Juice21; Upgrades this past year (long)

jmierzurjmierzur Registered UserPosts: 489
edited April 2002 in Technical/Setup
Juice21,

You had expressed an interest in one of my prior posts mentioning my project to build new speaker cables. I have completed this task. Before I relate the results of this project, I would like to backtrack to last summer to provide some background on my odyssey, and where it has taken me.

The new dedicated entertainment (15’ 3” x 12’ 7” x 8’) room has been constructed. It has been in wall wired to the 10.2 surround format for future compatibility, if this format is adopted. I have been examining several areas that might improve the quality of sound my system produced.


ICs

This started with a visit to one of the local premium audio store with two of my ICs in hand. One I made nine years ago using a stranded RG-58 coaxial cable. The other was an OFC cable (do not know internal construction) purchased about four years old. These two cables were compared to $100 entry-level and $300 mid-level cables. My intention was to replace existing cables with “the cable”.

No purchase was made; at audio frequencies the differences are so subtle that I cannot justify the new cable purchase cost. If I evaluated at RF levels, my view would be different.


Speaker Cables

I looked at an upgrade to speaker cables at this time. For $500, I could buy a stranded 12 awg cable that was supposed to be superior to my current stranded 12 awg cable. This plan was placed back in the oven as I thought it was half-baked. More research was required on this topic.


Speaker Upgrades

In January, I purchased L+C+R speakers having the sonic characteristics I find most pleasing. The speakers were broken in for 40 hours, then speaker/listening locations where calculated using various room placement equations. Listening confirmed the speaker produced the overall sonic characteristics I desired. The soundstage was detailed, but still confined within the positioning of the L+R speakers. Life was getting better, somewhat.

Please note that I am not a fan of the sonic characterises of all types of drivers or enclosures. This does not imply that they are not excellent speakers, only that I do not care for the type of sound they produce. Many people do enjoy that type of sound, as these manufacturers are still in business.

Electrostatic speakers, properly set-up, produce the sonic characteristics I enjoy the most, but are currently beyond my means.


DIY

During my research on cables, speakers and day dreaming (lusting?) audio products in general, I came across many DIY sites. These sites detail may projects, some more interesting than others.

The UBYTE-2 speaker cable

This cable utilizes two signal transmission techniques in one cable. It is supposed to eliminate unwanted characteristics of stranded cabling. This cable is not available in North America and I had to construct this cable by hand to my specification and requirements.

Initial testing of the first constructed pair has determined that the article detailing the cable characteristics is very accurate and true. My additional comment is that a “harsh edge” was removed that I did not know was present. The sound is now silky smooth and very revealing. This was instantly evident. These cables will be in my system for a very long time, as I do not think that I could buy a better cable locally.

The X-Cable IC

Based on my previous IC review at the audio store, this project will be deferred to a future date. It will be interesting to listen to the characteristics of cables constructed with six individually insulated 30-awg silver coated copper strands.

Room Treatment

Many hours were invested reading about the different components of the audio chain. One area I had not explored was upgrading the acoustical environment. I inquired locally about purchasing room treatments, but found the cost prohibitive for what I considered necessary. This was not a path I would take without knowing the return prior to investment.

Many DIY sites detail methods of constructing room treatments. I estimated the cost of raw materials and JKM Incorporated (wife) approved JMM Construction’s (me) request to commence construction. Individual room treatments were assembled and left in an unfinished state for “proof of concept” testing.

The listening/speaker positions were corrected using a RS SPL meter and 1990 era Stereophile set-up CD.

Room treatments, in conjunction with proper listening/speaker positioning, have produced an incredibly wide soundstage that almost extends around the listening position. The soundstage also has excellent depth. Incredible is an understatement for the results achieved so far. This upgrade has been proven beyond my wildest hopes. The room treatments will be completed; I wonder if the outstanding tasks will further improve the results?

A control test was performed using older speakers to validate the results. They are a 3-way bookshelf speaker with paper drivers, originally purchased for $150. They are currently 15-20 years old and have been stored in the garage in less than ideal conditions. They were to be sold at the next garage sale for $20, or best offer.

The new bookshelf speakers (x10 the price of the old) were moved off the stands. The old speakers were aligned on the exact same plane.

