70 years of innovation

February would have seen Ted Jordan’s 92nd birthday. When he passed away in 2016, the world lost a tireless innovator in the field of loudspeaker design. Indeed, he was still developing and discussing new ideas for us to carry forward right up until he left us. 

2021 also marks the 70th anniversary of Ted’s professional involvement in loudspeakers, with the publication of his first article on the subject. 

His article, Loudspeaker Cabinet Design, was written for the British Sound Recording Association and published in their magazine in 1951. It describes a quarter-wavelength, labyrinth loudspeaker enclosure, designed to reach 20 Hz and “suitable for orchestral reproduction in the average living room, given first-class loudspeaker units and reproducing equipment.” The enclosure uses a 4.3m non-resonant pipe behind a 20cm full-range loudspeaker. The pipe is lined with absorbent wool and the construction is a mix of wood and concrete. The labyrinth is vented, which was unusual at the time and predates Arthur Bailey’s famous transmission line design by 14 years!

Ted always said that the article resulted in his getting a job with Goodmans Industries the following year, where he rose to become Technical Director.  Whilst there, he designed a number of well-respected loudspeakers, including the famous Axiette full-range driver.

 

 

The use of full-range loudspeakers was a deep interest which Ted maintained throughout his career. When he originally designed the Goodmans Maxim, for example, he intended it to be a single-driver design, not the two-way speaker it eventually became.

By the late 50s, it was becoming apparent that there were shortcomings with the standard approach to loudspeaker design. One company to address this was Acoustical Manufacturing, with the QUAD Electrostatic loudspeaker, launched in 1957. Around the same time, Ted was tasked with designing an ESL for Goodmans, but when they decided not to take it further, he turned his attention back to single-cone drive units which led to the Jordan-Watts Module. Launched in 1964, this highly innovative, alloy-cone driver addressed many of the drawbacks of contemporary transducers.

The Jordan-Watts Module sold well for two decades and units are still in use around the world. Ted went on to design a titanium cone variant for Audio & Design Ltd (pictured below under construction).

 

 

The continuous technical innovation which was characteristic of Ted’s career was not an end in itself. He always saw it as a way of getting closer to the music, achieving a reproduced sound that was as real as possible. 

This approach avoids fashionable trends and over-complication, seeking a path that is natural and “just simple enough”. It’s a philosophy that continues to inspire and drive all of us in EJ Jordan Designs and that is embodied in Ted’s last design, the Eikona full-range driver, the result of seven decades of experience and innovation.

Ikigai – a compact TL loudspeaker designed using SpicyTL

This fascinating project began in Jan 2018 when Andrea Rubino, a customer in Italy, bought a pair of Eikonas for use in a loudspeaker he was developing. 

Usually, we’re happy to be involved in customer projects and expect a few questions along the way. In this case, however, it all went quiet for 18 months. The reason for the silence became apparent when Andrea got in touch again. He wasn’t just developing a loudspeaker, he was developing sophisticated transmission line modelling software as part of the process. He was kind enough to give us an advanced look at his work and it was extremely interesting. 

There are a number of software tools out there for modelling transmission lines; some more successful than others. One of the best known is Martin King’s MathCad model which has been used by others to design the MLTL enclosures we have on our website.

Andrea’s SpicyTL software is a simulation model based on electrical circuit theory and it includes very precise modelling for the materials used in the line, based on the target response and parameters of the drivers used. The full process is the subject of an in-depth article in the January 2021 edition of Italian magazine AudioReview (following on from his software design articles in the same magazine in 2019). SpicyTL uses a modular approach which allows fine-tuning throughout the design process, for example, changing line taper and comparing the TL with a reference sealed enclosure.

Andrea used the Jordan Eikona as the starting point for a design process which aimed at an f3 of 55 Hz and an enclosure of no more than 15 litres. He explains his choice:

“A few years ago, intrigued by the many positive reviews, I decided to build a pair of monitors using the renowned Jordan JX92S full-range drivers. I was enchanted.

