Small, medium and large listening rooms • CES 2009 quick note • Laser distance measurers and levels • RTAs • House calls
  • Volume 1, Issue #2
    Topics: A question about CD technology • Bi-wiring, part two • From common sense to sixth sense – Srajan Ebaen • Three common-sense tweaks • Tweaks to watch • Tweaks to try • Sensitivity to sensitivity? • Top 10 standards of quality for high-end audio retail specialists • Message boards • Sad, but true • Hourly rate for consulting
  • Volume 1, Issue #3
    Topics: The top 3 tips I keep hearing about from readers • Vinyl 101 - A few tips on the return to vinyl – Jeff Dorgay • How to Eat an Elephant • Computers and Audio – Charles Hanson
  • Volume 1, Issue #4
    Topics: From recent experience • On-the-job observations • The sound of rooms • Hard drive housekeeping • Ear protectors, new basement, fluorescent lights • AC polarity tip • Questions from Italy • Music review – Geoff Poor • Absolute polarity -- controversial, but worth checking out
  • Volume 2, Issue #1
    Topics: The ACK Attack and un-common Knowledge • Basics re-visited  - a little more info: subwoofer set-up, speaker separation and staging, long wall or short wall?, affordable RTA, absolute phase/polarity, sliding base for spiked speakers, rack in the middle – AGAIN!, spikes – AGAIN! • Stacking the decks with DEQX • Demystifying room acoustic treatment
  • Volume 2, Issue #2
    Topics:A reader teaches me a lesson – Computer Audio • New room designs • Set-up diagrams • Stereo subs • Audio forums • Back in the saddle again
  • Volume 2, Issue #3
    Topics: The new Get Better Sound DVD! • Computer audio, part two - the sound, better recordings, more involving sound, Redbook CD, Pure Music, five easy pieces, computer hardware upgrades, interview with Rob Robinson – CEO of Pure Music
  • Volume 2, Issue #4
    Topics: Get Better Sound DVD • Introducing RoomPlay™ • A surprising story about voicing • Room eq systems, and a brief story • How far is too far? • Uneven speaker wire lengths • Fuses as tweaks • Sliders • Degrees of separation • Subs for every system? • Computer audio and absolute polarity • Rack ‘em up one more time!
  • Interim Volume 3, Issue #1
    Topics: Nothing much to see here – just a report about some health issues that were interfering with my work.
  • Volume 3, Issue #2
    Topics: Health issues and your correspondence • It’s not just babies that take nine months – the 1st comprehensive GBS DVD review is born! • Best coupling to the floor • Speaker sliders – a better solution • When sound is foremost • Mini-breakthrough in my Computer Audio system – and a tip even if you don’t use computer audio but you have a TV connected to your system • Apology re RTAs • Balanced outputs – better or worse? • When do the best measurements NOT yield the best musical involvement? • Another instance of technically correct set-up at the expense of the music • RoomPlay Reference
  • Volume 3, Issue #3
    Topics: Half Notes, anyone? • RoomPlay & RoomPlay Reference update • New – StraightTalk • The 83% rule – NOT! • Clever and entertaining blog • SPL meter • Full-range speakers need subs too… • Auto EQ & bass levels • How to voice subs (2, not 1, of course) with full range speakers • Listening seat not always against or near the back wall • Effects and proper usage of Tube Traps • My computer audio settings – NOT • Three good questions • Effects of ear wax • Near-field listening
  • Volume 3, Issue #4
    Topics: Through the Sound Barrier • A different kind of Sound Barrier • Kickstarter
  • Volume 4, Issue #1
    Topics: Our FIFTH Anniversary! • Internet message boards and a continuing invitation • System priorities • Organic EQ vs electronic EQ • Ultimate tweak for Macs when used as computer music servers? • Tweaksville • Latest developments with Through the Sound Barrier • Inside info about the delay
  • Volume 4, Issue #2
    Topics: Hey, you're looking at it now!

Hope this interim info will be helpful until we get the website reworked!

Also, from time to time I get e-mails from folks that haven’t received the QNs. When I check our records, they were definitely sent. So that means the newsletter link is probably going into a spam/junk filter, either on your computer or maybe at your ISP. Or maybe you need to change your QNs e-mail address. If you can adjust your incoming mail to receive ALL mailings from jim@getbettersound.com, that would help.

 

An inexpensive RTA that works: you asked for it

In fact, many times…. ☺ Many readers have inquired about this RTA or that one. You have been especially interested in affordable units or computer programs.

For me, the primary issue is Does the microphone offer flat response in the bass? It doesn’t matter how well the program or device works if the basic input is flawed.

