Thursday, June 7, 2012

Push me

As you grow up, one thing boys do to other boys is to push them. Walking down the school corridor or along the sidewalk of your neighborhood, pushing and reception of pushes from others is common, especially to gain power and superiority over the one being pushed.

I was a fly weight my whole life so I was usually the one receiving the pushes. At 104 pounds and 5' 6" in high school, I and others of similar stature were an easy target for bigger males like the defensive line of our football team. It wasn't that I minded being pushed all that much since it is a bizarre male way of showing bonding, it's just that sometimes my books went flying or I crashed into the lockers sometimes careening off of someone else when I was inattentive; a blind side in the most fundamental sense of the phrase.

When I would be caught off guard, my body would bend and distort in weird manners resembling a limp noodle but when I saw it coming, I tensed up and controlled the oncoming assault.  But when tensing up, I would fly through the air like a fully inflated football and launch further than if I had not. Hmmm...something to think about. So when my body was loose, it could absorb a push but if I were tense, I would sail through the air with the greatest of ease. Thank you, bullies, for giving me this brief lesson in physics.

What I observed in this push-and-shove routine was Netwon's three laws of classic motion. But what the heck does this have to do with the high end? Phil has truly lost it this time.  Just push him out of the way and let's get down the hall. 

Think about this for a moment. What is a speaker - any speaker - doing to create sound? They all push against the air! Just like being shoved in the hallway so are the drivers pushing against the air.  And the material used to make the drivers stiff determines how efficiently they push against that air.

Woofers are big like the center on our football team. They have a lot of surface area and are made less rigid than other drivers.  As the frequency goes up, so does driver rigidity and like a defensive back, the midrange is smaller but also faster. The tweeters are the lightest of all and can be thought of as a woman gymnast who bounces effortlessly through the air during the floor exercise. There is the right combination of weight and rigidity that makes each perform optimally. If one too heavy or too light, they end up like me either flailing my arms as I get blind sided, move like a limp noodle, or take off like a rocket.

There are other contributing factors in drivers but this is the most fundamental. If woofers are big and the mass is many times that of a tweeter, it takes a good electrical design to control the pushing and shoving of them.  It takes good wires and good cables to push and shove the internal electronics and it takes a good power supply to provide constant energy at all frequencies and demand rates. It takes a quality cabinet so that the pushing and shoving inside of the box does not color the drivers that are pushing against the air.

So high-end audio is all about pushing and shoving and doing so in the cleanest way possible; not too much and not too little. Over pushing any part of the audio spectrum introduces non-linearities (aka distortions). This linear pushing is distorted anywhere along the chain and the amount of distortion is a function of the weakest link in that chain.

So to keep the distortions to a minimum, one must introduce the fewest components possible (the KISS principle). All high-end gear uses the least amount of "stuff" possible to get the job done. In other words, less is more. No high-end preamplifier has tone controls and no high end amplifier has a switch to select speakers A or B or both.

Less is more. Go ahead, push me.

Yours for higher fidelity,
Philip Rastocny

I do not use ads in this blog to help support my efforts. If you like what you are reading, please remember to reciprocate, My newest title is called Where, oh Where did the Star of Bethlehem Go? It’s an astronomer’s look at what this celestial object may have been, who the "Wise Men" were, and where they came from. Written in an investigative journalism style, it targets one star that has never been considered before and builds a solid case for its candidacy.

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