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michael green
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The Simple System

So you've been thinking about getting into the hobby of listening :-)

There are few hobbies as fun as listening to music. It's one of those that you can make your own and depending on how much you learn about what it takes to make great sound you can enjoy music at a level you never thought was possible.

We're a pretty lucky crowd really because of two people who decided to make this hobby more of a known than un-known. Many of us look at J. Gordon Holt and Harry Pearson as the fathers of the high end audio press movement. And what a movement, as we went from writers telling us that the audio signal was more of a number than a personality to the personality of the recording coming to life in our rooms. For me these two guys represented going from sound to a soundstage which even since a little kid was something that fascinated me. I jumped into my music career before I could drive and never looked back. Finding these two magazines after years of creating a soundstage on my own was like finding lost siblings. I actually already had my own stereo store in Atlanta and was runing sound for the Atlanta Symphony before introduced TAS and Stereophile. It wasn't long before I sarted buying up every recommended component on the list. Learning the combinations of recreating a soundstage came natural for me because of creating the same stages from the proside. Playing a stereo was simply in reverse of making the stereo and I knew all about that cause I was the kid who slept in the studio and the first on the tour bus growing up. Live sound (studio and hall) was the nightly event of creating a world that you could fall deeply into, a connection between the music and listener. Some guys ran sound and others created it. There's a major difference between the two and the guys who ran it never understood the creators. It was like they didn't know how to hear depth and only understood side to side and out of the middle. Their life was mono or pan which is a completely different mindset from front to back. The audio magazines felt the same way when I first started reading them. I could tell who the side to side guys were and who the front to back guys were. Audio equipment was also the same. Some companies you could tell were going after depth and others sounded like they were created for a flat plane. One was built from straight lines and the other was about the 3D wholeness. This to me is step one in deciding where to go with this hobby.

what does the hobby mean to you

There are a few parts to the hobby of listening and each one of them has their own set of values. You might think that it is one hobby at first but the further you get into it you see the lines being drawn and it's important to indentify where you fit before you are too deeply in.

One part is the volume seeker. This is the guy who can't have it loud enough.

The living room listener. This is the fella who is working around his furniture, and fitting the stereo into it.

The collector. The audio component collector is more into the products as they stand on an individual unit or merit.

The engineer. He is a guy who uses test equipment to make the calls in the system performance.

The equipment explorer. This is about the mixing and matching of components to create different sounds.

The extreme listener. This is the guy who takes into account all the parts that makes sound happen and builds a system that can recreate the recording.

The music style listener. This is a person who usually stays in one camp (type) of music.

Each of these types of listener has their own world and is usually in defense of that world as being the "way" once they get started, so one of the first things I try to find out is what kind of a hobbyist is the listener. This hobby is full of opinions and each one has their own personal view of music and what they perceive as right. Many get into the hobby at one level or with one goal only to find out that they are in a completely different place than they originally wanted to be and getting back to that place is harder than they thought. Peer pressure unfortunately is a driving factor as a listener starts to invest and the more you learn about your place in this hobby the easier it will be for you to get on a path of successful listening. It's not uncommon at all for a hobbyist to purchase many components before they realize what path they even want to go in, and back tracking along with sideways detours is very likely if a person does not have a clear view of the hobby.

michael green

MGA/RoomTune

michael green
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the extreme camp

Out of the types I mentioned I have done a few of them on my way to finding that I am more of an "extreme listener". My systems cover the whole range but it's the system that has a dedicated room and one chair that goes much further than the others when it comes to revealing the recordings. I could put a million dollar system in one of my other rooms (have) and it will not perform as well as the simple setup.  I've seen hobbyist outraged at that statement but the truth of it is if you make all the parts to the system work together it is going to out perform a system that is not getting along with all the parts that it takes to make sound pressure.

