May/June 2003 Volume 2 Issue 3 Recent and Upcoming Events June 3-9, 2003 Stereophile Show San Francisco, CA Wilson Audio will be showing with VTL & Transparent Audio April 22-23, 2003 Innovative Audio New York City WATT/Puppy 7 and Sales Training with Peter McGrath April 23-24, 2003 Aurant Salt Lake City, UT Open House for Invited Guests with John Giolas and Dave & Sheryl Wilson June 16, 2003 Audio Centre Montreal, Canada Dave & Sheryl Wilson and Peter McGrath meet with specially invited guests. Excerpted with permission from Hi-Fi News March 2001 Room Acoustics with Attitude By Keith Howard With so many dealers moving into the “acoustical design” of listening rooms and home theaters, it has become more and more critical for dealers and custom installers to gain genuine insight and understanding of room accoustics. We have observed a trend toward overdamped, overly absorptive rooms designed and installed by “professional acousticians.” These type of rooms are adverse to both music reproduction and theater sound. Simply stated, most “purposebuilt” rooms sound bad. Conversely, properly designed and executed rooms can beneﬁt your client by adding enjoyment to his/her audio/video investment. We also believe that treating the client’s room and home as an adversary in the sales approach (in an effort, perhaps, to sell more acoustical products) can be counterproductive to closing the system sale. Here is an article by Keith Howard, ﬁrst published in Hi Fi News, that gives some very good practical insight into room treatment. –John Giolas “I can’t pinpoint when or how, but at some time in the recent history of the audio industry it became received wisdom that the listening room is the last remaining barrier to true high ﬁdelity sound. “In response to a 1959 paper on the subject of talks studio and listening room acoustics in broadcasting, he (James Moir) observed: ‘…in my view, if a room requires extensive treatment for stereophonic listening there is something wrong with the stereophonic equipment or recording. The better the reproduction system, the less trouble we have with room acoustics.’ “How true. To this day, supposed room acoustics problems continue to dematerialize when system improvements are made, which strongly suggests that those problems truly attributable to the room cannot be so fundamental as ‘the last great barrier’ contention suggests. “This is reinforced by the second observation: that DSP room correctors, for all the extravagant claims made of them, have failed to set the audio world on ﬁre.... “Third, some of the worst listening rooms I have ever experienced have been purposedesigned, often at great expense, by acoustics consultants.... “Fourth and last, most music – live or reproduced – actually sounds better indoors than out.... In other words, rooms are essentially good for music reproduction, not bad – a positive attitude I far prefer to the doom and gloom (should that be boom and gloom?) alternative. The room is an inherently good thing, let’s make it better; not, ‘the room is bad, let’s try to write it out of the script’. “So much for the manifesto, what does it mean in practice? That I consider there is little that can be done to improve a room? No, but my prescription for improvement is rather different to those you may have read elsewhere.... “Unsurprisingly, listening room acoustics has been the subject of considerable research, not least by the redoubtable Floyd Toole and within the Eureka Archimedes project, partially funded by KEF. The authors of these and other papers on the topic will, I hope, excuse me if I characterize their work as being of little practical use in deciding what if any acoustical treatment to apply to a given listening room. “In the conclusion of his paper, for example, Floyd Toole admits, ‘A little knowledge of room acoustics, and some reliable technical data on the loudspeakers can help to avoid the worst problems, but selecting the options for maximum satisfaction may be difﬁcult. A major problem is that recordings present something of a moving target.’ Elsewhere in the same paper, on the subject of side wall reﬂections, he writes, ‘…the lateral reﬂection zone is a critical one. If the loudspeaker behaves like the example in Fig 29 [a studio monitor with poor off-axis performance], timbral considerations alone demand absorption, and the result is a ‘dead end’… however, with a loudspeaker like the one in Fig 28 [a model with (Continued as Room Acoustics on pg. Page 2 Room Acoustics (Cont. from pg. well maintained off-axis response] there is a choice. With reﬂecting or diffusing surfaces, the sense of spaciousness is substantially enhanced. With absorbing surfaces, the sense of space is restricted to that which can be conveyed by the two loudspeakers.’ “...it is entirely reasonable of Toole to suggest that optimum room acoustic treatment will depend on the characteristics of the loudspeaker. He might have added that it will also depend on the preferences of the listener...but even if I lever myself into a less partial position I believe the idea of applying absorbents to side walls is fundamentally wrong-headed. “It’s something you can easily try for yourself, without going to the expense of buying specialist absorbents or the trouble of making major changes to your room. Some heavy drapes, a couple of duvets – any thick soft furnishings will do for experimental purposes. Try hanging them on the side walls of your listening room, around the position where the side wall reﬂection from each speaker originates. “...What you should hear with the absorbent in place, as Floyd Toole describes, is a narrowing of the stereo image. What you may also note, which Toole doesn’t allude to but which is at least as important, is a disconcerting ﬂattening of dynamics and a general dulling and emasculation of the sound, typical of what you hear in acoustically dead rooms....What you have done is interfere with the lateral early reﬂections from the side walls, the consequences of which are invariably bad news in my experience, no matter what loudspeakers are involved. “...