As I’ve written, I feel that you need a 1/3 octave device to be able to resolve differences in bass levels at various frequencies, and especially when determining the best listening position.

I have a rule for myself that I never recommend anything that I haven’t personally tested, or at least observed or heard the device in operation. So there has been little-to-no info from me in that area, as I have used the same Gold Line unit for many years, and before that, the Ivie, and before that a Bruel & Kjaer analyzer. So I have had a relatively small experience base. I did try the Radio Shack meter, along with the correction curve, but found it woefully inadequate for even my simple needs.

I use the RTA for 10-30 minutes or so, and then only to have a look at how the bass works in a given room. And by bass, I mean the boundary dependent region – say from 25-250 Hz.

Since this is the first step in voicing ANY system/room, it shouldn’t be taken lightly.

All this is to say that I recently came across and checked out an iPhone app that worked amazingly well for the info that we need when beginning the voicing process. I had heard about it, but until I actually saw what it did, I couldn’t recommend it.

I did mention this briefly on a recent TTSB BREAKING THROUGH podcast. A RoomPlay client in Vancouver, WA had it. I got to see how it measured up (pun intended) against my calibrated Gold Line DSP-30 portable 1/3 octave RTA.

This is a US $19.99 app. It’s designed to work correctly with any iPhone 5 or any iPod Touch 4G or 5G. It can work on other iPhones, iPods, & iPads, but the bass won’t be correct. The bad news - since this is the only area where we need it to be accurate, I can only unequivocally recommend those listed above. The good news - I’ve already heard from a number of TTSB backers who installed the app on their iPhone 5s - and they are thrilled.

Additionally, you need a pink noise source. The Generator function that comes with this app can provide it for you.

On the TTSB CD, I will be providing both the range from 25-250 Hz as well as 10 1/3 octave pink noise bands from 25-250 Hz. However, you can obtain pink noise sources elsewhere on various CDs. Just remember to measure the ambient sound field in your room and try to run the pink noise at approx. 20 dB above that level so as to get a reading that is not corrupted by ambient noise. As I happen to discover and verify the performance of any other apps, programs, or devices, I’ll let you know.

Here’s a link to the AudioTools website – it’s chock full of info & products. Paying attention to the explanations & functionality of this app can pay off with big rewards for very little expense:

http://studiosixdigital.com/audiotools/

 

Soulless

This is a brief observation re: the effects of electronic eq and time alignment – when set to meet a measurement standard.

Do you remember how an electronic drum track sounds when you are listening? Most of the music I listen to wouldn’t have one, but when it does, I find it annoying. Maybe it’s just me…

Systems that have been set-up to measure well will generally sound very clean. Even technically precise. But from what I have heard to date, it’s not really the sort of ultimate musical involvement I’d want.

It as if all of the performers are electronically produced – sort of an electronic drum track effect for all instruments and most recordings. Listening to these systems makes me think that the system tuner had a high technical standard, but an insufficient musical standard.

Not saying that it cannot be done – in fact, I think it can. A real marriage of science & art is required. But all of the highly touted systems set up with these techniques (that I’ve heard to date) are – in a word - soulless.

Be sure to evaluate a system (especially yours) on its musical engagement, even when it measures outstandingly well. Soul music comes in many genres. ☺

 

The High Fidelity Report

A while back, I was reading a new audio related e-zine. I found it especially interesting. It was music-centered - the audio gear, not so much.

Uncannily, I was contacted by the publisher even as I was looking at the site! I am convinced that this wasn’t a case of Big Brother, but a simple fortuitous happening.

The High Fidelity ReportChris Sommovigo had a question. Would I be interested in occasionally contributing to The High Fidelity Report?

Honestly speaking, I’ve had no interest when others asked. But this was intriguing. You may know of Chris from his importing the amazing Caliburn turntables into the USA, or maybe his cable company – Stereolab.

I expected there to be a perceived conflict of interest. Why would any manufacturer advertise on such a site whose publisher is a competitor? Who could trust the impartiality of such a site?

But that’s exactly what I saw – two acclaimed cable manufacturers advertising! Of course, having known Chris for some time, I knew the reality, not the perception – Chris is a man of integrity who loves music and the gear involved in reproducing it.

Chris explained that he had joined forces with Joey Weiss of HP Soundings. Joey has been - among many things - Harry Pearson’s set-up guy. Chris also mentioned that HP himself would join with them, as well as a number of other respected writers and observers in the audio/music field.

After meeting with Chris - who lives here in the Atlanta area - I agreed to contribute to the site. I explained that the set-back with the TTSB release would keep me away for a bit. Anyway, we agreed to go forward. I will post something in the not-so-distant future. Check out The High Fidelity Report here:

http://thehighfidelityreport.com/

 

New sound room & office: dream or nightmare?

