John Reekie Technologicality, at work and play Fri, 10 Aug 2018 15:02:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 RME ADI-2 Pro vs ADI-2 DAC Fri, 10 Aug 2018 15:02:41 +0000 This is an appendix to my article RME ADI-2 Pro : a Technical Overview.

Not long after I purchased my ADI-2 Pro, RME released the “DAC only” version. It felt it worth a brief comparison. Here is the block diagram of the ADI-2 DAC:

As you can see by comparing to the block diagram of the ADI-2 Pro, the ADI-2 DAC is a much simpler device! Compared to the ADI-2 Pro, it is missing:

  • Analog inputs
  • The second pair of analog outputs and associated processing (i.e. Phones 3/4)
  • Balanced headphone drive
  • Digital outputs
  • AES/EBU digital input
  • Multichannel USB
  • Rack-mounting holes

However, it gains:

  • A dedicated IEM amplifier
  • A remote control
  • Incremental improvements in the internal clocking and analog output stage (these are now, I believe, in the currently produced ADI-2 Pro, which has received a name change to “ADI-2 Pro FS“.)
  • Bass/treble and loudness compensation runs at 352.8 and 384 kHz sample rates
  • An “auto-dark” mode
  • Audiophile feet

There are some things that are just different:

  • The unbalanced 1/4″ TS output jacks have been replaced with RCA jacks.
  • The hardware reference levels are lower and uniformly spaced.
  • The hardware reference levels on the unbalanced outputs are 6 dB lower than the balanced.
  • The front panel is black instead of silver.
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JoTT – IMD and HD testing Sat, 10 Mar 2018 15:45:43 +0000 A few years ago I started on trying to make measurements of audio interfaces with an aim to use them to test other audio equipment. For example, here are measurements of the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and the MOTU Microbook II. I never got that far with it.

With the recent acquisition of the remarkable RME ADI-2 Pro, it’s time to revisit. This time, I’m looking for a simpler way to characterise performance. The early effort involved too many screenshots that were a pain to put into HifiZine articles. Plus, there wasn’t any way to say much about correlation to audible performance.

Introducing JoTT

The test signal I’m using now I call JoTT – short for John’s Torture Test (I had to call it something). I started by combining the CCIF and SMPTE test signals for IMD, and then modified it to make it most useful (for me). It has the following sine wave components:

 Name  Frequency  Level in dB FS  Level in percentage
A 110 Hz −8 dB 40%
B 3 kHz −20 dB 10%
C 9 kHz −14 dB 20%
D 10 kHz −14 dB 20%

The peak signal level is -1 dB FS. This avoids odd results that some DACs exhibit at 0 dB output.  (If 0 dB FS is actually required in the test signal, increase A to −6 dB FS or 50%.)

To generate JoTT (and plot the results), I am using the Electroacoustics Toolbox. Here is the spectrum of the generated digital signal (at 96 kHz sample rate):


Use as a test signal

For the sake of an example, I’ll use my Vioelectric HPAV200 with 24/96 coax DAC module (the older one). I’m driving it at the SPDIF input because the measurements of the amplifier alone are better than of the DAC. (For the purposes of explaining the test signal, it’s actually more helpful to use the worst-measuring input.) The output is taken from the left channel of the headphone jack.

I set signal levels so that 0 dB in the graphs is 1V RMS. First, here is the noise floor. There’s a very low amount of mains noise at 50 Hz and multiples of it. Also, there is some high frequency noise – I don’t think this is in the V200 itself, but is coming through ground somehow as I’ve just noticed that it appears in other measurements where I used a single-ended connection.

Here is component A (110 Hz) turned on. The cursors identify its harmonics:

Note: the levels of the harmonics is almost identical if I play just a 1 kHz sine wave at -8 dB. (If I play the 1 kHz sine wave at -1 dB instead, the levels and distribution of harmonics changes. However, you can’t have everything.)

If I now turn on component B (3 kHz), there is a small “forest” of intermodulation products around it. There is also a little thicket at 6 kHz, its second harmonic:

Now I’ll turn off A and B and turn on components C and D (9 and 10 kHz). You can see the intermodulation products at 1, 8 and 11 kHz in particular:

Now I turn on B, and you can see additional intermodulation products at 6, 7, 12 and 13 khz.

