Vinyl Adikt Event – Saturday 26th April

Published on: March 20, 2014 @ 5:03 pm

Vinyl Adikt Event

 

Are you a vinyl adikt? Or do you want to learn more about the longest surviving music format?

Join us at our Vinyl Adikt event as we celebrate the LP, listening to Linn’s iconic Sondek LP12 turntable. You’ll discover the craftsmanship involved in engineering the world’s best record deck and experience the glory of vinyl music at its finest. You can even bring along some of your own favourite LPs on the day.

Linn Sondek LP12 turntables have been a key element in the range of equipment on offer at Chris Brooks Audio since it’s inception in 1978. Chris Brooks himself has been involved with setting up Linn Sondek LP12 turntables since 1976 and is widely acknowledged as being a leading expert in the field.

Chris still personally sets up all the new LP12s that we supply, as well as all the LP12s that are brought in to Chris Brooks Audio for servicing, updates and upgrades.

We are able to demonstrate a number of different LP12 combinations, ranging from entry level to the top of the range SE setup, complete with the Linn Kandid pick-up cartridge.

We take enormous pride in the level of performance that we are able to extract from the Linn Sondek LP12s that pass through our hands. Definitely vinyl reproduction at its best.

Chris Brooks Audio – Vinyl Adikts for over 35 years.

Please RSVP – Telephone 01925 261 212 or email

Linn Exakt System – Meet the Designer

Published on: March 20, 2014 @ 5:01 pm

Linn Exakt System

The Exakt System from Linn Products has generated huge interest from music enthusiasts, redefining as it does true high fidelity music reproduction in the home.

We’re delighted to announce that you’ll have the opportunity to meet and speak with Ian Wilson, Linn’s Senior Electronic Design Engineer and co-designer of the Linn Klmax 350 Exakt System at our premises in Gaskell Street, Stockton Heath. We’re running three separate technical sessions: 2:00 pm, 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm on Wednesday 23rd April.

In addition to hearing technical explanations of the design – in as much detail as you would like (or can cope with!) – we’ll be listening to a variety of music on the Linn Klimax 350 Exakt system and you are invited to bring along some of your own music, be it on vinyl, CD or memory stick and we shall be delighted to let you hear it in all its glory!

Please get in touch and let us know when you’re likely to turn up, if you’re able.

01925-261212

catherinet@chrisbrooksaudio.com

If you’re not sure, then by all means turn up unannounced and take pot luck.

We look forward to seeing you on the 23rd April.

Loudspeaker Positioning

Published on: March 7, 2014 @ 7:10 pm

It’s been suggested that the single most common flaw in people’s systems is the position of their loudspeakers – so I thought it could be useful to explain how we do it. It seems to work rather well…..

If your listening room is a regular rectangle, then as a starting point you would be well advised to download the following Room Mode Calculator spreadsheet:

Room Mode Calculator
 
Once you’ve entered the length, width and height of your room, this spreadsheet will tell you what the modes are that occur in your listening room. It’s then a very simple matter to use these results to position your loudspeakers where they are least likely to excite the room’s standing waves. Similarly, you can use this information to choose the optimal listening position in your room, subject to the usual domestic constraints!

The information from the spreadsheet will not provide you with absolutely optimal loudspeaker positions but it will, a) enable you to avoid the worst loudspeaker positions in the room and b) give you an excellent starting point from which to begin the optimisation process.

In order to fully optimise your loudspeaker positions, I’d strongly recommend that you read the section of our website entitled “How to Evaluate a Hi-Fi System”, since unless the concept of the “tune dem” is fully understood, the following technique for loudspeaker positioning isn’t going to get off the ground!

OK. – Begin with both loudspeakers positioned with their backs as close to the chosen wall of your listening room as you can get without any part of the loudspeaker, stand or indeed speaker lead making contact with the wall. For this part of the exercise, you do need to use whichever stand your loudspeaker requires but for the time being, the spikes on the base of the stand can be dispensed with. On a polished wooden floor, a section of carpet placed beneath the loudspeaker stand can facilitate small incremental movements of the loudspeaker and stand without damaging the floor in the process.

Do by the way use a tape measure for checking the amount you’ve moved. Don’t whatever you do just guess or approximate. You’d just be wasting your time.

