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 Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Wed May 10, 2017 11:18 am

Fact is everything in the audio chain is by nature a tone control. Music is tone, audio is tone, our hearing canals are tonal. The shocking news is that it is taking so long for audiophile designers, and more sadly, audio reviewers to dig their way out of the huge mistake hole they dug themselves into. There's oceans of pride in the discrete lie that many will go to their grave never understanding that every recording sounds different and most of the time needs to be equalized in the end users room.

kinda reminds me of this last show when Jason (of Stereophile) had no idea about making tunable adjustments in room 630

I didn't want him to be embarrassed on my Stereophile rant in the comments, but here's something you and others might find interesting. Jason was a RoomTune client light years before he ever wrote a word for any audio magazine. He couldn't get the sound right if a tuning fork hit him upside the ear. I would love to have his old client file Laughing Oh my Lord that boy was confused about the hobby. He had bought an old B-stock set of Chameleons (the old speckled paint MDF ones I think) and was on the phone to us all the time trying to tune. It seemed like every time he put on a different recording he was thrown into a panic. I believe he had the crossover modified several times and got those things so far out of whack I felt bad for the guy. Anyway seeing him years later reviewing, and then reading a review or two of his, wow.

But this goes to show how easy it was for high end audio to get off track and start building a part of the hobby way off base. Tone controlling is so basic and so fundamental to the hobby, talk about embarrassing Rolling Eyes . I truly enjoy my earthy approach to tone controlling through tuning but to be honest I haven't met many audiophiles who didn't need an equalizer, seriously. My writing room system uses tone controls and when called for I have no problem making the call to use them. The time will come though, and I think sooner than later, where that whole discrete myth will be thrown out the window. it's just a bunch of guys who have no idea how the hobby works and have been falsely given the directive steering wheel over the hobby.

I keep telling myself that I'm going to throw an EQ into one of my systems and give it a serious review. I think I have a couple of them sitting around somewhere.

Another thing that I think is important to talk about is the fact that digital needs to be EQed much more than Vinyl or tape.

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Fri May 12, 2017 11:48 am

Detective Work By Sonic -  Who Started The Trend  Of No Tone Controls?

Sonic finds that the JVC Japan Victor Company Nivico SEA-10 is an important part of my system. Of course, the amount of correction applied is at most +3db/-2db at 40hz and 15khz, normally much closer to flat or just Flat. No correction is carried out at the intermediate JVC Nivico SEA-10 frequencies of 250hz, 1khz and 5khz.

Now that we are at this happy state of affairs and having read Mr Shaw's piece, Sonic is wondering where did audio engineering go off the rails and start omitting tone controls from amps and preamps. So research followed taking in google searches into old hi-if magazines and manufacturers' archives.


One of the things Sonic found was an advertisement in Hifi News and Record Review which featured a system made up of the Linn Sondek LP12, Grace G707, Supex SD900e, Supex SDT180 transformer, Naim NAC12, Naim NAP160 and the Linn Isobarik DMS. The NAC12 preamp had no tone controls though it had a balance control. This advertisement was from 1975 or 1976. Sonic has earlier said this ad originated from the early 1970s but that's not possible as the Linn Isobarik DMS were only  introduced in 1975 so that advertisement could be no earlier than that year. Naim's website gives 1974 as the year of the NAC12's introduction.

Over in the USA, Audio Research's SP-3 preamp introduced in 1972 had tone controls. Their following preamp model SP-4 also had tone controls but the SP-5 introduced in 1977 had no tone controls.

This tells Sonic that this trend did not start, as some allege, with Audio Research. The Naim NAC12 predates Audio Research's devices with no tone controls.


Brands like Macintosh kept their tone controls as did the Japanese brands such as Luxman, Pioneer, Accuphase et al.  Some added bypass switches in later models. Quad kept their slope controls which are really good. It would appear too it was the new market entrants around the late 1970s and the early 80s that caused the flood of preamps without tone controls.

