My monitor/subwoofer system

Al M.

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DSC01955_cr.jpg

DSC01959_cr.jpg

The next logical step.

Move of main equipment rack even further back, by 12.5 inches from last position. The amp is still at the old position, and will move once I have decided that I like the new rack configuration. I have always done it that way, move amp on stand last, because that is a major undertaking (you can't just slide the amp stand on the spikes sitting on disks). Normally the amp stand is quite flush to the main rack, with about 2 inches or less in between, now you can see the gaping distance in between.

As you can see, the main equipment rack is now quite close to the middle tube trap; not sure if I can move it further much, since then I get in trouble with my cabling.

This rack move almost all the way to the front wall of course was a long time coming, but I decided to take it slow and first get acquainted with the sound at each step for a few days before I take the next step. I don't want to overlook some pro and con at each step that might influence the final decision.

How does it sound? Big change, I can say that without exaggeration. Do I completely like it? Not sure yet, but I might. Do I hear advantages compared to the last position? Oh yeah.

I'll report in due time.
 

PeterA

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Congratulations. I would not be at all surprised by a very positive result.

I am curious if you have ever tried the subwoofers on the outside of your two speakers and the two speakers slightly closer together.

I applaud your careful and deliberate moves.
 
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VLS

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This rack move almost all the way to the front wall of course was a long time coming, but I decided to take it slow and first get acquainted with the sound at each step for a few days before I take the next step. I don't want to overlook some pro and con at each step that might influence the final decision.

How does it sound? Big change, I can say that without exaggeration. Do I completely like it? Not sure yet, but I might. Do I hear advantages compared to the last position? Oh yeah.
.

To the extent the move is altering (reducing) the impact of the sound waves generated by the speaker and the subs on your electronics, it might be interesting to measure the SPL at your preamp position as you continue moving it. If you find a correlation between the SPL and audible improvements, it may guide your experimentation with other positions.
 
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ddk

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View attachment 73245

View attachment 73246

The next logical step.

Move of main equipment rack even further back, by 12.5 inches from last position. The amp is still at the old position, and will move once I have decided that I like the new rack configuration. I have always done it that way, move amp on stand last, because that is a major undertaking (you can't just slide the amp stand on the spikes sitting on disks). Normally the amp stand is quite flush to the main rack, with about 2 inches or less in between, now you can see the gaping distance in between.

As you can see, the main equipment rack is now quite close to the middle tube trap; not sure if I can move it further much, since then I get in trouble with my cabling.

This rack move almost all the way to the front wall of course was a long time coming, but I decided to take it slow and first get acquainted with the sound at each step for a few days before I take the next step. I don't want to overlook some pro and con at each step that might influence the final decision.

How does it sound? Big change, I can say that without exaggeration. Do I completely like it? Not sure yet, but I might. Do I hear advantages compared to the last position? Oh yeah.

I'll report in due time.
Try moving the subs back within 8"-10" from the front wall lined up with your speakers and remove the tampons. You have plenty of dampening, probably even too much in those window inserts, you don't need more on your front wall.

david
 

Ron Resnick

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Hello Al!

What about the radical Ron plan of moving the whole works to behind the listening position, a la audioquattr?

Imagine how happy your components would be if they weren't experiencing a constant headache from being in the vortex of the speaker system.
 
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PeterA

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Hello Al!

What about the radical Ron plan of moving the whole works to behind the listening position, a la audioquattr?

Imagine how happy your components would be if they weren't experiencing a constant headache from being in the vortex of the speaker system.

That might necessitate new ICs, but I like the idea. Al does not have a lovely sofa like audioquattr does to block the waves.
 

Al M.

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Try moving the subs back within 8"-10" from the front wall lined up with your speakers and remove the tampons. You have plenty of dampening, probably even too much in those window inserts, you don't need more on your front wall.

david

Thanks for the suggestion about the TubeTraps, David!

I just did the experiment and removed the corner traps, and looked if the bass deteriorated. It did not. Still tight and fast as before, appropriately but not unnaturally so. That is great.

