The Test System

Before we go on to look at some of the PC software and hardware out there, I'll offer up a quick overview of the test system. Some of the components used really are out on a limb with price tags that are not for the faint of heart. In audiophile currency, I probably have what amounts to a mid-budget system. If your interest is in low budget products, be warned that the rest of this page will probably make your stomach churn. However, you've not been forgotten and we will add a few suggestions here and there should you have champagne tastes on beer budgets - as most of us probably do, especially in this time of credit crunch.


Real Hi-Fi owner and Supravox distributor Matthew Jameson was kind enough to provide us with a pair of test speakers based upon Supravox Signature Bicone Drivers known as the Transparence from a company called 3D Sonics. The Bicone Signature driver is a high efficiency (claimed 96dB sensitive) wide bandwidth design featuring a whizzer cone to supplement high frequency reproduction while the main cone takes care of the rest. The parameters of these drivers make them eminently suitable for an open baffle design like the Transparence.

If you keep your ear to the ground in loudspeaker circles, you'll know that open baffle loudspeakers have made a marked resurgence over the last five years or so. One of the chief perpetrators of this revival was a fellow named Throsten Loesch. Thorsten publicized his build of the Supravox Bicone Sig's using the very design that went on to become the 3D Sonics commercial venture. The remarkable simplicity was just what many in the DIY audio community were looking for: an easy to build high performance loudspeaker that could use a variety of drivers according to budget. I had the pleasure of listening to these speakers around five years ago at Thorsten's house; needless to say, it was an experience I never forgot. The absence of a walled cabinet allows the sound to fly out in all directions creating a soundstage that simply makes the loudspeaker drivers disappear.

All good things come with a slap around the cheeks and here's the part that the standard "boom 'n tizz" audio loving public won't like: the price tag is around £2400 UKP for a pair of these beauties. In audiophile markets, a price tag like this is hardly sweat inducing as there are plenty of high-end designs that cost multitudes more. If you are worried about the price, there's no reason to fret as DIY'ing a pair yourself that should get within 95% of the commercial model is not out of the question.

3D Sonics makes an in-house change to the drivers that involves coating them with a few layers of C37 lacquer to humanize the sound.

Stock signature Bicone drivers are available for DIY endeavors from Supravox USA, Supravox France for the EU, and direct from Real Hi-FI for the UK at around a third of the cost of the "ready to go" Transparence. If that's still too much for you, another door is open by using the budget friendly Visaton B200 driver with suitable baffle adjustments to suit its parameters.

The Transparence design is fiendishly simple: a single driver in a 6'x4' acrylic baffle that uses an aluminum L-bracket as a stand and as a means of providing additional rigidity to the baffle. There's no crossover as the driver covers the range of 50 Hz to 15 KHz on its own. That's most of the audible range covered by a single point source. While the top-end extension is enough even for super ears, the low-end obviously needs augmenting with a subwoofer for bass heavy music. For this purpose I use a Linn AV 5150 subwoofer crossed over at around 48 Hz that integrates very well with these speakers, especially when we use DRC to level some of the room response abnormalities.

Whether or not you have the financial clout to buy the fully fledged 3D Sonics Transparence, it's certainly worth investigating the sonic landscape that open baffle designs can create. The availability of drivers for just about every budget leaves the onus of their use squarely in the hands of the DIY'er. Don't pass up the chance to try them out.

Index The Test System, Cont'd
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  • goinginstyle - Wednesday, December 3, 2008 - link

    I agree, while I might argue about some of the conclusions or have a different opinion, the author knows what the hell he is talking about. It is obvious from a lot of the comments that people stopped reading on page two and brought out the guns. It is fine to agree to disagree but some the comments here apparently came from five year olds and not adults. Sound quality is subjective, get over it. I appreciate a different opinion than my own and found the article to be thought provoking at times. Something an article should do when covering a hot topic like audio quality. Being an old hippie myself, I still love the tubes but digital has its place now. I vote that he does another article on this subject and lets see where AnandTech takes this in the future.
  • strikeback03 - Tuesday, December 2, 2008 - link

    How do you live in a rural area and not own a car?
  • royboy66 - Tuesday, December 2, 2008 - link

    hi I have been into audio and music for many years it is my hobby, computers are my business and hobby. I commend you guys for covering this topic -i will download the software you have used and give it a try.
  • Wastral - Tuesday, December 2, 2008 - link

    Well at least he talked about SOMETHING to do with the PC!

    DAC talk was good if really really wordy. Nothing like breaking points down into something someone can read.

    Not one review of sound cards of sending analog output out from the computer and its actual quality... You know the main component needed in a PC... What a stooge.

    Most People can't even hear over 16khz and the very rare person can hear around 20khz. I tested out at 18.3khz with a wave generator when I was 16. Now? Probably no more than 14khz at the age of 30. Not to mention the dB sensitivity of the ear over 16khz is next to nothing. On top of that, as I pointed out with a little thing called age your hearing decreases to 10khz by age 60 or so.

