S t r i n g s ...A t t a c h e d !
A Personal Evaluation of a Demonstration
AMSTERDAM HIFI KLUBBEN
On March 27, 2012 a second evening of demonstrations of Steinway Lyngdorf loudspeaker systems was organized at HiFi Klubben-RAF, Rijnstraat, in Amsterdam. The main demo was of the Steinway Lyngdorf Model D systems which had been brought to Amsterdam for the ISE (Integrated Systems Europe) fair at RAI exhibit center, held from 31 January - 2 February 2012. So demonstration in the RAF shops in Amsterdam and Hilversum was a practical consequence.
DEMONSTRATIONS AND THE HUMAN ABSORPTION FACTOR
Experienced visitors of consumer shows or exhibits for professional audio know that demonstrations vary from booth to booth, from room to room. The equipment on display differs from brand to brand and the way it is positioned in the room or booth may not always be the best. Participating in a consumer show generates a lot of work in a just a few days . The quality of demos do vary. One can hear visitors say that this or that performance was no good and the easy conclusion is that the products were of lesser quality. Every audio enthousiast and music lover knows that the circomstances are different from listening to a well optimized demo in a room of a shop with just a few interested people, or if you yourself have invited a few friends to listen in your home. The intensity of listening for a short while during a consumer show is very high. Listening to a system in a shop or at someone's home is generally more relaxed because there is more time, also for discussion. The most significant factor that kills demos at fairs is that people are going in and out and the number changes constantly. Not only the materials of sofas, carpets, drapery and walls do absorb sound. The actual trouble is that people have a rather high sound absorbing coefficient. The more people are attending, the worse the quality is. The exceptional aspect of the Lyngdorf systems is that they have to be calibrated and in this demonstration it was hopefully done in relation to enough absorbing surfaces, of objects, and of people. Yet, the quality of the demos varied. It takes some courage to demonstrate. But every designer knows the system he built. He knows what it is capable of. And that is another factor that has to be taken into account when judging the quality of a system. Check this interesting page: Absorbtion Coefficient
are you going to do when your assigment is to recreate the sound
of a Steinway Model D Concert Grand? What are you going to do when
you are asked to design a loudspeaker system that reproduces fully
and completely, and entirely and lifelike that complex sound in
whatever surrounding you may put those speakers in.
do you want to recreate that body of sound only by using the most
modernistic electronics and let a computer program decide how membranes,
mounted in heavy yet slim looking and inert panels, have to behave?
Are you merely creating a Gestalt that emerges from stiff membranes,
from a moving surface that projects the sound in two directions,
at two points in the listening room to create the spacey stereo
image, to create a sound image projected via a anamorphic lens as
important trait of Lyngdorf's design is to remain in the digital
domain entirely, literally from front to end. That also includes
going for digital amplifiers with the least feedback or with no
feedback at all. And these amplifiers would be fed the signal provided
by a clever DSP (Digital Sound Processor), including tailoring it
to the room with the unique RoomPerfect software.
I asked him at the end of the demo what developments he was expecting
over the coming period, of five years, he did not expect improvements
and so there was no need of developing the system further. He considers
the Steinway-Lyngdorf Model D - that is what we are talking about
- as the ultimate system. It can not be bettered. It can process
signals encoded up to 104 MHz. That is many times higher than what
current formats need. That is quite something.
FOUR WOOFERS PER PANEL
panels are of thick aluminum, about 3 inches (7.5 cm) thick, if
I listened carefully to the explanation. These large panels were
not cast in molds but were sculpted out of blocks by a CNC cutting
machine. The "acoustic" properties of aluminum are foremost
determined by the amount of lead in the alloy. The lead is necessary
to make machining easier. But the influence of lead counts in practice
more for light weight applications, not for thick and heavy panels.
This means that the "speakers" will not be influenced
by whatever acoustic feedback generated by the room they will be
positioned in, as long as the floor is sturdy enough to prevent
horizontal movement. But probably spurious vibrations would as well
be compensated for by the program. Four woofers with light, stiff
cones, two medium chassis based on Scan Speak units and one Heil
Air Motion Transformer are mounted in a d'Appolito configuration.
