Tweakers' Asylum: REVIEW: Jim Smith Get Better Sound Accessory by Leefy
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Model: Get Better Sound Category: Accessory Suggested Retail Price: $45.00 Description: Book Manufacturer URL: Jim Smith
Review by Leefy on November 20, 2008 at 17:35:50
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Sorry to say, I have found myself to be a bigger â€œuserâ€of AA than I have been a contributor. My posting has been minimal at best in view of the enormous help that this community has been to me so this is my first attempt at contributing in the form of a review. Iâ€™d like to take a few paragraphs to state my own background and biases so that you can give whatever weight you deem appropriate to this review.
I am an A/V dealer in Canada and have been involved in audio as an enthusiast and later as a dealer for about 40 years. My current gear list is in my profile, if youâ€™re interested. I have owned lots of stuff over the years ranging from Quads to horns, solid state to tubes, big stuff and little stuff, so I hope I can at least claim an open mind (or at least a very unfocussed one!) in my equipment choices over the years. Much of the equipment I have owned is not stuff I sell as a dealer. Its stuff I purchased as a perpetual hobbyist and strictly to please my own tastes.
I met Jim Smith (author of the book under review) through his help in purchasing a pair of Avantgarde Duo Omegas while he distributed that product. His VERY specific set up guidelines for that product (often at odds with the manufacturerâ€™s and infinitely better sounding) gave me an immediate respect for his credentials. The fact that he continued to offer his advice on AA about Avantgarde product setup long after he was no longer involved with the company showed me he was not hesitant about giving his advice for free. I figure if he was charging for it now in book form, it was worth finding out if it was worth the investment. I have no connection with Jim or his book and have never been a dealer for any product he has ever been involved with.
I am no beginner at this hobby but I am always willing to learn. I certainly donâ€™t need to be told to â€œmake sure the speakers are in phaseâ€ or to â€œmake sure one of them isnâ€™t behind a potted plantâ€ so I wanted to find out if the book really could give a person with substantial experience some useful tips.
The book is designed as a reference volume, so with few exceptions (the sequence of laying out the speakers in the room for example which should be done in a very specific order) one can read whatever section seems most interesting and in any order. There are 202 â€œtipsâ€ in total and they are divided into 23 chapters that group them into categories with related info. It is written in a conversational and informal style so there is nothing â€œtextbookâ€ about the approach. It is illustrated with charming and simple line drawings that illustrate salient concepts. Sample headings? â€œStereo system bass and subwoofersâ€, â€œworking with your roomâ€ â€œthe value of having a true reference recordingâ€ and so forth.
Are all the tips earth shattering? Certainly not, if you are experienced. Iâ€™m open to learn but hope there arenâ€™t 201 things in this hobby Iâ€™ve never thought of! Is there plenty of meat to justify 45 bucks (way more in my weak Canadian dollar) absolutely.
Specifically, I have never been satisfied with the bass balance of the AGâ€™s in my room and have often found myself â€œretweakingâ€ the adjustable bass levels on the Duos bass units (curse those adjustments!!). I would find that I would set a balance that struck me as perfect on some audiophile spectacular demo disc (the kind you never actually listen toâ€¦) only to find it â€œnot quite rightâ€ on the next sonic spectacular. The tips in this book (#74 - #77 specifically) cover a very specific setup technique for optimizing the seating position on real music and left me feeling satisfied that the balance was finally reliably â€œcorrect.â€ Coupled with this, tip #201 which details the process of working through the setup with a specific reference recording (in this case Tears of Stone by the Chieftains) describing specific points and musical frequencies on the disc made for a pleasurable afternoon of tweaking with surprising improvements in a system I thought was fairly well dialed in. I have access to sophisticated RTA equipment but was able to improve on my previous RTA assisted setup with a change in seating distance of less than 4â€ all done by ear.
I would have been delighted with the purchase of the book for this advice only.
His other discussions about room setup and speaker placement are admirably specific and made further refinements to my system. (after reading this book it didnâ€™t seem completely anal to make sure the speakers were separated in a ratio of.83 compared to the listening distance and to measure that the speakers were equidistant from my ears within 1/16â€.) This focus reminded me of the importance of attention to detail it setting up any audio equipment. The cumulative effect of these incremental tweaks is quite remarkable and is contained with only a few tips.
I found other intriguing stuff in terms of thinking about some old concepts in a new way. Jimâ€™s take on the concept of a â€œwide sweet spotâ€ should be required reading for any audio enthusiast. He talks about stereo bass, AC polarity, tight â€œaudiophileâ€ bass versus the real musical experience. He deals with room treatments, digital room correction, compression and other topics dear to the hearts of enthusiasts but often with an unusual insight that makes those topics fresher and more thought provoking.