When I had the subs at the front wall, removing the last corner traps was pretty bad, the bass got blurry, and that was a no-go (I had already removed quite a few traps; a year ago there were still six at the front wall, but the last ones couldn't go). Now with subs next to the speakers, it's completely different. Yet what is more now, since this last rack move drums were again slightly anemic, and now they are nicely filling in again with TubeTraps removed (these do influence mid-bass).

In addition, images do not recede with TubeTraps removed. That is also different with the new acoustics; while I love great depth on large-scale material, I absolutely hate too recessed overall images, so this is really a critical issue for me and I am glad there are no setbacks in this area. I had fought this imaging problem for years, with great frustration, until I finally was able to solve it. The dampening of the window inserts is a good thing in this regard. If I wanted less dampening, I could exchange the wool carpet from speakers to front wall with a lighter one, but then I would likely run into imaging issues again. Too recessed images are really a huge problem for my personal taste, and I will not do anything to provoke these again, after the agony that I had to endure for a few years.

While I had those problems with recessed images back then, my audiophile friends loved the ubiquitous "depth" of imaging, I absolutely hated it. Upfront needs to be upfront, back on the stage needs to be back on the stage, the further back the better. I want maximum imaging differences between and within recordings.

I do need to listen to other transients critically, e.g. on violin or sax, if they are good with TubeTraps removed (I have heard one room where TubeTraps were absolutely essential to prevent transient blurring by adverse corner reflections).

So the next step will be to completely remove the TubeTraps from the room (I had them now in the back of the room or this short experiment), also the middle trap, and evaluate carefully. But this is a promising start!

***

On the other hand, I will not move the subs back to the front wall. Bass quality is much better the way it is now. Also, moving the subs back to the front wall may necessitate the TubeTrap tampons again. We don't want that ;).

If i can do without TubeTraps, this will also be an aesthetic plus for visitors. Ack for example said that he can't stand the sight of the TubeTraps and he was already happy about the reduction of their numbers in my room; let's see what we can do ;).
 

Al M.

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Hello Al!

What about the radical Ron plan of moving the whole works to behind the listening position, a la audioquattr?

Imagine how happy your components would be if they weren't experiencing a constant headache from being in the vortex of the speaker system.

Yes, that seems more attractive now then ever. Once I have cash flowing again, I might have to shoot DaveC an email ;)

As I explained before, I may need long XLR ICs only for the connection preamp > amp. While the ICs to the subs are also too short for such a configuration, I could move the subs towards my listening seat and thus closer to the preamp if it is in the back of the room -- which would be recommended given the group delay time of the subwoofer driver response. A distance of 10 ft between main speakers and subs, with subs closer to listener, may be ideal, but the necessity is debatable because of the large wavelengths in the bass. I have discussed this whole issue on this page (post # 503), with relevant links:

Update Aug 19, 2020
 
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ddk

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Thanks for the suggestion about the TubeTraps, David!

I just did the experiment and removed the corner traps, and looked if the bass deteriorated. It did not. Still tight and fast as before, appropriately but not unnaturally so. That is great.

When I had the subs at the front wall, removing the last corner traps was pretty bad, the bass got blurry, and that was a no-go (I had already removed quite a few traps; a year ago there were still six at the front wall, but the last ones couldn't go). Now with subs next to the speakers, it's completely different. Yet what is more now, since this last rack move drums were again slightly anemic, and now they are nicely filling in again with TubeTraps removed (these do influence mid-bass).

In addition, images do not recede with TubeTraps removed. That is also different with the new acoustics; while I love great depth on large-scale material, I absolutely hate too recessed overall images, so this is really a critical issue for me and I am glad there are no setbacks in this area. I had fought this imaging problem for years, with great frustration, until I finally was able to solve it. The dampening of the window inserts is a good thing in this regard. If I wanted less dampening, I could exchange the wool carpet from speakers to front wall with a lighter one, but then I would likely run into imaging issues again. Too recessed images are really a huge problem for my personal taste, and I will not do anything to provoke these again, after the agony that I had to endure for a few years.

