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Thread: If It's Spring, It Must Be Time for New Speakers (and More): Janszen Valentina Active

  1. #11
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    Tom,
    Looks like you are having fun and getting better sound. Some suggestions:

    1. Better HDMI cable
    2. Better coax cable
    3. Super duper linear power supply for Kanex and you need to remove the toslink output connector (it is an led and will mess up the sound) and also the ON indicator (most likely an led)
    4. Modified IFI spdif Ipurifier on input of DAC. Mods include removing the leds (toslink connector and frequency indicator), hardwiring one power supply connection and damping the unit and damping it to the DAC. Info on my site. I charge $65 for the mod. I could also do you Kanex for free at the same time.
    5. Get all you cables off the floor/rug. I use cardboard triangles I make for nothing.....works great. If one of my power or signal wires fall off its riser and is touching the rug for even one inch the whole soundstage is off.
    6. Better signal wire to speakers.

    Digital is so touchy everywhere. This is why it has taken so long to get good digital.....every single thing everywhere effects the sound. I don't have a recommendation on cables as I have never played with HDMI and I make my own ten inch long wire for coax. But, I will tell you this: the connectors and how I damp them, the wire polarity and how I damp the wires.... on my tiny wire make a serious difference.

    Have fun!

    Ric Schultz
    tweakaudio.com

  2. #12
    WBF Technical Expert [Technical Expert] tmallin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ric Schultz View Post
    Tom,
    Looks like you are having fun and getting better sound. Some suggestions:

    1. Better HDMI cable
    2. Better coax cable
    3. Super duper linear power supply for Kanex and you need to remove the toslink output connector (it is an led and will mess up the sound) and also the ON indicator (most likely an led)
    4. Modified IFI spdif Ipurifier on input of DAC. Mods include removing the leds (toslink connector and frequency indicator), hardwiring one power supply connection and damping the unit and damping it to the DAC. Info on my site. I charge $65 for the mod. I could also do you Kanex for free at the same time.
    5. Get all you cables off the floor/rug. I use cardboard triangles I make for nothing.....works great. If one of my power or signal wires fall off its riser and is touching the rug for even one inch the whole soundstage is off.
    6. Better signal wire to speakers.

    Digital is so touchy everywhere. This is why it has taken so long to get good digital.....every single thing everywhere effects the sound. I don't have a recommendation on cables as I have never played with HDMI and I make my own ten inch long wire for coax. But, I will tell you this: the connectors and how I damp them, the wire polarity and how I damp the wires.... on my tiny wire make a serious difference.

    Have fun!

    Ric Schultz
    tweakaudio.com
    Ric, thanks for the suggestions. I may well get around to trying some of them as soon as I become less than enthralled with the sound of this system as it now stands. Three plus months in and I'm still thrilled most every time I sit down to listen. You know I respect your work. I currently use your fully-modified Oppo BDP-105D in this system and use your fully modified BDP-105 in my other system based around Harbeth M40.1 speakers. I remember well that the analog out sound from your modified BDP-105 clearly bested the analog out sound quality of the stock BDP-105 I also owned when I took delivery of your modified unit.

    But, to put things into my current perspective, digital things are changing for the better. I think that at least with the Benchmark DAC-3 DX I'm using, digital sound reproduction is no longer "so touchy everywhere." This was also true with my Lyngdorf TDAI-2170 I previously used in this system and now use in my Harbeth system. As an example, strain though I might, I really cannot reliably hear any difference (much less a difference that I can easily classify as "better" or "worse") between the Oppo HDMI out feeding CD sources through the stock Kanex into one input of the Benchmark and the Oppo's coax digital output which bypasses the Kanex entirely and directly feeds another digital input of the Benchmark. These two signals are instantaneously A/Bable without any time interruption with a single click on the Benchmark's remote control. I thus seriously doubt that anything you or anyone else could do to the Kanex would "improve" its sound. It basically has no detectable sound in my system in its present stock form.

    While the Blue Jeans Cables HDMI, digital coax, and analog cables I use are inexpensive, they have bested all comers I've used over the years. Most other cables are rather obviously colored tonally and seem to be engineered to be crude tone controls for those looking for a bit of EQ but who can't stomach the idea of active electronics to do that job. The BJCs are neutral tonally, quite clear, and display no spatial oddities I can detect.

    While I agree that cable lifters are worthwhile on a carpeted floor (carpets have nasty static electricity), none of my cables except those from the DAC to the speakers touch any carpet. They touch only air and wood flooring. I have never heard any problems from cables resting on wood.