Finally, I turn on A again, and you see the “grass” of intermodulation products from around 1 kHz and above. This is the all-in-one graph, which I can use to point to both THD and to IMD in a way that clearly shows when a unit has issues – the worse the IMD, the taller and thicker the “grass” becomes.

Summary. From the single graph just above, we can read:

  • The levels of the harmonic distortion components (multiples of 110 Hz).
  • The level of 110 Hz sidebands around 3 kHz, and also 9 and 10 kHz.
  • The level of the main IMD difference sidebands at 1, 7, 8, 12, 13 kHz.
  • The thickness and height of the “grass” i.e. higher-order IMD components.
  • Noise level from the mains supply.

Don’t get me wrong – this is good performance! If it “looks bad” that’s because the test is intended to show up problems. Hence the name “torture test.” I have others much worse, which I will may post at a later time…

JoTT is also useful for a quick crosstalk check, because of the multiple tones spread across the spectrum. I connected the right channel from the headphone amplifier and plotted its spectrum, while the signal generator was running into the left channel. You can see that there is some crosstalk, but it’s fairly low:

Reference loopback

Wait! How do I know that I’m not measuring the performance of my audio interface (the RME ADI-2 Pro, in this case)? Well, here is the graph when the analog output of the ADI-2 Pro is connected to its input:

Note: the DAC in the ADI-2 Pro is not being run at -1 dB FS. If I did that, there would be more distortion (although still very low). So this is not an “apples to apples” comparison of the ADI-2 Pro’s DAC with the Vioelectric DAC. Because that’s not what I’m trying to do here. The point is that the ADC of the ADI-2 Pro is being fed the same level of signal, and as shown in the above graph, the amount of distortion it introduces is insignificant (no more than shown, as the plot includes DAC and ADC distortion).

And here is the crosstalk for the ADI-2 Pro loopback:



What can I say, the ADI-2 Pro is incredible. I can now measure stuff I never could before. I will post some examples of JoTT measurements of other DACs soon, and hopefully the JoTT will appear in future HifiZine articles. If you have any suggestions or comments, please fill in the box below.


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miniDSP 2×4 HD with Raspberry Pi Streamer Fri, 24 Jun 2016 06:06:32 +0000 miniDSP 2x4 HD and Raspberry Pi streamer


Pretty killer for the price, with a Dirac Live enabled version coming out as well.

Admittedly, the cabling on tiny boxes like these is not the most elegant…

The articles on the streamer start here.

Nothing yet on the 2×4 HD. Suggestions?

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Geek Pulse by LH Labs – unboxing Mon, 08 Dec 2014 10:55:02 +0000 The long-awaited Geek Pulse from LH Labs has finally arrived! Here’s my “unboxing” video.

Note: for those unfamiliar with the LH Labs crowd-funding campaigns, the 1G USB cable is not a standard inclusion with the Pulse. It is included only for backers of the first campaign. If you are interested in buying a Pulse now, you will need to purchase the 1G cable separately if you want one.

Watch this video on YouTube.

As of this post, the Geek Pulse is still available on pre-order at a substantial discount off the retail price in LH Labs’ “Forever Funding” campaign. The Forever Funding campaign ends on December 27th.

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How to make a 90 degree calibration file Sat, 20 Sep 2014 12:07:25 +0000 Sometimes, a 90 degree microphone calibration file is useful. When measuring speakers in my home theater, for example, I find it a lot easier to just point the microphone at the ceiling with the 90 degree cal file loaded, than moving the microphone to point in the general direction of each speaker.

I verified in Appendix A of my article The miniDSP nanoAVR – a Case Study that, while there is a measurable difference between the two orientations (pointed at the speaker with the zero-degree calibration file, vs pointed at the ceiling with the 90-degree calibration file), it is small and unlikely to have any effect on equalization.

One of the advantages of purchasing a microphone from Cross-Spectrum Labs is that you get a 90 degree calibration file included. However, you may already have a good calibrated microphone and not particularly feel like buying another. (I understand!) So, this article contains instructions on how to make a 90-degree calibration file. Your prerequisite, of course, is that your microphone already has a 0-degree calibration file. You also need to be able to use Room EQ Wizard (REW).


