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A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

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A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by DrWho on Wed Aug 03, 2016 4:33 pm

A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana
 
I have been dabbling with hifi systems for more than 30 years. In the course my hifi hobby I have visited many homes to audition their hifi systems so as to widen my exposure to sound reproductions by the various equipments and the environments in which these equipments are located. I have visited a few homes where the hifi equipment setup cost more than the house itself. That is the cost of passion with this hobby.
We are constantly influenced to have an urge to upgrade our equipment. When we want to upgrade, do we really know what we want? “To have a better sound” is not specific enough an answer. What sonic attributes are lacking in our present setup that we hope to achieve with an upgrade? Will some of the positive sonic attributes in our present go missing after the upgrade? After all, most sonic attributes could be achieved but with a trade off, for example refinement versus speed etc.
When you choose a plug and play route to achieve your audio nirvana, your cost would certainly be higher than if you were to retain your present setup and do a major house keeping and do some tweaking. For example, if you suffer from a poor quality power supply, it would be more effective to overcome this problem than to upgrade your hifi equipment with the hope of getting a better sound.
From my experience, the five most important criteria to achieving a better sound quality somehow do not include the equipment, therefore a less costly route. Here are my five criteria:
 
5th        The power supply. The quality of power supply has the most influence to the sound quality of a hifi system, especially in a digital system. It will affect your future tweaks if not addressed early. For example, if your initial setup sounded slow, you would have most probably solved the problem with silver interconnect. Improving your power supply later, you would most probably experience a leaner sound. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against silver cable; in fact almost all my cables are silver plated.
 
4th        The listening room. This is one area that is beyond the control with most of us. We pick a room or a hall and hope for the best. If you are lucky enough to be able to build a listening room from scratch; the room dimensions and symmetry are very important. Room treatments if done moderately will improve the sound quality. Over doing it will suck the life out of the music.
 
3rd        The loudspeakers placement. Done correctly, you will be on your way to audio nirvana. Below is an article by Ivan Li, a very well respected audio guru from Hong Kong, as to how to place your loudspeaker at their optimum location. This is the method that I subscribe to.
           
PANEL SPEAKER PLACEMENT & ROOM COUPLING 15-4-2007

Few of us, except perhaps the rare species of odd fossils of the pre-historic era, would have questioned the paramount importance of speaker placement nowadays. What is more debatable is where and how the speaker positions are to be determined. I have been a faithful follower of the room-coupling school and I believe that should be the best way out.

Room coupling, I am quite positive by now, really goes beyond the deliberations over direct verses reflected sound sources, because the focal point remains relatively constant irrespective of what damping treatments we have on the wall surfaces in any given room. This focal point does not seem to move until the dimension of the room is drastically changed.

To achieve effective room coupling, one has to locate the focal spot of the room first. There is a simple yet effective method to find this spot but I shall come back to that a while later. Every room has its own peaks and valleys acoustically. The peaks are resonances and the valleys are just the opposite, the suck-outs as a result of phase cancellation. I used to believe the coupling point is the spot where multiple resonances gravitate since it clocks the highest sound level throughout the audio band. If we look at it the other way round, however, the focal point of the room should more correctly be taken as the spot where phase cancellation is the lowest. 

When the speakers are placed along this focal spot, phase cancellation would be at its minimal obtainable within the room and the system will then be able to resolve, with the best of fidelity and the least of distortion, the myriads of spatial information contained in the recording. The width and depth, the ambience, the layering and instrument placements etc. will all spring to life. Proper sound staging, no doubt, has much to do with this phase coherency across the audible frequency range. We all know what would happen if one speaker is inverted in phase—there will be no imaging, no soundstage, and even no sense of direction. This is the result of serious phase cancellation. Even if the speakers are properly in phase, however, there would still be a fair amount of cancellation depending on where the speakers are placed.

Ideally speaking, the room should be symmetrical in overall shape and the speakers symmetrically placed along the lengths of the rectangle. If one speaker is close to the side wall while the other is in the middle of the room, a rather common sight given the popular L-shape layout of sitting rooms in HK, there exist more chances for cancellation taking place at various frequencies, rendering the imaging blurred, stage collapsed and ambience lost.

