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View Full Version : Recordings to explain the 'RADIAL advantage?' - a demonstration of cone coloration



A.S.
18-06-2008, 11:06 PM
We've frequently talked here about the wonderful and exclusive RADIAL? cone material that truly defines the Harbeth sound. No other cone materials - no other transducer to our knowledge - has the all-round sonic capability of Harbeth's RADIAL?, especially for low level resolution and clarity. You can hear micro-details in the music which are erased in a sonic fog on other polymer materials, especially in drivers above 6". But how to demonstrate this to you? For me, as the father of the RADIAL? material, I've lived with RADIAL's extreme resolution daily since about 1993, and the weakness of conventional cone materials is strikingly obvious to me in the first five seconds of listening. Perhaps I can explain by short example - and I hope that I'm not creating a copyright problem doing so. So, I'm going to present some recordings which exemplify the 'RADIAL advantage'?. All are MP3 files.

Note: All these example recordings are of moderate bit-rate so much of the fine detail has been erased - the demonstration is much more obvious when listening to the original .wav files. There is no need to play these over your hi-fi speakers - headphones or cheap plastic PC speakers are good enough to train you and make the point.

When you click on the file it will download. When you try to play it you may have to tell your PC what program to play it with. I just selected Windows Media Player but on a MAC I'm sure QuickTime would play it.

Example 1: Female voice and piano. Composer: Chaminade.

Overview:

On headphones, you can clearly hear that the singer is being picked up by one microphone and the piano by another. The voice is steered into position by the recording engineer; the singer and piano may have even been in different rooms. You can tell this from the pool of acoustic around the voice and piano, which is slightly different: the voice is slightly more 'live' than the piano. However, this is an excellent recording and ideal to make our point.

What to listen for:

You may have to play this several times before you hear what I hope you'll hear. What we're listening for is how the performer and the acoustic in which they perform are quite separate and distinct and not fused together.

Listen very carefully for the bright clean decay of sound between the notes and phrases from the piano into the background. Listen also for the pool of ambience around the singer's voice decays as it decays into the room. Also after she increases the power of her voice right at the end of her exhalation listen for how the room reflects back her previous notes after a tiny delay whilst she is singing new notes. All this extremely fine detail is flattened by conventional speaker cones which have the effect of throwing a light blanket over the microphone, a fogging of the reverberant decay so that it's difficult to separate the piano from the voice; the performers sound as if they are performing in a dead-room. Technically, conventional cones are over-damped; they lock-in the micro-detail as heat.

Now you've trained yourself, go and listen to this coloration (http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/showthread.php?t=349) issue on different speakers and contrast with the fine detail you can hear on a Harbeth RADIAL speaker?.

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A.S.
19-06-2008, 11:26 AM
Example 2: Solo piano piano. Composer/player: Gulda

Overview:

An interesting recording in that the staccato piano sound is relatively closely miked but combined with good acoustic space around the instrument - you can hear just a little reverberation. If you listen carefully you can hear pianist/composer 'singing' along. I used this particular track back in 1995 for the development of the original HL Compact (the first RADIAL? coned Harbeth) and it shocked me then, as now, how I could hear details on RADIAL? that were missing on conventional speakers.

What to listen for:

This pounding style of playing sets the piano into exceedingly complex resonance. As it takes many seconds for a piano to come to rest after the last note is played, throughout all of this piece the new notes combine with the vestiges - the tails - of the previous notes still resonating in the instrument's strings, sound board and body. This is the most challenging 'torture' music for a loudspeaker to reproduce without adding its own character (damping or ringing) on top of the instruments sound.

Listen for the extremely fine micro-tones as the hammer action sets off resonances and the brightness of tone especially in the harmonics and upper registers. Listen for how there is a continuous warmth from the body of the instrument and how the overall clean, brightness of tone is layered on top of, and quite separate from the weight and warmth. This duality of low/medium weight in harmony to the clean crisp upper tones are all perfectly captured on a Harbeth RADIAL? cone and flattened and softened on conventional cones.