Ted Jordan, a British engineer and designer who passed away in 2016, was a pioneer in the research and development of metal diaphragm cones. The sound of his loudspeakers is often compared to that of electrostatic panels, which, moreover, Ted Jordan designed for Goodmans Industries at the beginning of his long career. This similarity is probably due to the dispersion pattern of the cone, which consists of a special aluminium alloy foil called Contraflex, similar to that of an electrostatic panel. What struck me most about these speakers was their ability to reconstruct the soundstage, so much so that I named the speakers Hologram Jazz Monitor. This aspect, without demonising crossover filters, is probably due to the total absence of disturbance in the dispersion lobe at the crossover frequency, which obviously does not exist in single-driver systems. The fact of the matter is that the JX92S, even if not perfect, had a listening magic that I had trouble finding in other speakers I had listened to. Perhaps these sensations were enhanced by the total lack of reactive components between amplifier output and driver, or perhaps it was just another unfathomable aspect of this beautiful world where subjective perception of sound arises in a border zone between suggestion and reality. Anyway, when the Jordan company (EJ Jordan Design to be precise) developed its latest generation of single-driver loudspeakers, I decided to build two new monitors, but this time with acoustic transmission line loading (the HJMs were bass-reflex).”

The final Ikigai enclosure is stand-mounted and constructed with successive layers of MDF, the translam process which has been used successfully elsewhere with the Eikonas.

Andrea’s AudioReview article describes the process in great detail and he has allowed us to quote his listening impressions from the article:

“Clearly, a single driver cannot operate in full-range mode in the literal sense, but it is equally clear that there are infinite aspects of music reproduction that go far beyond the maximum bandwidth that can be reproduced. In short, the Eikona 2 cannot do everything, but what it does do, and it does a lot, it does superbly. Among the many things I liked, the richness of detail, the ability to focus and the depth of the scene deserve special mention.

The control over low frequencies typical of the transmission line is truly remarkable. The volume knob rises to unexpected levels and it is surprising how a single driver can give back a timbre so credible and detailed even in the most demanding passages.

A last note on an aspect that I consider fundamental: after many hours of listening, sometimes at very sustained levels, the sensation of fatigue is totally absent.”

Perhaps one aspect which is most remarkable about the project is how, using an entirely different modelling approach, the Ikigai is similar to our own Eikona MiniLine. It demonstrates how modern software is converging on the true physics of the loudspeaker transmission line, leaving behind the trial-and-error approach of older designs.

A preview of Andrea’s magazine article is available here and vector files for the Eikona Ikigai enclosure are available on his website.

We would also recommend the articles section as essential reading to learn more about SpicyTL and transmission line design.

Project – Custom Eikona SL loudspeakers

Whenever we sell a pair of Eikonas, we always emphasise that we are available for questions and to offer help with any aspect of a customer’s project. In return, we hope that they’ll allow us to share details of their final loudspeakers.

In January last year, Stephen (from Croatia) ordered a pair of Eikonas and we discussed which design would suit him best. After some deliberation, he decided on our SL-B design. He commissioned a local craftsman and loudspeaker builder to produce cabinets for the Eikonas in olive wood.

The work took quite a while; in fact, in the meantime, Stephen tracked down and bought a very rare pair of Jordan Empire loudspeakers that use some of our earlier drive units.

Finally, in December, we received the following email from Stephen and photographs of his unique loudspeakers:

 

“I just picked up these yesterday from Dean – I’ve had projects run over schedule before and sometimes aspects of the finished product turn out to disappoint one in the end, to the extent that one wonders why one went down that route in the first place. 

Not in this case, however! Wow, Dean has produced a work of art here that allows these exemplary drivers to shine. I had not heard the Eikona driver ever, but I’d done a fair bit of research and knew this was a classic. Nevertheless, the bass produced by these things is still surprising. Spot on bass as well, not muddy or tired sounding, or lazy. 

Vocals are clean and precise, Bob Dylan’s Most Of The Time is just beautiful through these. 

I think these Jordan speakers are exactly the product to get if you’re looking for a speaker that will allow you to hear music as though with new ears. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say this. They are that impressive. Every aspect of each recording appears to be exactly as it should be. Whereas with a lot of speakers there are bits one likes and bits that could be better, these just kill it on every level. Whoever it was that said these are “the audiophile bargain of the century” was not joking, I cannot imagine there being any competitor even at much higher price levels that can beat the sound of these jewels. 

