Archive for August, 2010

These Things Can Sound Real!

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010


A friend of mine was visiting last week and asked to see my VK-1 Dipole Loudspeaker.  He has worked in the audio industry and has done live sound on many occasions, but he doesn’t tend to sit down and listen much to high quality two-channel audio.

I put on a track of some big band music from the BBC’s Big Band Orchestra.  After a few moments of listening quietly my friend motioned toward the loudspeakers and electronics and remarked, “I forgot that these things can sound real!”

Yes folks, they can sound very real.  I think many people that have never heard really good two-channel playback, and even those that have heard it but have simply forgotten over the years, are amazed at just how realistic it can sound.

Audio recording and its subsequent playback has come a long, long way since Edison’s cylinder recordings.  But even more exciting is the fact that it still has a long, long way to go.  As much as I love the sound of my VK-1 system, I know it will sound to those of the next century much as Edison’s cylinders sound to us today!

Gratuitous Self Promotion

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

A review of the HMA-1000 from Audiophilia!

From Audiophilia’s Martin Appel:

“Another preconception these amplifiers dispel is that digital means a non-musical presentation — an analytical edginess to the sound. Sorry, not here. The HMA-1000’s are smooth and non-fatiguing, yet replete with inner texture and detail giving them wonderful resolving power greater then my current amplifiers (which are no slouches in that area). And they do all this with an ease and naturalness that says music, not electronics. Voices are more realistically portrayed with more body, texture and intimacy than I’ve heard before. Choose your favorite singer and be prepared to hear them more clearly and with greater presence then you’ve been accustomed to. The HMA-1000’s bring you another step closer to the real thing.”

Many thanks to both Martin Appel and Anthony Kershaw of Audiophilia.  I have enjoyed working with them so much that I’ve decided to become one of their sponsors – here’s to many happy and fruitful years to come!

Can You Hear What I Hear?

Friday, August 13th, 2010


  • Is Chateau Margaux better than a 95 point California wine?
  • Is Prosciutto di Parma better than the ordinary ham I get at the deli?
  • Is a Stradivarius really worth it compared to a reasonably priced violin?
  • Is an audiophile amplifier different than an ordinary audio amplifier?

This type of question circulates endlessly in both audiophile and non-audiophile circles.  Many folks contend that there is no difference between competently designed audio products, especially adherents to the all-powerful ABX test.  Here’s what I think it comes down to:

  • There are folks that can’t really hear a difference and don’t care
  • There are folks that can’t really hear a difference, but like new toys
  • There are folks that can’t really hear a difference and say you can’t either
  • There are folks that can really hear a difference, whether you like it or not

It’s the last category that annoys people the most.  Nobody likes to think that they have inferior perception compared to another.  “I can’t perceive a difference, therefore no difference exists.”  “He says it sounds better, therefore he’s full of it.”  Yes, there are plenty of times that somebody says something sounds better, but are just fooling themselves.  However, there are also times when it’s true.

A physics professor once told me that most of the significant discoveries in physics have already been made.  I replied that I thought we were standing on the verge of a precipice with an unbelievable new world of science before us.  Which one of us do you think history will show as right?  Along these lines, I came across something a highly regarded amplifier designer wrote:

  • “The time of making great strides in amplifier sound is over.”

If you are an audiophile/audio designer like me, then you probably find this statement a little disturbing, especially coming from an authority on the subject.  However, worry is unnecessary because such claims are made all the time – some examples:

  • “With over fifteen types of foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn’t likely to carve out a big share of the market for itself.” – Business Week, August 2, 1968
  • “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” – Charles H. Duell, US Patent Office 1899.
  • “It will be dead by June.” – Variety Magazine regarding the ‘Rock and Roll’ fad in 1955.

What are some ways future amplifiers may be significantly better?  As Yogi Berra said, “Prediction is very hard, especially about the future.”, but for a bit of fun speculation, here are a couple of ideas I have: Adaptive Operation and True Accuracy.

  • Adaptive Operation: The amplifier changes its mode of operation to make errors that are less offensive to a given listener.  All audio products have errors and always will, but to a given individual some errors are more tolerable than others.  Do you prefer good imaging?  High resolution?  Warmth?  Musicality?  The amplifier can operate according to YOU.  Is it a quiet evening, or a high-energy party?  The amplifier can adapt its operation accordingly.
  • True Accuracy: For audio products “accuracy” does not mean what the Audio Precision measures, it means what YOUR hearing measures.  Accuracy means presenting the original material as the artist intended it to be perceived by the audience.  With recorded material YOU are the audience.  Recorded audio breaks down spatial and temporal barriers to connect you with the artist.  This has absolutely nothing to do with metrics such as THD+N.

As a parting thought, I like what Alan Kay said regarding the future: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”  I’m not interested in debating if there can be better sound or not.  I’m interested in ensuring that there will be better sound.