Solo Sounds: The Power of One

While it hasn't always made money or hit records, the music business has never been short on ideas. Most are nonsense, but every once in a while—the gramophone, onstage monitors, Les Paul's overdubbing—the biz comes up with a winner.

Many of the craziest ideas I've heard in 30 years of writing about music have been expounded on at the South by Southwest Music Festival, held each year in Austin, Texas. At SXSW, hope springs eternal. Secrets are whispered. Buzz bands gain momentum. Rumors ripple through crowds. Everyone has visions of morphing into a mogul. There's an intoxicating energy to it all.

Thu, 12/07/2017

Delaware Acoustics DELAC S10 loudspeaker Specifications

Thu, 12/07/2017

johnnythunder's picture

with similar colorations and similar stellar imaging attributes. I loved my TC-50s and regretted selling them. What they did well, they did REALLY well.


Delaware Acoustics DELAC S10 loudspeaker Measurements

Thu, 12/07/2017

johnnythunder's picture

with similar colorations and similar stellar imaging attributes. I loved my TC-50s and regretted selling them. What they did well, they did REALLY well.


Delaware Acoustics DELAC S10 loudspeaker System Details

Thu, 12/07/2017

johnnythunder's picture

with similar colorations and similar stellar imaging attributes. I loved my TC-50s and regretted selling them. What they did well, they did REALLY well.


Delaware Acoustics DELAC S10 loudspeaker

666skinny.promo250.jpgOne of the joys of reviewing loudspeakers is that there are always intriguing aspects of any particular design. The problems involved in producing a speaker that has an even tonal balance, well-controlled directivity, good bass extension, and a smooth integration of the outputs from often widely disparate drive-units have what appears to be an infinite number of solutions. The result is often a speaker so different from the norm that it just cries out to be auditioned.

Such was the case with the Delaware Acoustics DELAC S10, which costs $629/pair. Only sold factory-direct, this would therefore have been low on Stereophile's priority list for review if it weren't for two things: first, the fact that the S10 was designed by one Ralph Gonzalez, a name that should be familiar to readers of Speaker Builder magazine for having written a very useful speaker design and analysis program; second, as implied in the first paragraph, the S10 is one of the weirdest speakers I have ever laid ears on.

Sat, 04/01/1989

The 2017 Warsaw Audio Video Show

Poland's Audio Video Show, held in Warsaw each November and now firmly established as Europe's No.2 hi-fi event, has a very different feel from Event No.1: High End, held each May in Munich, Germany. Unlike High End's business-to-business approach, the Audio Video Show is very much for regular consumers, of whom more than 14,000 attended over the show's three days, November 17–19. Boosted by a modest "Smart Home" presence, that was an increase of nearly 18% over last year's show, alongside more modest growth in the numbers of exhibitors and exhibit rooms.
Wed, 12/06/2017

Listening Tests and Absolute Phase Page 2

Tue, 12/05/2017

Anton's picture

I am so old that I actually shopped for a preamp with the ability to switch absolute phase.

I grabbed a Krell KRC HR back in the day. Still a great piece of gear.

I can't recall the last time I read a review or saw a demo that still offered this feature or discussed this 'blast from the past!'

Maybe I haven't been looking.

Is it still a thing?

Herb Reichert's picture

...has a button to reverse phase

supamark's picture

makes good schiit (I've got a headphone amp and DAC from them, very happy with both).

Glotz's picture

This is exactly the type of material we need more online here. A wonderful dovetail to Jim Austin's Pass Labs coverage. Excellent piece, and love HiFi News.

PS Audio GCPH phono preamp has a phase switch, and it is handy from time to time... 10-year old product now, though.

(Dipolar) speakers (and their out-of-phase back wave) are also a 'variable' as JA wrote about in understanding phase and the effects of other components' system interactions. They are almost an infinite amount variables that affect a system, depending on complexity. Getting great sound is easy today, vs. decades ago, given greater component linearity in general.

"Carrying out any test non-blind ie, with the identity of the device under test known to be the listener, brings in all the above-mentioned additional stimuli, totally invalidating any conclusions drawn."

Bingo! The answer to the age-old blind listening argument! The holy.. never mind. Yet more variables enter the picture, and begs the question- what is one truly listening for?

supamark's picture

Yet more variables enter the picture, and begs the question- what is one truly listening for?

When you listen to music as a job, where you're mixing a lot of separate tracks down to 2 like a puzzle, making them sonically fit together with EQ, compression, and panning (a good arrangement makes your job so much easier), it's hard to turn that off when you're listening to music for pleasure. It took 10 to 15 years after I stopped working as an engineer to mostly turn off that analytical stuff.

