Sonneteer’s Heartbeat in picture. Part 1
Back with more in a few hours.
We have offered little bits of project heartbeat before and quite a lot of it is singing many a tune in our labs. Notably there have been a couple of amplifiers playing unclothed and a ‘rats nest’ of wires showing what seemed to be a digital interface of sorts.
Here is a glimpse of a another bit. We managed to grab a photo as Remo, our technical Director was off looking for his glasses. Our forensic team has been analysing the picture and we hope for a report back soon. If anyone can figure any of it out in the mean time we would be happy to hear from you through the normal contact channels.
We at Sonneteer warmly welcome, as our new partners in Canada and the USA, our good friends, Arcadia Audio who can be contacted on Tel: +1 (416) 994-5571 and email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are a dealer and need information on anything to do with Sonneteer in North America then please make Arcadia your first port of call. If you are an end user already with Sonneteer equipment, please continue to be in contact with your dealer. If they are unaware of the changes and you need help please advise them. We will remain to be at your service here at Sonneteer should you need any assistance too. Deatils are on our contact us page.
You may have missed it and we nearly did, but the Sonneteer Sedley had another stunning review recently. This time it was HiFi Choice of the UK’s turn. The Sedley in its full USB version was in their hands, but their focus was on vinyl record playback in comparison with one or two others on the market.
“Unboxing it, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve been sent a hefty power amp by mistake…Build quality is very impressive, especially considering Sonneteer’s price tag.”, they started. “the Sedley is a very level headed performer that seems unruffled by what ever you throw at it.”. A bit school report like, but as parents we are proud of that.
Getting more serious with the music they went on, “On Asgeir Trausti’s Lyndarmal Keyboard notes extend from the soundstage and hang in the air with natural grace.” Now that’s what we call a Sonneteer. “Bass is well rounded and without the bloom of the Edwards phono stage and yet more substantial than that of the pro-ject.” and as nature intended.
Then even more serious, “Configured to MC mode…the Sedley really excels as the soundstage and instruments within it gain more weight….which makes some of the budget phono stages on test sound somewhat hollow in comparison.”
So we’ve had a couple of amps going for a few weeks. Thought we might share a glimpse with you. You saw the rats nest some time back of other bits. Mainly small signal level stuff. Well at least the amps are on a proper board. Who knows what they may all end up in?
We are playing about a bit and they don’t sound the same. Can you spot the differences?
More soon. Happy Easter from all of us at Sonneteer.
It was about 20 years or so ago and I was sitting in front of a brand new hifi system my Girlfriends’ flat mate had just bought. He was a young man, in his mid twenties, working in the City of London and was earning beyond what normal graduates would be earning at that age. I, on the other hand was working for toffee, writing editorial and reviews at Hi-Fi World magazine. The hifi system in question had as its centre piece an amplifier from a well know brand of the time that by chance I had just written a review of. My tactless younger self sat down with the chap and said to him that he should have spoken to me first and that his ears would be hurting after less than a hour of listening even at low levels of volume. A few days later the flat mate got in touch to tell me I was right. Some attribute this phenomenon to what they call Listener Fatigue though I am not so sure.
Listener Fatigue1, not as far as I am aware a medically recognised term, is attributed to tiredness, discomfort and some pain after prolonged listening to music and usually at louder levels. In the case in question, however, we have less than an hour’s listening and at not necessarily high levels of loudness yet the pain and discomfort is genuine. I have had and have anecdotally heard similar complaints from others while listening through headphones. An often, but not always, telling sign of a problem is when vocals spoken or sung in a recording are sibilant or seemingly ‘shouty’ in reproduction. Also if certain instruments like high hat cymbals are sounding obviously ‘splashy’ rather than clean. As you can see from my use of ‘Latin’ terminology I have yet to find a source of medical or other academic verification of the cause. To this end I thought it worthwhile posting on a number of audio fora (or forums) which we sponsor to see if I’d get a few more view points and who knows some pointers to academic studies. To put it mildly, in just a couple of days the response was vast and to say the least, quite varied. I placed the threads in Audiokarma, Pink Fish and Audio Circle. Although one or two tangents are taken there are clearly quite a few declarations of faith in the phenomenon. Though the number of theories as to the cause outnumbers the respondents by some margin. Putting to one side my own scientific leanings for a moment, a little bit of pseudo-science and straw polling statistics suggest strongly that at the heart of it all is a mixture of poorly balanced presentation of the audio and, of course, non linearities in the reproduction. In other words, distortion 2 34
Within a few hours of me posting the threads one of our very well respected dealers sent us a message saying, “No disrespect – but what do you guys know about listener fatigue? Sonneteer kit is *most* notable – above all else – for completely lacking it: lovely velvety tonality!”. Yes thank you and a product would not leave our test benches if it were to behave otherwise. Saying that, I was recommended an interconnect cable recently to try, but it turned our “velvety” test reference system into an unbearable listen (again at normal listening levels) after about 10 minutes. With the cable connected, initially the system sounded more present, more detailed and perhaps extra real. Well as I wrote not too long ago in our Magazine section, the human ear is exceptionally sensitive and so responds to tiniest change in pressure in the airwaves. To give you an idea in numbers, the human ear threshold of hearing is less than one billionth of atmospheric pressure 5. So there were clearly some changes in the sound, if slight, disturbing enough to cut short my pleasure.