… Dean’s workmanship and attention to detail is world class and so for those looking for a superior build, I think they should consider having him do the work.”

 

Dean can be contacted at Audio Epilogue, in Zagreb, Croatia. In addition to building custom designs, he produces his own loudspeaker designs, so you can be sure of speaking to someone who knows the art, has an eye for fine craftsmanship and has his own ideas to bring to your design.

Customer Project – Eikona Ellipsoid

This is a highly unusual enclosure for the Jordan Eikona full-range loudspeaker. It has been carefully designed and executed by one of our UK customers. A detailed construction thread is available on the DIYaudio website and we asked Nathan for permission to describe the project.

The aim of this design was to achieve the best possible sound quality with a visually beautiful enclosure. To this end, Nathan designed an ellipsoid shape constructed of a laminate of 29 layers of 12 mm plywood panels. (This is becoming a popular construction method with Eikona users.) The cabinet was built in sections to allow access to the interior and once the ply panels were stacked and glued together, each section of the enclosure was sanded smooth, both externally and internally.

The external shape isn’t just for appearance; it’s smooth surfaces and rounded shape should help stereo imaging, with no reflections from cabinet edges. The internal shape doesn’t follow that of the exterior but has been carefully designed to focus and absorb as much of the rear radiation from the Eikona as possible.

It’s a very impressive project, with careful attention to detail – even the loudspeaker connection sockets were built especially to avoid spoiling the elegant shape of the enclosure.

We asked Nathan to explain his thinking behind the project and his listening impressions:

DESIGN

I chose the Eikona drive unit for several reasons, some of which are specific to the Jordans and some to full-range drivers in general.

I occasionally visit hifi shows. Every time I do, I find that most of the systems that I really enjoy are either using full-range drivers by themselves or with powered subwoofers. With virtually all of the multiway speakers, I find the crossovers really obvious. I can usually pretty accurately state what the crossover frequency is with just a quick listen. The sound is nearly always disjointed.

Of the full-range drivers that I’ve heard, the two brands that have impressed me the most are Jordan and Voxative. The two brands definitely have different sounds. Overall, I lean towards the more neutral sound of the Jordans, though I could happily live with either. The main advantage of the Jordan over the Voxative is the price. The Voxative drivers are massively more expensive than the Jordans.

Jordan drivers are insanely good value for money. To build a two-way you would need to buy a pair of mid bass units, a pair of tweeters and all the components for the crossover for the same price. (If you are new to speaker building, you will probably also need to buy a calibrated microphone and design software.) 

If I were to go down the separate mid-bass and tweeter approach, I would have to mount one drive unit above the other. This will inevitably result in a certain amount of vertical integration problems at the crossover frequency. A full-range driver acts as a point source, so won’t have this problem and should result in better imaging …

CABINET

One of the benefits of translam is the ability to make more complex shapes, both external and internal, than is possible with more conventional construction. Translam can be done with only a relatively modest toolkit, and the material is cheap. Even though I am using high quality Baltic birch plywood, the total cost of building my cabinets, including all the tools, fixings and finishing materials, is less than £200.

Finally, if done well, translam produces a really good finish. 

My design is for a 4.5 litre sealed box, with a Q of 0.65 and a -3dB point of 86 Hz. The cabinet is 280 mm diameter and the wall thickness varies from 40 mm at the front to 100 mm near the rear.

The front section is an ellipsoid, to avoid the formation of standing waves, and the rear section is a logarithmic cone that smoothly transitions from the front section. All sound waves emanating from the driver are reflected towards the rear of the cabinet. Apart from the small flat rear panel, which is only 32 mm in diameter, there are no surfaces that can reflect sound back towards the driver. 

As sound waves travel towards the rear of the cabinet, their amplitude will become greater. To promote the sound being reflected to the rear, the inside surface is smooth so that it acts as an acoustic mirror. The absorbent wadding (Twaron Elves Hair from Mundorf) is inserted in such a way that there is an equal weight of wadding per unit length of the speaker. This means that the density of the wadding increases exponentially towards the rear of the speaker.

