audio - how to increase the quality of sound

matteos

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I don't claim to be an expert, I'm not. I've spent the last 18 months obsessed with audio, the 18 months before I was obsessed with computers, which is why I now hang out in this section :D
I feel like I know enough to lay down some general thoughts and maybe they can help somebody, feel free to question or contradict me, I don't know all the answers.

So what makes a good speaker? Many things.

1) an Inert cabinet is very important, reflections from your cabinet color the sound and distort it, distortion is bad in terms of high fidelity, it turns music to mush, squishes the instruments together and muddies the imaging and soundstage. Play some music and lightly put your hand on the speaker cabinet, compare it with the the vibrations from the driver, if you can feel the cabinet vibrating then there's room for improvement, those vibrations are audible and they distort the sound that you hear, always for the worse. You can minimize this with both extra extra bracing and extra damping for the cabinets with materials such as bitumen, layers of dacron, foam, wool or maybe even duct seal. This can get rid of cabinet vibrations that color the sound. It's also a good idea to stuff the cabinet which can reduce long standing waves and reduce cabinet vibrations. The best materials to stuff a cabinet with are long haired wool, polyfill (best option is dacron) or fiberglass.. Many people argue the merits of each, my favourite is long haired wool, it's kind of hard to find, Madisound sells it fairly reasonably, you may find it in a local store like Joann (wool batting is fine if you can't find "long haired wool"). Some people say fiberglass is better and they may be right, I'm afraid to touch it as I think it may be the next asbestos, and for personal reasons that to me is a no go, so I won't use it. If you're braver than me, make sure you wrap it in speaker cloth so the fibers don't escape out of the cabinet (like if you have a ported system) or into the drivers and cause you havoc. Adding bracing will reduce the speakers internal volume, adding stuffing increases effectively the internal volume so if you add a bunch of bracing add some extra stuffing.

2)Drivers. All speaker drivers are is a piece of thin paper, aluminum, kevlar etc etc. There are many different materials to be used, in fact paper is actually really quite good, especially if it's been treated... This material is sandwiched between a piece of wrapped wire called the voice coil and a large magnet. The voice coil is an electro magnet and the speaker cone moves back and forth between the regular magnet and the electro magnet when current is applied. The best drivers have a large magnet, a large voice coil, cast aluminum frames to help with rigidity and heat dispersion. Chances are your speakers have stamped metal baskets, mine do to, because they are cheaper. They can still be excellent with a few mods.

3)Crossovers. Crossovers are what sends the correct part of the audio spectrum to the corresponding drivers. You don't send 50hz to a tweeter because it cannot reproduce it, same as you don't send 16khz to a subwoofer. Breaking the audio spectrum up and sending it to the corresponding drivers is what the crossovers do, the quality of components used can play a big part in how those drivers can reproduce sound correctly. They are usually a selection of inductors, capacitors and resistors. Higher end crossover components utilize air core inductors, generally for the mids and highs and ferrite core inductors for the bass woofers. Good capacitors are film or foil, these are pretty expensive. The crossover can effect what you here, but unlike other easy mods, tinkering with crossovers is difficult, you need to know what you're doing.. I don't actually, so I leave mine as they are, I didn't say I was an expert, just had an interest that doesn't seem to want to die. :p My speakers have cheap caps in them, but the inductors and resistors are fairly reasonable quality, so maybe I will replace the caps in time. Having said that there's a wealth of people who've reported big differences from rebuilding crossovers. Another route is to use active crossovers, though that is a topic I have no experience with.

4) You can mod your speakers, especially cheap speakers with good results. Add extra bracing to the cabinets with some plywood and wood glue, it's easier if your speakers are in curved cabinets as you can knock them into place, if you're in a square or rectangle cabinet you can reinforce the joints, some people have effectively added crossbracing using two pieces of wood attached together in the middle with a long screw (dual ends), , when it's in place they untighten it up so it braces both sides, google it, I don't feel I provided a good visual... If your speakers are housed in plastic then this won't work, but you can cover the plastic internally with bitumen or non drying clay and it will dampen cabinet vibrations. Add duct seal or blu tac (or something similar that is non drying) to the drivers at the point where the magnet meets the frame on your driver to diminish vibrations, add duct seal to the basket on the outside (usually four pieces of stamped steel) to stop vibrations interfering with the cone. Some people add velvet to the back of the magnet. (one point of warning if there's a hole in the middle of the magnet to allow heat to escape don't fill that in), if there is a hole that means your drivers have vented pole pieces which is a good thing, that speaks to quality drivers.

