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Old 11-28-2007, 03:37 PM
Nielsio Nielsio is offline
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Default The Ultra-Fi thread

<font color="purple">Purpose of the thread</font>
The purpose of this thread is to share information and experiences on ultra-fi systems. The essense of ultra-fi is that audio-quality is the main goal, and looks, costs, labour and so on are of lower importance. However, this does not mean that ultra-fi systems have to be ugly, expensive and labour-intensive, but it does mean that there are certain things you'll have to expect when you are looking for seriously good audio reproduction.

Not the purpose of the thread
This thread is not for discussion of home theater (televisions, projectors, surround systems, and so on); there are other threads for that.



<font color="purple">Concepts</font>
Room interaction and directionality
Audio means longitudinal airwaves. Unlike with headphones, speakers interact with the room and in designing a system we have to take this into account, and either try to diminish it or use it to our advantage.

Standard mistakes are: *wide-radiating tweeters in small rooms, *uneven setup and a setup that creates a lot of room interaction, *speakers who's low end measure flat in a dead room but cause insane standing waves and overall a completely unbalanced response in small to medium roomsizes.

Essential reading on room interaction (and equalizing):
http://nielsio.blogspot.com/2007/11/...akers-and.html
(posted on my blog because this text is hard to find on the net)


Coherence
The idea of an audio system is to recreate sounds. Like a piano, or a trumpet, or a voice. The frequencies that those sounds consist of are very wide. But in order to reproduce a sound and have it feel like exactly that sounds, 'right there', isn't easy. There are a lot of things you can do to mess it up. One example is breaking up the sound in many different speakers who sound different, radiate differently and then putting a big fat passive filter behind it. Our mind is able to piece the information back together to make it one sound, but it's naturality is lost, and with it a lot of detail, and it will cause listeners fatigue. This is what is called coherence. Keeping the sound natural and intact, making it blissfully easy to listen to.

One strategy of accomplishing that is by using wide-range speakers; meaning that only one speaker will produce the important frequency range, preferably unfiltered. But it's always a give and take, and you have to find a balance that fits for you.

Efficiency/power
Compare a speaker-driver with a racing car. If it's light then it can take bends more easily, and it requires less power to accomplish the same. The same philosophy applies to audio. Efficient systems are good because they can more easily give off the amplitude needed. And when a system is less stressed, the quality of sound goes up compared to a stressed system. But again, high efficiency can have its drawbacks, so again: personal preference and balance.

Less is more, but not too less
In audio systems, there is a danger of overengineering things. Wanting the system to do something perfectly according to one scale of measurements, but forgetting other aspects of sound and electro-information. In that regard, less is usually more, but the more simpler and more effective designs require higher quality components and parts. This philosophy applies to all parts: DACs, amplifiers, speakers. We can't make the systems too simple though, and almost everytime we have to make tradeoffs.

Balance
If you think about an audio-system as a whole, you want it to be in balance and overall suited/matched. When you have crappy speakers, worrying about mp3 vs flac is foolish. Buying expensive speakers but never changing your amplifier or DAC is also unsmart. And the components that you do get should be suited for each other.



<font color="purple">System examples</font>

BD-Design Oris

These are tractrix shaped horns with AER full-range drivers. They are insanely efficient, and because of the horns, the response balance stays good. The horns have a drop-off of around 150hz so it requires a bass-system. The bass-drivers are manufactured on BD's specifications to be suited for this system. Probably the most detailed system on the world across the whole range. Downside: not as coherent as single driver systems. Bass integration can be hard. Note: you can tune it to your needs with different drivers. I'd personally go for the lower strength magnets so that the sound is much warmer/sweeter.






http://bd-design.nl/


Open baffle

Supravox single driver or PHY-HP which has a subtle tweeter on it (simplest possible filtering). Ultra-coherent. Good radiation (directional when it needs to be). Downside: less efficient than horns. Less bass than a two-way system, but with a very large baffle and using the room to your advantage, it can be balanced. Using an equalizer is also an option, if the driver is apt for it (high linear excursion).





http://www.phy-hp.com/
http://www.supravox.fr/


Multiway open baffle



http://www.bastanis.com/


Link with a bunch of systems (some standard, some very interesting)
http://www.arduman.com/aa/Sayfalar/friends.htm

