Here is some free info aimed at assisting you to make the most sensible audio system investment and pointers to help you understand how the audio chain works.
Steps to follow
1. Electricity and conditioning
2. Source equipment
3. Power and efficiency matching
1 The Electrical Feed to Your Sound System
The configuration of your mains cabling from the main distribution board in your building to the wall outlet socket for your sound system is of utmost importance.
All cables following from the circuit breaker are vital for the overall sound emitted from your sound system.
Separate mains lines and sockets are advisable for larger sound systems that need to draw more power for powerful amplifiers.
The right cable diameter and shielding is necessary for the right results.
When power conditions/filters are used, then the first cable from the wall socket is of utmost importance as it plays the most vital role in your sound system.
This cable will determine whether your sound is muffled or open, wooly or tight and will affect your sound staging.
Grounding and shielding of all the mains cabling from circuit breakers to the entry of each piece of equipment is of utmost importance. Certain equipment must be earthed and shielded differently to give the right result.
Cable diameter reduction techniques from the beginning of the circuit breaker to after the mains conditioner/filter will give the most effective result. Once these rules are followed correctly and then only should you put your sound system together for auditioning.
2 The Source Equipment Selection
The sound system selection starts with the source equipment .A Turntable, CD player, Blue ray player, PC, Laptop, Tablet or Phone are sources that you need to spend the most money on to achieve the best results.
That is where the music is generated from. A compromise on these items will lead to an inferior sound quality coming from your speakers. Normally a sound system’s budget should be evenly split into one third source , one third amplification and one third speaker, but preferably the split should be two fifth source one fifth amplification, one fifth speaker and one fifth accessories.
Your accessories spent on the source equipment will sculpture your entire sound system’s sound to the speakers.
3 Power Efficiency Matching of Equipment
When selecting the power requirements for your speaker’s efficiency it comes down to more power being better than less power. This is to avoid “clipping” of the audio signal. “Clipping” destroys the musical truth and also your loudspeakers.
We believe that, headroom of 7db is the best way to avoid “clipping”. Valve amplifiers have softer “clipping” and therefore seem to have 3db more headroom than their transistor counterpart .This means that a 50W/ channel valve amplifier seems to sound as loud as a 100W/ channel transistor amplifier. Bridged amplifiers normally have the least clipping and can be used to achieve your 7db headroom.
Bridged amplifiers, generally because of the power reserves make the speakers sound larger than usual with more conviction, scale and dynamics. Smaller amps should only be used on high efficiency speakers or when the listening sessions are of a quieter nature.
We have noticed over the years that reviews of amplifiers’ sound quality are not correct, because an amplifier is supposed to add nothing to the sound quality. Its role is to amplify the source signal and nothing else.
When there is a review of a small amplifier on an inefficient speaker and they talk about a specific sound of that amplifier, then the reviewer does not realize that he is actually reviewing the clipping and nothing else.
4 Speaker Selection
The loudspeakers are the units that acoustically interface with your room acoustics and are of the high efficiency or low efficiency type. A high efficiency speaker needs less power to achieve the same volume as a less efficient speaker, with more power from the amplifier. There are also various types of speaker systems available which could be used.
For example, bass reflex, sealed box, electrostatic dipole panel, transmission-line and more. The sealed box is the loudspeaker type that is the least affected by the acoustic interface to the room. Speaker size and room size can also affect the desired acoustics. Calibrating speakers to match the room to its best is extremely important. “See speaker calibration” diagram on this website, for basic idea
The speaker’s position and how it radiates into the room is of utmost importance. Speakers should be positioned to radiate like a figure eight formation into the room ,to least excite the acoustic resonances .Sound from walls and ceilings form reflective resonances which distract the direct true music from your speakers causing a loss of clarity of the musical signal.
With the correct speaker position you will need to do the minimum of room acoustic treatment. Each speaker has its own acoustic radiating pattern or you might call it “Aura”. You need to preserve this radiating pattern to keep the speaker sounding alive, dynamic and vibrant. Over damping like in demonstration studios destroys this “Aura” making it sound like “just another HI-FI”, instead of real live musical event. Remember we don’t live in studios but in beautiful homes. Our
demonstrations are only done in real lounge settings like in people’s homes so as to create the real effect ,a sound system should have.
This alone will give you the correct reference and you can be sure that it will sound similar in your own home. Over damped demo rooms only extract all the efficiency and vital energy out of your speaker and mainly the tweeter.
5 The Accessories to Link Equipment Effectively
There are various accessories used in a sound system which are of vital importance. The most important link is the cable between your source and the pre amp or streaming pre amp device. It is the first cable that brings the newly generated signal from the source to the pre amp and from there the signal just gets amplified down to the speakers.
Interlink cables should reduce the loss of signal form the source as much as possible. After the signal has been lost in that chain, no amplifier can ever regenerate the loss of musical signal from the source. Speaker cables should generate the minimum signal current and voltage loss, due to excess of resistance, capacitance and inductance in their signal path.
Solid core cables are in that respect better than stranded cables because solid core cables do not introduce high inductance and distortion onto the audio signal. Stranded cables create cold arcing which in turn creates distortions. They are easily heard through the tweeters of a loudspeaker.
There are also a comprehensive number of anti vibration accessories available to stop vibrations and unwanted resonances from entering your equipment. Examples are spikes, coasters for spikes, isolation plat forms, equipment racks, rubber feet and more which improve the musical performance and signal recovery.
For bookshelf speakers, dedicated spiked speaker stands are used to decouple unwanted resonances and physical unstable movement from the speakers’ enclosure. The connecting plugs of various cables are very important. If the full audio signal cannot properly pass through a dedicated plug, then the best cable connected to it will not perform to its full potential. Proper plugs should be designed to let the full band of audio signal through with a flat frequency response. There are also various contact plating’s used to make the best connection and anti corrosion possible. For example silver, gold and rhodium plating.
All your equipments need to be calibrated right from the source to the end of the link. This includes:
1. Blue-ray/DVD players
2. Satellite top boxes/decoders
3. Surround sound processors
If you follow these rules correctly you will get a vast improvement in your sound systems investment. You can have a
system that is far more superior to that of your next door neighbour who spent twice as much on his audio equipment, but who has not calibrated it for best and optimum performance.
The idea of having a good sounding room or lounge that is cozy and attractive is every music lovers dream. There is nothing difficult about achieving this and it should be possible to create this effect in any standard room. There are simple common sense pointers that will achieve this desired effect.
1. Only try to reduce the echo/standing waves. Use furniture like lounge suites, book shelves, tables and irregular objects or plants to do that.
2. Use small carpets in front of and between your speakers to your seating position.
3. Use only a few curtains to break echoes.
4. Over damping the room with too many curtains and acoustic absorption material is a bad idea, because you destroy the radiating pattern (acoustic aura) of your speaker and absorb all the high frequency energy out of your speaker.
5. Music is alive, dynamic and vibrant and should be preserved that way in the room. We do not live in demo rooms.
6. Demo rooms are always over damped and make the sound system sound like just another expensive lifeless audio object.
7. The correct speaker position will reduce the major unwanted reflections and resonances that excite the room. (See speaker calibrations on this web site for basic idea).
8. Hard surfaces are not necessarily a problem, it just depends on where they are positioned in the room.
9. Ceiling structures can also play an important part in your room acoustics and this is something that is mostly over looked.
1. Condition your power lines.
2. Get the best possible source.
3. Make sure you have the best possible source cable.
4. From the source downwards the rest of the system can be tailored around the rest of your budget.
5. Make sure your room acoustics are acceptable for the system.
These are good common sense basics.
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