You might be right that speaker and amplifier tech reached such a high level decades ago that we nearly their ceiling w/regard to SQ. Thus we can only make inches improvement. I think that's quite a possibility of the tech that's being used in them. Things such as FETs, tubes, exotic capacitors, etc. FETs can trace their origins back to the early 1900s. Tubes can trace their's back to the early 1800s. Teflon was invented quite by accident around 1940 and people have been figuring out new ways to use it ever since, but capacitors, previously called condensors, can trace their origin back to the mid 1700s. This is old tech. As long as we keep using it what can we reasonably expect it to do. IMO for a giant leap in SQ to occur, something that will hugely bring us closer to the real event, new tech will be needed. Not tweaks of the old, in fact very old, tech._mykl
This is McGowen's latest email. My interest in Hi-Fi started back in my teens not in my 30s. I do agre with him about the direction of Hi-Fi in the coming years of the 21st century. My feeling is advancements in that area will be coming fairly quickly. I just wonder what impact it'll have on SQ.
In a recent set of comments we spoke about adult children and when it is that they start to get the high-end “itch”. In my experience, it starts in their 30′s and extends into the 40′s.
The desire to have something better, a step above the status quo, begins at these ages and it occurs in the majority of the population from what I can tell.
Better car, better house, better stereo system.
The holdback issue is size and ease of use – not price. I can tell you right now if it ain’t wireless, small, room filling and awesome, it isn’t going to be a winner for future generations.
A constant theme you’ll read from me in these posts is the need for the high-end to be pulled into the 21st century. Some will go willingly, some kicking and screaming, some not at all.
I am here to tell you small, powerful, room filling and wireless are possible. The best system you’ve ever heard can be replicated in a much more acceptable package if the right designers get it together and aim for it.
We can encourage high-end designers to work towards it. We are.
Joined: Aug 29, 2002
From: Portland, Oregon - USA
Posted: 2011-09-26 17:00
On 2011-09-26 13:48, mykyll2727 wrote: This is old tech. As long as we keep using it what can we reasonably expect it to do. IMO for a giant leap in SQ to occur, something that will hugely bring us closer to the real event, new tech will be needed. Not tweaks of the old, in fact very old, tech.
You've really painted us into a corner as far as making progress in Audio equipment technology without being able to use any technology that is in any way related to something that was discovered in the past which has never happened before as you outlined.
I met Richard Kern one afternoon at the local Audio shop. At the time some 10 years ago I had no idea who he was, but he stood there for what must have been almost an hour enthusiastically explaining to me the ways that he found to use Black Gate capacitors to enhance the sound quality of Sony Players like the then new SCD 777ES as seen in the picture above.
Richard went on and on telling me, a complete stranger, about how one of the great secrets to the success of his Modifications was that he would take each Black Gate capacitor and individually measure it value and only use the ones that measured correctly for the upgrade he was doing because some of the capacitors are slightly off value. I have never met someone who in Audio equipment Modification who was as enthusiastic about finding better ways of effectively and creatively applying technology than Richard Kern and later that evening I found out why...
When I went home and put Richard's name into the Audio Asylum search engine and I was shocked enough it max'd out with 200 results from people around the world describing the Giant Leap in sound quality that resulted from Richard's work of meticulously recapping the Sony SCD-1 and SCD 777ES with very expensive high quality Black Gate caps that Sony could not have used without pushing the price-point of the SCD-1 past $10,000 where even fewer people could afford to buy it than at its original $5,000 price-point which many claimed was already far too expensive.
In order for the quality of Audio equipment technology to progress what is needed is truly inspired and dedicated people to carry on the spirit of Richard Kern's work who even though he is legally blind did not let that deter him from his highly detailed and exacting work and eventually prevailed over all difficulty and gave the world a whole new kind of fantastic sounding Sony player that was not economically feasible for Sony to produce!
I see great dignity and worth to people like Richard Kern inventing completely new and highly effective uses for existing components that were first discovered 100's of years ago that can cause Giant Leaps in sound quality that are praised around the world because everything we have today is connected to something in the past and it will continue to be so connected as it always has unless aliens bring us foreign technology that is completely unrelated to everything we have and everything we know.
