An Audiophile Journey's End - 15 years on
One day last week, I was bored working in my home office and started to browse through some old comments in the forum and read an old piece of my write-up posted some 15 years ago which still resonates with me until today !
This old piece of writing was my heart-felt reaction/impression after my final system's change to horn speakers driven by single-ended amplification. It touched me more than any system I had owned as well as many other systems that I had experienced. However, I hasten to add this is just my very PERSONAL bias of what a fine and realistic hi-fi system should perform.
If you are curious to learn what the fuss is all about, please read the original write-up below :
Contrary to popular belief that horns are directional drivers which transmit sound directly at its listener, the use of room tuning device such as the sugar cubes on 3 strategic (reflective) places of the wall to deal with reflective sound pressure resulted in getting the exact tonality I wanted, see the position of these little wooden cubes, top one deals with the big horn, middle one for the ...
Those who regularly change their speakers or amps once every 2-3 years may not appreciate or understand what I am driving at. Reproduction of hi-fi sound in your home is really about building a combination of hi-fi components to satisfy your aural aspiration - you must be clear of what kind of sound reproduction (like food) you are striving to achieve. Once you have found what you want , you'll stick with it - to prove my point, PT has his AEON speakers for over a decade too.
I have been aspiring for a sound system to reproduce music with real/very colourful tonality, vocals should be reproduced with emotions and you can hear movements in the mouth and throat. Individual instrument should carry harmonic decay. Acoustic instruments especially wind instruments will generate very dynamic sound as well as rich harmonics, so I expect any decent sounding hi-fi rig to sound 'musical' with correct tonality and can reproduce loud dynamics without hardness (compression).
There is a saying 'there are many roads to Rome". Therefore, I am sure there are many paths an audiophile can take to achieve the 'ultimate' goal of reaching high fidelity sound from your system. For me, we need to find good electronics, be it valve, transistor or hybrid with 'matching' speakers. Once this complete system is set up, the next endeavour is to provide an environment for it to sing. This is the most difficult part which is very time consuming and can also be costly and unsightly (I will elaborate below).
Do not underestimate proper speaker placement (as opposed to correct, as there is no such thing), whenever you change your components or even cables/power cords, the frequency and dynamic will change also. Therefore, even your previous speaker placement is spot on, you'll need to make minor adjustments to achieve the best possible sound reproduction, that's why almost all hi-fi dealers' systems do not sound good as they constantly change the components of the system. For instance, if the component or accessory you have just changed produces a little bit more energy which may detract you from turning your listening to maximum sound level, then you'll need to push your speakers 1-5 mm farther apart or have less toe-in etc.
Next and in my opinion, the biggest challenge is tweaking room acoustics in order to make your speakers sing. Case in point, Divin Lab has been in existence for many years and you can see the two monoliths have been moved around many times, the acoustics have also been improved with new sound tweaking tools with positive results. The latest use of many wooden diffusers which require a lot of precious and limited space in your home is a challenge to some of you for sure.
Unless you are able to tackle room acoustic problems successfully, you'll never be able to hear the true potentials of your speakers/system. My humble opinion from my listening experience which started in 1973 is most systems are not performing 50% of their true potentials.
Let me elaborate on what I have just said above. I wrote "An audiophile journey's end " some 15 year ago, and apart from upgrading my Cessaro speakers with bass horns and subwoofers, the system has not changed except interconnects and power cords. I am sure those who have visited me from time to time during this long period of time could discern a tangible improvement in the overall sound even though I have not changed any electronic component and speakers - both Zanden and Cessaro are love at first hearing.
Most of you who have not heard my system will obviously be doubting Thomas but unless you spend a lot of pain staking time and effort to tweak your system on speaker placement and room acoustics, there will be no major change in sound reproduction. Simply by replacing components or accessories with another brand will obviously and hopefully give general improvement in sound, it won't lift your system's overall performance especially if your speakers are not positioned properly and your room acoustics are less than ideal especially if you have large windows and hard floor and untreated walls etc etc etc..... to make matters worse, if your room has obvious acoustic problems for instance, either there's insufficient bass (mostly due to incorrect phase) or too much of it, simply by changing your components will never solve this, period.
Fast forwarding to present, I have moved to this apartment some 3 year ago, its long corridor plus balcony were causing slight phase problem in the bass but the surrounding living and dining room area with good amount of wooden fixtures provided very nice tonality and harmonic decay in sound.
Since the distance from my listening position to the big horns is shorter than previous hi-fi den, I was challenged by the powerful sound and had to extensively tweak the back wall to diffuse the direct sound as well as the left and right side. This acoustic tweak continues until now but has yielded very satisfying sound.
Now, I am very happy with the sound of my system which gives a very solid and three-dimensional sound with realistic tonality and lots of harmonic decay. Simply put, it's very musical and when the musical passages call for a thunderous sound, it rises up to the challenge. I have repeatedly measured the room and system dynamic range, its goes from 38 dB (with aircon turned off) to 115 dB, no kidding !
The purpose of my write-ups is to foster better hi-fi reproduction in domestic environment by sharing my encounters with room acoustics and to a lesser extent, speaker placement. I hope to share more with fellow audiophile in the future if there is a genuine interest in system and room optimisation.