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 The Mini Mod System

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Michael Green
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PostSubject: The Mini Mod System   Mon Jul 30, 2012 8:18 pm

Hi Tunees

Back in the day we found free resonant speakers to out perform other types of speakers because of their ability to tonaly correct problems caused by cabinet distortion. The first reviews of these speakers won them "speaker of merit" (Bound for sound), Best speaker in class (Audio Adventure), "Best new product" (Stereophile Magazine) and many more. Because of me being fussy I never let these speakers go into mass production past a couple of runs. I've been criticized for this by many of my peers and I would have to say they were right in many regards. The speaker line beat up on the competition and I should have (business wise) accepted this as good enough, but there was something inside of me that said their needs to be an understanding made in the industry and the MGA products must not only set the example but make the change happen. It's a bold change but one that changes the game of listening forever. Tunable speakers are the only true way to match a speaker to the components and the rooms environment. Until this concept is a part of listener thinking proccess they will never reach their goals of the absolute sound.


The equation of the perfect speaker system must include the individual room as part of the speaker recipe as well as the components pushing them. Without this formula you can kiss great sound goodbye and have to settle for an occasional goose pimple moment. For myself this has never been good enough, and from what I have seen in the industry for over 35 years the search is far from over within the concept of fixed listening.



The Mini Mod has always been a fasinating journey for me. It started as a way to produce an inexpensive version of tunable speakers, and because of their prototypish nature were constantly in a state of tweaking. Most clients opted for the studio 5's because they seemed "finished" as compared to the mini, and I can see their point if you have the change to spend on a good set of 5's why not. They blew away the mini. Recently though there has been a surprising discovery. One of those flukes that has delivered sound far past what I have expected. You see I have always loved the sound of true hardwood baffle boards but finding the tonal balance is tough as it doesn't take much to over do in the wood department for the notes to shift to weird places. Another problem is if you build a speaker as thin as a musical instrument using hardwood there is a touchy factor. You have to keep the speaker in certain humidity and the drivers have to be super light weight as to not damage the thin baffle or vibrate things into a bad place. However if there were a light weight tunable material combined with the instrument hardwood you could have the strentgh you need plus the the tonality. Up till a few months ago this combo did not exist.





About two years ago I was reading about these speakers that people loved and were dirt cheap for what they offered. There were complaints but for the money people still gobbled them up. I bought a few of them and started testing to see if they would make a good mini. My main interest was a speaker that was a monitor that could be made to go as low as a full range speaker. There are very few monitors that have ever done this without the imagination of the listener. At best they made cute mid base but nothing that reached down like the 5's did or even the spectrum 108's on a good day. The Rogers, Sonis, B&W, AR, Paradigm, AES made a run at it but at the end of the day you still felt like you heard a monitor. Well this surprising cheap speaker actually (once tweaked) went down low. It was a sloppy low, but at least it was low, and that was a good start for me. After putting in the tuning bar I sat there and listened a while trying to see what I did wrong. Did I just completely tweak out my system to the point where anything sounded good? It played with my mind so much I had to take them to friends houses and hook them up to mediocre setups. Well it confirmed that I was on to something. It also got me thinking about putting on an instrument front baffle board like I've been wanting to. The first thing that jumped out at me after this move was that the tweeter was mismatched and the speaker had a chance to go much further than any mini mod I had ever done in the past. I replaced both woofer and tweeter to what I usually used and that was not it. The cabinet for some reason loved the 6.5" woofer tweaked over the 5.25" that I would have normally used. Once I got the paper tweeter matched to the super low mass driver magic began to happen.

This brought things up to the place where I last talked to you guys about the mini. Well since then the mini has turned into a music animal. The speaker is absolutely seamless and transparent. the tonality makes you want to listen for hours on end, and they image like bandits. What a joy to listen to. Honestly they make you forget about tweaking. They sound nothing like a mini monitor with the exception of they image like there is nothing else in the room.

