Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Using Roon Parametric EQ To Smooth Out Your In-Room Response



If you stream your music and use Roon as your music management software, you have access to a very useful set of tools, one in particular is the parametric EQ. I have put this to good use in minimizing some bass issues I have in my nearly square (19' x 20' x 9') listening room. I wanted to share how I did this. It takes a laptop, Roon (of course), a Mini DSP 2x4 HD with the optional USB Microphone ($280). It also requires a free software program called Room EQ Wizard.

I will assume you know how to install software on your laptop, and the tutorials below will help you get the Room EQ Wizard  and the microphone set up and talking to one another.

I still strongly encourage you to use acoustic treatments to mechanically reduce room-born acoustic issues first, then use the digital tools to help out further. Why? a parametric EQ can't really eliminate certain acoustic issues like slap echo, and by minimizing other issues before applying EQ you use less processing power for the digital EQ. You may only need to apply 4 EQ curves instead of 6 or 7 by making use of acoustic treatments.

Some tutorials on setting up Room EQ Wizard
  • Getting Started with REW: A Step-by-Step Guide (PDF file download)
  • Auto EQ with REW - This is how you would take the measurements obtained with REW and turn them in to EQ curves that you could then, manually input into Roon's parametric EQ. In the numbered set of instructions, you would only need to follow down to step 2 for our case, because you aren't using the MiniDSP as the DAC. Unfortunately Roon's Parametric EQ operates on both audio channels, so one has to measure both speakers, get the "average" curve in REW, and then calculate the EQ filters to plug into Roon's EQ.

Below is the first measurement I took of the Studio Electric M4 monitors I happened to be using at the time. Since Roon applies the EQ to both channels (there is no separate right or left EQ) I had to measure both speakers, then get an average. One could also measure both speakers simultaneously.
Room EQ Wizard Frequency Measurement In My Listening Room
Below are the measurement curves for the Right (red), left (green) and average (blue). Once I had these, I then selected the Average curve to EQ.
Left, Right, and Average In-Room Measurements for the Studio Electric M4
Below are the EQ curves Room EQ wizard calculated. I set it up so it would produce within +/- 3dB between 80hz and 1000 hz. You can see the highest frequency for an EQ setting was 616 hz.
Calculated Parametric EQ Settings for the M4 from the averaged FR curve.
Once I had the numbers, it was a matter of drilling down into Roon's parametric EQ settings for the streamer I was using (Auralic Aries).
Main Menu>Settings: Selecting the streaming device to apply EQ Settings to.

In the Drop-down menu on the Auralic Aries, selecting "DSP Engine"

The Parametric EQ settings are manually entered from the REW calculations. 

Once the EQ parameters were set in Roon, I was ready to listen.  Within Roon, it is easy to turn the EQ on and off. However, there is usually about 5 seconds of silence when switching between the two. Still, it was quite audible to hear the EQ'd vs. non EQ'd sound. I preferred the EQ being on. It smoothed out the bass response and got rid of a little too much midrange bloom. The already great sounding M4 was even more holographic in it's imaging properties, and even more natural sounding in my listening room.

Your mileage may vary, but in my opinion the software based DSP in Roon is a great tool for making good sound even better. With the software based DSP, I can use my own DAC and streamer, I get to keep my own equipment, but now get the benefit of a flatter in-room frequency response through software EQ in the digital realm. Being wise with the use of EQ is important, one can definitely overdo the effects, mostly by boosting too much, and lifting the gain into distorted territory. So it does require some care and knowledge to get the right balance of boost and cut on EQ frequencies so as not to cause clipping of the signal.

Helpful Video

Cutting Vs. Boosting EQ


I hope you find this helpful.  Enjoy!





Friday, June 22, 2018

Tweek Geek Summer Intern Alex Tells The Story of His First Encounter With Hi-Fi

"Kramerica's Intern" episode from Seinfeld. Not too far from an internship at Tweek Geek...

I've been lucky enough to find some help over the summer with an intern. Part of what he will be doing will be writing blogs from a perspective that I simply cannot give. One of a young person who loves music growing up in the post-CD world. His first blog entry covers his exposure to high resolution sound through better than average gear.

