Stereophile / Art Dudley
In the August issue of Stereophile magazine, Art Dudley in “Cholera In The Time Of Love”, talks about his experience as an audiophile. Art always had a belief that there was a better way to listen to music. He always thought and believed that music could sound better than listening to it on a Webcor record player. Art always had faith in this belief and he was correct. We have come a long way from a Webcor. How far we have come is open for discussion.
Hearing / Listening
I had to laugh about the friend who asked Art about a system to hear music on. Art wanted to clarify what level of involvement his friend had in his music listening, so he asked him if he just wanted something, that would “get the job done” or do you want equipment that will transform your music into an emotional experience. His friend responded that, “he didn’t need anything that good”. He just wanted to hear my cds. He just wanted to hear his cds. He did not want to actively listen to the music. Art commented that heroin was starting to sound good.
Right Room Sound?
I get the same reaction when someone asks me what do I have to do to get the right sound in their room. My answer is always the same: What do you consider the right sound?. Usually the answer is based on what they have heard is the right sound. It is an opinion based on part science but mostly it is based on urban legend and marketing slogans. They have not taken the same amount of time and effort on the room sound as they have their equipment list.
Good Room Sound
Most individuals have no idea about how good a room can sound. They know about rooms that sound bad, but they usually don’t know or have any experience with good room sound. One common belief is that one has to live with low frequency issues in our small rooms. This is not true any more. Technologies are available that can assist us in our management of low frequency issues. First, we can look to electronic manipulation of our signal.
There are electronic room correction devices that one can use to raise the output of a certain frequency and lower the output of other frequencies into our room. We can use that management technique when it comes to low frequencies in our small rooms. If a 45 Hz. wave excites room modal resonances and we minimize its input into the room, we minimize the magnitude of that frequency specific resonance. It does not always work this easily but one gets the idea of how electronic signal manipulation works.
There is really no such thing as a bass absorber. There is no device made that can really absorb bass energy as the name implies. Bass energy can be absorbed in certain amounts at certain frequencies, but the term bass absorber is a misnomer. No technology absorbs bass completely. There is low frequency, sound absorption technology that can absorb frequencies in amounts that can make audible differences in the attack and decay of bass notes if properly designed. These devices are called passive room treatment options. An electronic device is termed an active component in room treatment jargon.
Reflections from our room walls and ceiling are not well understood either. When we have a lot of reflections in our rooms, we have room reverb. Reverberation times in a room are more noticeable by the layman because a “live” sounding room is so different in sound from a room that has been treated with sound absorption materials. Many individuals clap their hands within the room and then declare this or that about the room reverberation. I never understood this hand clapping. All it does for me is give me a headache.
Reflections can impact our monitoring or listening position. Reflections from our side walls can interfere with the direct sound from our speakers. We want a balance of direct and reflected sound in our playback environments but mostly direct sound from our monitors in our mixes. Reflections are part of the room sound and the less room sound in our mixes the better.
Faith In Better Sound
Art talks about his “faith” in a better sound. That better sound can be found in incremental increases with our equipment. We can purchase a speaker that has more attention in its design of driver and crossover interaction. We can choose a DAC that uses better individual components in its construction. All of this sonic improvement is weighed against the cost of that component and the size of our budget. Each individual component chosen must then be combined with all the other components in the signal chain.
For Art, the journey is the process of trying this or that component and the differences it makes in his system. Trying different components from time to time is part of the audiophile experience. Our final sound we hear is a synthesis of all of these components and parts and our goal is to make all these components disappear and connect us emotionally to the music we so much enjoy. The final sound we hear includes the equipment and the room sound.
There is no faith needed that there is a better room sound that can be obtained within our rooms. Our rooms can be viewed as a tube amplifier. If we change tubes, we get a different amplified sound. If we treat our rooms with diffusion or absorption technology, we get a different room sound. It is the blend of our active components, our electronics, with our room’s passive acoustical treatment that produces the total sound we hear with the final goal of emotional connection to the music.
Room Acoustic Technology
Room acoustic technology has not developed as fast as speaker and amplifier technology. Many technologies and building materials in room acoustic construction have been around for years and are widely used today. New materials are rare and new technologies even rarer. However, with a lot of study, research, and careful planning, one can achieve a good starting point and go from that point. Room treatment technology can change the sound in our rooms more than any new amplifier or speaker. One can take a $3,000 system and place it in an untreated room and it will sound like a $3,000 system. Take the same system and place it in a treated room and it will sound much better than its original cost.
Room acoustic treatment is just like a new tube in our amplifier. We install it and listen to how it sounds with the rest of our components. We will hear the differences and either keep them, modify them or eliminate them completely. It is this room tuning process that I have faith in.