5) Mod Podge - I've never done this, it is an irreversible mod.. It's kind of like a glue, you can paste it on to the speaker driver cone like a layer of paint if it isn't very rigid and it will make it more rigid... Usually the more rigid a driver cone is, the better it sounds, but... you can't undo this.

6) I've seen guys on headfi, stuff their cans with long haired wool, I bet that is an awesome mod, I have some wool left over and a pair of cans, I will try this soon.

I just did a lot of this to my speakers and the results have been noticeable, it's definitely worth trying out mods... usually the cost of the materials is very very little and it doesn't take long.

Ok, this is fairly general, but I think I've said enough that if you google you can find the right way of doing things, it does make a difference and it's all very cheap.
 

matteos

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If you have a budget for your sound system, blow the entire amount on your speakers.. Speakers make for about 80% of the sound if you're anolog, 90% if your digital.. Don't skimp on your speakers, nothing else is as important. You can pick up a 10 year old amp with at leat 50 watts a channel on craigslist for nothing, maybe $20.. You'll upgrade that eventually and you'll get your money back when you sell. but speakers are the most important thing, if you get a good set you will keep them. You're better off having a pretty set of speakers you cant even listen to because you have no amp than wasting half your budget on an amp. Surround sound is kind of a waste unless you have a lot of dvd-a 5.1 music, especially crappy mini speakers with 4" drivers. You're better off with 2 great speakers over 5 mediocre ones
 
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m1abram

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If you have a budget for your sound system, blow the entire amount on your speakers.. Speakers make for about 80% of the sound if you're anolog, 90% if your digital.. Don't skimp on your speakers, nothing else is as important. You can pick up a 10 year old amp with at leat 50 watts a channel on craigslist for nothing, maybe $20.. You'll upgrade that and you'll get your money back. but speakers are the most important thing, if you get a good set you will keep them. You're better off having a pretty set of speakers you cant even listen to because you have no amp than wasting half your budget on an amp. Amps go for nothing now used, you can get a 10 year old 50 wpc for $20.. Get a good set of stereo speakers, surround sound is stupid and a waste of time, especially crappy mini speakers with 4" drivers.
Replacing things is a pain, but not difficult, Speakers are the most important thing.

I agree with most of your statements that speakers are most important.

However IF you are interested in a sound system for movies then a good surround system is very important. And you end up spending EVEN more on the speakers, however those HTIB setups are mostly junk and you would be better served buying just 2 speakers for the price of those things and save up later for the other speakers.

While I know many people think you can simulate 5.1 audio with just 2 speakers, the room conditions and listening position have to be perfect for this to even come close to a properly setup 5.1 speakers system. Generally the only time I have had a good experience with simulated 5.1 is with headphones using Dolby Headphone, cause in that setup there are fewer variables and the software has a good guess where the speakers are in relation to my ears :).
 

Arcygenical

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Polyfill mods to both speakers and headphones do wonders for low-end.

You can use bondo kitty-hair (aka bondo with fiberglass fibers) to dampen just about any cabinet as well. That or MDF icing (mdf dust and any type of fiberglass resin). Hell you can even dissolve PL Premium in polyurethane fiberlgass resin (1:1, use the amount of hardener needed for the resin component only, not total volume), and apply that. Does wonders for plastic enclosures that most glues don't adhere well to.

That's all I have to add to this thread.

You'd be surprised what adding a whole bunch of polyfill and some internal bracing/dampening (using the kitty hair method) does to most PC speaker setups (such as any of the logitechs). Really, really aids in reducing "boom" and muddiness, also extends the low end a bit (though they're all subsonically filtered under 40hz with a steep 10db/octave rolloff IME).
 

matteos

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Thanks for adding guys... I was about six beers in when I wrote this... But it's so easy to mod your audio equipment for no money and little effort and get it really singing... It's worth a try and mostly its reversible if you don't like the results
 

matteos

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I agree with most of your statements that speakers are most important.

However IF you are interested in a sound system for movies then a good surround system is very important. And you end up spending EVEN more on the speakers, however those HTIB setups are mostly junk and you would be better served buying just 2 speakers for the price of those things and save up later for the other speakers.

