ULTRA AUDIO -- Archived Article

May 1, 2007

Accuracy and Acoustics: The Way Forward

In this issue of Ultra Audio you’ll find two articles that go hand in glove. The first, a review of the YG Acoustics Kipod loudspeaker, is a rave -- the speaker earned a Select Component award, indicating outstanding performance. The Kipod’s designer, Yoav Geva, claims that it’s as accurate a loudspeaker as is available today. Although the SoundStage! Network has not had the Kipod measured by Canada’s National Research Council, we have published the measurements of the YG Acoustics Anat Reference Main Module, which supposedly measures as accurately as the Kipod. The Anat was quite flat in the frequency domain, lending credence to Geva’s claim that the Kipod is indeed a technical success.

In our Features section you’ll find an interview with Terry Montlick, of Terry Montlick Labs. An acoustical engineer of the highest order, Montlick blasts some long-held audiophile beliefs and gives solid advice to those on a quest for the ultimate in sound quality. Room acoustics are given short shrift by most audiophiles, and that’s a shame. It means that they’re ignoring some hard science that can help them achieve their goal of the highest fidelity. Having gone from an untreated room to a fully optimized and designed one, I now know better.

Taken together, the terms accuracy and acoustics indicate the underlying principles that support the truest reproduction of music in the home. Granted, within the fields of loudspeaker design and room acoustics, debate still goes on, and as applied to loudspeakers, accuracy can be defined in myriad ways. But there is some pretty convincing evidence that can lead you to believe that the science of speaker design, as a whole, is solid. Whether discussing Floyd Toole’s research in the Acoustics Division of Canada’s NRC back in the 1970s, or the effects of cabinet diffraction conducted by H.F. Olsen in the ’30s, or copious amounts of other data, there are some established principles of design that most experts agree should be adhered to. Room acoustics, the other side of the coin, is a comprehensive science with a body of accepted scientific principles overwhelming in its scope. A lot of high-level brainpower has been expended on the study of acoustics, to state it mildly.

My contention, based on my listening experiences over the past two years, is that fairly accurate speakers, placed properly in a good acoustic environment, are the prerequisites for truly good sound. Without them, no amount of tweaking or changing out of electronics or cables will matter all that much.

Once the principles of accurate loudspeakers and proper room acoustics have been addressed, it then makes sense to look at the rest of the chain. As an example, I can now detect minute differences among different electronic components in my Music Vault listening room that were masked in my older living-room environment. The Vault has made my job of reviewing audio equipment infinitely easier.

I don’t believe that everything that matters in audio can be surmised from looking at a frequency-response chart. For instance, I still don’t know how the expansiveness of a soundstage can be determined from looking at measurements -- I know it’s not that easy. What I do know is that obtaining outstanding sound has a logical starting point. Ignoring accuracy and acoustics to chase other, less relevant goals is putting the cart before the horse. And we all know that audiophiles would never do that.

...Jeff Fritz

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