Joined: Aug 29, 2002
From: Portland, Oregon - USA
Posted: 2011-09-26 17:36
On 2011-09-26 09:59, sterling1 wrote:
I find today's HT experience to be a very satisfying one. I think, even with what could realized with a most modest budget, a higher quality experience can be expected today than what would be possible with such a budget when I got my first taste for Hi-Fi back in 1973.
sterling1- Although some may disagree on the subject my opinion of the vintage gear that I've owned was that I found the 1960's Audio gear to sound 'Thick' which to me is the exact opposite of my current Asynchronous 24/96 Digital Audio System which sounds as Transparent as I've ever heard.
I made a very embarrassing discovery recently when a series of comparative experiments led me to discover that I was able to produce a level of magnitude improvement in the sound quality of my entire Audio System simply by re-purposing a single power cord and one line conditioner that I had owned for 5 and 8 years respectively! No Global solution required just some creative Local reorganization...
I greatly admire Richard Kern and he was fantastic at what he did. Which was mod existing units. And I agree there is certainly a place for excellent modmen. What I'm talking about is makers/designers of audio gear being nothing more than modmen. I'm talking about coming up with new tech and I don't feel I painted us into a corner at all.
AFA aliens passing down tech to us, well if you believe that in the 1700s aliens gave us the technology for building capacitors. That in the early 1800s they gave us the tech to bulid the light bulb. That in the early 1900s they gave us the tech to build FETs. That they gave us the tech to make plastics, Teflon, lasers, Velcro, the silicon chip, the internet, CDs, LCDs, LEDs, etc, etc, etc. (I don't know if you do or not, and there are many people who do and if they're right... )Then indeed I guess alien intervention is what's needed.
If on the other hand these inventions came about through the inventiveness of humans born right here on Earth, then it's human invention that's needed. Something new and clearly superior to what's come before. On the order of some of the inventions I mentioned. I'm simply asking this question, why hasn't this human inventiveness that's appeared in so many areas of our lives, and in particular video, been applied in the past several decades to audio SQ? I feel the only ones perhaps getting painted into a corner by that question are the makers/designers of audio gear who haven't come up with something clearly superior. Those who keep relying on, and at the same time keep feeding audiophiles, the status quo._mykl
I find that Paul McGowen vacillates alot in his emails. On one hand he states the need for high end audio to enter the 21st century and for makers to invent/create tech that's new and clearly superior to what's come before. He has stated that with regard to SQ as well as other areas of high-end he feels require that. Yet on the other hand he makes statements that clearly foster, and even defend the status quo. I just don't know exactly where he stands._mykl
Joined: Aug 29, 2002
From: Portland, Oregon - USA
Posted: 2011-09-26 19:50
On 2011-09-26 18:21, mykyll2727 wrote: If on the other hand these inventions came about through the inventiveness of humans born right here on Earth, then it's human invention that's needed. Something new and clearly superior to what's come before.
My point was that this long history of human inventiveness is all intertwined and both in materials and ideas. My remark about alien technology which is fiction as far as I am concerned was simply to illustrate that's the only way you will ever get a completely new technology with totally new materials that is completely unrelated to anything that has come before. Otherwise all inventions are derivative in some way.
I completely agree with you when you said..."it's human invention that's needed". Unfortunately the Miles of superior improvement that you are calling for are made up of many Feet worth of progress which comes from a lot of laborious inches of improvement.
Thanks for your kind words about Modman Richard Kern who has made such a huge impact on the world of Audio. Unfortunately although it would radically improve the sound quality of their Audio gear the genius of his work with very expensive high quality Black Gate Capacitors would only be feasible for manufacturers to implement if they increased the price-point to where even fewer audiophiles could afford to buy this superior sounding gear. That's where Modmen like Richard come in to do the Mods specifically for those who want them without having to hike the price of the Player for everyone some of whom may not have a high enough resolution Audio System to fully appreciate work like Richard did.
Most manufacturers cheapen the build quality of their gear to maintain its price-point over time, but there are some manufacturers like Conrad Johnson are dedicated to maintaining the build quality of their Audio gear so that the current model that has replaced my 1991 $1,900 MV-52 Tube Stereo power amp now costs $4,300 20 years later. When people complain about the low quality of modern Audio gear most likely the Brands involved have not maintained the build quality of their gear over time.