Although my building was completed in October, it’s only been about 4 weeks now that I am satisfied with the sound! Actually, I am more than satisfied – I love it! And visitors are saying the same thing, although they are a bit more animated in their descriptions than I am.

I discussed the “why” a bit on the recent TTSB Breaking Through podcast #4. Although the outcome is great now, it was touch and go for months. For starters, I made the room TOO rigid. Massively reinforced floors and ceilings, double sheetrock on all walls and ceiling, 6” studs, no windows, no intake and exhaust vents, a solid entry door (with weather stripping), etc.

This all served to make the acceptable seating area rather narrow - much more so than I could have predicted (or wanted). I knew to at least use ASC IsoDamp or a similar material, or not make the room so rigid. But NO, I figured that I could get the best of both worlds. A rather time consuming - and ultimately expensive -solution was needed. More and larger Tube Traps – and less placement versatility. My lesson learned – don’t think you can do more – or know more - than is possible. ☹

Originally, it was a sort of run down storage place for all the junk the previous owners had collected. The three garage doors as shown simply opened up into one large storage area.

I wanted to redo it completely, while keeping the general look. No casual passers-by need know or guess what is inside.

Sound room from outside

In the updated image (including snow in the South!), you can see some of the exterior changes. On the inside, it’s all new. Visitors are amazed when stepping in for the first time.

I did manage to get the power company to pull a new separate line (and meter) to this building. So when Pam is running some appliances in the main house, even her glasswork kilns, it doesn’t interfere (as far as I can tell) with my music. :)

I also ran my Internet via Ethernet hardwired to the other building (our house), preserving Internet speed without the effects of being in a WiFi zone. In fact, there are six solid walls and about 150 feet between the wireless router in the house and my soundroom/office area.

Snow in the South

The sound room and office now, from outside.

Sound room from outside now

The first inside shot was taken after we got the interior mostly cleaned out. There was a second floor, but it all had to come out, as I wanted a taller ceiling and a more solidly constructed floor, walls and ceilings.

First inside shot

Here is an early shot as some of the construction began. That’s my office area as you look through the soundroom wall studs. Studs are 6”. One of three grounding rods at the new panel (you can see it inside - on the wall of office), which is directly mounted to a connection of to a new power cable from the power company with a short run to the transformer.

Early shot with office view

Wool carpet in listening room – no synthetics for best sound.

Wool carpet

Pic of the room just prior to equipment load-in. The slot on the baseboard is to allow tube traps to fit flush into the corner. The lighting is adjustable, with different switches for each – no dimmers!

Electrical outlets are dedicated circuits – separate from lighting and from office.

Room ready to move in

The serious work begins…

Moving in

Slightly crowded office and entryway…

Crowded hallway

Just a little loving (and moving)…

As I wrote about in GBS, you start out with big movements until you can eliminate them. The image to the right doesn’t show the 12”, 6”, 3”, or 1 “ positions that I ended up discarding.

These speaker positional tape marks (0.5 inch wide) - in various colors (black brown, tan & white) so that I could keep track of them, only hint at the work that was required in this room. But it was s-o-o-o-o-o worth it! ☺

Positioning marks

A recent shot - as seen from the main listening seat.

View from listening seat

The listening area.

The listening area

Right side wall.

Right side wall

Left side.

Left side wall

Cabinet or other large item between speakers

A few readers misunderstood my comments (I wasn’t clear enough) about not having an equipment cabinet between your speakers. They thought that I was ignoring my own recommendations.

I FIRMLY stand by that opinion. As you can see in the two images below, there is no cabinet to cause reflections, and the electronics are well below and behind the speaker drivers.

No reflections 1 No reflections 2

 

Quiet, reliable, and efficient HVAC

In my travels, far and away the quietest HVAC units I have encountered have been the Mitsubishi Ductless Split Systems similar to those shown here. Nothing else even comes close – no vents required, quietest operation, dead reliable – heat and AC – energy efficient.

I used them these the last couple of years before we moved. What it came time to move, naturally they came along!

The first unit shown is painted the color of the wall to help it disappear visually. Since no one has EVER mentioned it unless I pointed it out, it must have worked!

The dedicated Mitsubishi remote control is shown on top of the right channel speaker.

Mitsubishi HVAC painted to match

Another HVAC unit, in my office, but not painted to match the walls.

Mitsubishi not painted

 

The Duelund outboard crossover

Rather than detail the recent crossover design & build for my Tannoy Canterburys, it seems best to simply link to an article at Jeff's Place about it for those that might be interested:

Jim Smith Checking In: The Duelund-Canterbury Crossover Project

I have included a couple of images here – at the beginning and at the completion.