While I know many people think you can simulate 5.1 audio with just 2 speakers, the room conditions and listening position have to be perfect for this to even come close to a properly setup 5.1 speakers system. Generally the only time I have had a good experience with simulated 5.1 is with headphones using Dolby Headphone, cause in that setup there are fewer variables and the software has a good guess where the speakers are in relation to my ears :).

A good point. 5.1 is great for movies.. but if you're solely interest in music forget it. Extra speakers muddy the soundstage and destroy imaging... I love 5.1 for movies.. but I'll never go back to it... To me stereo is king even if it's less good for movies.. it's much better for music
 

matteos

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Here's one more thought. I'm a graphic designer and we have a saying.. you put shit in. You get shit out.. so Many people pull images of the web that are tiny and are 72dpi.. and then they want them blown up poster size.. they look like crap. Lots of artifacts lots of jaggies. If your system is good bad music sounds really really bad. Rhcp Californication sounds ok in my earbuds but it's unlistenable on my stereo.. you need a good source and the compression and loudness wars of digital means a lot of stuff is just garbage. A good source is as important as good sounding equipment
 

|Tch0rT|

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Don't forget the room is just as important as the speakers. A shitty room will ruin the experience of an otherwise great system.
 

Sycraft

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A good point. 5.1 is great for movies.. but if you're solely interest in music forget it. Extra speakers muddy the soundstage and destroy imaging... I love 5.1 for movies.. but I'll never go back to it... To me stereo is king even if it's less good for movies.. it's much better for music

No they don't. They simply sit idle during stereo playback, or at least they should. On a good sound system that is correctly set up speakers should only be playing when they have content for them. When I play stereo files on my 7.1 system only the front two speakers and the subwoofer are used. The rest of the speakers don't do anything, positive or negative, for the sound. They sit silent.

There also is music that uses more than two channels out there. While you don't find a whole lot of it, you can find DTS audio CDs, DVD-A discs, and SACDs. I quite like Blue Man Group in 5.1 DVD audio.

Also for stereo content you should seriously consider 2.1. It is extremely difficult to make speakers that are truly full range. Most speakers don't go all the way down to 20 Hz or below (we can actually hear down to around 16 Hz) and even in the range they do go down to they start to have a lot of distortion. You achieve far better results with a dedicated subwoofer. This is true even for tower speakers. You cross them over at around, say, 60 Hz and you will achieve superior results both in terms of lower distortion and more full frequency response.

Then of course there's also video games, which are something quite relevant here on Hardforum. Most games these days support 5.1 or 7.1 sound. It's really quite nice, and quite a bit more immersive to have surround sound from the games.

In terms of modding speakers, just don't unless you understand quite a bit about acoustics and electronics. It is extremely complicated and while I have no doubt mods produce audible changes, that doesn't mean that the changes are good. For example one consideration you deal with in crossovers is electrical issues such as the impedance curve and the resonant frequency of the speaker. If you mess with the speaker and change this, the assumptions that are made with the crossover are no longer valid. The same goes in terms of changing the case, changes to the case actually can affect the electrical characteristics that the amplifier sees.

If you actually want to get into building or modding speakers you can do that but you're going to need to learn quite a bit, and also have a fair bit of test equipment to see what is actually happening. If you don't test your results you very well may be harming your final sound. The problem is that we are terribly biased observers. You hear a change and because that change was a result of your mod, you believe it to be good. You need to actually measure it to see what the change is.

Finally, dealing with the room is very important if you are truly interested in good sound. Your room will have a lot of affect on the final sound whether you want it to or not. Room treatment is a great way to go, but not always feasible. Room correction, like Audyssey, is a solution that works pretty darn well in most rooms. No matter how good your equipment is if you haven't done something to work on the room you will have audible problems.
 

LeninGHOLA

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Polyfill mods to both speakers and headphones do wonders for low-end.

You can use bondo kitty-hair (aka bondo with fiberglass fibers) to dampen just about any cabinet as well. That or MDF icing (mdf dust and any type of fiberglass resin). Hell you can even dissolve PL Premium in polyurethane fiberlgass resin (1:1, use the amount of hardener needed for the resin component only, not total volume), and apply that. Does wonders for plastic enclosures that most glues don't adhere well to.

That's all I have to add to this thread.