Sound pressure is what you are listening to, it's not a component or well reviewed speaker. If you create a room that is able to host sound pressure and the music content in tune you can then play a system to it's fullest potential. This does not mean that you make a room that is perfect and throw a system in it and everything will be perfect. Nope, wish this were the case but recordings don't work that way. Recordings are signatures of sound and all of them have a different signature.  This is lesson one that we should be taught when entering this hobby. It's not like you can setup a system and all the music is perfectly played, and anyone who makes this claim is misleading you.  All music recordings have their sound and your system will either play that sound or not. In the past there were tone controls and equalizers to assist you but some brainiac along the way said this was a no no and keep the system discrete. Now you have a bunch of guys running around buying all these different EQed systems that are stuck each time thinking that the new setup will play everything, but what they don't get is in the studio we all have EQ's to make that sound unique and it's going to take more than a discrete setup with it's one particular sound to play the recordings produced.  Common sense you would think right, but it's one of those things that has not been landed on yet. Do I like the sound of EQ's and extra circuitry? No, but I also don't like the sound of a system that can't play a recording. Because of this I personally think a lot of guys out there would do a lot better with their sound if they were using receivers.

Michael, really a receiver, that's so low end? Is it low end, or is it that we have our egos a little misaligned?

I'm going to tell you a secret that shouldn't be one and wouldn't be one if you take to time to explore this. Do you understand what a power supply is and how they work and what they do when you have several power supplies pulling on your circuit panel? Every time you introduce a transformer into your system you are losing music content.  The more power supplies you have the harder it is for your system to stay stable. That's a fact! As many times as I have explored this issue the answer always came back to me that you lose more stability with a multi power suplied system than a system that using less. So if your looking at how nice these separate components look and thinking it's an automatic that they will give you better sound rethink for a moment. If your needing a line conditioner to stablize your components something is not right. The industry has come a long way in the last few years and there are some receivers out there that are music machines. The layouts inside are very much high end and because parts have advanced so much if you apply the same care and tweaking to these they can out perform some of the highest end.  The last 3 years I have used a certain combo of receiver and DVD player and every time I have put it up against any high end system it has taken it with the exceptions of some flavoring that a listener may want to add to their sound, like a tube sound to roll the highs for example.  It's also not like what it use to be where you had the tube vs solid state sound or CD vs vinyl.

The playing field between the low and high dollar components has leveled and you can now be looking for what sounds good instead of what cost the most, and the simple system can do things, set up in the right conditions, that will surprise you. One of the keys to this though is thinking of your system as a whole and not putting a lack of attention to what makes the sound pressure. I still see many people teaching bad acoustical habbits and assuming that a heavy speaker or component is better sounding than a lighter weight one and if you follow this path your not going to acheive what I have been talking about. When I talk about simple I may mean simple in cost but not simple in plug and play. If you take the components I recommend and leave them stock just plugging them in and expecting sound you might sit there and laugh at what you get, I would. My recommend components or anyone elses are only going to sound as good as you make them sound and this is why I caution people to not buy expecting miracles. You are not going to buy a system any system and plug it in and the magic jumps in front of you, at least not at the level I'm talking about. I'm talking about converting a room number one then putting in a simple system that can be tuned into greatness.  

michael green

MGA/RoomTune

michael green
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listening is believing

I hope people read this thread and think about it a while. Let me paint a picture of practicality for you.

You have a circuit box. That circuit box sends power to a room, that room has maybe 2 to 3 double outlets, then you use a power strip or line conditioner (usually between 6 and 10 outlets), your system then uses several power supplies. Compare this against a cicuit box, one line going to your room, one double outlet, two power supplies. This is not pie in the sky, this is reality. I have done this test hundreds on times in hundreds of locations and the results came out the same everytime. The simple circuit path out performed the over built one. Are you shocked (pun)? You might be but shouldn't . I'm not the only one on the planet that has found the simple electrical path to blow away the complicated one. If you are thinking that this is nuts than you have to be saying that electricity is not one of the 3 major contributors to a systems sound.

There are 3 parts to audio, electrical, mechanical and acoustical. If you keep these three parts in harmony while passing the audio signal you are going to have great sound period! The more you complicate the working of these three together the more your signal will distort. All the over complicated fix it's in the high end audio world can not change this. At TuneVilla and on TuneLand we have explored this many times over and the door is open for others to do the same.