When you make a measurement with a calibrated microphone, you are not changing anything that the microphone does. All that happens is that the software alters the measured frequency response in accordance with the calibration file. The math, in fact, is simple:

  • Actual response = Measured response – calibration file response

The actual response is the “real” frequency response at a point in space (the tip of the microphone capsule). The measured response is what the measurement program will measure at that point in space without using a cal file. And the calibration file response is the magnitude column in the cal file (we’ll see an example below).

Let’s simplify the names:

  • A = M – C

and rearrange:

  • C = M – A

In other words, to get the 90-degree calibration file response, we only need take the measured response with the mic at 90 degrees, then we subtract the actual response with the mic at 90 degrees. But hang on, aren’t we trying to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps? – the actual response is the reason we are trying to do this in the first place and we don’t have that yet!

The thing is, though, the actual response with the mic at 90 degrees (using the 90 degree cal file) is the same as the actual response with the mic at 0 degrees (using the 0 degree cal file). So we can get A by pointing the mic at the speaker and measuring it using the 0 degree cal file.

Clear as mud? Never mind, just follow the steps below carefully.


  1. Position the microphone pointed directly at a speaker and fairly close (to minimize room reflections). I used a small fullrange driver with the microphone positioned 20 cm away.
  2. Load the 0 degree calibration file and take a measurement. Rename it to A (actual response).
  3. Reposition the microphone so that it is pointed at 90 degrees. The tip of the mic must be in the same location as before.
  4. Clear the calibration file and take a measurement. Rename it to M (measured response). [Note: leave the microphone where it is, as you will need it again later.]
  5. Apply 1/3rd octave smoothing to both measurements.
  6. View A, and go to File -> Export -> Measurement as text, and save the file A.txt.
  7. Open A.txt in a text editor and locate the first line starting with a number greater than 1000. Delete everything before that line. Don’t leave a blank line at the start. Save A.txt.
  8. View M, and go to File -> Export -> Measurement as text, and save the file M.txt.
  9. Open M.txt and locate the first line starting with a number greater than 1000. Delete everything before that line. Don’t leave a blank line at the start. Save M.txt.
  10. Open a spreadsheet (I used Microsoft Excel but others should work fine).
  11. Position the cursor in cell A1 and import M.txt. Depending on the program the exact way you do this may vary, but you will typically use options that say it is a text file, with fields delimited by spaces or tabs. It should like a bit look this:
    Import M
  12. Position the cursor in cell D1 and import A.txt. Now it should like a bit look this:
    Import A
  13. In cell G1, enter the formula =B1-E1 :
    Enter formula 
  14. Select all the cells from G1 down to G55, or whichever is the last row with numbers in it. Press Ctrl-D or locate the Fill Down command. The formula gets pasted in each cell.
  15. Select all of Column G and do a Copy.
  16. Select Column H and do a Paste Special -> Values only. This copies the result of the equation, without copying the equation itself.
  17. In cell I1, enter the number 0.
  18. Use Fill Down to paste the 0 all the way to the last row with numbers (I55 in my case). The result should look like this:
    Add columns
  19. Select columns B through G and delete them. You should have three columns left, like this:
    Delete columns
  20. Use Save As.. to save the spreadsheet as a tab-delimited text file, named C.txt.
  21. Make a copy of your calibration file, and name it something useful, like serial-90deg.txt.
  22. Open serial-90deg.txt in a text editor and locate the first line starting with a number greater than 1000. Delete that line and everything after it.
  23. Open C.txt, Select All and Copy its contents, then paste at the end of the open serial-90deg.txt file. Don’t leave a blank line. Save serial-90deg.txt.
  24. You now need to verify that the calibration file works as intended. Back in REW, load serial-90deg.txt as a cal file (Preferences->Mic/Meter).
  25. Run a measurement, and rename it to V.
  26. In the Overlays pane, compare A and V. They should be very close. (If not, something went wrong.)
  27. Optionally, you can use File -> Import Frequency Response to import serial-90deg.txt to see how it looks. (Set vertical limits to say +/- 10 dB.)

Example 1: CSL-calibrated Dayton EMM-6

I use the CSL-calibrated EMM-6 as my first example, because I already have a 90-degree cal file from Cross-Spectrum Labs for it. That way I can see how the cal file I came up with compares.

