E.A.R.S. - Editorials, Articles, Realizations

Save your hearing!

Sustained listening to sound pressure levels (SPLs) above 85 dB has been shown to cause permanent hearing loss. There is a great iOS app from Studio Six Digital called “Mobile Tools” that includes RTA, FFT, and SPL analyzers. And there are similar apps for Android devices. There is also the free SPL app from NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health). Search NIOSH SPL.


Turntable Isolation Test

Here is a quick and easy test to see how well a turntable and tonearm keep external vibrations from reaching the cartridge stylus and contaminating your music. For each step, listen for sound coming from your speakers. If you hear something, then you know how well your turntable and tonearm isolates, minimizes, or dampens vibration in each area.

Standard Disclaimer for Audio Equipment Reviews

Please note the wherefores and whereases to put any opinion on these pages in context.


How To Level a Turntable

The quality of the level doesn't matter: almost every level has some error. I used to install medical research centrifuges that spin at 80,000 rpm*, and at those speeds, perfectly level is critical.

SRT: What Is Required For A Great Audio System

I can’t tell you what to buy. Even if I found the perfect component…well, what is “perfect”, anyway? Take an amplifier, for example. Let’s say that I thought that the Cary 300SEI amplifier was the absolute best amplifier on the planet. In my room and with my speakers, it just might be the best choice out of the hundreds of other amplifiers out there.


A Simple Amplifier Distortion Test

I was testing an amp a few years ago to find out the clipping point. I used a test CD with sine waves and an o-scope connected across the speaker cables. I turned up the volume and watched for the sine wave to distort.

I wore shooting-type hearing protectors. Every time I saw the wave form distort, I heard - through the hearing protectors - a hard, grating, irritating sound. I noted the volume control setting.

WOW. That sounds GOOD!

Sometimes I install a component and something in the sound immediately captures my attention and I say “wow” or “that’s great”. That, contrary to the observation, is a problem. Anything in the sound that sticks out and grabs your attention and is so obvious will invariably be one of the very things you later dislike about a component. “Great treble” becomes “too bright”. “Powerful bass” turns into “fat and boomy”. Or something.


Bargain Hunters

Everyone likes a bargain. I do, too. Whenever I hear a buyer of expensive toys, such as audio components, say that they have to get a bigger discount because they have a tight budget and can't afford a couple of hundred bucks more, I have to laugh. Are they giving up food to buy a new preamp? Are their children going without shoes or schoolbooks because their new cables cost too much?


Component Reviews and You

Audio equipment reviews express an opinion. You may not agree. I suggest that the best possible reason that people dispute reviews and reviewers is that they have learned enough about what they like and don't like that THEY have an opinion. If a review helps them form an opinion, even if that opinion is the opposite of the reviewer's, then the review has been successful.


How to Dial In a Subwoofer

Here is how I dial in a sub. I do this procedure fairly often and it works very well. You can dial in a pair of subs in less than 10 minutes. It helps to have another person making the adjustments while you listen. We'll use the sub's level control and the sub's low pass filter (frequency) control.

1. Play something with good bass content. I use Michael Jackson's "Thriller" CD, and play Thriller.

Sonic Rating Scale

This is the rating scale I use for the magnitude of sonic characteristics (thanks to Dr. C.Z. of Denver):

“Small” – takes several hours or more to hear

“Medium” – is not immediately noticed, but becomes apparent in short order, i.e. 30 minutes to a few hours

“Large” – is immediately noticeable.


The Live vs. Recorded Debate, Revisited

Live music is the best reference to judge how good an audio system really is. I like Bruce Springsteen, Dire Straits, Doobie Brothers, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Joan Armatrading, Gloria Estefan, Steely Dan and others. I have heard all of these live, some more than once. As you probably know, not one of them normally performs in concerts that are completely acoustic with no electronic assistance.