Clear goals

April 4, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

Perhaps one of the most difficult hurdles to cross is the setting of clear goals. What is it you hope to achieve? Where is it you hope to go to? What’s it look like when you get there?

“I want a great stereo system.”

That’s a reasonable goal but perhaps a bit too broad to form a set of useful guidelines.

Maybe better to focus more on the end result.

“I want good sound with no compromise bass that shakes the rafters and flaps my pant legs.”

That’s a lot easier to achieve now that we know more specifics about the end goal. Focus your efforts on the biggest, baddest subs you can afford, and do your best to marry them with what you have for a system.

Wanting “the best” or working to achieve “the greatest” is an endless loop with no reasonable end point.

The more specific your end goal the better chance you’ll have of finding a way to get there.

It’s why visible goalposts on the playing field work.

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26 comments on “Clear goals”

  1. It would be great, Paul, to get to know here, which specific acoustic (!) goals you and Chris wanted to reach when designing the IRSV-killer! I know a speaker designer who has designed loudspeakers for more than 50 years and while always playing around with different types of drivers and design concepts (omnis, wide-banners, etc) he permanently tried to improve phase coherency for the existing lines of his commercial loudspeakers. Obviously the IRSV line source towers create a totally different in-room sound field than the FR30s. Thus which aspects of sound got your highest priority?

    1. Hi Paul. Chris and I wanted a well behaved speaker. Each of us had our “have to have” goals and together they turned out something quite special.

      Mine were focused on full range, planar/ribbon (non cone) midrange and tweeter, as smooth and consistent on and off axis response as possible.

      Chris wanted low distortion drivers, flat impedance response, flat polar response, zero stored energy.

      When you add all that up and look at how the FR30 measures it’s quite extraordinary. I have yet to see anything match it.

      1. Many thanks, Paul, for listing your goals. But did this all now resulted in more punch, higher degree of PRaT, better and more precise phantom sound images, smaller sweet-spot better resolution of fine details, less distortions at higher volumes, etc, etc compared to the heavily modded IRSVs?

        1. Hard to pin it all on one or the other. Certainly the lowered distortion (the IRS measures at about 10%) helps for a clean sound and the punch of non servo woofers like Chris designed is clearly better (we did the AB). The rest? Unknown. It’s hard to take apart a complex system and figure out which applies to what.

      2. I believe that a flat impedance response is very important. Something that doesn’t vary much from the rated amplifier impedance. It allows the amplifier to see a less complex impedance curve which lets the amplifier perform closest to it’s impedance rating which means you get every drop of performance out of that amplifier.

  2. It helps a lot if you’ve had a lifetime of experience
    in home-audio, or a truck-load of money; or both.
    Or just be realistic with your expectations.

    I was able to listen to a lot of different home-audio
    gear over the decades, specifically loudspeakers,
    but I was always happy to come back to my
    Celestion – ‘Ditton 66′ floorstanders.
    Now I’m getting used to my DeVore Fidelity – O/93’
    floorstanders & marvelling at the bass response.
    So much home-audio gear; so little time.

    1. FR I don’t think you will ever be happy until you find a mint pair of those Celestion Ditton 66 speakers at a decent price. Keep searching my friend. They will come up and you will also find spare parts.

          1. Joe,
            I’m not going to buy a pair of Ditton 66’s that are in worse
            condition than the ones that I sold & I will not find a pair here
            in Australia that are better than the ones that I owned.
            Of course I’m aware of ‘HiFi Shark’, as Google shoves it in my
            face whenever I search form components…it’s inescapable.
            Thanks for your positive ideas & best intentions.

            1. Yeah I would want a pair in near mint condition as well I’m picky about condition too FR. If I ever see a near mint condition pair I will forward you a link. I come across a lot of stuff in my searches on eBay being sold from Australia. It’s a pretty big market you guys have out there. Let me know if you find your dream pair of Ditton 66’s so I can celebrate with you. Good luck.

  3. I’ve learned to be patient and not get too caught up in hyped reviews about gear I’m interested in. That can be distracting. I just like doing my own digging and asking the right people I know and trust about certain things.
    It is a good thing being a bit discerning as a buyer in this wallet busting hobby of ours. 🙂

    Anyhow. Goals are great and they are very exciting. I love shooting for something new that won’t just give me small incremental differences or improvements.

  4. Unlike goal posts in most sports – the goal posts in the audio world of sport seem to constantly move.

    Who’s moving them? If you look in a mirror the reflection you see is probably the culprit.
    What’s moving them is technology plus advances in techniques / components.
    Why they are moving is due to a myriad of reasons. (Marketing and personal ones probably top the list)

    If your goal is the stated… “ The best hi-fi systems would freely cross the uncanny valley; playback would be indistinguishable from the original.”…. Then you may have been chasing for quite some time and in fact may still be.

    If your goal is to have a 2 channel system that brings enjoyment to you, then many have achieved ‘the goal’, and those individuals may be the happiest.

    If your goal is a constant state of change in search of the untangible, (but you’ll know it when you find it) then that’s cool 😎

    If the goal is change for change’s sake alone, do it.