It's great to have been able to snag such a smart, hard working and talented young man. It's even better that he understands the reason for listening to music through a good system. We've already had some great discussions on the technical and philosophical aspects of our hobby, and I look forward to reading his contributions on Tweek Geek Speek.  

My motivation was the hope that Alex will make music a part of his life that he will take time to appreciate it thoroughly, that it will help him in some way be a better person. So without further adieu, I would like to introduce Alex.

My First Hi-Fi Experience

Hi, I’m Alex and am a 19 year old Physics Engineering student at a small engineering university in Golden, Colorado. For better or worse--with Mike’s influence and insanely intricate audio setup--I have seemed to develop a “need” for high end audio. I say for better or worse because listening to high end equipment completely changes my perspective and appreciation for music. Even songs that I have given little attention to sound so much more refined and expressive--I’m probably preaching to the choir here, though, so I’ll move on. I say for worse because that quality of audio isn't cheap! I was lucky to have Mike as a neighbor, or I might not have been exposed to high-end equipment. I’m only about two weeks into this summer internship with Mike and am learning all the “tweeks” he uses to get to that point of audio nirvana.


Mike recommended, for my initial post, that I share my first experience with high-end equipment. I was maybe 15--so really only about 5 years ago--when I borrowed a pair of Mr. Speaker Ether headphones and an LH Labs Geek Out DAC/Amp. The first song I played was Pink Floyd’s Any Colour You Like. I had never experienced music like this. On a side note, I learned what open back headphones were because, as it turned out, my dad could hear everything I was playing just as clearly as the TV show he was watching.


That was my introduction to high-end audio. What fully hooked me was Mike’s set up with the B.M.F.s (nicknamed as Big Mother F*****s in my neighborhood) and an array of components. I would dog/house sit for Mike, and he would give me full reign to listen to his setup. The first time I was there, I must have sat for at least two hours listening to pretty much anything and everything. His setup sounded crazy good. Mike told me the goal of an audio system was to have the listener “enveloped by the music”. The actual speaker locations seemed arbitrary to the listener because the music could be heard throughout the entire soundstage of the room. I think I started listening to 90s groups like Blind Melon, then jumped to some modern indie, and then went down to 70s, finally stopping with 1980s New Wave. All of it sounded incredible.

Below are a few of Alex's musical selections when he first listened to the Tweek Geek system.
  


 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Getting Your System (And Yourself) Tweak Ready

How to Get Your System (& Yourself) Tweak Ready


Why This? Why Now? 

My own experimentation, plus years of feedback from many customers who have implemented many different tweaks (successfully and unsuccessfully) has prompted me to write a bit on the nature of audio tweaks and getting your system to a point where you should be able to discern differences.

The Nature of Tweaks

We call them tweaks because 1) they are usually unconventional 2) the improvements may be subtle and 3) sometimes they don't work as expected. They are the finishing touches to a well put together system and listening environment. They can take your listening experience to new heights, and that is the goal.

A word of advice: If someone is selling an audio tweak and does not offer a money back guarantee, run. Even if they demonstrate it at a show, offering "show discounts", don't be tempted if there is no return policy.

Becoming Tweak Ready

I cover much this topic in a previous blog called The Three Foundational pillars of ANY Audio System. Below are excerpts from that post:

Pillar 1. Clean Power 


A single, dedicated AC circuit helps deliver more current, and less noisy power to your audio components. It won't eliminate all noise, not even close. But it does put a little "distance" between your audio system and the other devices in your home. A dedicated line is still vulnerable to electrical noise pollution that leaks onto the grid from the outside world, radio frequency Interference from wifi, cell phones, etc. and from the noise generated by the audio components themselves. Placing all of your audio components on a single circuit also lowers the chances of a noisy ground loop plaguing your system.