Try to listen for the pool of ambience around the notes in the small gaps between phrases where you can hear their decay into the acoustic environment surrounding the piano. Technically, conventional cones are over-damped; they lock-in the micro-detail as heat. There is no return path from heat to sound. Once the 'hair' of the notes has been converted to heat in the cone, they're irrecoverably lost as music.

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A.S.
19-06-2008, 09:24 PM
Example 3: Solo piano piano. Rehearsal at Fairfield Hall, Croydon. Performer: Ozgur Aydin*

(Private recording direct to DAT made by Alan Shaw)

Overview:

This was the warm-up rehearsal made to an empty hall with Ozgur on a Steinway D concert grand piano. I used two B&K 4001 omni microphones about 2m away from the open lid. There is no signal processing at all. This is a hugely impressive performance of power and grace from a young musician at the start of his career.

What to listen for:

The Steinway has a perfectly tempered resonant structure - every note decays at a precisely controlled rate conveying incredible clarity and a slightly sour tonality. The acoustic space around the piano is huge. Listen to how the piano interacts with the space and the build-up of micro-details around the notes in all registers. The brightness of tone lifts the middle/upper notes well clear of the lower warmth. This recording captures the Steinway in a large space and fills me with wonder at the skill of the Steinway craftsmen that they could craft such perfectly balanced harmonics. Note how even as the piano is pushed harder there is still perfect separation between the notes - no sense of muddiness.The recording has an electric clarity on a Harbeth RADIAL? loudspeaker as the notes evenly decay into the space. This 3D transparency is just what I experienced sitting in the front row with my recording equipment. Again, conventional loudspeakers just can't reproduce the correct air or ambience around the instrument.

NB. Later that day, discussing the inner workings of the Steinway, it inspired me to develop the SuperTunedStructure for the cabinet, as first used in the HL Compact 7.

* Ozgur was a star pupil of concert pianist and Chopin maestro Peter Katin, pictured recently at the Steinway Hall, London. The piano is similar to the one I recorded.

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A.S.
19-06-2008, 09:53 PM
Example 4: Orchestral music: The explosions polka, Strauss.

Overview:

This well recorded piece features an explosive sound. Although it has a relatively slow rise-time (otherwise it would sound very sharp and frightening) there is a dramatic leap in transient energy. This really challenges a speaker cone. On a conventional speaker this transient energy shock overwhelms the cone's molecular structure and the perturbation is only partially transmitted as sound - what remains is locked-up as heat in the rubbery molecular cross-bonds. And there it stays building up a persistent mush that fogs successive notes.

What to listen for:

The explosion should have a definite 'crack' which a conventional cone cannot replay - the RADIAL? cone, with it's wider dynamic range, can. The air around the orchestra should have an acoustic space that is clear and separate from the overall warm sound and you should be able to hear a short, but distinctive reverberant decay. The string tone should have a sweetness and microtonal 'hair' which is masked on conventional cones. The bells and cymbals present a challenge to speaker cones because conventional cones are at their worst in cleanly reproducing the upper registers,. On a RADIAL? cone, these instruments are perfectly identifiable and separated from the orchestra, not swamped by it.

This excerpt again demonstrates the remarkable of RADIAL? to separate the individual instruments even when the music becomes loud. This indicates extremely low transient and intermodulation distortion.

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Gan CK
20-06-2008, 05:54 AM
Hi Alan, do you think its possible to compile all the above & perhaps some other good recordings into a sort of sampler CD that will fully highlight the advantages & strengths of the superb Harbeth Radial cone? You can also put in some close up pictures of the Radial cone as well as the different models available within the Harbeth range on the CD. Just a suggestion. :)

eelekim
20-06-2008, 08:24 AM
Or to make it simpler: Except that private recording, list the CD titles that the demo recordings were ripped from. Then we can use the CD's instead of the lossy files at moderate-bitrate. Thanks!

mike

A.S.
20-06-2008, 08:55 AM
Actually I really don't want to go down the 'recommended recordings' route and make a precise list of what to go and buy. That makes it too easy and misses the point a little: explaining RADIAL? is really about explaining by example cone coloration, and coloration is the most difficult concept in the whole of audio to convey.