If you have been watching my writing on the mini and have been thinking of maybe buying for the sake of having a low cost tunable baby around, I can only encourage this move and be careful that they do not blow away your big setup.

specs
H 12" W 7.25" D 6.75"
6.5" woofer
3.5" tweeter
Sen 89
FR 50hz-20khz *note, minis will go far lower than their anechoic specs
RMS 40 watts
Cab tunable free resonance
FB poplar
TB douglas fir

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Last edited by Michael Green on Fri Aug 17, 2012 7:30 am; edited 5 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: The Mini Mod System   Fri Aug 17, 2012 4:03 am

Stopped over at MG's today to listen to the mini mod woofers being used in the 60's. MG likes to use other's ears for listening because he believes everyone hunts for particulars in sound that makes their brain focus on things differently than anyone else. He's kinda weird when he describes sound because he talks in terms of harmonics instead of specifics a lot. When you tell him what you hear he doesn't say right or wrong he just goes in to listen and absorbs what you were saying in comparison to what he is hearing as if he were writing a journal of research. You would have to listen with him to understand.

MG was showing me how the mini woofer reacted to the classic cabinet and what happens when certain tweaks take place. At first he put on this music that I had no idea what it was, the soundstage was BIG but I couldn't relate to it cause I didn't know it. He then put on dark side of the moon keeping the tweak the same without him listening first and retuning. Again the stage was Big and went deeper than my room both stage wise and bass extension. I don't think he was trying to tweak anything in but more show me what this woofer was capable of doing. I also noticed that he is intense no matter what is playing in his studies of waves and tones. The mini woofer was impressive, but I learned something about myself vs MG. I at this point pay more attention to things I'm familar with where he is listening for something in a harmonic, space or tonal world and does get distracted by specific tune-ins. I point out something and he either fixes it, lets me play with it or studies it. He knows what is making the sounds and what part of the chain it is coming from.

At diner later he asked me if I heard anything this sound did today that my system didn't. I'm starting to understand what he means when he says he wants people to be the master of their own systems. He also showed me today that I can have the sound I have come to love in my own system but take it even further. I think about how I listened before and how I listen now after a few months and the difference is night and day. My system is better than any one I've ever had, and I am in control of shaping it to be perfect for me. What MG is doing I think is showing me the different parts that make this happen in a way that I can discover my sound and not his or any body else's. There are already tweaks that I do that are unique to my taste and give me consistent results. Funny I would have never thought these little speakers would have the potential of doing things the very best systems in the world would do.
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PostSubject: Re: The Mini Mod System   Fri Aug 17, 2012 7:56 am

I'll tell you what Bob. If I could pick up your system and drop it in everyone's spare 9 X 12 bedroom the way you have it tweaked I would. Very few audiophiles have what you have and the thought that they have spent 5, 10, 15 grand to get it makes me sad for them. We all go through learning stages and my hope is that one day audiophiles will stop making their systems so difficult. I understand their desire (I really do) but to never get there is heart breaking.

And yes, I do listen in strange ways sometimes Laughing but to cover the big picture my listening habits have turned into a life long lesson in which I feel I never stop learning, and ever time I see someone master their own system I find myself becoming the student all over again. It's fasinating for me to listen through someone else's ears.

The mini is a classic and I can not recommend enough that people jump on this whether it is their main setup or toy. I can not think of anything under a grand that comes close. What an easy speaker to listen to.

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PostSubject: Re: The Mini Mod System   Fri Aug 17, 2012 12:09 pm

Hi Bob

Would you like to tell me about your adventures with the low pitched instruments as you tuned your system?

The mini mods are becoming more appealing to Sonic day by day but the idea of them being mini monitors is worrisome.

Sonic
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PostSubject: Re: The Mini Mod System   Fri Aug 17, 2012 10:06 pm

Big and full with plenty of gutts. You know I listen to a lot of rock so I love, need, that kick drum and bass guitar. It's low and tight.

