Introducing Mr Stirling Trayle, the world renowned audio system optimiser

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  • Stirling's attention to details is ultimate. I was there in Divin Lab to observe how he worked. He would straighten every cable as any bending would affect the transmission of electricity. He would clean also the contact point of wall sockets LIVE with his liquid! He avoids any static electricity to affect the system by applying the spray on chasis and shelves. His insistence on leveling is also extreme to avoid any imbalance in electricity transmission within equipment. 

    Look at the messy cables behind our racks and you will know how ignorant we are after so many years of being audiophiles. 

    After seeing his work in the morning, I couldn't resist to listen to the system in AE Sheung Wan even it was typhoon no.8 while all the means of transport were about to suspend. 

    I was wowed by the sound in AE Sheung Wan even without letting the integrated amp Arne warm up for any minute. 

    The first impression is, it is so quiet, though I was just playing computer files. I can't feel any edginess or digital sound. It's so linear and analog. As an audiophile, we all want to achieve the perfect integration of speakers in all frequencies, but what I was hearing is, the perfect integration of speakers WITH THE ROOM in all frequencies. The speakers really completely disappear! I need to redefine the meaning of "disappear" as it's the first time I can feel the continuous sound stage penetrating the Firebird and effortlessly defying these heavy towers to block the music from filling up their space. 

    Besides, it's the first time I feel the energy level in AE Sheung Wan is so well controlled. I can play loud, but never a screechy note. The emotions of vocals were squeezed out naturally; the colors of different instruments were so rich. The overall sound is now less bright but much more natural and balanced, supported by very full-bodied bass. 

    Another noticeable improvement is on the tempos. When Michelangeli playing the piano, the phrasing had more diversity. He waited a bit longer in some passages (compared to my playback at home) to build up the tension. I think this could only be achieved by ensuring the whole electricity path leveled and straight as much as possible, and also the leveling and balance of speakers, or else these little differences in timing could not be revealed. 

    Time flies, and I must leave after half an hour. But what I experienced in these 30 mins is phenomenal. 

    To me, the value of  Stirling's presence is not merely in the service he provides, but the knowledge he brings to Hong Kong's audiophiles. I tidied up my cables and avoided power cords to touch the interconnects at home, and I could get the instant improvements with more quiet background, less high frequency noise. 

    I thought I exerted 80% of my system after two years, but now I think I only achieved 50% or less! With proper knowledge, I think I don't need another two years to reach 80%+. I must admit AE is always the spearhead of audiophiles community in Hong Kong, shedding new lights on our path to bring live music at home!
    Man
  • edited August 1
    At the end of the 2nd day at Divin Lab, Stirling said to me, “Chris, it really got me today.  I’m really tired.  The gigantic speakers are easy to move with the white sliders underneath the feet.  But I had to take them away to finish the job.  They are so difficult to move once sank into the carpet.  Nevertheless, the job is done.  I have to say the Göbel Divin Majestic is a great speakers.  I love it.”

    Stirling has earned my highest respect for his knowledge, meticulous technical skills, pateince and a humble personality.  The speaker positioning of the Divin Majestic DID NOT involve any conversation about width/depth/height of a soundstage, size of vocal imaging, and inclination/preference of intonation etc.   It is not easy to understand.  But I try to explain here again.  
    Just like how he set up Cessaro Firebird at AE Sheung Wan, he began with the left channel only.  The right channel at Divin Lab as shown by the picture was thrown off axis.  In the next 4-5 hours, he kept adjusting various parameters encompassing rake angle, azimuth, and distance between the floor and the bottom of the speaker cabinet etc.   Mind you that he WAS ONLY working on one channel.  What is the reference point?  How does he establish a reference point when the other channel was not taken into consideration at all?  During the dinner, Stirling told me the goal is to locate the position where the speaker pressurises the room evenly.  At this very position, room acoustics has the least influence on the performance of the speakers.  It is also where the room assists the speakers the most in pressurising the room.  This is the hardest part.  If you don’t understand, that is normal.  

    Once the optimal position of a single channel is obtained, he just applied the set of physical measurements attained from the left channel to position the right channel.  He needs not listening to the right channel again because they are the mirror image of each other. 

    Up to this point, readers will see the new positioning of the Divin Majestic is very different from the original position.  The toe in angle is much more pronounced now than before.  And the speakers are much closer to the side walls than previously.  At this juncture, there were no discussions of soundstage, imaging and tonality.  In fact, we never did.  All the work after this point is all about fine tuning the position of the speakers by millimetres in all directions deemed necessary to the service of musicality.  He went back and forth from his seat to the speakers every other 20 seconds or so with his references of music playing.  I could not follow fast enough.  Stirling said, “Chris, I am 70% done. Please allow me to finish the rest to define musicality. I will ask you to listen when it is 90% completed.”  

    When all was done, he asked me to listen.  I had picked two Chinese music.  The first one was the glass CD of 光棍姻緣 by 梁醒波, 王昭君 from Sally Yip’s 港樂 LIVE concert and a few more symphonic scores.  I had no more words to describe the difference between now and before.  I only knew my emotional responses to this “otherworldly” musical performances wet my eyes.  

    Stirling‘s works had profound change on me forever.  Money may quickly bring one up to reach certain threshold.  Beyond it, however, only knowledge offers the wings to fly higher.

