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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  • Clauzii - Monday, December 1, 2008 - link

    .. I can recommend a Terratec Phase 22. No computernoise whatsoever. Pure, clean sound. I don't have a surroundsetup, but movies through this card sound brilliant, with a lot of detail and no digital 'fnitter-fnatter'.
  • Clauzii - Monday, December 1, 2008 - link

    Have to correct myself: With the card You can actually hear all the bad mixing of the movies themselves.
  • daar - Monday, December 1, 2008 - link

    Honestly, for a tech review site, I'm very disappointed that you nixed any pro sound cards and went for the audiophile kool-aid. Proper regulation and filtering can deliver clean enough juice for the best audio applications and while the USB option is kind of interesting, it creates more clutter, is more expensive, and the supposed better quality can't even be objectively tested.

    There wasn't even an attempt to build a measurement procedure, and while some sustain the notion that audio is beyond measurement, since when does AT throw out standard science and efficient engineering in favor of pseudoscience?

  • RobinBee - Monday, December 1, 2008 - link

    "Proper regulation and filtering"

    Yes. A good motherboard does this. And: A hi-fi sound card such as ASUS Xonar D2 (PCI bus) delivers »clean juice«, very much better than Creative's x-fi. And: A good case makes a pc rather quiet.
  • RagingDragon - Saturday, December 6, 2008 - link

    And a sufficiently powerful amp and/or headphones with good isolation make PC noise irrelevant.
  • Servant of Shodan - Monday, December 1, 2008 - link

    Not meaning any disrespect to the author - it was a good article - but I've notice a lot of camera reviews recently, and now a review about audiophile stuff... and it just seems so out of place for a PC enthusiast site.
    There are hundreds of credible sites for both cameras and stereos/speakers/amps/etc.; and I feel that it sort of muddies the waters here to have these types of articles, when there are other excellent places where they fit in perfectly.
    I come to Anandtech for computers. I think it should keep to that topic.
  • SpeedyVV - Monday, December 1, 2008 - link

    Holy cow, audiophiles i think are THX certifiable!!!

    Can you guys actually hear yourselves???

    All joking aside, I love music, and sound, and guitar tube amps, a nice hi-fi.

    But the stuff you guys talk about is way, WAY, beyond me ;-)

  • Boushh - Monday, December 1, 2008 - link

    DRC does realy work. Last year I exchanged my old SONY AV receiver for a new Denon AVR-3808 with Audyssey. With the SONY I was unable to get a good sound at my listning postion (specialy the rears never actually worked). And even though I had my reservations for things like Audyssey, I ran it on the Denon. And low and behold: Now I was in the middle of everything. I was realy amazed that taking some samples with a microphone could have such impressive results.

    The second thing: DAC's for computers. I recently saw that Cambridge Audio released a DAC for (among other things) computers ("> Maybe a good idea to compare that to the setup used in the article. It seems to me that instead of all those components it would (for the most of us) be alot easier if it was just in one box. But maybe that is just me :-)

    Anyway, nice article. It shows that people who are intrested in audio and are willing to do something for it are always on a never ending road B-)
  • strikeback03 - Monday, December 1, 2008 - link

    ... that this article shows that looks are not everything, as those drivers look like the cheap junk that comes in stock car systems.
  • jabber - Monday, December 1, 2008 - link

    They probably are! Remember in the world of 'high-end hi-fi' you build a component out of $20 worth of bits, stick a bit of varnish sanded wood on it then add on the 2000% 'hi-fi mug tax'.

    Its one of the best businesses to be in if you are unprincipled and lazy.

    Your customers are easy because they have invested so much money in their systems they are always open to fear and doubt about it. Easy prey!

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