Once the speakers are coupled to the room, the two merge into one. The room becomes an effective extension of the speakers which in turn would cease to exist visually. Tuning for solid imaging then becomes much easier. Human ears locate the sound source by detecting the time difference of direct sound arriving at the ears. To achieve three dimensional imaging, all we have to do is to cut down secondary reflections from overwhelming the direct sound. While on this subject, I like to point out that I have tried the live-end-dead-end approach and it did not work to my satisfaction. I believe speakers are designed with the average western style living room in mind where upholstery, curtain, carpet and furniture all contribute to an acoustic environment which is neither too dead nor too live, but moderate throughout. This is something worth considering when we set about fabricating our listening area. It is not uncommon to find that the more elaborately contrived the HiFi room is, the less satisfactory it often turns out.

All in all, phase coherence does appear to be the key and with this key we stand every good chance to unleash a completely new dimension of audio realism.

*****

Here comes the core—the action part of the whole thing, a method that has proven to work wonders for me over the last 30 odd years.

Have the speakers placed along the lengths of the room, about Ľ to 1/3 from the back wall, and Ľ the breadth roughly. Then play some vocal music, the hilarious type, the more instruments the better.

Now walk slowly to and fro along the mid-line between the speakers, from one end of the room to the other and then back, may be several times to get the mind set (if the speakers are standing low, you may well have to crawl). Somewhere along the aisle, you would hear the sound getting louder and at the same time it rises above your head, filling the ceiling as if you’ve entered a Gothic church. Bingo, that is it, the focal point.

Mark this focal point and drag your speakers over the lateral line crossing the spot. You’ve just coupled your speakers to your room. What is left, may be the crucial part yet, is to find the perfect stereo seat. As the name suggests, you’ll have to look for the widest stereo soundstage again along the aisle, between the speakers. If one side of the room does not give you the best definition and soundstage, try the other side. I was the one having my seat moved over to the wrong side of the room to get the best out of my present system. 

Final note, if you are unable to find the focal spot despite trekking up and down diligently the whole afternoon, your room dimension is probably too bad to be a listening room. Try another room if you have one. If not you’ll have to move house.

Ivan Li (Limage)
 
 
2nd        Your ability to tell there is a difference in sonic attributes when you do a A/B comparision.
            Some say that we are born with or without this ability. I believe that we can learn by listening to as many hifi systems as how a note might sound differently in the different setups. We can always borrow a pair of golden ears from a buddy who is born with them, each time we want to do a A/B and learn from there. Very Happy
1st        Your ability to know which is the correct sonic attribute when you hear a difference.
            This is that most difficult ability to acquire but can be done by listening to many hifi systems and remembering those systems that produce sound quality that sound like real life. For this reason, hifi is not a hobby to enjoy on your own. Exposure is paramount.
 
0th        Having a very understanding spouse. Laughing
            More than anything else having a very understanding spouse will help us enjoy this hobby to the fullest.
 
 

I hope the above is beneficial to you.  


Last edited by DrWho on Sat Aug 20, 2016 3:15 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by STC on Thu Aug 04, 2016 8:52 pm

Interesting post. Thanx.

The article about speaker placement mentioned about the 1/3 rule which is the standard. Wonder why the article emphasised the placement for panel speakers.
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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by DrWho on Thu Aug 04, 2016 9:18 pm

Ivan Li has been playing with panel speakers for a long time. His theory is also applicable to most speaker types. The one third rule is a very general guide. A good starting point but not necessarily the final location.
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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by apophoto on Thu Aug 04, 2016 10:32 pm

Good basic points. We may all tend to stray into obsession with hard gear. And for those without the privilege of a proper music room, the one-sided walled & open room is a very practical reality most will need to face. Yet the non-ideal acoustic effect may be mitigated with proper placement of the speakers in relation to the listening position. Thanks for the great reminding tips.