While I had those problems with recessed images back then, my audiophile friends loved the ubiquitous "depth" of imaging, I absolutely hated it. Upfront needs to be upfront, back on the stage needs to be back on the stage, the further back the better. I want maximum imaging differences between and within recordings.

I do need to listen to other transients critically, e.g. on violin or sax, if they are good with TubeTraps removed (I have heard one room where TubeTraps were absolutely essential to prevent transient blurring by adverse corner reflections).

So the next step will be to completely remove the TubeTraps from the room (I had them now in the back of the room or this short experiment), also the middle trap, and evaluate carefully. But this is a promising start!

***

On the other hand, I will not move the subs back to the front wall. Bass quality is much better the way it is now. Also, moving the subs back to the front wall may necessitate the TubeTrap tampons again. We don't want that ;).

If i can do without TubeTraps, this will also be an aesthetic plus for visitors. Ack for example said that he can't stand the sight of the TubeTraps and he was already happy about the reduction of their numbers in my room; let's see what we can do ;).
Happy to hear things improved Al.
Of course every situation is different but in general pulling the subs back shouldn’t result in recessed images but in more overall depth. You might not have to pull them all the way back just try them a foot behind the speakers and see what happens.

david
 

Al M.

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To the extent the move is altering (reducing) the impact of the sound waves generated by the speaker and the subs on your electronics, it might be interesting to measure the SPL at your preamp position as you continue moving it. If you find a correlation between the SPL and audible improvements, it may guide your experimentation with other positions.

That is a good idea. I will make those measurements.
 

Al M.

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Happy to hear things improved Al.
Of course every situation is different but in general pulling the subs back shouldn’t result in recessed images but in more overall depth. You might not have to pull them all the way back just try them a foot behind the speakers and see what happens.

david

David, the subs don't do anything with the imaging, at least not with the configurations that I had so far in my room. Depth, and imaging in general, was the same with subs at the front wall vs. with subs next to the speakers. At least, I didn't notice any difference, and I'm picky about imaging.

Too recessed images were caused by other issues with my acoustics in the past; glad that removing the TubeTraps does not influence that anymore either.

Yet trying the subs just behind the speakers may be good, because of the sound impairing reflection issues that I reported (thread page 30, post # 599, after the discussion there of moving the rack back). The gloss paint on the front of the subs is still exposed, something that makes me nervous, frankly.

I don't get this whole glossy thing in the high end anymore, which seems to have become a fashion in particular in the last two decades or so. May look nice, but bad for acoustics.
 
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Al M.

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Recently I reported, with pictures, that I moved my equipment rack further back:

I had said that there was a big change. At first I had thought there was a much more generous presentation of space, on top of what I already had, but upon critical repeated A/B comparison (moving rack back and forth) the difference turned out to be rather minor, even though there was one.

The other big difference though holds, and that is further reduction of distortion. A few of the remaining problem passages on Haydn string quartets, played on period instruments, sounded yet cleaner, to my amazement and satisfaction.

After I reported the move, David Karmeli (ddk) suggested that I should try to remove the last remaining TubeTraps, after I had already removed half of them (thanks, Peter A., for your suggestion back then!). In the old configuration, with subwoofers at the front wall, I still needed the remaining TubeTraps.

I had already reported on the first preliminary experiments with positive results the same evening that David made the suggestion (post Jan 3, 2021), but I needed to critically evaluate and confirm further.

I was checking on:

1. Bass quality: Confirmed that there was no problem with bass speed and accuracy.

2. Rhythm & timing: degradation – even catastrophic collapse -- in this area had been a real problem years ago, when I first tried removing the corner TubeTraps in another, older system configuration (with subwoofer at front wall). Everything remained still excellent this time. Really, really important.