Here’s my A in blue and M in red (1/3rd octave smoothing):

a and m

Here’s my A again in blue and V in purple:

a and v



Here is the comparison of the 90-degree cal file from Cross-Spectrum Labs in blue with the cal file that I just generated in purple:


Example 2: miniDSP UMIK-1

I don’t have a 90-degree cal file for the miniDSP UMIK-1, so I will generate one and verify it as described in steps 24-27.

Here’s A in blue and M in red (1/3rd octave smoothing):

umik a and m

Here’s A in blue and V in purple:

umik a and v

Here, out of curiosity, is the miniDSP 0 degree cal file in red and the generated 90 degree cal file in purple:

umik cal files

Additional notes

The procedure given above seems long and complicated, but it’s one of those things that takes longer to describe than to actually do. I tried to find a simple way of doing it, but this is the best I’ve found using readily-available tools (and no coding).

  1. The procedure uses the existing data from the cal file below 1 kHz, and the new data above 1 khz. This is because the mic response due to orientation varies only at high frequencies. In addition, it’s hard (or impossible) to get repeatably accurate measurements at low frequencies because of ambient noise (traffic, planes, wind, footsteps, …)
  2. A full range driver is best to use, as it avoids any directionality effect that might occur if positioning the microphone in front of a speaker with multiple drivers. If you don’t have a full-range driver, try:
    1. Moving the switchover frequency up. You may get a bit of a glitch though.
    2. Moving the mic further away (e.g. 50cm instead of 20 cm). This may give a slightly less accurate result due to room reflections but will probably be just fine.
  3. I created column I for the phase data. However, most measurement programs will probably be fine without it.
  4. The two times I’ve done this so far, there is a small glitch at 1 khz in the cal file. This could be avoided by matching A and M exactly at 1 kHz prior to exporting. However, the glitch I got was only around 0.1 dB so I decided it wasn’t worth the effort.
  5. The impulse response of A and V does look a little different. I’m not sure at this point whether there’s ever a situation where this might matter.

Please let me know in comments below if you try this out and how you went. Thanks!



You can, of course, come up with a method based on the above to calibrate one microphone based on another – but instead of rotating the mic 90 degrees, you measure using the second microphone. In order to get good low-frequency readings, the measurements should be done in two halves, as described here, and spliced together.


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iPad Measurement Mics Sat, 02 Aug 2014 14:14:42 +0000 I was curious about how the internal iPad microphone fared for measurements, and what else could be used. There are a few twists and turns here, so if you’re in a hurry, feel free to jump straight to the conclusion.

Note: these measurements are not intended to be authoritative or definitive. I took them to satisfy my own curiosity. If you know of measurements that are consistent with or contradict these measurements, please do post a link to them in a comment below.

Preliminaries: measurements in REW

I first tested three microphones with REW. These were all done in-room, approximately at a suitable listening position, since the iPad measurements will be simple 1/3rd-octave RTA. All microphones were pointed directly at the speaker and the appropriate (on-axis) calibration file used.

Firstly, a comparison of measurement sweeps using an Earthworks M30 vs my CSL-calibrated Dayton EMM-6 microphone:

REW Sweep, Earthworks M30 (red) vs CSL-calibrated EMM-6 (blue), 1/6th octave smoothing

REW Sweep, Earthworks M30 (red) vs CSL-calibrated EMM-6 (blue), 1/6th octave smoothing

The  two mics are very consistent across the range, with the EMM-6 reading slightly lower from 6 to 17 kHz. I’m not 100% convinced that the M30 is quite on the mark, for reasons I won’t go into here, but regardless, pretty close.

Next, a measurement sweep comparing the M30 to a miniDSP UMIK-1:

REW Sweep, Earthworks M30 (red) vs miniDSP UMIK-1 (green), 1/6th octave smoothing

REW Sweep, Earthworks M30 (red) vs miniDSP UMIK-1 (green), 1/6th octave smoothing

The UMIK-1 reads slightly higher than the M30 below 50 Hz and above 8 kHz.