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The Power Supply

Post by DrWho on Wed Aug 10, 2016 10:37 am

The Power Supply

The power supply is the lifeline of the system. All of us have experienced the effect of power supply has on the sound quality of our system. Our systems will inevitably sound better during late night. So it is worth exploring what can be tweaked. Here is my experience with power supply tweaks. Let’s follow the electricity flow. 
Cautions – Get a qualified electrician to perform to work, it could be lethal.
 
TNB Meter Board: There is one or three fuse, single or 3 phase, at the board. Get a qualified electrician to change the fuse to a better quality one. Better still get him to change the fuse carrier as well. Over time the fuse wire inside the fuse get deteriorated due to the heat generated when the electricity passes through it. While the electrician is there, get him to tighten the screws where the wires come in contact with the fuse. Over time the connections will become loose. This will cause micro arching thus generating electrical noise.
 
Distribution Board: Depending who your housing developer is, there is a good chance that your Distribution Board components are of standard quality or worse. Change to a new one or upgrade the components to better quality ones; cryo ELBC and reputable MCBs. Again, tighten all screws. Here is a chance for you to install the Frank Ground Loop EMI Filter.
 
Sockets and Plugs: Our British Standard 13 amp socket and plug carry an additional switch and fuse. That 13 amp fuse is redundant for the audio application because the manufacturer would have included their rated fuse at the audio device. The additional fuse and switch would further hinder the smooth flow of the electricity. Ideally change the British sockets and plugs to the US type. There is a better selection of quality sockets and plugs for the US type.  
 
Line Conditioners and Filters: There are plenty of devices out there that will improve the power supply. I am using these and find them beneficial: Frank Power Bank, Isol8 Substation, Nordost Quantum QX4 & QV2, Russ Andrews Clarity 8 & 16, SAVR PowerLink EM Radiation Reducer and kuulen Magicstick. The latter two devices are extremely effective for CAS systems. I spent more money on these items than on my complete hifi system, this is how much I value a clean power supply.
 
Device Fuses: Inside most audio equipment you will find at least one fuse. There are two types of fuse, the slow blow and the fast blow. It is important that you use the same type with the same rating. Replacing this fuse with audio grade fuse will certainly improve the sound quality of your hifi system. I find Hifi Tuning cryo fuse to be very beneficial to my setup.
 

Earthing: A dedicated earthing system for the hifi system is also beneficial. A smaller diameter earth wire will do a better job for draining very low voltage but high frequencies noise.
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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by bal on Wed Aug 10, 2016 11:18 am

Hi everyone, I hope you don't mind if I ask some questions...

I have a mac mini, 16G, with Audirvana. My dac is a Mytek 192, and I am using usb2.0 , usb cable from anti cable. I recently added a Wyred for sound Recovery reclocker, and am really happy with the sound.

Would it be worth exploring getting a firewire 800/400 cable to try connecting the Mytek and the mac mini together, or would the usb 2.0 output from the Mytek be just as good?

Thank you gents, for your time and expertise.

Bal

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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by DrWho on Wed Aug 10, 2016 5:04 pm

The Firewire would generally be a better application than a bare USB. Since you have introduced the Recovery Reclocker into the USB signal path, it would be difficult to predict.
I have a question instead Smile. If it is just using a firewire cable what is stopping you from trying it? I have a spare Oyaide 400/800 Firewire cable which you could borrow to try out.
Either USB or Firewire, the final sonic result may not be due to the output format, instead the quality of the cables.
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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by bal on Thu Aug 11, 2016 9:03 am

Many thanks Dr.Who... you are most kind. The problem was finding a firewire 800/400... but as luck would have it, i'm getting an Audioquest one this afternoon.

I really appreciate your offer, thank you. I'll let you know how things turn out.
Peace
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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by DrWho on Thu Aug 11, 2016 9:27 am

Looking forward to hearing your feedback.
Previously I have to install the Weiss driver to JRiver to get the firewire to work.
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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by STC on Thu Aug 11, 2016 9:53 am

Can Weiss FireWire driver for JRMC play DSD natively? With Mytek FireWire driver, it converts DSD to DoP. I am not sure if Weiss could do otherwise.
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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by DrWho on Thu Aug 11, 2016 10:01 am

Sorry, I am not of help here. It been more than a couple of years ago when I was playing Weiss DAC. At that time DSD or DOP was not available, only upto 192 KHz
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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by STC on Thu Aug 11, 2016 10:30 am

Even Mytek was vague about DSD and FireWire. According to Mytek true streaming is only achievable via FireWire but they also added FireWire streams DSD via DoP. Compound this with JRMC inbuilt filter, the DSD DAC only useful for PCM unless you use USB for true DSD playback. 