I know about this self-training path: my very last words to Harbeth's founder, Dudley Harwood, once I'd signed the contract to take over Harbeth, arrived at his lock-up with a van and loaded the 'assets', shut and locked the doors were .... "Dudley, what exactly is the meaning of the word coloration?". After a hesitation and a stroke of his beard he said "You'll know it when you hear it".

So, MP3 or not, if you don't object I'm going to illuminate this subject with more of these short clips. You should use them to build your knowledge and to seek out more examples of your own. There is no alternative but very critical self-exploration of this issue - that's your homework. A list of recommended recordings would give the impression that only those recordings demonstrated the RADIAL advantage? when in fact, there are millions of examples - you just have to develop your analytical skills to hear coloration for yourselves.

eelekim
20-06-2008, 09:44 AM
Got it! Please keep guiding us how to spot the outstanding strengths of RADIAL? by sound clips. If the clips are not too long, I hope uncompressed wav or lossless file formats like ape or flac can be used. Thanks!

mike

A.S.
20-06-2008, 10:03 AM
Remember I did say that there is no need to play these clips on your hi-fi speakers. For the purpose of explaining the issues (especially the way the sound decays into silence around the instruments) you only need cheap PC speaker or headphones as part of the 'training kit'. In fact, even basic iPOD type headphones are all you need. Hence, moderate bitrate MP3 is perfectly good enough.

It occurs to me that there is a similarity with the way an MP3 file throws away some of the fine detail in the recording, and the way a conventional speaker cone loses fine detail as heat in the cone structure itself. I'm thinking of other ways of illustrating this point ... bear with me.

Gan CK
20-06-2008, 06:48 PM
Actually I really don't want to go down the 'recommended recordings' route and make a precise list of what to go and buy. That makes it too easy and misses the point a little: explaining RADIAL? is really about explaining by example cone coloration, and coloration is the most difficult concept in the whole of audio to convey.

I know about this self-training path: my very last words to Harbeth's founder, Dudley Harwood, once I'd signed the contract to take over Harbeth, arrived at his lock-up with a van and loaded the 'assets', shut and locked the doors were .... "Dudley, what exactly is the meaning of the word coloration?". After a hesitation and a stroke of his beard he said "You'll know it when you hear it".

So, MP3 or not, if you don't object I'm going to illuminate this subject with more of these short clips. You should use them to build your knowledge and to seek out more examples of your own. There is no alternative but very critical self-exploration of this issue - that's your homework. A list of recommended recordings would give the impression that only those recordings demonstrated the RADIAL advantage? when in fact, there are millions of examples - you just have to develop your analytical skills to hear coloration for yourselves.

Alan, i see your point there but coloration means different things to different people. For eg, on our local forum here, some people have pointed out that Harbeths are more colored that say a pair of Thiels...haha...but of course we know better. Developing analytical skills to hear coloration is not easy. If it were so simple, then everybody will be buying Harbeths & all the other loudspeaker manufacturers can cease to exist. Much also depends on what music these people listen to. Well for me, coloration or not, i just know that Harbeth sounds inherently correct with regards to critical parameters like tonality, timbre, pace & conveying emotion.

A.S.
20-06-2008, 07:20 PM
... coloration means different things to different people. Developing analytical skills to hear coloration is not easy If it were so simple, then everybody will be buying Harbeths & all the other loudspeaker manufacturers can cease to exist.Agreed, but just because a skill takes a little exposure and effort to develop doesn't mean we should remain ignorant. I regret if anyone would wish to remain deaf to what is a profoundly complex issue when I'm willing to make the effort to try to explain it - by audio clip!

I was thinking as I was running in the gym (highly recommended) that even the global word 'coloration' has many facets. When I listen to other speakers I try and separate gross coloration (clearly offensive and fairly rare) from benign coloration which whilst audible may (or may) not be offensive - and may even be quite attractive depending on mood, music and time of day. But what I'm talking about in these examples is far, far more subtle than even benign coloration. It is better perhaps to use the word fogging' or masking.

I've thought of another way to exemplify this - more later.