    Of course If we really want this right, it has to be decoded at the amp, which won't happen, due to there being a million and 1 codecs around. Thus, we are stuck with analog.

    Its all about your speakers and amp. That part of his article I won't complain about too loudly.

    Just his BS about tube amplifiers. 10 years ago that was true. Now its only because old Hippies are retiring and tube amps were top of the line then and they have too much money and time on their hands to burn, with nostalgia hot in their blood.

    Try recording something and then play it back with a tube amp or a Digital amp and compare the sound. No one uses Tube amps in studios. Why? Because it CHANGES THE MUSIC and is not as PURE as one can get with Digital amplifiers. They say they like it... wonderful, its not as true of a sound though, the HYPOCRITS!!!

    Everything else was typical Audiophile BS ignorance. Hell, I have even installed an outlet for an "audiophile" pointed North-South for better "power" to his amp. No joke, he whipped out a compass.

    Comments like, "I only use silver 24 guage wire." DUMB shit!! Go another guage larger in copper is a hell of a lot cheeper and gets better results.... IDIOT. Not to mention its your CONNECTORS THAT COUNT.

  • Rajinder Gill - Tuesday, December 2, 2008 - link

    Where did I sue the word 'only' in that statement about wire?

    Seems you've done the typical thing and read what you want to read.

    My entire cable setup costs less than $40, including the interconnects and mains cables. No north-south compass in my house either.

    Connections are direct soldered where they can be and if it's practical enough. No expensive connectors used.

    I'll aslo refrain from using the derogatory language you seem so comfortable with.
  • Rajinder Gill - Tuesday, December 2, 2008 - link

    correction meant 'use'..
  • Geraldo8022 - Tuesday, December 2, 2008 - link

    Mr Gill is trying to do some of you a favor by cluing you in, but some of the denser posters come back with talk about receivers, headphones, soundcards, measurements, double blind testing, Class D, etc.
    Someone once asked Satchmo what jazz was and his reply was, "if you gotta ask you don't get to know." I guess some of you here aren't gonna get to know. Just keep your head in the sand, or elsewhere.
    I have been into HiFi for almost forty years and it is about things like sitting in the dark at one o'clock in the morning with Sarah Vaughn. If that doesn't make any sense to you, then you don't get to know.
    Mr Gill, I thank you for this article. You keep on keepin' on.
  • Beefmeister - Tuesday, December 2, 2008 - link

    Great choice on the Opus DAC; the Twisted Pear Audio guys do great work. I've built myself a Buffalo DAC.

    That being said, I would strongly suggest you look at replacing your Ballsie with IVY modules. IVY is capable of zeroing the DC offset from the DAC, thus allowing you to jumper the output coupling caps on the Opus. It also gets rid of the dual and quad OPAMPs of the Ballsie, which apparently don't measure as good as the single and dual variants.
  • draak13 - Monday, December 1, 2008 - link

    Starting off with reading the article, I was getting quite pissed about how much this was going into the usual audiophile BS, where their 'prowess' of electronics goes so far as, "the resistor says 1000 ohms, but really, it TASTES like 992 ohms. There's such a huge difference." I was half expecting there to be talk of putting sandbags around the room to 'enhance the musical quality of the room setting.'

    Reading further, I found that this article was quite good, and was even moderately scientific as I have come to expect from Anandtech. The choice of the recording microphone was EXCELLENT; I looked up the spec sheet for that, and the response on that mic is absolutely incredible, and is a total steal for the price you pay. Kudos to anandtech for finding and using it. The very objective comparisons of two different dacs was quite excellent, as were the multiple recordings.

    I absolutely loved your analysis of an addition of a subwoofer into the system to compensate for the range of the main speakers. I have always been curious about how well that would actually work. Lastly, I was blown away by your DRC analysis. That's an INCREDIBLE algorithm that you have there; I love it.

    There are a few things that I could say about the choice of components, and the squabbling going on about what components "perform better", but there is an end-all test that you could do to prove what is and isn't BS. First, I can flat out GUARANTEE you that your microphone is as sensitive or more sensitive than the human ear AT LISTENING VOLUME. That is, anything that you can hear, that microphone should be able to hear as well. So, if you wanted to turn your subjective listening tests into objective listening tests, then play back those songs you were testing your setup with, but record those songs at listening position with your microphone using all of your different setups. Record them multiple times, as you have been doing in your tests. Next, using MATLAB or whatever other software, overlay the recorded waveforms and determine the differences between the two. If there truly is a difference between the different hardware setups that you were using, I guarantee that this will be sensitive enough to detect that difference, and will do so quantitatively.
  • DeepThought86 - Monday, December 1, 2008 - link

    At the end of the day, is all this expensive tomfoolery just to listen to music? Why pay extra and turn your brain to jelly to boot?

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