After giving some thought about this, I went back to USB to enjoy the DSD in DSD and not DoP. 

Thanks for the response.
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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by bal on Thu Aug 11, 2016 11:08 am

Good point STC... strangely after looking at a few old threads on the internet re Mytek, quite a few of the punters there preferred firewire.

So I decided to pull the trigger on a firewire cable and try.

Thank you for your kind input.

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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by Y.C. on Thu Aug 11, 2016 3:58 pm

Mytek Stereo 192-DSD is already superceded by Mytek Brooklyn DAC. 

Former DAC is only capable of native playback in DSD using ASIO driver with Windows OS. As for Mac OSX users, it's strictly DoP. See http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f6-dac-digital-analog-conversion/mytek-stereo-192-a-5555/index159.html

Firewire connection has been widely used in studio applications for quite some time now. There are countless comments in the above Forum thread including other separate threads in Computer Audiophile Forums suggesting that the usual audiophile branded cables do not sound any better. Oyaide Firewire cable seems to be their favourite. Thread with care and as usual, YMMV...

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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by bal on Thu Aug 11, 2016 4:46 pm

Thank you YC... that looks like great info and I appreciate you sharing it. Thank you.

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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by STC on Thu Aug 11, 2016 5:02 pm

In those days FireWire was superior as it could carry bandwidth up to 192kHz which the USB1.0 couldn't do. Now, even USB2 can go almost twice that bandwidth. 

That's why you no longer would see FW adapter from PC. It has gone obsolete for sometime now. 

Brooklyn DAC got no FireWire input.
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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by bal on Fri Aug 12, 2016 9:25 am

YC you use a Mytek Brooklyn?

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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by Y.C. on Sat Aug 13, 2016 9:51 am

bal wrote:YC you use a Mytek Brooklyn?

Hi Bal, No. I'm still using my Mytek Stereo192-DSD. It's my pleasure to share information.

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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by bal on Sat Aug 13, 2016 11:22 am

Would you mind sharing the set up of your mytek and computer audio?

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The Importance of Power Supply

Post by DrWho on Mon Aug 15, 2016 8:52 am

The Importance of Power Supply

http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-gift-for-music-lovers-who-have-it-all-a-personal-utility-pole-1471189463?mod=e2tw
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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by apophoto on Mon Aug 15, 2016 6:45 pm

Good one, DrWho. Looks like I can try affording my personal generator set at best! Diesel is not too expensive and there is no fear of a power interruption!

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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by DrWho on Mon Aug 15, 2016 7:01 pm

apophoto wrote:Good one, DrWho. Looks like I can try affording my personal generator set at best! Diesel is not too expensive and there is no fear of a power interruption!
I am lucky, my house is only 100m from the TNB substation. My power supply is about 245V most time and I believe it is not that dirty.  Very Happy
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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by STC on Mon Aug 15, 2016 7:17 pm

DrWho wrote:.....
I am lucky, my house is only 100m from the TNB substation. My power supply is about 245V most time and I believe it is not that dirty.  Very Happy

I am luckier. Smile I get solar regenerated electricity where the feeder is about 200 meter away. I also paid TNB for my own pole and tapped directly from there by-passing all the other houses. I wasn't even planning for that. It just happened.

Technically, my supply should be purer during daytime. Never noticed any difference though. Very Happy
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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by DrWho on Mon Aug 15, 2016 7:20 pm

Lucky you  Very Happy
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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by STC on Mon Aug 15, 2016 8:38 pm

Speaking of power supply, IMHO it is a double edged sword. I used to have a stabilizer which was connected to a conditioner.  I noticed better controlled bass with this combination. I was happy with this arrangement until one day when I listened to a long forgotten track where I noticed it lacked the raw raging attack at one part of the music.