In Sonic's investigation into who started this trend, I found this admission on the Naim Forum by Administrator Richard Dane:


Source: http://forums.naimaudio.com/topic/what-no-bass-and-treble-on-naim-uniti?reply=1566878607265671

"Naim pretty much pioneered the idea of no switched filters, loudness controls or tone controls on a commercial preamp. There have never been any on a Naim preamp, even the very first NAC12 in 1974 - a time when it seemed the top end Pre-amps had to have as many twiddly knobs as an aircraft cockpit to be taken seriously.  

The reason then is the reason now: Firstly the design of the preamp is right with execllent stability, overload margin and transient handling capability, and secondly such controls can never improve the quality of the original signal, they can only ever remove information. Which, is a bad thing...

It didn't take too long for everyone else to cotton on to this, hence since the 80s you now find very few serious audio preamps with any kind of tone control.


Ironically tone controls still live on at the entry level. A part of that is because manufacturers have found that you sometimes have to offer "more" for less. As for the other part, I'll let you draw the obvious conclusions..."

If this statement is true and the 1974 introduction of the NAC12 seems to indicate it is, the No Tone Control trend and the myths built around it originated from the UK, a legacy of Naim and its late founder Julian Vereker.

Sonic


Last edited by Sonic.beaver on Fri May 12, 2017 12:46 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Added details)
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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Fri May 12, 2017 12:44 pm

It's surprising how many of these guys, as book smart as they are, have minimal common sense. This stuff really isn't that hard.

But to a lot of old school engineers (who never truly became empirical), they can't get past nonmoving parts. Current and circuits mean something totally different to them vs the empirical designer.

look at Stereo Review and Audio Magazine

Shoot look at the AES. Back then you dare not walk into a meeting and say cables sound different from each other. And even now, look at how many designers don't know that shielding is the absence of pitch right signal. that's a major problem in this hobby. There's still a ton of strange rangers walking around out  there, when they could have great sound.

Sometimes I'm passive about these things and then out of the blue the phone rings with a designer on their box, and after I hang up, it makes me think it's a waste of time for me to try to compromise with these poor lost creatures of EE. I'm convinced their brains actually prevent them from being able to hear. I've seen it way too many times.

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Sat May 13, 2017 9:11 am


Shocked

MG sayeth: "Another thing that I think is important to talk about is the fact that digital needs to be EQed much more than Vinyl or tape."

Shocked

You got to be kidding.

Why:?:

Analog is said to have needed EQ to get round its limitations. Digital is not perfect yet is it not a medium that has less frequency response limitations?

Unless you are saying the standard of sound engineering has deteriorated so badly.

Do explain.


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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Sat May 13, 2017 1:51 pm

Hi Sonic

Digital (as a language) allows us to go further than the old playback storages (vinyl and tape). With both vinyl and tape the EQing standards were created as a 'fix to problems' as much as it was a sound choice because of the physical properties they were put on. Storing digital has opened the technology up to several more advanced and modern processes. It's a language that technology has, and is, putting their minds and bucks behind more than any other language/storage combo of the past. Because of this, the potential of playback EQing has far more flexibility than the old storage materials.

Again this goes back to the discrete era as flawed. Discrete is a good thing as a relationship between mass and audio code sending. However discrete in the sense of removing the important variables of the musical note structure is damaging. Digital and the modern age of parts' componentry is bringing us to a different technological way of music playback.

I believe EQing is more important, and usable, in today's digital world in all the right ways. Today, we have much more of the music signal at our fingertips. This means ultimately we are going to have much more to work with when it comes to tuning. The audiophile designer may be still in the land of over massing things, but the digital folks, in general, have been creating a storage world that is way ahead of the past and getting better every day. On the playback end this is magic, because the equalizers of the present and future are far more sophisticated than anything in the past. In the studio we look at very fine parametric bands of response as compared to the typical home audio system.

for example

On your JVC your looking at wide bands of frequencies that all move with the adjustments you make. The next step up from that is more bands, and the next step parametrically controlled bands. Well, now you can focus in on any frequency in the entire signal range and adjust it plus or minus, or any variation of phase or effect. Now that we have a language that we can control with such precision the audio system can now be designed with the other variables in mind. Think it through. We have the language, we have the abilities to control it at the independent digit, so the 3 other variables are mechanics, the electronics (signal carrier and charger) and the acoustics.