Unfortunately, I'm still very good at hearing deep into a mix now that I've got my system set up properly again and a lot of crap still gets on my nerves. Example:

I like Queensryche's Operation: Mindcrime musically, but its lack of dynamics always kinda bothered me. I listened to Revolution Calling (track 3) for the first time in many years, with a modern DAC, and instantly figured out what had been bothering me - the mix engineer ran a compressor across the mix buss and screwed it up so when the snare hits the whole damn mix pumps down for a moment (incl. the snare) destroying the dynamics. I assume it was the mix engineer because Bob Ludwig mastered it and he knows how to properly use a compressor. The only other explaination I can think of is they used the same master to send to LP and CD plants in 1988 (it's an hour long, which doesn't really fit well on a single LP) but still, Bub Ludwig knows how to properly use a compressor and he mastered it (you can't really "undo" compression). Hearing it clearly made my ears hurt lol. Empire is a bit better in this regard, but sounds like they ran it through a BBE "sonic maximizer" unit.

Yes' Yessongs is the worst recording that I still love - the performances are so much better than studio albums but the sound is just... awful but I still wore out 2 LP's of it before I got it on CD. Little errors, like the bad edit in Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall pt. 2 (it's that stutter in the drums at about 1:05 on the CD), amuse more than bother me thankfully.

All a long winded way of saying there's no telling what a person's preferences are. I mean, compare Art and Jason's (AD vs JVS) systems - it's obvious they value (very) different things in their playback systems but both bring their respective owners a lot of satisfaction.

Anton's picture

That was a fun post to read, Supamark!

supamark's picture

Some speakers wire one or more drivers out of phase.

Even in the 1990's, some pro audio mfgs wired their equipment with pin 3 hot instead of the AES standard pin 2 hot on their balanced connectors. In pop/rock, one or more tracks may have the phase reversed for any number of reasons (i.e., bottom snare mic to put it in phase with the mic on top).

Anton's picture

Sometimes this hobby feels like we are trying to turn hamburger back into steak.

As a side note: I always thought the speaker wiring schemes were to get 'in phase' arrival at the listening position based on how the drivers are set up. I may be way off, so I have no fact based assertion on that.

supamark's picture

it's mostly about x-over slopes (1st/2nd/etc order slopes) and how the drivers interact at the x-over point(s). Some slopes invert phase (2nd/4th), others don't (1st/3rd) from my understanding. Others can give you better answers.

DougM's picture

You realize you've now condemned us all to be furiously switching our speaker polarity back and forth with every record we play, trying to determine which sounds better. Time to buy more screw on banana plugs!

myrantz's picture

Interesting to see this article pop up (from 1980 no less). Have phase OCD ever since I mixed 2-Hot with 3-Hot gear. Before this did not even realise phase is even a thing.

Many audiophiles I visited have somehow managed to wire up their system incorrectly. They fall into these three categories:
1. Left/Right swap
2. One speaker out of phase
3. both speakers on inverted phase

3 was the most difficult to prove until a friend told me there is already a test: Speaker Pop Test.

Play that track, and run Studio Six's iPhone Speaker Polarity test. With this you can tell straight away if the system is + (IMO correct) or - (IMO incorrect). Or look at the cones, they should pop out (not get sucked in).

The problem is in hifi gear. Mixing EU and US gear is one cause. Another reason is some singled ended gear appears to be on - phase (e.g. I think one Conrad Johnson pre-amp owned by an audiophile I visited a few years back may be on -).

Music polarity is a lot harder to determine, as it's pretty much subjective and fatigue can set in quickly. To determine if the phase is inverted, I use cues like audio localisation, imaging and timbre. Last but not least, I use this totally subjective cue called 'emotional engagement'.

Some tracks which IMHO are on - phase:
1. Dark Side Of The Moon (30th SACD), e.g. Time and Money
2. Musik Wie Von Einem Anderen Stern Manger Test CD, e.g. Walking On The Moon and Jazz Variants

The tracks above sound weird IMO when played on a + system.

Those are the easy ones. Unfortunately a lot of music are often mixed with different phases, and sometimes Left and Right are swapped. Girl From Ipanema by Stan Getz is the classic example for me - I have 2 different CDs and 1 SACD. And still don't know which is the correct one - none seem correct.

Glotz's picture

Great info from everyone! Great to see insights from the pro recording world. Supamark's and Myrantz's comments are excellent examples.

myrantz's picture

Do you know why CJ gear are designed like so? That pre-amp has bugged me for ages and I never got to verify it.

John Atkinson's picture
myrantz wrote:
Do you know why CJ gear are designed like so?

Presumably to keep the number of amplification stages to the minimum. Unless used as a cathode follower, which doesn't have any voltage gain, a single tube stage inverts polarity.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

myrantz's picture

That's sticking to a 'keep it simple' policy and gotta say I love it. Hopefully in the future will have a chance to listen to a Conrad Johnson in + phase system and see how it really sounds.

Knowing this is like finally scratch out that itch. lol. This has bugged me for a while. Thanks guys.

spacehound's picture

That unlike us, who are enthusiasts with OCD about this sort of stuff, The record 'manufacturers' are sane people who don't care about phase (or anything much else as long as it sells) at all.

What's more, being professionals rather than bankers, brain surgeons or garbage collectors who falsely believe they know relevant 'HiFi' stuff, like we are, they KNOW absolute phase can't possibly make any difference to the MUSIC or voice, 'pop' test or not.