You'd be surprised what adding a whole bunch of polyfill and some internal bracing/dampening (using the kitty hair method) does to most PC speaker setups (such as any of the logitechs). Really, really aids in reducing "boom" and muddiness, also extends the low end a bit (though they're all subsonically filtered under 40hz with a steep 10db/octave rolloff IME).

Lowering the Q of a speaker cabinet is only useful if the Q needs to be lowered.
 

SirMaster

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You shouldn't ask yourself "how do I increase the quality?" because you can't ever really "increase" quality.

What you need to ask is "how do I most prevent quality degradation".

What you do with the music is in your control from the time it leaves the mastering engineers and the time it enters your inner ear. If you want the highest quality, you want to prevent as much degradation of that signal between these 2 points.

You would start with the audio data. You would first want to get a lossless copy of the data like what comes on a CD rather than from online downloads (there are some sources for lossless downloads, but its rare).

Next you want to ensure the device decoding the digital audio into a PCM stream is doing it properly. Be it a physical player like a CD/DVD player or a software player on your PC or mobile device. Make sure the software player is not doing anything to yuor signal and that it is correctly losslessly mathematically decoding your audio signal (most players will do this just fine).

The next step is digital to analog conversion. Any digital audio must always be converted into analog as all speakers are analog devices. This is also where the real money starts. Do some research and find a device with a good DAC (digital to analog converter). Buy from a reputable brand, check specifications and benchmarks, read real reviews, and most importantly, go out there and get experience with different DACs. Listen to them yourself and hear the differences.

Next step is amplification. Amplification is necessary because the analog signal sent out of a DAC is very weak and does not have the power to physically move speakers. This type and size/power of your amplifier depends on whether you are going to be driving headphones or speakers. The same info applies to amplifiers as it does DACs (brand, specs, benchmarks, reviews, first had experience).

The final step is the speaker itself. This one is probably self-explanatory for most people. Same info applies as DACs and amps. (brand, specs, benchmarks, reviews, first had experience). However, you should probably put a much more heavy weight on first hand experiences and listening to speakers yourself since how they sound to you is highly subjective.


There are a couple more categories I could touch on that fall within this chain but they have far less affect on the degradation of quality.

Power circuitry feeding your audio equipment (especially the amp). Sound amplifiers work best when they receive a clean and stable power signal. Power from the wall is not always ideally clean and stable. Fluctuations in the power circuitry will cause fluctuations in the amplified signal and this will degrade the quality of the signal.

Wires and interconnects between the components could be considered. There is no need to gout out and buy expensive speaker wire or anything, but just make sure you are buying the right wire for the job and that you get the correct gauge for the distance you are running them.

Last is the space between your speakers and your inner ear. How you have your speakers positioned in your room and how your room is laid out can make a noticeable impact on the audio quality. Make sure your speakers are set up at the proper height and face the proper angles and that the room is as acoustically treated as you can make it. Non-treated listening environments lead to sound reflection which mixed with the original signal and degrades the quality.

Hope this helps point people in the right direction.
 

matteos

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No they don't. They simply sit idle during stereo playback, or at least they should. On a good sound system that is correctly set up speakers should only be playing when they have content for them. When I play stereo files on my 7.1 system only the front two speakers and the subwoofer are used. The rest of the speakers don't do anything, positive or negative, for the sound. They sit silent.

There also is music that uses more than two channels out there. While you don't find a whole lot of it, you can find DTS audio CDs, DVD-A discs, and SACDs. I quite like Blue Man Group in 5.1 DVD audio.

Also for stereo content you should seriously consider 2.1. It is extremely difficult to make speakers that are truly full range. Most speakers don't go all the way down to 20 Hz or below (we can actually hear down to around 16 Hz) and even in the range they do go down to they start to have a lot of distortion. You achieve far better results with a dedicated subwoofer. This is true even for tower speakers. You cross them over at around, say, 60 Hz and you will achieve superior results both in terms of lower distortion and more full frequency response.

Then of course there's also video games, which are something quite relevant here on Hardforum. Most games these days support 5.1 or 7.1 sound. It's really quite nice, and quite a bit more immersive to have surround sound from the games.

In terms of modding speakers, just don't unless you understand quite a bit about acoustics and electronics. It is extremely complicated and while I have no doubt mods produce audible changes, that doesn't mean that the changes are good. For example one consideration you deal with in crossovers is electrical issues such as the impedance curve and the resonant frequency of the speaker. If you mess with the speaker and change this, the assumptions that are made with the crossover are no longer valid. The same goes in terms of changing the case, changes to the case actually can affect the electrical characteristics that the amplifier sees.

