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02-04-2006, 06:51 PM
Hello, i am posting this article on my speaker journey only for those who are really interested in getting the most out of their speakers. I will gladly answere any questions regarding speaker setup and electronics with your planar.

The article below only applies to my personal system but many ideas can be taken and applied to your planar speaker as well.

Where to begin this long journey? Ah yes, I will begin at the cold winter day when I got them in my room. My new found friend Klaus and I with the help of a local friend lifted the big crates out of the rented van and where trying to get them downstairs to the listening room. Unfortunately they did not fit through the stairway and we therefore had to remove the fence and lift them through the window into the listening room. Once they were in my heart was filled with joy and they stood in front of me in all their glory. The speaker is approximately 1.88m tall and 80cm wide at the bottom and quite heavy for a speaker only made from magnets and aluminum foil! My listening room at the time was quite empty at the time with only 4 bass traps and 2 first reflection point absorbers, a carpet and a couch and chair occupying some floor space. I set out my journey by placing the DIVAS 165cm from the rear wall on the wooden floor without the spikes and the crossovers set to N. I was completely stunned by their ability to completely disappear and what I at the time believed to be a perfect integration of all drivers. I had a problem with the Scintilla’s integration and could hear the bass panel separately from the midrange tweeter array from time to time and was glad that this was not the case anymore. The image height that I was used to from the Magnepan 3.6R was now finally back and the incredible ease of the speaker to portray music in a to me yet unknown spectacularly unspectacular way. I have used the following electronics with them at the time: A Unison Unico CD player which uses tubes in the output stage and runs balanced to the Sphinx Project 2 MKII preamp which then runs balanced to the Sphinx Project 18 power amp that is man enough to handle the Scintilla with its 45A max current, damping factor of 5000 and 145000uF of capacitance.

My room is 3.83m wide at Wall Nr.1 which is completely solid brick and 3.85m at Wall Nr.2 which is also solid brick but has a Window in the middle with a radiator and two radiator pipes running on the downside of that wall. This was the spot I always had my system on because my Projector could not be mounted by the window since it would not open that way if I had done that. My side walls are 4.92m long and are also solid brick with amounts of wooden plates in between and a door at the end of the room which is sunk 15cm into the wall. My ceiling is hardwood with riffles running down the long side of the walls with 3cm gaps. My room was quite lively with a few flap echoes and long decay times. This was certainly not ideal but I have read many times that you should not absorb the reflection from the back wall since the Apogees need that information. I only placed my bass traps in the corners and the first reflection point absorbers on the sidewalls. I have spun many tunes on my system and always found it amazing in every recording. I can test the quality of a HIFI system by using only myself. I usually fall asleep very fast and I fell asleep on all of my previous systems, and my friends MG20 system but not on the DIVA. I think this is because they DIVA has not ONE character and really gives you what’s on the recording and not what it wants you to hear. Sometimes she can be cold, warm, romantic, analytical, soft, hard, sweet and arrogant. The DIVA is much like me, if we are comfortable we are very friendly, and get along with most people. If we are mistreated we can turn into a Tiny-Monster ;-) and tell you very directly what we think. The problem lies in the following, I am a human and can display my character and change it anyway I want, depending on the situation. But the DIVA is a speaker and is dependant on the driving electronics, cabling, source, power and most of all its surroundings.

I wrote on the forum many times that I like the cold analytical character of the DIVA. But I was wrong; the DIVA is not cold, analytical or unmusical. Quite the opposite in actuality but you will never see that side of the speaker if you use more of your wallet then your heart and ear! I started to mess around with placement and moved the DIVA in 2cm steps back and forth, left to right and tilted them. Every single change was audible and the basic character of the DIVA started to faint a bit. I could hear an incredible fine feeling and romantic speaker with my beloved Phantom of the Opera recording that brought me into the dungeons below the opera house in a way that no other speaker I have ever heard anywhere got me, but then the highs were edgy and the bass balance was not right. I moved them around for 2 month and could always almost get them there! I wanted that lush romantic sound the Scintilla got me but with a neutral balance, tall image height, completely disappearing and non fattening bass that makes every recording deep regardless of where the microphones are. I asked myself if most of the guys on the forum where actually right? Is the DIVA just an unmusical, cold, analytical and dry speaker? Mmmh, I didn’t believe it and I heard that character but it started to break up by every movement.

