Sound systems

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Sound systems

Postby OperaTenor » Mon Jun 09, 2003 7:48 pm

All this talk about speakers is making me curious. How important is the quality of your sound reproduction? What kind of equipment do you have? What's the best way to enhance b.com through our computers?
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Re: Sound systems

Postby barfle » Tue Jun 10, 2003 7:05 am

Again, the answer is "it depends." I have a room in my house that's dedicated to my audio and video equipment, and in there I'm very critical. I LISTEN to music in there, so I'm pretty carefully attuned to the overall listening experience, from what the acoustics are doing, through what the electronics are doing, back to what the musicians are doing. Unfortunately, at home I don't have high-speed Internet connections, so I don't even bother piping b.c into the good system. I know it would sound poor. If they ever get DSL out in the woods, beethoven radio will be pumping a lot of bits my way, though.

At work, I try to work, at least a little. If I let the music at work get too distracting, my work suffers. It's fun, but not the time for a genuine listning experience. We have a T3 connection, and just about everyone has some kind of streaming audio running. The sound at the office is generally adequate, but it might be because I'm not trying to hear the triangle over the tympani while I'm there. It's the same thing in the car. The audio there is OK, but nothing special. It can keep me company on a road trip, but I never close my eyes and let my ears provide all the sensory input while I'm driving.
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Re: Sound systems

Postby OperaTenor » Tue Jun 10, 2003 11:53 am

Originally posted by barfle:
It's the same thing in the car. The audio there is OK, but nothing special. It can keep me company on a road trip, but I never close my eyes and let my ears provide all the sensory input while I'm driving.
You know, I'm really glad to hear that...
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Re: Sound systems

Postby barfle » Tue Jun 10, 2003 12:18 pm

Too bad it's not universal, as I'm sure you realize.
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Re: Sound systems

Postby dkm32 » Wed Jun 11, 2003 5:43 pm

I hate headphones. Yeah it seems like the music moves from side to side real nice, but it doesn't really surround me.

Obviously, in an office, I have to put up with whatever.

My Computer room has a much better sound system then my system in the living room! My computer has four speaker surround sound. My living room has a simple stereo system.

Guess where I listen to the most music ;)

<small>[ 06-11-2003, 06:50 PM: Message edited by: dkm32 ]</small>
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Re: Sound systems

Postby Andante » Wed Jun 11, 2003 11:42 pm

There’s an old saying “the chain is only as strong as the weakest link”. Nowadays, with the wonders of modern audio technology, it has come to a point that our hearing has become the weakest link. Provided we can afford the fancy gizmos on the market.
Yes, we have come a long way, my friends. But are we there? As far as our sweet little ears are concerned, the answer is yes. And audio-electronically? Yes also. But what about transferring electrical energy into mechanical energy and visa versa? Close but not quite. There remain problems. Allow me to explain.
When we strike the E string on a violin, which is a thin steel wire, held tight under a tension of 45 lbs., it will resonate in no less than 13 harmonics or octaves. And these 13 harmonics all “bundled together” represent the “fullness” of the sound. This is what an E string sounds like.
But there are nasty obstacles in the process of sound propagation. The first obstacle is the transducer which changes mechanical energy into electrical energy. That’s the microphone. It has a membrane which - according to our example - should resonate in 13 harmonics. By sheer physical limitations it is unable to do so. But we are clever! We can manipulate the electrical energy brought forth from the microphone to the point of even making it digital! That’s great! But somewhere along the line we are forced to get it back to analog again in order to bring that nasty and rather resilient cone of our loudspeaker into that same 13 harmonics vibration. Just like that thin steel wire under 45 lbs. tension. That also can’t be done. So, the weakest link in the chain (our ears) is not so weak after all! It allows us to hear a sound from a loudspeaker which is almost the same as the real thing, because our brain is unable to process the truth. Just like a movie: 24 frames/sec represent a smooth flowing move.
OK, let’s talk about the real thing. From where in space should the vibration of the E string be listened to in order to be appreciated? Let’s ask your favorite violinist and ask him to play his Stradivarius in a New York subway tunnel. Do you think it will sound wonderful and heartwarming? Next: Invite him to your bathroom, close the door and hear him play again. Does that sound more “real”? So the question arises, which is an ideal location? Here we are beginning to nibble on the real problems of acoustics. What do you suppose I’m getting at with these silly examples? The answer is surround sound. A concept we all have become acquainted with and to some extend have grown hip about.
So let’s look at that “surround sound” stuff. What does it mean?
Many years ago there was a short notion of quadrasonic sound systems. Four amplifiers and four speakers. For a very short time they even manufactured quadraphonic records and cartridges. It never caught on. Why? Because people have only two ears!
Let’s go to your favorite concert hall and listen to Beethoven’s Emperor concerto. You may chose the very best seats and I’ll pay. So sit down and listen with your two ears. Where is that so called “surround sound”? If you hear a nasty echo coming from the side or behind, it’s a lousy concert hall!
In short: having two eyes makes our eyesight is stereoscopic and having two ears makes our hearing is stereophonic. And that is the bottom line.
To have quality earphones and claim it’s no good because it’s not “surround sound” is hogwash (unless you happen to have four ears)
To have four speakers in your living room is great! I have that myself. But surround sound is impossible. All you do is “widen” the stage upon which the orchestra plays. And listening to that you can only do with two ears. That makes it stereophonic in the end. Sorry folks, not unlike quadrasonic, the slogan “surround sound” is also a misnomer.

