†† † † † the hi-end doctor
are you a music lover who owns a hi-end system?
Dear Audiophile, are you aware that your systemís performance (no matter its price and components) can be incredibly enhanced by a perfect setup? Just moving the speakers, your listening point, or introducing a very serious subwoofer in the right way, can make all the difference! You should know that more than 30% - 40% of the final sound of any system depends on the acoustics of your listening room and the setup of your system. If you upgrade from a casual (or wrong) setup, which unfortunately is the norm, to a perfect one, the change is always significant (many times tremendous), as though you have changed (for the best) your entire system! But, to achieve this result, the Audiophile needs to understand that something effective must be done. So, dear music and hi-fi lovers stop buying incredibly expensive (and absurd) accessories for the sake of tiny improvements (if any), and take the bull by the horns!
sound perfection is not correlated with the price
Have you ever read in a hi-fi magazine that some very expensive stuff is a joke and sounds consequently? The simple answer is NEVER, and this has to make you reflect, because it's very far away from reality! So, the naÔve Audiophiles, who read and trust hi-fi magazines, have been subliminally taught to believe in the existence of a putative hi-fi equation "the higher the price, the better the equipment and ... its sound". Well, I have auditioned many sound-systems that have cost from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, and, honestly, the only thing I can say is that Iím deeply sorry for the "poor" owners. With just a fraction of the money they have spent (actually, the correct term is "thrown away"), and an accurate system setup, they could be enjoying a far superior listening experience. So, stop believing that you have achieved the perfect sound just because you have spent a fortune: it could occur (by a fluke), but, in my experience, I cannot remember this happening!
are your speakers proportionate to the dimensions of the listening room?
As already said, the sound of two speakers is seriously modified by the dimensions, shape and contents of the room, plus their position and their dimensional match with the room. So, the result is that the same system, used in rooms with different dimensions and setups, produces different sounds. For this reason, when you buy speakers, the paramount thing to keep in mind is that they must match your listening room, so, my first recommendation (normally, blatantly disregarded) is to avoid buying huge speakers for small listening rooms and the second one is to understand that every system must be customized and tuned in its own room for the best possible frequency response, by a professional.
you could be an unwitting victim of "setup-crimes"
Visiting these Audiophiles, more than once I have discovered outrageous things as a result of the inexcusable inexperience of the staff at the hi-end "temples" who were charged with setting up and tuning the newly-bought, expensive system for best results. To help you grasp this, I'm going to use the two examples below.
About sixteen years ago I met a guy of incredible musical culture and, actually, I have to say that calling him just a music addicted would be a big understatement: classical music is an essential part of his life and soul, or better, his real religion. He misses only very few concerts around Auckland, and often travels overseas for a good one too! At that time, he had a system worth around $125K, with American speakers (as costly as a European car) made up of two quite big bass-cabinets and a separate, poly-directional unit for the mid-high, positioned on top of each bass-cabinet. The bass response coming from the two passive bass units (audaciously and disrespectfully called "subwoofers", by the manufacturer) was particularly strange and the spectrum analyser displayed an odd curve too, but characteristic of something I knew. So, I followed up on my hunch as to what the cause might be: I disconnected and removed the mid-high units and turned the bass-units upside-down, to check the connections (it seems that positioning the binding posts on the back panel, instead of underneath the heavy box, was beyond the humanity of the manufacturer!). As suspected, I found out that the guy who set the system up connected the two so called subs in opposite phase: just increeeeeedible! I fixed the mistake and the sound obviously improved, but, as soon as I gave the owner the chance to audition a pair of serious speakers, with real active subwoofers built in and at ten times less the cost, he was astonished. Being not a hi-fi lover, but a seeker of real sound, he didn't hesitate to replace not just the speakers, but everything necessary in the system, to achieve "the sound"! He trusted me blindly and was rewarded with the sound he's always dreamed of: he has also become one of my very few dearest friends!