The filtering of the complete system and the movements of the transducers
are completely controlled and therefor the electrical and mechanical
parameters of the woofers may deviate from electrical and mechanical
values which are chosen when designing a conventional dipole system
(with added subwoofer). Conventional does mean a Qts of 0.5 or thereabout
and a Fs of 50 Hz. In the Model D the fundamental resonance of the
woofer units do not need to be low. Even a high fundamental resonance
can be chosen deliberately. Frequencies below any Fs can be amplified
and the curve can always be corrected for good measure like in Bose
802, 901 and 902 systems..
mid range drivers are a special development of existing 5 inch Scan
Speak units. I do not know what type the original driver is.
Personally I have always considered the Heil AMT loudspeakers a bit smooth and too friendly, not chiseled in the top, not very strong in detail because of the dipole principle. Any dome tweeter can add more dynamics in the top. The functioning of the Aulos also depends on what the basis of the system does. If the bass speakers are well kept in control, the rest of the frequency characteristic is controlled too. In this respect it is important to know to what measure. The extent however is clearly heard in the demonstration. High frequencies do not stand out in particular.SERVO CONTROL
professor T.S. Korn of Servo Sound devised a system of preamplifier
and small loudspeaker boxes with integrated amplifier. The boxes
were servo controlled. His name is also connected to the firm Korn
& Macway when he went a step further by introducing A.I.R. which
means Acoustic Inter-modulation Reduction. His electronics were
analog of course and no RoomPerfect calibration existed. Similar
applications of corrections in loudspeakers were incorporated in
the Motional Feedback (MFB) systems of Philips in the 1970s, and
later also adopted by Cabasse in the Galion and Albatros designs.
The Cabasse active loudspeakers had a very high efficiency and could
easily attain a sound level of 120 dB. Whatever the make, these
speakers behaved extremely well but they were somewhat robbed of
their spontaneity, depending of course how severely the feedback
signal was calibrated. Large excursions were restrained and measurements
showed that the sinus was topped off, so to speak.
As I had taken a few CDs with me that I knew well and they do contain well recorded material, I asked before the demo started if some of "my" music could be played as well. My selection would interfere with Peter Lyngdorf's standard program which consists of a specially prepared CD with selections. The label says Dali, obviously meant for use on other systems designed by the man as well. Lyngdorf's demo started with a track of Dire Straits and from there we went to Bob Marley, Erik Satie, Michael Jackson's Earth Song and a female jazz singer who initially would make us believe that Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass were in front of us but then the voice became somewhat inarticulate in the mid band. So it was a different affair. The recordings were of a mixed quality, naturally, because recording engineers and producers have their own ideas of what sound is all about, and "each technician has his own signature" as is shown in an uncanny way by different issues of the same material available in shops and on the net. This goes for LP reissues as well.
Peter Lyngdorf told the audience that, when he was about 10 years of age, round and about 1963, the Beatles appeared and became quite a phenomenon. They were on the radio every day. As a kid he owned a stereo Tandberg Model 5 taperecorder and he listened to the songs via the built in loudspeakers. He soon found that the quality of the sound could be improved upon by connecting better loudspeakers. He decided to build some himself. And it was then and there were he was bitten by the bug and, when still in school, already built speakers for relatives and friends. When he started his own business, he sold Cerwin Vega loudspeakers and built enclosures with Cerwin Vegas for the Danish market. His hi-fi business was prospsering benefitting from the hi-fi boom in the 1970s and eventually owned a chain of audio shops in Denmark, HiFi Klubben, covering today 97 percent of the Danish market. He is best known for the Dali range of speakers marketed by NAD of which he became the owner in the early 2000s controlling 93 percent of company stock.
During the coffee break I got my chance. Lyngdorf gave me the permission to have a quick listen to the beginning of Crumb's Haunted Landscape (New World Records 80326-2), the Helsinki University Chorus singing Rakastava (Finlandia CD, FACD 205 S), and pianist Byron Janis's Pictures at an Exhibition (Mercury 434 346-2). The first two are recordings from the 1980s, using strict multi bit converters and no or hardly any compression applied. All three recordings gave a more refined, clearer and a trifle more slender sound, showing the importance of how the recordings are made and what the compression in modern CDs does. This also indicated - at least to me - that older CDs would probably need a different calibration of the systems if that would be possible. But probably the main reason for the clearer sound was that I was closer to the speakers with less interference by other listeners.
