GO 'HEAD YOU CAN LAUGH ALL YOU WANT
The opinions here are mine, and mine alone.
I GOT MY PHILOSOPHY
Philosophy. Ben Folds Five, 1995
Use 'em, choose 'em, abuse 'em, lose 'em. Feel free to agree, disagree, or do whatever the heck you want with 'em. Just remember, you get what you pay for. And, how much did we charge you for any of this???
Joseph Anthony Aloysius McDonald Junior - most people just call him Jody Mac
Feel a burning need to get something off your chest because of something you see here that makes you crazy with anger or gladness? Do it!
ANSWERING QUESTIONS & QUESTIONING ANSWERS
Obviously NOT your typical FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page. That just ain't me
Why do we park in the driveway and drive on the parkway?
Never could answer this one myself, but wanted to start with a question for you
What is the most important link in the audio chain?
The room! Absolutely no doubt about it. Many live for the pursuit of gear, the sexy part of the hobby; their audio raison d'etre. With almost total certainty, this message will not speak to them...
Nothing is unimportant
Kondo-san, Audio Note
Ever REALLY remodel a room? Remove the furniture, pack up all the clutter, pull up the carpet, and apply a fresh coat of paint? Bark out a few words, clap your hands, bang some tools around. Howlin' Wolf!!! It's as if you're in a different building. At that moment, you know that the acoustics of the space have been so fundamentally changed that it instills the certainty into any audiophile's heart, "Whoa!!! It's scary to know how much the room influences my sound." The differences wire, isolation/vibration devices, tubes, preamps, amps, sources, and even loudspeakers, and the like yield are orders of magnitude less than what you can attest you've just experienced.
Put down the new floor covering, add back the furnishings, step by step. You can begin to see (or, hear) the sonic metamorphosis going the other way, though it's often the floor covering and clutter that dictates how close to baseline one returns.
Now it's true many, many, many can do nothing about their listening space, but that doesn't negate the validity of the premise. Keep this in your back pocket, as one day the opportunity may present itself to make a change. Go forth with that knowledge in hand, and a bit of confidence as well as the sense that the fate of the world doesn't rest upon the exercise, and you'll use it to your advantage as opposed to how most of us get by
Where do components fit in?
It goes without saying, but without the hardware (and of course, the music), there wouldn't be such a thing as the high-end audio hobby.
We certainly have all flavors and colors represented when it comes to gear. Big speakers, small speakers, solid state and tube amplifiers, vinyl and CD, yin and yang. Remember the mid-1990s Stereophile cover with the huge solid-state Krell and Cary 300B SET tube amplifiers on the cover, with the statement, "If one of these amplifiers is right, the other must definitely be WRONG"? Brilliant! Fortunately, the world has shown us there is room for all.
Yet, when it comes down to brass tacks, it's the loudspeakers that are the most critical of the components. True, they've morphed into furniture now, but this whole audio components as pornography thing is merely a reflection of the world we live in today. Look past the book matched veneers and brilliant automotive finishes, and realize that like tires on an automobile, the loudspeakers are the place where the rubber meets the road.
This isn't to negate the importance of the source (not that I've even been accused of being a Linnie), amplification, cabling, isolation/vibration components, voodoo, and everything else. All of which are critical, but the louspeaker makes the most difference
How do I position my loudspeakers?
Because I put such a high regard on both the room and the loudspeakers, I tend to focus on the interface of the listening room and the loudspeaker as deserving the most emphasis.
Half of this game is 90% mental
Yogi Berra, New York Yankees
Following that logic, the siting of loudspeaker is the crucial element in the degree of success or failure a system achieves. A lot of theories on that subject abound; the
Cardas Golden Triangle
primer on loudspeaker placement are likely the two most popular, and certainly worthy of investigation.
However, the far and away best is Romy The Cat's Dead Points Of Live Sound, or
In fact, if one learns nothing else in audio, it should be this. While some may lose the forest through the trees, my analogy to the DPOLS in the plainest English is to think of a lens in a camera or pair of binoculars. No one ever (I hope!) simply looks through the lens and figures that is the best they can do. Rather, one must ADJUST the lens to bring the object being viewed into focus. Once the optimal settings are approached, the degree of improvement (heard via bass response and imaging - the bass will lead you most easily) shifts from the incremental to the geometric, no more so than when the object is perfectly focused. Without it, there is a degree of discomfort and uneasiness to how we perceive the image. We also must go BEYOND the optimal parameters in the effort to find exactly where the optimal parameters lie.