    Here’s a link to ponder…

    1. Mike, I found the video very interesting. I agree with him on some things and not on some other things. I think it helps if you can find reviewers that have similar taste to yours. I know there are about three reviewers out there that have similar taste as mine and in one case I actually have two major components that are the same as the reviewer has in his system.

      I am not concerned that TT manufactures are going to design their TT’s so that they appeal Michael Fremer, or speaker designers will design so that JA likes the speaker and says the measure well. I just d not see any evidence of that happening.

      I do think that a lot of speakers sound similar ( not identical ). I find this especially true of dynamic full range speakers. What amazes me is that speakers that sound similar often use very different materials to build the speakers.

      1. Tony,

        There was a time when I could read certain reviewers and mostly understand what they were hearing.

        I have always looked at reviews as a guide, not as absolute gospel. I don’t put any stock in having the same equipment as that seems to change way more often than I would like.

        As far as the best, if you want to judge by monetary value only that’s cool. If you want to judge solely on the equipment that’s cool. If you want to judge solely on the room that’s cool. If you want to judge on the synergies of them all, that’s probably realistic.

        The criteria by what any of us want to judge by is as individual as each individual. When an unequivocal consensus is reached as to what the best is then we can all get together and stop talking audio. Maybe we can discuss the weather or politics? 😀 😎

        1. Mike, Two quick things that I did not make clear. The fact that I and a certain reviewer have two pieces of the same gear in our system was not know to me until after I had purchased the gear.

          I put the word “best” in quotes because how each of us defines the best is controversial in so many ways. What I do think is true is that if you look at what a large collection of reviewers think is the top performing gear where cost does not matter and assemble a list of the the top four or five pieces of gear in each category ( speakers, TT, amps, etc. ) you are going to find it is very expensive stuff. I would never suggest one should use cost as the only indicator of what is “best”.

  5. I know from doing a lot of listening sessions with other audiophiles, including one a couple days ago, that my preference is a richer sound with strong midrange & bass. Most every other system I listen to is detailed/light/airy sounding, but lacks enough authority in the lower midrange & bass region for my taste. I can count on one hand the systems that I think have had enough of it.

    I think the lower midrange & bass are like black levels in a TV. Without strong performance in those areas, the whole “picture” is off. I think it impacts the sound of all frequencies above it.

  6. I would think it would be best to start with defining the size of the box, or hard limits, prior to the wish list of everything we desire.

    Room size, practical speaker placement, electronic equipment volume, total cost, and if necessary, significant other aesthetic tastes.

    Interesting comparison: On a recent US Army “Request For Proposals” for a new helicopter, the RFP set the aircraft maximum dimensions, maximum weight, and the specific engine type to be used. Aircraft performance requirements set payload size, speed, and range. Many aerospace industry experts stated that it was technically impossible with available technology to achieve the required performance with the limits set. But the US Army said they had better data that they could not share.

    Fast forward two years. Two prototype helicopters are now 70% complete, and the US Army has announced that the industry experts were correct.

    As Dirty Harry said “A man’s got to know his limitations”

  7. I do not think that anyone here is trying to have the “best” or the “greatest” audio system. I think many of us are trying to have the best audio system within our limited budget, but if you want the best you need to have very deep pockets. A pair of the “best” speakers will set you back almost $1M. One of the “best” turntables will cost you about $400K. By the time you get the “best” amps, digital gear and cables you will have spent more than $2M. I know of one person ( I do not actually know the person, I just read about this person ) who has spent more that $1M on his audio system. The “best” does not come cheap.

  8. My budget will only allow for the “best” I can afford as I live in an apartment. Peace, tranquility and harmony with my neighbors is essential in speaker consideration. My music investment in LPs and SACD/CDs probably costs almost as much as my gear which is substantial.

    I would love to “shake” the rafters like Paul says, but I don’t believe Paul’s wife Terri allows him to shake up his chest, pants or rafters at home. I believe Paul says his system at home consists of Sonus speakers and nothing like the FR30s for chest popping bass.

    One needs to have a house or a Music Room 1 or 2 at PSAudio to shake things up.

    At this late stage in my life (same as Paul) and ” HiFi journey”, I am content to sit back and enjoy my music collection and obsession by using headphones or speakers that fit my top floor apartment of 30′ length, 15′ wide and 8′ ceiling but unfortunately only 3″ of concrete floor between my unit and floor below and not worry about the neighbors calling the police or losing my lease.

    Quality bass is important, but in my main system I’m happy with a great midrange and tonal balance with mostly near field listening. Also, I have a smaller system in my small office (den) which is 11′ by 12′.

    What is the ratio of Audiophiles who live in apartments or houses? PSAudio needs to address and accommodate both Audiophile lifestyles when designing speakers. Looking forward to smaller designs from Paul & Chris Brunhaver with a less earth shaking bass imprint for guy and gal audiophiles and music lovers like me.

    1. William,
      It just so happens that Paul has the biggest, baddest REL subwoofers at
      home (last I heard), so there’s plenty of bone-rattling going on there 😉

        1. William,
          Oh, yeah, that would be nice but unfortunately I only have answers
          for what I know & more specifically *here*, what Paul tells us 🙂

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