Discussion in 'Tales from the Bully Pulpit' started by k4rstar, Jul 13, 2019.
Or, y'know, just buy some furniture.
Raal offer replacement ribbons for about 75$ for their 700$ ribbons. My guess is that Raal may even offer replacement ribbons cheaper then 350$ for their headphone.
you know a lot of furniture that absorb all frequencies from about 80hz to 15khz?
Why on earth would you want to absorb all frequencies from 80hz to 15khz? Leave some for your ears.
That's not the same. A leather sofa, for example, is pretty reflective across a wide swarth of human listening FR and is not a substitute for proper absorptive material.
Room acoustics is fiddly stuff. I remember when the architectural team wanted to swap out the seat covers to a different synthetic material, and we found that it completely destroyed the decay profile of the room. It takes very little to make a room sound terrible, that's why 2 channel audio shows are hard to do.
Because you don't want echos at any frequency. Since medieval times the quick and easy way to tune a room is to make it as absorptive as possible. There are more modern tools and techniques these days, and we don't really try to hit that as a target professionally when we have access to ray-trace simulations. Still a good rule of thumb for living room acoustics.
well, direct sound vs reflections off the wall?
we have to separate early reflections and secondary reflections. you want to absorb all early reflections coming off your ceiling, side walls, back wall and floor cause they truly degrade the sound at the listening position. you want to let all secondary reflections let loose because those dont degrade the sound quality.
but this is for another topic
please no more room acoustic discussion in this Raal headphone thread!
That's not true at all. Understanding comes partly from owning systems and partly from having access to different systems. Dude's in Asia. The Head-fi world over there is very different from the Western hemisphere. I can spend three days in Hong Kong, go to 3-4 dealers, and try out 20+ sets of absolutely top-of-the-line headphone systems. My dealer in Beijing has something like 150+ cans including the HE90 and Stax Omega, you can listen to all of them for as long as you want if you're enough of a valued customer. And then there's Tokyo.
I own a bunch of exotic and opinionated CIEMs because I get to try them under controlled environments. Same with big cans. There's more used volume so you feel less pressured to keep things, very rarely is it the case that I can't sell something in a couple days, unless it's extra big or heavy. Nobody needs a month with a piece of gear to figure out how good it is (barring literal burn-in improvements, e.g. Mysphere 3.2), 25 minutes should be plenty to get a semi-reasonable take on something.
I think zerodeefex's point is that people need a single, static reference system to base opinions of new components on instead of having a perpetually moving target that might invalidate impressions made half a year ago in present context.
I'm somewhat familiar with the Asian hi-fi cycle since most friends I have in the audio space are similar, only I'm personally too sentimental to mess with new toys very often. Just based on what I know by way of anecdotes it's much more active elsewhere east than here in the Philippines, but even here's already pretty excitable. To that end I'm well aware of how some people excel at holding characteristics of gear for ridiculously long periods of time even after demoing them, never mind how time and nostalgia so easily colour memories. I'm not saying store demos are invalid, only that for high-level impressions it does help to spend much time getting used to a system, acquainting oneself with quirks and different genres and the like, not to mention how one's mood, affect, level of noise exposure outside, sleep cycles, and Lord alone knows what else might affect perception of said gear.
I'm shutting up now and hoping for more impressions of the RAALs. May chime in with low level ramblings v. a mid-fi desktop system if I ever get ears on these.
TL;DR, I think both of you have excellent points but there's a difference between a stable marriage lasting decades and having 40 thoroughly-analysed one-night stands in a single year (... Eww?*)
*"Eww" was not in reference to multiple partners, go enjoy life, but was in reference to being super analytical about it.
Yeah. Liz Taylor or Jeff Epstein might not be the best people to ask about building stable marriages. We have audio equivalents of Jeff Epsteins here too.
It's different, but I wouldn't say gear any less accessible than say SoCal, the Bay Area, Colorado. There is TSAV in Torrence who will just let you sit there as long as you want too. Many other smaller boutique places too. They've got all the big brands and @songmic's McIntosh there too. Even without TSAV and the few other more specialized stores, there is CanJam (actually kind of lame), and then there are the micro meets (or just visiting a buddy, or a buddy of buddy's place). They go on all the time and I'm NOT involved in 90% of them (I'm happy with my value gear). Lots of networking going on with folks lending gear to each other. Probably 50% isn't even talked about online, mostly in SMS and in person. (Some people are still afraid of crapping on gear, so I get asked to do it, and even then, I hold back a lot more than I used to). Then there are the folks with the boutique stuff, the T2DIY, EC, DNA, and DIY. Not to mention vinyl which is pretty crazy in SoCal and the Bay Area.
