It was at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas 2006 that Audiophilia publisher Anthony Kershaw and I first met. I was exhibiting the Musina loudspeaker system, which I had designed. We had time to talk, listen, and enjoy dinner and wines. The friendship that started there has continued and blossomed as I began to write for the magazine.
It seems we had connected as people, and most of all in our interest in music and reproducing it as naturally as possible. So, when he heard I was working on something new, Anthony was excited. He anticipating hearing my latest design when we met at this year’s ‘audiophiliacamp’. Unfortunately, it was not ready for the meetup. When he wrote about it in the #audiophiliacamp article, I thought it might be a good idea to let Anthony and our readers read about the process involved in designing an audiophile quality loudspeaker.
Creating a truly audiophile sound system is an art that involves many factors, including the room, amplification system, sources, connecting cables, power source and conditioning. But, most audiophiles will tell you that the most important part of the system, the one that will have the most influence on the quality of sound, is the loudspeaker.
I have been building loudspeakers since I was a teenager living in the Bronx, NY, where, on a very tight budget (nearly nothing), I built my first system using parts from stereo systems other people had thrown away. My interest in speaker design grew, I studied, and, eventually founded the first of my three loudspeaker companies, Pentagram.
Audiophile loudspeaker design is a melding of science and art. While there are now great tools such as the CLIO system I use for component parameter measurement and tuning, or the DEQX system, which gives feedback on the sonic character of the full design in use, it is still very much an art where listening is the most important part. Looking at graphs of frequency response, group delay, phase response, and impulse response, can only give a window into what I am hearing, or suggest a direction to look into for getting the sonic characteristics I want. The balance is done by listening, listening, and even more listening.
Through the years I have developed a method to this madness. First, I use a group of recordings that have characteristics challenging a loudspeaker’s performance in various parameters, and then I graph the response and look at the pertinent parameters to give me direction in how to get to what I want to achieve.
My last design was the Musina system, a three way design which incorporated the DEQX system [swoon! - Ed]. It was designed to use the DEQX electronic crossover and equalization system. As such, it was digital and triamplified. The results were excellent sonically, but the fact that it was digital in nature and needed to be triamplified did not fit into the nature of many audiophile systems. Many of us like to listen to pure analog sound, also, the need for three stereo amplifiers did not allow for the speakers to be easily incorporated in an existing system.
I was challenged by several friends and fellow audiophiles, ‘Why can’t you design an audiophile level loudspeaker without the need for the DEQX system.’ The DEQX is a very useful tool. It includes an excellent digital to analog converter, superb automatic equalization, phase and timing control, and room EQ.
But, after thinking it over for a while, I realized that I now have even better tools to design to the state of the art. Also, component designers have made major design advancements recently, and several new manufacturers have entered the market challenging the great old names.
So, challenge accepted! I will design an audiophile quality loudspeaker that will sound great with or without the DEQX, and can be used with one amplifier, bi-amplified, or tri-amplified, with passive or active crossovers.
Next, Designing an Audiophile Loudspeaker, Part II; The Concept creating the form and design philosophy.