Certain common sense considerations should be applied when positioning loudspeakers, e.g. very few loudspeakers will function to optimum in the corner of a room. If your pair of speakers is one of the very rare exceptions that is designed to operate in a corner, then you’ll probably be aware of it. If, like most loudspeakers, yours are not designed to work in a corner, then placing them in a corner will result in grossly exaggerated lower registers that smother the rest of the sound.

If your loudspeakers are too far apart, then you’ll experience a distinct left and right effect with a “hole” in the middle whereas if they’re too close together, that will result in an unrealistically narrow soundstage. A loose rule of thumb for the listener/speaker relationship is that they should form an equilateral triangle, so having the loudspeakers two feet apart when your listening position is twenty feet from the loudspeakers will probably not get you an optimised result unless you live in a drainpipe. – In other words, don’t waste time eliminating irrelevant options; some positions are obviously not going to work.

The first parameter to establish is the optimal distance for each loudspeaker from the side walls. Initially, keep the speaker positions symmetrical and move both loudspeakers by the same increment each time you make an adjustment. Try moving them out towards the side walls and also try moving them closer together. Gradually.

N.B. When comparing two different speaker positions, play a few bars of your chosen piece of music and then repeat before you move the speakers to position 2. The human brain will always make more sense of a passage of music at the second hearing, particularly under these conditions, so it’s absolutely crucial to listen to position 1 twice, then move the speakers to position 2 and listen to the same short passage of music again to draw a comparison.

Using the tune dem technique, quite simply listen to the results from position 1 and then decide whether you can more or less easily discern the melodic thread/threads in the music when the speakers are moved to position 2. – Don’t fall into the trap of making subjective “tonal” judgements about the music; forget the imaging; ignore all the “detailed midband, tight controlled bass” guff and just focus on the melodies. You’re not going to get the optimum result at position 2. – More likely you’ll get it somewhere north of position 42 or beyond so relax and go with the flow. At this stage, you’re looking for better or worse, not perfect. It’s that simple. Keep it that way.

As regards music, use whatever floats your boat. Personally, for these purposes I prefer to use relatively simple acoustic music with clear melodies or a piece of classical music with loads of counterpoint. Try “The Arrival of The Queen of Sheba” or maybe the Adagio from Beethoven’s 5th piano concerto. That sort of thing makes the differences (better or worse) really obvious.

What you’re really doing with this technique is “zeroing in” on the optimal position. Start off with fairly large movements, say 200 – 400mm just to get your bearings. If you really “get into the zone” with this technique, you’ll finish up being able to discern differences of 10mm or less. Honest! If you make a change and struggle to immediately decide which is better, try making a bigger change in one direction till you get your bearings again.

Once you’ve established the optimum distance from the side walls to your own satisfaction, then establish the optimum distance from the wall behind the speakers by moving them away from the wall incrementally, as per the method for establishing the side to side position, until you’ve established the ideal distance. Quite simply, keep coming away from the wall in small increments until, using the tune dem technique, you can hear that it’s stopped getting better and started getting worse. Then revert to the previous position – hopefully the optimal distance from the wall – and stop.

At this stage I would recommend that you re-fit the loudspeaker stands’ spikes and level and stabilise the speakers, (absolutely, totally stable – it’s critical).

You will probably find that a degree of “toe in” may help too. The amount you’ll require is affected by (among many other things) the room’s proportions, the room’s reflective characteristics but primarily, by the extent to which the speakers are what I’d describe as phase coherent. – Whatever. Who cares why? Just apply the tune dem technique and make a decision. The best way to execute this part of the process is to rotate the loudspeaker using the front outside spike of the loudspeaker stand as the pivotal point.

It’s unlikely that you’ll need more than 10 – 20 mm of toe-in. You may need none. You may need more. Trust your ears.

Check the speakers are still absolutely stable. They may well need a small amount of adjustment after the last position change. Then take a break and listen to some music. – If it doesn’t sound considerably better (more realistic) than it did before you started, well at least you got some exercise!

The above is a first draft/work in progress btw. It will alter and hopefully improve. I haven’t gone into any detail about asymmetric, non rectangular rooms; the principle’s the same but you have to take things a bit further. In the meantime, any constructive comment might be gratefully received.