    The Benchmark already has a bunch of LEDs and LCDs in it. Those are necessary to tell which input is operating, as well as the bit depth and sampling rate. I would not want to be without any of these indicator lights. The DAC-3 DX is already undoubtedly the finest DAC I have used.

    The BJC signal wires from the Benchmark to the speakers carry only balanced analog signal, not digital. The star-quad balanced Canare cable BJC uses has extreme resistance to EMI and RFI effects and is the specific type of cable Benchmark recommends for connecting its DAC-3 to downstream components so as to avoid compromising the Benchmark's extremely high signal to noise ratio at its outputs. This kind of cable is great for resisting pick up of environmental hum and noise, even from the Benchmark DACs themselves. See: https://benchmarkmedia.com/blogs/app...stration-video

    The IFI spdif Ipurifier seems to get high marks from most users even in its stock version. I may well give the stock unit a try before seeking your mods for it. However, I can't help wondering whether this unit, like so many other purifiers and filters I've used, makes a difference only because it intentionally or unintentionally alters the frequency response just a bit. Or, perhaps users are using DACs which are still "touchy everywhere." At present, given the Kanex A/B example I gave, I tend to believe that the Benchmark DAC-3 really is pretty close to the mythical "bits is bits" device we've all been seeking since the dawn of the digital age. It seems to ignore all sorts of digital nasties (jitter and whatever else may matter) presented to its inputs.

    I can easily and repeatably hear the sonic differences made by physical set up of speakers, listening position, and room treatments. Such things tend to swamp small electronic differences these days since the digital electronics have gotten better. For example, I can easily hear the sonic difference (and easily classify the difference as "better" or "worse") caused by insertion or deletion of a 1/16"-thick felt spacer below the front feet of my speakers. I tweak such things because they make significant, repeatable better/worse changes to the sound reproduction. As indicated in my previous posts, that's where I've spent my efforts on this system up to now. I'll start further tweaking electronics when I start to become disenchanted. For now, however, the enchantment remains very strong.
    Last edited by tmallin; 07-05-2017 at 03:00 PM.

  3. #13
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    Tom,
    One cable can move the resolution to its level.....for instance....say the Blue Jean digital cable has a resolution level of 80 on a scale of 100. If you use that cable then you will never get any higher level.....so maybe adding the Kanex and HDMI cable keeps it near 80.......but what if you used a better digital cable of say 95 scale.....then maybe you would hear the degradation of the Kanex/HDMI thang.....and so it goes. Maybe a modified Kanex plus better HDMI cable even with the Blue Jean digital cable would raise the level much higher because the HDMI thing is actually a plus. One person emailed me that using the Kanex from his Oppo was mucho better than straight coax....that is what he heard. What I do know is that everything you do makes a difference but the lowest level transparency thing in the system sets the basic level. There is no way to know anything unless you listen. I cannot imagine Blue Jean cables being totally neutral or transparent. In fact, Belden has just brought out a "high end cable line" (Belden Iconoclast) that sell for tons of money and all the "Belden fans" seem to think they are way better than the "ordinary" Belden's. All DACs are still "touchy everywhere".....even the $100,000 MSB Select 2 needs the best cables and feeding. Same with line level cables.....no way Canare balanced cables will sound as transparent as many others. All cables add noise and distortion.....this is the problem.....which one is neutral? Blue Jeans?......hard to believe....specially knowing all I do about connectors, solder, damping, directionality of wire, purity of wire, etc. But if you are happy with the current sound of you stereo, then that is really all that matters......its not ignorance is bliss......because bliss is the highest knowledge....but what you want with your stereo really has nothing to do with bliss. Real bliss is eternal.
    Enjoy,
    Ric

  4. #14
    WBF Technical Expert [Technical Expert] tmallin's Avatar
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    Ric, it makes little sense to say that a cable limits the transparency of the system to upstream events. We all listen for transparency of anything through loudspeakers or headphones. Even the worst serviceable cable is far more transparent and has less measurable distortion of any kind than the best speaker or headphone and yet you and I can clearly hear cable and many other upstream changes through speakers such as the Janszens or Harbeths. This is so even for fairly mediocre speakers like vintage AR-3a. And most program material itself was recorded with hundreds of feet of less-than-audiophile grade cable and connectors and yet we can hear the effect of changes in short lengths of downstream audio playback wire. If what you say is true, changing any cables downstream from the recording studio should be inaudible since all the fine detail would have been filtered out in studio.