In recent years we have been talking about the audio signal being squeezed. Most of the time the talks are refering to the use of digital signal. The math of digital seems to be a topic that goes back and forth and back again as if we are in some big hurry to fix the problem of squeezing but have we stopped to look at the bigger part of our systems being squeezed? No. We keep treating the audio signal as if it is a language that doesn't vibrate. A language that is not subject to the mechanical conduits that carry the signal. Audio signal in any form and electronics in any form depends on a vibrating conduit to carry the signal. This is the basic of the most basics of physics. The audio signal is energy and enegy is vibration. The music signal is made up of a series of fundamentals and harmonics. The audio signal in your system travels through the audio pathway that is a chain of mechanical conduits. Everytime there is a change in conduit size or material or vibratory code the audio signal changes. The fewer amounts of these changes (out of tune with the orginal signal) the more of the orginal music signal can enter the rooms air on the acoustical end. The acoustical signal being put into the air creates sound pressure and this is what we hear. There's the simple system in a nut shell.

Take your components chassis top off, look inside. All of these parts are vibrating. You lesson the amount of vibration it takes to pass both the fundamentals and the harmonics of the music signal by decreasing the audio pathways ability to create sympathetic (harmonic) resonance in tune and you lesson the music signals output. Squeeze the sound! Guys your over built products are squeezing the life out of the music. This is why it is so hard for you to mix and match your components. Instead of plugging and play you should be tuning. Listen to me here and make note of this. Until you start tuning your systems and building them to be tuned you are never going to hear the music signal in full, ever. The mix and match will never end and you will never be able to hear a wide music selection without  thinking it is either a bad recording or you need to change a component. A simple system, built to vibrate and then tuned will out perform any fixed system.

michael green

MGA/RoomTune

Bill B
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TL; DNR

TL; DNR.

michael green
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mixing and matching

The 3 parts to audio.

The biggest stumbling block in this hobby is mixing and matching without understanding what the hobby is or how it works.  Almost all of us jumped into this hobby before we knew much about making good sound.  How do I know this? For the past 30 some years I've had hundreds maybe thousands of people contacting me to fix the mess they are in.

It's shocking when you think about it, many audiophiles talk about brands as if a brand on it's own makes music. And, I hardly ever hear someone saying "in my system and room and with my electric". If I hear someone saying "this component sounds like this" I right off the bat start thinking about the conditions in which someone is listening.

I don't like the sound of components, I like the sound of recordings. There's a big difference between the two. A lot of times people will get mad at that type of statement until they get a system that disappears.  I, over the years, have been surprised at systems that do indeed disappear. Going back through that list in my mind all of them had an order to their priorities. The rooms, mechanics of the system and the electrical all played a part in performance. I have never heard a good sounding system for example where there were floorstanding speakers in a livingroom stuffed with furniture and carpet. Systems like this sound muffled any way you slice them. And that's not all, the music is very hit and miss and you can only play very select pieces of music.  Now take that same room (we have) and make a satilite sub design with the speakers being a little higher than the tops of the furniture.  A whole new story.  This is fact, speakers are not designed to fire into furniture, and if someone is leading you to throw a floorstanding speaker into a room where the woofers and tweeters are at or below the furniture you are not hearing the soundwaves properly.  There are a few types of speakers that are specifically designed to sit against the walls of the room. If you have more than one or two acoustically correct chairs (leather mostly)  you will want to look into these speakers or wall mounts if you are desiring much of a soundstage and tonal correctness.  Buying a speaker without understanding it's ability to load your room can get you in a place that can cost you tons in trying components and you may never get there.  I walk into many rooms where the speakers are only loading at one half their efficiency. It doesn't take much to make this happen. Here's a rule I go by. I stay above the speakers db rating in a room. Meaning if a speaker is rated at 1 watt 1 meter and you are needing to turn it up higher than 1 watt to reach that speakers rated level,  your room is in the minus. Most living rooms filled with furniture and have a chair or sofa (fabric is worse) two feet from a speaker are hearing the music db down instead of db up. You never want to listen in db down. This means you are missing music. A room is a natural amplifier and if it is not amplifying the music you are listening to acoustical distortion.

You hear people tell you to kill the sound of the room. This is the worst thing you can do to music. We've done this both with listening and meassuring the results and in both cases the minus of music when a room is db down is an absence of content.  Try this in your own listening and you will find this to be the case.

