From the desk of the Audio Curmudgeon
by Jon D. VonOhlsen

"No it doesn't sound any better even with those %@#&%^ inter-connects that cost me $1600." Sometimes when listening I want a portal to the performer; an uncolored, dynamic sonic view of the fingers on the frets, the breaths between vocal effort. I'm forgiving of the portal - the view might have a little dirt on it and yes, maybe the flatnessof the pane I look through begs a bit of forgiveness, but the music's the thing.

Although there are times I wonder just how much grundge I'm looking through, humans are creative listeners and will perform an amazing amount ofsonic backfill. Witness the single-ended amplifier craze. We are talking about 5-8% harmonic distortion. One can SEE that on a cheap o-scope! Granted the 8% distortion is at rated power and not neccessarily at 1 or 1/2 watt levels - at those levels it's more like 1% - and the higher order and odd harmonic distortion components are substantially lower.One is driving a loudspeaker with a smokin' 31/2 -5 watts, however, and the little amps struggle.

On the positive side the tube amp circuits are SIMPLE. The schematic could be drawn on a cocktail napkin. Fewer parts fewer out-of-spec parts and less opportunity for SOMETHING BAD to happen. One has to realize one dirty pot can have a negative impact on the signal, but simplicity provides a possibility of elegance.

Much has been said of the finer details of'soundstaging, imaging, tonality, resolution,etc., etc.' What about the BIG things?

For example, at times I want to be THERE, at the performance; not just a sonic window but immersed and indistinguishable from the event. This seems to me to require a level of dynamics and sonic realism that just ain't there.

Nor is this present in most of the recordings I have heard. One recording "Songs of the Auvergne" Vanguard 1972 provides an exceptionally clear view of the performance. This was sung in the original dialect, minimally miked and mixed, definitely an example of the"simpler is better" approach. There is a surprising (or not so surprising) lack of noise. Not that it would matter, humans have an unsurpassed ear-brain listening system - we can filter out the sound of a vacuum cleaner chasing a cat. But even with this recording I am not fooled. It is a wonderful portal but I'm still in the listening room.

What we need is complete control over the acoustic energy radiated in the room. The control stops when the pressure wave sails away from the loudspeaker.

Oh, one can spend lots on room tuners, dampers, tubes, anti-diffraction coatings, to affect the acoustic energy, but that is not control over the acoustic radiation pattern.

For the air molecules it's a Quentin Tarantino movie. The listener hears the aftermath. At least5 of the surfaces in one's listening room need to radiate/absorb according to an algorithm to define a particular acoustic event.

As far as I know these surface radiators do not exist. They need to have very well controlled self-resonance, very low mass, high force/current ratio (damping) and be able to absorb or cancel as well as radiate. To drive the panels lots of signal processing would have to occur. Then room acoustic problems are moot.

One is presented with a reproduced acoustic event independant of the room. Close your eyes and you are outside listening to someone play a harp- literally. Well, until then I'll hook up this portable radio to an old Klipschorn and listen towhat 500 milliwatts can do...