 

SOUND QUALITY

I have a little tradition. Every time I upgrade or make a significant change, I always play something by Leonard Cohen first.

I had come into this project with high expectations. I am very familiar with the Jordan JX92 driver. Probably the best system that I have ever heard used a short line of 4 Jordan JX92s per channel. The rest of this system is about 10 times the cost of mine so if I can get in the same ball park, I’ll be happy. The majority of people who have experience of both JX92 and Eikona prefer the Eikona, so hopefully I’m off to a good start. 

As this are  Jordan drivers, I expected midrange magic and these speakers do not disappoint. They have a richness and smoothness but also a real sense of solidity. Often when you find a speaker with warmth and richness in the midrange it can sound a bit airy and diaphanous. Although these speakers have a real sense of space and air around each image, the image is solid. I don’t just mean solidly located but also that the sound is emanating from something solid. Vocals don’t hang in space, they stand in space. The quality of the midrange is probably largely down to not having a crossover mucking everything up. 

I had been a bit worried that the quality of the top end might be lacking compared to using a dedicated tweeter and that any cone breakup might add a bit of harshness in the sibilance region. The top end of the Eikona is beautifully extended and smooth. No need to worry at all. Many people who use the JX92s add a super-tweeter to fill out the top end. With the Eikona this is not at all necessary. I think that the improvement in the top end is one of the biggest differences between the two drivers. 

When I initially set up the speakers, I ran them without the subwoofer. Even in a sealed cabinet they go surprisingly low. More importantly, as they give up at lower frequencies, they do so with real decorum. They don’t complain or try to force out notes that are beyond them, they just bow out gracefully. My previous speakers gave up with much more complaint, the distortion of the bottom end colouring the midrange. The addition of a high pass filter helped cure this. 

They sound like the -3dB point is lower than the calculated 86 Hz. It probably isn’t but because of the way they roll off, it sounds like it. More important than bass depth is bass articulation. You get a real sense of the character of bass notes. I have heard it said that to improve your bass, upgrade your tweeter. This is because the character of bass instruments is carried in their harmonics at higher frequencies. If you stick a crossover into the mix, much of the harmonics will not be in phase with the fundamental. The parts of the sound don’t line up anymore and the character is lost.

I had been holding the idea of adding an active filter in reserve. This would have been used if the bottom end gave up with any signs of distress. As the roll off has no issues, one is not required here. Likewise, there is no audible breakup in the sibilance region so no notch filters or similar are required either. The final possible filter would be for baffle step. Possibly due to the shape of the cabinet, baffle step doesn’t seem to be a problem. The bottom end sounds perfectly in balance with the midrange. With these speakers, absolutely no additional filtering is required. Not only does this avoid putting anything in the signal path that could mess with the phase coherence of the speakers it also saves on the cost of building said filter system.

The one area of sound quality that keeps surprising me is what I refer to as mid-bass. This is the bit between the upper-bass and lower-midrange, in the range 200-500 Hz. It is so clean and tight. Wooden-bodied instruments and toms have real character. This could be due to the driver being so much lighter than one that would normally be used for this frequency range.

The general consensus and Jordan’s recommendation is that they should be toed-in so that the axes cross a good distance in front of the listening position. My experiments seem to confirm this advice. 

What really made a huge difference was pulling the speakers an extra foot into the room. The soundstage exploded when I did this, huge, focused and solid. Unfortunately, this is not a position where they can live permanently. I would love to try them in a larger room where I can get them 3′ or 4′ into the room.

Whilst moving the speakers around I noticed something slightly uncanny. I had my head close to a speaker and the sound all appeared to emanate from just in front of the phase plug. It appears to come from here regardless of where I listen from. Normally, sound appears to come from a speaker more as a whole. This would suggest that rounding off the cabinet has had a profound effect. You normally get a lot of clues as to the location of the cabinet from the sound diffracted from its edges.

Compared to other drivers that I have experimented with (which is a lot, I worked for a hifi dealer for 10 yrs and ran their servicing department), the Eikonas don’t seem to change as much as most with run-in. They are definitely sounding smoother through the midrange and top end but haven’t lost any of their incisiveness or bite.

