Our DSP methodology
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 22:40
One major addition to our new amplifier is a high quality DSP (digital signal processing) unit. If you are a purist reading this, the word DSP might give you shivers! After all, DSP is a device that manipulates the signal and the purist in you argues any manipulation of the signal is evil! To be honest, that's how we felt about DSP technology originally. The reason being, it has been used in many products to cover up the low quality of other components in the system. Or it has been used to add nasty 3D effects , bad bass and/or treble boost, and other so called "enhancements" to the sound.
However, DSP is a tool (a very powerful one) and like any other tool if utilized properly it can be very beneficial, but it requires deep knowledge of digital signal processing.
Our methodology in utilizing DSP has been very different. We have used it only to help the speakers stay true to the original mix, and not to try to "improve" or "enhance" it.
New Improved amps
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 - 14:50
We have been hard at work during the past year developing a new generation of amplifier exclusively for our active speakers. Finally, with the start of the new year we started shipping our speakers with their new and improved amps. Here are some of the upgrades we made to our amplifier:
- It is more powerful now at 20W RMS per channel
- The amplifier now features a dedicated high quality DSP unit.
- It now has a smart subwoofer output that automatically detects when a subwoofer is plugged in and activates an internal high-pass filter. This will relieve the speakers from producing heavy bass giving them more headroom
- The subwoofer output is already low-pass filtered at a frequency that make for perfect integration with any subwoofer.
- PCB layout is designed with utmost care and the components are very carefully selected to help save the integrity of the signal from the moment it enters the amp to the moment it is converted to acoustic waves by the drivers.
- Drivers are now directly connected to the output stage of the amplifier so the amplifier has more grip on the drivers.
- We have added a headphone output.
- Finally, with all the effort that went into designing it, we thought it deserves a beautiful plate to mount to. New plates are machined out of 1/8" thick hand brushed brass. No cheap stamped steal or aluminum here!
Here are a couple of pictures for the curious! :)
Importance of Audio Source in Computer Audio
Wednesday, August 3, 2011 - 13:09
These days with the Internet, it’s easy to get your hands on good quality digital audio (with decent sampling rate …). Right now, as we see it, the next bottleneck in audio quality in computer audio is the PC (Desktop or Laptop) hardware itself. More specifically the sound card.
All computers come with a built-in sound card. We rarely see a built-in sound card with decent performance (on both desktops and laptops). Frequently, they are so bad, they defeat the purpose of buying quality speakers. Perhaps computer manufacturers don't see the point of a high quality built-in sound card, because they saw computer speakers as the weakest link in the chain. That is true in many cases, and that is partly why we started Serene Audio. In any case, if you are deciding to buy good quality speakers for your computer, you might want to consider upgrating your sound card as well.
If you use your laptop as sound source, you can get a reasonably priced USB DAC, and if you use a desktop you can get a sound card to replace the one built-in on the mother board.
Importance of Harmonic Distortion
Thursday, July 28, 2011 - 14:34
I like to think of a sound system as a chain of devices through which the sound travels before making it to your ears. It starts from the recording studio and ends with you. One of the links in this chain is your loudspeaker. In contrary to many of the devices in this chain, there has not been a great breakthrough in speaker technology for a long time. Although, there has been much improvement, there hasn't been a fundamental change -one that improves the bottom line- in how speaker operate internally. This means that there are still many substandard loudspeakers out there, and these days speakers are most frequently the weakest link in the chain.
The two primary aspects of a loudspeaker are its frequency response (FR) and harmonic distortion (HD) performance. Frequency response is the better known measurement, and there are many resources available to help you understand it. Harmonic distortion, however, is more complicated and gets far less attention than it deserves, even though it is arguably as important if not more important than frequency response. Therefore here I am going to focus on harmonic distortion.
What is Harmonic Distortion?
When fed with a sine wave of frequency f, an ideal speaker system should only produce an output of frequency f. However, in real world, speakers produce f, plus frequency components that are integer multiples of f ( 2xf, 3xf, 4xf, 5xf, 6xf. ). This is the result of various non-linearities in the drivers. Each of these frequency components leaves a different signature on the sound.
What does Harmonic Distortion sound like?
Harmonic distortion makes a spaced out acoustic guitar, percussion, and vocals sound fuller and more vibrant. That is why you hear those kind of tracks at stores when they are trying to show off their speakers. However, when the material contains more than a handful of acoustic instruments and vocals, the sounds start masking each other and you start to lose the details. In worse cases all you hear is this mixture of indistinguishable instruments. In general, high levels of HD might sound full and lively at first, but it will cause ear fatigue pretty soon. That's why a 15 minute audition at the store is not enough to judge speakers.
Furthermore, frequently for various reasons, speakers with higher HD tend to sound louder during A/B testing in store. Louder speakers also trick the listener into thinking that they sounds more dynamic and lively; however, the exact opposite could be true.
What causes HD?
Poor HD performance is often the result of manufacturers going for cheap drivers. Good drivers usually have a number of components in their motor structure that help reduce non linearaties which cause HD. Those components are often missing from cheaper drivers that employ a simpler motor design that is cheaper to manufacture.
Designers can always tweak the design to get an acceptable FR. What makes harmonic distortion different from frequency response is that the designer cannot do anything to improve harmonic distortion once the drivers are chosen.
As a general rule if you are immediately impressed with a pair of speakers, the chances are there is something wrong with them. It sounds counter intuitive, but speakers that impress you immediately usually color the sound and add their own character, and thats not what speakers should do. Speakers should be pure, adding nothing of their own, because when they add something of their own, what they add, masks what is originally in the material.