The only area we lag behind is the IEMs. And I don't think we collectively have the variety of 150+ cans available like in the Asia stores I've seen; but really, how many of those 150+ cans are worthwhile? Maybe 20. And with IEMs, it's even less because I can't stand the IEM tuning of "thick bass + exaggerated female vocal" that many Asians in the East prefer.
Anyway back on topic. Someone texted me this: "How many power amps has the dude actually heard to say so definitely that the McIntosh MA252 is the ideal amp for the RAAL?"
How do we not know it might be an Accuphase behemoth, a Pass XA series, a Dartzeel, a Krell, a Rag 2 even? A high current low voltage direct drive amp? As we like to say, pictures or it didn't happen.
I don't disagree that once you develop enough experience, you can become more efficient in making evaluations, even with systems you don't own. But I don't think that's what is being contested here.
Not a 1:1 analogy, but one thing really separates a wannabe sommelier from a good one is that the "experts" really know how to distinguish wines from one another by being obsessively aware of characteristics of many vintages/types. Basically they establish deep baselines and build off those, and believe it or not, even refresh their memory by revisiting those baselines (by tasting wines) in order to maintain meaningful comparisons. This really helps other people to make better informed decisions, etc.
That said, what this "hobby" seems to attract is a lot of undisciplined, hedonistic winos that like to think of themselves as master sommeliers. And while some do indeed strive for some mastery trying gearz, what many have become is hi-fi's equivalent of highly functional alcoholics that stumble from one FOTM headphone/speaker to the next, because they are just addicted to the ALCOHOL (of gear flipping and impression sharing). Which means that they deprive themselves of 1) a sober appreciation of any gear they own/ed and 2) amassing meaningful experience that actually serves other people in this "hobby" and 3) any real sense of personal freedom or self-control in the pursuit of doing something that's supposed to be "fun". Man, I've been guilty of all these things, but seeing some of this in myself, I'm trying to just enjoy life via audio and not become a gear flipping drunk who thinks he's the life of the party when he's actually just passed out in his vomit.
In other words, don't be a Macedonian Hero
I don't know about SoCal, but the people who do regular hops between SF/LA and Asia usually can't wait to be in Asia to try out new stuff. It's a different level of intensity I would imagine - you can get the same stuff eventually, but it's harder to get it under one roof and do direct A/B's, and that's probably just because there are fewer people who take a price-no-object view of the hobby. Not to say expensive stuff is necessarily better, but you need the rich ones to feed the rest of the ecosystem. It gets fun when places have the 20 nice cans, plus 15 TOTL amps, and 10 TOTL DACs all in the same room, and you can mix and match and pit any of the combos against your own system.
I agree with @Soups that people often fall into the upgrade trap. And I know plenty of people who still have really bad takes on everything they hear despite being in the hobby for years and having access to unlimited gear. On the flip side, people get attached to their own equipment, and the echo chamber effect is very real and prevalent everywhere. To me, spending months with one system isn't much more than self-rationalization of its strengths and weaknesses - like buying gear for a second time out of nothing but cognitive dissonance.
Anyways, going back onto topic, I have yet to be impressed by the more recent offerings from Mcintosh that I've heard. Here's some stuff I've heard that I liked with the SR1a's, and I'll update my review with detailed impressions on these if I have the time.
- Esoteric I03. Unerringly clean but not clinical. It's a Class D amp that doesn't try to sound exactly like class A but has a bit of flavor and makes you want to try more Class D amps. Used copies start at around $3,000.
- Accuphase E470. An expensive amp that's massively overengineered for its price point. Great bass speed rivaling the biggest Bryston monoblocks. If I didn't already have two power amps I'd buy one. A $4,000 amp, if you can find someone to do the voltage mod on a 100v copy.
- Bryston 4b3. Bryston is easy to get, and the power delivery advantage is very noticeable over weaker amps is very noticeable, something like the Simaudio 600i sounds downright anemic in comparison. Pretty clean and neutral foundation, good directly on a DAC, and if you like the Bryston tuning profile you can always add on their preamp, the SNR loss is immaterial for something as inefficient as the SR1a's.
You can get the AHB2's to a pretty good place with digital EQ, and that's the way Benchmark intended you to use them for personal listening. One AHB2 needs high gain mostly to get the bass tightened up at the cost of being a bit shouty, two really helps in this regard but at that point you're looking at a brand new E480 and its massive, splendid, custom built in Japan power supply.
Pass labs is good but their 150w+ modes get really expensive really quickly, and the integrateds are fairly warm. They're great if you specifically want a warm solid state amp. Otherwise, the Octave V110 isn't really more expensive at street pricing, and you'd be running the SR1a's with real tubes, with all the good and bad of tubes.
