Today it's not the world-famous National Football League but far more obscure nearfield love. So we drop the ball. Hopefully their attorneys won't send a cease 'n' desist letter to have me remove their altered logo but see it as a cross-cultural op offered up in good sport.
We've been here before. NFL is no short-lived fling or holiday romance. It's a serious long-term thing. So it deserves another mention particularly since in standard review coverage, the focus is on bigger speakers often set up well clear of room boundaries. It's simply not the only way to crack the hifi nut. Most people familiar with the term probably associate it with studios. They see a guy in front of a complex recording console which is topped by two speakers facing him at short distance. If they bring that vision home, it becomes the desktop. And there the connection stops, falters and fizzles away. Over and out.
So let's reboot today's NFL broadcast by entering three solid reasons why nearfield love deserves more respect.
1/ more bang for the buck. Sitting close becomes a halfway point between headfi and classic stereo. Hardware requirements shrink. What's appropriate in the nearfield is smaller and of lower power because at such proximity, distance losses and SPL drop. Psychologically and practically, it undercuts altar-to-hifi tendencies when here one suddenly wants fewer and smaller things. All of it means that less becomes more; including money.
2/ superior sound. Sitting close minimizes exposure to time-delayed room reflections by shifting emphasis on direct sound. We suffer far less room interference to hear more of the recorded signal in more linear fashion. Our hardware works less hard so distortion lowers. Lower volumes cause less fatigue so sessions can last longer. Lower volumes cause less sound leakage into adjoining rooms or apartments to multiply listening opportunities and expand music choices. If we needn't consider co-dwellers or neighbors as much or at all, we can listen to what we want when we want far more often.
3/ no need for the perfect room. Rather than chase the perfect listening room—or beat a normal one into recalcitrant submission with copious treatments—we're only setting up a zone within an available room. That can be compact as mine is above. It combines exotic headfi via Raal-Requisite's SR1a; and speakerfi via Fram's active Midi 120 powered by a LHY LPS160VA linear power supply on the floor. Shared digital source is smsl's Dp5. Its XLR outputs could drive the Schiit Jotunheim direct to eliminate the Auralic Vega DAC. Since that's superior to the DAC inside the Dp5 and I had it in the hifi closet, I use the smsl as just SD transport. Its coaxial output feeds the DSP speakers, its AES/EBU output the Auralic. Were this just NFL, we'd eliminate the Auralic and Schiit. Simple does it. My standard desktop follows the same thinking. The €5.5K cast-iron Jern 15H loaners above necessitated the €2'500 Simon Audio i5 integrated. My usual €690/pr DMAX Super Cubes below run off their own amp which contains proprietary DSP impulse correction and unceremoniously sits on the floor. The iFi iDSD Pro Signature DAC doubles as headfi driver for Final D8000; and the Singxer SU-2 USB bridge interfaces between my Win10/64 workstation and DAC. Audirvana Origin plays local files, Qobuz Sublime streams from Redbook to 24/96 files off the cloud. To simply, you'd remove the SU-2 and connect the iFi's USB input directly to your PC/Mac.
Most pleasure-seeking listeners will probably prefer not to sit on the desk where they work. It's why I showed you my bedroom's NFL zone. That's repeatable virtually anywhere and I sit just 1.2 meters away.
And yes, something for nothing would be a disingenuous suggestion so NFL does entail not necessarily a compromise but altered perspective. That's intimacy.
In most basic terms, if you've got a 5-musician band spaced equally on stage and play it back over speakers three meters apart, you'll have an image every 60cm. If NFL speakers sit just one meter apart, you're down to 20cm. Move to headfi where transducers are maximally 30cm apart and that spacing becomes 6cm.
Everything shrinks and emptiness between images compacts. It's why when people talk about realism relative to cramming orchestral playback into a 3-meter wide speaker window, they've lost the plot. They've become inmates at the asylum.
Just so, NFL is smaller still even when on my desktop, speakers actually perch 170cm center to center. By sitting considerably closer, that feels incredibly lean-in spacious like quasi XXXL headfi. And there's a second change; reduced physicality. We no longer feel big bass transients on our skin as we can in a big speaker system played back loud. The playback gestalt changes. If we can live with its greater intimacy and more abstracted than physical feel, NFL's many other advantages could ring our bells very loud indeed.
Now it can make tons of sense to unpack those famous three letters different than the millions of fans of American football do but still score a touchdown. [Graphic from reProducer Audio Labs.]
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