Gan CK
21-06-2008, 08:39 AM
When I listen to other speakers I try and separate gross coloration (clearly offensive and fairly rare) from benign coloration which whilst audible may (or may) not be offensive - and may even be quite attractive depending on mood, music and time of day. But what I'm talking about in these examples is far, far more subtle than even benign coloration. It is better perhaps to use the word fogging' or masking.

Good segregation there Alan. For myself, i would rate gross or even severe coloration when listening to some horn or fullrange speakers. Its severe coloration for me because some of these speakers totally alter the tonality & timbre of say cello, piano, violin giving a very screechy & honky sound. Imagine cello or piano sounding very honky & peaky.

One very popular danish spk i heard made brass music sound like the brass instruments were made of plastic..haha...how so many people are still able to enjoy music on these spks really baffles me. Benign coloration to me is like listening to some italian spks. Rose tainted somewhat but still quite pleasant to listen to.

Masking or fogging is like listening to some old british monitors. Compared to the other 2 examples above, this is more acceptable. At least tonality & timbre not too far off. Of course the above are just my own reference. I am sure others here may have a different benchmark altogether.

A.S.
21-06-2008, 09:39 AM
Yes, I absolutely agree with you. As you say, 'fogging' is the least objectionable type of coloration and yes, as a class (although there may be examples otherwise) horns do impart a marked character on the music they reproduce. But I can't think of an example in nature of a sound source that has a horn on it and this is why our subconscious 'ear' finds it difficult to accept the horn as a source, because of its relative unfamiliarity in evolutionary terms.

The maths behind modelling a horn is horrendous and to design one without all the compromises in sound quality v. high efficiency is something I'd never take on as a task.

Gan CK
21-06-2008, 02:15 PM
Yes, I absolutely agree with you. As you say, 'fogging' is the least objectionable type of coloration and yes, as a class (although there may be examples otherwise) horns do impart a marked character on the music they reproduce. But I can't think of an example in nature of a sound source that has a horn on it and this is why our subconscious 'ear' finds it difficult to accept the horn as a source, because of its relative unfamiliarity in evolutionary terms.

The maths behind modelling a horn is horrendous and to design one without all the compromises in sound quality v. high efficiency is something I'd never take on as a task.

That's why i can never comprehend why people like horns. Other than high efficiency & wide dispersion, i really can't think of any sonic advantages of horns. Perhaps the only horn spk i can accept is Tannoy dual concentric, colorations notwithstanding. But they are at least more refined & less honky than their american counterparts. I was brought up by the british sound or more precisely the BBC sound so i am more biased towards the british way of designing loudspeakers. Even in the arena of panel speakers like planar, ribbon & electrostatics, i still prefer Quad over to say Martin Logan, Magneplanar or Acoustat. British spks generally sound more correct & musical to my ears. And currently i feel that Harbeth represents the epitome of the british or rather the BBC sound. Alan, if you had purchased Rogers instead of Harbeth back then, i guess i'll probably be using Rogers as my reference now, is it not? :)

A.S.
21-06-2008, 03:40 PM
... i can never comprehend why people like horns. Other than high efficiency & wide dispersion, i really can't think of any sonic advantages of hornsI'm no expert, but aren't the two technical advantages of horns the high efficiency and the narrow dispersion? Isn't horn coloration in (large) part because the energy that would evenly disperse around a conventional speaker is focused, bunched-up and beamed exclusively forwards in a horn? Isn't this what imparts a forced and megaphonic quality to horns? Horns make use of that character as excellent PA speakers when you want to 'zone' a public area, and talk to sections of the public in more-or-less isolation - e.g. a train station.

One of the many lessons learned from the London King's Cross (http://newsfilm.bufvc.ac.uk/article.php?story=2005100819530378) underground station fire was that much more research was needed in the design of PA speakers for emergency situations especially in the noisy and highly reverberant environment of an underground station where speech intelligibility is paramount. Enough horn speaker - carefully designed and placed would reduce the influence of the harsh acoustics by minimising the 'splatter' of sound off the tiled walls. So horns do have their uses.