so here's the premise

With digital, we have far more potential to tune. The end results are based on the same thing that we always talk about on here no matter how many journeys and detours we might take as individuals and hobbyist. It all comes back to the same ingredients. We have every recorded code that is different from one another and playback conditions that are also all different. EQing, whether it be from natural adjustments like I do, or EQing as having signal control with the use of an equalizer, or both, is the absolute answer to getting music the way we want it. Discrete is not the number of parts. True discrete in audio terms is in relationship to purity. Discrete is the relationship between Acoustical, Mechanical and Electrical. My broken record of the audio trilogy is the only way to true musical purity. Which means (to me anyway), what you can't do mechanically must be done through the use of Equalizing. Equalizers are audio components that will be brought back into the audio chain. Of course there will be tons of weak physical designs of these, but if we design and build a new audio paradigm the equalizer will be in it's center.

As much as I think high end audio physically is holding us back, the new generation of audio enthusiast are coming into the hobby of listening. For myself the Magnavox DVD player I use as my reference (it's fan club growing) shows me a glimpse into the componentry future. I didn't share this on the big scale but the Magnavox, beat the living tar out of the $9000.00 DAC unit we were going to use at AXPONA. I had it right here and there was absolutely no comparison at any level. In fact the DAC (one of the industry's most favored) was embarrassed by the Maggie. I told Coop when he was here to compare for himself and I could hear it out in the other room. It was pretty funny actually, or sad.

I've been saying this for many years now and will always do so. The chance that this currant hobby, as is, making a promising sound is thin to if ever until they start to learn what audio is and how audio works. Music is not going to play itself at the high end audiophile level. The hobby can hit the wall all it wants but when they do things like throwing out the equalizer, without having a replacement, they are doomed.

for me, digital & equalizers are perfect mates

digital gives us more and so does the equalizer

great posting Sonic

PS: think how much using the JVC has added to your listening, when you look back through your notes, you will find the JVC to be one of your most learning curve listening bargains sunny good stuff

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Sun May 14, 2017 9:34 am



Greetings Michael cheers

The meaning behind your remark is now clear. Thank you.

Does this mean down the road, we would see the possibility of using DSP for room tuning – perhaps a combination of the Trilogy: passive acoustic, mechanical and electrical tuning, then with DSP for the final component?

Of course we are not near there. Sonic has had friends apply room/equipment correction DSP that went from entry-level Audessey to very expensive devices (Copland?). In each case the sound was “cleaner” but sounded artificial. Another way to put it, Sonic might say the sound went from “flawed but live-sounding” to “very good hifi reproduction”.

Comment if you will on DSPs.

You are right Michael that the JVC (Japan Victor Company) Nivico SEA-10 is one of the best things I ever bought for my system.



Greetings Zonees

As Sonic waits for the Jantzen capacitors and the doing the project to install them, then burn them in a way as close to Michael’s suggestion as possible, has any tuning been done?

Yes, a few tunes in the last two weeks. It is optimizing the placement of Low Tone Redwood blocks from Michael Green under equipment.

The questions Sonic tried to answer are:

a. how many Low Tone Redwood blocks should be used and where should they be placed under equipment?

b. how much area of the Low Tone Redwood blocks be in contact with the bottom surface of the equipment?

For a., Sonic found three blocks are ideal for most applications (except under the Parasoound A21 where one goes under each “damping foot” making four Low Tone Redwood blocks under the amp, and under the four feet of the stool supporting the ASUS laptop). Generally two blocks front and one block at the back seems best. Ideally one block should be under the heaviest part of the device like under the transformer. So for the Quicksilver preamp, it is two blocks at the rear edge and one in front – one of the rear blocks is under the transformer. For other gear, it is two blocks front and one at the back.

To address b., Sonic discovered that too much Low Tone Redwood block surface area under a piece of equipment over-warms the sound.

The best sounding solution is to do as Heind001 does – a corner of each Low Tone Redwood block to support the equipment. So the piece of gear is supported by three “diamonds” of Mr Green’s blocks. Some variation in how far in the blocks are placed can be experimented with.