As far as price-no-object, oh, you have no idea how crazy some dudes are here. As I said, all of the high-roller Temple of True HiFi guys, don't they even talk about their stuff here. All that happens in private.
As far as intensity, I would say that maybe that is true now. All the higher rollers and experienced folks that I know have over time developed their own philosophical approach to audio. There's no urgency on their part as they already know where they want to go and also because they are happy where they are at. Any movement on their part is incremental. There is no desire to try everything. Most gear is known to some extent and will either be on a short-list or immediately eliminated from contention. Most assessments will be done in their homes with their systems (which tend not to be transportable because we are talking 2 channel).
As far this capability to mix and match the TOTL headphones, DACs, and amps. Do you think we actually stand around like idiots at our private meets and go duh? The custom has always been that around 3 pm, we start moving all the shit around trying different combos. The last photo in the set below is a good example of "after 3pm". These photos below were from just three of our mini and medium size meets - all of which had absolutely nothing to do with HF. Yes, much of that stuff is dated. We generally don't do these anymore. When you ding level 99 headphile or audiophile, it's just all different, and not better. None of the stuff that has come out since these photos were taken is better. It's just different.
Note that the smaller meets that we have had in the few years have had substantially lower tier gear sprinkled with a few high-end pieces. Having 20 pieces of TOTL gear around doesn't feed level 1 to 33 audiophiles. People need to start somewhere. You can't tell people starting asking about a good AIO to buy a Chord Hugo off the bat.
I've heard from sources that I trust that the Vidar > AHB2 in regards to the SR1a. Not surprised. My own experience was the same using speakers. Different presentations and individual preferences though. My main issue with the AHB2 was that they were flat and boring sounding with poor microdynamics. As far as Benchmark intending for us to use their amps with EQ to account for their thin presentation, their latest whitepaper didn't tell me that. I also didn't feel the need to use EQ for any other amps I've listened to, including all other pro audio amps, and including a spectacularly bad Paraound A23, which was bad for other reasons.
If folks like the AHB2, that's great. It's a valid option to obtain a certain kind of sound for the SR1a. My preferences are well known, my approach to audio has been consistent and established.
Bingo! As long as you have another known reference and a known recording (specific master). That's all it takes to put stuff on a shortlist or elimination list. I don't have the time to try 57 permutations of 4 pieces of amps, DACs, and headphones each. And it isn't even necessary. Those who know the gear will already have a good sense of what works well with what. To be honest, I hunt for specific vinyl recordings these days more than gear. I'm so sick of listening to gear and not listening to music. And I'm probably outdoors more than at my Temple of Sound.
People make way way way way too much nonsense about room treatments.
For professional environments, sure we want to absorb a much as we can. However, good luck effectively absorbing 200Hz and below in a small room. None of the small sound editorial suites at any of my work's facilities have any kind of effective treatment for room modes, that is sound below 200Hz. The rooms mostly have big panels lined on every wall. I'll ask the head engineer about the details when I get a chance.
As for personal living spaces, let's take a realistic approach. I've spoken to folks like Donald North (who did design speaker drivers for Audax), and his advice has simple: furniture. Bookshelves for diffusion. Cloth sofa, seats, chairs, and carpets for absorption. Carpets and drapes are effective absorbers and diffusers. Most people don't live in rape dungeons.
Also, I'm not sure we really do want a totally dead room. In many cases, dead rooms while great for sound production, kind of suck at sound reproduction. It's a matter of personal preference.
Room treatments are best utilized to address certain problems, but most rooms of normal people will work fine. The point I am trying to make is that room treatments should never be used as an excuse for not running speakers. Especially now that the price-to-performance of personal audio gear now seems to be higher than that of two-channel gear. However, in close quarters living, such as in apartments in Asia, where your neighbor might poison your pets if you play music too loud, not getting speakers is a legit argument.
FWIW, I run no room treatments other than strategically places pieces of furniture. But then again, I cheat with controlled directivity transducers. I could use a few panels though, but too lazy.
For over 40 years I did not think much about room treatments other than no glass coffee table in front of speakers, carpet is needed, etc. I wish I had done lots more over those years. Smeared images, ringing slap echos, spikes in mid and lower treble all can be tamed with some wall hanging fabric art, shades, drapes, plants, bookcases filled with real books and lots of them, etc. And the occasional front reflection absorber panels.
Yet, most of my environments over the years did not have enough of this, think the typical room with lost of space in the middle and all the furniture positioned near walls. Worst is the dreaded couch listening position close to rear wall, crappola bass. You would not believe how many audiophiles have a couch like this.
