Binaural Berlioz

Binaural audio on the BBC has a history which goes back  to 1978 and the ground-breaking, wordless radio play The Revenge, by Andrew Sachs.

The experiments continue to this day and you see frequent updates on the BBC Research Blog. One aspect they are exploring is synthesised binaural sound, based on existing recordings.

You can listen to how well this works with this new BBC recording from Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall of the BBC Philharmonic playing Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique.

Grab your headphones and enjoy!

Please note that this iPlayer recording may not be available to overseas listeners and is only online until 25 June 2017.

Project – Jordan Eikona VTL review 2

Ted Jordan’s VTL design continues to be immensely popular and with the Eikona 2 it has reached a new level of performance. You can find details of the design on our loudspeaker plans page. The following is a review we have just received from a customer who built a pair using the Wilmslow Audio kit:

It has been over a month now with the Jordan VTL speakers, so I thought I would post a brief review of my thoughts in case it benefits others. I realise that music is such a personal thing and critical factors such as source, cables, material and listening room can all affect the end result, but I will try to articulate my experiences thus far.

Separation is experienced across the complete frequency spectrum in layers with a tonal balance that especially makes instruments such as piano, double bass, violin and guitar an utter delight to listen too in the form of a fuller bodied sound which is fully demonstrated by Roo Pane – Deeper than shallow . The instrument decay on some of the recordings just seems to go on until the recording master has actually stopped it. It is that clear, you know when it has happened, not whether the speaker struggled to communicate the decay accurately towards the end.

Many reviews seem to use Norah Jones as the test track for female voices, and I am no different in this regard. From her album “Come Away with Me”, songs such as “I`ve got to see you again” show the power she has in her voice, and the raspy, airy, way she starts each verse. I haven`t experienced that type of connection with her music before as I did using the Jordans… It just came over as more emotional in my opinion. Sia`s “100 forms of fear” had the same effect…goose pimples (note* both were 24-bit Albums used)

Nuances are also improved. One particular track I use to define this is from The Beatles “Orange Album Greatest Hits – Get back” (24-bit edition). There are people in the background of this uncut track right at the beginning which are audible, but my measure of detail retrieval is how clear those people actually are when the track begins, before Paul and John start playing. Those voices can be heard very clearly on good headphones saying “careful” …, “I dunno”, but up until now I have struggled to get that forward clarity into my living room on 2-channel speakers. I have it now! The famous track from Pink Floyd (wish you were here) at the beginning with the two commentators on the old radio is another example that previously seemed as though the voices were in the weeds lower down on the right-hand side, but you could still audibly make them out. Now, they are at mid-level height on right channel, and as clear as any other recorded voice on that track.  Michael Jackson`s – Thriller is another where the footsteps present an illusion of walking around the speaker on the right-hand side first, before walking across to the other channel and not just right to left. It is so clear in it`s rendition. 

Another area I feel that is more defined is with micro detail. I guess everyone feels a sense of pride when their stereo system conveys the opening breath before a singer starts, but with the Jordans you also get the room ambience during sessions. I could probably calculate the size of the room the singer was recording in (possible slight exaggeration), but you get the point. It is that clear.

A balanced sound is probably where people split on different sides on the HD800 headphone debate. I like a bit of warmth, and to be honest there are some recordings now that make me think “why on earth was it recorded so dry”, or “where is the bass on that track”, so I have subtly added a subwoofer that helps with this when needed. 95% of the time, I just switch the woofer off. On well recorded tracks, enhancing the bass is not needed and on listening to music like Ray Lamontagne`s album (Trouble: track – Shelter), the bass swings down to the floor on the right, then the left-hand drumkit comes into play doing the same ten bars later. It was one of those jaws dropping moments during early listening sessions with the Jordans that truly showed me what these speakers were capable of. You look at the diameter of the speaker in front of you and think…. How on earth!!?

