SHREDDING THE MINI-ENVELOP©
HOW TO BE AN APARTMENT DWELLING AUDIOMANIAC AND HAVE MARITAL BLISS
ANOTHER ADVENTURE IN EXPLORING THE EXPANDED AURAL MATRIX ©
Dr. Harvey "Gizmo" Rosenberg
The Polygamous Thermionic Techno-Shaman
Exalted Punjab of Vinylmaniacs
Grand Wazir of Speakermaniacs
The Bruce and Seventh Earl of Clan Mc Tannoy
The Duke of Decca
The Digital Devil
AN INTRODUCTORY APOLOGY: Those who assert that my peculiar style of writing is due to inhaling solder flux for three decades are wrong. But, I must admit I have made a terrible mistake, and I want to apologize to all of my fellow Positivists, because I have failed to reveal that I had an operation many years ago that altered completely my perception of the audio arts. I hope my omission is not grounds for dismissal as an editor of this esteemed magazine.
In the 1970s on a flight to London I sat next to George Hamilton who, while on his way to Switzerland, revealed to me the many wonderful procedures his Swiss doctors do to his body annually to keep him eternally beautiful, young, thin, and tan. He told me that anything I wanted his Swiss doctors could do.
As you know the audio industry is very competitive with almost everyone claiming that there ears are the most golden. Aren't designers always arguing about who has designed the best sounding stuff? How could I get a significant competitive advantage in such an industry, I asked myself many times? George Hamilton's Swiss doctors had the answer.
After recuperating for a month it was obvious that my bat ear (non-vampire) transplant was a complete success. I measured my hearing and it was flat to a 500 kilohertz with only one degree of phase shift at 100 kilohertz, There was a six db glitch at 75 kilohertz because of ear wax.
This required a major adjustment in my life, and let me assure that it is a mixed blessing, but when it comes to the audio arts there is no doubt that I am The Goldenest Eared One.
For example: I can hear one one thousandth of a degree of tracking angle distortion in a phono cartridge or in a completely dark room I can catch a flying moth in my teeth, or on a summer's night I go crazy listening to gnats sneezing. When I go to a concert I not only have an "non-normal" experience of the music, but can hear dandruff falling from the first violinists hair, or if the percussionists should have flatulence.....I hear it all, including the dustball in the corner of your living room!
The reason I reveal this to you is to better explain why I have such eccentric taste in the audio arts and my hypersensitivity to audio grunge. Of course my 60,000 square foot listening room is gloriously decorated in haute radio repair shop decor: littered with speakers, amplifiers, test equipment, power supplies, car batteries, including a fifteen foot pine 2x4 which I use as a dielectric for my interconnects. Did you know that pine is the most natural sounding dielectric?
CAN AN AUDIOPHILE BE HAPPILY MARRIED?
In my case NO!. Do you think that I would be into this level of insanity if I had a wife? But where is it written that a room full of amplifiers and assorted audio gizmos aren't as heart warming and charming as a big chintz covered chair? Do women know that the editors of Architectural Digest are deaf! And what about the absurdity of designing a living room that doesn't give highest priority to the position of those glorious gigantic monkey coffins? Loudspeakers create beauty while a couch or a lamp, well, they just sit there gathering dust, doing nothing to open the door to existential mystery. Let me make my politically incorrect feelings clear: the entire last three decades of the women's liberation movement has no integrity, as far as I am concerned, because I have never heard one of its leaders advocate the importance of creating a state of the art home audio system. How can any women reach higher states of consciousness without learning how to bias the output stage of a push-pull amplifiers?
But not everyone is completely crazy like me, and there are definite advantages in being married. I too know the pain and suffering of married audiophiles. In addition to the tensions of a marriage there is the additional tension of space reality: most music lovers live in apartments, and believe (wrongly) that their creative options are severely limited. And while apartment dwellers will not be able to enjoy huge horns, they in fact can have unlimited creative expression...without causing their neighbors to call the police...and keep their wives very happy indeed. Let us not forget our Japanese audiomaniac brothers who also live in very small spaces and who are enormously creative within those limitations.
I wrestled with this dilemma through three marriages and think I have finally stumbled on a true genius plan to solve most audiophile's marriage problems, advance the audio industry and win the John Bradshaw Audio Award for 1997.