I'm not sure why most do not view the positioning of loudspeakers in the same regard, but once you begin to experiment by moving your speakers around (I'm sorry, but no computer program, formula, or guru is going to be able to predict the optimum position of YOUR loudspeakers in YOUR room) the effects prove profound.
Granted, virtually all of us are limited by the layout and flow of the room as well as other members of the living space as to where the speakers can actually be placed, but the benefits of maximizing what can be achieved in this area will eclipse the effects of component upgrades
How much power do I really need?
Probably because of his height, folks seemed to ask Abraham Lincoln far too many questions about the subject. Honest Abe supposedly answered an inquiry of "How long should a man's legs be?" with something along the lines of the reply, "Long enough to reach the ground."
Power corrupts. And, absolute power corrupts absolutely
Power is one subject that inevitably comes up in every audio journey. The horsepower wars of the 1970s (1000 watts, do I hear 2000 watts, how about 3000 watts?), which like the hair bands of the Metal years, during the decline of Western civilization, culminated in the ultimate expression of the art being the likes of amplifiers that seemed equal part power station and sculpture.
Battered and scarred to a certain degree, high-end audio somehow survived an era where most didn't need to look beyond two specifications, watts per channel and retail price. Maximize the former, while minimize the latter. How simple life was back then.
Not to delve too deeply in the whole tube versus solid state argument, there certainly are low powered (on paper) amplifiers that for whatever reason can put out more volume than some amps that are supposed to be high powered (again, on paper). It often proves surprising to see how well an avowed headbanger can get by on a meager number of watts with only slightly more efficient than average loudspeakers. Headbanging levels defined as 95 dB or more at the listening chair. Doesn't everyone wish for more power, all things being equal? Yes, of course. Supposedly, one can never be too rich or have too fast a car. Higher power amps give more of that macho sound that some cannot do without. That being said, many an audiophile, after falling for the seductive refinement and immediacy many lower power amps dish up, got to walking around with the tin cup in search of that free lunch
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
Yeah, I know. That was ridiculous...
THE SO-CALLED CONVENTIONAL WISDOM
A contrarian by nature, and some audio dogma that I've found to be as false as it is true
You get what you pay for
One can truly craft a world class system on an incredibly modest budget. And, believe it or not, corners need not be cut in any area. Putting to shame a system or two that cost literally hundreds of thousands of dollars along the way. Careful selection of the right components, mated together in synergistic fashion, set up with diligence, passion, and an open heart, mind, and ear
Tubes are warm, rich, laid back, colored, distorted...
More often, solid-state that fits this description. Tubes are bright, sunny, engaging, open, and honest
My system is too bright, I should try a tube (fill in the blank)
No. You're likely going to push things farther in that direction. Instead, look first at the room and loudspeaker positioning, then things like cabling. And, even, heaven forbid, alternative solid-state equipment!
Tube preamplifier with a solid-state amplifier is the way to go
If I had to make the choice, I'd choose a solid state preamplifier with a tube power amplifier. Why? Because ONLY a tube amplifier will sound like a tube amplifier, infusing that magic into the music than any other component. Not a tube CD player, not a tube preamplifier. If glassware is going into the rig, make it the power amplifier if at all practical
I have a 3 wpc SET amplifier with 2A3 tubes, I think these big front-loaded horn loudspeakers would suit the bill perfectly
Quoting none other than the loudspeaker guru extraordinaire, Bill Legall of
Millersound, looking past the high sensitivity numbers of the breed, "NO!!! You need HIGH POWER to control the voice coil of that woofer. Low power will not drive the loudspeaker properly."
If you cannot find a more typical loudspeaker that suits your situation, think Lowther type single driver backloaded horns and their derivatives instead
Transmission line (TL) loaded loudspeakers are the best at low frequency response
True. However, TL is even far more critical for the midrange.