I can only suggest to those interested in power conditioners or stabilizer to pick a track with wide dynamics and sudden (instantaneous) rise in the volume with the cymbals crashing. You can find similar passage in classical music. I use one AR Rahman song recorded  with a full orchestra.

Now listen carefully the part where the sudden dramatic increase takes place. Then listen again with the power conditioner and/or stabilizer. Notice the peak or if possible use a microphone and record the two playback.

I prefer to pick the one which gives me sharpest and loudest attack.

My 2.6 Billion cents.
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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by DrWho on Tue Aug 16, 2016 9:59 am

The benefit of Voltage Stabilizer/Regulator is application dependent. Like you I found the Attack, Dynamics and Bite in my system compromised when using the Voltage Stabilizer. I am confident to say that there many audiophiles among us whom find the Voltage Stabilizer to be beneficial, especially those living in areas where the voltage drops below 230V. It is a case of Horses for Courses.
However I have found Line Conditioners to be beneficial to my system.
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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by STC on Tue Aug 16, 2016 8:07 pm

DrWho wrote:The benefit of Voltage Stabilizer/Regulator is application dependent. Like you I found the Attack, Dynamics and Bite in my system compromised when using the Voltage Stabilizer. I am confident to say that there many audiophiles among us whom find the Voltage Stabilizer to be beneficial, especially those living in areas where the voltage drops below 230V. It is a case of Horses for Courses.
However I have found Line Conditioners to be beneficial to my system.

It did sound better except for the loss of attack and transient speed. Had I not listened to the long lost album I would still be using them. Having said that, I still use them for the source where the power demand is not too demanding. With most well designed Amplifiers I think the best would be the raw supply from our TNB provided you don't suffer other issues with the supply.

Just sharing what I experienced.

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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by STC on Tue Aug 16, 2016 8:16 pm

@bal,

If you don't mind, could you tell me if you hear distortion in some piano tracks? I ask this because the output of Mytek is way too high. Your Odyssey amp did not state the input sensitivity but I thought I read it somewhere it was 1 V. Not sure it can send clean signal without the inputs saturate at peaks which can go over 9V for XLR.




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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by bal on Thu Aug 18, 2016 8:57 am

STC have you tried to use the internal jumpers in the Mytek? Reduces the output of the Mytek by 6db if i'm not mistaken.

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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by STC on Thu Aug 18, 2016 10:41 am

Yes, I used them when I was using the Miniambio but now I have bypassed the jumpers since I no longer using any preamp and all digital.

There are so few topics about the high output level of Mytek and the combination of typical audiophile amplifier where most of them need little than 1V for full output.

The trouble with using the jumpers it reduces the peak levels.




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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by bal on Thu Aug 18, 2016 11:57 am

One option is to reduce the output on your computer software volume control. Audirvana's volume control is apparently very much better than Mytek volume control. So you can try to experiment with this.

Actually I need to try and not use the jumpers as you suggested, and try my own suggestion above.

The odyssey's can't handle the output from the mytek using my pre amp (which has a step ladder volume pot) , so for the time being I am using an older Conrad Johnson solid state amp with very good sound.

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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by STC on Thu Aug 18, 2016 12:35 pm

I am using XLR connection. The peaks can go as high as 9V rms. I do not have the distortion now as I am using DSP which automatically adjusts for clippings. Currently, I set it around 3.11 dB lower with occasional 100% max output but the distortion is not audible.

I was just curious about your setup since both of are using ESL and Mytek. If possible, I do not want to use the software DSP volume and use the flat line overflow option in the JRIver. SQ wise this is the best to my ears. Unfortunately, there are very few albums I could use this option.

I thought your setup was immune to the piano distortion which is pretty common. BTW, we are going OT. Sorry DrWho Smile
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Re: A Less Costly Journey To Audio Nirvana

Post by DrWho on Thu Aug 18, 2016 4:15 pm

STC wrote: BTW, we are going OT. Sorry DrWho Smile
Not at all. Anything that can generate more activities to this forum is always welcome by all. Smile
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