Thing Man has an incredibly interesting site and I looked at it many times and read most of the archive on the forum and injected huge amounts of information in my head from all over the world. I kept the room acoustics in the back of my mind and started to fool around with my bass traps, blankets and rugs. I have tried to deaden the sidewalls with the effect that the soundstage became deep but some instruments where glued to the midrange ribbon and just would not move. My other idea was to deaden the entire back part of the room where the DIVAS where standing with the effect that it sounded lifeless, dead and smeared like the Magnepan MG20. I pretty much gave up on the speaker and figured that it just wasn’t going to work in this room. So I found the article on Jon’s Website about tweaking the crossover boxes and set on to my journey.

I have to give credit and big thanks here to Jon, Joseph and Jeff who have helped me a lot in changing the crossover and helping me to understand how to read a schematic. I have removed the switches from the circuit and unhealthy amount of cables serving no real purpose. The sonic change was dramatically more opened, transparent and much better integrated. I wanted to get more of that sound and ended up lowering the super tweeter crossover from 12 KHz to about 7 KHz which means the tweeter is now doing something finally and gives them a real sweet and open high frequency range with no more harshness and sudden drop off. The best idea is of course, according to some on the forum to go active. Well, I am sure its great but I can’t afford my amp 3 times. I do have enough amps here, and good ones too but I want the same ones for the exact same sonic picture. It was suggested to me to use 3 or 6 digital amps, but none I heard so far where good. I asked many of my friends who had the popular digital amps also and absolutely none found it good except on the bass. So my decision was to use 1 very good amp instead of 3 or 6 bad ones just for the sake of going active. A new crossover for my DIVA will be done very soon and I will let you guys know how it turns out. For a sneak preview, it will be a 6 chassis design ;-)

To get back onto the positioning; I moved the DIVA to the solid back wall and got an insane amount of low bass with an incredible mid-bass punch that I never felt from a cone driver either. The Apogees really need a reflective back wall, but placing them at the recommended distance gives them a strange and easily overpowering sound. So I moved them to 2.1m from the back wall with the effect of a HUGE soundstage but still had some instruments sticking on the midrange ribbon. Well, it was time to really get down and ugly. I lifted the DIVA off their custom made bases so that I can easily move them around. In doing so I tried all kinds of configurations. Some with toe-in and some without, close together or far apart. My jaw dropped once I hit upon a spot where they got INCREDIBLY soft, lush and romantic. It was not the same speaker I had known for the past months. Such an incredible change was beyond my believe and I made sure that everything was connected right and it was. To further enhance it I moved them a bit further around only to find out that the sweet, romantic and soft sound disappeared. So I believe that the DIVA has an incredible hard to find spot where everything starts falling into place.

*My idea came from the LEDE rooms but mine is actually dispersive. Instead of a dead end I have an acoustic diffuser.

To move forward with my story, I have looked around and noticed these LEDE room designs where you have a Live End and a Dead End. I tried this on the Apogees, but it just didn’t work if the room behind them is dead. Thing Man mentioned that behind the Apogees should be dispersive. I was going to build the diffuser he recommended but unfortunately my woodworking skills are not very developed. So I went to the attic and stumbled across wooden walls that are meant to be used in the garden to block your neighbors view into your yard. They have a very different pattern across their front and can be bent into almost any shape. I have covered the entire solid wall with it and have bent them into round shapes. What happens is that the back wave gets reflected but in no logical or even patterns and it makes the walls disappear and gives you an incredibly precise image. I can hear where the microphones are placed, when a singer is turning his head and what the recording engineer intended.

On my Jazz in Paris CD there was still a little bit of a bright side of things that bugged me and I noticed that when I move my head forward it gets worse, so what I did was to build another diffuser on the first reflection points that the instrument suddenly moves back by a foot. Nothing and I mean nothing sticks to the drivers and it’s all free in space, unless you have a close mic-ed recording where the instruments are on the same plane. Instruments are expanding from 6 feet behind the speaker to my lap, as an example I have an older record from DECCA with the 1812 Overture. You can literally catch the canon ball in your lap and the bells are physically in your room with all their size. The surroundings of the DIVA are incredibly important if it is not right then you get stereotypical comments about the speaker’s character which is not true at all.