Put on "wish you were here". If the bass is not there you might as well not listen. It's there!
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PostSubject: Re: The Mini Mod System   Fri Aug 17, 2012 11:01 pm

Hi Guys

If I may add to this. Keep in mind this is not a mini monitor with a 4 or 5.25" driver mounted to MDF or thick wood, then drowned out with fiber fill. This is a 6.5" woofer and 3.5" treated paper tweeter on a .25" poplar baffle board screwed to a .5" cabinet. That's lot of driver per square inch. There's not a lot of cut out behind the poplar so there is some meat to where the poplar is mounted but enough open area to give that rich tone like a guitar body. I use the tunable room screws that I love the sound of to mount the baffle to the main cabinet.

look at the screw pattern



The cut out and inside is all done with my poly coating so it has a nice drum sound on the inside. The combo of the inside/baffle/drivers/wood tuning bar just work. I like the sound of the tuning bar used too. It adds a lot to the body and breaks up the back wave on the inside as it is located dead center of the internal node. There's so many things that work right with this thing that it makes my earlier mod attempts look silly. I just hope they keep making the base model speaker for a long time so I don't have to reinvent the wheel. I mean how much would I have to charge to build something like this from scratch? Who knows, maybe I would need to charge 2 grand or more. Don't know but this is a gimme. I know this, I'm stocking up on parts for myself Laughing . Even when/if I move on from this because of a base model change this will always be a speaker I'm going to hang on to for my own listening. Not often that so many things fall right into place.

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PostSubject: Re: The Mini Mod System   Wed Aug 29, 2012 1:56 pm

Hello Friends

I've been busy the last couple of days and have not been on the forum much. My ears have been in sonic heaven as I have found a missing link to the mini mod system. Never did I expect this would fall in my lap so easily and to be honest I'm still in shock trying to find a down side. For anyone reading this that has a complicated system you need to take notice and consider the possibility that you have been chasing something that would be great if it would have worked. If a screw never would have been put in place to hold things together in shipping, if the room was not your speaker and if digital really was not tunable when it traveled through physical parts.

While tweaking on some electronics for others (vintage gear) I needed to do some soldering requiring me to move the unit to the work area. When doing this I hooked up the Sherwood RX-4105 to keep things playing. I was playing some select classical pieces to fill the air with vibe. After a couple of hours of tinkering I needed to go back to my sound closet for a part. Walking by the setup playing the violins were speaking to me "weird, the violins should be squeaking with a new component". I peeked my head in the room and was surprised by the amount of music detail I was hearing. I went on with my doings for a few more hours and went in to put on something else to jam to and as soon as I did again it caught my attention. I said "OK young receiver let's see what you have in there. When I took the top off I was greeted with a tunees dream. What a Face A clean well laid out beautiful looking circuit board. A circuit board BTW made out of great sounding material far superior to the sound of those heavy green monsters. If you put this (without the name on it) next to a high end component of 10 years ago you would say this is one of the cleanest built units made. I'm sure Sherwood was not thinking of me, but they left out all the dampening Laughing and over built parts cheers . I did my first little tweak of snipping wires and within an hour this baby was already opening up. Does daddy ever have plans for you my little tuning joy.

Now after only 2 days I'm getting a hint of music, something I don't think I have ever heard on a component this quick outside of the Magnavox DVD player. The combo of the Maggie and 4105 are giving an already believable soundstage with a ton of detail to the inner parts of the music, defining lines of layers effortlessly. I wish it was a month from now so I could hear the parts settle into what I think is going to be a reference for me.

to give a basic view of the unit take a look at this

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=sherwood+rx-4105&view=detail&id=72EEEA407B8B4022DDF17D83446BA124F573AEE5&first=36

I found this to be a little comical but apperiate that he took the time to tear the unit down and give some background. I doubt if anyone but we tunees are going to give a good description of the sound, but it is interesting to see how others look at things.

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PostSubject: Re: The Mini Mod System   Thu Aug 30, 2012 5:25 pm

Well, I have to say so far I am very pleased with the 4105's break in. These parts are blossoming and nothing has gone in any weird phasey directions. The Magnazox seems to also love the companionship of the unit. Low register on pianos are right there. Same with string bass and cellos. I also enjoy the tops of drums of any kind and the air underneath the skins is complementary to the balance of the whole drum.

This is great news cause the mini really knows how to do drums. You would never think that a small speaker would be able to fill in the whole drum but the mini with stand acts like a floor stander without the lobe effect that comes with almost all floorstanding speakers. This effect is a doubling back that takes place mid way up a floor standing speaker because of it's interaction with the floor. Panel speakers are very guilty of this but most box speakers I have heard do the same thing. You've noticed that my box speakers all have stands and or loading chambers. This is part for the coupling, part for speaker/room voicing but also this lobe effect.


