Project 731   A PLAYBACK system, not a MONITOR system - let me explain


Assist in setting up a melange of lovely equipment for the most enjoyment and "Hollywooded Up" experience. In other words, this is NOT a "monitor" system for critical mix checking; this is intended to be a fabulous, bigger than life, kick you in the stomach rock n' roll and planets-blowing-up LFE noise movie experience!

So that opens up an interesting can o' worms conundrum about ALL of these systems.


I define a MONITOR system as something that should, no, must exist in a recording / mixing / mastering studio, where we need to critically evaluate whether the snare drum needs 1.5 dB more at 2.5kHz of EQ, and so on. We need to know how what we are hearing will TRANSLATE to a half million dollar room or to a TV speaker or a pair of $3 earbuds or some insanely overpriced socially acceptable pair of bling-encrusted headphones.

On the OTHER HAND, most mere mortals (that is to say, NOT recording engineers) just want everything to sound fan-fucking-tastic, killer in your chest and stomach bass, cymbals that will cut your hair at 20 feet, and so on. OK, maybe I exaggerate a little. But not much. Everyone wants to pay as little as possible and be the envy of their buddies with the biggest, baddest picture that's WAY too bright and contrasty and a sound system to match. This is what I call a PLAYBACK system. We DON'T REALLY WANT TO know about all those subtle engineer adjustments. We just want it to sound and look great!

Well maybe not EVERYBODY. But a surprising percentage. Therefore when I go to someone's location, I must evaluate the uses and room and correctly adjust to those desired sociological parameters.

Ths particular client has some admirable industry connections, and had an idea that he would assemble all this superb stuff and therefore the result had to be good. Well I have to say it's not necessarily audiophile, but many would consider it MUCH BETTER (or at least more fun) than audiophile. So let me explain.

The Main View

I pulled the gamma way up on this pix so you could see the shadow detail. What you don't see is a terrific huge hard drive system feeding the Audiophile OPPO, which is spectacular. In a nutshell, we have a Marantz Processor, Parasound Amps, Golden Ear Speakers, a JL Audio f113 Sub, A Furman Power Conditioner, and Wireworld cables.

What I do is to set up the sub phase in the 2-channel mode, then for the Home Theater mode ALL the top distances are set to 7 feet and the sub distance is set to 19 feet. Then when you switch back and forth between 2-channel and HT, the sub stays correctly phase aligned and everything, including the levels, matches up. This is explained on my TEST CD Page, HERE.

Close-up of the rack mount


Using the DAC in the OPPO, and going through the Marantz as "direct", makes a HUGE difference. The same WAV files off the hard drive are SO much better when using the OPPO. The customer, and I, and various assistants, tried every combination possible, which is what I generally suggest when someone wants to experiment. Try HDMI, Optical, coaxial digital, RCA, Balanced, etc etc and then YOU choose what YOU prefer. So very sad Oppo stopped making these great devices.


The Golden Ear speakers have a built-in powered sub. They are about the furthest from audiophile grade out there - they sound HUGE (good, if you like that...) have simply sort of non-extistent imaging, (different high freqs splay around) and the bass has the capability of being overpowering and puffy, heavy, perhaps flabby, with a bit of overhang... But again: to someone who has only heard a Blose table radio or android phone earbuds they are SPECTACULAR and efficient. There is something for everyone in this world.

But since I know how to tame these things, here is what I did. You consider that entire speaker an ENTITY, and cross it over at 90. Then everything below 90 goes to the JL Audio f113. Therefore the L C R Ls Rs — all the tops — are ALWAYS set as SMALL. Once the phase relationship is correctly adjusted as per my setup system, (in this instance the sub phase is matched to the LF speaker since it's closest) the low end is now cleaner, tighter, and the low freq imaging - for example the placement of a floor tom, a stand-up bass in a jazz recording, a kick drum and so on, is now fabulous but also controlled and focused. The LFE noises on movies is mind-numbing, but the delicacy of classical and acoustic stand-up bass is preserved.

Therefore the so-called powered subs section IN the Golden Ears is turned down all the way (but all the way down on the control is not completely 'off'). The NET RESULT of all this is far greater than the individual things are capable of.

And this is WHY these Home Theater "processor" manufacturers have so-called "audiophile direct bypass" circuits: because their "digital stuff" is often embarrasingly bad, and audiophiles feel they need to go as "direct" as possible. Enjoy !

There is no plug-in for experience...
SOUNDOCTOR                  BARRY OBER           EMAIL: barry@soundoctor.com