So their records have a 50-50 chance of the phase being 'wrong' or 'right' anyway.

supamark's picture

recording engineers are sooo much worse. I've spent literally hours listening to the same 30 to 60 seconds of a song on loop adjusting stuff and I'm hardly unique.

bpw's picture

Kudos for mentioning Clark Johnsen's book.

A quip by Keith Herron of Herron Audio some years ago at CES:
"We found out we were out of phase, so we ordered more."

Brian Walsh

ok's picture

Various phase shifts mostly at the high frequency range due to small inch-movements of the listener’s head – let alone room reflections – render absolute phase evaluation impossible in any meaningful sense through loudspeakers. I've switched "invert" countless times and never got nowhere. Anyway discerning absolute phase in blind A/B stereo tests seems as plausible as telling back/front page of any given A4 white paper. Listening to mono recordings through headphones while separately inverting each channel’s phase could arguably be a more sensible way for the brain to locate relative L-R phase shifts without interfering external cancelations (not as practical though, since hardware dissection possibly required..)

Timbo in Oz's picture

Because I don't like the imaging, and don't like the feel of things on my ears. And, my ears stick out, not flat to my head.

Hearing polarity on speakers is not impossible for me and many I know. Some can't hear it, ever.

Timbo in Oz's picture

A long time ago, in the early 1960s when I was still a 'tween, and a cathedral chorister under the Royal School of Church Music's scheme, our choirmaster/organist presented me with my leader's badge on its purple ribbon.

Privately he told me he believed I had perfect pitch, paused and said 'doesn't help much, does it?'. Equal temperament has been a good thing for most musicians, but I still wince.

Shrill sopranos which are VERY common, are a bete-noire of mine. Everyone else claps like mad!!!

I have been listening to phase and time coherent speakers for a very long time, and IME&O polarity does matter, but usually only on good (simply miked) recordings, some of which I have made myself.

(I've taken time out from that volunteer role, but hope to get back to it.)

We all do hear differently and are also differently affected by music, by the standards of playing and engineering. The assumption - built in to much of the argie-bargie about audio and testing - that we all hear and are affected by music, in the same way and to the same extent is false.

Bottom summed the reality up, in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'.

For me, once polarity was shown to me, it became a chore to swap leads, and thus I had built two (L&R) spkr level switch boxes with two* DPDT relays. At the same time we took the HP-only xovers out of the 'spheres and put them in the boxes.

* I wanted to bi-amp the spheres. With two matching rethought LEAK St20s.

My wife hears polarity, too. Which helped with the budget.

I am slowly building a new system which will have similar relays to all the speakers, incluidng the four subs arrayed ala "swarm' ideas under & to the side of QUAD 63s in an arc.

A good way to test if you are right with polarity is to move as far to one side as possible. When the distant spkr is most clear that's the right setting.

For me the issue might well relate to timbre and expression, both of which depend most heavily on attacks and decays.

A good example here is the very different sound of tracker-action organs and electro-pneumatic organs. I was fortunate to hear this difference for several years, during those early 1960s, while our organ was being rebuilt.


Listening Tests and Absolute Phase

The problem confronting the magazine reviewer when organising the necessary listening tests to accompany/reinforce the measured behavior of a device under test is complex. There has never been a problem with the measurement aspect; as long as someone has access to the same test gear—and full knowledge of the test conditions—then he should be able to replicate the critic's findings exactly (assuming an infinitely narrow spread of behaviour from sample to sample—a rasher assumption with some manufacturers' equipment than of others). However, when it comes to determining reliably the audible (or inaudible?) effects on music program by an amplifier/cartridge/loudspeaker etc. then the going gets tough.
Sat, 11/01/1980

Recording of September 1975: A Contemporary Collection

The King's Singers: A Contemporary Collection
Works by Peter Dickinson, Malcolm Williamson, Richard Rodney Bennett, Krzystof Penderecki, Paul Patterson
EMI EMD 5521 (UK LP). MMG Records MMG 1142 (US LP). 1975. Christopher Bishop, prod.

Astounding performances! Every piece here was commissioned by the King's Singers, those six English gentlemen whose vocal artistry surely has never been surpassed. The works here are by Peter Dickinson, Malcolm Williamson (recently appointed by HRH Elizabeth II to the post of Master of the Queen's Musick, succeeding the late Sir Arthur Bliss), Richard Rodney Bennett, Krzystof Penderecki, and Paul Patterson.

Mon, 09/01/1975

The Ultimate Bass Experience, Starting Tomorrow in New Jersey

Loudspeaker manufacturer SVS is embarking on a launch event tour for its new 4000 Series subwoofers. These free events will feature prize giveaways, home-theater demos of the new subwoofers, and a presentation by SVS president Gary Yacoubian, as well as "festive" local refreshments. The next event will take place at Electronics Expo (491 US 46W, Wayne, NJ 07470) 6–8pm, Tuesday December 5. Please RSVP here.
Mon, 12/04/2017