© Chris Brooks Audio Ltd – March 2014

Linn Lounge presents…Pink Floyd – Thursday 13th March 7:00

Published on: February 25, 2014 @ 2:04 pm

Pink-Floyd-Web-graphic

Following on from our very well received “Linn Lounge presents…. The Doors”, we’re pleased to announce our next event, “Linn Lounge presents…. Pink Floyd” on Thursday 13th March at 7:00 pm. when we’ll be listening to one of the world’s most famous rock bands, played in the highest quality available – on our increasingly famous Linn Klimax 350 Exakt system, in Studio Master quality.

You’ll experience the inner depths of Pink Floyd’s strangely psychedelic and conceptual style, discovering hidden delights in their mind-bending mix of science fiction and social commentary.

Our staff will be on hand to answer any of your questions and a selection of snacks and drinks will be available to keep you refreshed.

Our Linn Lounge events give you the chance to hear iconic artists on a Linn Klimax Exakt system while enjoying a deeper insight into their lives and motivations and you’ll also get the chance to hear some of your own favourite artists on our superb Klimax Exakt system.

R.S.V.P. as places are limited. Thanks.   01925-261212   chrisb@chrisbrooksaudio.com

How to Evaluate a Hi-Fi System

Published on: February 18, 2014 @ 1:35 pm

I recently had a conversation with someone whose method of choosing Hi-Fi equipment struck me as being dangerously random. It put me in mind of an article I wrote some years ago relating to how to evaluate a Hi-Fi system. It was written in response to a magazine article about the divergence of approach between different Hi-Fi manufacturers.

I hope it may be of use or interest to someone out there, so here it is:

 

HOW TO EVALUATE A HI-FI SYSTEM

The idea that anyone should feel the phrase “High fidelity” is open to interpretation bothers me a bit. Surely it’s self-explanatory: high fidelity – as in a high degree of fidelity to the original; as in departing from the original as little as possible, etc., etc…

The question “Why else is there such confusing diversity of product on the home hi-fi and professional markets?” was presumably intended to be rhetorical. Rhetorical or not, I’d like to try and answer it.

Maybe some people are better at it than others? Maybe the plethora of hi-fi equipment on the market isn’t equally good yet somehow mysteriously different? Maybe some people are getting it wrong?

Consider the possibility that high-fidelity does in fact mean precisely what it says. That then begs the question, what is the original and what did it sound like anyway?

Evidently, for hi-fi purposes the original is the recording, be it good, bad or indifferent. The most one could ever attain is an exact replica of what was recorded. One cannot possibly go beyond the recording and reproduce parts of the performance that weren’t recorded in the first place, ‘cos they aren’t there to reproduce! In truth, all we have to work with is what the engineers managed to get onto the disc, tape, hard drive or whatever.

When choosing a hi-fi component, all that’s required therefore is an evaluation of which of the components within one’s grasp best does the job for which it was intended, i.e. faithfully reproduces a recording.

Unfortunately this seems to be where the confusion starts in earnest, largely because a lot of people are uncertain how to evaluate a hi-fi system, beyond the inspired guesswork approach.

One aspect of the problem is that the list of things you don’t know about what’s on a recording is endless. I mean KNOW. You may have heard a given recording a million times. What you know about that recording is based entirely on what your existing system allows you to hear and since no system on earth can reproduce 100% of the information on a recording 100% accurately, your knowledge of that recording MUST be imperfect.

You may be a very accomplished musician yourself and know a great deal about a particular instrument. That being the case, you would also know that if five different people played the same piece of music on the same instrument in the same room, it would sound different each time.

You may have attended a live recording session. There are many aspects of the performance which will inevitably have been altered by the time it arrives on the tape or hard drive, by virtue of the recording process itself. The recording by definition MUST differ from the original performance.

The more you try to bring your experience of music, live or recorded, to bear on the process of evaluating a hi-fi component, the more you introduce preconceptions, expectations which have no basis in fact and a lack of objectivity. The real danger is that you can easily, using a purely subjective approach, arrive at a system which happens to produce an effect coincident with your expectations of one recording, only to find that every other recording sounds awful or at least at variance with what you hoped for or expected. The logical result of this approach is a different system for each recording in your collection and that way lies madness.

However, the concept of gauging how easily you can follow the tune as a means of comparing the relative merits of different pieces of hi-fi equipment gets around these pitfalls.

Trying to follow the tune is certainly used to great effect as part of a design approach which, in the case of a company such as Linn Products, also incorporates the application of a massive array of technical resources, as any visitor to the factory will testify.

However, the greatest benefit of the “tune dem.” from my viewpoint as a specialist retailer is that it provides both ourselves and our customers with an objective yardstick whereby we can evaluate the relative performance levels of different products.