Donâ€™t buy this book if you expect 201 knockout blows. It is to be expected that some are weaker than others if you are experienced in this hobby. I wonâ€™t call them filler as their usefulness depends on your own expertise. If I was buying my first stereo, Iâ€™d read it from cover to cover and short cut many years of trial and error.
Does the book deliver on its promise?
Very much so, in my opinion
1) My own system finally has an room bass performance that is worth way more than the price of a few CDs
2) Like most audio enthusiasts, this stuff is my hobby and I love reading about it, tinkering with it and listening to it. Reading improvement tips makes any staleness and complacency go away and makes me want to skip a TV night and just go try a few things. I think we all share the Eureka feeling when something new in our sound makes us go â€œwowâ€ This a pretty cheap way to guarantee at least one of those moments no matter how experienced you are. I think itâ€™s a no brainer as one of my best â€œupgradesâ€. I could only wish that my last upgrade cost 45 bucks.
Product Weakness: None really Product Strengths: Great value for money. I think anyone would find useful stuff here
Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: BAT VK75SE Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): BAT VK51SE Sources (CDP/Turntable): Sony SCD1 VSE 5+ mod Speakers: Avantgarde Duo Omega Cables/Interconnects: JPS Labs Music Used (Genre/Selections): na Room Size (LxWxH): 23 ft x 18ft x 10ft Room Comments/Treatments: na Time Period/Length of Audition: na Other (Power Conditioner etc.): Shuntyata Hydra Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner
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Topic - REVIEW: Jim Smith Get Better Sound Accessory - Leefy 17:35:50 11/20/08 ( 29)
- RE: (strong)REVIEW: Jim Smith Get Better Sound Accessory(/strong) - Dr.Phil 10:15:15 11/23/08 ( 0)
"â€¦speakers were separated in a ratio of.83 compared to the listening distanceâ€¦" - David Aiken 15:58:10 11/22/08 ( 23)
- either way, I hope you don't nod your head to the music! - dave c 12:53:15 11/23/08 ( 16)
- If you start with everything placed precisely, it matters less when your head moves...(nt) - mkuller 16:19:53 11/23/08 ( 0)
- RE: either way, I hope you don't nod your head to the music! - David Aiken 15:20:35 11/23/08 ( 13)
- Possibly, but... - dave c 19:58:22 11/23/08 ( 12)
- Not necessarily an argument against precisionâ€¦ - David Aiken 13:24:21 11/24/08 ( 0)
- What kind of audiophile would even think in such terms? [nt] - Wellfed 09:29:49 11/24/08 ( 10)
- errr... one with friends and family? - dave c 12:22:48 11/24/08 ( 9)
- I've actually been surprised to find MORE realistic sound when sitting off-axis. [nt] - Wellfed 14:21:51 11/24/08 ( 8)
- RE: I've actually been surprised to find MORE realistic sound when sitting off-axis. [nt] - Jim Smith 16:43:29 11/24/08 ( 7)
- Repealing the laws of physics seems to be my specialty these daysâ€¦ - Wellfed 20:14:04 11/24/08 ( 6)
- your ambition and capabilities know no bounds!! - dave c 02:26:45 11/25/08 ( 3)
- Ambition MIXED with serendipity along with some good ol' fashion horse sense I thinkâ€¦ - Wellfed 09:03:08 11/25/08 ( 2)
- How does that saying go? - Jim Smith 20:20:22 11/24/08 ( 1)
- I'm glad you're not the curious typeâ€¦ - Wellfed 20:32:46 11/24/08 ( 0)
RE: either way, I hope you don't nod your head to the music! - Jim Smith 14:20:12 11/23/08 ( 0)
Taste - Jim Smith 00:24:14 11/23/08 ( 3)
- Y being about 83% of X - BS64 06:25:44 11/23/08 ( 0)
RE: Taste - David Aiken 01:16:05 11/23/08 ( 1)
- RE: Taste - Jim Smith 08:12:40 11/23/08 ( 0)
RE: "â€¦speakers were separated in a ratio of.83 compared to the listening distanceâ€¦" - Leefy 16:11:36 11/22/08 ( 1)
- Thanks for the info NT - David Aiken 01:16:54 11/23/08 ( 0)
In the past, I've been a little cynical... - mkuller 11:06:11 11/22/08 ( 0)
Well written and informative review. Thanks. - speyer 22:22:20 11/20/08 ( 0)
Nice review -- thanks! - Charles Hansen 20:40:36 11/20/08 ( 0)
RE: (strong)REVIEW: Jim Smith Get Better Sound Accessory(/strong) - boboli 20:40:34 11/20/08 ( 0)