THE BEAUTY OF LIMITATIONS
Without limitations there is no art, and it is well known that the limitations of minimonitors is why they are so grand at a special kind of musical magic. In effect these speakers are, when done properly, sublime midrange speakers, and when attempts are made to overcome this limitation audio poop is produced. Because of your musical sophistication you will understand that we are going to take the genius of these loudspeakers and extend what they do best to the Nth dimension of music hyper space. We are not going to make them play louder or deeper. Our job here is to push the perimeter of their unique musical magic. We are taking about more clarity, greater harmonic purity, and an aural matrix that is so exciting that you will have to wear an audio pamper.
FLASH BACK: In Volume Six, Number four, I raved about the Marchand tube crossover, noting the continuing validity and benefits of doing all speaker filtering before the amplifier and that by removing the passive crossovers and driving the tweeter and woofer of my Tannoy Westminster Royal horns directly from the amplifier there was an intense increase clarity and immediacy. Even though I am hornaphile in love, I am no fool. Big horns can't do what minimonitors do, or electrostatics do, and visa versa. Each has its own unique aptitude at musical glory. So I thunk to myself, what if........
GENIUS IS SIMPLE: BI-AMPED MINIMONITORS WILL MAKE YOUR WIFE HORNY
Why not do to your minimonitors what I did to my Tannoy Westminster Royals? After all gents a loudspeaker is a loudspeaker and the laws of physic don't care how big you are. The enormous advantages of bi-amplification apply to all loudspeakers, yet I can find not one minimonitor set up for bi-amplification. We are doing pioneering work here! My rumination continued and I had this powerful creative visualization:
On a single shelf off in a corner of an apartment are two small stereo single-ended triode amplifiers...perhaps AudioNote, Cary, or Golden Tube, and one Marchand tube crossover....not much space needed. Our smiling audiomaniac has just fiddled with the crossover cards, experimenting with different combinations of frequency, slope and level. His beautiful minimonitors on their elegant stand look like beautiful sculpture. The wife of this smiling audiophile slinks into the living room. She is wearing only a wet T-shirt, her body is glistening, covered with coconut oil. As she approaches Mr. Smile, she flings her copy of Positive Feedback on the couch, hugs him and with her lips close to his ear, she breathes heavily,
" Honey, I'll do anything if you let me adjust the bias of your beautiful amplifiers".
And then licking her lips she pouts,
" It takes a big man to love a small speaker".
Mr. Happy Hard Audiophile looks into his wife's eyes and can feel the palpability of her hunger for mysterious musical beauty that is only possible with great audio equipment. She too lusts for a liquid midrange. This very very happy audiophiles had the cunning to keep his wife's tabernacle, her living room, a holy female place. This happy audiomaniac couple is happy indeed because minimonitors have rekindled the fire in their marriage. No more marital aids. No more marriage counseling. No more fear of divorce lawyers and property settlements.
GETTING GIZMOLOGICALLY DOWN WITH YOUR BAD MUSICAL SELF
To achieve this rare blend of audiomaniac and marital bliss only two things need be accomplished during a simple surgical procedure. If you are not comfortable with using a screwdriver you could ask your local hi-fi emporium techy to perform the procedure.
· Take the passive crossovers out of your monitors and wire them so that you can connect amplifiers directly to the two drivers. You may have to add another set of binding posts, because you need one set of binding posts for the tweeter and one for the woofer. Make sure you keep the polarity in the right order.
· Get a Marchand tube crossover with an assortment of plug in cards that permits you to tune your system. This means you have to know something about the slopes and frequency of your passive crossover, which you should get from your loudspeaker manufacturer. If the $1500 for the tube model is too expensive, Phil Marchand makes less expensive solid state model, and all of his models are available as kits at significant savings.
Of course you need two amplifiers. What is so gizmological sublime about this ultra-simple surgical procedure is that it doesn't mean you can't use your passive crossovers. You can, if you wish, reattach them outside the speaker cabinet which will make them sound better because passive crossovers always sound better outside the cabinet! That's right you can have the best of both!
(TWEAKER'S RED ALERT: Now that your crossovers are out of the cabinet you can decide if you want to upgrade to better parts like silver foil inductors, Hovland Music Caps, mil. spec. resistors, and then pack the crossover in a box filled with sand. Way cool and its okay to drool!)
