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crackpots and redUnfortunatelyuctionists

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  • Robert
    The world of audio is divided into two camps, or more precisely there is a continuum between two extremes. I call these the crackpots and the reductionists.
    Message 1 of 4 , Nov 5, 2011
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      The world of audio is divided into two camps, or
      more precisely there is a continuum between two extremes.
      I call these the crackpots and the reductionists.

      The crackpots believe that the essence of musical reproduction
      is something entirely different from conventionally
      measured items. They do not care if their speakers
      are at all flat, as long as they do something else,
      usually unspecified but to their minds vitally important.

      The reductionists believe that whatever is the technically
      attainable measured behavior is at the moment, it is good
      enough and anyone who disagrees or who feels that the technical
      criteria are wrong is ,well, a crackpot.

      Both these groups are wrong and when it comes to speakers,
      really wrong.

      Crackpots are self evidently wrong. If a speaker is not reasonably
      flat and low in distortion, it will change its input in
      odd and almost surely amusical ways. The use of such speakers
      almost makes it impossible to transfer anyone else's view of how
      some recording sounds to the system one is listening to.
      One is entirely on one's own in finding recordings that sound
      right--in whatever sense of the word right applies.

      I am sure it is obvious that I have little patience with the crackpots.

      But the reductionists have their problems, too. In speaker
      design in particular, there is no exact standard. There is a standard for being wrong so to speak--wildly not flat just won't do.
      But there is no real standard for being right, because
      1 no real standard has been agreed upon and surely not
      agreed upon in practice enough that recordings are made to meet it.
      and
      2 no speaker in existence can meet a standard with the exactness that the 0.1 dB threshold established by ,among many others, that ultimate
      reductionist Toole(ironic is it not) would require.
      I have encountered effectively NO speakers that I could not make sound better--and measure better-- by adjusting things a little wuth user controlled DSP.

      In short, the idea that one can put together a techno design speaker that will sound ideal is a chimera. One has to have some felxibility on account of room acoustics so one needs adjustments. But also in terms of long term listener satisfaction(I have owned the M40s for thirteen years!) tiny things come to matter.

      I am not making this up. I have tried several different versions, but different only slightly of the M40 crossover. One worked much better than the others to my ears in my room. Would others have picked the same one? Who knows?

      The reductionist viewpoint is very aggressively expressed(so is the crackpot one) partly because there is money it. It is important to people in marketing to be able to say that their speaker is RIGHT.

      And of course the crackpots have tons of ego(and sometimes money)
      invested in their particular peculiar idea being RIGHT too.

      In my many years of reviewing, here is what happened:
      Most of the speakers had obvious technical problems.
      To a surprising extent, delicately and precisely done EQ
      could make a lot of them sound quite good. An amazing amount of
      what is bad about bad speakers is simply that they are not EQed correctly. (I do not use flat as a word here because flat in the anechoic sense may not be what makes them sound right. For example, the ultra scientific Linkwitz has come to know that the BBC dip has some real justification for example and says so on his website
      in relationship to how recordings are actually made).

      BUT in the context of speakers which are not obviously messed up technically or ones which are but can be EQed out of it to a good extent. there are STILL differences that are important.

      Some of these can be explained by radiation pattern.
      Unfortunately one cannot do much about that with a given speaker.
      And most speakers have a shape and size that repcludes it being
      any good(or what I would call any good) in its pattern.

      But even among those that are not screwy that way, there are STLL
      small things, "nameless graces which no methods teach, and which a master hand alone can reach"
      if I have the quote right(out of my head, no time to look it up)

      Of course both sides dislike me. The crackpots think I am a scientific clod and the reductionists cannot trust me to say
      that their oversimplified and somewhat crude design criteria are
      enough to make music sound ideal.

      But I am afraid that that is where we are. DSP has helped to raionalize spekaer design. But in the end, there is still
      art involved, for those who are looking for art. The ear is the final arbiter and simplified models of sound in rooms are not going to
      get all the beauty that can be gotten.

      REG

      PS I think that the use of speakers in or against the wall
      may make rationalization move even further towards being complete.
      The less sound off the walls there is in the early arrival
      the more one has an actual standard. But since anechoic stereo
      is neither possible for most people nor to most people's ears
      desirable, there is still a lot of compromise. And all the models
      I am aware of seem to me simplistic. This is why automatic room and speaker correction in my experience almost always need some
      hand tweaking to get the best possible sound. It is not much,
      but one needs it.
    • Peter Allen
      ... may make rationalization move even further towards being complete. The less sound off the walls there is in the early arrival the more one has an actual
      Message 2 of 4 , Nov 5, 2011
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        > PS I think that the use of speakers in or against the wall
        may make rationalization move even further towards being complete.
        The less sound off the walls there is in the early arrival
        the more one has an actual standard.
         
