• Get Better Sound (Without Spending A Fortune)

    Last week audio consultant Jim Smith sent me a copy of his Get Better Sound DVD. The DVD is a companion to the 300 page Get Better Sound manual. Over the weekend I watched the three DVD set from start to finish. Plus I replayed a few chapters that really piqued my interest such as chapter 35 addressing computer audio. Most of the five hours of audio education don't directly relate to computer audio but I pulled a few quotes that may be of interest to the CA faithful.
    · Computer audio is the future of digital audio as we know it.
    · Sound ripped from my CDs is better than any CD player at any price.
    · If you're not into [computer audio] yet you need to do it as soon as you can.






     


    Audio Education Equals Better Sound

    It's been close to a decade since I read Robert Harley's Complete Guide to High-End Audiolink. If I remember correctly that guide was a bit dry and technical in some areas of audio that put me to sleep. Nothing against the guide, I simply don't enjoy absolutely everything associated with high end audio and I don't expect Computer Audiophile readers are either. Thus, I was more than amenable when Jim Smith offer to send the Get Better Sound DVD set for my perusal. The DVD is a painless way to bounce around from chapter to chapter and soak in the information while simultaneously thinking about how to implement some of the ideas. More than a few times my mind drifted off as I thought about adjusting my speakers and adding acoustical room treatments according to Jim's recommendations. That's tough to accomplish while continuing to read a physical book.

    Watching the DVD I frequently thought about how long it has taken me to accumulate certain audio knowledge over the decades. As a budding young audiophile I used to read Stereophile and The Absolute Sound trying to pick up little bits of knowledge from the reviews. That meant reading countless pages about components for which I couldn't have cared less. As a 35 year old audiophile I still way more to learn than I even realize. Jim Smith's Get Better Sound DVD is one simple way of picking up high end audio knowledge in a short five hours, not five years or five decades. Each of the 38 chapters is relatively short and to the point. Much of the material is not overly technical, not about gear, and has little to do with spending money. Jim focusses on setting up one's system using techniques he has learned over a few decades as a store owner and audio consultant. When Jim does talk about purchasing gear it's often small tools such as polarity checkers, ground plug "cheaters", and measuring devices. I never heard him suggest people need larger amplifiers, better speakers, or better cables. How refreshing.

    One tool Jim and I both can't live without is the $95 Bosch DLR130link laser distance measurer. This tool is much more accurate than using a traditional measuring tape. I recently purchased a new pair of speakers for my listening room and saved myself a ton of time when tweaking the speakers fractions of an inch at a time. Audiophiles tend to sweat the small things. A laser measuring device is just the tool to reduce some of that perspiration.

     

    Get Better Computer Audio

    Computer audiophiles should not purchase Get Better Sound seeking a treasure trove of computer audio information. Jim Smith talks about the system he uses on site at clients' homes (MacBook Pro & Ayre QB-9 USB DAClink) and the major benefits of computer based audio. It was very nice to see Jim embrace computer audio and recommend all viewers get into it as soon as possible. Jim credits Gordon Ranking of Wavelength Audiolink for his great work on Asynchronous USB transfer mode and its ability to produce "essentially" jitter free sound quality. Traditional audiophiles still holding out on computer audio should take note that Jim, in addition to many CA readers, thinks the sound from his ripped CDs is better than any CD player at any price. Part of his computer audio formula includes Channel D's Pure Musiclink program. Pure Music has worked so well for Jim that he has no interest unchanging. Here are a few other computer audio items of note from the DVD. When it comes to wireless routers and computer Jim has a couple recommendations.

    1. Wireless routers should be turned off as they broadcast digital grunge that has a large negative effect on "musical purity."
    2. Computers should not be on the same electrical circuit as the audio system. They put grunge back into that system.
     
    Again, it was great to see Jim touting computer audio as, "The best digital I've come across." I'd also like to thank Jim for including a link to Computer Audiophile at the end of the computer audio chapter. I hope to see many of Jim's clients browsing the site very soon. Jim's 300+ page manual and three disc DVD set are currently on sale at GetBetterSound.comlink for $29.95 (softcover), $49.95 (hardcover), and $19.95 (DVD).