If you actually want to get into building or modding speakers you can do that but you're going to need to learn quite a bit, and also have a fair bit of test equipment to see what is actually happening. If you don't test your results you very well may be harming your final sound. The problem is that we are terribly biased observers. You hear a change and because that change was a result of your mod, you believe it to be good. You need to actually measure it to see what the change is.

Finally, dealing with the room is very important if you are truly interested in good sound. Your room will have a lot of affect on the final sound whether you want it to or not. Room treatment is a great way to go, but not always feasible. Room correction, like Audyssey, is a solution that works pretty darn well in most rooms. No matter how good your equipment is if you haven't done something to work on the room you will have audible problems.

Yes, you got me lol, obviously if you're playing stereo the other speakers sit idle.

I think I have a problem being clear in what I write, it's my problem and I need to correct it. I was thinking more in terms of 5 channel stereo.

I agree with you for crossovers, you need to know what you are doing, I don't. I think I could dramatically improve my speakers if I did know what I was doing, but I don't. I may have a go making entirely new ones... although it can be quite expensive, the bonus is that if they suck I can at least put back the original ones, but cost vs sonic improvements... It's a risky venture as they could sound horrible and then I would be out of $100- $200+

The room is very important, I didn't tackle it, maybe you want to throw a few pointers out there?
 

matteos

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You shouldn't ask yourself "how do I increase the quality?" because you can't ever really "increase" quality.

What you need to ask is "how do I most prevent quality degradation".

That is a masterful point. It is about limiting degradation, every part of the chain distortion creeps in.

Thankyou for an excellent post!
 

matteos

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There is some great 5.1 music out there.. but there's not too much of it and likely will be even less in the future, I really enjoyed the thrills - so much for the city on dvda 5.1 If I could get many of my favourite albums this way I would definitely add the extra speakers, it's unfortunate it never took off really, kind of like quadrophonic
 

matteos

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Drop some knowledge on me guys. I bet there's plenty of other tweeks out there I don't know, I've heard people raise their speaker wire off the floor (when it's carpeted) to stop static electricity interfering with the signal. Also people who stack lead weights on the top of their speakers to reduce vibrations.. I have a wife who mocks me enough already so I'm not gonna try these tweeks myself :)
 
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RandemTox

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No they don't. They simply sit idle during stereo playback, or at least they should. On a good sound system that is correctly set up speakers should only be playing when they have content for them. When I play stereo files on my 7.1 system only the front two speakers and the subwoofer are used. The rest of the speakers don't do anything, positive or negative, for the sound. They sit silent.

You could physically disconnect all the speakers but the two main channels and the extra speakers will still resonate in response to the output of those that are operating. Much like reflections off walls and other hard objects, this creates additional wave fronts that reach your ears differentially in terms of timing and direction.

The effect is measurable, not just theoretical.

My music room is strictly two channel, my media room (games/movies) multi-channel.

It's harder to properly integrate a sub-woofer into a two channel system than it is to build a suitable full-range (assuming multiple drivers) speaker unless the sub-woofer was either a) specifically designed to work with those speakers, or b) has more control than cross-over point and output level (the roll-off curve has to match). Ideally you'd have a fully mappable DSP to handle this correctly.
 

matteos

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I agree with the sub, I have full range speakers and they are noticeably better than bookshelves with an integrated sub. Maybe dual subs get around the problem, but there is a lack of midbass with these sorts of combos
 

Geronimo

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Face Palm at most of these replies...........To get your feet wet, decent gear first (source device + media, & speakers, + nice affordable monoprice cables), room analysis software (REW - free software. ), then Room Treatments <---(Very important). Head on over to avsforum.com & learn from serious aficionados. I'm still learning myself. Try here first:
http://www.avsforum.com/f/88/audio

This thread is also good:
http://www.avsforum.com/t/1449924/s...rement-techniques-and-how-to-interpret-graphs

If your as serious as me, see sig, you would best learn from there.
 
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Sycraft

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You could physically disconnect all the speakers but the two main channels and the extra speakers will still resonate in response to the output of those that are operating. Much like reflections off walls and other hard objects, this creates additional wave fronts that reach your ears differentially in terms of timing and direction.

The effect is measurable, not just theoretical.

My music room is strictly two channel, my media room (games/movies) multi-channel.