Bud Fried used to bang his head against the wall trying to convince people of this, though after he found out which college they attended. Unfortunately, his feeling of he being born 25 years too early proved very true. Had he been able to witness the shift in emphasis from bass being the sexy part of the music, to realizing the midrange is where 85% of the music lives, we would all be richer for it
Transmission line (TL) loaded loudspeakers will give me the bass I crave
A true, well-designed and implemented TL has the potential to deliver on that premise, and the quality of the bass they can produce is without peer. That's a lot more "ifs" (the biggest word in the dictionary) than most realize. So few TL loudspeakers are properly designed, even by the self-professed experts, that the mid/upper bass suckout leaves the listener with the disappointment of them actually sounding bass shy
Push the speakers back closer to the wall to get more bass
Pulling them out closer to you very often serves as the solution. For the best explanation, check out Romy The Cat's DPOLS theory. Pushing the speakers back closer to the wall often muddies the sound to the degree of causing far more problems than it solves
My friend is a serious musician, he thinks this is a truly good component
Far too often, musicians lose the forest through the trees when it comes to music in general, and audio specifically. Why? Because they listen for some very different things than everyone else. Audiophiles, especially. Where we may value soundstage or a bit less fire in the presence region, they may be following the drummer keeping time or how the rhythm guitarist's chord progressions go. One is no more worthy a pursuit than the other, but feeling a component is justified simply because you know a musician likes it is about as relevant as rooting for a baseball team because your buddy who played for a Double A affiliate in South Carolina follows it
AUDIO AND LIFE MANTRAS, NONE OF WHICH I THOUGHT UP MYSELF
You say Good-bye and I say Hello
Hello Goodbye. The Beatles, 1967
That's why they make vanilla AND chocolate
The best wine is the kind YOU like to drink. You'll often see "depending on your room, system, taste"; this follows in that vein. Some like tubes, some solid state. Some like a dark sound, and some like bright. The good think is that we are not stuck with one or the other, whatever that one or the other may be. We get to choose which is best for us via the incredibly wide range of components available to us
Audio isn't a team sport
OK, I lied. I actually did think this one up myself.
Like the "vanilla and chocolate" thing, don't worry about who thinks what. Too bright, too dark, too much bass, not enough bass, not enough power, lousy soundstaging, this or that, who cares? You're building your system for yourself, not your audio guru, manufacturer, dealer, son, cat, next door neighbor, boss, hot chick who works in the coffee shop, audio group, me, folks on the audio blogs, whoever and ever amen. If it's right for you, then it's right!
The proof of the pudding is in the eating
Credit The Doctor. In audio, all manner of technology, measurements, and mysticism are bandied about. This material, that circuit, a mysterious loudspeaker crossover, proprietary construction, tantric devices to set about here or there - many claim to have the key to sonic nirvana, don't they?
Many have learned the hard way (which is the only way) that drinking by the label is a recipe for disappointment in audio. Though many of us strive to be purists, is not the end result more important than the idea and/or implementation?
Open your mind, heart, and ears, and close your eyes and the door to what stores what you think you know
Nothing is unimportant
Mantra of the legendary Kondo-san of Audio Note. Like all expressions of genius, what initially appears simple possesses the deepest of meanings.
Any chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Like the princess and the pea, even the smallest issue can destroy everything. Before you wave off with your hand as if you are The Pope something that a friend is raving over, stop, take a breath, close your eyes, and listen as if you are a blind man
Follow your heart
If we only possessed the courage to do so. How our lives would be really different. Would we live in the same place, marry the same person, work the same job, spend time the same way, and on and on
You only get out, what you put in
If you want things to be the way you want them to be, it truly takes some effort
When you lay down with dogs, you get up with fleas
Be aware who of you are with, as what will happen to you will often be a reflection of the company you keep
NEVER trust anyone with two first names
Needs no explanation
Why do we hold on so desperately to numbers? Because we want to believe that our purchase is a smart one, so we can show others (as well as ourselves) that we are not stupid people who buy foolish things, "Hey look, this thing is the best at this price! It isn't me who said so, an engineer did because of these measurements!"
Even a broken clock is right twice a day
While taking a snapshot of a person may provide some insight into them, the idea that we would understand a person's life in its entirety based on it is no less ridiculous than measuring whatever parameter one can name, and claiming a component passes or fails in its ability to render the magic of music.
I don't put up with the mumbo jumbo some like to throw around to back one off in a discussion of why component A is less worthy than component B. Anyone familiar with Bud Fried's anecdote about the ship's captain setting his watch by the clock tower in the town square understands that measurements and the machines we perform them with were conceived and performed by human beings - warts and all. Through our own correlation between what we hear and how we are told something measures, it is obvious to any thinking person (let alone someone supposed to be an "engineer") that the knowledge regarding the magic of music is still incredibly premature.
