On March 29, Reference Recordings will hold the first-ever public demo of their new hi-rez, HRx data discs. These HRx DVD-Rs contain WAV files intended for playback on computer-based music servers. Each HRx is a digit-for-digit copy of an original Reference Recordings 24-bit/176.4kHz digital master. According to Reference Recordings’ legendary audio designer and engineer “Prof.” Keith O. Johnson, who co-developed the HDCD process and has received seven Grammy nominations for Best Engineered Album, the files allow consumers to hear for the first time all the information on the company’s universally praised master recordings.
It just so happens that I have more than a slight stake in this demo. Sponsored by the Bay Area Audiophile Society, it’s going to be held at our house in Oakland’s barrio. And it’s so popular that, within a few days after sign-up began, all seats at two back-to-back sessions have already been claimed by 32 BAAS members and significant others. At least nine folks are on the waiting list.
Not only will the demo be held at Casa Bellecci-Serinus, but it will also make use of my Nordost Valhalla cabling, Nordost Thor power distribution center, and most probably the VTL 450 W tubed monoblock prototypes and Eggleston Works the Nine speakers. Reference Recordings will supply the computer playback source, and the folks at Berkeley Audio Design Associates will bring their new Alpha DAC, which can decode HDCD. I’m not sure at this point if we’ll need to use my Theta Gen. VIII as a preamp. I’ll find out next Wednesday, when the RR folks come over to scope out my room and system and strategize how to run the demo.
While I can’t control the ghetto madness that goes on beyond our walls, I want to do all I can to make this demo a success. Hence, I’ve been spending a lot of time fine-tuning my system and room. Lord knows it has been enlightening.
One area I’ve examined is equipment supports. For quite some time I’ve used Ganymede ball bearing supports exclusively. Maybe four months ago, however, when I removed my very alive Talon Khorus X speakers and replaced them with the review pair of Eggleston Works the Nines, I discovered that the Ganymedes were no longer an ideal match for my rack. (When you’re dealing with finely tuned equipment with many variables, that’s how it goes sometimes). For a few months I used my old standby, brass cones. They were okay, as it went, but would never win any gold stars in the air department.
Happily, Allen Perkins of Immedia loaned me a few sets of Cerupucs about a month ago. These award-winning supports also incorporate a ball-bearing, but are far more rigid than the Ganymedes. Immediate result: more air and clarity, and far less worry about things shooting off the rack in the event of an earthquake.
While the Cerupucs can accept a speaker spike, and can thus be placed under speakers to provide further isolation from floor-borne vibration, I do not have enoughloaners to use under both speakers and equipment. Hence I’ve stuck with Ganymedes under my speakers. And that’s where the problems begin.
The great thing about ball-bearing isolation under speakers is that, in my experience, it prevents two-way transfer of muddying vibrations while noticeably increasing air and depth. One challenge involves balancing heavy speakers on very moveable supports without either dropping them on your foot or having them crash to the floor. The other challenge is getting their positioning just right.
Positioning is critical for many speakers. Toeing a speaker in just a fraction can make a big difference. In my case, even slightly increased toe-in in the Eggleston Works the Nine has had a profound impact on treble clarity and definition.
Toe the babies in a bit more, and a fine, silvery line appears on Karita Mattila’s voice. Violins take on extra dimension and clarity. While just comparing, for Muso in the UK, Hilary Hahn’s new recording of Sibelius’ Violin Concerto with Jascha Heifetz’s famed Living Stereo hybrid SACD reissue, that little bit of toe-in makes it easier to hear differences in size and tone.
Of course, not many of us have sufficient patience and composure to spend hours upon hours moving speakers about on sliders, let alone enough to get a speaker to follow the path of a ball-bearing support when the floor tilts ever so slightly in the wrong direction. Spend too much time on this, and begins to hear loony tunes in one’s head, unfortunately in a different key than what may be playing at the moment.
Thus, many of us turn to bass management and room correction devices. More and more of these are being reviewed and profiled, with some calling them an essential component for good sound. But the most sophisticated and transparent of those devices – the ones that correct for numerous room- and speaker-induced anomalies, and do not introduce a sonic signature of their own – are extremely expensive. Plus, they demand extra cabling.
Unless you’ve got the dough, pushing those speakers around ‘til you get it right is a good way to go. Using sliders makes things a whole lot easier. Once you’ve got them in the best position you can find, installing spikes or other supports that are hopefully more stable than my “‘til death do us part which could come quite soon if one of my speakers ever comes crashing down and either makes a hole in the floor or lands on my big toe” Ganymedes.
I may have to buy myself some Cerupucs.