What attracted me to Harbeth was that our founder (Dudley Harwood) was the inventor and patent holder for polypropylene speaker cones of used in 90% of speaker cones around the world. He abandoned the patent in favour of a superior material and for anyone to patent and become famous for an invention and then to move on to a better solution struck me as a remarkable tribute to him as a dedicated audio pioneer.

Gan CK
21-06-2008, 03:49 PM
I'm no expert, but aren't the two technical advantages of horns the high efficiency and the narrow dispersion?

Isn't horn coloration in (large) part due because the energy that would evely disperse around a conventional speaker is focused and beamed exclusively forward in a horn? Isn't this what imparts a forced and megaphonic quality to horns? Horns make use of that character as excellent PA speakers when you want to 'zone' a public area, and talk to sections of the public in more-or-less isolation - eg. a train station.

Oh by narrow dispersion i guess you are referring to the beaming effect of horns? Yes the only appropriate use of horns is PA application where they typically cover a large area of audience.

A.S.
21-06-2008, 05:12 PM
No, surely you mean 'where typically each horn covers a small area of the audience'.

You can not have beaming and simultaneously have a wide coverage - they are opposite criteria. A horn is just like a lighthouse beam - high intensity but pencil-thin. To cover the entire audience with just one horn (as a lighhouse would cover one coastline) you would have to sweep the horn one around the audience (which would sound deadful) or you must cover the audience with many horns. The advantage of many horns is that you can 'zone' the audience. You can talk to team A's supporters in virtual isolation to team B's.

In the Kings Cross disaster, they discovered that shouting "Evacuate" over the entire PA system led to mass confusion. Which way out? Better to sweep people along as a crowd by using tight zoning of the horn PA speakers to herd them towards the appropriate escape route, which will be different according to circumstances. This can not be done with conventional speakers as their dispersion is too wide and defeats the entire object of crowd control by acoustic zoning.

I attended a very interesting lecture at the Royal Institution given by consulting engineers Ove Arup (http://www.arup.com/acoustics/skill.cfm?pageid=7789)on PA and voice-evacuation design and I was surprised just how scientific the art of environmental acoustics is in large public buildings is, or can be. The biggest problem to overcome is that large public buildings have, almost by definition, a very hard acoustic with a long and confusing reverberation. Setting them awash with even more noise from a poorly designed PA system (so often the case) seriously degrades intelligibility and that's a worry in an emergency situation.

Gan CK
21-06-2008, 06:45 PM
No, surely you mean 'where typically each horn covers a small area of the audience'.

You can not have beaming and simultaneously have a wide coverage - they are opposite criteria. A horn is just like a lighthouse beam - high intensity but pencil-thin. To cover the entire audience with just one horn (as a lighhouse would cover one coastline) you would have to sweep the horn one around the audience (which would sound deadful) or you must cover the audience with many horns. The advantage of many horns is that you can 'zone' the audience. You can talk to team A's supporters in virtual isolation to team B's.

In the Kings Cross disaster, they discovered that shouting "Evacuate" over the entire PA system led to mass confusion. Which way out? Better to sweep people along as a crowd by using tight zoning of the horn PA speakers to herd them towards the appropriate escape route, which will be different according to circumstances. This can not be done with conventional speakers as their dispersion is too wide and defeats the entire object of crowd control by acoustic zoning.

I attended a very interesting lecture at the Royal Institution given by consulting engineers Ove Arup (http://www.arup.com/acoustics/skill.cfm?pageid=7789)on PA and voice-evacuation design and I was surprised just how scientific the art of environmental acoustics is in large public buildings is, or can be. The biggest problem to overcome is that large public buildings have, almost by definition, a very hard acoustic with a long and confusing reverberation. Setting them awash with even more noise from a poorly designed PA system (so often the case) seriously degrades intelligibility and that's a worry in an emergency situation.

Oh i see.... guess what Alan, as i was alternating between this user group & a local forum, a forummer there just told me something unfathomable. He said he has friends who moved on from the BBC sound to horns. Unbelieveable & sad isn't it? Such a huge contrast.

A.S.
21-06-2008, 08:25 PM
Not completely unfathomable.