As for heavily damped rooms. I have been to a few that are not totally anechoic, but heavily damped and the sound for listening is excellent, they do not suck!
In my experience room treatments have been cost effective and meaningful in those circumstances where other priorities (WAF) or serious room limitations (low ceiling) really compromised fidelity. In my basement HTR that meant a couple panels above the main listening position to reduce echos off the 7’ tall ceiling along with some panels along a flat side wall because the side wall across from it had a built in bookshelf. As for bass, I had to resort to an antimode and anthem room correction but I’m happy with the results over all. Aside from that, a soft rug and soft couch with plenty of comfortable cushions seem to do the trick.
TLDR it really depends on your priorities and the room in question
Having said that, in our case the room is long and I have a pool table and bar behind the main couch so the listening position is 1/3 of the way into the room. This might be the single best reason that the system sounds pretty damn good given the modest investment in equipment.
Hit the nail on the head there. Room treatment makes quite the difference in perceived response at the listening position. Anyone who's spent some time in the studio knows what kind of differences a "busy"/treated room makes compared to an empty one.
Try playing bass next to a drummer in a non treated room and you'll turn your gain knob past 11. The same issues apply to a listening room to a lesser degree. My listening room is currently void of almost anything. I have a couch against the back wall (leather), and facing me, TV + TV stand and speakers to the side, about 3ft from the wall. Bare walls for now, exactly as described above, and the outcome is as expected: crappola bass that gets buried behind mids.
Where I disagree is that a lot of money is required to treat a livingroom (yes $500 is a lot of money for room treatment unless you're a professional and designing a studio). In my previous home, bookshelves (with books!), fabric sofa (not against the back wall), fabric chairs and to a lesser extent wood furniture all helped considerably and now that my audio gear is in an empty room, I'm starting to realize how badly I need to furnish this room.
My experience of a well treated room is that it totally transform the listening experience.
A dead room is bad and will make one feel uncomfortable but its the result of overtreating a room (ive done the mistake myself and its obvious when you hear it): a well treated room does not sound dead
Early and secondary reflection must be understood thoroughly before attempting to treat a room. secondary reflection needs to be present to make a room sound natural, early reflection are the ones that must be absorbed.
I have heard many systems in normal rooms, I have one of myself in my living room, a room with furniture doesn't come remotely close to sounding as nice as a well treated room. This can also be demonstrated with ETC measurements. No way you can reach even decay (ETC) at all frequencies with carpets and drape and sofas. This is a myth.
If you make your early reflection panels thick enough (mine are 12 inch thick of Roxul), they will also act as bass traps. I used to have huge floor to ceiling 16 inch thick bass traps in all of my corners, Ive removed all of them cause i need the space and only let in place my early reflection panels. ime, early reflection are much more detrimental at the mids/treble then the bass.
Id suggest for anyone interested to start with only treating the side walls with 1 panel made of Roxul on each side at the early reflection point. the panels dimensions should be 24x48 inches. this will let you hear right away the improvements in imaging, layering and detail. Then id try a panel for the back wall at the early reflection point. a single 24x48inch panel should be enough for the back wall unless your listening position is for more then 2 listener. then, try the ceiling and floor with about 4x6 feet panels).
Treating your room step by step will help you to understand what every panel brings to the table.
I'll echo those priorities:
First reflection off side walls
Between speakers (a flat surface like TV is horrible)
Floor (easy, rug with a liner underneath)
Ceiling (hard to deal with, high ceiling diffraction preferred, can't be solved in many cases)
Back wall (couch many feet from this, diffraction, can't be solved in many cases)
Corners (depends up room)
Panels off the walls work much better, more distance is necessary for bass (as are thick panels and a lot of panels), but are intrusive. Those triangle foam pieces don't do shit for bass. They are more low mid to mid traps.
Some rooms are more horribad than others. For example, those 40s homes in Pasadena with plaster walls built on slab with old school hardwood floors.
All that being said. Imma gonna rip the balls off the next guy who says room treatments are necessary for two channel. Lame excuse. Come up with a better one, like I'm obstinate, or I'm scared, or I'm a poser, or my neighbors will kill me.
@brencho put off room treatments for the longest time to appease his wife. Yes, he needed room treatments for sure, but his shit did sound good. I need to head over to his place soon. He's done some major rearranging.
I sprayed my house at random with 100 cans of expanding foam and then topped it off with blow in insulation.
I also have my speakers dangling from the ceiling at weird and different angles to prevent floor coupling and symmetrical standing waves.
Separate names with a comma.