(See Table 1) The feature to note is that the foam is highly frequencyselective in its absorbing power, doing little to attenuate the reflected sound at low frequencies and much more at high frequencies – a characteristic shared by all boundary absorbers that work by increasing the friction experienced by the vibrating air molecules. “This means that the absorbent doesn’t suppress the reﬂection so much as skew its frequency content. High frequencies are preferentially absorbed, so that the reﬂected sound becomes bass heavy/treble light compared to what it would be were the absorbent not there. As most loudspeakers have frequency-dependent directionality, in which their output is restricted to progressively narrower angles about the forward axis as frequency rises, the sidewall reﬂection is already lacking in treble and so the absorbent acts to compound the existing spectral disparity between the sound that reaches the listener’s ears direct and that which is reﬂected via the side wall. “...It is a bad idea to exacerbate the disparity which already exists between the spectra of direct and reﬂected sound due to speaker directivity. It threatens to defocus the stereo image (due to the apparent position of the loudspeakers varying with frequency) and to bleed life from the sound as a result of dulling the overall tonal balance. These effects can be clearly heard when absorbents are used to suppress early reﬂections, and I deprecate the practice because of it.... “None of this should be interpreted as meaning that I’m against sound absorption per se. Although I’d always rather listen to music in a room that inclines to being too live than one which has had the sparkle damped out of it, I certainly don’t enjoy the aggressive jumble of sound that characterises an overly live room when the music becomes loud and complex. It’s where you put the absorbent in a room which concerns me. “One of the more extreme approaches to acoustic treatment developed in the past 20 years is the so-called live end, dead end (LEDE) concept. As the name indicates, one end of the room is reﬂective and the other is highly damped, the intention being to surround the speakers with absorbent surfaces to suppress early reﬂections. If you’ve been following me thus far you’ll appreciate that this doesn’t square at all with my thinking on the subject, which is to keep absorbents away from places where they will distort the spectra of early reﬂections. “LEDE was, in any case, a design approach conceived with the particular needs of the studio control room in mind, which don’t necessarily carry over to a domestic listening environment. What I’d advocate is more of a live bottom, dead top (LBDT?) approach, where the reverberant sound in the room is controlled by absorbents placed above the seated listener’s ear level. As I write I’m currently in the process of redecorating and refurbishing what will be the listening room in my new house, which will be conﬁgured this way. Panels of RPG’s superior ProFoam absorbent (available from Acoustic GRG Products in the UK, telephone 01303 230944) will be placed high (Continued as Room Acoustics on page 3) (Fig. 1) A typical LEDE (live end, dead end) control room layout. Boundary absorbent (shaded) is deployed throughout the end of the room in which the monitors are situated, to suppress early reﬂections. Surfaces in the remainder of the room are reﬂective. Page 3 Room Acoustics (Cont. from pg. up on the front, side and back walls, each facing an area of bare wall opposite (See Fig. 2). In this way the average absorption along each axis of the room will be kept roughly equivalent, the ﬁtted carpet and its underlay taking care of the vertical direction (with some low frequency contribution from the suspended ﬂoor) and the glass of the bay window helping out along the length of the room. “ . . . M a n f r e d S c h r o e d e r, w h o revolutionised diffusor design with his invention of diffusors based on number theory (primitive root and quadratic residue diffusors), deployed his creations principally on the ceilings of modern concert halls, the intention being to reduce the dominance of the ceiling reﬂection and restore greater influence to the weakened side wall reﬂections.... “If diffusors are to be used anywhere in a listening room it should surely be with an eye to Schroeder’s original motivation which was to suppress ‘mono’ reﬂections and encourage the ‘stereo’ ones. On that basis the rightful place for diffusors must be the walls behind the speakers and behind the listener - not the side walls - since these are where the more ‘mono’ reﬂections originate (See Fig. 3). “But do bear in mind that all such ‘rules’, whoever espouses them, are for the adherence of fools and the guidance of the wise. You won’t ﬁnd me arguing with the maxim: if it sounds right, it is right. However you achieve it.” Fig. 3 Spatial distribution of early reﬂections in a rectangular listening room. Solid rectangles are the loudspeakers; Color-coded open rectangles represent their images in the side, end and rear walls (the last brought to the front for clarity). Note how the reﬂections from the end and rear walls subtend a narrower angle at the listening position than the speakers