Which leads me to discuss what I think is the critical part listeners might want to take a bit more time to adjust to when auditioning the Jordan VTL. The other parts mentioned above are glaringly obvious from the word go and do not need any re-calibration. The upper treble however is as smooth as butter at times and as the highs were not harsh, edgy nor forward, initially made me start to think they may have been a bit lost in the balance of the midrange and bass with complex songs such as the album Whiplash (track 4). I remember this track as too powerful on the upper trebles before, but it was presented differently, as the trumpets are further back on the VTL, preventing the glare I expected. Switching to Miles Davis (Kind of Blue) clarifies that there is no loss in detail as you can hear the top end very easily with precision and clarity, so the presentation changes, with no treble fatigue where I expected it as before.”

Project – Bigger is Better

The Bigger Is Better loudspeaker project began on DIYaudio.com some years ago. The design is based on the quarter-wave tuned pipe, developed in 1934 by loudspeaker pioneer Paul Voigt.

Voigt’s design is a tapered tube, tuned to a quarter-wavelength of the lowest frequency to be reproduced. It is a simple, straight taper but has elements of horn-loading and is designed for corner-loading. The BIB maintains the corner position but goes a step further, tuning to a half-wavelength (twice as long) with the opening – or mouth – pointing upwards. The BIB still utilises corner-loading but the sound radiates unobstructed across the room by utilising the ceiling.

Builders in the DIY community have reported excellent results. The BIB calculator is available here and we have produced two enclosure designs for the Jordan Eikona 2 full-range drive unit.

The first Eikona BIB is designed for a single Jordan drive unit. Although the enclosure is over 2 metres tall, it is an elegant column (28cm deep by 18.25cm wide) which is easy to integrate in most modern living rooms.

A second design uses two Eikonas per enclosure for greater bass and power handling. The height is similar but with a slightly larger footprint (35cm deep by 24cm wide) – not substantially more than a stand-mounted bookshelf speaker but with considerably greater performance.

You will find both designs in a PDF here. The design lends itself to considerable fine-tuning depending on the amount and placement of the internal wadding. Much of this will be dictated by the finished loudspeaker’s performance in your own listening environment. It is also worth considering some form of grille over the mouth of the enclosure – you don’t want to lose the cat in there!*

As ever, if you decide to build one of our enclosure designs, we are happy to answer questions along the way and help where we can.

 

Jordan Eikona BIB plans

 

* A DIY horn loudspeaker design in Hi-Fi News magazine in the 1960s or 70s featured the feline damping technique. The author said his cat often slept in the mouth of the horn and claimed that the loudspeaker always sounded better when it did! He never found wadding to match the effect of a curled up cat snoring quietly in his loudspeaker.

Vinyl or not

Vinyl LP records continue to hold a place in the hearts of many. From dominance of the market in the 60s and 70s, they now occupy a small but resilient niche. Occasionally their sales outstrip downloads, albeit in value terms rather than quantity (LPs are now a Luxury Item and music companies charge accordingly).

One thing is undeniable – they can can generate many a heated discussion amongst audiophiles. Some people swear by LPs, others swear at them. Here is an interesting perspective from professional recording magazine, Sound-On-Sound.

Here at E J Jordan Designs we take an agnostic view. Turntables can be wonderful mechanisms with a charm and delight which a CD player or computer download will never match (the Transcriptors Saturn above, for example, which featured in several Hollywood movies). There are many technical reasons for the superiority of digital but there are also good reasons why an LP master may be better, in some circumstances. We have customers who are enthusiastic about analogue and digital (in the workshop here, for example we have a fondness for open reel tape machines).

E J Jordan Eikona speakers will sound good on either medium and you will find that the better the playback equipment, the better our speakers will enable you to hear your music.

 

Medieval sound

Soundscape – the sound of the environment around us – is becoming a popular field for exploration. Whether it is the hum of the city or forest birdsong, there are numerous examples around the web for you to explore and enjoy.

But it is not only modern soundscapes which are the subject of research.

Dr Mariana Lopez of the University of York Film & Music Department recreated the soundscape of 16th century York as part of the UK’s Being Human Festival.

The soundscapes included church bells, animals, music – the sort of soundscape you would have encountered if you had wandered the streets of York during one of the Mystery Plays some time during the 15th and 16th centuries.

The installation ran in Bedern Hall in York between 18-21 November 2016. Click here for full details. There will be a stereo version of it on the University of York website soon.

 

Passive, active, single

No, it’s not the title of the latest Richard Curtis rom-com. Passive, active and single refer to the three primary ways of designing hi-fi and studio loudspeakers.