Basically, I’m loving the sound of these speakers. I think all the work required to make the complex cabinets has definitely paid off.

Very happy. 

 

Revamped amps part 2 – tube or solid state?

You’re looking to buy a good vintage or second-hand amplifier, so do you go for tube (valve) or transistor?

This is a difficult question to answer. 

On the face of it, tube amps are an antiquated technology with performance that is grossly inferior to modern solid-state designs: 

  • tubes have characteristics which affect the tonal balance of the speakers connected to them;
  • the life of output tubes is pretty short, often 100s of hours (less than 500 hours in a pair of 100W mono amps I once owned);
  • the heat that the tubes generate can shorten the life of internal components; 
  • distortion is often audible (one reason for the ‘creamy’ sweetness in older designs) and low bass can be severely distorted due to the output transformer saturating too early. 

In summary, the performance of many tube amps is as if you’d added a graphic equaliser and had a good play with the adjustments.

In contrast, modern solid-state amplifiers offer inaudible distortion at all frequencies, masses of clean power and, these days, with good examples of popular models, very long and reliable lives. In all honesty, the best solid-state amplifiers can be regarded as commodities; you plug them in, switch them on and then basically forget about them as they do their job without drama. My own solid-state power amp dates from the early 1970s, it’s so ugly it has to be hidden away (it’s a pro audio unit) yet still performs very well and, sonically, just gets out of the way.

But the thing is, tube gear can look so wonderful. Glowing tubes evoke all manner of positive emotions. The best tube amps can perform very well and can have long lives, but it’s my view that such examples are few and far between. Most are poor derivatives of very old designs and perform as such. As with vintage cars, one needs to enter into an emotional relationship with the amplifier and fuss over it periodically to keep it running properly. Many valve-lovers enjoy tube rolling; fine tuning the sound with different tubes (old or new). For me, the fact that you can change the sound by replacing a tube shows the sound is coloured to varying degrees, but owners of such amps don’t care at all as it’s part of the fun and joy of ownership.

Having said all the above, I currently own a pair of rebuilt Quad II tube power amps. These were saved from a skip have  been fully and sensitively rebuilt by a master craftsman. I have to say they sound is glorious, if they’re not pushed too hard, adding character to the sound that is so darned addictive. I get them out to play every so often, but couldn’t use them day-to-day as so much is missing from the musical picture they present.

Let’s compare these old Quad II power amps with Quad’s solid-state 606/707/909/QSP/Artera family of power amps dating back to 1988 or so. 

The 606 family of amplifiers makes for a superb used buy, offering plenty of power for today’s music productions and a genuine ability to drive more difficult speaker loads (around 230 watts per channel into 4 ohms). They come from a different world of reproduction quality, yet the amplifiers themselves look like small breeze blocks. It’s these visual shortcomings that often result in their being ignored by the audiophile fraternity. Those that do try one in good order (most are), fall in love with them and are genuinely surprised how good they are. The Quad IIs beat them hands-down on visual charm but when it comes to reproducing modern recordings on good loudspeakers …

For the uninitiated, I’d avoid tube amps as they can be money pits if you buy incorrectly. There’s one current popular brand that is absolutely terrible and a dreadful example of the breed, yet wealthy enthusiasts buy them and use them with totally inappropriate speakers, giving a sound far removed from that intended.

So if buying vintage or used, I recommend sticking to well-reviewed, solid-state amplifiers. If you’re genuinely beguiled by the golden glow of tubes, save for something recent and properly designed. Quad and Radford immediately come to mind, along with the more expensive E.A.R. models. There is a wide range of tube amps out there (most of them imported), but many don’t live up to their alluring glow. 

 

Revamped amps part 1

 

Quad II tube amp photo from www.keith-snook.info
Radford Series 3 amp photo from Radford Revival

Customer Project – The Eikona Egg

No matter how good your loudspeaker drive units, the ultimate performance is limited by the cabinets (and the room in which they are used). Most of our customers are happy to try their hand at building cabinets the traditional way, using plywood or MDF and straightforward carpentry. For those who would like to try something different … the Eikona Egg.

The Eikona Egg has been built by Daniel in Singapore, a longstanding customer who has built several of our designs. This one differs in that the cabinets were 3D printed, allowing a cabinet shape which would have been difficult to achieve by conventional means.