Sonic
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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Sun May 14, 2017 4:13 pm

Sonic said

Does this mean down the road, we would see the possibility of using DSP for room tuning – perhaps a combination of the Trilogy: passive acoustic, mechanical and electrical tuning, then with DSP for the final component?

mg

Yes (not sure about the name), but they will need to be more true to the digital language mechanically than any of the home audio playback units I have heard. Audiophile DSP's have left me bored out of my mind when listening. It's very hard for me to listen to 2D and having the representative of the product telling us it's 3D. It might be 3D to the guy who listens in that typical soundstage box, but when you open these systems up to bigger staging you get mostly sterile black holes all over the place. "antiseptic" sounding is maybe the right word for me.

The technology is there, and the signal is there, now we need the engineers who understand 3D real size soundstaging to step into the programing. They're doing this with visual holograms (at least the fundamentals), but need to make the connection with sound. Sound is such a low frequency range it's easy to screw up, especially mechanically. We, the Tunees, are the closest thing I have heard to 3D listening so if there is a 3D lab out there, they will at least need to be where we are to get to the next level. That's asking a lot from folks who haven't yet heard it. More than likely it will be developed in the headphone arena first.

however

What we are doing is as real as it gets in our realm. It may seem crude but it's where we are. I think if my experience with Herman Miller would have panned out with me as designer we would have been further ahead. Bill Dekruif from Sonare Technologies (Herman Miller) and Robert Barstow (SUNY) were perhaps the most influential people I was working with to bring "tuning" to a major point of interest. But that's what it takes to move a big wheel like variable realism to the for front. Don't get me wrong the industry will get there, it's just that the path of getting there with the purity intact is the challenge for folks who haven't experienced beyond 2D listening.

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Tue May 16, 2017 9:56 am


Greetings Michael and Zonees

The Future of the Tune with DSP

In every case where Sonic listened to a system with and without DSP, the effect of the DSP makes the sound artificial in an overly analytical/precise way. Then even if there is improved frequency linearity, the sound goes opaque – I cannot hear into the sound particularly into the spaces between the instruments and voices. There is a kind of “fog” everywhere. This Sonic finds very distressing whereas in my system mixing will be easy because everything is clear so it is simple thing to EQ, move things about in the soundfield – I can hear into the sound and round every image (if anyone knows what Sonic is saying….I am having difficulty putting this into words).

As the systems I heard to test the DSP were not giving 3D to begin with, the DSP does not create so much a loss of 3D as a false hifi-like linearity with this opacity.

Michael is right to say that the 3D from digital might be driven by the headphones corner of the audio industry.

Sonic has wondered if the Tune using a partnership of the trilogy with tomorrow’s 3D DSP will be something where Michael and Tuneland could take the lead and disrupt the whole audio industry Question

Sonic
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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Tue May 16, 2017 11:44 am

Sonic said

Sonic has wondered if the Tune using a partnership of the trilogy with tomorrow’s 3D DSP will be something where Michael and Tuneland could take the lead and disrupt the whole audio industry Question

mg

That would be something Idea Since early on there has been many times the listener would look at me after a tuning demo and say basically the same thing, "why doesn't everyone tune" and "can there be a way to combine the mechanical to DSP".

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Thu May 18, 2017 10:50 am

From Alan Shaw – On Tone Controls Part 2

Remark from Sonic:  Alan Shaw answers a common assertion that the presence of tone controls in a circuit causes distortion and audible degradation.

Quoted text starts:

Indeed, and it is perhaps the best example of complete and utter junk science in the audio industry.

First of all, the tone facilities would have to be engaged in the circuit for there to be any possibility whatsoever of the degradation you mention. If the tone controls were switched to bypass, that's the end of the matter: bypass means bypass.

Second, the tone controls would have to be deliberately moved off the neutral, flat position. Even if the tone controls were in circuit, that is, the bypass control was not operated but the controls were set to flat, then the result is as if they were bypassed. The only time the tone controls actually effect the signal passing through them (which is what we want them to do!) is when we operate them by turning them up or down. If we don't actually use them, then their functionality is, logically, bypassed, since they are part of the serial signal chain. Clear?