        I agree, but I think there's at least one other way to achieve something similar.
         
        Setting up a pair of dipoles--and the listening position--using the "rule of thirds"can come close.  Consider:  The speaker's back wave travels 1/3 of the room length (nominally--I'm not allowing for toe-in) from the back of the speaker to the front wall; it travels another third of the room length from the front wall back to the speaker; and finally, it travels another 1/3 of the room length from the speaker to the listening position. 
         
        In contrast, the front wave travels 1/3 of the room length from the speaker to the listening position, another 1/3 from the listening position to the back wall, and another 1/3 of the room length from the back wall to the listening position.  Since both the front and back waves travel the same distance, and since the back wave is 180 degrees out of phase with the front wave, the two waves effectively cancel.
         
        A dipole's side wall first reflection can also be minimized by aiming the speaker's null at that point on the side wall where the reflection would hit the listening position. 
         
        Peter
        From: Robert <regonaudio@...>
        To: regsaudioforum@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Saturday, November 5, 2011 3:03 PM
        Subject: [regsaudioforum] crackpots and redUnfortunatelyuctionists

         
        The world of audio is divided into two camps, or
        more precisely there is a continuum between two extremes.
        I call these the crackpots and the reductionists.

        The crackpots believe that the essence of musical reproduction
        is something entirely different from conventionally
        measured items. They do not care if their speakers
        are at all flat, as long as they do something else,
        usually unspecified but to their minds vitally important.

        The reductionists believe that whatever is the technically
        attainable measured behavior is at the moment, it is good
        enough and anyone who disagrees or who feels that the technical
        criteria are wrong is ,well, a crackpot.

        Both these groups are wrong and when it comes to speakers,
        really wrong.

        Crackpots are self evidently wrong. If a speaker is not reasonably
        flat and low in distortion, it will change its input in
        odd and almost surely amusical ways. The use of such speakers
        almost makes it impossible to transfer anyone else's view of how
        some recording sounds to the system one is listening to.
        One is entirely on one's own in finding recordings that sound
        right--in whatever sense of the word right applies.

        I am sure it is obvious that I have little patience with the crackpots.

        But the reductionists have their problems, too. In speaker
        design in particular, there is no exact standard. There is a standard for being wrong so to speak--wildly not flat just won't do.
        But there is no real standard for being right, because
        1 no real standard has been agreed upon and surely not
        agreed upon in practice enough that recordings are made to meet it.
        and
        2 no speaker in existence can meet a standard with the exactness that the 0.1 dB threshold established by ,among many others, that ultimate
        reductionist Toole(ironic is it not) would require.
        I have encountered effectively NO speakers that I could not make sound better--and measure better-- by adjusting things a little wuth user controlled DSP.

        In short, the idea that one can put together a techno design speaker that will sound ideal is a chimera. One has to have some felxibility on account of room acoustics so one needs adjustments. But also in terms of long term listener satisfaction(I have owned the M40s for thirteen years!) tiny things come to matter.

        I am not making this up. I have tried several different versions, but different only slightly of the M40 crossover. One worked much better than the others to my ears in my room. Would others have picked the same one? Who knows?

        The reductionist viewpoint is very aggressively expressed(so is the crackpot one) partly because there is money it. It is important to people in marketing to be able to say that their speaker is RIGHT.

        And of course the crackpots have tons of ego(and sometimes money)
        invested in their particular peculiar idea being RIGHT too.

        In my many years of reviewing, here is what happened:
        Most of the speakers had obvious technical problems.
        To a surprising extent, delicately and precisely done EQ
        could make a lot of them sound quite good. An amazing amount of
        what is bad about bad speakers is simply that they are not EQed correctly. (I do not use flat as a word here because flat in the anechoic sense may not be what makes them sound right. For example, the ultra scientific Linkwitz has come to know that the BBC dip has some real justification for example and says so on his website
        in relationship to how recordings are actually made).

        BUT in the context of speakers which are not obviously messed up technically or ones which are but can be EQed out of it to a good extent. there are STILL differences that are important.

        Some of these can be explained by radiation pattern.
        Unfortunately one cannot do much about that with a given speaker.
        And most speakers have a shape and size that repcludes it being
        any good(or what I would call any good) in its pattern.