     

     
    Comments 84 Comments
    1. Jim Smith's Avatar
      Jim Smith -
      Hi Chris,<br />
      <br />
      Thanks for taking the time to do the review.<br />
      <br />
      Each DVD set purchase is actually worth more, as I am now providing the <i>Quarter Notes</i> newsletters to DVD purchasers as well. The <i>Quarter Notes</i> were originally written for <i><b>GBS</i></b> book purchasers as a way to continue helping them with more timely info.<br />
      <br />
      There have been eight so far. I need to do a slight bit of editing where I refer to things found only in the book, but people really appreciate these newsletters.<br />
      <br />
      In addition to articles and updates, they feature articles by folks like Rob Robinson, Charles Hansen, Srajan Ebaen, Jeff Dorgay, etc.<br />
      <br />
      Since you've seen the DVDs, I'm sending to you - via e-mail - the remaining part of the purchase experience, already equivalent in total word count to another small book.<br />
      <br />
      They are links to each of the <i><b>QNs</i></b>, on hidden pages on the <i><b>GBS</i></b> website. That way, readers can refer back to them if they like.<br />
      <br />
      Thanks again for reviewing <i><b>Get Better Sound</i></b>.<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      <br />
    1. wgscott's Avatar
      wgscott -
      Forrest recommended this to me, and it contains a lot of very helpful experience-based information. My one gripe is that it is a bit of an organizational nightmare, but with good indexing, and perhaps regrouping of the chapters, it could be fixed in an upcoming revision (hint, hint). As it currently stands, it works better as a reference than a book you would read from front to back. However, I would suggest putting all the basic stuff that everyone should know/do at the front. My other main suggestion is to make the speaker voicing advice more explicit, so that an idiot non-expert like me can follow a step-by-step procedure.<br />
      <br />
      Anyway, it is a great read, and I keep it by my bedside. Each section is only a few pages, so I can realistically read one or a few at night before I go to sleep.
    1. timequest's Avatar
      timequest -
      Hum...this makes sense, but most of us are using a Wi-Fi based controller. I wonder what Jim uses for a controller...??
    1. Jim Smith's Avatar
      Jim Smith -
      @wgscott<br />
      <br />
      Suggestions accepted. ?<br />
      <br />
      The set-up info is easier to grasp in the DVDs, partially because you can see it done on a voicing location.<br />
      <br />
      @timequest<br />
      <br />
      Mine is hardwired from the MBP to the QB-9 DAC.<br />
      <br />
      I know that lots of folks have wireless computer audio. The point was about shutting off unnecessary wireless routers when you can.<br />
      <br />
      Sometimes, that can't happen.
    1. JeffH's Avatar
      JeffH -
      I met Jim at AXPONA in Atlanta earlier this year and bought a copy of the book. Great information.<br />
      <br />
    1. Dewey2's Avatar
      Dewey2 -
      Jim,<br />
      I enjoyed your book and feel like you saved me from ridiculous impulse purchases with common sense suggestions.<br />
      <br />
      One of the things that I respected most about your book was your (mostly) faithful promise to NOT discuss specific brands or recommend products. Of course this made me very curious to know exactly what was in your listening room.<br />
      <br />
      Well, what a surprise to see the grocery list of gear in your signature. I'm sure we'll all study it carefully.<br />
    1. Jim Smith's Avatar
      Jim Smith -
      Looks like I'll need to update it as I just ordered a pair of Tannoy Canterbury SEs. ?<br />
      <br />
      Haven't actually <i>owned</i> any speakers since the Avantgardes - back when I was the US distributor. <br />
      <br />
      I've been using various models sent in for evaluation from various manufacturers.
    1. Quest's Avatar
      Quest -
      It is greatly refreshing to finally see someone agree that wifi routers affect the sound. I can't understand why, but I personally can hear a difference. I have heard schumann resonators like acoustic revive rr77 at home so felt maybe it was just adding something to the air, other than just putting out emi/rf to my equipment.<br />
      <br />
      I used to use a ipad to control the PC, but now I've moved the router to another room (and the hifi room has just 1 bar signal like this) and use 15m cables to hook up a monitor and usb keyboard/mouse. To get wifi in the room, I got a wifi repeater which is easy to on/off and doesn't affect the wired ethernet connections.<br />
      <br />
      In the past, I realised I like the effect of rca caps, but now I don't.. and it could be because of interference from wifi. Who knows.<br />
      <br />
      Time for me to buy Jim's book. Have yet to move the PC to separate circuit though many friends do so. Always feared the drop in performance due to not using the power regenerator.
