Nearfield measurements of the port and woofer showed response peaks close to those same frequencies. The sonic and musical effects of such resonances would at worst be modest, but they could be audible; in fact, John predicted that they would be. “I would expect this behavior to color the sound of male vocals,” John concluded.
Independently—Stereophile reviewers don’t see measurements until after their review is submitted—Herb Reichert reported “a vexing lack of focus in the lower midrange and upper bass.” It was especially noticeable in male vocals, including two tracks he auditioned from Ry Cooder’s album Jazz.
Herb wondered, “Was it the speakers I was hearing or their interactions with the room and my amplifiers?” Because of his room’s modest dimensions, Herb avoids speakers he thinks might overload it. He reviews almost exclusively standmounts, smaller floorstanders, plus the odd smaller Magnepan. The Alyssas are standmounts, but they go deeper than is usual for standmounts of their size and weight. “In a larger space, with lower levels of reflected bass energies, the Alyssas would, perhaps, present themselves with a more balanced tone and sharper lower-midrange focus. Perhaps another Stereophile reviewer can audition these speakers in a larger room.” I decided to try to answer Herb’s conjecture.
My room isn’t perfect,2 but it’s big, and I’ve rarely had any serious problems with room interactions—just the usual bass modes, and here they’re reasonably tame and well-spaced.
Based on conversations we’ve had, I would describe Mike Levy, Alta Audio’s CEO and chief speaker guy, as an intuitive designer who prioritizes what he hears over design orthodoxy. An example: He doesn’t believe in stuffing his speakers with lots of sound-absorbing foam, which can lower the Q and hence the level of internal resonances but only, he believes, at the cost of musical realism.
The conventional wisdom about low bass, here at Stereophile at least, is that it’s nice but not essential. Levy disagrees. To him, low bass is a necessary foundation for music. So, when he set out to design a small standmount loudspeaker, producing low bass was a necessary design goal. His solution was to combine two ideas that usually are employed separately: bass reflex and transmission line, putting a longish, skinnyish port tube at the end of a folded pathway. Conventionally, transmission lines are stuffed to soak up resonances—but as I already wrote, Levy doesn’t like stuffing. The result is what you might expect: John’s measurements found both an unusually low port-tuning frequency for a speaker of this volume—32Hz—and the aforementioned internal resonances. That’s a fine tradeoff if the resonances are inaudible or sonically unimportant. But in that case, what was Herb, who has an exceptional ear for reproduced music, hearing? My job was to evaluate the audibility of those upper-bass/lower-midrange airspace resonances and figure out what was causing the lack of focus Herb heard.3
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The magnificent eight
The Story of the Grateful Dead, a 14-LP, 8-album collection of Grateful Dead recordings with booklet and deluxe packaging, from Vinyl Me, Please (VMP-A006, 2020), is intended as a curated sampling of the high points in the Dead’s extensive catalog. The first seven albums were cut from analog tape, while Without a Net comes from the original digital master. The sound is breathtaking.
T+A Solitaire P headphones and HA 200 DACheadphone amplifier
What I categorize as mainstream, dealer-based, fancy-pants stream-ers and big-speakers audio is actually only the gold-plated tip of a gigantic asteroid-like monolith that extends (underground) from New York to Hong Kong, from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica. This immense audio-social mass is mostly invisible to the Madison Avenue mainstream, but simple Google searches expose millions of proletarian audio-gear constructers (DIY’ers) working in shops, basements, and garages, scratch-building everything from turntables to tonearms to phono cartridges, to capacitors and vacuum tubes, to amplifiers, headphones, ribbon and electrostatic speakers.
MAKE MORE NOISE!
The title of this set—4 CDs and a book—comes from British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst’s call to arms for women to fight for their rights: “You have to make more noise than anybody else,” said Pankhurst, who died in 1928.
EDITOR’S PICK - RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Landscape into music
It says something about the power of music that some individuals fading into dementia can still recognize the music they knew earlier in their lives. Not to denigrate new music, or music one hasn’t heard before, but our mental jukeboxes award top chart numbers to music that we have lived with over time. Those DJs making their playlists in our brain are the toughest of critics. They don’t care what anyone else might think, “Close to You” is staying in the rotation. Music and memory are linked.
Some great new reissues
For jazz fans, a new batch of releases in Blue Note’s Tone Poet series—vinyl reissues remastered with care and cut from the original analog tapes—is the reason for celebration.
PS Audio Stellar M1200
MONOBLOCK POWER AMPLIFIER
Marantz Model 30
KEF LS50 Meta LOUDSPEAKER