Ok so I did come across a number of academic papers alluding to the subject (found in some of my footnote references scattered about this article) but not quite addressing directly. One of the more interesting reads was on a loudspeaker manufacturer whose customers are often associated with Sonneteer product, Harbeth’ website 6. Though more focussed on loudspeakers it certainly presents an interesting educated view of the subject. Much, again, leans towards audible distortion and non-linearities in particular audio frequency bands and so on. Upper mid band audible frequencies between 3KHz and 5KHz, for example, seem to be mentioned a lot as too are accentuated lower mid to upper bass sounds. My instincts lean me to agree with much of it. Also a lot has come up in the fora which is credible but there is very little scientific flavour to any of it.
For now, I can conclude that the accuracy of the presentation of the recorded material is key. By that I don’t necessarily mean absolute verbatim reproduction, but a true re-presentation of the essence of the recording. This applies equally when designing an in car system, a portable music system, a TV sound bar or a high end, high fidelity system. Good, quality design will deliver at all these levels. We buy these products to be entertained by their delivery. If we don’t like it we will simply switch off, consciously or otherwise. In the meantime, I will continue to follow the fora as the conversations unfold, explode and tangent. There may even be an Ear Ache Part 2 as I learn more.
Haider Bahrani is Managing Director and one of the founders at Sonneteer.
first published in our magazine.
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Listener_fatigue ↩
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distortion ↩
- http://gedlee.com/downloads/Distortion_AES_I.pdf ↩
- http://www.gedlee.com/downloads/Distortion_AES_II.pdf ↩
- Hyperphysics, Georgia State University ↩
- http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/showthread.php?1813-Listening-fatigue-how-does-Harbeth-avoid-it ↩
The beating heart of any sound system is the amplifier. Its invention is attributed to the coming of the first triode123 valve at the turn of the twentieth century to make the first AM radios. Since, the audio amplifier has unassumingly featured in all electronics’ products that are sound making while the limelight has shone on its various appendages. Items which, over the past century or so, have come and gone as often as the weather changes in Blighty 4. Amplifiers along with loudspeakers, in their various forms have been the main stayers in sound systems ever since.
While the loudspeaker is the mouth and larynx delivering the audio message, the amplifier is the heart pump that drives and controls its delivery. This is the same be it in a small transistor radio or a behemoth of a PA system at a Rock festival. The timing, the depth, the essence of the original sound and its recreation is ultimately dictated by the ability of the amplifier to take it from the level of a whisper to one that can excite the cones, horns and cans that tickle our ears and vibrate our floors. So as CD players have come and gone (nearly), Cassette players become specks on a landfill and as surely one day streamers become the ‘reel to reel’ of our children’s past, electron pumping amps and air moving ‘speakers will remain. Luckily the former is what we do, hear at Sonneteer 5.
The dawn of the digital age to riding the hybrid wave.
Despite their ever presence, audio amplifiers have not been static technologically. Here at Sonneteer we design with whatever fits the purpose. Every now and then we may also experiment with new things just to see where it will take us. When digital power amplification became a viable reality for audio products Sonneteer were right at the forefront. The Bronte amplifier for example started as a concept development on behalf of a technology partner which turned into an award winning product. We now, within our designs employ a mixture of electronics technologies, analogue and digital at any particular stage simply because it suits. The ultimate aim is performance. That is our goal. Our current range reneges not on that promise.
Where ever the music comes from we play on.