For some components, this may be enough, but for the majority of components further noise reduction by way of power conditioning will help. But before we go there, Why not try reducing the electrical noise coming in to  your house from the outside grid, and also from within the house to your breaker box?  So, in order here is what I recommend for creating clean power to your audio system.
  • A dedicated line feeding your audio system
  • Noise filtration on the power coming in to your home
  • Noise filtration on the circuits in your home going back to the main breaker box
  • Noise filtration/conditioning of the power feeding your audio components directly

Pillar 2. An Acoustically Friendly Room


You need a room that is friendly to listening to music. One that is not too absorptive, and one that is not too reflective. Too much absorption and the sound is lifeless and dead. Oddly enough, loudspeakers are tested in an anechoic chamber. No reflected sound occurs in an anechoic chamber, and therefore only the sound the loudspeaker makes is measured. That's great for taking measurements, but some people take this logic to their listening room and try to make it as absorptive as possible. Not a good idea. You need a combination of absorption and diffusion. Diffusion is the controlled scattering of soundwaves. You do not want sound waves bouncing off a wall directly to your ears. It's better for the sound to be scattered in random directions. This allows for the sound radiating from your loudspeakers to reach your ears before any direct reflected sound can reach your ears. Reflected sound when it reaches a high enough amplitude can smear the timing of the original signal, leading to a blurred stereo image and a smearing of fine detail.

3. Speaker Placement


Not all of us have the luxury of a dedicated listening room, but here are some minimum guidelines for getting your speakers to sound as good as possible in your space.
  • Avoid placing your speakers close to walls behind or to the sides of them. Get your speakers out in to the room. This will help to create a sense of depth in the stereo image, and will help to mitigate boomy bass.
  • If your room is rectangular, try placing them along the shorter wall first. Again, this helps with bass frequencies.
  • If your room is square, try placing your speakers off-center or at an angle to the wall behind them. This will help mitigate standing waves.
  • A good ratio for speaker width to listening position is 1 (width between the centers of speaker front baffles) to 1.3 (distance from speaker baffles to your ears). So if you have your speakers 8' apart, try placing your listening position at 10' 3".
  • Speakers that are of equal distance to the listening position have proper phase and timing with one another. 
In summary, Clean power, proper speaker placement, and acoustic treatment of the listening environment will set one up to more accurately evaluate changes to their audio system. I consider these three things step one in building a great audio system.

Getting Yourself Tweak Ready

Dark Matter Technology Wallflowers


Once you have your audio system in place and you are confident that the sound you have is good for the long haul. Get familiar with your system, and get a playlist/set list of songs that you can use as your reference tracks. Keep notes on what you are hearing on your reference songs. Why you chose the song, what to listen for. Every recording has different strengths. Female vocals, guitar, string bass, air and space. Really get into the nuances and subtleties of these. Commit them to your long term memory (not your auditory memory silly. That's impossible). Once you have the subtleties of your playlist songs committed to memory you are "tweak ready". You will be able to evaluate and discern changes to your audio system with much more confidence.

Bybee's Internal Quantum Signal Enhancer is a popular tweak.

Testing Tweaks

Simple right? Install, listen to test tracks, reject or accept right? Not exactly. It can take many days to determine if an audio tweak is adding to the listening experience or not. Here is how I usually go about testing a tweak in my system:
  1. Listen to system for an hour or so, going over the test tracks and letting my mind and ears get into listening mode.
  2. Insert the tweak. Listen for any immediate changes. If no immediate changes, leave the room and come back in 30 minutes, an hour, 24 hours. The thing is don't make a snap judgement. Some of my best tweaks took time to settle in and do their thing. Sometimes the change is subtle, and the difference won't be heard until step 3.
  3. Remove the tweak and listen. Again much like above. If you don't hear a change upon immediate removal, try leaving and coming back at different time intervals to see if any change is evident.
If you hear a change, wait. Sometimes the change is merely different, and not necessarily better. Discerning this again takes time. Live with the tweak in the system for several days. If it continues to improve your listening experience, it's a safe bet that the tweak is for you. Sometimes listening over several days reveals the "improvement" causes listening fatigue over time.

By following this road map, and making your system tweak ready, should have every confidence in your system's abilities to discern the effectiveness of any tweaks you may be tempted to try in the future. Not only that, your system should sound darn good just as it is. But alas, the audiophile is not just an enthusiast, but also an explorer and mad scientist. Forever pushing the boundaries of what is sonically possible. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Room Conditioning

Tweek Geek Sonic Tonic Wallflowers. Part of the Room Conditioning system offered by us.

As audiophiles and music lovers, we've all heard of  and have probably experienced the sonic effects of Power Conditioning, good and bad. My oversimplified definition of power conditioning is:

Conventional and unconventional measures taken to make the incoming AC power to one's audio components more "palatable" for the audio components themselves, yielding sonic improvements in the output of the audio signal through said system. 