    1. Akapod's Avatar
      Akapod -
      Though I think I had generally set up my system well given my circumstances (a reasonably sized, but oddly shaped, Manhattan living room), I decided to adjust my speaker placement as per Jim's book -- basically, moving them further away from the back wall.<br />
      <br />
      The results are amazing. The speakers now sing in a way I've never heard before, even in the dealer's showroom. In fact, I don't think I've ever heard any system sound this good. (I've heard some magnificent systems over the years, but I now think that none of them were installed correctly.) Yes, the speakers "stick out" now, but the improvement in sound quality is so significant that I can't turn back.<br />
      <br />
      I've seen bdiament write that <a href="http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/AntiCables-Floating-Gear-Rugs-and-other-sonic-tweaks?page=1">"every foot from the wall adds at least $1000 to the sound," </a>but I now think he's low-balling it. <br />
      <br />
      I'm looking forward to trying out some of Jim's other tips as time goes by.
    1. wgscott's Avatar
      wgscott -
      <br />
      #70 Don't put your equipment or furniture between the speakers.<br />
      <br />
      When I look at photos of other people's systems (all of which are way better than mine, btw), it looks like >90% have a rack of equipment centered between the speakers. I assume people do this (a) to keep the speaker cable lengths symmetric, (b) because they have a TV or display they want to look at while they listen, and (c) they want to display a nice system prominently.<br />
      <br />
      <br />
      #85 Consider 45° for difficult rooms. I haven't done anything approaching a definitive test, but my impression is that this can really help in a room with a cathedral ceiling. It helps that my fireplace is already positioned that way, so it is the most natural setup.<br />
      <br />
      I should get the DVD ...
    1. REShaman's Avatar
      REShaman -
      Received the DVD and softcover book, <i>Getting Better Sound</i>. The DVD is excellent. Haven't engaged the pages yet. Couldn't resist playing the DVD first (3 DVDs) and afterward reading the book in depth. <br />
      Smith's good counsel is both elemental and in depth clearly reflecting his obvious competence, depth of experience and no-how. His experience includes so many arenas, I can imagine how fortunate one might be to have him as their consultant to voice their systems. I am particularly taken with the "debunking" (my word) of "Other's" formulas for creating the relationship of speaker placement and room design etc. <br />
      In particular, at present, I mirrored Cardas's formula which perfunctorily produced a welcome improvement. Whereas, Smith's POE is very different (as in better?). <br />
      Whatever, the results should address what works and what works better. As in the many audio player software which appear to be excellent, yet a particular program works better with some recordings/systems.<br />
      I am looking forward to implementing Smith's steps for setting up a system and then determine the outcome for my room and system and base it on the results without making anyone wrong.<br />
      To those who steered me to his book etc. My gratitude.<br />
      Best,<br />
      Richard
    1. audiozorro's Avatar
      audiozorro -
      [Quote] I've seen bdiament write that "every foot from the wall adds at least $1000 to the sound," but I now think he's low-balling it. [End Quote]<br />
      <br />
      If I only followed that advice my left and right channel speakers would be in the center of the room next to each other. Obviously room dimensions and speakers come into play and are often more important than distance from walls. Some speakers are designed to be placed near walls and some in walls.<br />
      <br />
      Since Barry is a Maggie owner what is the recommended minimum and optimum room dimensions, speaker separation, distance from sweet spot and distance from front, back and side walls for the new Maggie Models 1.7 and 3.7?
    1. Akapod's Avatar
      Akapod -
      There's a pretty good discussion of Maggie placement, and is tempered by considerations of room size.<br />
      <br />
      <br />
    1. audiozorro's Avatar
      audiozorro -
      My favorites are discussions on recommended amps and power for Maggies.<br />
      <br />
      It seems quite ironic that the author would lead you to believe that you should get a laser measuring tool to place the speakers to a fraction of an inch while at the same time all other dimensions are imprecise to inches if not feet.<br />
      <br />
      So let me be specific, for the new Maggie 1.7 speakers what are the minimum and optimum dimensions for the following:<br />
      <br />
      1. Distance from back wall = <br />
      2. Distance from front wall = <br />