Neither shape nor technique is unique. One of the most interesting commercial designs in recent years is the £30,000 Hylixa by Node Audio, which uses precisely this approach with outstanding results. However, the difference here is that Daniel’s loudspeaker is a DIY design available to anyone with access to a suitable 3D printer.

The cabinet volume is approximately 5.5 litres and has a reflex port which is not entirely accurate for the Eikona (but can be blocked to turn this into a sealed enclosure). The cabinet was designed for a particular driver, but the Eikona will fit, as shown in the photographs. The feet are a matter of taste but they can probably be modified or omitted if required.

Daniel says of the results:

The main advantages of these enclosures are minimal time smearing and a better transient response versus the conventional box enclosure. Over the past few years, I have built different enclosures for my two pairs of EJ Jordan drivers. But I’m finding myself enjoying this design the most.”

You can find the 3D printer files and associated documentation for the 5” driver 3D Egg on the Thingverse website here.

Revamped amps part 1 – buying a vintage hi-fi amplifier

The recent Vinyl Revival series of blogs has received a lot of attention, including coverage in the hi-fi press. It seems that there is a genuine interest in buying and maintaining vintage audio equipment among our customers. With this in mind, we went back to our industry expert for advice and recommendations for people investing in electronics, in particular, vintage amplifiers covering the period 1960s to 1990s.

Photo courtesy of World of Design

 

Should you look for a UK-made amplifier or one made in the Far East?

This is a difficult question to answer for several reasons. Far Eastern amps often had good quality components in superbly-finished casework, offering decades-long life in many cases. Unfortunately, the beauty could often be skin deep only, with pretty mediocre performance in too many of the thousands of models released to market in the 1970s. The best examples are now appreciating classics and of course each enthusiast has their favourites, from the slightly clinical Yamaha integrated amps to the fruity, lush-sounding Luxman and expensive Accuphase examples of the time. Sadly, each maker had their classics and clunkers, so care must be taken.

As for the UK, the one cause for concern is that some manufacturers seemed to suffer from poor component quality, especially electrolytic capacitors. All the classic names in the 1970s suffered, including Quad and Radford, together with the late 70s pretenders Naim, for a variety of reasons. I’ve seen many examples of all three makes in dire need of service, some all but blown up due to component ageing. Lower-price UK makes such as Armstrong and Goodmans suffered even more, I think, as regards construction and component quality – although I remember the Goodmans receivers (the Module 90 and 110 were especially popular) performing quite well when they worked. By the 1980s, this was starting to improve and amplifiers started to become more reliable.

Can I make any recommendations? I know a good few but I’ll no doubt be leaving out others. From the Far East, some of the top models offered by several makers gave good power and sound. Some of the odd-ball types could sound amazing when new (Sony/Yamaha V-FETs) but they can fail catastrophically today and specialised parts may be long discontinued, transforming some of the amplifiers into heavy door stops .

As for UK vintage amplifiers, Quad and Naim are well-known and now very expensive for their age. Creek and Cyrus seem reliable, popular and easy to service and there’s much fondness for the old A&R A60, Creek 4040 and NAD 3020, if you can find a well-cared-for example. I’m personally fond of the very slim, quirky amplifiers from the original Cambridge Audio from the 1970s, but I fear they suffer component issues now and weren’t always reliable when new either.

One general thing is to make sure any amplifier you buy has short-circuit protection. If an elderly output stage fails, the protection will normally try to save the speaker. Ideally, ALL old amplifiers should be checked over by a good engineer; solder joints, even on battleship-grade Far Eastern amps, can dry out, often with disastrous results.

 

Revamped amps part 2 – tube or solid-state?

A stylish home theatre in Sweden

This week we are featuring another home theatre system, this time built by a customer in Sweden. 

The system uses seven Jordan full-range drivers, three Eikonas for front and centre and four Jordan JX92S drivers for rear surround. The Eikonas are in slightly modified SL cabinets, which we consulted on – especially the centre speaker which required adjustment of the speaker position for a balanced look.