Conventional means of power conditioning are foundational to the safety and performance of our audio equipment. Filtering by means of capacitors, inductors, chokes, power regeneration and balanced power. All of these are examples of conventional power conditioning.

Then there are the unconventional means. Passive power filtration, vibration damping, quantum treatments of wire, all of these are examples of unconventional power conditioning that yield audible benefits, but we may not possess the capability to measure their effects ( or perhaps we are measuring the wrong things...).
A Stein E-Pad. An unconventional power conditioning product.

The same can be said of room treatments, or as I like to call it, "Room Conditioning". Absorbers, diffusors, bass traps, all are conventional means of creating the end result of a more listenable listening room. They are foundational to a good sounding audio system just like power conditioning. If you've read Tweek Geek Speek's past blogs, you are well aware of the unconventional room conditioning elements I have been experimenting with. Things like solid oxygen free copper rods, resonators, and harmonizers. In my opinion they are equally as powerful as the conventional room treatments, but at the same time dependent on the conventional treatments in order to realize their maximum benefit.
A diffusor. Used to scatter soundwaves evenly across a broad range of frequencies.


Today I want to talk about a family of unconventional room conditioning products I have developed. Another tool in the music lover's arsenal to help make one's room conducive to creating an immersive, engaging, therapeutic listening experience.

I have three products that when used individually or combined, are very effective at producing this experience. They are all variations of a similar mixture of elements that I discovered over the years with many hours of trial and error experiments, the contributions of my tweak gurus, and others much smarter than I.

Below are listed my room conditioners along with how one may use them to "condition" their room.

Sonic Tonic II Dots
These little 1" hemispheres are small and discrete. They can be painted (with Krylon paint for plastics) to closely match one's decor. By themselves, it would take quite a few to produce a noticable effect on the room, but when paired with the other 2 products, they work to harmoniously expand and blend the room conditioning effects quite effectively.
Sonic Tonic II Dots.


How to use
I use the Dots along all walls in the listening space. Placement: I place them about 3 feet apart along the baseboards of each wall in the space, and also about 5 feet apart near the ceiling. Again if one does only this the effect is minimal, but if combined with any of the 2 items below, they work to stitch an enveloping, holographic soundfield together.

Sonic Tonic II Wallflowers

The name comes from the look. A disk slightly larger than 2" in diameter and 5/16" thick with a detailed flower mandala design on them. They were meant to be placed on walls primarily, so the name Wallflower seemed natural. They are essentially equivalent to 8 of the Dots, plus they have an additional ingredient to further enhance transparency, especially in the high frequencies.

How to use
If  one is creating an entirely passive room conditioning system, these are optimally places at least 5 feet off the ground, one each centered in front of and behind the listener, and two more in front of and to the sides of the speakers (see diagram below)


This is a very generic and basic setup, I always recommend experimenting with placement in one's own room. You may need more, or fewer.

Active Sonic Tonic II - The Magic Maker
This to me is the "Magic Maker". In fact, that's what I named it. The active nature not only makes them vastly more powerful, but it also makes the other Sonic Tonics more powerful as well. One to four of these in a room brings all of the SST's to life in ways that are simply wonderful to experience.
Active SST II, AKA The Magic Maker.

How to Use
1 to 4 of these are used, depending on the size of the room and the desired intensity of effect one wishes to create. Placement is exactly like placement of the Wallflowers. With one centered between the speakers on the wall behind them, one centered on the back wall behind the listener, and one each on the side walls placed about a foot or two in front of the very front plane of ones louspeaker placement.

Mixing and Synergizing
Once the desired number of Magic Makers are placed, I like to fill in the soundfield by placing Dots along the baseboards of the room. I place them about 3 feet apart, and do the entire room this way. The effect is a more solid, and grounded soundfield.

One can place the Dots or the Wallflowers along the walls near the ceiling to add a sense of height to the soundfield. The Dots are placed about 5 feet apart in this setup, the Wallflowers are placed roughly equidistant between Magic Makers.

I prefer to use the Wallflowers on the ceiling. Using 2 to 4 behind the listening position and to the sides of the sweet spot. Again this adds height and wrap around imaging to the soundfield.