        But even among those that are not screwy that way, there are STLL
        small things, "nameless graces which no methods teach, and which a master hand alone can reach"
        if I have the quote right(out of my head, no time to look it up)

        Of course both sides dislike me. The crackpots think I am a scientific clod and the reductionists cannot trust me to say
        that their oversimplified and somewhat crude design criteria are
        enough to make music sound ideal.

        But I am afraid that that is where we are. DSP has helped to raionalize spekaer design. But in the end, there is still
        art involved, for those who are looking for art. The ear is the final arbiter and simplified models of sound in rooms are not going to
        get all the beauty that can be gotten.

        REG

        PS I think that the use of speakers in or against the wall
        may make rationalization move even further towards being complete.
        The less sound off the walls there is in the early arrival
        the more one has an actual standard. But since anechoic stereo
        is neither possible for most people nor to most people's ears
        desirable, there is still a lot of compromise. And all the models
        I am aware of seem to me simplistic. This is why automatic room and speaker correction in my experience almost always need some
        hand tweaking to get the best possible sound. It is not much,
        but one needs it.



      • Tom Mallin
        I ve tried this with dipole bass radiators: Carver Amazing Platinum Mk IV, Legacy Audio Whisper, Linkwitz Orion, and Gradient Helsinki. It DOES work in the
        Message 3 of 4 , Nov 5, 2011
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          I've tried this with dipole bass radiators:  Carver Amazing Platinum Mk IV, Legacy Audio Whisper, Linkwitz Orion, and Gradient Helsinki.  It DOES work in the sense that this is the arrangement which yields the deepest flatest bass before equalization.  And, of course, you CAN arrange things as you say to aim the dipole null at the spot on the sidewall where you see the reflection of the speaker from the listening seat.

          The ultimate success of this technique, however, is driven by two other factors:  the shape of your room and whether the amount of toe-in thus created compliment the high end and imaging staging of those speakers from your listening point.  The shape of the room completely determines whether the separation between left and right speakers will be adequate in terms of subtended angle.  The room shape also determines the amount of toe-in needed.  

          In my room, which is about 20' x 12' 8" x 8', the 1/3 positioning puts the tweeters about 51" apart and the listening spot 80" from the plane of the speakers if the speakers are arrayed to fire down the long dimension of the room.  That is not nearly enough stereo separation to my ears.  

          Orienting the speakers the other way, firing into the short dimension, gives 75-degree separation, which is much better, but then the listening spot is only 51" from the plane of the speakers, and many listeners (not me!) would find this too close.  Also, while the bass is smoother in this orientation before EQ, it does not extend so deep or feel so powerful and there is less perceived stage depth.  It's a trade off.  The Harbeth M40.1s work best to my ears in this orientation, but then I move even closer so I can get 90 degree separation and toe in the speakers to directly fire at their respective ears, and the Harbeths are not dipoles.

          On Sat, Nov 5, 2011 at 3:06 PM, Peter Allen <alcomdata@...> wrote:
           

          > PS I think that the use of speakers in or against the wall
          may make rationalization move even further towards being complete.
          The less sound off the walls there is in the early arrival
          the more one has an actual standard.
           
          I agree, but I think there's at least one other way to achieve something similar.
           
          Setting up a pair of dipoles--and the listening position--using the "rule of thirds"can come close.  Consider:  The speaker's back wave travels 1/3 of the room length (nominally--I'm not allowing for toe-in) from the back of the speaker to the front wall; it travels another third of the room length from the front wall back to the speaker; and finally, it travels another 1/3 of the room length from the speaker to the listening position. 
           
          In contrast, the front wave travels 1/3 of the room length from the speaker to the listening position, another 1/3 from the listening position to the back wall, and another 1/3 of the room length from the back wall to the listening position.  Since both the front and back waves travel the same distance, and since the back wave is 180 degrees out of phase with the front wave, the two waves effectively cancel.
           
          A dipole's side wall first reflection can also be minimized by aiming the speaker's null at that point on the side wall where the reflection would hit the listening position. 
           
          Peter
          From: Robert <regonaudio@...>
          To: regsaudioforum@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Saturday, November 5, 2011 3:03 PM
          Subject: [regsaudioforum] crackpots and redUnfortunatelyuctionists

           
          The world of audio is divided into two camps, or
          more precisely there is a continuum between two extremes.
          I call these the crackpots and the reductionists.

          The crackpots believe that the essence of musical reproduction
          is something entirely different from conventionally
          measured items. They do not care if their speakers
          are at all flat, as long as they do something else,
          usually unspecified but to their minds vitally important.