And:
http://www.sakurasystems.com/show.html
http://bd-design.nl/contents/en-us/d1_Showroom.html


<font color="purple">My system</font>
Soundcard: E-MU 0404 (outputs clean spdif)
Digital equalizer: Behringer 8024.
DAC: DIY non-oversampling 1543 DAC with CS8412 spdif receiver. Can also be run through a 12v battery.
Amplifier: Joe Rasmussen's JLTi ( http://www.customanalogue.com/jlti_mark_2.htm ).
Speaker: filter-less openbaffle single-driver Supravox Signature Bicone ( http://www.supravox.fr/anglais/haut_...s/215_SBIC.htm )

How it looked in my old room:
http://my.hifi.nl/index.php?user=1088

My amplifier is currently being repaired and upgraded. I'm also going to build a new baffle for the speakers. I'm looking to move soon so I can set it all up again.



<font color="purple">My history?</font>
I started with a simple Sony system some 8 years ago. I soon discovered that the musical experience is enhanced with a better system. I then kept upgrading and learning about audio, and also falling in love with more and more music, and I was finally happy and ultra-satisfied with my system about two years ago. The need to improve had gone because I could listen effortless and amazed to music around the clock. No listeners fatigue, completely natural and amazing. Also I felt it was balanced really well where I would have to sacrifice some things if I wanted to gain other (like sacrificing coherence, which I simply was not willing to do). In this journey I've heard almost all types of speakers, amplifiers, and so on. From the most expensive hifi brands to the illest ultra-fi DIY stuff.


<font color="purple">Electronics</font>
Amplifiers
The current rage is chip amps (amplifiers that use opamps). 47 Labs came out with the Gain Card some years ago based on the LM3875, and ever since the DIY community and other amp-makers have been making great amplifiers based on opamps. Before that, it was pretty well established that single ended tube-amps where the greatest (at least for mid to high efficienct speakers). I've personally heard one of the best chip amps on an Oris system, compared it to a 300B tube amp, and my conclusion was that they were in the same category of quality but that they had a slightly different 'colour'.

Ofcourse there are a bunch of different amplifier designs, but they have a hard time keeping up in terms of directness, detail, naturality, etc.

Chip amps


http://www.sakurasystems.com/products/47amp.html



http://www.sakurasystems.com/products/shigaamp.html

Single ended tube amps


http://www.ukd.co.uk/product.asp?ProductID=113


Some single ended 300B amplifier

DACs
47 Labs also introduced a 'less is more' DA convertor: non-oversampling 1543. It was a hit also and there exist a bunch of DIY and commercial variants today.


http://www.scott-nixon.com/dac.htm



http://www.sakurasystems.com/products/shigadac.html

There are also kits for the 1541 DAC I've heard. Don't know of any commercial variant of those yet.


<font color="purple">Epilogue</font>
Pokerplayers often have money for nice things. I know many people love music, but you can go really far in this enjoyment if you learn about and invest in a good audio-system. Maybe I can help you out in this a little. Feel free to ask anything you'd like.
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  #2  
Old 11-28-2007, 06:01 PM
TheWorstPlayer TheWorstPlayer is offline
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Default Re: The Ultra-Fi thread

How do you get started on the path? Like let's say I just bought some 2K-5K nice home theatre type of setup. What would you have me listen to or whatever if you wanted to convince me that I should upgrade my setup in some way? Like is there a specific CD or something where you'll say "See, on my system I get these lows and on your system you don't?" Or you talk about listening fatigue - what should I do if I want to experience that on my own system? I'm looking for a way to experience the difference between 'hi-fi' and 'ultra-fi' I guess.
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  #3  
Old 11-28-2007, 06:12 PM
clowntable clowntable is offline
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Default Re: The Ultra-Fi thread

"These go to eleven"
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  #4  
Old 11-28-2007, 06:17 PM
PITTM PITTM is offline
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Default Re: The Ultra-Fi thread

[ QUOTE ]
How do you get started on the path? Like let's say I just bought some 2K-5K nice home theatre type of setup. What would you have me listen to or whatever if you wanted to convince me that I should upgrade my setup in some way? Like is there a specific CD or something where you'll say "See, on my system I get these lows and on your system you don't?" Or you talk about listening fatigue - what should I do if I want to experience that on my own system? I'm looking for a way to experience the difference between 'hi-fi' and 'ultra-fi' I guess.