This quote from a John Dunlavy interview conducted by John Atkinson in August 1996 Stereophile also describes the limitations of crossover design for mini-monitors that we can now overcome:
"Designing with higher-order crossover networks greatly simplifies the blending task between drivers. But what most people don't realize is that one of the really great difficulties in designing with higher-order crossovers is that they store energy. That's very visible when you look at the impulse response of a speaker that has a second-, third, or fourth order network. And the step response also looks terrible".
How can I give you a better argument for using a tube crossover?: it stores no energy no matter what the slopes used. This means that you can experiment with 24 db slopes, or any combination for that matter to determine which gives you exactly what you want in your driver blending. Talk about fun for the whole family! Why take the kids to Disney Land when they can play with you while you twiddle with your speakers?
WELCOME TO THE EXCLUSIVE SINGLE-ENDED TRIODE CLUB
You have been justifiably pissed because you have been excluded from the most exclusive audio club. Because of your minimonitor's low efficiency hovering around 80db they, in their normal configuration, are impossible to use with micro-powered singled ended triodes, which are the world's finest midrange amplifiers. With our new bi-amp configuration, you are no longer excluded from triode magic. In fact, I am suggesting that the path to ultra minimonitor audio coolosity is to use a hypermicro-powered triode amp on the tweeter, like a Don Garber's 2A3 , whose three watts of splendor is all you need. For the woofer use a classic single tube 300Bs whose eight watts will do a fine job of blending with the tweeter amp. This will give you the mysterious triode beauty that our Japanese audiomaniac brothers go gah, gah over, and you don't need huge 100db efficient horns. Two pairs of Cary or AudioNote 300B kit amps are plenty wondiferous, and infinitely tweakable!
Yes, you can use other combinations of amplifiers, but remember our goal: maximum mystery and that is the special domain of single-ended triodes, which are rightly called the worlds finest midrange amplifiers, which in our case is exactly what we are looking for. If you own one good amplifier buy the lowest powered, smallest tube amplifier you can for the tweeter. Do you remember the title of THE TRIODE GUILD marching song? : ASCEND TO MICRO-POWER.
DO YOU WANT TO HEAR A GNAT SNEEZE, LIKE ME?
Intrinsically, bi-amping is so much more revealing that I want to suggest some audiomaniac considerations which yield increasing levels of musical mystery.
WIRE: I strongly suggest using silver speaker wire and interconnects, because copper wire is grungy sounding. My favorite for speakers is the Alpha Core brand Goetz Flat Cables in silver, and they can be ordered with lead wire attached so that they can be wired directly to your drivers without using external binding posts. Try silver interconnects and if you have the guts go all the way and wire your amplifiers with solid silver wire. I do not like the sound of stranded silver and only use solid silver wires. Let me repeat that: GET AWAY FROM STRANDED WIRE.
EDISON PRICE BINDING POSTS: I use these everywhere from my speakers to all of my amplifiers. They are the best sounding binding posts I have heard for single-ended triodes. No plating here!
SPEAKER STANDS: Because we can't nail our speakers to the floor we must use the best speaker stands possible. Let me say this another way. My favorite stands for mini-monitors are six hundred pounds of cinder block, but because you are sane, live in an apartment and have a loving horny wife, you must buy the best speaker stands you can afford...if you want the ultimate mystery.
SPEAKER BUNGEE: Assuming you are using great speaker stands, spikes et al, we are going even further. Stretch and wrap a big black bungee cord around your speaker and stand so that the speaker is under pressure against the stand making the coupling much more direct.
POWER AMPLIFIERS, PREAMPS, DIGITAL AND CABLES: Your speakers are now so revealing that you will be forced to reconsider everything in your system. Now for the first time you will hear the difference that two inches of wire can make. This may be the first time that you can begin to experience what I can hear, and you too may decide to go to Switzerland and have a bat ear transplant.
CLOSING COMMENTS AND A REQUEST FOR YOUR VOTE
Living in an apartment doesn't mean you can't be an insanely creative audiomaniac. Apartment dwelling American audiomaniacs are becoming more like their Japanese audiomaniac brothers who also live in small spaces. We Americanos are becoming more confident, more creative and more experimental. There can be no refutation that bi-amplification will leapfrog your already great speakers and amplifiers into a higher dimension of musical magic and give you the soul satisfying creative play of tuning your system to your own unique vision of musical ecstasy....... which will make you a happy family man indeed. God Bless the American Audiomaniac family, and remember I want your vote when I run for President on the Triode Platform in the year 2000.
©HARVEY ROSENBERG 1996