Most loudspeakers feature multiple drive units, each of which has a restricted bandwidth. For instance, in a typical two-way design the bass/mid unit may cover 50Hz to 3000Hz and the smaller tweeter will take over from there to around 18000Hz. How the two units are connected defines whether the speaker is a passive or active design. A single, full-range speaker is one drive unit which endeavours to cover the whole frequency range, from 50Hz to 18000Hz.

All three have advantages and disadvantages – the art of successful speaker design is knowing which compromises are acceptable and designing accordingly.

PASSIVE LOUDSPEAKER

These dominate the hi-fi market. They use passive (non-powered) crossovers featuring components designed to operate at tens of volts and high current. This makes the components large and expensive, particularly if close-tolerance parts are used. Even at relatively low powers, the components can exhibit significant harmonic distortion which would be deemed unacceptable in an amplifier or other electronic hi-fi component. Furthermore, at higher powers, the components may heat up, their values alter and the crossover point – carefully calculated and designed for, often with computer modelling – may move, leading to more distortion.

Finally, the crossover appears after the power amplifier,and effectively decouples the drive units from the amplifier, allowing no electrical damping and control over the movement of the cone or dome.

ACTIVE LOUDSPEAKER

Technically, these are a huge improvement over passive loudspeakers. The crossover is powered, like a preamplifier, and uses small voltage components, making them cheaper, closer tolerance and cooler running. An active crossover can be designed and manufactured much more accurately than a passive crossover. The amplifiers come after the crossover and are connected directly to the drive units, allowing much greater control and damping. Distortion is a magnitude less than with a passive system, something one would think all hi-fi enthusiasts would strive for.

The main disadvantage over a passive speaker is the requirement for a second power amp. However, the power amps themselves can be smaller – they are precisely matched to the drive unit with no requirement to drive high-current loads. Many systems – for example, Linn, Meridian, AVI, Bang & Olufsen and Genelec – fit the power amplifiers within the loudspeaker cabinet, leading to a further cost saving in expensive metalwork for the amplifier.

Despite these advantages, the active speaker shares with its passive counterpart a number of significant problems.The sound is still generated by two or more separate sound sources, leading to a lack of focus. The units themselves may be wildly dissimilar in both design (cones and domes or ribbons) and materials. The units may have different transient responses, as you might expect when trying to match a lightweight dome to a heavy plastic or paper cone.

Would you be happy to listen to a piano solo split between a church organ and a harpsichord?

SINGLE-DRIVER LOUDSPEAKER

Despite their apparent simplicity, these can be amongst the most sophisticated loudspeakers available. The sound is generated by one drive unit, usually from one point in space and manufactured using one material. The sound is more focused, coherent and natural than the best active or passive speakers. There is none of the distortion and poor damping of the passive speaker and they avoid the complexity of the active.

But a high-end, full-range speaker is not the easiest or cheapest thing to design and manufacture. The Jordan Eikona 2 is the culmination of decades of research and development. The proprietary materials used are expensive and specialist in nature, many of them hand-tooled.

So the single, full-range driver has many advantages over the active and the higher cost of the drive units is offset by the need for only one power amplifier, the choice of which is entirely left to the end user.

The results are worth it. Listen to the Jordan Eikona 2 and instead of a loudspeaker, you are listening to music.

Electromagnetic soundfields

DT880

We wouldn’t normally recommend that you turn to headphones rather than the Jordan Eikona speakers, but here’s something which might tempt you.

BBC Radio 3 has posted a short video of a binaural recording with a difference. Specially adapted wireless headphones allow the recording artist to ‘hear’ electromagnetic fields from LED displays, security systems and other electronic devices.

It’s a fascinating listen. It works best on headphones but also works well if you sit between a pair of Eikonas and turn the speakers inwards to face your head.

You can watch and listen to the video here.

 

Eikona VTL loudspeaker from BK Electronics

Eikon_Pair_White_close

Following on from the review of the BK Electronics VTL kit, we are pleased to be able to announce that BK now have a complete VTL speaker system available.

The loudspeakers are supplied in white or black, with satin or piano gloss finish and are fitted with magnetic, clip-on grilles. The result is very elegant.

