Snoop Dog is cool. Snob dog isn't. Yet Hifi is full of snob dogs. They've cultivated disdain for certain features which in fact could terminate a lot of obsessive behavior by addressing the fundamental HiFi flaw that keeps us all on the endless upgrade tread mill. Quite a mouthful lead-in so let me explain. If we had perfect recordings, maybe one system voicing could make us happy. I still say maybe because our human constitution thrives on variety. Sameness bores us to tears no matter how perfect at first. But never mind that. We don't have many perfect recordings. Assembling a system that suits them by definition won't suit the majority of fouled-up recordings. And there exist different degrees of foulness. They all mandate slightly different cures.
So we've got sameness in one corner, endless variety in the other. We've got a lens with fixed focal length and depth of field to capture endlessly moving targets at various distances. Any camera man worth his lens collection would laugh. In audio though, looking for the one perfect lens to prove equal to all aural encounters is considered possible and hence, a worthy ambition. Actually, the whole notion of 'one size fits all' is bunk unless your middle name is Don Quixote. The solution to our misery is adaptability. Enter the unholy word equalization. It's as taboo as tone controls. And those have been banished to the low-fi sector since what, the stone age?
But what is a mixing console in a recording studio really? It's one massively paralleled equalizer. With so many different recording studios and mastering engineers producing the albums we listen to, it's no surprise that one fixed voicing during playback has to fail to do justice to most of them. Despite this, audiophiles at large are really an exceptionally snobbish bunch. We're very fundamentalist. There's only one right way, period. That this belief leads to our pathological never-happy attitude seems lost on most.
All that sits like a squat shiny toad between us and happiness is a bit of flexibility. The purest way -- see how deep-rooted and rotted this disease is? there we go again with that puritan purity bullshit -- the purest way really is the active adjustable crossover. A little more treble, a bit fatter bass, a somewhat more prominent midrange? No problem, twirl a knob. If mood or album mandate, twirl again. If different volume settings mandate it, twirl once more. Forget the pucks and cones and cables and sundry attempts at voicing. You're still pursuing a fixed scenario in the end. This fixation is the culprit, not the various means we employ to achieve it.
All this was driven home the moment the WLM Diva Monitor, Duo 12 and two rather modest-looking boxes dubbed Bass Control and Pre/Passive Control settled down in Cyprus. Of course having lived with the Zu Definition Pros and their Rane PEQ 55 parametric EQ/low pass, I was no stranger to the joys of flexibility. Alas, I was still too fixed by comparison. I was merely allowing this flexibility to operate below 40Hz. What the WLM setup accommodates goes well beyond that.
What we've got here is a two-way monitor; a dual 12" subwoofer; a tweeter contour circuit mounted to the speaker box; an outboard speaker equalizer doubling as the master volume that can delay the monitor's F3 of 55Hz by selectively boosting at 30Hz by up to 12dB; and another equalizer that not only controls the low-pass volume for the subwoofer but can contour the bass response below 80 or 90Hz. This allows for four different scenarios. The first is "pure", running the monitor full-range without any analog signal processing whatsoever. The second is running the monitor full-range but engaging 'semi-active' equalization through the outboard box which adds gain to the bottom end before the signal is handed to the amplifier. The third is full-range monitor operation but adding the subwoofer in augmentation mode below 80Hz, using no bass equalization or some on the sub, using no bass equalization or some on the monitor. The fourth is sat/monitor mode whereby the monitors are high-pass filtered at 80 or 90Hz and the subwoofer alone handles the remainder. In addition to these four modes, the passive tweeter control circuit allows up to 6dB of cut above 1kHz.
The long and short of all this is that the system now responds to the requirements of the room, recording and personal mood like adjustable gas shocks and tire pressure respond to rider weight and road condition on a motorcycle. All the relevant audio parameters are user-adjustable and completely non-threatening. There's only four dials - master volume, bass volume, monitor EQ, bass EQ. There's one toggle for a HF phase adjustment, one to select between sat/monitor and full-range operation and one to engage or disengage the subwoofer feed. That's it. It's liberation time from the puritanical straight jacket of one size fits all. Anyone around the block enough times already knows to exhaustion that it just ain't so. There's hot recordings, subdued recordings, bass-shy recordings, boombastic recordings. There's low-level listening to roll off both subjective bass and treble performance. There's the occasional rock-'em-sock-'em mood where goosed bass at 30Hz is called for. Most importantly perhaps, there's our human predilection for boredom from sameness. The moment relative perfection settles in to convert to sameness, it loses its status of perfection. Hello AudiogoN. Thus begins the endless upgrade madness.
Active speaker crossovers are one antidote. Equalizers are another. The first barely show up in home audio, the latter have gotten a bum rap. Once you hear how backwards and narrow-minded such snob doggery really is because you're finally faced with a brilliant example of just how good such flexibility can sound and how satisfying it is to live with, you too could jump off the merry-go-round. Snoop Dog is cool. Snob dogs aren't. Isn't it time we became underdogs, grew up and took advantage of effective solutions that are commonplace in the industry that makes the recordings we rely on to ply our hobby? Actively driven speakers; external crossovers; equalizers; these are all hot buttons for audiophile hate and disdain. So be it. This plays perfectly into the agenda of the hardware manufacturers whose business it is to sell fixed solutions. They rely on our permanent discontent to stay open. So perhaps it's best I stopped this sermon short. One final thing I'll say though. As much as I love Sushi and Thai and Indian food, a single week of back-to-back meals in any of those cuisines would get old real fast. I'd long for time out with a simple fruit juice and sandwich. Variety really is the spice of life. Why do we so stubbornly persist that it should be different for audio?