Now, I mentioned above that the iPad measurements will be an RTA (real time analysis), not a measurement sweep. Here’s how the REW RTA function (1/3rd octave) compared to the sweep, both with the UMIK-1:

Measurement sweep in REW (green) vs RTA in REW (red)

Measurement sweep in REW (green) vs RTA in REW (red)

They’re pretty close, with the RTA drooping slightly at the top and bottom (the same effect was observed with the other two microphones). Note that the RTA does tend to bounce around a little, so some variation at individual 1/3 octave bands should be ignored.

iPad measurements

The measurements on the iPad were done using the RTA function of AudioTools. To compare measurements, the RTA was stopped and saved as a file, which was then moved to my laptop and imported into REW. The actual display in AudioTools is a bargraph, but they come out as smooth curves in REW. Good enough to compare though.

I was unable to use the EMM-6 and the M30 with the iPad as my MOTU Microbook II USB audio interface doesn’t work with the iPad. Bummer. I guess it saved me some time. So I used the UMIK-1 (with the Apple Lightning-USB adapter), a Dayton iMM-6, and the internal iPad mic. The UMIK-1 and iMM-6 had their respective calibration files loaded, while the internal mic used the AudioTools default (which apparently didn’t do much, see below).

First off, here’s the RTA measurement using the UMIK-1 taken on REW, compared with the RTA measurement using the UMIK-1 on the iPad:

RTA from REW (red) vs RTA from AudioTools (purple), both using UMIK-1

RTA from REW (red) vs RTA from AudioTools (purple), both using UMIK-1

Pretty close, although there seems to be some drop-off in the AudioTools measurement below 90 Hz and I don’t think I’d trust the two lowest bands (i.e. below 30 Hz).

How does the AudioTools measurement compared in absolute terms? In other words, let’s assume that the sweep is the most accurate measurement. Here’s the sweep taken in REW using the UMIK-1, compared to the RTA measurement in AudioTools:

Measurement sweep in REW (green) vs RTA in AudioTools (purple), both using UMIK-1

Measurement sweep in REW (green) vs RTA in AudioTools (purple), both using UMIK-1

Oooo… the AudioTools RTA reads about 3 dB lower from 70 Hz downward. Above 90 Hz, it’s as close as you could want. I can’t really explain this – if I can get the other mics working with the iPad at some point, I’ll see if I can verify whether this effect is consistent or just an anomalous measurement.

How does the internal mic compare? Here is the RTA from AudioTools using the UMIK-1 compared to the RTA using the internal mic:

Audiotools RTA using UMIK-1 (purple) vs the internal iPad mic (green)

Audiotools RTA using UMIK-1 (purple) vs the internal iPad mic (green)

As you can see, a fair bit of a drop below 200 Hz and above 6 kHz.

The little Dayton iMM-6, though, comes with a calibration file. Here it is compared to the UMIK-1:

Audiotools RTA using UMIK-1 (purple) vs the Dayton iMM-6 (blue)

Audiotools RTA using UMIK-1 (purple) vs the Dayton iMM-6 (blue)

It wobbles around a bit but is generally a decent match, with the exception of the 100-400 Hz range where it varies more than I’d be comfortable with for serious measurements or EQ. (I repeated the measurement and got a similar result.)

Cal file conundrum

After I took the RTA with the iMM-6, it occurred to me to check the calibration file. Loaded into REW, it looks like this:

Dayton iMM-6 calibration file

Dayton iMM-6 calibration file

See all those wobbles above 4 kHz? They really shouldn’t be there. Dayton (or rather, their supplier) are doing something funny with the calibration. Still, for 1/3 octave RTAs, it makes no practical difference, but I wouldn’t use these cal files for measurement sweeps without smoothing. Here’s the Dayton cal file for my EMM-6 compared to the cal file from Cross-Spectrum Labs:

EMM-6 calibration files: from Dayton (green) and from Cross-Spectrum Labs(blue)

EMM-6 calibration files: from Dayton (green) and from Cross-Spectrum Labs(blue)

(In case it’s not obvious, the Dayton cal file simply can’t be correct.)