Prices are £894.95 for satin finish and £1014.95 for gloss.

Full details on the BK website.

Eikon_Pair_White_450w

A history of Ted Jordan’s VTL Loudspeaker

eikona kit pair

Following on from last week’s customer testimonial to the BK Electronics VTL kit, we thought we’d go into further detail about the evolution of the design.

Ted Jordan designed the VTL loudspeaker enclosure in the early 1990s. It used the Jordan JX92S full-range drive unit and saw commercial success as the Konus Essence. It has enjoyed a long life among manufacturers and DIY constructors and continues to do so with the arrival of the Jordan Eikona 2.

The transmission line loudspeaker is an evolution of the acoustic labyrinth, first produced commercially by Stromberg Carlson in the 1930s. Arthur Bailey added a port in 1965 (Non-Resonant Loudspeaker Enclosure Design, Wireless World 1965) and a new enclosure species was born. The advantages of the transmission line over a reflex or sealed enclosure include more extended bass, better suppression of resonances and greater power handling.

The basic idea is a speaker at one end of a pipe with a hole at the far end. The pipe may be more or less heavily damped depending on design. The VTL is a type of transmission line known as a coupled cavity. The rear of the drive unit fires into a cavity which feeds into a long, damped pipe. Above a certain frequency, the cavity decouples the driver from the pipe and the enclosure behaves like an optimised sealed box.

Robert Fris is generally credited with inventing the coupled cavity TL with his Daline (The Daline, A Decoupled Anti-resonant Line Loudspeaker, Hi-Fi News, November 1974), but in fact Ted Jordan described something similar four years earlier. Ted’s article for Wireless World (Loudspeaker Enclosures, January 1971) described the evolution of the infinite baffle via the sealed box, reflex and horn to a box with long, damped line (see diagram below).

More recently, George Augspurger’s AES paper (Loudspeakers on Damped Pipes, JAES, vol 48 no. 5, 2000) computer-modelled TL alignments and concluded that the coupled cavity is a very successful option.

The Eikona VTL remains as Ted envisaged it; a compact, floor-standing enclosure which is smaller and easier to accommodate than most transmission lines. The wide baffle goes against the modern trend of narrow-fronted enclosures but it gives more weight and realism to the lower registers, particularly on piano and voice.

Ted enclosure evolution

Project – BK Electronics Eikona VTL transmission line

VTL 04.1

Ted Jordan’s VTL transmission line remains our most popular enclosure for the Eikona 2 full-range loudspeaker. It is a compact,floor-standing design which is 30 cm wide but only 10 cm deep and very room-friendly. It is perfectly happy working near walls and room boundaries and is a neat solution to high quality music in the home.

One of our customers, Steve, has just completed a VTL kit from BK Electronics. Steve is a very experienced hi-fi enthusiast and has owned some of the best loudspeakers available, including the famous QUAD ESL63. We’ll let Steve take up the story as he began auditioning the Eikona VTL:

I’ve only had about an hour’s listening, I started with the subwoofer frequency sweep off YouTube to just see how low it would go, and it does go low! Solid output to below 40Hz and the lowest frequency reproduced is 32Hz and this is from a 4″ driver…

“I listened to a selection of my test tracks to listen for various different aspects of the sound quality. … Being a single driver speaker with no crossover to muck things up, the clarity and transparency are crystal clear and uncoloured. The stereo image and focus, even with just a few feet between the speakers, is superb.

“The midrange – particularly vocals and solo instruments like piano – have an amazing clarity and naturalness. Every aspect of their performance is as good as if not better than anything I’ve had before…

“I must admit to be a bit in awe as to what a 4” driver is capable of; these things reproduce percussion unlike any other speaker I’ve heard, drums and rim shots are so crisp and powerful, it’s a revelation, as for bass, these transmission line cabs just can move so much air, it seems like alchemy!

“The old adage of hearing stuff you’ve never heard before in your music is certainly true with these, the size of the soundstage and imaging is the best I’ve experienced in 40 years interest in hi-fi.”

Part 2 looks at the background to Ted Jordan’s VTL enclosure. Meanwhile you can see the plans here.

VTL 02.1