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Re: Sound systems

Postby barfle » Thu Jun 12, 2003 7:37 am

Wow, Andante, you and I are definitely on opposite sides of the fence on the idea of surround sound.

First, there's a lot of difference between reverberation and echo, although they have similarities. To be sure, a distinct echo in a concert hall would be distracting, but a reverberation (which sounds something like a sustained sound as the energy bounces around the room, slowly dissipating) can add quite a degree of fullness to the listening experience.

If it were possible to reproduce the acoustic environment of a good hall in your living room (it would take more area than my half-acre lot) then I would agree that the idea of surround sound, in order to reproduce a theatrical listening experience, would be unnecessary. As I have noted here before, the best sound I ever heard was in a little brick church in Venice, Italy. Lots of reverberation, but absolutely stunning sound!

I still actively collect quadraphonic records, and can play them in my audio/video room quite nicely, thank you. They sound much more full than the stereo versions do. It's quite noticeable to anyone who cares to compare. There are many reasons for the failure of quad in the marketplace, and not having four ears isn't on that list. There was a mishmash of competing formats, one of the formats (CD-4) started off being subject to groove wear very early, and the records sold at a premium.

Surround sound is returning, and with a vengeance. Most DVDs are recorded in 5 channel sound (even for people with only two ears), and that product is one of the most successful in the history of consumer electronics.

Further, tests have shown (it may take me a while to find the papers that the Audio Engineering Society published) that people can easily distinguish the location of sounds from behind them. It appears to have a lot to do with how the shape of your ears shapes the spectrum of the sound being heard. I've seen a paper on a headphone adapter that treats the rear channels with equalization in order to make them sound like they are behind you, even though the transducer is directly to the side of the ear.

Calling surround audio "hogwash" is itching for a fight (I'm doing my best to be polite, in spite of your infuriating tone). :mad:
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Re: Sound systems

Postby DanM » Thu Jun 12, 2003 8:29 am

I have found that some of the best speakers are made right here in the U.S. I have a set of Theil 0.5s that are fantastic, but my Klipsh 4.0s are without a doubt the best speakers I have ever owned.

The Theils can be a little thin, but the Klipsh will break glass.

I have the Theils hooked-up to a B&K power amp w/160 watts per channel and a matching B&K pre-amp, Pioneer Elite CD player & a Riga turntable (1" thick tempered glass platter). The Klipsh are hooked up to 2 VTL mono-block tube amps with 450 watts (mono) with a Riga top-loading CD player & my first turntable from 1979, a belt drive Micro Seiki with an Audio Techinica graphite tone arm & Black Widow cartridge.

The Klipsh system is in the basement in a soundproof room. I broke some of the wife's Wedgewood & was bannished.

I am moving into a new house at the end of the month & am in the process of convincing the wife that a plasma screen TV & a Krell or Levinson sound system will be necessary. She's not buying it though.
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Re: Sound systems

Postby OperaTenor » Thu Jun 12, 2003 10:38 am

I've got what is the poor man's audio system compared to you guys, but it has given me years of good listening, so I haven't been inclined to change. It includes a Hitachi HA-330 amp (can anyone confirm if it has magamps in it?), a JVC LE-5 linear tracking turntable(the thing that sold me on this is it has a linear tracking tonearm instead of a cartridge in the dust cover), and my trusty Accoustic Research AR-94 speakers (made in San Diego by Teledyne-Ryan).

One question I have, at the risk of being incredibly naive, am I really missing the boat by not having an equalizer?

<small>[ 06-12-2003, 11:40 AM: Message edited by: operatenor ]</small>
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Re: Sound systems

Postby BenODen » Thu Jun 12, 2003 11:07 am

Well, I'm positively slumming it compared to even OT. I've got an Onkyo receiver, (Integrated amp), a double cassette deck and an Onkyo CD player hooked to a pair of Acoustic Research (I think) bookshelf speakers.