[/ QUOTE ]

moment all is well:

when you put on led zeppelin-The Ocean and it is 100% clear what is being said at the beginning. I remember the first time I listened to nice headphones i was like "wait, someone says stuff at the beginning?".

edit: to better answer your question you would hear the difference in all frequencies imo, thats kind of the idea. Low, high, mid should all improve. Detail is the big thing for me. Hearing a note sound almost exactly as it did when it left the instrument is the main idea. There are records I listen to now where I can hear the trumpet players fingers moving along the valves, it is pretty sick imo.
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  #5  
Old 11-28-2007, 09:42 PM
Nielsio Nielsio is offline
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Default Re: The Ultra-Fi thread

[ QUOTE ]
How do you get started on the path? Like let's say I just bought some 2K-5K nice home theatre type of setup. What would you have me listen to or whatever if you wanted to convince me that I should upgrade my setup in some way? Like is there a specific CD or something where you'll say "See, on my system I get these lows and on your system you don't?" Or you talk about listening fatigue - what should I do if I want to experience that on my own system? I'm looking for a way to experience the difference between 'hi-fi' and 'ultra-fi' I guess.

[/ QUOTE ]


Hi TWP,

You know an audio-system is good, when you find yourself sitting in front of it and just listening to the music. The music will pull you in and you will be fully intrigued by what you're hearing. Like going to a concert or other live performance. You will feel *there*.


And ofcourse, such a system translates into details you've never heard before, but not just that, the quality of the entire sound goes up enormously. You will start to hear it, like it's on the recording, and not some muffled, compressed, distorted, unpleasant version of it. A string becomes a string, a voice becomes a voice and a drum becomes a drum. And that is bloody wicked!


So you'll want to hear such a system and find out what that's like. You could try to find an Oris owner in your neighbourhood. You could also go to a hifi store, and ask them to put a Beyerdynamic 880 or 990 pro in their best cd-player/DAC/headphone-amp combo. Bring a bunch of your own CDs of all different kinds (also bring classical music with good voices and all that). These headphones sound very similar to these systems. They are actually miniature versions of the same concepts. They're high efficient, single driver, open baffle systems, with an emphasis on little room interaction. You should be able to hear insane differences compared to a standard system. You'll also hear that some of your music is actually quite crappy in it's recording quality and others are amazing.
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  #6  
Old 11-28-2007, 11:03 PM
edtost edtost is offline
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Default Re: The Ultra-Fi thread

[ QUOTE ]
[ QUOTE ]
How do you get started on the path? Like let's say I just bought some 2K-5K nice home theatre type of setup. What would you have me listen to or whatever if you wanted to convince me that I should upgrade my setup in some way? Like is there a specific CD or something where you'll say "See, on my system I get these lows and on your system you don't?" Or you talk about listening fatigue - what should I do if I want to experience that on my own system? I'm looking for a way to experience the difference between 'hi-fi' and 'ultra-fi' I guess.

[/ QUOTE ]


Hi TWP,

You know an audio-system is good, when you find yourself sitting in front of it and just listening to the music. The music will pull you in and you will be fully intrigued by what you're hearing. Like going to a concert or other live performance. You will feel *there*.


And ofcourse, such a system translates into details you've never heard before, but not just that, the quality of the entire sound goes up enormously. You will start to hear it, like it's on the recording, and not some muffled, compressed, distorted, unpleasant version of it. A string becomes a string, a voice becomes a voice and a drum becomes a drum. And that is bloody wicked!


So you'll want to hear such a system and find out what that's like. You could try to find an Oris owner in your neighbourhood. You could also go to a hifi store, and ask them to put a Beyerdynamic 880 or 990 pro in their best cd-player/DAC/headphone-amp combo. Bring a bunch of your own CDs of all different kinds (also bring classical music with good voices and all that). These headphones sound very similar to these systems. They are actually miniature versions of the same concepts. They're high efficient, single driver, open baffle systems, with an emphasis on little room interaction. You should be able to hear insane differences compared to a standard system. You'll also hear that some of your music is actually quite crappy in it's recording quality and others are amazing.

