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Mid-levels systems 46

Posted 3 weeks ago

Getting into a mid-level system is probably easier than defining it. Is price the determinate for categorizing a system, or is it performance? Do we call a great sounding economy system entry-level because it doesn’t cost much? I’ve seen small fortunes invested in loudspeakers connected to mid-level or even entry-level electronics. And I’ve seen the […]
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Choosing electronics 24

Posted 3 weeks ago

Whatever you’ve decided on for your speakers in our mythical small system, you’ll need some means of powering them. There are as many options in amplification and source equipment as there are speakers. The simplest solution is the all-in-one, the receiver, or integrated. Our own Sprout is a perfect example of an all-in-one music player. […]
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Ménage à Trois 40

Posted 3 weeks ago

I got enough blowback from yesterday’s post about choosing floor standers vs. two-way stand-mounted speakers, that I think it’s important to take a slight detour in our small system building project. A ménage à trois is a three-way between people in a romantic setting, but it fits today’s subject, the three-way. Some are concerned about […]
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Building the foundation 44

Posted 3 weeks ago

I have never understood the purpose of speaker stands for small two-way loudspeakers. If you’re not going to use speakers on a shelf as intended, what sense do stands make? A small speaker box struggles with bass—it’s just physics. Sacrificing music’s full range for a small box only makes sense in tight spaces with zero floor […]
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Starting small 43

Posted 4 weeks ago

I would imagine the canon shots on Tchaikovsky’s 1812 might sound more like the banging of pots on a B&W Zepplin, or a pair of bookshelf speakers. Big music should be honored by full range gear. Conversely, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, or Red Norvo sound right at home on small kit. If your musical choices lean […]
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Starting from scratch 20

Posted 4 weeks ago

“My first piece of advice for anyone curious about stereo is start with where you are going to put it and create your system moving forward from there. What sort of sound priorities you have is the next issue to consider. A jazz trio in a closet is a different challenge than Carmina Burana in […]
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Using what you have 18

Posted 1 month ago

Few of us are lucky enough to have dedicated listening rooms. For most people, stereo systems are part of where we live: shared spaces with couches, chachkes, family members. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Some of the most satisfying musical experiences I have enjoyed were not in dedicated rooms, but rather part of […]
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Pure heart 14

Posted 1 month ago

Not all of us are wired the same. And wiring changes over time. Take purity. As a young and aspiring audio nut, I went for the quick and exciting before the honest and pure. My original speakers and amplifier setup didn’t have the bass and top end I desired, so I cranked up the tone […]
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FR-4 8

Posted 1 month ago

FR-4 sounds like the model number of a new truck, maybe a fighter jet. Instead, it is one of the most common components inside electronic equipment, the printed circuit board. Certainly, there are many types of PCB materials, but the one found in nearly every product since the 1960s is a flame proof (that’s where […]
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Solder 12

Posted 1 month ago

Solder is the glue that holds our modern world together. The trillions upon trillions of connected parts that we depend on for everything from transportation, information, entertainment, communication, and medicine—all of it—passes through solder. Before 2006 when the European Union banned the use of lead in solder (thank you!), most connections were an amalgam of tin […]
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Can you hear that? 29

Posted 1 month ago

In the early 1980s, graduate student Karlheinz Brandenburg began working on digital music from an unusual perspective. How much detail could be removed before the average listener noticed what was missing? His efforts paid off with the creation of MP3, the first popularly accepted lossy music compression scheme. MP3 changed the world. Where once file […]
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Lengthening words 23

Posted 1 month ago

Author’s writing guides advise caution when it comes to the number of words in a sentence. Fewer are preferred. Likewise, dollar words should be avoided when pennies will do. The same isn’t true for digital audio, where longer is better. We prefer 32 bits to 16—more information rather than less. Twenty years ago when Bob Stadtherr, Arnie Nudell, and […]
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Breaking bad 31