What is heard

Specifically, the total effect is one of more phase coherance, which can be experienced as more naturally distinct outlines of instruments and vocalists when listening to complex harmonies or musical passages. This also gives a sense of enhanced resolution.

The music is denser, fuller, and a more immersive experience. There is more flesh on the bones so to speak. I find it more natural, and as a result, a more relaxing and therapeutic experience. I often listen to music to decompress after a busy day. The room conditioners get me there faster, and allow me to stay there longer. Leading me to a deeper sense of relaxation and a more gratifying experience.

I encourage you to try the Tweek Geek Room Conditioners. I offer for audition a kit of 4 Magic Makers, 10 Wallflowers, and 24 Dots. More than enough to do any listening environment.

Please however make sure your speakers are optimally placed, your room is optimally treated with conventional room treatments, and the power feeding your system is optimally conditioned before auditioning the Room Conditioners. We want you to hear the maximum of what they have to offer.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Unconventional Room Treatments: Copper

Unconventional Room Treatments

The listening room. One of the three pillars that make the foundation of any great audio system. Some say it is accountable for up to 33% of your audio system's performance. Yet many of us neglect optimizing our listening environment. There are of course legitimate reasons; aesthetics, space, and lack of knowledge of where to begin or what to do. Less legitimate are laziness, lack of patience, and "I can just buy more gear and/or tweaks as a bandaid".

Getting a room and system to sound great takes time, patience, and a lot of experimentation. For those that take the time and are curious enough the reward is enveloping, engaging sound that is relaxing and exciting at the same time.

Room treatments that used to be large, unsightly and heavy are at least getting lighter and better looking. Offerings from GIK Acoustics, Stillpoints, and ArtNovion have a pleasing aesthetic, and won't make your listening room look like a Naval radar testing facility. The costs are far less than what many would spend on a component or cable upgrade as well.

There are also unconventional products that are worth a listen as well. They work on the room in unconventional ways, take up less space, and visually can be quite appealing, or non intrusive.

This is part of my journey  on using the conventional and unconventional methods of turning a typical listening room with it's usual problems of too many flat, reflective surfaces, bass nodes and other sonic ugliness into a room that now allows me to hear more accurately, enjoyably, and listen more deeply to the music I love.
Sonex Whisper Wave Acoustic Absorbers. Lightweight and very effective. The ceiling rail
system from Picture Hanging Systems allows me to hang, move and remove the acoustic
treatments anywhere the rail is installed. Even over a window!

Terms: 

Conventional Room Treatments

I have posted on room treatments before, with details of how I installed conventional treatments in my listening room via a rail system. This system has been extremely helpful in dialing in the right amount and types of treatments. The rails allow me to add, subtract, move, and replace treatments rapidly and painlessly. It also allows one to hang art on the walls in the same manner. Making the room aesthetically as well as sonically pleasing. 

Anyhow, on to the definitions...

Absorbers - Usually foam or fiber filled panels that should absorb sound uniformly throughout their bandwidth.

Diffusers - Diffusers do not necessarily absorb sound, they scatter it. Much like a light diffuser in photography scatters light for more even coverage of the object being photographed, an audio diffuser scatters soundwaves evenly over it's rated bandwidth. They come in many shapes and sizes and are made of wood, styrofoam and MDF.

Bass Traps - Bass traps are more like low frequency absorbers. Often larger than standard absorbers, and also often shaped to be placed in corners where bass frequencies can build up. My advice is use effective speaker placement first, bass traps second.

Unconventional Room Treatments

Unconventional Passive treatments - Passive simply means unpowered. These devices use materials, mechanical resonance, or are activated by movement of air to absorb/scatter soundwaves.