Music sources are changing and increasing in number almost daily. Gone are the times where one format displaces another completely. A format no longer dies, but becomes a niche. Every now and then there will be a nostalgia for it and it will have a mini revival. As the global population grows the more and more this will happen. Everything and everyone will have a champion or two however small. Accommodating everyone is impossible but since everyone who wants a music system needs an amplifier in it, somewhere, then as long as we can interface with them we are in a good place.
More format ketchup.
In the land of audiophilia the stresses of format accommodation are often acutely felt as the customers strive to be compatible with ever changing present. Obsolescence which is more of an emotion that is realised out of fear than reality is a strong factor in decision making. Finding something that does everything is practically impossible as formats grow in number. PCM16,24,32 96kHz, 192kHz, 384kHz,DXD and so on. Then there’s DSD in its various guises. May be this goes some way to explaining the Vinyl revival. Our amps talk to them too.
- http://www.aes.org/aeshc/docs/audio.history.timeline.html ↩
- http://www.ehow.com/about_4899502_history-audio-amplifier.html ↩
- http://www.nobelprize.org/educational/physics/transistor/history/ ↩
- http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/Blighty ↩
- http://www.sonneteer.co.uk ↩
- http://sonneteer.co.uk/home/magazine/2012/05/23/speaking-volumes/ ↩
We knew the time would come, but we were not quite sure when. In the end the parts suppliers called the day. CD players are slowly heading into the sunset. We wont say demise as some of these last few being made over the next few weeks will be playing CDs for the better part of the next decade. If our history serves as a guide then many will go on far beyond. CD collections are not going away in a hurry and many lucky offspring will inherit their parents’ collections. I personally am busy putting up some CD wall racks in my new home sound room/office. My 3 year old knows how to use my CD player and often dictates what I listen to. Mummy’s Divine Comedy CD seems to be number one at the moment.
Over the years we have had two models of CD player, The Byron and the Bronte. The latter was discontinued officially a year or so ago although we continued to ship 100V models to Japan. So both will come to a complete end in 2014. The last Bronte CD players ever were shipped last week to Tokyo.
The Byron, affectionately known as the Vinyl CD player due to its vinyl like sound, has been a Sonneteer staple for 15 years. It has had a few iterations due to CD mechanisms becoming obsolete, but retained the same DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter) throughout. The same DAC also enjoyed some success on its own as the gut that drove the original Sonneteer Dryden.
As a Sonneteer product the Byron will be leaving us on a high and will remain the reference point for all Sonneteer digital players of any kind in the near and distance future I am sure. So this is certainly a reluctant sunset as a recent review in HiFi Wigwam demonstrates that despite its age it was still right up there with and ahead of many of the best, “Byron is revealing layers of detail I’d not tuned into before. And it’s doing this without sounding bright or cold…..The detail and insight are really remarkable and yet there is no price to pay for this.”
Avid readers of the HiFi Wigwam will have noticed Sonneteer featuring a little recently. Via one of our notable dealers, Purite North they got their hands on some of our kit. We were more than happy for them to have done so as it seems they were quite taken by it.
“The build, fit and finish is exceptional. It’s quite Germanic in this respect, I really can’t see this thing letting anyone down for 20 years to come. Fit and forget? Nope, you’ll be having too much fun playing air guitar to ever forget it. This is an amp that manages a rare trick: you get oodles of pace rhythm and timing, but without it ever sounding in-yer-face or shouty. My first day with the Orton was spent re-visiting my extensive collection of Rock and Electronica, it was huge fun with dynamism and pace in spades….
Tonally the Orton is very neutral, I get an honest reproduction without colour. It inspires confidence.
Do you get the impression I like this amp? I’ll tell you how much I like it: I’m now feeling a bit of a fool for gushing so much over previous amplifiers I’ve reviewed. I didn’t leave myself enough headroom for weekends like this when I am properly amazed.” Read the whole review here.
I know we are blushing a little too.
If you thought they liked that then what a follow up in August when they put the Sonneteer Byron CD player through its paces. Again let the Wigwam do the talking: “All the technical details can wait. Eleanor Rigby from the Beatles’ Love album has just started and we need to talk about the sound – Now! Anyone familiar with George Martin’s re-engineering of the classics will know that this is a beautiful sounding album. But the Byron is revealing layers of detail I’d not tuned into before. And it’s doing this without sounding bright or cold…..The detail and insight are really remarkable and yet there is no price to pay for this. The bass goes deep, the mids have warmth, the treble doesn’t tish or splash – it’s an enjoyable easy sound…..This kit sounds good dammit and people deserve to know.” Read the full review here.