Based on the above measurements, here is what I think…

  1. The internal microphone in the iPad isn’t really suitable for measurement work. It is probably possible to generate a calibration file that would make it work much better for this kind of RTA, at least above 40 Hz, but the default setting in AudioTools wasn’t it.
  2. The little iMM-6 performed OK. If you’re just looking at the general trend and not trying to EQ something to the last dB, this is great value at $17. Or, it would be a great tool for learning the ropes without spending very much. If it weren’t for the funny response in the 100-400 Hz region, it would be a complete no-brainer at that price.
  3. The external USB mic, the UMIK-1, performed consistently with the measurements from REW albeit with some droop below around 90 Hz. I can’t explain that but I’d assume that it’s the software not the mic itself. In either case, something to keep in mind if doing EQ. The Dayton UMM-6 would I assume be a good alternative, except for…
  4. The Dayton cal files. If spending a bit more for a USB measurement mic (and the needed USB adapter for the iPad), then I would recommend getting the mic from Cross-Spectrum Labs. (Actually, I’d recommend that for the UMIK-1 as well as the UMM-6 – for a slight increase in cost over the stock mic you also get a 90-degree calibration file, which is more than a little handy if you’re trying to EQ an HT system i.e. with speakers all around you).
  5. I don’t have a USB audio interface (i.e. with mic preamps) compatible with the iPad. For some reason I had assumed that the Microbook II would work, until I tried it and remembered that it does require a driver even on the Mac. Any recommendations on an iPad-compatible interface? Please post a link below if so.
  6. iPad software is more limited than measurement programs running on a regular computer. It wins on convenience and portability but not on features or analysis capabilities. Nothing wrong with that, just be realistic.


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The Convertible active loudspeaker – revisited Wed, 23 Apr 2014 11:08:17 +0000 Some time ago. I wrote a proposal for an active loudspeaker called the Convertible, using an 8″ woofer and a tweeter with a waveguide. Since then, I came up with the Mini Convertible (additional articles still in preparation) project, which is a more compact speaker.

Having now ordered and received some waveguides from Dave Pellegrene, I wanted to revisit the design of the Convertible. Based on the measurements of the SB29RDC in the waveguide and some other considerations, I’ve switched to a 6.5″ woofer, the Seas U18RNX/P. Here’s the concept design for a “convertible” monitor using the U18 and the Pellegrene waveguide:

Convertible - monitor

Earlier, I had always assumed that the ported base of the “convertible” speaker would only add air volume (and a port). However, I recently had one of those “Aha!” moments, and with a little further investigation realized that a much better approach would be to add an extra woofer as well, thus turning it into a “2.5 way” ported floorstanding speaker. Here’s the concept diagram of that configuration:

Convertible - floorstander

Why the switch from 8″ to 6.5″? First, take a look at the SB29 response in the waveguide (0 30, 60, 90 degrees):

And here is Seas’ published U18 response:

If you look at the dispersion shown by the 60-degree curves (orange in the top graph, bottom curve in the lower graph), the directivity of the woofer gradually increases above a few hundred Hz and then matches the waveguided tweeter around 2 kHz. It’s almost as if these two were designed for each other!

The other thing about the U18 is that it has a nice little bit of extra Xmax, at 6 mm (peak). In fact, it has almost the same volume displacement as the U22 that I wanted to use in the original proposal. The net result is that I think two U18’s, while a bit more expensive, are a more effective solution than a single U22, for this speaker. And why not use two 8’s? Because the ported box would be too large.

I’m quite excited by this design (at this concept stage anyway). Everything – size, output, plate amp power, etc – just all seems to fit together really well. But first, I’ll try to finish off the Mini Convertible series of articles, translating this same concept to the “mini” format.


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SB29RDC on Pellegrene waveguide Tue, 22 Apr 2014 18:11:06 +0000 In the original Convertible proposal, I wanted to use a waveguide on the tweeter. Towards to that end, I’ve now bought a pair of SB Acoustics SB29RDC from Dan Archer and suitable waveguides from Dave Pellegrene. (I also have another project in mind for the SB29/waveguide combo, which is a larger speaker using a high efficiency 6″ midrange.)

To mount the waveguide, you remove the three screws from the tweeter faceplate, insert the provided studs into the tweeter, and use the provided nuts and washers to bolt on the waveguide.


With a very quick and rough measurement, with the tweeter held by hand about 15cm away from the microphone, here’s the tweeter with the standard faceplate, at 0, 30, 60 and 90 degrees (ignore vertical scale except for relative reference):

And here it is mounted in the waveguide:

So that looks very promising!





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Mini Convertibles get their first showing Fri, 18 Oct 2013 23:24:19 +0000 The Mini Convertible speakers got their first showing last weekend at “Bathurst,” an audio get-together hosted by Terry Jones. This is still the sealed monitor version, and Terry produced a pair of stands for them from somewhere. The cables coming out to the front of the picture are to subwoofers on either side of the couch.

