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the Bass Pig's Lair!

The Bass Pig's Lair is now active. This site has moved to it's own domain name,, and the content is being regularly updated. Some breaking news on the woofer front is coming shortly....

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The listening experience is what it's all about, isn't it? For years, that has been my goal. Not the cosmetics, or the frills, bells and whistles. I just wanted an accurate and dynamic sound system, not a movie prop for a sci-fi series. I kept that design goal in mind as I constructed.

Through ten iterations of speaker system designs, I learned a lot about what sounded real and what didn't. I learned to set aside a lot of hype and misconceptions about high end audio. I auditioned a lot of drivers and amplifiers. Many were mortally wounded in the process. However, after more than a decade of serious construction, testing and listening, the system shown here, resulted. And all I can say is that the basic form-factor has not changed significantly since 1984, I have left it mostly as-is, adding only subtle refinements. I felt no further need to change anything. The musicality is, well, like real life.

I don't want to compare it to any high end loudspeakers because to me, they don't fool me into thinking I'm hearing a live performance. Delicate piano solos, strings and just general "ambiance" in fine recordings send shivers down one's spine. When I'm playing a recording in which there is a solo vocalist (I'm thinking of a particular Arai Akino album), at times when I forget myself, my subconscious suddenly believes there is a person singing 8 feet in front of me, and then I realize that's impossible. It's often startling.

In 2005, I had the opportunity to create some of my own symphonic high end recordings with the Danbury Symphony Orchestra, conducted by a friend of mine, Kurt Anderson. The recordings represent the pinnacle of faithful reproduction of music and ambient sound and were sampled in 24-bit/96KHz digital, using pristine converters and mic preamps and a wonderful set of eight large-diaphragm condenser microphones. The whole recording setup driven by my Sony VAIO laptop computer, running Vegas 4.0 as a multitrack hard disk recorder. We recorded two rehearsal sessions and a concert in June. The sweet part was when I convinced an orchestra member to turn off the air conditioners in the reheasal hall for the first 50 minutes of the session, giving us a beautifully low noise floor. This became one of my benchmark high fidelity recordings for demonstration purposes. For me, it is a great benchmark, because I actually stood by the conductor and heard exactly what my 8-mic array heard and can easily compare it with the playback here. With the Sonic Hologram engaged, one can literally stand there and point out first violin, second violin, viola section, trumpets, trombones, woodwinds, cellos, basses, timpani, etc. and they are all in the right places as they were during the session. Somehow, I managed to get these monstrous speakers to produce uncolored sound that one would expect from an electroctatic or ribbon loudspeaker.

But I didn't build such a large system so I could listen only to delicate solos. There's a whole 'nother side to my personality, a side that likes rock, pop and reggae-style music, as well as an avid movie-appreciator.

I'm particularly a percussion freak. I like sharp, accurate, but louder-than-life transients. The music I like best has a wide dynamic aperture. Constant loud volumes cause the ears to tire and engage protective mechanisms, dulling one's senses. So I prefer music that has loud persussion, but open, mellower midranges with not too many harmonies going on. In this manner, using a dbx 4bx Expander with Impact Restoration, I can increase the "pop" of the snare drums to ear-shattering levels.

As a gun owner, I can attest to high SPLs, and I like my snares to be about 30dB above the rest of the music on the louder hits. I'll admit that this departs from high fidelity strictly because I am exaggerating the dynamics, but then audio is about enjoyment, and I built this system to provide both accuracy and exaggeration to larger-than-life proportions as well, to cater to my many moods.

Recently, I purchased a Cel 241/1 Sound Level Meter, as the Radio Shack one was useless beyond 115dB, even though its scale goes to 126dB. On the Cel, I have a scale that goes to 140dB and the meter can actually get up there, as I found out while measuring the SPLs at the listening position in front of the array. Scary stuff!

One of the challenges I tackled last year was to increase the dynamic range by getting rid of most of the noise. For years after integrating the amplifiers into racks, I lived with a 45dB ambient 60Hz hum. While not audible on conventional loudspeakers, this high efficiency array made the noise loud enough to penetrate walls.