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PostSubject: Re: The Mini Mod System   Sun Feb 24, 2013 11:04 am

In a week I will be heading to Bill333's place where we are planing on a several system build out. The mini mod system will be part of the listening tests. At that point I will be able to evaluate this system (hopefully) at Bill's, Drewster's and Robert's.

I'm going to make the mini with both the paper and silk dome tweeters. I will also be refining the stand. The original stand lacks in response as compared to the (what Bob called) the scratch posts Laughing . But the single post stand transferred a far better range of music content over the several board approach. Will this still be the case? We will see cause my tweaky ears will be on over the next few weeks.

The removal of the single post stand in Bob's room resulted in the magic disappearing that was present with the first visit. It never came back but did show itself at my Vegas place. Both the mini mod and the 5's (courtesy of Herns) loved the full range benefits of the post mod stand. You would think that the mass would cause unbalance but I think that maybe because the post itself is so light weight that the 3.5" squared is maybe not as much mass as one would think in relationship to the distance. And one plus I can see is the relationship that the post has to the top and bottom plate.



I will try this with both the square and tri bottoms and keep my mind open for other transfer options as after all this is about moding and finding the flow of energy.

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PostSubject: Re: The Mini Mod System   Mon Feb 25, 2013 10:19 pm

I'm definitely looking forward to having a front row seat on all this research and development. In addition to all the things Michael will be doing, I'm building some gainclones for us to experiment with. I think we're going to have some cool sound!
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PostSubject: Re: The Mini Mod System   Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:27 pm


Hey, Bill333,

What is a gainclone?

Robert
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PostSubject: Re: The Mini Mod System   Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:55 am

Hi Robert,

If you want the full rundown this wikipedia page will give you the history: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gainclone

Basically, gainclones are copies or variations of the Gaincard amplifier developed by Junji Kimura at 47 Laboratories about 15 years ago. The circuit is incredibly simple - only 7 parts for each amplifier channel and 6 parts in the power supply. It's renowned for its good sound and its responsiveness to tweaking like chassis and heatsink materials, parts selection and wiring. Most gainclones are DIY, although there are a few commercial amps based on the design.

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PostSubject: Re: The Mini Mod System   Wed Feb 27, 2013 9:21 am


Hi Bill333 and Robert

Kimura of 47Labs. Fascinating designs from a original thinker in audio. He seems to espouse some aspects of the tune -- simplicity, low weight, minimal part count, thin wires. I recently heard their CD player and it was good. Michael however once told me that 47Labs gear had one drawback that limits tuneability. Too much rigidity.

Sonic follows the adventures of Kimura. Am awed by his counter rotating turntable and that articulated tonearm. What will he think of next?

Sonic
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PostSubject: Mini Mod   Thu Feb 28, 2013 10:31 pm

Bill,

I have heard the 47 labs products in my search for tuning the best, and I must agree with Michael that the 47 Labs stuff is rigid and not very tunable. The Channel Islands Mono Block VMB-1 amps embarrass the 47 labs equipment for price, weight, and performance. And, they tune much better. Unfortunately, the manufacturer jumped on the Class D bandwagon and does not offer these amps anymore. I have a pair of these amps and plan to start a second system with my MGD 5s with a Meridian tuner.

The Channel Island VMB-1s, a Maggie, a simple pre-amp and a MGD speaker will get most everyone to sonic nirvana for simple money.
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PostSubject: Re: The Mini Mod System   Fri Mar 01, 2013 4:58 pm

Hi garp

Thanks

This is helpful to me to have your ears in on the evaluation. I was wondering if the Lab stuff has warmed up at all. They (from what I remember) were always very cold, like they never wanted to burn in. The Eighth Nerve guys liked this (I think) and it never tickled my fancy. I can remember (don't know if you did) going back and forth from the Lab room and the Jolida room and the Jolida room killed the Lab sound. The 7 rooms at that store each had a "michael" twist to the flavor. None of them tweaked but I could feel a tiny bit (very tiny) of me in each (as far as the audiophile thing goes). That is all except the 47 Labs room. that eighth room system just sounded to me like some one poured ice on it.