    I have not heard anyone claim that the HDMI output or HDMI cabling is in any way sonically superior to coax digital outputs or cabling. If HDMI were a superior format, expensive DACs (expensive enough to make the HDMI licensing costs a non-issue) would have HDMI inputs. The fact that most don't means that manufacturers have concluded that for audio signals there is no advantage. Note that one of the things Oppo claims for its new UDP-205 is reduction of jitter in the HDMI output.

    Belden is free to grab part of the audiophile cable market. The company owners can laugh all the way to the bank and justify their good fortune knowing that many audiophiles may well enjoy spending their money for new "better" Belden cables. To a good share of the audiophile audio market, higher price automatically equates with higher quality sound. The same is true in DACs and every other audio component. Listeners must listen for themselves with open minds and some sort of valid reference points for better and worse sound versus just different sound.

  5. #15
    WBF Technical Expert [Technical Expert] tmallin's Avatar
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    With more listening and experimenting, I have found that the Janszens sound very fine with the Air Layer tweeters turned off--at least as good as with them on--now that I have diffusers rather than absorbers at the reflection points on the side walls and behind the speakers. That's true even from outside the room. I still need the Sonex in the corners behind the speakers, on the ceiling and behind the listening seat, however.

    Using the diffusers raises the stage height a bit even without the Air Layer tweeters turned on. Turning off the Air Layer tweeters increases focus a bit and changes the overall tonal balance slightly in favor of the lower frequencies. As I said before, however, at least in my set up, using the Air Layer tweeters and what level to set them at seems to me to be a matter of taste rather than a right/wrong or even great/a little less great decision.

  6. #16
    Addicted to Best! marty's Avatar
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    I always enjoy reading your posts and have admired your approach for several years. As you (we) have learned, expensive does not always equal best and encourage you to continue to fight that battle against the machine!

  7. #17
    WBF Technical Expert [Technical Expert] tmallin's Avatar
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    With the PI Audio diffusers in place as shown above, I am now once again settled on having the AirLayer tweeters turned off. This makes the high end balance maximally natural, as in less bright and the imaging and staging seem most accurate this way, truly morphing from recording to recording. With decent recordings, I am continually astounded at how wonderful the spatial and tonal presentation can be.

    One new discovery is that since the diffusers seemed to bring up the bass and warmth areas a bit, Preset 1 on the built-in amps of the Valentinas is now a real alternative for best balance with this system. In this set up, Preset 1 provides maximal bass extension and further smooths out the midbass response, allowing bass lines to be followed more easily while still providing nice weight and better punch. The bottom-octave foundation, while by no means absent with Preset 2, is with Preset 1 now yet more in evidence, providing truly astonishing low bass from such small speakers. Preset 1 also provides maximum clarity and lowest distortion at high SPLs on power music such as the larger Romantic period classical works and big band jazz.

    The honeymoon continues. Man, these speakers sound wonderful! Even when I KNOW that the program source can't be the highest fidelity, the presentation can be truly bewitching. Last night, just for example, I heard a bit of a Grateful Dead live concert recording from 10/21/78 in San Francisco on Sirius/XM's Grateful Dead channel, cast from my iPhone, through my Apple TV, into the HDMI input of my Oppo BDP-105D, thence to the Benchmark DAC-3 and the speakers. Now the bitrate of that stream is only about 100 kbps, so you know it's not the true sound of that tape. But the speakers and listening room walls disappeared and I was THERE, enveloped with very natural sounding voices and instruments from deepest bass to highest treble placed within a large space, with realistic and very enthusiastic audience sound thrown in.

  8. #18
    WBF Technical Expert [Technical Expert] tmallin's Avatar
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    Update time: I now find myself using Preset 1 almost exclusively. In my set up, this preset yields the best bass balance.

    Also, I never use the Air Layer tweeters anymore. They stay turned off all the time now. The focus and frequency balance is best this way and the stage height is scarcely diminished.

    Both the toe-in and tilt-back angles have proved VERY important both for best imaging/staging and for best frequency balance. In my system, the electrostatic panels must be precisely aimed at their respective ears. To do that, both the toe-in and tilt-back of the speakers should be adjusted as precisely as you can do it. The mirror method I explain for doing this in my first post in this thread has now been officially adopted into David Janszen's user manual for these speakers. To repeat:

    David Janszen and I independently arrived at the conclusion that the audibly correct tilt back can be viewed by placing a 2" circular mirror centered horizontally on the stat panel cut out and centered six inches up from the bottom of the cut out. With the mirror so placed, the tilt back is correct when, with your head pointing straight ahead, you can see your right ear with your right eye in the mirror on the right speaker. For the left speaker, you look with your left eye. I had figured out the amount of tilt-back I subjectively preferred. I told David about the mirror method and David then used the mirror method and was able to confirm that he had his office pair tilted back to provide the same result from his listening position.