In designing the simple system take a look at your room and furniture and talk to someone who is up on acoustic designing to the plus side before buying that pair of speakers. They can be the greatest floorstanding speaker in the world, but if you never get to hear what they can do what good are they?

michael green

MGA/RoomTune

Catch22
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You seem to dismiss component signatures

I mostly agree with what you are driving at, but components do have sonic signatures that are unrelated to their ancillary conditions and gear. Most manufacturers of components have a sonic hiearchy that they impart into their components, as well.

michael green
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I use to think that was a good thing

All component parts do have a signature, and is my reason for the way I approach designing and listening and listening to what others are doing carefully. As there are people reading this at this very moment and are comparing the sound between these pieces and parts there is something important that we have found and people are or should be looking into.  If you are comparing a part or piece in a less variable environment  the results are usually heading in one direction. More mass tigher but squeezed sound, less mass open but loser sound. Here's the part I wanted to share though concerning this. If you make your components tunable and based on a longer disipation of the original singal vibration the tunability will out weigh the fixed mass in tightness.

example: I got a call days ago from someone who is replacing the caps on his amp. His comment to me was the difference in caps was  negligible compared to his tuning of the circuit board.  The difference between tuning a low mass circuit board and changing to high mass caps is a shocking revelation. We have found that a low mass cap on a low mass board tuned will out perform, in all cases that we have heard, the high mass configurations and we have been listening to these results for a long time. We have been encouraging listeners to try the tests and the results have come back the same.  Over build parts and pieces while at first sound more tight and detailed in the long run have taken away from other parts of the signal to create this tightness. We have along with many others done this testing thousands of times in many different places around the world with this same findings.

We think that more is better by our audiophile or maybe man nature, but this is not true if more becomes too much and that is what is happening and been happening in high end.  If you listen to the parts with circuit boards that are over mass you will get a certain sound (reflective distortion) and with boards that vibrate more a far more open sound, however when you put the heavier part on the lighter circuit board the heavy part does not do as well. The heavier parts sound great if you keep your sound stage small but if you expand your stage past inbetween the speakers you will hear sonic holes being reproduced. Holes that are not in the music. Replace that heavy part with a lighter weight one and you not only get a bigger stage but also the hole is filled in with music content and harmonic structures. With the smaller components with lighter weight we can see whole instruments appear that are not even there (sounding like noise) on the heavier ones. In turn we have done testing on the heavier (audiophile parts) to see how big the component would have to be build to get the same quality as the smaller parts . Again the results are interesting and you would not want to have that big of a component in the average room.

I welcome anyone in the industry or hobby to contact me about this as you will be surprised at the results.  What we found is that the chassis in this industry and the parts are actually causing distortion. Some will bring up testing and thats fine. The tests that are typically made to test things only tell part of the story as they are only going to give what they are fed. This causes a problem for a musical note vs a frequency response.  We did our testing over the years in a way so that we can see when the test equipment is not giving the whole picture. In our book and the others who have done the same it came down to listening to the results, and the results are pretty amazing.  My personal listening world has flip completely from the convention and I  seek after balance through using parts and pieces that are the right size and performance in passing the signal. It's important to note though again that when doing this the circuit board must be tuned and not sitting there in most cases vibrating out of control.  But the tuning of the board is very slight.

I encourage listeners to take a look at their components and maybe even contact me about what I am saying. I'll give you some simple things to try so that you can see for yourself what I'm telling you as being true or not. I would bring up the many components we have had these tests on but that I feel would be counter productive.  It's not my goal to start wars but to do my part to help the industry through doing things or maybe taking things a little further than what has been done before. We did our tests then shared these with others for them to do before recommending suggestions. I invite listeners to read my other posts on this forum and also on mine so we may compare notes and make a better hobby.

michael green

MGA/RoomTune

michael green
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sonic hierarchy

This is in general not pointed at catch

I wanted to speak a second on sonic hierarchy. When I was new to this and also when I had audio stores the idea was to follow the hierarchy to better sound. This was fine until I got to the place in my setups where I wanted to uncover a recordings magic and go further than just the components sound. The different components did have different sounds, but that did me little good if I wanted to hear the drums and cymbals float across the room in a particular way before Keith Jarret started to hit the keys and have the guy run around in and outside of my room on dark side of the moon. I could start from the bottom up with a line of components hoping that one of them along the way would bring out this magic or I could stick with my simple setup and tune in the sound I wanted.