Resonators - A perfect example of an unconventional passive acoustic treatment. Resonators are devices whose resonant properties enhance the spatial etc. aspects of the sonic presentation. This is nothing new. I've seen gold, silver, brass, platinum and copper resonators. I've seen these resonators take the form of small cups, bowls, and quasi-plate shapes. How they work is a bit of a mystery. But there is no doubt on their effects when placed carefully in a room. My take is that they resonate sympathetically to reflected sound, thereby cancelling the smearing effects of room. With cancellation there is more of the correct phase information reaching the ear, which in turn creates the effect of a larger soundstage.  Different metals have different resonant frequencies and therefore different bandwidths that they affect. In addition to the different metals, the way they are shaped and their thickness can also effect their properties. You can see that this can get rather complex rather quickly. This, coupled with the mystery of how they work exactly has kept them from the mainstream of audiophilia. But not from Tweek Geek. :)

The Dark Side - I didn't know what else to call these treatments. They are occasionally similar to the Active Unconventional Treatments, but are unpowered. Crystals, Pebbles, and other materials are sometimes used in raw form or suspended in epoxy, paint, or other mediums to affect sonics in a room. Strange things indeed whose effects can range from awful to glorious depending on their implementation and makeup.

Super Sonic Tonic consists of wooden cylinders filled with proprietary materials that are placed
strategically in the listening room. The net result is a wider soundstage, fuller, warmer, richer tone
and enhances low level resolution and phase coherance. Definitely a Dark Side room treatment.
Unconventional Active treatments - These are products that work on the room need power to work. Stein Harmonizers, Bybee Active Room Neutralizers, and Tweek Geek's forthcoming powered Super Sonic Tonic are prime examples of unconventional active room treatments. The Harmonizers claim to actually work on the air in the room, making it more pliable and viscous. Much like a bubbler in an olympic diving pool works, they put the air molecules in a state of momentum, thereby making them easier for soundwaves to propogate through. The proof however, is always in extended listening.


Using Copper As A Passive, Unconventional Room Treatment

If you have been reading my blog, you know that  I have been experimenting with copper and it's influence on room acoustics for quite some time. Experimenting with different shapes (bowls, cups, sheets and rods) as well as thickness of materials and gauges can produce a more spacious and dynamic sound presentation. Opening up the room so to speak. My extensive experimentation has lead me to find just the right diameter, purity, shape and process of copper that allows me to disperse the material across the room without over doing the effects. My past experiences have taught me that Too small a gauge/diameter of rod/wire and the sound can become too bright very quickly. Too large a diameter and the midrange can become harsh and thinned out. The copper rods that I use are 1/2" in diameter and are oxygen free. I polish them, then heat treat them for a beautiful visual effect. The last stage is to cover them with a clear lacquer to protect from further oxidation. They are beautiful to look at and really add to the listening experience.

I found that tiki torch stands make a perfect copper rod stand. One rod per stand holds the rod steady, and is light enough to allow me to move it around the room to find the right placement. Once I have the placement, I can then find a more permanent, aesthetically pleasing mounting solution for the rod.
The Tiki Torch Stand. $11 plus shipping.

Opening Up The Room
As mentioned in previous blogs, with the copper rods properly placed transparency is improved as well as the clarity of high frequencies. Micro and macrodynamics also improve. Vocal richness and midrange layering seem to be "de-veiled" as well. Musical decays, be they ambient caused by the recording venue, or electronic from reverb all seem to sustain longer and sound more 3D.

Placement
I start with placing one or two rods along the side walls a foot or so in front of the plane of the loudspeaker baffles.

Secondary is the wall behind the speakers.  I place one rod along the wall, centered behind the speakers. When you do this, two things happen. One, the center image is more focused. Two, the sense of depth that the speakers are producing also becomes greater. This effect increases with more rods.

Third, if not using Shakti Hallographs, I place them in the corners of the room behind the loudspeakers.

Mitigating "Room Boom"
The copper rods can also mitigate "room boom" to a degree. That midbass/midrange overloading of a room. For example: Your room is small to medium sized, and for aesthetic reasons you might not be able to place your speakers far enough from the sidewalls to get rid of a nasty speaker/room interaction. Placing one or more of the copper rods along the side wall and in front of the speakers can help to reduce the sense of too much bloom/boom. Another trick I use is simply playing some music with bass and walking close to the side walls, listening for the room nodes. I place rods along the wall where the bass energy seems strongest.

Copper rods with mounts, Stillpoints Apertures, Sonex Whisperwave absorbers, and Shakti Hallographs.

So far I have 4 rods along the wall behind the speakers, 1 each to the outside and just in front of each speaker, 1 each to the  side of the listening position and 2 more behind the listening position. The overall effect seems to be a more live, dynamic, more transparent and open sound. The system is now better at capturing nuance and texture as well as portraying those non musical elements that make reproduced sound appear more live.