    Here is some further refinement of that method to make sure you place the mirrors as precisely as possible. Find the center of the mirror and place a small dot with an indelible ink marker at that center point. Use that center point of the mirror to position the center of the mirror precisely 6 inches up from the bottom of the cut out and 3 3/8 inches from the left or right side of the cut out.

    If the mirror is circular, one easy way to find its center is to use a compass or calipers, not the directional kind, but the architectural drawing kind. Position the compass/calipers so that one point traces the exact edge of the mirror when the tool is rotated. The other point should be at the center, which you then should mark with a pen.

    Another way of finding the center of a circular mirror is to put the mirror on a flat desk, position your head over the mirror and then using just one eye to look at the mirror, position the pupil of your eye over what appears to be the center of the mirror. With your eye in that position, bring your pen into place and mark the center of where you see your pupil reflected.

    If you have a square mirror, finding it's center is simply a matter of bisecting its opposite sides. The intersection of the bisecting lines is the center.

    I use thin circular mirrors which are a little less than two inches in diameter. With this size mirror, from any reasonable listening distance, you should be able to see your entire ear reflected in the mirror when the speaker positioning is about right. The precise aiming you are trying for is to get the reflection of the opening to your ear canal centered on that ink spot you made in the center of the mirror.

    I cannot stress enough how much difference this degree of precision in setting the tilt-back and toe-in of the speakers makes to both the spatial presentation and frequency balance obtainable with these speakers in my system. If this is done correctly, the reproduction can be uncanny in realism and involvement.

    The honeymoon most definitely still continues!!!


    Now, whether this degree of set-up precision is as important in other systems built around the Janszen Valentina Active, I cannot say. I know that I listen to these speakers from closer up than most. In my experience, near-field listening of the type I generally employ is more sensitive to positioning and angling of the speakers. I believe that this follows from both simple geometric principles as well as the ratio of direct to reflected sound. It follows from geometry that the nearer you listen to the speakers, the more small changes in the physical position of the drivers matter since any given physical movement of the speaker drivers with respect to your ears encompasses a greater angular change of the drivers with respect to your ears than from further away. And the closer to the speakers you listen, the greater the ratio of direct-to-reflected sound you hear, making any change in the direct sound caused by change in the angle of the drivers with respect to your ears more apparent. Still, even if you listen from further away, the set-up hints I've shared here will help ensure that your set up is precise.



    Last edited by tmallin; 10-03-2017 at 04:36 AM.

  9. #19
    WBF Technical Expert [Technical Expert] tmallin's Avatar
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    I finally got around to making my extreme tilt-back angle "permanent" by removing the felt spacers from under the front feet of my Janszen Valentina Actives and replacing those with additional washer/spacers between the bottom of the supporting plinth and the top of the rubber feet. I found that the sticky goo atop the felt pads was actually a bit liquid, allowing the feet to move a bit atop the felt, changing the toe-in angle a bit over time and thus reducing the ideal lateral focus which comes from precise lateral aiming of the speakers at their respective ears when I sit in the sweet spot.

    To use this many spacers, I had to change out the machine screws Janszen used to mount the feet. The screws, at least on my units, are metric M6, about 1.5" long. That length is not long enough to allow the addition of enough spacers to get the required tilt-back angle at my relatively near field listening position of just over 55". On the left speaker I used M6 80 mm long and on the right M6 70 mm long since the drilled holes in the right speakers were not quite long enough to accept the 80 mm screws. I found these metric screws at my local Ace Hardward, but Home Depot did not have them.

    As spacers, I used English stainless steel 1/4" SAE washers, which are each considerably thinner than the washers/spacers Janszen provided, but the same outside diameter. This allows finer tilt-back angle adjustments. To get things tilted back just so, I did find that I could see the difference (using my mirror arrangement) made by just one washer/spacer difference.

    To make this "permanent change" I took out the thumbscrew adjustment nuts Janszen had fitted the feet on my speakers with, but used all the other "stock" feet parts, just adding extra enough of the 1/4" stainless steel SAE washers to get the tilt-back just right.

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