Crossover at the beginning

Crossover at the completion

 

Laser focused

Leica E7400x laser

For a while now, I have wanted a laser unit that had the tripod hole mounted centrally for even greater accuracy. The new Leica E7400x has it. Plus, although you may not think you need it, it is accurate to 1/32 inch!

The Leica is approximately the same height and depth of the Bosch I have been using, but about twice as long. I especially like the selectable timed laser measurement impulse.

 

More than target practice

When I bought the Leicas, I came across some lightweight and versatile laser targets. I already love mine!

Laser targets
 

Through the Sound Barrier updates

Breaking Through PodcastNow that the Breaking Through podcasts are up, there is no need to duplicate the updates here. FWIW - we always place the updates at the beginning of the podcasts.

Here is a link to the iTunes preview page where you can access all four episodes to date:

Breaking Through: The Through the Sound Barrier Podcast

Being syndicated by iTunes means that you can simply subscribe and any new podcast links will be sent to you automatically.

 

Revised website

The GBS website has not aged so gracefully over the past six years. It’s become unwieldy. We are redoing it even as I write this. It’ll make finding things easier as well as offering downloads of things that many have requested.

 

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

Six years ago, I was completing the final drafts of Get Better Sound. I definitely knew that I had some info to share that many audiophiles might not have.

However, it never occurred to me that I was about to enter into a new learning experience for myself. It’s not just about Computer Audio, nor even the unexpected Through the Sound Barrier CD licensing issues.

Getting & replying to thousands of e-mails, participating in thousands of phone calls as well as working personally with many of you on RoomPlay and RoomPlay Reference sessions has taught me a lot. Perhaps the most important thing is that I don’t know it all. ☺

These past few months, as Pam & I have dealt with the new house and the inevitable issues that arise, the learning curve related to sound has been unusually steep – and invaluable. Overcoming is cool!

But it took a lot of work. Don’t know about you, but I hope to always keep learning – if for no other reason than to have more to share.

 

StraightTalk

Lots of folks are using this service. It turns out that a surprising number of audiophiles don’t have access to someone knowledgeable with whom they can discuss issues without either suspecting a sales agenda, or simply doubting the veracity of the information.

If you have a dealer who does right by you, StraightTalk isn’t for you. Support your dealer! But if not, check it out:

http://getbettersound.com/straighttalk.html

 

Why I can’t use the bathroom…

After mentioning sales agendas, it’s only appropriate that I mention a couple of items that I’d like to sell after our move. ☺

Here is a pic of the half bath in my new office/listening room building. Though the image doesn’t show it well, it’s full of audio equipment, mostly RPG Vari-Screens!

I need to clear these out to complete the facility. Currently, there is no room for a sink, nor a toilet. Walking out of my building over to the house solves the problem, but it takes extra time, and it isn’t exactly fun, especially on days when the weather is an issue.

Occupado

This is a pic of a pair of RPG Vari-Screens in my former listening room, hinged together, acting as acoustic treatment, including bass trapping. I also used them to eliminate light and sound leakage from the dormer windows behind them.

I have 15 of these large screens (92” tall, 24” wide, 3” deep). When hinged together, they are up to 48” wide. They may be used separately or as large hinged arrays – usually with a fold at the center. I have the RPG hinge hardware.

I bought them in 2001 to create a soundroom within a very large room at CES. Each Vari-Screen has an absorptive side and an abfusive side. They worked well acoustically. We received quite a bit of sonic acclaim.

Variscreens as acoustic treatment

This pic shows three of them in my former room, used singly. Here they are concealing a double window and serving as an acoustic focusing element behind my speakers, as well as blocking sound from outdoors that liked to come in and spoil the fun musically. That is a pair of ASC Tube Traps in front.

Variscreens as focusing element

These are large and I do not have packaging. So either you pick them up here, or you have a company such as Craters & Freighters pack and ship them.

Pricing (originally USD $950 each):

Individually – USD $299.
Any quantity from 2-6 – $250 each.
Purchase all 15 – $2625 ($175 each).

Note: These are not new, so a few have small imperfections, but nothing serious.

 

Also in storage are 8 ASC absorptive acoustic panels – 49” x 15” by 1”.

One is shown in front of my speaker, and one is leaning against the side of it to give you some perspective.

I have no packaging for these either.

Pricing: USD $75 each, or US $399 for all eight.

ASC acoustic panels

Questions or comments?

E-mail me: jim@getbettersound.com

 

That’s all, folks.

Keep on listening!

Jim Smith

 
     
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