Posted 1 month ago

We break in horses, shoes, jeans, speakers, gloves, phono cartridges, hats, skis, and cars without batting an eye. Suggest the same for electronics and the scoffs are unmistakable. We understand the mechanical, yet struggle with the notion of invisible electrons finding better routes from which to operate. Not all electronic break-in is a mystery, like […]
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Jumping to conclusions 14

Posted 1 month ago

The moment you place a new piece of gear in a system the clock begins ticking and the questions fly. Is this better or worse? If I’ve made gains, what were the qualities lost? How do you evaluate the new within the old? Our systems have been set up and optimized for existing components. Newcomers […]
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Two ways to look at a problem 6

Posted 1 month ago

The problem with problems is they first need recognition. If you don’t see something as a problem, you won’t look for a solution. Take AC power as an example. If your HiFi system displays a constant low-level grunge, or a bright tinge riding atop music’s notes, chances are good you have an AC problem. Some […]
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Stacking the deck 8

Posted 1 month ago

Technology stacks; one advancement atop another. Like building blocks, or cards. Without computers there would be no digital audio, without digital audio there would be no DACs, without DACs there would be no personal music player built into inch-long headphones. Each time we advance the state of one art, another benefits from it. This makes predicting […]
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Cagey 18

Posted 1 month ago

There are two camps when it comes to protecting intellectual property: cagey/secret, and open/forthright. Most companies producing technological equipment fall into the first camp, cagey/secret. They dance around their consumer offerings, extolling the advantages of unexplained mystery technology. They never reveal their magician’s tricks. Then there’s the few who do their best to be open […]

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What we don’t know hurts us 23

Posted 1 month ago

Counter to the old chestnut, ignorance is bliss, I would suggest the opposite is true when building and enjoying great systems. If you don’t know that cables matter, electronics sound different, compression formats are not the same—that it all matters—then you are missing what others enjoy. Every low-end audio consumer exposed to the high-end comes […]
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Where to draw the line? 32

Posted 1 month ago

Choices that impact only us are easy to make. Only my waistline is affected by my eating decisions. Expand the circle to friends and family and decisions become more difficult. The larger the group, the more varied the opinions. And what happens when the group balloons to thousands, like our customer base? Suddenly the sphere […]
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Cathedral ceilings 22

Posted 1 month ago

If I could change one parameter of Music Room One it would be the ceiling height and shape. We are fortunate for the ceiling’s height, at ten feet. And we are fortunate the speakers are a line source which negates much of the ceiling and floor bounce. But, if you’ve ever had the chance to hear […]
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Failures 7

Posted 1 month ago

There are lots of failures. Take this contraption as an example. Functionally sound, but could you imagine using this without cracking yourself up in the mirror? (apologies to any of you that own this) One of the tenets of being an entrepreneur is the acceptance of failure. Innovators constantly fail, more often than they succeed, but they pick themselves […]
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Getting a grip 23

Posted 1 month ago

Yesterday’s post, Blurred Numbers, made the point it’s near impossible to visualize the high speeds and tiny spaces we take for granted in audio. We think nothing of slicing sound into 192,000 individual sections each second. We think even less of what happens to each of those 192,000 sections—themselves broken into 2,147,483,647 additional steps (for 32 […]
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Blurred numbers 13

Posted 1 month ago

I can remember when a million sounded like a big number. A thousand, thousand. That’s a lot of thousands. New highway construction was always in the hundreds of thousands per mile; suddenly a mile jumped to a clean million dollars. The neater number package of a simple “one million” made it easier swallow than the more […]
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Bending with the crowd 49

Posted 1 month ago

Sometimes we set the pace, other times we try and keep up. Take MQA for example. As my readers know I’ve not been as big an advocate as others have. I have heard impressive demonstrations, but none that would make me run home and stop other engineering projects in its favor. Yet, it’s important to […]
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Battle of the bots 26

Posted 1 month ago

We are fortunate because we live in a time of great technological change. Within most of our lifetimes, the user interface will completely change from touch to speech. It’s no longer science fiction. I have always been a fan of the human interface: human to human, human to machine, machine to human. We first interfaced with […]
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