Horns do definitely 'do something'. I have the same experience when I listen to some treasured old recordings including some 78s, which coincidentally (?) were intended to be played on horns and of course, the pre-electric 78s were recorded via horns direct-cut. There is an immediacy to the sound that is a very attractive, but limited illusion. But of course, it's easy to prove - with speech - that the colorations are (in my experience) quite severe. I would imagine that the thrill would wear off rather soon.

Another Example clip soon to be uploaded (No.5) when I've finished editing it. I think you'll like this one.

A.S.
21-06-2008, 09:29 PM
Example 5: Orchestral music: The marriage of Figaro: Mozart

Overview:

Headphone listening is recommended.

In this example I've synchronised two recordings to synthesise what you'd hear if you compared music played over a Harbeth RADIAL? coned loudspeaker with a conventional one. I've also done my best to align the tempo which, with human musicians varies fractionally through the performances. The recordings illustrate the 'air' and acoustic that is fogged and missing from the conventional coned speaker. This runs for about 2.5 minutes and fades between the two recorded takes automatically. Listen for the joins.

Excerpt A is recorded in the concert hall and B, recorded in the anechoic chamber. A, representing what you'd hear yourself in the hall represents the detail that a Harbeth RADIAL? cone reveals of the acoustic around the performers. B represents the lack of air or presence, the sonic masking that occurs inside a conventional cone. Once theacoustic micro-detail is erased by the cone material, there is no possibility that it can be reconstructed as sound again as it will have been converted to heat inside the molecular structure of the cone.


What to listen for:

Listen for the air or bloom around the performers in the hall and compare that with the dry airless sound of the anechoic chamber. The sequence is ...

A - concert hall (ideal)
B - anechoic chamber (dry)
A - concert hall (ideal)
B - anechoc chamber (dry)
A - concert hall (ideal)

The anechoic chamber (i.e the conventional cone) is fascinating in its own way for the 'on your lap' immediacy, and that could be quite seductive in small doses. It is not what you would hear in real life, not even in the front row. It's far too dry. This excerpt again demonstrates the remarkable ability of RADIAL? to separate the musicians from the acoustic in which they are playing.

Listen here to MP3 (http://www.screencast.com/t/Zrfx60DR) example No.5

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Gan CK
22-06-2008, 11:38 AM
Yes that was an excellent example showcasing the sonic advantage of the Radial cone indeed. In fact, the effect of the difference between the concert hall & the anechoic chamber is akin to comparing my SHL-5 with a pair of Rogers Studio 1 that i had. The Studio 1 was like listening to music in an anechoic chamber, lacking airiness & space between instruments whereas the SHL-5 was much better able to replicate the natural ambience of the concert hall making the music more involving & enthralling to listen to while at the same time preserving the natural tonality & timbre of the various instruments. Just like what Harbeth says, its the 'being there' sound. :)

TimVG
08-08-2011, 11:11 PM
I was just listening, on a rather low volume level due to the time of day, to some music. And a song ended on a sustained piano note, and I could still hear the decay of the piano faintly when the song was cut off. I never noticed that before in that song on my previous speakers, would this be an example of the RADIAL cone?

PS: slightly off topic, but yesterday, I was listening at quite high volume, and because of some sudden percussion in the music, my left P3 was distorting suddenly. I quickly turned it down of course, but is there any way I could have damaged something in those 5-6 secongs? The speakers sound fine, but I just want to be sure.

Euler
09-08-2011, 09:33 PM
Am I alone in not seeing the music files for examples 2, 3, and 5?

Bruce

cornelius
10-08-2011, 02:01 PM
I'm not able to see them either.

A.S.
12-08-2011, 08:52 AM
OK, this section was authored back in 2008 before we had a robust way of playing audio files here. As you may know, we used Flash audio clips for some time (and very successfully too) but recently migrated to MP3 to ensure cross-platform compatibility with Apple/Android products. I'll see if I can find the original clips and prepare them as MP3 downloads using the latest method.

Thanks for drawing this to our attention - there may be other examples we'd like to be made aware of.

cornelius
13-08-2011, 01:21 AM
If you can repost, that would be much appreciated - I came onto the HUG only recently so I missed it the first time around...