Where to buy?

I get copper from onlinemetals.com  - Specifically I use the 101 oxygen free copper rod.  They are about $50 for a 4 foot 1/2" raw copper rod. I clean, polish, heat treat and clear coat them for use in my room. If you do not clear coat them, the finish will oxidize and become dull. My polishing and heat treatment makes each piece of copper a unique work of art.

The tiki torch holders are from a restaurant supply store for around $12 each. Not the best looking, but work well and won't tip over easily. Great for temporarily placing the rods until you find their best locations.

I am working on a stand that will make use of a rectangular vase (about 31" long x 6" wide x 16" tall) that I will fill with decorative stones and be able to place 1 to 4 rods in. This will be used on the side walls in my room. Pictures coming soon.

As for the wall mount holders, my machinist makes those for me and I can have them made upon request for $35 each.

It's my hope that some of you might be adventerous and curious enough to try the copper for yourself. For me it's another tool I can use to address acoustic issues in the listening space while being a bit artistic at the same time.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Dark Energy Cables: Redefining The Sweet Spot on the Value Curve


"In more specific audio 'tone' terms, I would say that with tinned-copper cables the timbre of instruments sounds much more accurate and 'real' to me, with lots of meaningful natural nuance resolved.
Tinned-copper cables also offer a rather remarkable resolution of tone color (those chordal variations resulting from adding additional pitches to three tone triads that give different styles of music their 'sound' and emotional feel), which I think jazz enthusiasts (like myself) should take particular note of, as jazz employs the extensive use of complex and exotic tone colors."- Jeff Day, PFO

The Value Curve

The expense of our hobby, like many others,  spans the pricing spectrum. You have the extremes, and then you have what I call the "Sweet Spot". This is where, in my opinion, you get near the highest performance but aren't paying the extreme prices. You are well outside the entry level of the hobby, but still are far away from the cost-no-object ultra performance products. 
My very non-scientific representation of the price to performance value curve for audio cables.

The Quest

The process of choosing the wire for our cables necessitated a long-term project. Wire, both raw wire and pre-jacketed off the spool wire were sampled over the course of 5 or more years. Our mission was to come to market with something that would engage the listener, and continue to provide an enjoyable musical experience over the long term. For this, a combination of musicality, dynamic realism, and resolution were the criterea. Too much of one variable over the other and the cable would always fail the long term listening tests.
The Dark Energy 14 power cable

The Wire

With the above goals in mind, we chose wire from Duelund as the foundation of our cables. Duelund wire is simple, and perhaps a bit counterintuitive in today's market of hyper pure copper/silver, complex geometries and exotic shielding methods.  On paper, those things look promising, but ultimately did not win out over the simple design of the Duelund wire. Jeff Day of Positive Feedback Online writes very comprehensively about the makup of the wire, and his impressions of it in his review titled "An Adventure in the Art of Tone with the Duelund Coherent Audio DCA Series of Tinned-Copper Cables, Part 1". 

"...these tinned-copper cables were also very satisfying in the way they portrayed the non-musical artifacts of the recording process, like imaging, the soundstage, the soundspace, resolution, and transparency, of a recording, which gave the music a reach out and touch it sort of realism that was very vivid, and viscerally enthralling. 
In fact, these tinned-copper cables changed the way I thought about the importance of the reproduction of non-musical artifacts from the recording process, and how they could enhance the enjoyment of the recorded music listening experience." - Jeff Day, PFO

The Cables

All Dark Energy series cables make use of Duelund wire in various gauges, premium connectors, and Sonic Tonic suspended in epoxy then molded to the vacant areas inside the connectors. Getting the Sonic Tonic as close to the wires as possible makes it much more effective, and also improves the durability of the connection, acting as an additional strain relief on the wires.

Speaker
The speaker wire is simple at it's essence. We found that three runs of 16 awg per + and - to be ideal. We use the Wireworld Uni-term terminations for their quality of materials, "do-no-harm" sonic qualities, and the best part: The ability to change the terminations to bananas or spades by the user on the fly. Essentially the body of the Uni-Term termination is a silver clad copper "socket" into which a spade or banana of the same material can simply screw in. Here at the Tweek Geek Cable Laboratory we treat the wire to socket junction with Sonic Tonic, and we also treat the socket to banana/spade junction with Furutech Nano Silver/Gold mixture for enhanced conductivity. The cables still ship with 8 spades and 8 banana terminations, so if your needs change, you can change the cable terminations to suit them.