I got to work on the problem, solving it with four major tactics: gain structuring, segregating power amps from preamps, isolating the power amps magnetically and electrically from the rack rails, and switching over to a single digital loudspeaker management system. A lot of tweaking and balancing, some preemphasis/deemphasis to reduce preamp hiss and careful setting of power supply polarity of each amplifier until minium hum was attained, yielded a noise level that I had to strain to measure, at around 10dB, which is inaudible from more than a couple feet away. Once I finished this latest refinement, symphonic music now emerges from a blanket of silence. It's like a whole new sound system.

Okay, so what about bass? :-)

I may have given my hand away by mentioning 140+dB SPLs above, but anyway, I'll convey the story:

I always find myself reflexively lapsing into laughter whenever an audiophile talks about "incredible bass" from audiophile subwoofers, as I've not heard (or more correctly, been injured by) what I consider outstanding bass from the many audiophile systems I've listened to, bought, auditioned over a 30-year period. That's why I went this route.

I always get a kick out of the first showing to a new audiophile visitor, as I launch into a Japanese recording that has almost no bass, albeit very thin bass, way down, in the intro, and almost always, the first comment blurted out is "Holy sh** -- I can't believe the BASS!" ...and then the bassline actually starts moments later and they practally fall over.

You have to have come close to having your leg blown off by a mine in WWII to appreciate the transient response of this system. Many people talk about "explosive bass." This system actually delivers it and, might be classified as a weapon, if such classification existed for sound systems.

Such crisp transients are made possible by the long-throw and highly linear magnet motors in the highly-efficient woofers, extremely high power, low intermodulation distortion in the drivers themselves and good phase/time alignment. Time alignment between multiple woofers is achieved by the new Loudspeaker Management System, the Behringer DCX2496. It really makes a difference. I find I get the same impact with MUCH less amplifier power after aligning all the speakers.

I'll elaborate about linearity. Most conventional woofers have a very short overhang of the voice coil winding in the gap. When they move a little, the coil exits the magnetic field and the cone is now coasting. Not only does this result in tons of harmonic distortion, but the transient attack is gone, as there is no power behind the cone once it leaves the gap. That was the driving force behind some of the woofer upgrades here. Longer gaps, different voice coil/gap geometry to allow one woofer to move the amount of air that normally would require two 18" woofers. The important performance issue is to keep the coil within the magnetic field at all points in the excursion. Electro-Voice's new EVX-180B does a nice job with increased linear displacement and power handling. Now selling at over $500 wholesale, the 180B is the most bulletproof driver in my array. And whether the Kevlar cones have anything to do with that is another story, but certainly does make for the most rigid cones I have ever touched. These are like steel and they don't flex at all.

The system has taken on a distinctly more visceral percussion quality with well-recorded music. Of course, when a kick drum hit fills the room with over 140dB of instantaneous SPL, it's quite unnerving to all but the most experienced Bass Pig. Folks, this is an acquired skill, learning to endure this much bass. One takes one's breaths between bass notes, as it were.

Being into pipe organ from the old days, a potent, pure output at 16 hertz is essential and, to pun a bit, fundamental. This is a system you can FEEL as you pull into my driveway, long before you reach the front door. It's this kind of headroom that insures the most distortion-free delivery at "normal" listening levels of 116dB.

I recently had the opportunity to audition a pipe organ at a large cathedral. The organ is a 1962 Austin with 32' pedal stops. Naturally, being up close to a beast this size, one tends to expect a lot of sub-bass. Well call me spoiled, but the real thing was a huge let down! After hearing good pipe organ recordings on this system, the 'real' thing sounds really anemic.

The performance is lively, stunning, breathtaking and very satisfying with all types of music. And speaking of which, what do I listen to? Find out below...

Hot Picks ... See the Bass Pig's Hottest Japanese CD Choices!

And that's all for now, folks!

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