For me and my gang it is about going after a recording and the best way to get there. Not only do components have a signature but recordings do as well, and if you are trying to find a fixed component to play a bigger collection good luck cause I've never heard it. And the reason a hierarchy could be and is more scary is the furher up you go in a line the more you are locking into a designers sound in his on room and his own conditions, if he is stepping up in mass as he climbs. Your locking into what he likes and doesn't like and the more he makes his sound fixed with bigger parts the less his sound can be duplicated in someone elses room and conditions. This why when you climb the $$$ ladder your speaker choices slim down and your combos become very limited. You are fixing into a paticular. You will find most audiophiles who have done the hierarchy climb are component jumpers, and most of the ones I have met with, their systems fall apart if you put on a different type of music other than their norm.

There's a far easier way to get great sound and shape it to ones taste. If the hierarchy climb is going to a lighter weight chassis and a hard wired outboard transformer getting it away from the main circuit, then I say yep that's a step up, but if your talking heavier with thicker chassis and squeezed parts on a thick circuit board than I say nope. No way! Dampening inside, no way, parts that are using cable bigger than what is needed to pass the signal, nope. Huge capacitors sitting right next to tiny transitors, nope. Rubber feet, nope. Way over built output connectors, nope. A step up to me means balance and open and spacious. And as few transformers as possible.

Someone tell me why I would want a heavy gauge metal chassis surrounding all my electro-induced parts? If you say grounding I'm gonna shoot ya lol. If you say your protecting it from the outside interference, we need to have a talk. Listener, without telling your audio company builder, take off your components faceplate and lid, take off that rubber piece holding your tranformer down or losen the screws on the transformer (hello turn it off first), listen and give me a shout. Yes, your not pretenting the sound opened up. If it didn't you have problems. Now if that made that big of a difference why aren't we designing these things in a way that allows you to do important audio tweaks when you get the product home? The hierarchy to me means you have a way of making your products more flexible not the opposite. Take a look at your system. Are you telling me that moving up means all that heavy stuff? Really, you buy that? It's the opposite! You should be opening up your signal then tuning it in, not shutting it down. Hey, don't believe me try it and I'll help. Or look at others who are doing and read their results.

I do believe in a hierarchy just not the one that has been sold to the public. I want people do be able to tune in the sound they want not told that they are wrong when they buy the more expensive stuff and can't get it to sound right.

michael green

MGA/RoomTune

michael green
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your choices are more than you think

Hi Guys

This week aready I'm getting asked for component recommends. So while this is on my mind I wanted to find where I talked about simple and give an answer for the many rather than the few.

One thing I would recommend for sure is don't limit your choices to audiophile brands. Designing has changed a lot and in many cases the mass production companies are right up there and even passing many brands. Especially for you guys thinking about integrateds. Don't limit your choices and look at some of the receivers out there. I like the lower mass stereo receivers like the Sherwood. I see Sony, Yamaha and others are coming back with simple stereo receivers (I'm not talking the big heavy ones)too. Back in the day Rotel and some of the other guys made some killer light weight integrateds. Parasound made a killer little amp. Well this Sherwood the 4105 and 4109 sound much like these designs and with a little help even better. I haven't brought in their competitors yet but by looking we may have ourselves a little hot bed of mainstream audiophile products waiting for you to enjoy. Also the FUNAI $29 DVD player (used as CD player) tweaked is absolutely amazing and I use it on all my reference systems now. My DACs and Transports have been releaved of duty after I got and played with this unit. First CD player I've ever really picked over vinyl in every area. You can read about people having these components on TuneLand, or ask me and I'll happy to give you my advice. And advice on setup.

But let me say this under $200.00 for an audiophile front end and amp is a once in a life time shot. Many will pass this up because of the low pricing but if you treat these two pieces with the same respect as any ultra high end system setup you will be thanking yourself for a long time to come.

michael green
MGA/RoomTune

michael green
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bump

Wanted to give this a bump to give beginning audiophiles a view point that might be of great help before laying out the cash.

here's my thread on the method of tuning

http://www.stereophile.com/content/method-tuning

michael green
MGA/RoomTune

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