It’s hard to find a flaw in the logic IF the concept is fully understood. No-one to my knowledge has ever suggested that being able to discern a recognisable tune is the ONLY thing that matters but it’s certainly a vital prerequisite of faithful musical reproduction.

In order to get your head around the concept, pause and reflect on what we’re trying to achieve. Music isn’t some nebulous concept; it’s a very specific type of sound which is capable of triggering massive emotional responses in humans. This doesn’t happen by accident. What constitutes music CAN be quantified and it IS possible, if you have a clear idea of the objective, to tell that one component is better than another as opposed to just different, with a fair degree of certainty.

 

Consider these accepted definitions for a moment:

Tune – a melody with or without harmony.

Melody – an arrangement of single notes in musically expressive succession.

Note – a single tone of definite pitch made by musical instrument, voice etc..

A TUNE – an arrangement of single tones of definite pitch made by musical instrument, voice etc. in musically expressive succession, with or without harmony.

 

The object of the whole exercise is to trigger the emotional responses music is capable of producing. In order to do that, it must do what music does, i.e. have a structure, both rhythmic and melodic. This applies to all music. If in doubt, have a listen to Penderecki’s “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima” on anything other than a system that can clearly portray the melodies and you’ll hear a stunning piece of music being reduced to unintelligible drivel.

It is eminently possible to discern WHEN an instrument is playing and to an extent what that instrument is from its rhythm alone, without necessarily being able to easily determine WHAT it is playing in terms of a tune.

An analogy – One might well be able to discern THAT a conversation is taking place, WHERE it is taking place, HOW MANY participants there are, HOW LOUDLY it is being conducted, possibly HOW OLD and WHICH SEX the participants are and yet still not be able to decipher WHAT is being said. i.e. the message is not getting across.

The vehicle for the message in music is the tune. No tune, no message, at least, certainly not the one that the composer intended. If a system is able to communicate the structure of a piece of music effortlessly, it is eminently more likely that you will be able to appreciate all the nuances and emotion in the music than if, on a subconscious level, you are struggling to discern what on earth is being played.

Consider the alternatives the hi-fi industry offers its customers:

“Does it get your foot tapping?”

“Do the musicians sound as if they’re enjoying themselves?”

“Does it achieve a good, spacious depth of image?”

“Is the bass tight and controlled?”

“Are the spaces between the notes pools of inky blackness?” sic. etc, etc…

 

How on earth does anyone reckon to know how tight the bass was?

How much of the recording venue’s ambience was captured in the first place?

How do you record ambience?

How do you record the spaces between the notes?

The inevitable result of this oft used approach is review after review which reads more like a critique of a recording than an evaluation of a given component’s ability to reproduce that recording accurately.

While every reviewer I’ve met trots out the defence that their magazine only publishes “opinions”; that one should never buy a piece of equipment without auditioning it and that ultimately you have to make your buying decision based on “what your own ears tell you”, I am certain that without exception, every reviewer is aware of the extent to which a high proportion of their readers consider reviews to be objective, comprehensive, expert evaluations and as such, take them as gospel. Magazines can hardly claim to be trying to dispel this myth with captions like “The Best on Test – 300 hi-fi verdicts” on their front covers.

A further slightly bizarre twist to this that I’ve come across is that a lot of customers seem deeply puzzled when one reviewer contradicts another. Somebody even asked me once how he could reconcile two utterly contradictory reviews of the same product. It simply hadn’t occurred to him that either of them could possibly be wrong.

The usual conclusion the poor reader draws therefore is that there are no absolutes,  it’s all highly subjective and if the “experts” can’t agree, how can a mere mortal be expected to hear the difference and decide which is better?

Result – total chaos, a lot of very confused people spending their money on unsatisfactory equipment and a lot of very valid, honest designs being overlooked in the confusion.

The concept of evaluating the ease with which one can follow the tunes in a piece of reproduced music should not be dismissed as one man’s clever sales ploy or as just another industry fad. I would suggest it’s actually an eminently sensible and utterly scientific approach. You may also find on further investigation that it enables you to verify all sorts of conclusions that you may well have arrived at yourself, albeit by different methods.

© Chris Brooks January 2001

 

So next time you’re looking to upgrade your Hi-Fi, give it a try. It just might save you a load of time, grief and even money!

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