          The reductionists believe that whatever is the technically
          attainable measured behavior is at the moment, it is good
          enough and anyone who disagrees or who feels that the technical
          criteria are wrong is ,well, a crackpot.

          Both these groups are wrong and when it comes to speakers,
          really wrong.

          Crackpots are self evidently wrong. If a speaker is not reasonably
          flat and low in distortion, it will change its input in
          odd and almost surely amusical ways. The use of such speakers
          almost makes it impossible to transfer anyone else's view of how
          some recording sounds to the system one is listening to.
          One is entirely on one's own in finding recordings that sound
          right--in whatever sense of the word right applies.

          I am sure it is obvious that I have little patience with the crackpots.

          But the reductionists have their problems, too. In speaker
          design in particular, there is no exact standard. There is a standard for being wrong so to speak--wildly not flat just won't do.
          But there is no real standard for being right, because
          1 no real standard has been agreed upon and surely not
          agreed upon in practice enough that recordings are made to meet it.
          and
          2 no speaker in existence can meet a standard with the exactness that the 0.1 dB threshold established by ,among many others, that ultimate
          reductionist Toole(ironic is it not) would require.
          I have encountered effectively NO speakers that I could not make sound better--and measure better-- by adjusting things a little wuth user controlled DSP.

          In short, the idea that one can put together a techno design speaker that will sound ideal is a chimera. One has to have some felxibility on account of room acoustics so one needs adjustments. But also in terms of long term listener satisfaction(I have owned the M40s for thirteen years!) tiny things come to matter.

          I am not making this up. I have tried several different versions, but different only slightly of the M40 crossover. One worked much better than the others to my ears in my room. Would others have picked the same one? Who knows?

          The reductionist viewpoint is very aggressively expressed(so is the crackpot one) partly because there is money it. It is important to people in marketing to be able to say that their speaker is RIGHT.

          And of course the crackpots have tons of ego(and sometimes money)
          invested in their particular peculiar idea being RIGHT too.

          In my many years of reviewing, here is what happened:
          Most of the speakers had obvious technical problems.
          To a surprising extent, delicately and precisely done EQ
          could make a lot of them sound quite good. An amazing amount of
          what is bad about bad speakers is simply that they are not EQed correctly. (I do not use flat as a word here because flat in the anechoic sense may not be what makes them sound right. For example, the ultra scientific Linkwitz has come to know that the BBC dip has some real justification for example and says so on his website
          in relationship to how recordings are actually made).

          BUT in the context of speakers which are not obviously messed up technically or ones which are but can be EQed out of it to a good extent. there are STILL differences that are important.

          Some of these can be explained by radiation pattern.
          Unfortunately one cannot do much about that with a given speaker.
          And most speakers have a shape and size that repcludes it being
          any good(or what I would call any good) in its pattern.

          But even among those that are not screwy that way, there are STLL
          small things, "nameless graces which no methods teach, and which a master hand alone can reach"
          if I have the quote right(out of my head, no time to look it up)

          Of course both sides dislike me. The crackpots think I am a scientific clod and the reductionists cannot trust me to say
          that their oversimplified and somewhat crude design criteria are
          enough to make music sound ideal.

          But I am afraid that that is where we are. DSP has helped to raionalize spekaer design. But in the end, there is still
          art involved, for those who are looking for art. The ear is the final arbiter and simplified models of sound in rooms are not going to
          get all the beauty that can be gotten.

          REG

          PS I think that the use of speakers in or against the wall
          may make rationalization move even further towards being complete.
          The less sound off the walls there is in the early arrival
          the more one has an actual standard. But since anechoic stereo
          is neither possible for most people nor to most people's ears
          desirable, there is still a lot of compromise. And all the models
          I am aware of seem to me simplistic. This is why automatic room and speaker correction in my experience almost always need some
          hand tweaking to get the best possible sound. It is not much,
          but one needs it.




        • retired_old_jj
          I d put it more simply: The crackpots deny science and the SNR weenies haven t learned what Steinberg and Snow showed in 1933. You would be quite right to
          Message 4 of 4 , Nov 5, 2011
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            I'd put it more simply:

            The crackpots deny science and the SNR weenies haven't learned what Steinberg and Snow showed in 1933.

            You would be quite right to presume I find that annoying.


            --- In regsaudioforum@yahoogroups.com, "Robert" <regonaudio@...> wrote:
            >
            > The world of audio is divided into two camps, or
            > more precisely there is a continuum between two extremes.
            > I call these the crackpots and the reductionists.
          Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.