The results look terrific; very elegant, discrete and fit the room well – exactly what a good loudspeaker system should do, whether for a home theatre or stereo system. The flexibility of our Eikona full-range driver is ideal for this.

The sound is backed up by a pair of BK subwoofers and the whole adjusted using ARC measurement and equalisation software.

I’ve given them a lot of play-time during this weekend.

The fronts go plenty deep to below 40 Hz, however I’ve tuned the fronts to 80 Hz and then the two BK XXLS400 subwoofers take care of the low end! Stereo image is amazing and the soundstage between the fronts LCR is seamless.

Dialogue is just perfect. 

Comparing the specially designed SL-Bs to the small 4.3 liter cabinets with Jx92s is hard as it’s different drivers and the cabinet is different, with that said I’m surprised how good and relatively deep the small ones go. They drop at 85 Hz with a nice bump at 120 Hz making them sound bigger than they really are. I’ve tuned them to 100 Hz letting the subs take care of the bass.

 Watching movies is intense especially with an Atmos or DTS X soundtrack, you are there in the middle of the action.

 Can I recommend this setup? YES with capital letters, I’m surprised so few have made home theater setups with these drivers. 

The combination of Eikona SL and Anthem amps with ARC is amazing!

Look how they track – I’m truly impressed and I work with sound as programme director for NRJ radio in Sweden. This is top notch!

 

 

 

 

Arizona Home Theatre

Jim is based in Arizona, USA and contacted us last year for advice on using EJ Jordan Eikona loudspeakers in the  home theatre system he was building. In fact, he was embarking on more than a home theatre, he was constructing an entire house, using a stunning mix of modern techniques and traditional adobe construction (see photo below). We gave  recommendations for the best cabinet sizes and alignment for his particular use. We then waited to see what Jim had done. It took a while – after all, he had a house to build – but we were finally rewarded with the following photographs and comments:

We have been in the new house for 6 months now. It has been one project after another. But just as things settled down, COVID 19 hit. Interesting times for sure. Anyway, I thought it would be nice to share some thoughts…..

I designed this system on my own. It is very different than the typical home theater set-up which inevitably includes box speakers everywhere and most of the time sounds horrid. I have been into (and still actually prefer) 2-channel systems.  Over the decades, I have figured out that full-range speakers without crossovers and the simplest electronics are the way to go. With this background in mind, the last thing I wanted was a surround receiver and a bunch of multi-driver tower speakers in my room with over-hyped, exaggerated, sonics designed for movie special effects. I wanted a musical system first, that would hold its own with movies.

The Jordan Eikona speakers work perfectly. They are small, each one mounted in a sealed 4.5 litre box.  The center speaker sits on a shelf below the TV and the front left and right channel speakers are recessed into the walls. The boxes for the rear speakers sit in little niches built into the brick walls. As the attached pictures of the room show, the system is non-obtrusive – almost invisible.    

Most of my listening is music streamed via Tidal or YouTube. With better recordings, the sound quality through the system is awesome. Like I said, I prefer 2-channel systems, but I must admit that the “all channel” stereo setting on the receiver sounds extremely engaging, surrounding you with “big” sound. And since the sound is coming from the Jordans, the music sounds glorious. With a big 4K TV, the experience comes close to a concert setting, but in the comfort of your home. The Eikonas are so smooth and natural sounding; instruments and voices sound as they should. You can listen for hours on end without any fatigue.  The system conveys emotion, warmth and detail.  

I’m very happy with the system, even with a mid-fi surround receiver.  My next project is a turntable. I picked up a completely refurbished Garrard 401 and I’m having a plinth built for it.

The rest of my system includes an Onkyo RZ830 receiver, Samsung Q70 83-inch TV and a pair of TBI subwoofers. The subs are amazing for music. They won’t shake the room like typical, high-end home theatre subs, but for music they are perfect. They integrate so well, you don’t even know they are on until you turn them off. I don’t know how widely they are available, but I would try to give them a listen. I strongly recommend them with the Jordan speakers: 

http://www.tbisound.com/_pdf/EMPEROR%20DPM.pdf

I really do enjoy the Jordan speakers. Their ability to produce a natural sound is uncanny. Pianos, strings, drums, whatever, all sound like they do in real life. When you listen to other speakers, you realize how colored their sound really is. 