I probably would own better stuff if there were any quiet in the house. My roomate has the TV on most all the time, with a KILLER stereo for the movies. Full Martin Logan electrostatic speakers, Carver (?) signature amp and everything. Oh for a soudproof room sometimes. It could also be that I'm never home either, so that's another part of it! (Too much to be done, work and elsewhere! Along with plenty of goofing off, ohwell...)

Cheers!

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Re: Sound systems

Postby barfle » Thu Jun 12, 2003 11:57 am

I'm not saying my system is all that near state-of-the-art. My speakers are older than my marraige, my front channel amp is 75W/channel, my back amp I built myself. My turntable is a Miracord 50H that I bought while I was in the Army in 1968. I replaced the cartridge with a Shure V-15 Type 5MR (probably the most high-end part of the whole shootin' match). The thing is that all those parts are still serviceable and still sound good.

When we were house-hunting after moving to Virginia, I wanted a basement where I could set up a good A/V room, and I have it. Although it's not sound PROOF, it is pretty well isolated from the rest of the house (and the neighborhood). If I crank it, the dining room can be a little annoying, but reworking the walls so I can add soundproofing and hide all that wiring is on the list for this winter.
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Re: Sound systems

Postby OperaTenor » Thu Jun 12, 2003 11:59 am

Egg crates, my man, egg crates!! :D
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Re: Sound systems

Postby barfle » Thu Jun 12, 2003 2:26 pm

They don't seem to have egg crates in Virginia, at least in the stores I've been able to find! How's the supply in Sandy Aygo?

Actually, those are pretty good for knocking down high frequency reverberations, but not for isolating a room from the rest of the house. As you might guess, what's heard in the dining room is what comes out of the woofers, and egg crates wouldn't seem to have much effect on that. I'll be building a double ceiling in the room so the drywall in the room can wiggle a little without making the floor joists move along with them.

Also, the room is fairly small, has two upholstered chairs, an upholstered love seat, and is carpeted, so it's fairly dead already. Before I get really involved in rebuilding my basement bijou, I will take lots of acoustic measurements (using more of that good old 1970s test equipment I maintain just so I can do that) to make sure I don't create a monster. Acoustics is mostly science, although there's some art to it, not to mention a touch of black magic.
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Re: Sound systems

Postby BenODen » Thu Jun 12, 2003 2:39 pm

Seems like ceilings with shock absorbers are in order! I dunno if you can get good enough shock absorbers though... They all have a certain amount of inertia, which would seem to be bad news for trying to damp out <60hz stuff.

I've seen that eggcrate foam stuff in the music catalogs I get... Seems like $500 would do it for most rooms, but then you have this DEAD room, which isn't neccessarily the best listening experience, IIRC. Great for recording though.

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Re: Sound systems

Postby OperaTenor » Thu Jun 12, 2003 7:33 pm

Hi Barfle, are you going to pack insulation between the ceilings?
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Re: Sound systems

Postby barfle » Fri Jun 13, 2003 6:46 am

Benito, the idea isn't to damp out the vibrations, it's to isolate them from the other parts of the structure. If I run tubafors between the joists for the floor above so their bottom surface is below the joists, I can fasten the drywall to the tubafors but NOT to the joists, and that will knock out about 95+% of the transmission of the sound to the floor above.

So what's a tubafor? Playing the low notes, silly! (you don't know how long I've waited to tell that one).
:)

OT, yes, I will be purchasing and installing a LOT of fiberglass insulation when I start that project, including between floors.
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Re: Sound systems

Postby Selma in Sandy Eggo » Fri Jun 13, 2003 8:52 am

(Holding nose, leaping from windows to escape stinky pun) I'm gonna have to remember what's a tubafor.

I love when engineers get all technical planning their hobby spaces. Are you gonna post the blueprints for us? With an IPB and a GAPL?
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Re: Sound systems

Postby barfle » Fri Jun 13, 2003 9:48 am

Selma, probably not, because I would actually have to figure out how to use the ancient version of AutoCad that I own.

I just might take and post pictures, though... After all, the thread is titled "Sound systems," isn't it? Some of it's technology, some of it's art, and some of it's black magic. What could be more fun with your pants on?
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Re: Sound systems

Postby OperaTenor » Fri Jun 13, 2003 11:30 am

Barfle, LMREO!
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Re: Sound systems

Postby analog » Tue Jun 17, 2003 5:59 pm

How can we improve the sound from our computers?

At work I made some larger speakers for the office with results that astonished co-workers. Mounted small woofers (5 inch) in six-inch pipe tees, added piezotweeters from a mail order hobby place and a 10 watt amp from same hobby place, plugged it into headphone jack and had a daily audience for Beethoven.com. Night shift used it to stream blues.

Pipe tee was about optimal # of cubic inches for mass of that speaker. Total cost $22.
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