Mini Convertible at Bathurst

Mini Convertible at Bathurst

As you can see, I made the second prototype with the tweeter offset in the baffle, so I can measure the effect it has on baffle diffraction. (Haven’t done the measurements yet.)

Some of the attendees:

Attendees at Bathurst GtG 2013

Attendees at Bathurst GtG 2013

Terry, by the way, has an awesome DEQX-based system, which I’ve been meaning to try doing some sort of write up on for HifiZine. One day.

Photo Credits: Russ Tunny.



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The Tandem subwoofer Sat, 10 Aug 2013 05:50:25 +0000 Updated 27 Oct 2013.

I never thought I’d get excited about a plate amp.

But, while waiting for the drivers for the Mini Convertible active speaker project, I was wondering how best to add a subwoofer to the sealed/monitor version of the speaker. After working through a couple of options, the completely obvious hit me: the PWR-ICE125 plate amp provides a buffered copy of its digital input signal, so there’s no reason that you can’t chain a subwoofer built with a third PWR-ICE125 amp, like this:

HifiZine Mini Convertible speaker with chained subwoofer

In this setup, the amp in the subwoofer is set to sum both left and right channels, and to run in BTL (bridged) mode. A couple of observations here:

  • There’s no reason to stop at one subwoofer – as far as I can tell, you can chain as many more as you like. It’s not hard to envisage a distributed multi-sub system built using these, with additional subs being added whenever funds allowed or the need arose.
  • The digital source needs to be volume-controlled. While each PWR-ICE125 does have a volume control, it applies only to the amp that it’s on and doesn’t affect amps further down the chain. (This is as it should be: the digital link out is a buffered copy of the input, no reclocking, sample-rate conversion, or other processing.)

What would be a good driver for this? One good-looking option is the Dayton RSS315HFA-8 12″ subwoofer driver. At the rated 250W (into 8 ohms) of the amp in BTL mode, this is its simulated output (half space, anechoic) in an 84 liter (3 cu ft) sealed box:

Dayton RSS315HFA-8 with 250W

Maximum output is 98 dB at 20 Hz (excursion limited) and 106 dB at 40 Hz (power limited), with an f3 around 36 Hz. Why an 8 ohm driver? While the amp is rated to operate into a 4 ohm load in BTL mode, the continuous power rating into this load is much less. Personally, I just feel more comfortable with a more conservative 8 ohm driver in this situation.

So far so good. What if you wanted a smaller box? Here’s another option: use a smaller driver, but use two boxes. Eh what? Let’s look at this option: build the plate amp into one subwoofer box, and also build a second “passive” subwoofer box. Then we run the plate amp in “stereo” mode instead of BTL mode. It looks like this:

HifiZine Mini Convertible speaker with tandem subwoofer

I mentioned above that the digital source has to have a volume control, but if it hasn’t, this can be done by putting a miniDSP OpenDRC-DI at the front of the chain, which I’ve shown in the above diagram. Once you have one of those in the chain, you can use it to linearize the phase of the whole system, with the aid of rePhase.

What about output levels – do we lose or gain anything? Here’s an example, a pair of Dayton RSS265HF-4, each in its own 28 liter (1 cu ft) box:2 x Dayton RSS265HF-4 with 120W each

Maximum power output is 98 dB at 20 Hz, and 106 dB at 40 Hz, both power-limited. So, the same as the single 12″… f3 is about 46 Hz… but you can easily alter this with a Linkwitz transform. We have incurred the cost of two 10″ drivers now instead of a single 12″, so what did we gain?

  • Each box is much smaller – 28 vs 84 litres (1 vs 3 cu ft) – and therefore likely to be easier to place.
  • With two subs, we increase the number of bass sources, which can (if done carefully) help produce a smoother (pre-EQ) response.

While it certainly wouldn’t hurt if the amp had more power – say twice as much – for an extra 3 dB maximum output above around 30 Hz, this is still enough for most home systems, and likely to be suited for situations where space is at a premium. Of course, you can play numbers games like these all day, but in the end the builder has to choose what suits them best. Horses for courses, as they say… but still, this is all pretty cool.

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