You know (oh no a michael story). I can remember folks coming from the store to my home a couple of blocks away. The looks on their faces told me two different stories every time. People were tolerant of the store but when they came over there were some shocked expressions. It would have been a ton of fun to have tweaked the store, but for me the Vibe in personnel and the place itself has to be right to hold my interest and that place had the Vibe just not the right characters in the play. Hanging out listening to audiophile cues all day instead of music is enough to send this boy to audio hell. It has got to be musical if I'm going to put my name on it. I can tolerate it for the sake of someones taste that needs to be met, but for me to say I like it past the bare bone basics it's got to sing and at least be in pitch or some type of tonal structure.

To me 47 Labs at the time represented the extreme of analytical thought. Hate to say this but it was like eating ribs with all born and no meat. I'm sure folks came up with combos that fit and worked for them cause they got and get press, but some products for me are at the opposite end of my scale and Labs was one of them. And the weird part is they did meet some of the criteria I look for, however not when it comes to material transfer. There was something (remember I'm talking way back then and under those conditions) hard to the sound. Like sitting in jail. If the 47 Labs has changed from the old days it will be a pleasant surprise and I will write posts of glory, but this next stopping place in my travels should be pretty intense from the listening side and I'm going to try to paint some pictures of the sound and the toys making it and hopefully my attitude will be bent. Bill and I have talked about this time really letting me do what I do and if this is the case there should be some things that are from my point of view and listening preferences fairly cool happening. We will see how much the exploring nature of Bill333 lets me go in this direction. I hope I get to set up a little Vibe Villa there. Bill says "I want to hear the michael sound" Laughing So do I. I'm not sure I have one but if I do indeed stay there more than a quick visit I might have some real adventures coming from the Tunable Room that I haven't been able to do for years and certainly not since TuneLand started.

So, there are two goals for me here. One is to find Bill's sound as he has been looking for a system to deliver his particular taste for ever. I'll tell you and I'm sure he will more in depth while I'm there. And for me the second goal is to describe how I get the sound I want "in a tunable room" from start to finish using a space that really should deliver.

I also want to and hope Bill won't mind me getting into his journey a little more cause some have called it vague as compared to what they thought I would post about being to a tunable room and all. I want to get into this because I think that for folks that are seekers of what they maybe don't know for sure if something is their sound this might help. the systems Bill has had represent a fairly large sonic range and for even me it is a bit of a mystery as to how they are or if they are connected.

So to recap this particular post. there are going to be two things I'm going to be talking about here. My sound and approach to it and then the longer term topic "finding Bill's sound".

PS, I also want to thank folks for all the recent emails I've been getting about your tuning successes. It makes me feel great to see you make such big steps in your sound and for you to get to places that have Life/listening changes. You know I really love this stuff and get a thrill out of seeing my goodies get you there.

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PostSubject: Mini Mod   Sat Mar 02, 2013 9:29 am

Michael,

The first time that I visited the old place in Nashville, I saw all the highly reviewed audio products of the day including 47 Labs all over the store. I brought a slightly modded Jolida integrated (like Drewsters) that accepted 12AU7 rather than the stock 12AX7 tubes. I listened to the 60s with the little Jolida and was amazed as it hooked me into the tune. The little Jolida was warmer and projected a huge soundstage that I had never experienced before. I also listened to 47 Labs equipment and strongly preferred my Jolida. For Tunees, the old store was in a basement of an old building in downtown Nashville. The walls of most of the listening rooms were brick and tall as I recall. I have listened to the 47 labs products several times in other systems and feel that the 47 labs amps sound overly analytical for my tastes; however, many enjoy this type of sound.


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PostSubject: Re: The Mini Mod System   Mon Mar 04, 2013 4:35 am

Hi Garp

I think I could maybe even enjoy analytical sometimes, but when it is like a golfer use to playing 18 holes shows up at a put put course it's hard to not be disappointed by the lack of realness that comes with whole round notes. Like you give me the lush side (tight lush) of music any day over surgery without air.

good to see you

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