It's harder to properly integrate a sub-woofer into a two channel system than it is to build a suitable full-range (assuming multiple drivers) speaker unless the sub-woofer was either a) specifically designed to work with those speakers, or b) has more control than cross-over point and output level (the roll-off curve has to match). Ideally you'd have a fully mappable DSP to handle this correctly.

Ok, then I'd be interested in seeing said measurements, given that what I know of acoustics tells me that it'll be a pretty small issue, compared to other things like, say, the walls, or your desk.

In terms of matching the crossover curve with a DSP, yes, that's real easy to do. Any good room correction will handle it as part of its operation. Audyssey is my particular choice. Basically you flatten the response of the sub and speakers, and as such the handoff is also flat.

Unless you are willing to spend a ton on speakers, you'll get better bass that way, and maybe even then. I know of very few full range speakers, and they tend to be real pricey.
 

RandemTox

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You should be able to see the differences for yourself using your room correction setup. Run a pass with just two speakers physically in the room and then again with the extra 6 (5 + sub) speakers present. Now, as to how audible the difference is ... that's another matter, but the effect is definitely there.

The best integrated full-range (down to 28 Hz at -3 dB) conventional speakers (i.e. passive, using crossovers and no DSPs) I know of are Linn's Majik Isobarik's which run about $5.5K a pair.

I am more than willing to spend a good deal on my audio gear, though I don't do it in pursuit of perfect measurements and a ruler-flat frequency response anymore; I've already been down that road to the tune of about $100K in Meridian gear. While that approach is certainly more accurate (and by definition offers better fidelity to the source), I just didn't enjoy listening to it as much.

Turns out that once I took off my technical-purist-hat and just bought gear I most liked the sound of, I enjoyed the music more - which is really what I care about when it comes down to spending my own money.
 

John721

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Turns out that once I took off my technical-purist-hat and just bought gear I most liked the sound of, I enjoyed the music more - which is really what I care about when it comes down to spending my own money.

Well said.
 

Arcygenical

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Lowering the Q of a speaker cabinet is only useful if the Q needs to be lowered.

Most computer speakers benefit from a lower Q, and polyfill especially helps flatten the weird responses present in many small speaker cabs... Typically just by lowering QTC.
 

HammerSandwich

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Also people who stack lead weights on the top of their speakers to reduce vibrations.. I have a wife who mocks me enough already so I'm not gonna try these tweeks myself :)
Put hefty bookends or statues on top, then tell her you wanted something to distract the eye away from the speakers. She'll be just fine with them.
 

HammerSandwich

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You could physically disconnect all the speakers but the two main channels and the extra speakers will still resonate in response to the output of those that are operating.
Leave the extra channels on with no input, and the amp will hold the cones still, at least an amp with a low output impedance will. That's exactly what the damping factor is.
 

matteos

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Put hefty bookends or statues on top, then tell her you wanted something to distract the eye away from the speakers. She'll be just fine with them.

I just stuck my 25lb dumbells on top of my speakers to see.. I can feel less cabinet vibrations.. How it affects the audio quality I'm not sure, I think it sounds a little better, but I don't really know... I also biwired them, I wasn't expecting any improvement at all as it makes no sense as to why there would be any difference technically, but someone linked me to this and I had extra speaker cable lying around.

http://www.vandersteen.com/pages/Answr7.htm

I think it did make a difference, but with tweaks like this we're entering snake oil country, it didn't cost me anything and I think it did improve the midrange somewhat, but I have no way of really knowing because I can't really compare before and after easily. I guess if you have bi wire/bi amp capable speakers and you have wire lying around it can't hurt to try, I know active bi amping makes a pretty good difference but I don't have a second amp or an active crossover.

I guess the problem with some of these tweaks is the difference may well be in your perception that it could make a difference and that's not really reliable... But if the tweak costs you nothing, there's no harm in trying,
 

Fenris_Ulf

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I just stuck my 25lb dumbells on top of my speakers to see.. I can feel less cabinet vibrations.. How it affects the audio quality I'm not sure, I think it sounds a little better, but I don't really know... I also biwired them, I wasn't expecting any improvement at all as it makes no sense as to why there would be any difference technically, but someone linked me to this and I had extra speaker cable lying around.

