Song3 earns high praise at AXPONA launch
AXPONA 2016 is now history and the show reports are in. We introduced a new 3-way Song Series speaker called the Song3 to extremely positive reviews
This model took almost two years to develop. But it appears from the reaction at AXPONA, it was well worth the effort.
The StreamPlayer Story
A number of years ago, we were displaying speakers at the California Audio Show. We were using a Denon CD player as the source and feeding the S/PDIF output to very good sounding DAC. Since it was the DAC that was responsible for the sound quality, we didn’t see any reason to use another player. But people would peer into the room, see the Denon, assume the sound quality was not worth a listen and move on. So we obviously needed an alternative approach.
In addition, working with CD’s at a show was not the most convenient. So we made it our mission to return the following year with the best source streaming player we could find.
Music Ripping Primer
There are quite a few computer applications that can successfully “rip” audio tracks from CDs, DVDs, etc. to your music storage device. Not only can they copy the files, but they can also compress them prior to storage. Most all of them can copy a CD or DVD with a reasonable degree of accuracy. But while all of them adopt strategies to insure the highest possible transfer quality, none can “guarantee” a bit-perfect copy of the original file.
Music File Compression
Back in the early days of the iPod (not all that long ago), music files were often transferred over the Internet. Internet speeds were slower then and storage capacities on mp3 players and iPods were not that great. So there was a real need to compress music files to speed up downloads and minimize storage requirements. The most popular compression format developed in that era was .mp3, which remains in wide use today.
DACs, DACs and more DACs
DACs, DACs and More DACs
There are probably at least a hundred models of outboard digital to analog converters (DACs) on the market today – some very good and some merely average. But even a mediocre-performing outboard DAC will often out-perform the DACs in most consumer CD or Bluray players. That being the case, how do you go about selecting the right DAC for your system?
There are several criteria you can use to narrow down the potential field. They include:
- the file resolutions you would like to support;
- compatibility with your music storage/streaming device;
- required inputs and outputs; and,
- your budget.
Let’s take these one by one.
Music File Formats
PCM (Pulse Code Modulation)
With the advent of CD’s came a digital music standard called “RedBook.” RedBook is a PCM (pulse code modulation) standard that features a word length of 16 bits and a sampling rate of 44,100 samples per second. It was calculated that this combination could adequately reproduce frequencies up to 22,050 cycles per second with a dynamic range (the difference between the softest and loudest passages) of about 90dB (which was better than either audio tape or vinyl at the time). Since humans can only hear to about 20,000 cycles per second and less as they age, this was felt to be plenty sufficient for the task at hand. For many years, RedBook remained the go-to standard for digital recordings.
There are many advantages to storing all of your music on a streaming device. The main one is obviously convenience. Systems can be designed so that you never have to leave your chair to change music tracks and your entire collection is at your fingertips. But there are other advantages as well.
You can search your music by artist, album, song title, genre or simply browse your collection (via an iPad or similar device). Better yet, you can create multiple playlists, each reflecting a certain musical style or mood. And the ease with which you can change tracks will change the way you listen to music forever. Once you stream, there is no going back!
More Audio Myths Busted!
The audio world is rife with theories that are the source of endless discussion and debate. Some are based on sound priciples. Others, not so much. Here are a few oft-repeated statements we can easily subject to a little critical thinking.
You’ve probably heard or seen these before:
- Home theater speakers are no good for music.
- Music speakers don’t work well for home theater.
There is a grain of thruth here but, again, it ain’t necessarily so.
Audio Myths Busted!
The audio world is rife with theories. They are the source of endless discussion and debate. Some are based on sound priciples. Others, not so much. Here are a few oft-repeated statements we can easily subject to a little critical thinking.
You’ve probably heard or seen these before:
- Monitors create a wider, deeper soundstage and image better than floor standing speakers.
- Floor standing speakers play deeper than monitors.
There is an element of truth to each of these statements. And therein lies problem.
Understanding Cabinet Diffraction
One of the most misunderstood topics in audio is the subject of diffraction. Diffraction, acoustic phase, and how listening rooms impact our reproduction of sound, based on what I see posted in many discussions on the internet, are subjects of much confusion. In this article I will attempt to clear some of the fog on the topic of cabinet diffraction, and hopefully, present it in such a way as to make it much easier to understand.
Why Passive Radiators?
The new Salk SoundScape 10 and 12 speakers use dual passive radiators. These are obviously more expensive than port tubes, more complex to tune and require more cabinet work to implement. So why use them?
As the designer of the bass section of these two new speakers, I thought I would explain why passive radiators are perfect for this application, and why SoundScape series speakers will out-perform most other high-end speaker systems, and even many subwoofers, in low bass extension and output while, at the same time, providing extremely low distortion bass.
The audio world is overflowing with broad and deeply felt generalizations (religions?) about tubes, designer capacitors, inductors, resistors, bi-wiring, cables, metal drivers vs. paper drivers–not to mention the whole digital vs. analog thing. Few of these beliefs are rigorously substantiated, and many can max out your credit card very quickly.
But there is one generalization that can be substantiated, and believing it won’t necessarily destroy your credit rating. And that would be: “No matter how much money you throw at drivers, components, and cabinets, you can’t hide the effects of a poorly designed crossover.
Choosing veneers 101
Choosing the right model speaker can be a challenge. But even more trying for some people is choosing the right veneer. Sure, looking at pictures of speakers we’ve built over the years can be helpful. But there are even more options out there. So I thought that perhaps a few words about veneers and links to a few sites might be helpful.
Sensitivity and Hoffman’s Iron Law, or “why you can’t have your cake and eat it too”
If given a choice, most people would opt for a high sensitivity speaker in a small cabinet that plays extremely deep. While that may be possible (we’ll get to that shortly), this basic desire runs smack up against the laws of physics.
I’m sure you’ve probably run across that old adage, “quality, speed, low price…pick any two.” It basically states that if you want quality fast, you have to expect to pay a higher price. If you want quality at a low price, you have to be willing to wait. And if you want it fast at a low price, well…
Where driver sensitivity is concerned, there is a similar law in effect.
BSC made simple
(and why it may be important to you)
While baffle step compensation (BSC) sounds complicated, it is really quite simple once you understand what happens when sound waves emanate from a speaker. Here is a slightly over-simplified explanation:
the nature of sound
Sound, by its very nature, wants to travel in all directions. When sound is generated by the woofer in a speaker, for example, that sound not only projects forward to the listening position, but also travels around to the rear of the speaker.
You can confirm this with a simple experiment. Stand behind a speaker and you will still hear sound, although note that the highs will be lacking.
Congratulations, you have just unlocked the key to understanding the mystery of BSC! Let’s look at what is happening here.
The role of cognitive dissonance in audio,
or "how your brain influences what you hear"
Browse through any audio web site and you will likely find posts with comments like, “I just purchased XXX speaker cables and could not believe how they improved imaging.” Or, “These XXX crossover caps dramatically enhanced the top-end clarity of my speakers.”
After reading such rave reviews, you may feel inclined to open your wallet and “drink the kool-aid.” And if you do, chances are very good you will hear similar improvements in your system. But the source of these improvements may not be quite what it seems.