An example: the tone controls on the Quad 33 preamp (and maybe the previous valve 22 preamp - I can't recall). To engage the possibility of bass/treble action, first the bypass button had to be set to off, and second, either/or/both the bass and treble controls had to be deliberately rotated by the user. Even if the bypass button was not set to bypass, so that the tone circuit was engaged, providing the controls were set to the 0, flat position, the signal did not, in effect, pass through the tone shaping circuitry; in the neutral position the impediment to the signal flow into the tone circuit was so great that the signal just raced past.

It is a complete fallacious, junk-science BS argument that deleting the tone controls automatically makes the signal more pure or whatever. It doesn't, and anyway, the provision of a bypass switch demolishes that argument as does the observation that even out of bypass mode, with no bass/treble action selected, there can be no degradation because there is a de facto bypassing of the tone stage.

Third: the proportionality of this crazy argument against tone controls. I'd expect that all commercial recordings rely on significant amounts of tone control, EQ and limiting/compression during recording or mastering. Studio EQ has become an industry in itself, with hundreds of solutions in hardware and software such as this type of offering here. It's a big, lucrative and technology based market, always looking for a new way to get an interesting sound - fast - and without physical effort such as adjusting studio acoustics.

So what's the big deal then? How can our beloved recordings be stuffed full of EQ/tone adjustments/compression/phase tweaking and so on but we are hostile to the concept of a few dBs of smooth, innocuous tone adjustment to get the best out of our untreated listening rooms? It's a stupid argument by dangerously ignorant people who really should get out into the real world and see how speakers in rooms interact. It's not pretty, and it's not predictable, which is why the user should have the right to make adjustments to suit. Peter Walker of QUAD straddled both camps as an amplifier and speaker designer, which is why the QUAD tilt control was devised. Not as a sales gimmick but to better blend loudspeakers of all types into real world rooms of all types. God rest his soul: what a loss to common sense.

Fourth: Who is kidding who? Those amp gurus really do live in cloud cuckoo land. The theoretical 'degradation' that a bog standard tone control on a mild setting can do to a recording that is already EQ'd and is replayed in typical lousy home listening rooms via loudspeakers with their drive units and crossovers, is absolutely insignificant. Like worrying that there is a squashed fly on the windscreen when you can see the ground through holes in the perforated floor. An issue yes, but not a real issue.

Alan A. Shaw
Designer, owner
Harbeth Audio UK

Source:
http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/forum/miscellaneous-incl-british-life-business-culture/2119-buying-british-audio-equipment-what-uk-manufacturing-still-exists/page2?2277-Buying-British-audio-equipment-what-UK-manufacturing-still-exists=
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PostSubject: Re: Tuning a New World of Computer Audio Playback   Fri May 19, 2017 9:47 am


Greetings Michael and Zonees


No tuning done this week – just lots of listening to music on both vinyl and digital. Enjoying the sound thoroughly!

Here are two pictures Sonic found on http://audiooyazi.exblog.jp/




Sonic recognized this curious weighting of the headshell as something that was proposed in late-1970s by sound engineer/audio writer Graham Holliman that to get the best realism you needed infra-bass and reproduction of sub-harmonics.

KEF’s R&D demonstrated the impact of sub-harmonics and Tim de Paravincini has designed this into his equipment including the professional gear he developed, so has Mr Green in some postings.

Holliman proposed the way to do this in the days of analog is to weight the headshell of a tonearm with coins and then set the tracking force by moving the counterweight as far rearward as possible.  This increased the effective mass of the arm causing the resonance to go lower in frequency.  Both he and some writers in the underground audio press (Aczel, Audio Critic) observed that the conventionally recommended tonearm/cartridge resonance frequency of 10hz gave muddy and unrealistic bass.  By increasing the effective mass of the arm, the resonance was reduced to around 5hz. One of course must not let the resonance frequency go below this into the warp range or the cartridge will jump out any record with a warp!

With amps that could go down to fractions of a Hertz like Holliman’s Accuphase, there was claimed to be impressive realism.  Holliman also designed an infra-bass subwoofer (we’ll look at this another time).  This infra-bass subwoofer was said to be able to subjectively blow the mind in terms of impact and realism while putting owners at risk of nausea from the ultra-low frequencies.

Looks like this Japanese system is recreating this in our time!

Sonic
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