Speaker spikes may work just as well if not better. The issue is making the speaker cabinet as motionless as possible. Newton's law of equal and opposite reaction dictates that when the speaker coil and cone moves (and the mass of air it's moving), the speaker cabinet will move in an opposite direction. The relative mass differences may seem like it wouldn't matter, but the cone can actually move at a pretty high velocity and the acceleration and force can be remarkably high. That causes the speaker cabinet to vibrate opposite to the speaker cone causing distortion. Maybe not much, but some types of distortion can be noticed even when they're as low as 1%. Adding mass will give less speaker movement, but coupling the speaker to the floor is like adding the mass of the building. Of course, if the speakers are on a flexible wood floor, it may not be as effective. That's one of the many reasons that the room is just as, if not more important than the speakers. But changing the room can be a lot more expensive, less practical especially for renters, and can definitely have lower SAF, so it's often not done.

BTW, that link about bi-wiring: complete and utter BS. Written by someone who doesn't understand basic electronics. Speaker cables have the least affect on the system and are the last place you should put money.
 
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RandemTox

Limp Gawd
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Leave the extra channels on with no input, and the amp will hold the cones still, at least an amp with a low output impedance will. That's exactly what the damping factor is.

That won't help with cabinet resonances and reflections. And, while those effects are smaller compared to the effects of walls and windows, they're still present and measurable.

I'll continue to maintain two separate rooms and systems, with gear tailored to the purposes of each, since I find the results more enjoyable and it's not like I'm short on space or cash.
 

matteos

[H]ard|Gawd
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BTW, that link about bi-wiring: complete and utter BS. Written by someone who doesn't understand basic electronics. Speaker cables have the least affect on the system and are the last place you should put money.

The link was written by one of the engineers at Vandersteen Audio. I thought biwiring was BS until I read it. I assume they must know something about what they are talking about and the link reads as if it was something they discovered while doing Engineering stuff.

I agree about speaker cables - exotic speakers cables are snake oil. As long as you've got a decent gauge like 12 with decent copper you're good to go. I have a fair bit of speaker I don't use wire as I used to have a 5.1 system that I no longer do, worth trying it out for me.
 

Fenris_Ulf

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Heavy guage wires are total crap for the average home system. Except for subs, anything bigger than 16-18 gauge is pointless. Average home speakers are about 88 dB/w sensitive. 88 dB is about as loud as a lawn mower. Most people use about a watt of continuous power (about .35 amps of current), and peaks of 10-50 watts, except maybe when throwing a party. That's why well respected amplifier designers like Nelson Pass are so adament about the "first watt". 26-28 guage wire is more than sufficient for this (try using a twisted pair from a CAT-5 cable, you'll be surprised). For example, most tube amps in the 15-50 watt range have hundreds of feet of 20 to 26 guage wire in the secondary winding of the output transformer, and there's no problem. The wire connections to the speaker can have far greater resistance than any speaker cable, unless you really have a tight, non-oxidized connection.

Biwiring is crap because the wires are still connected at the amp. A basic understanding of Kirschoff's laws will tell you that biwiring does nothing.
 
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B00nie

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That won't help with cabinet resonances and reflections. And, while those effects are smaller compared to the effects of walls and windows, they're still present and measurable.

I'll continue to maintain two separate rooms and systems, with gear tailored to the purposes of each, since I find the results more enjoyable and it's not like I'm short on space or cash.

You can go for room acoustics or you can go for speakers that are not sensitive to room acoustics. Usually it's easyer but not necessarily cheaper to choose the latter.

Horn speakers, ESLs etc. are nearly immune to early room reflections. Full range ESLs (very expensive) produce a sound imaging that's hard to believe untill you hear it. You feel literally like inside the performance providing the recording is well made. Most are not.

Yes, with a good hifi or high-end setup you start to hear differences between recordings. You'll start to detest most studio recordings due to their totally unnatural sound and mostly love minimalistic 2 mic live recordings ;)
 

LeninGHOLA

Vladimir Hayt
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ESL = Electrostat?

I'd think a well designed line array would be cheaper and more effective at dealing with room modes and reflections.
 

RandemTox

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Anything in the room, especially with hard flat sides, is going to reflect the sounds that hit it. Short of covering the outsides of your speakers with noise dampening material, it’s unavoidable. Of course, full panel ESLs don’t have much in the way of a hard surface to reflect anything back from, but their dispersion pattern creates its own challenges.