THE HUMAN FACTOR
Yet this made me reflect on how the system had been calibrated. In the end the RoomPerfect software is written by humans. The mathematics may be correct, but is there also the human influence? And what about the sensitivity of the human ear when it is educated, what about its ability to hear the myriad details and of focussing into a complex sound pattern, and what about the brain's memory function storing and retrieving listening experiences at the same time when listening to a recording? These are capabilities that differ from person to person, they are qualities that should develop in every human being starting with the earliest years in life. Important is to what sounds and music one is exposed to. It is difficult to assume that children that have continuously been listening to nothing else but house and rap will easily develop a taste for the symphony, the piano trio, or the violin sonata later in life. Exposure is one important keyword. Another is variety. On these topics Peter Lyngdorf should be interviewed. He grew up with The Beatles.
designer who wants to create the best loudspeaker wants to arrive
at creating a mirage of the actual sound, a sphere as it were that
shows what the original recording is and how it was made by the
recording technician, the way he perceived it and monitored it in
his studio or in a auditorium?
I also missed a recording with a skillful pianist performing fragments of "Sunt lacrymae rerum" and "Marche funèbre" from Franz Liszt's "Troisième année de pèlerinage", which could have demonstrated so dramatically the miracles of both Models D, i.g. the grand piano and the loudspeaker system respectively, and should have revealed the true capabilities of the instrument with open air membranes and its digital source. Or any other piano fragment with deep bass, provoking rich overtones in high frequencies to resonate. I missed just a small specimen of a symphony played by a large orchestra, the playing of a brass band, and a jazz combo that would have projected itself neatly in front of us. Yes, jazz was played in another space with the Model S surround sound system while watching a big screen with pianist Chick Corea playing in a somewhat Monty Alexander style, and when he was done a giant flute with exaggerated embouchure followed with far too much and not detailed lower frequencies. And finally there was this sequence of the movie "Master and Commander" with overloud audio which was difficult to grasp.
CINERAMA - CINEMASCOPE - WIDESCREEN
the movie sequence started, Peter Lyngdorf pointed out that while
viewing the scene below deck, we would be able to hear sailors walking
over our heads. He later asked if we had the experience. Well, not
clearly. I told him that after Cinemascope had been introduced with
the movie The Robe (1953) with the multi channel sound track to
create surround sound in the movie theater that had to be adapted
specifically for the new system, the format was considered too expensive
and was graded down to what was simply called widescreen, often
reduced to black and white. See for more info about stereo sound
recording and surround sound in the early days of the cinema
technology of all Steinway-Lyngdorf models is entirely digital.
That is its strength because the outcome, the performance, is always
the same or at least rests within a well defined sound frame. For
certain people this may be an assett to others this may be a drawback.
Used in a home theatre system, the Lyngdorf designs follow the trend
of todays cinema sound where the slamming of a car door is
a heavy, overly loud and disproportional boom and the music of the
soundtrack played by a large orchestra shakes the seats. If you
want that experience, OK.
The quality of the sound is foremost determined by the conceptual design. It is justified to compare the outcome to the real live experience. If we attend a concert in the Concertgebouw, we never have a seat in the back of the hall, but always in one of the first dozen of rows. Number 6 or even 11 are two of the best rows. Row 30 definitely not. Row 30 means that the high frequencies have been attenuated too many dB and the orchestra displays a mere low and mid band sound. It all depends on what you are used to and what you want to experience. One can often read in a magazine that this or that person prefers his hifi at home instead of attending a live concert, a live experience. Maybe he or she sat too far away from the orchestra or the chamber music players or the performing recitalists. The exciting thing about a live concert is that it touches your soul. The excitement is brought about by a transient, a sudden peak, it is about slam, and tutti. There is also a physical aspect which is part of the emotion. And of course there are melody, and refined and detailed harmony. What if you could give transients more freedom in the Model D, for example by changing the parameters with which the Room Perfect software measures the room?
FOOLING THE SYSTEM
the demo held in the RAF-HiFI Klubben shop in Amsterdam on February
8, Peter Lyngdorf apologized for the fact that the calibration of
the Model D systems had taken place before many people came to sit
in the demo room and that now, because the acoustic properties of
the room had changed, the system would not reveal its true capabilities.
Rudolf A. Bruil
Page first published on the www on April 10, 2012.