I think that Richard had it right though by doing Mods on the Sony SCD777ES and SCD-1 Players many of which were as expensive as the Players themselves leaving everyone else to enjoy their factory stock player at their $3,000 - $5,000 price-points rather than Sony upgrading their production of all the Players making them so expensive that hardly anyone could enjoy them. Again, I think Richard had it right doing the expensive after-market Mods for those who could afford it and leaving others to enjoy the Player that Sony could give them at that price-point and still stay in business financially.
OK Let me see if I can make this clearer. While all tech make be derivative to some degree, IMHO though you really have to reach to justify many new inventions throughout history that way, I'm talking about something fundamentaly different. The great SQ you experience from your computer audio didn't come as a result of directly tweaking a turntable. It is fundamentaly different than a needle grinding against a piece of vinyl/plastic/wax. Sure your computer employs plastic, wire, electricity, etc. but in a way that's overall fundamentaly different than the way a turntable does. The transistor may have metal in it and use electricity as does a vacuum tube but just because they share common materials they are radically different. A plasma display may use electricity and produce a video image just as a CRT does but they are fundamentaly different. IMO to achieve the type of SQ improvement that you've experienced with your computer audio over what you had before w/regard to amp/speaker SQ, will require some technological advancement on a simliar order. I don't feel it will come from directly tweaking decades, even centuries old tech. Something fundamentaly new will be needed. And while that may take great effort, great creativity, and maybe even luck it's happening in the video and the digital front end sectors. Given those facts am I really asking that much? Computer audio didn't sound that great a few years ago but it does now and I'm sure will continue to as they continue to tweak it and come up with new innovations as well. So I'm not knocking tweaking. I'm advocating it. But to see a quantitative improvement in SQ w/regard to amps/speakers will require something different that what's being done now. But, as I said in an earlier post, considering what I'm planning for my next audio upgrade I should heed what W.W. Jacobs wrote to open his horror classic Monkey Paw, "be careful what you wish for, you may receive it"._mykl
Joined: Aug 29, 2002
From: Portland, Oregon - USA
Posted: 2011-09-26 22:15
-mykl- This is great to hear and I hope that you will richly receive what you carefully wish for your next Audio upgrade!
I may be done with the upgrades for a while. You know me I don't like to move on until I've wrung the last drop of Resolution that I can out of what I already have.
I saw a piece on the speaker technology that was developed from areospace technology that was the foundation of Infinity Speakers and I wanted to share it with you...
"In 1967, Arnie Nudell, PhD. was at work designing the world's first Q-switched pulsed ruby laser to be used in a laser rangefinder that would measure accurately the distance between an airplane and the ground. A servo-feedback system would then be used to control the inertia navigation system of the airplane for accurate positioning. During his laboratory work, Arnie realized that such a servo system would be able to also accurately control a loudspeaker, hence, the idea of a servo-controlled woofer. Together with John Ulrich, Arnie designed the servo system and power amplifier to drive a woofer. Arnie called another friend - Gene Czerwinski - to make a special 18-inch woofer with a second winding on the voice coil to produce the feedback signal. The system worked! And the world's first servo-controlled woofer was born.
Together with an electrostatic panel developed by another two aerospace engineers, and a cabinet designed and built by Cary Christie in his garage, the first product was built - the Servo Statik I. This was in 1968, and Infinity was founded.
Maxx_Thanks for the speaker info! I wasn't aware of the specifics. But it does coincide with some of what I've been saying. Sometimes great inventions happen by accident.
I too like to wring out every last drop from my gear before I move on. I've done that with my K90EDs short of sending them out to be modded by someone like Danny Ritchie of GR Research. And have I ever run that one around in my head. Especially considering the costs of an upgrade. All of the speakers I would really want for life were just SOOO expensive. Even on the used market they were really out of my reach. I was afraid that modding the K90s would only be a stop gap as I would still want something more to be happy with. I'm always reminded of something I read by a reviewer. He said that reviewers always talk about products being something they can live with. He said that he felt that one's attitude toward selecting audio gear should be the same as to selecting a wife. It's not if you can live with it but is it something you want to live with. I look at it a little different: it's not if I can, or even want to live with it, but will I be happy living with it. I've discovered that what you might want to live with isn't always something you can be happy living with. Yep that's a shot at some of my ex girlfriends. Not to mention an ex wife .