      3. Distance between left and right speakers =<br />
      4. Distance to sweet spot = <br />
      5. Ceiling height =<br />
      <br />
      Have I left anything out? I would assume all of the dimensions above would be valuable to any audiophile who is building a listening room or buying a house. Unfortunately the more common scenario is that an audiophile has to make do with what he has which means compromise and less than ideal.
    1. Jim Smith's Avatar
      Jim Smith -
      In the DVD, I talk about the - IMO - relative uselessness of generic formulas. Each room, no matter how it measures in dimensions, will have certain characteristics that render it unique.<br />
      <br />
      As the person who wrote the owners' manuals and set-up instructions for the early maggies - MG-1, MG-2 & Tympani 1D, I still maintain that all of the speaker placement theories are immaterial <i>until</i> you address the fundamental issue that will deal most effectively with standing waves in the sub-300Hz region. And that is without a doubt - <i>where you sit</i>.<br />
      <br />
      Until you know what listening location yields the smoothest bass, with the least peaks and dips due to room interactions, you cannot possibly know where the speakers need to go for best sound.<br />
      <br />
      That being said, once the fundamental issue is properly addressed, placement of speakers is the next frontier. <br />
      <br />
      And if you don't get the foundation of the music as good as your room permits, you'll never experience the full capability of <i>any</i> speaker, Maggie, Quad, Avantgarde, Wilson, Magico, etc.
    1. audiozorro's Avatar
      audiozorro -
      I have the opportunity to build a listening room. Being an audiophile I assume that either my speakers should determine the dimensional data listed previously or if I were to build the room first, the room should determine which speakers are likely to sound better than most other highly recommended speakers.<br />
      <br />
      Seating arrangement is yet to be determined. Hasn't anyone here every designed a listening room or built a house with a dedicated listening room in mind. Are you saying it is impossible to build a listening room around the Maggie 1.7s or that is not the ideal approach?
    1. Jim Smith's Avatar
      Jim Smith -
      As I say at seminars and in the DVD, the only way a room (designed on a spreadsheet to be ideal) will work as promised, <i>is if the only thing you actually put in the room is the spreadsheet</i>.<br />
      <br />
      I remember the "ideal room" we built at Magnepan.<br />
      <br />
      It was built exactly to so-called optimum dimensions - dimensions that are often suggested on forums and the like.<br />
      <br />
      It took us <i>months</i> to get it to work anywhere near as well as we wanted.<br />
      <br />
      There are some room shapes that are better than others, but unfortunately, none are designed with your exact needs (and furnishings) in mind.<br />
      <br />
      If you want to discuss it further, e-mail might be best.
    1. audiozorro's Avatar
      audiozorro -
      I already ordered the book and DVD and hopefully they will arrive by this weekend or next. Who knows, perhaps a personal visit from you will shave months off my quest to improve things further.
    1. Codifus's Avatar
      Codifus -
      .....and wow, just from 2 tips alone it has paid for itself.<br />
      <br />
      1. I unplugged my DAC, a matrix mini I, rather than my usual hitting the power button in back. Plugging it back in and listening I couldn't believe the change, but I heard it, and it was for the better.<br />
      <br />
      2. I disabled wireless from my airport express and my system took on another level of smoothness.<br />
      <br />
      These small improvements tickle me so<br />
      <br />
      Thank you Jim Smith!<br />
      <br />
      CD
    1. audiozorro's Avatar
      audiozorro -
      I listened to Disc 1 late last night and just started reading the first few pages of the book today. The DVD is well produced and informative. I appreciate Jim's philosophy and approach for getting significantly better sound with the audio components that you already have rather than thinking that upgrading to some new audio component will bring you to Audio Nirvana.<br />
      <br />
      An analogy might be like an expert fisherman with just a line, hook and bait can catch more fish than a lesser person with the expensive rod, reel, tackle, fishfinder and other fishing gear.<br />
      <br />
      Jim, please pardon the ignorance in my previous posts. I, like many other audiophiles with years or decades of experience in high-end audio, still have much to learn.<br />
      <br />
      I sincerely believe your book and DVD should be required reading and listening for anyone claiming to be an audiophile or anyone interested in getting better sound and enjoyment from music.<br />
      <br />
      AZ