    Mr. Stirling, thank you very much.    
  • edited August 3
    Thank you PT for sharing your new level of nirvana audio finding. 
    Sadly no everybody has the chance to enjoy Stirling’s services so it would be very interesting if it could be posted a basic manual of maintenance and right system positioning. 
    Cables and components cleanning:
    • Cleanning method and liquid for each type of cable. 
    • Cleanning method, liquid and right connectors to clean on each type of component. 

    • How to clean speaker crossover. 
    • Time recommended to do this mantenaince. 
    Right furniture placement and balance. 

    How to find best speaker placement...

    Tools needed to meassure best placement.

    Waiting Roman and Marvel experience, i send regards to everybody....
  • These are damn good read! Without the right setup, system simply don’t fucking perform! If PT is so damn humble about Stirling, I can’t imagine what is the real deal now!   Let’s get him over next time. I advocate strongly long fucking time ago about charging for consultancy services. Most people simply don’t fucking know anything about setup. Even if you are serious about it, whom you can turn to? 
  • Stirling really did an amazing job to re-position my speakers to unleash the true power of my system. 

    The result is incredible: the overall space, integration, bass energy, dynamics and musicality vastly enhanced. My dream of having live music at home now is pretty much achieved!

    As Chris already mentioned in details how he did it, I would focus on summarizing what I learned by observing him doing it. 

    To get the best result, I borrowed his DeOxit Gold to clean up all the contact points of my cables the day before he came. 

    Then I would summarize the steps he took and add my observations. Stirling didn't teach me and explain every step, but I hope what I observed could help inspired others here: 

    Step 1: Remove the bass traps and diffusers behind both corners of the speakers. I could immediately hear a much more open, dynamic sound with more authoritative bass. 

    My observation: In many cases, we use acoustic products to tune our system to our liking and fix the room's problems. However, we should first properly position the speakers before adding acoustic products, or else it is like putting the cart before the horse. After using the acoustic panels, we may think the sound is more refined with more details, but we could kill the dynamics and energy gradually without noticing it. More importantly, this prevents us from adjusting speaker position, the real fundamental step. 


    Step 2: Tuning the bass. Stirling then moved behind my speaker and played some tracks with various heavy bass, and he would feel the vibration on the speaker and the back wall to decide where to move the speaker. In my case, he moved it out a few inches until it nearly touched my rack. 

    My observation: I think he knows exactly what are the right vibrations on speaker and back wall, and he should be able to feel the bass energy in the air too! This allows him to roughly position the speaker. Once the position is fixed, I can already hear a much more balanced sound, very rich and 3D tone from the left speaker. 
    Besides, he said the relationship between energy and distance is not linear. You can move back the speaker and feel stronger bass, and move back further a little it will become weaker, and move back further a bit it gets stronger again. 


    Step 3: Tuning the subwoofer amp setting, horn positions and rake angles. This step took a lot of time, and I could see the space of hall become bigger and bigger with more air and dynamics every time he tuned something. He also adjusted the toe in slightly to get the perfect result. 

    My observation: I asked how he can tell if the sound is right. Is live music his reference?  And he said he can feel the energy. In most of cases, he is not listening to the music but feeling the energy with his body. He mentioned once these are tuned correctly, there shouldn't be any uncomfortable or funny sound/ energy. What I can tell is, when I heard any bit of screechy sound, he would walk up and tune the speaker. With back and forth of around hundred times, I can gradually hear the sound of the left channel getting better and better. For this step, I think we could just experience by ourselves and practice, and no one could actually teach you how this could be correctly done. 


    Step 4: Mirroring the left speaker setting to the right speaker.

    My observation: This step is very important as some people believe in asymmetric placement of speakers to fit the room. However, he thinks the time alignment and integration between the two speakers and listening position is the most important. I think it is because the imbalance in room shape affects the reflected sound, and we should not sacrifice the integration of direct sound by considering the reflections. 

    Step 5: Fine-tuning of the speakers. This step took a few hours. He had many different tracks for different purposes and different preferences. In final stage, he simply slightly touched the speaker which I first thought was hilarious as my speaker is more than 2000 lbs each! However, I could hear the sound change with every slight touch! I think a few particles of the speaker were moved with that touch and the sound changed!

    My observation: The perfect integration and time alignment could only be achieved with such attention to details. The point is, it may take me a lot of time to tell which frequencies are out of phase, and where to touch the speaker to fix it, if I could ever do this! 
    Once done, I tried to add back some of my bass traps and absorbers, but I found I don't need most of them. I just keep 2 panels on my first reflection points and adding further panels would impair the musicality and naturalness. 


    I hope what I observed could inspire some audiophiles to understand their systems better and try to achieve a better speaker position. However, to get the perfect result, you can only hire an expert like Stirling to do it. His cleaning job is much more professional and effective than anybody else, and his ability to feel the sound waves is not something we could understand. His attention to details is second to none in hifi world!

     


    Man
  • Roman, thanks for your in-depth sharing. Can you tell us what are the biggest improvement after Stirling?
  • Roman. Thank you very much for your deep explanation. 
    It seems we need a bit of time to digest so stunning experience. 
    For now, i think the only obvious improvement we can do is cleaning all cable connectors and aligned perfectly all the components with the same height on each speaker. 
    Yes, very inspiring theme. 
    Regards.  
  • Raymond, the biggest improvements are: the overall sound is so lively, bass is so rich and fast, the whole sound stage becomes much larger, deeper, with beautiful resonance of music hall, the trebles are bright but never screechy.  

    In one phrase: more live-like sound. 
    Man
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