themselves, so they are more ‘mono’ than the direct sound. Only sidewall reﬂections act to increase interaural disparity, which is why they help conserve a sense of spaciousness. Fig. 2 Live bottom, dead top approach preferred by the author. Here the absorbent panels (red rectangles) are all positioned above the seated listener’s ear. From Grandpa to COO: Contrasts, but not Contradictions by Sherri Burge With white hair and an easy smile reminiscent of Santa Claus, Howard Van Orman chuckles as he hunts Easter eggs with several of his nine grandchildren. Perhaps it would surprise his grandkids to know that their soft-spoken, easy-going grandpa once worked for Deloitte Touche, one of the “Big 6” international CPA ﬁrms, or for a division of Baker Hughes, which was voted in the top five best managed companies in the USA. Howard has successfully applied some of those strong family values his six children grew up with as he manages many of the day to day decisions he makes as Wilson Audio’s COO. Perhaps this is most easily seen in his emphasis on treating dealers as partners and seeking to maintain long-term business relationships. The seeming contradiction in Howard’s somewhat laid-back demeanor is that his career has shown him to be plenty capable of taking off the gloves when necessary. He’s not afraid to do what it takes to protect the company and readily acknowledges that, “Cash ﬂow is the name of the game.” When Howard’s not in the office managing money, he enjoys traveling, especially in Europe, and has been all over the world. However, Howard’s not afraid to lay aside his frequent ﬂyer miles to put one foot in front of the other. He’s pounded the pavement to complete 10 marathons and hopes to do at least one more. Far different from the solitary miles of training, Howard and his wife love attending the Shakespeare Festival, which brings thousands of people to southern Utah each summer. One might guess that a person who enjoys Shakespeare and lists Phantom as among his favorite plays would spend his leisure time listening to classical music, but Howard is just as likely to be letting down his hair with some Pink Floyd. A study in contrasts? Perhaps, but Howard would just claim he’s got a diversiﬁed portfolio. Page 4 Translated from image hi-ﬁ (Germany) March 2003 “Speaker Test: Wilson Audio WATT/Puppy System 7” by Dirk Sommer X-2 Alexandria watches as Dave Wilson speaks with Micael Wolke April 23 in an Aurant showroom. The event was the ﬁrst public showing of the Alexandria enclosure. Sneak Preview : X-2 Alexandria “After two more well-known songs - Jacintha’s ‘In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning’ and Jona Helborg’s version of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Little Wing,’ it is clear to me that the Wilsons are among the best speakers I have ever played in my room. But they are not just fun. You know immediately, that they are outstanding tools for judging components and recorders. They produce almost no sound of their own, but reproduce what is fed into their clips, without coloration or improvement.” ... Of Eberhard Weber’s solo bass album Pendulum, Sommer writes, “Try as I might, I cannot remember ever to have heard the electric double-bass so differentiated, impressive and explosive. For the title piece of the CD, the WATT/Puppys are brilliant in reproducing the melodically ﬂowing lines, rumbling bow sounds and rhythmical slides with their coarse and ﬁne dynamic capabilities.” ... “Neither major electronic systems nor huge living spaces are needed in order to enjoy music at its ﬁnest. The WATT/Puppys can magically create, even in a room of only 20 square meters, the illusion of a concert hall, a stadium or a Jazz-Keller (‘jazz club’). Even at high sound volumes, 100 watts is completely adequate. And the extremely moderate dimensions of the system should make them completely acceptable to your partner. Unfortunately, all of that has its price, which may appear to be too high based on a glance at just the volume of the speakers. Workmanship, use of materials, tonal potential and - at least for me - the bass, justify it in any case. Caution: Listening to the Wilsons is addictive.” X-2 Alexandria - The Speaker with a Heart Page 5 X-2 Alexandria was named in honor of the daughter of a former Wilson Audio employee. Steve Portocarrero worked in sales and marketing and died in 1999 as a result of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, leaving behind his wife and his young daughter, Alexandra. In conjunction with our desire to pay tribute to our fond memories of Steve, we have named our new ﬂagship speaker after Alex. The name “Alexandria” has additional meaning to us. The great library of Alexandria was a repository for the collective wisdom of the ancient world. Similarly, everything Wilson Audio has learned over three decades of speaker design is now contained in Alexandria X-2. Page 6 Salesman Mark Platt of Soundex in Willowgrove, PA, is the ﬁrst recipient of a Wilson Audio product during the current sales promotional. The program, available to US dealers and their staff, runs until September 1, 2004. Contact John Giolas or Peter McGrath for futher details. Cashmere Beige WATT/Puppy 7s with Parchment Gray grilles are on display at Music Lovers Audio & Video. Music Lovers is located in Berkley, CA and became part of the Wilson team of dealers in March 2003. Don’s Hi Fidelity of Amarillo, Texas, features black WATT/Puppy 7s and a black WATCH Dog. Don’s Hi-Fi hosted an open house in March. Local radio, newspaper and television covered the event, which was very well attended.
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