Lowering the Noise Floor
If you have a hi-fi system which is skipping a beat, sounds aggressive and fatiguing or simply isn’t as musically engaging or rewarding as you’d like it could be that you require some ‘Audio Therapy’ to ensure that it is performing to the best of its ability.
The fact is the vast majority of people will have never heard their system sound anywhere close to its full potential.
Many hi-fi enthusiasts are continuously on the upgrade path, ever seeking “audio nirvana”. This can be an expensive and never ending journey for many but there is another way to get far greater performance and satisfaction from your system and in most cases the changes will be rather dramatic.
I’ve written quite extensively over the past few years about lowering the noise floor and how much of a benefit it can bring to a systems performance when you do it correctly. All systems are different and everyone has different tastes so the angle of attack will vary from one system to another but the fundamental goal always remains the same – removing noise, distortion and interference from the system. We can drop the noise floor in just one component or across the whole system and we can do it regardless of whether we’re dealing with a signal in the digital or analogue domains
By lowering the noise floor we are essentially making a system more natural and accurate whilst retaining the drive and flow and most importantly the message of the music. It’s not all about extracting every last drop of detail or transparency, but more do with making your system engaging and rewarding. I speak to lots of people who have systems which they enjoy listening to but over extended sessions they can become fatigued with the overall performance from the system.
An Audio Therapy system will have focus on lowering the noise floor included from inception and as a result the performance will be endlessly detailed, but also retain that wonderful trait of being completely natural and fatigue free – just more one track turns into another couple of albums and a late night quite frequently!
To quote Miles Davis ‘it’s not the notes you play, it’s the notes you don’t play’ that that analogy can be used here, that silence between the notes, or that pause before the vocal…..with a dramatically lowered noise floor you uncover so much more of the music, quiet passages and all.
Many of my customers have had good systems for many years, but I have taken them further than they thought was possible in a relatively short space of time with some careful additions. Depending on the system and the customers preferences the products required can vary quite dramatically from one system to another, unfortunately there isn’t a magic recipe card or a one-size fits all solution, it’s one of the reasons there are so many options to explore.
There are 3 key areas which we always focus on to lower the noise floor
Room Acoustics is without doubt the most overlooked aspect of the home audio system. Unfortunately the room itself is quite frequently the weakest link in a system and to some degree all rooms will introduce distortion, smearing and the ‘muddying’ of the sonic presentation and is guilty of holding back the musical message a system is trying to communicate.
In a typical average sized room only around 20% of what you hear comes directly from the speaker, the other 80% comes from the room, in the form of reflections, rebounding many times around around the room, the percentages will vary from room to room depending on its size. Treating your room essentially involves moving this unfavourable ratio so you increase what you hear directly from the speakers and reduce what you hear as reflections and resonances.
With the use of Acustica Applicate Room Treatment we have at our disposal one of the most powerful acoustical solutions available today, we can map and measure your room, work out accurately what the issues are and propose solutions that will drastically improve your system and by a far greater level that any component upgrade could ever off.
To find out more on Room Acoustics, Room Treatment, Acustica Applicata (and the brilliant Stillpoints Aperture II Wall Panels) please take a read of a recent blog post.
Room Acoustics and Room Treatment is without doubt the most overlooked aspect of the home audio system. Unfortunately the room is quite [...]
Most audio systems will be made up of multiple components and to varying degrees most of these products will create noise and also pick up noise, both from the mains and from other connected components. The musical signal is incredibly delicate and to maximise any systems performance we have to carefully look after that signal as it passes through the components in the system, protecting it from noise and pollution along the way.
In order to do this we can look at both mains power and also grounding your system. These are two distinct applications, from a grounding point of view we aren’t talking about electrical grounding or replacing protective ground, but rather independently grounding your system to lower to the noise floor and give the noise and pollutants somewhere to reside.
Let’s Get Grounded
By adding an Entreq Ground Box to your system, be it just one or two components or the whole system you instill a sense of calm into the presentation improving the musical flow and increasing the level of subtle detail. When done correctly it delivers a powerful message and most people are taken aback when they hear it for the first time. Whether you connect just 1 component to 1 small box or multiple components to a larger box depends on your system and tastes essentially. There is no right or wrong and it one of the reason why there is such a comprehensive (and often bewildering to a newcomer!) range of Ground Boxes and Cables – it’s actually quite straightforward. Where do you start? Integrated Amp, Pre-Amp, DAC, CD player, Router (if you stream). When your system is carefully matched to the most appropriate Entreq solution for you the end result can be truly superb.
The choice of ground cable is important as well, again it depends on your system and what like the sound. Do not assume the most expensive options are the best ones, even in a big system
It is possible to add too much and over-dampen things, it is all about keeping things in balance with your system and taste. Less is often more! I have a lot of experience with Entreq and can take any system further with the right combination of items.
Learn more about the range of Entreq Ground Boxes
Power to the System
It all starts with mains power, without it we’d not get very far! Mains power is noisy and that noise gets in way of the musical signal. Replacing your power cables with correctly designed cables that provide instantaneous current is critical here, they don’t all do this and you don’t want to starve your system of current just when it needs it the most. Noise is carried on the mains throughout your system and your system itself with create noise to some degree. The right selection of power cables and distribution units play a big role is lowering the noise floor and unlocking the full musical message your system is trying to delivering……don’t hold it back.
We have power cables from Shunyata Research, Entreq and Tellurium Q, along with Shunyata’s superb range of power conditioners – all of which focus on low noise and maximising current delivery.
Demonstration stock of power cables and conditioners is fairly comprehensive so if you would like to try something in your own system please get in touch.
Here we are dealing with a few different elements – but essentially all related to the energy created by the products themselves and how that energy is dealt with, as well as looking at what your system is actually standing on. This primarily relates to Stillpoints, how we use them and most importantly when we introduce them into a system. There is a small selection of products from Entreq that also fit into this category, more on those soon.
Stillpoints are isolation devices that in simple terms make your electronics and loudspeakers float. They absorb the unwanted mechanical energy that is created by your system, and they also ensure that the glass shelves and metal rack your system sits upon has no influence on the presentation of your system (because it does!). Exactly the same applies for your loudspeakers sitting on the floor or on stands.
Stillpoints are incredibly effective and powerful devices, but in terms of lowering the noise floor mechanically they do something different to the Entreq Ground Boxes and Cables. By floating a component or your entire system (including speakers) you will increase your systems transparency and musical insight and depending on how your system is balanced the end result can sometimes a be a little too honest for some peoples taste. It all depends on the overall balance of your system, the Stillpoints themselves add nothing to the overall presentation but simply let you hear your system perform honestly and they may highlight shortcomings elsewhere in the system.
I have plenty of clients who have floated their systems with Stillpoints and not added Entreq and vice versa, but in many systems the combination of the 2 together can result in something rather special. There is no right and wrong, it all depends on the system and what the customer hears, the number of possible system combinations is limitless so the results are hugely variable too!
I have linked below to an extensive blog post I on the Stillpoints which covers the range in detail and how they work and what they can offer.
Stillpoints have been instrumental in helping me unlock more performance and music from customers systems over the past couple of years, they rarely disappoint and they can completely transform the way a system can perform. [...]
Would you like to hear more?
If you are interested in finding out how much more you could get from your existing system please get in touch via email or give me a call (07976 496218), home demonstrations and consultations are no problem to organise. In some systems we may need to address all 3 of the areas outlined above, but as I’m sure you will have read, there is no one solution that covers all systems!