I give ALOT of consideration to system changes/upgrades because I'm FAR from rich. So I have to be careful. But in the end it works out as I'm sure it's not a wasteful move and that it'll be a significant improvement. I'm truly confident that I've found a speaker that I can be happy living with it that's within my reach financially. It's not easily within my reach and will take sacrifice but I think I can do it. If I do I'm sure it'll take my system to a new level and let me take full advantage of 21st century computer audio. And that's something that I'll be very happy with._mykl
[ This message was edited by: mykyll2727 on 2011-09-26 23:04 ]
[ This message was edited by: mykyll2727 on 2011-10-30 05:19 ]
Speakers I think have a fair amount of room for improvement, but excluding them what are the weakest links in audio?
Its the modular design using poor 60 year old technology. Single ended RCA connections are terrible, and digitally none of the common formats of transfer are without flaws.
The good news is that technologically we are at a good stage for fully integrated products, single boxes that hook up to the internet, accept data discs, and output signals ready for displays or speakers. All sorts of problems vanish when a designer has end to end control of all the circuitry and signals.
The bad news is that keeping things in troublesome separate boxes is WAY too profitable for any audiophile company to be willing to kill the golden goose of interconnects etc.
The good news is that eventually somebody is going to do it anyway, and likely do it at very reasonable costs.
Joined: Aug 29, 2002
From: Portland, Oregon - USA
Posted: 2011-09-27 03:00
On 2011-09-26 22:52, mykyll2727 wrote: If I do I'm sure it'll take my system to a new level and let me take full advantage of 21st century computer audio. And that's something that I'll be very happy with.
_mykl- Being the owner of one of Sony's finest low jitter iLink capable players you are going to be thrilled with the sound quality of the inexpensive jitter-free Asynchronous USB Digital processors available these days which take Digital Audio to the long awaited next level!
Danglerb_Here, here. I agree completely. When they just get wireless right it will be a significant SQ improvement as cabling in itself is a detriment. An excellent cable maker, and even Paul McGowen concurs, told me that cabling adds nothing postive to SQ. At it's ultimate level, which hasn't been achieved yet, it would simply take nothing away. Contrary to so much of the hype we are subjected to, NO cable improves an area of signal SQ. Take say bass response; at best it just simply passes those signals on better than most. At worst it impedes other areas more than other cables making it seem like it enhances bass. Connectors are, as you said, just another bugaboo added to the equation. I agree that eventually, if simply as the result of advances in areas other than audio specific, someone will do it. And especially if it comes from other areas affordably._mykl
[ This message was edited by: mykyll2727 on 2011-09-27 03:01 ]
Maxx_I have complete confidence that I will. The truth is I'm chomping at the bit over the whole computer audio thing including building my own music server. But first things first. The good thing is that when I get the speaker area resolved I'll have created that much better support for the computer audio and that will really let it shine._mykl
In yesterday’s post we talked about how different design paths can give the same measured results without sounding the same.
How does someone train themselves to add their ears to the design tool set they use to build equipment and systems? The answer’s the same as the age old joke about “how do I get to Carnegie Hall?” asked by a lost violinist in New York City. The answer was “practice, pratice, practice.”
When we started learning this skill set in 1973 we had no roadmap to go by. In fact, we were simply clueless designers trying to figure out a mystery – of which there were many. My post about designing a preamp among them.
One of the simpler mysteries we solved, at the time, concerned our first power amplifier. Power amplifiers are relatively simple devices to design if you’re not trying to get fancy (we weren’t). Our first design, which later became the Model One, was about as simple a design as they come. Class AB, good specs, good parts, nothing out of the ordinary. It sounded good but not yet great.
We played with all the tools we knew about, how much class A, speed of the devices, etc. All mattered, none clicked in the sound.
Then, a friend asked us if we had paid any attention to the power supply. We hadn’t. An amp’s power supply doesn’t get any simpler: power transformer, AC to DC and big capacitors – not much more.
“Have you heard about bypassing?” Bypassing was the new thing: adding small capacitors in parallel with the big capacitors. We tried it and the amp went from ho-hum to high-end in an afternoon.
Our listening tools were sharpened, we added another piece of the puzzle to our arsenal and created a high-end product.
The amp measured identically to the same design without the bypass caps.
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