I’ve had a number of ESL speakers over the years, starting with Quad ESL 63s and even recently I had a pair of Martin Logan Summits at home to audition (I’ve heard the CLX as well but preferred the Summits). They certainly do have amazing imaging, resolution and detail, but they don’t work for me across all the musical genres I listen to … though I love them on chamber music, and they’re really nice for live jazz recordings. Plus the cats keep trying to use the “grilles” as a climbing/stretching/clawing post.

I used to run a pair of Meridian 8000 DSP speakers with one of their 800 series CD players as my main system, so the price of even the best ESLs was never much of a factor. I was quite happy with that system for a number of years. To this day I don’t think I’ve heard anything that has such accurate reproduction (largely due to the speaker’s built-in DSP capabilities). But, as I mentioned in an earlier post, over time I began to care a lot more about how much I enjoyed the music than I did how accurately it was reproduced. And as amazing as the Meridian setup was, it always seemed a bit cold and clinical.

So I started looking around again a little while back. I ended up switching the CD player for a Linn DS unit, went back to conventional pre/power amplifiers (still Meridian, but that’s about to change) and full-range dynamic speakers. This setup is far more capable on the front end, but not as accurate (by measurement at least) in overall reproduction.

But, and this is the part that matters to me, it’s far more enjoyable to listen to.

As for studio recordings etc. you’ll get no argument from me there! Most contemporary stuff is very poorly engineered. Stuff from back before the loudness wars started is quite amazing though. And, absolutely, a decent system really shows up the flaws (deliberate or otherwise) in many recordings/masterings. Prince over-produces his stuff to a degree that is highly audible and really takes away from the music. And while my 1986 CD of Paul Simon’s Graceland sounds wonderful, the 2011/2012 re-master is awful both on CD and as a 24-bit/96Khz studio master.
 

hfk

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Unfortunately the most important aspects of the world of audio with speakers is also the most boring ones... the room, acoustics, and correct placement of your speakers in the room and the placement of your seat. I'll bet these things matter so much more than too many people even remotely understand. In the right environment good "mid-fi" speakers will sound much better than whatever extremely expensive speakers you can name in a less than ideal setup. When you listen to your speakers what you're actually hearing is your speakers + your room, which is the constellation of the direct sound from your speakers + all the reverberations and vibrations from all of the surfaces in your room, all at once. So you can imagine the room is pretty damn important. Basically people should focus on tweaking the room much more than switching out amps and speakers and all that stuff. Just get good speakers that matches your room size and an amplifier that can make them sing and you're done with it. The rest of the work is in your room, and convincing the woman to give you the freedom to completely rearrange the room ;) I'll recommend the book / DVD set "Get Better Sound" by Jim Smith:) He pretty much explains all you need to know about putting two speakers in a room and making them sing.
 

RandemTox

Limp Gawd
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That's why I have a dedicated room for music and another for movies/games. :) They're optimized for what they do. I stopped using DSP-based solutions to help with this as I preferred the results I got from dealing directly with placement, listening position and the physical contents of the room/treatment.

Happily, my wife is into this stuff too, so there was no convincing needed on doing what was necessary. That said, the setup looks clean and neat anyway (for example, the speaker cables are run under the house ... not just under the carpet), and reflection damping was something taken into account when I put the place together.
 

LeninGHOLA

Vladimir Hayt
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For most, DSP/PEQ with proper adjustments for room curves will be cheap enough and easy enough. Obviously room treatment can achieve better results when done properly, but we all know the amount of OCD needed for setting up proper room treatments :p
 

m1abram

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For most, DSP/PEQ with proper adjustments for room curves will be cheap enough and easy enough. Obviously room treatment can achieve better results when done properly, but we all know the amount of OCD needed for setting up proper room treatments :p

Just remember while roomeq via DSP is great it can not solve all room issues. RoomEQ can not solve time delay issues, i.e. reflections. Example if you have a reflection that is causing a null in the freq response the roomeq will try to boost the freq, well this just makes the reflection stronger and it does nothing.
 

LeninGHOLA

Vladimir Hayt
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Just remember while roomeq via DSP is great it can not solve all room issues. RoomEQ can not solve time delay issues, i.e. reflections. Example if you have a reflection that is causing a null in the freq response the roomeq will try to boost the freq, well this just makes the reflection stronger and it does nothing.

Does miniDSP not have a phase/delay function on some of their models? If not, proper placement is still going to be a requirement for every single person.
 
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