The bottom line is, I don't listen to square waves. I listen to music
ENGINEERS AND TECHNICIANS
"Answering questions and questioning answers" is the way of the scientist or engineer.
If you can't dazzle them with brains, baffle them with BS
Lots of folks can hit you over the head with the lingo and "truths" contained in the books. It takes a very low level of intelligence to be able to memorize and parrot these words and ideas. One certainly need not go on to graduate level studies in order to do so. A degree or title is rather just the beginning of a journey into a craft, as opposed to the end. Like a master chef, woodworker, artist, or, even, athlete, not via degrees granted from even the finest of institutions, but through creativity and expression, be it tangible or theoretical, one achieves or does not.
Through the grace of God, I was fortunate enough to be employed at a young age by a man who was able to teach me the difference between a technician and an engineer/scientist. He hired me as a technician, but all of his efforts were put towards training me to be a chemist/material science engineer.
It was not an easy transition, but his unique perspective taught me to accept nothing, learn the hard way by investing in failure by making mistakes and pushing ahead to discover the key to understanding both "what" I was doing, and "why". Success without walking down this road is nothing more than the music of chance or blindly repeating the work of another. Truly, the realm of a technician, not an engineer. That knowledge became a part of my being, and propels me through almost everything I do in this life.
In my life, audio and otherwise, I have met more "engineers" than I can count, but a very precious few engineers
What do you have?
He who the gods destroy, they first make prideful
We've all been asked some variant of this question early upon meeting an audio counterpart, or dealer! The assessment of your seriousness, intelligence, or even "worthiness" is formed in that instant. The mental micrometer leaps into work and bragging rights spring forth. And, for many, the decision to form a bond in terms of a relationship, or move on, is made right then and there.
The reality is, the answer to that question more often than not provides surprisingly little insight into how good or bad a system sounds. Good equipment in a good or great room outclasses great equipment in middling or poor room. Synergy of components trumps the individual and/or collective quality of gear. In a way, it kind of throws a wet blanket on the whole pursuit of the equipment, which is, admittedly, THE sexy part of the high-end audio experience.
Manufacturers making increasingly expensive components with not much beyond thicker faceplates, blue LEDs, and heavier cases that do nothing better than your old components. Nose in the air dealers who believe it's a privelege for you to be able to buy from them. Bass, treble, and loudness controls banned from gear despite the fact that the Fletcher-Munson Curve hasn't yet become any less relevant. The music that means something to YOU not being "acceptable". People from all industry angles who feel you aren't cut from the right cloth to participate.
Until the high-end audio community looks in the mirror, and commits to change, why would anyone expect anything will change? Witness the emergence of websites like 6moons.com rising up as the magazines shrink or fall by the wayside, and Audiogon and internet sales displacing the customary dealer network. People vote with their wallets, and for those who cannot hear the drum, may some greater power help them. Whatever your issues or complaints, put them out there, discuss them with counterparts, let your voice be heard. Change can and does happen. This hobby isn't going to be the same as it is today 10 years from now. Ensure it moves in a direction you want it to go
THE DEATH OF HIGH-END AUDIO
For as long as I have been involved in high-end audio, which was literally since my early childhood, I have viewed the hand-wringing regarding the shrinking of the hobby with both disagreement and disdain.
Could you see the day?
Could you feel your whole world fall apart, and fade away?
Kid Charlemagne. Steely Dan, 1976
The question I have for folks in this camp, "Are you going to liquidate your system today? Tomorrow? Next week? Next month? Next year? In three years? In ten years?" We all know the answer to these questions.
The sky is not falling
MUCH LOVE AND RESPECT
When it is dark enough, you can see the stars
A life lived in dedication to the memory of some who have moved to heaven
Irving M. "Bud" Fried
Giuseppe "Joe" Trelli I, 1892 - 1992
We are endebted to the customers and dealers of Opera Audio/Consonance products. It, along with our passion for music and the gear used to recreate it in our homes is our raison d'etre.
The most important task given to us is to treat the customer in the way we would like to be dealt with. Truly, we have been customers in this hobby for a very long time. We've dealt with the best and worst when it comes to both dealers and companies. We know who we want to be. Just as importantly, we know who we don't want to be...
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No matter what the question or concern is, or who you are, PLEASE do not ever hesitate to contact us at any time.
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