This second example is a different story, and refers to a system worth around $250K, made up of slow and dull hi-end English electronics (first class "funeral" electronics, where each piece was as costly as the usual distinctive "sedan"), plus the same brand and model of speakers mentioned in the previous example. This time, the "professional" on duty, who had set the system up, positioned the speakers close to the back wall and, in addition, he didn't care at all about the listening point, which was in the very middle of the room. The obvious result was a disgusting, booming bass. So, just moving the speakers a metre forward and the listening point around two metres back, the spectrum analyser got happier and almost stopped pleading for mercy! The metamorphosis of the sound was evident, with a more acceptable bass range and better mid-high too. However, this time the owner didn't agree to replace part of the system and, even if I managed to improve the general performances of the system, it was impossible to achieve a perfect sound, for obvious reasons.
So, in sum, I think it's correct of me to point out that I always manage to improve the sound, but I cannot achieve "the sound", if the equipment at my disposal hasn't got the potential of doing so: sorry, but I don't perform miracles yet!
Anyway, these are only two examples of quite a widespread pathology (I have found a large variety of incorrect and funny setups and/or technical horrors round about), so, be aware that you too have more than a chance of finding yourself swimming in the same sea! For these reasons, to be sure that no "setup-crime" has been perpetrated against your system, I advise you to rely on the proven skill of someone highly qualified in this matter and equipped with a spectrum analyser. It's simply inexcusable that the staff of many hi-end "temples" are not able to, at the very least, set up their own hyper-expensive equipment for best results! This is one of the reasons I often call them "greengrocers".
a craftsman is as good as his tools and skill
In order to set up a subwoofer properly or just to position a pair of speakers for best results or to solve the usually ignored (but major) problem of the difference in sound between the left and right speaker, when positioned in places with different background layout (read what happens and how to mend this issue in the "school of sound" page), a spectrum analyser MUST be used. Its use is essential to determine the correct settings precisely and see what really happens when you change something or just move a speaker. This instrument is as important as the stethoscope is to a doctor, but the discouraging thing is that esoteric Audiophiles keep trusting ďdoctorsĒ (actually, "witch doctors"), without stethoscopes, who prescribe aspirin (yes, aspirin, but ... wrapped in golden foils) to cure a cancer! It is sad, but this is the plain reality of the hi-end audio market and it happens not just in NZ, but worldwide (exceptions are obviously possible).
I do not know of any shop, or esoteric "temple", in New Zealand that is equipped with a spectrum analyser, but I could be wrong. So, if anyone does have one and is also able to use it correctly, I would like to be informed, to add his and the shopís name to this page. However, I have to point up that it is not enough merely to own a spectrum analyser. You must know the correct way to use it, and you must also be able to interpret exactly what it tells you, as well as the correct steps to fix the problem shown. It takes many years of practice to develop this skill and, just to say, after 46 years of experience in hi-fi, and tuning systems, Iím amazed how often I still learn something new and sometimes it's incredible too!
here is where I can provide a very useful service
The knowledge I have gained so far guarantees excellent advice on what needs tuning, adjusting, adding, removing or replacing, to effectively improve the sound of your system. Ridiculously expensive accessories (aspirins in golden foils) produce very little result, and, even if it seems that almost everyone has forgotten it, remember that "the sound" is not a questionable religion - it is subject to the strict laws of physics and acoustics, always and without any exceptions!
So, I offer the benefit of my long experience to Audiophiles who are keen to improve the sound of their systems in simple and effective ways. You pay a very reasonable price for my services (much less than the cost of an esoteric accessory), and I accept payment only if you are totally happy with the greatly enhanced quality of sound from your audio system.
some may think my claims presumptuous
Reading this page (probably too much "Italian style", for the "politically correct" Kiwi) and ... considering the discouraging reality of the hi-end "gurus" around, you surely have more than a reason to be sceptical! So, to dispel any doubts, please visit the "testimonials" page and read the comments. If not enough, feel free to contact any Audiophile who appears on it, and ask for an opinion about my professionalism and skill.
However, if you contact me, you have absolutely nothing to lose, on the contrary!†