For the fun of it, I went to a local hifi shop and listened to some speakers that cost up to $5000, including some Bower & Wilkins. I did not like any of them. In comparison, they lacked clarity, coherency, and were fatiguing. Besides watching movies, I have also been streaming a lot of music. No matter the source material, the Jordans are easy on the ears. As a result, I tend to turn the volume up. With the other speakers, I would turn them down because they offend my ears! 

 

Vinyl Revival – part 3

So far in this series, we’ve looked at what older turntables are worth considering and what to avoid. Now it’s time to look at turntable maintenance with our turntable expert.

What is a good, basic maintenance routine to keep an old deck going?

Old lubricants in bearings and motors can dry out with time. Even Rega turntables need their main bearings checked and cleaned out, plus re-charged with the recommended oils if necessary every ten years or so. Belts and idlers need checking, cleaning and the former replacing every so often. As to how often I can’t say as usage plays a huge role here.

Springy belt-driven decks may need the suspensions checking and general fixings tightening up, but in the Linn LP12, the religion which built up around it and the exorbitant prices charged for a service (£200+) can be off-putting. I’m instructed to replace springs and grommets as a matter of course, but I’m not entirely sure it’s entirely necessary in a lot of cases. It’s done because it’s done! If a deck is basically working right, I’d leave it alone generally, but obviously if – like top Garrards and all Lencos – the main bearing needs a drop of oil on the top bearing sleeve periodically, then please keep to that regime. Other top decks also have things needing to be checked.

Obviously, styli need to be kept clean. Signs of stylus wear are often heard in the form of increasingly wild ‘sibilance’ after which groove-damage will occur. Already sparkly Ortofon cartridges just get worse and worse until the mis-tracking becomes unpleasant, for example.

Are there any makes or models to avoid either because they’re not good or just too complicated for beginners?

If you’ve never owned a record player before, I’d probably suggest playing safe with an aforementioned Rega!

All turntables from the 1980s and before will need work doing and it’s up to the individual to thoroughly research the model that interests them. Very old decks will have audio cables in various degrees of age-contamination which can cause hum and intermittent sound.

As for decks to avoid, it’s tricky. At the very bottom, the Garrards and BSRs derived from record player base chassis – Garrard SP25 series, BSR MP60/P128 and so on – will need VERY careful work to free off gummed-up mechanisms and, after all this, rumble is still an issue. But as modern cartridges are readily available tracking at 2g upwards, these decks can still have a new lease of life.

Many good-looking Japanese decks at the lower price range can be awful as regards playing records with any form of fidelity, mainly due to very flimsy construction and bad acoustic feedback which ruins the sound. Sometimes, and as Rega recommend, removing the lid when playing can improve things a good bit.

Vinyl first-timers should probably avoid any of the very springy belt driven decks, unless they know the history or have an experienced pal who can help set it up. Once set up, Thorens decks tend to stay set unless messed with, but these are so expensive now they may not appeal to first-timers. Duals and Garrards come up cheap and some of them are bargains if you can sort them out!

The Vinyl Engine site is a good one here as well as the UK Vintage Radio site for some things. Lencoheaven is a great resource for Lencos but be warned, there’s a lot of modifying going on there!

Japanese direct drives, even the best ones, can suffer dirty speed controls and switches (I have an SL1500 I thought I’d sorted ten years ago that once again suffers wayward speed due to bad pitch presets and main switch). The wiring to the amp on some can ‘go off’ over time as I discovered. Main bearings and motors will need a drop or two of something, I suggest.

Are there any simple tools worth investing in?

A set of decent small screwdrivers

A set of tweezers or fine, long-nosed pliers are useful for fitting cartridge tags

A set of suitable cartridge screws – I use stainless steel 2.5mm Allen head bolts and nuts as well as suitable aluminium equivalents, which some cartridges prefer for mechanical reasons

A stylus balance – there are many digital ones these days, but I have huge fondness for the old AR plastic one, now sold as a Rek-O-Kut model (shown near the bottom of this web page). It’s incredibly accurate for each quarter gramme increment.

Vinyl Revival – part 1

Vinyl Revival – part 2