Explaining euphonic qualities and systems

MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICEJuly 19, 2013 

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Ohm Walsh speakers use a “Walsh driver,” a single inverted cone that accurately reproduces almost the entire audible audio range.

Q: I have seen you write about things that are "euphonic" in the past, where certain audio components work well with each other. Could you elaborate on that?

E.H., Bethel Park, Pa.

A: What you are referring to is system matching, though euphonic qualities can play a part. I will elaborate on both.

The dictionary defines euphonic as "agreeable sound." In the realm of the audio hobby when something is referred to as euphonic it does not mean more accurate. In fact, the opposite is frequently true as the word euphonic is often followed by the word "distortion" to create the term, "euphonic distortion." Tube amplifiers have more noise and measurable distortion than solid-state amplifiers, yet many listeners prefer tube amplification. There are many debates as to why, but many of us chalk it up to euphonic distortion that creates pleasant sound that is easy on the ear.

Vinyl records and turntables are another example of euphonic qualities. If you were to scientifically measure the output from a top-of-the-line, $10,000+ turntable setup and compare it to the output from a $30 CD player, the CD player's output will be much more even and accurate. When you listen to them, though, if you have good recordings (and clean records) you would find a majority of listeners prefer the record player. In fact, you would not even need to spend $10,000 on a record player to achieve this result.

System matching can involve products with euphonic qualities, but the concept refers to choosing components that complement each other. Amplifiers and turntables also provide good examples of this.

Two of my favorite speakers are Ohm Acoustics Walsh speakers (OhmSpeakers.com) and GoldenEar Technology speakers (GoldenEar.com). Both use unique technology to make them different and better than conventional products, and I own examples of each.

Ohm Walsh speakers are incredibly accurate. They produce a beautiful, natural "soundfield" with 3-D realism that makes it seem like you can reach out and touch the performers. Walsh speakers thrive on clean power with a high "damping factor" to provide precise control of the Walsh driver. Tube amplifiers tend to have low damping factors, so typically they are not a good choice for Ohms. A proper match is a strong sold-state amplifier.

GoldenEar Technology speakers use a unique metal HVFR (High-Velocity Folded Ribbon) tweeter. HVFR tweeters are incredibly open, detailed and airy, and have low power requirements. They have proven to be a fantastic match with tube amplification, which really makes them come alive. In fact, GoldenEar Technology founder Sandy Gross is a tube amplifier aficionado and uses tubes with his own GoldenEar tower speakers.

I don't have the space to go into much detail about turntables and system matching, but turntables have a very hard job to do, so it is important to pick pieces that work in harmony. For example, a $5,000 moving coil phono cartridge will sound fantastic on a turntable with a solid, non-resonant tonearm, but mounting on a flimsy tonearm could well lead to sonic disaster.

Beyond the components you also should match speakers to your room size, amplifier power to the speakers and how loud you play, etc. I will have more on system matching in a future column.

Contact Don Lindich at www.soundadviceblog.com and use the "submit question" link on that site.

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