[/ QUOTE ]

The one thing that the high-end headphone rig won't get you is great imaging and a huge soundstage, which (imo) is one of the best things about great stereo (and i guess home theater) systems.

Everything else, though ... yeah.
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  #7  
Old 11-28-2007, 11:10 PM
Nielsio Nielsio is offline
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Default Re: The Ultra-Fi thread

[ QUOTE ]
The one thing that the high-end headphone rig won't get you is great imaging and a huge soundstage, which (imo) is one of the best things about great stereo (and i guess home theater) systems.

Everything else, though ... yeah.

[/ QUOTE ]


Yeah. I almost commented on the differences between headphones and a normal setup, and it's just like you said: the soundstage is spread out over a large area, towards one side, creating an actual 'stage'. That way, the instruments will sound proportional to their real size.
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  #8  
Old 11-29-2007, 12:07 AM
cwsiggy cwsiggy is offline
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Default Re: The Ultra-Fi thread

Nielsio - I'm curious why you don't have a direct IS2 USB dac instead of the Spdif connection. Aren't they supposed to be way better on the jitter front? Examples are like the one you showed (That Scott Nixon) and of course the Gordon Rankin Wavelength models.
I'm convinced a good lossless, PC audio based system is the way of the future. No more spinning discs.

I'm still regretting my sale of my JM Lab Daline speakers.
I miss having a great system, but for now a good headphone based system will have to do. May get that Scott Nixon Dac to tide me over.
I really, really, really want those MBL's though.

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  #9  
Old 11-29-2007, 12:20 AM
Kneel B4 Zod Kneel B4 Zod is offline
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Default Re: The Ultra-Fi thread

[ QUOTE ]
Nielsio - I'm curious why you don't have a direct IS2 USB dac instead of the Spdif connection.

[/ QUOTE ]

I'm glad you asked, I was too embarrassed. Aloysius and I were discussing this, but he thought it was a dumb thing to even consider
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  #10  
Old 11-29-2007, 01:05 AM
Nielsio Nielsio is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2005
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Default Re: The Ultra-Fi thread

[ QUOTE ]
Nielsio - I'm curious why you don't have a direct IS2 USB dac instead of the Spdif connection. Aren't they supposed to be way better on the jitter front? Examples are like the one you showed (That Scott Nixon) and of course the Gordon Rankin Wavelength models.

[/ QUOTE ]

My DAC is a little older than the USB variants. Bert Doppenberg was one of the first with a USB DAC, the TwinDAC+ ( http://bd-design.nl/contents/en-us/d37.html ). I heard it and it sounded good (obviously). It seems a good and easy solution (requires no soundcard anymore). However in my case I can't really use it. My (digital) equalizer sits between the computer output and the DAC. It's a vital part of the system. You could fit the DAC with a reclock, but I find battery powering it makes it really stellar all around anyway.


[ QUOTE ]
I'm convinced a good lossless, PC audio based system is the way of the future. No more spinning discs.

[/ QUOTE ]

Clearly.


[ QUOTE ]
I'm still regretting my sale of my JM Lab Daline speakers.

[/ QUOTE ]

You can always get/make something better [img]/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img]


[ QUOTE ]
I miss having a great system, but for now a good headphone based system will have to do. May get that Scott Nixon Dac to tide me over.

I really, really, really want those MBL's though.



[/ QUOTE ]


I didn't know this speaker, except for seeing it on pictures somewhere sometime. I checked it out now to understand what the hell it is.

It's 4-way. It crosses at 105, 600 and 3500 hz. Sounds like Piega, probably. It's sick expensive. I don't get why it's omnidirectional. They don't have to be (see Piega), and it certainly doesn't add anything besides problems. It requires a shitton of filtering, and an insane amount of amp-juice. I imagine this speaker sounding dull (like Piega). I have heard some good Magnepans (the huge kind) in the past though (not entirely sure how I'd judge them now); which seems like a better/simpler choice.

When you have a such a multi-way, low efficient system, it might sound pleasant/clean because of the electrocoils (or how do you call that), but it loses it's bite/slam; the uberdirectness you need to make it sound real.
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