Additionally, the aluminum barrel shaped + and - cable splitter on each speaker cable is filled with Sonic Tonic.
Dark Energy Speaker Cable

Interconnect
The RCA interconnect consists of  20awg Duelund tinned copper conductors with
KLEI connectors. Embedded inside the connectors is our Sonic Tonic in an epoxy mixture.

Power
There are 2 different power cords.  A high Current, and moderate current design. Both feature Sonic Tonic inside as well as rhodium plated copper connectors with a carbon fiber sleeved chrome plated copper shell. The High current is only for the highest current drawing components like large tube amplifiers, as the 14awg rated moderate current design is equipped to handle 15 amps of current.

The Dark Energy Value Curve

Here we see the Value curve again, but this time we have overlaid the cost of the Dark Energy cables vs. what we feel confident is their performance. 
Yes, this is a totally subjective curve, but it is based on over 20 years of evaluating hundreds of different brand name cables at all price levels. We've listened to a lot, but not all, cables over the years and this is our best evaluation. We are not in the business of disappointment, so understand our motivation is to give you good information, of course hoping you will try our cables and agree with our assessment. It's no fun for anyone making a sale and getting a subsequent return. 

With that in mind, we also offer in-home auditions of the Dark Energy cables.

Who are these cables for?

These cables are for the listener who is looking for the ease and flow of the music. You appreciate a wide and deep soundstage that wraps around and outside of the speakers. Dynamics and texture are important to you as well, as Jeff Day puts it the non-musical elements that make reproduction more musical. They excell with well made recordings in large halls, acoustic recordings, vocals, and electric guitar. The magic of the midrange are these cables' strengths.

You may find other cables have more extreme high frequency sparkle, but those cables tend to sound more mechanical and electronic in my opinion.

In conclusion, we feel that the Duelund/Dark Energy range of cables capture the magic that makes the reproduction of music more real, and more enjoyable for long term deep listening. Get in touch with us to Audition them today!




Friday, September 29, 2017

From Jack Bybee: Using the Bybee iQSE as a Room Treatment

The Bybee iQSE can be used inside/on top/below audio components, and
now on walls to enhance one's listening experience.

So I get an email from Jack Bybee today, it says:

"After much extermination on three distinctly different rooms, different electronics and speakers...we were able to come up a basic placement diagram for the iQSEs that results in a beautiful listening experience where all the walls, floor and ceiling virtually disappear.  I hope this diagram will help.


...Mike I hope you try this with the iQSEs because it creates a very unique listening experience.....very easy to set-up.  It does take about 30 minutes to reach full effect because the atmosphere in the listening needs to become active. If you try, please let me know your experience. "

My Experience

I had already been experimenting with Sonic Tonic in my room. I was getting ready to publish another blog post on my results using Sonic Tonic, ACTIVE Sonic Tonic (coming soon), Sonex Acoustic foam, Copper rods, and Shakti Hallographs. I have been getting beyond excellent results with the above combination. But I took Jack's advice. I removed my Sonic Tonic, replacing it with the Bybee iQSE's, and adjusting the placement to fit the diagram Jack Supplied.

The effect was a very immersive, involving listening experience. Odd, because I wouldn't think that a product designed to work inside a component would work in this application. However, after speaking with Jack at length, it turns out the magnets used in the iQSE allows it to be self activated. A stronger, external EM field will energize it even more, but place them in the room in the right location and there is a positive, audible effect.

I would say it is similar to the Stein Harmonizer system in that it expands the soundstage and allows for that sense of the venue space to be conveyed with more audibility. Midrange layering and tone are outstanding with the iQSE's in the room. This is their strongest attribute in my opinion. The Stein Harmonizers seemed to work best on higher frequencies. They sweetened the mid high/ high frequency region a bit more and a bit better.

What's best for you? I don't know. Overall I preferred the effect and the price of the Bybee iQSE setup in my rig when used with my system for treating a room (more on that later).