Listening test revealed that the old speakers do not have the clarity of the new speakers, nor do they have the same low-end response. This was expected.

On the other hand, the speakers produced a wide and deep soundstage that was every bit as enthralling. Aside from the above observations, the speakers produced a clear and detailed soundstage that I could be satisfied with if I did not have the latest speakers. In a way, I am glad that my prior speakers are not available (found a new home) for testing, as I may have determined that this latest speaker upgrade was not justified.

I have always been told that lousy speakers like these cannot sound this good. This philosophy needs to be re-evaluated. The main differences were the sonic characteristics of the speaker. Period.

These speakers will be kept and used in another application, as there is nothing wrong with them. Please note that any full range speaker ever built by Polk Audio “sound” better than these, IMO.

I was planning on swapping other components to determine the effects and report my finding. I will not be conducting these tests, as I have spent enough time tweaking the entertainment room and need to move on to other projects requiring my attention. Other parties can conduct these tests, if interested.


Conclusion

The only negative comment I have about tuning the audio environment is that I wish I had discovered the benefits sooner. Musical content is now revealed that was hidden by dips/peaks of the room. This has made the most noticeable improvement.

This in no way implies that any hardware upgrade will not make an improvement. I have detailed that differences do exist. Experience suggests that the room should be looked at to realize the full benefits of the equipment you currently have. An investment in a test CD and a SPL meter could provide greater results than you ever imagined.

Initial listening position response, without room treatments and before listening/speakering positioning, was +7db –15db, a 22db (this is a conservative number) difference! Bear in mind that a 3db difference is perceived as twice as loud. I would not buy speakers with this much of a variance; why should I listen at a position does?

With listening/speaker position adjustments in conjunction with room treatments, I have achieved a response as good as +2db -3db down to 30 Hz (with subwoofer) for all test frequencies on the current CDs I have. There is also a +4db to +6db room hump (varies with the amount of cursing I produce) at 80Hz that I am trying to remove. Half the test tones measure at the reference level. This is very good.

Three Stereophile set-up CDs have been ordered to continue to refine the audio environment. I have found a worksheet that utilizes the test tones on CD 2 and provides corresponding adjustments for RS SPL meters to offset their roll off at certain frequencies.


Parting Comments

I am not composing this material for debate, but to recount what I have learned these past months. I will not be checking to see the latest reply calling me a “dumb ****”. This will be your loss, not mine. I have tested my hypothesis and demonstrated what I intended.

You can use this to expand your knowledge and reap the rewards. You can also dismiss this without a second thought. Based on fact, half-truths or fiction, you will ultimately reach your own conclusions. This document will be kept for my reference as I continue to build my knowledge base on this subject.

Everything mentioned above is in the public domain for the taking. Further clarification can be obtained by keyword search, and then wading through the volumes of information returned.

I have, and always will, continue to learn, question, experiment and evaluate to form opinions. This especially applies to the audio industry, which is rife with excessive, unfounded and uninformed claims.


Equipment List

-Rotel RB-980BX amp
-Rotel RC-980BX pre-amp
-Sony CDP-X202ES CD player
-Wharfedale S200 speakers
-Polk Audio LSi9 speakers
-12 awg speaker cable
-RG-58 IC
-OFC IC
-28" speaker stands (40 pounds each)
-Realistic digital SPL meter
-Stereophile 1990 test CD
-UBYTE-2 speaker cable
-DIY wall treatment (6)
-DIY tube traps (3)


Regards.
Post edited by jmierzur on

Comments

  • juice21juice21 Posts: 1,866
    edited April 2002
    thanks for the in-depth review of your latest upgrades. important to note that proper set-up and calibration of a system CAN make the biggest audible differences, especially for the price (assuming your time is free;) ) i hope some readers got to take away something from your post.
    ...the fOrce is strong with this one.
  • jmierzurjmierzur Registered User Posts: 489
    edited April 2002
    Here are a couple of links that I have found to be useful:

    Rane Home Cinema Systems


    Optimizing ASC Tube Traps

    For the tube traps, I have tested diagram 1 (right rear corner is a fireplace with no trap). Based on the document, I will try be trying diagram 4 to see if there are further improvements.

    If anyone would like me to post other links, one reply will suffice. I will look through my binders and post links.
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