I see the DIVA as a true state of the art speaker and have read the reviews countless of times and have many magazines here (thanks Rolf) where one can clearly see what kind of speaker it is and what people it was made for. At the time of the first release the speaker was 26000DM here in Germany which is such an incredible amount of money that you could as well have bought a BMW 5 series. It was never meant to be used in a small room with normal electronics from mortals like me. Times past, and they got cheaper on the market and now we all have a chance (those of us that are not filthy rich) to own these statements. May they be DIVA, Fullrange, Scintilla, Duetta, Stages, Calipers, entire line of Hybrids or the exquisite Grand series models. Most of us have them in small rooms, on normal electronics and have to bow to the wife. [I am lucky here ;-)] These speakers that we own are exceptional but will only unfold their true character and potential when given the most blood and sweat with all the dedication that you have. I am proud to own one of the world’s greatest speakers and it’s my quest to use them to their full potential. And if this means, a new room, acoustic environment, cables, crossovers etc… then so be it. Now, do I mean that we need to go out and spend a fortune on magazine amps that get good reviews and cost more then a car? No! I have heard equipment that is so dazzlingly expensive that it really makes you feel sick considering there are thousands of people dying everyday because they have no food or water. I am ashamed of myself sometimes for *****ing about the front row left violin not being exactly where I want it and albeit forgetting that I am a 22 year old boy sitting in front of tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment that I could spend on tickets to see the concerts. Oh well, back to the matter. If you run the DIVA with cold hard power that can drop a 1000 Watts in them, which they will NEVER use then you will get a cold, hard and analytical sound. But if you look at the alternatives out there from Sphinx, Pathos, Einstein, Silver King (I am sure it’s awesome), ARC and many more non-digital amps that come from the older and more glory days of HIFI that are left out standing in the rain and can be had for not all that much money and you will find yourself in front of a very different speaker.

The next parts I want to write about are all the small tweaks I have done and what changes it has brought me. The most important part is the isolation of the floor. My friend Klaus has build wooden bases for the DIVAS and all of his equipment which are basically sandboxes filled half way with small stones and not sand since sand is too dense and couples the stone plate to the floor without absorbing anything. The DIVA then rests on these plates using the supplied spikes and measured to be completely level horizontally and vertically. This really cleans up the bass and gives a much more open and uncolored bass that shows all the different bass characteristics of a single instrument. The music gets more foundation and since the bass panel plays a huge role in the music it also generates a wider field of sound and a better integration with the rest of the drivers. The crossovers sit on the stone plate too, isolated from the stone with foam boards also.

Another tiny tweak I can recommend for those who don’t want to change the internal wiring of the crossover is to fill it with sand or small stones. This makes the coils almost inaudible if you put your ear to it and makes the sound a tad more precise to my ears. Of course someone might measure it and say it has no affect on the sound but I can hear it and maybe you can too. Give it a try, in the worst case you have to empty the box again and clean it with a vacuum cleaner. The biggest difference apart from junking the crossover that you can obtain for free is the removal of the switches which Jon has written an excellent guide to on his website and soldering many of the components together without using wire. Another idea that Graz gave me was to clean the contacts between the cables and ribbon foil on the drivers itself but this is quite a task and not recommended alone unless your name is Graz and you can carry a DIVA below your arm around the shop ;-)

A very effective and simple method for making sure that the DIVA or all other Apogees are at a perfect distance from you is to use a cotton string, or any other string. Tie it your centered listening position and drag it to the speakers inside and then outside edge. It is very important that they are symmetrical and makes the difference between hearing separate drivers or a unified sound. But the most important of all is the positioning combined with the room. My room is acoustically dispersive behind the DIVA and is absorptive on the listening side except the first reflection points which are dispersive again. Take all the time you need, the DIVA has TONS of bass, bottom end and midrange slam and can be very sweet, romantic, soft, hard or emotional depending on the recording.

02-06-2006, 07:23 PM
Very interesting. I really like your diffusors. They offer a very nice visual effect as well as being seemingly effective. Your room is starting to look pretty swell.

I think your experience is representative of just about any halfway decent audio system. Care taken in set-up and room treatment can make a big difference. There can't be enough said about the benefits of a good acoustic environment...and the 'fun' that can be had trying to create one in your average home. Ahh the endless struggle between contentedness and the desire to tweak :D