3. Transients on solo violin and saxophone (as critical examples for transients in general) -- I had heard these to be blurred in another system/room without TubeTraps, and restored them with. I needed to make sure that there were no adverse effects from removing TubeTraps in my own room in that respect. After multiple checking, no problems found.

4. Imaging / soundstage: Years ago I had found that images greatly increased in size without TubeTraps in my room, but that was when I still had pinpoint imaging. In the meantime I have come to very much dislike pinpoint imaging as being unnatural, and have adjusted my system with speakers very much toed out. With the new imaging, with no sharp outlines and small images anymore, but instead larger size images that have no clear boundaries (like in unamplified live music), there is no difference by removing the TubeTraps. Also the depth position of performers within the soundstage (forward/back) is unchanged.


Ok, so no disadvantages. But again, this is all context. When I had the subwoofer(s) at the front wall, the TubeTraps were absolutely necessary, and I have witnessed them in other rooms being necessary as well.

Advantages with removal of TubeTraps:

1. More open sound. More extended high frequencies. This is very welcome! On the other hand, it is no surprise, given that the hand-clapping test also shows more liveliness. Again, room specific. The front half is already quite damped, with the large wool carpet. This is for the purpose of getting the soundstage right, and to my taste.

2. The mid-bass/upper bass is more even, in particular there is more flesh on the sound of rock drums, which now show a very satisfying presentation.

3. Optics. The room looks more like a normal room, which some guests undoubtedly will find appealing. Personally, I had nothing against the look of the TubeTraps, but on the other hand having a room without them has its charm as well.

Overall, a win for better sound. Thanks again, David, for the suggestion!

***

Interestingly, the measures of reflection control and resonance control that I had introduced recently caused less emphasis on high frequencies, with them less drawing attention to themselves. The combination of this effect with the now actually greater HF extension causes much more evenness at the upper end of the frequency spectrum.

At the same time, on the lower end, there is no suck-out in mid-bass/upper bass anymore. Interesting the effect of all the recent changes, not just removal of TubeTraps, on different recordings featuring piano. Count Basie’s piano on 88 Basie Street has shed some excess fat in the low register, for a more realistic sound. On the other hand there is yet more authority -- without added fat -- in the piano intro in the low register that opens ‘Life Goes On’ with the Carla Bley Trio (released 2020). It had already sounded very good, but now it is even better (by the way, I listen to this recording with the subwoofers off, since the bass guitar is rather overwhelming, as I also heard in another system).

All the above goes more in the direction that Peter described in his own system -- and which I have heard myself there -- of a more natural sound where no frequencies are particularly emphasized.

Eventually I was able to move the equipment rack even further back after I removed all the TubeTraps, including the one in the middle between front wall and equipment rack. So I moved the rack yet another 14 inches; it is now close to the front wall as you can see in this currently final system configuration:

DSC01972_cr.jpg

DSC01964_cr.jpg

DSC01966_cr.jpg
 
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Al M.

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Again the criterium for the last move of the rack towards the front wall was that I would hear an improvement and no disadvantages. I did that last move once more only after I had spent a few days listening with the rack position that I had arrived just before (see post Jan 3, 2021, with pictures) in order to make myself familiar with the sound and not miss any sonic drawback that might result from yet another rack move.

In terms of advantages, there was just one criterium: yet again a reduction of distortion. I turned to my trusted "source of annoyance" in this regard, the particulars of the recorded sound of the wonderful Haydn string quartets op 20 in a great performance with Quatuor Mosaiques, played on overtone-rich period instruments. The problematic quartet op. 20/4 which previously had given so much trouble had already sounded very clean and enjoyable, but now I turned to the quartet op. 20/3 on which I had noted some distortion. I raised the volume to perhaps a slightly louder level than normal, and listened. After the latest rack move there was a clear reduction of a rare aggressive nervousness of sound at the beginning of the quartet, where the instruments play in low register. After they migrate to the higher registers, the sounds were sweeter and less distorted, especially in the loud moments. I made sure that my mind did not play a trick on me by moving the rack back and forth quite a few times (again, easily done by gently sliding it on the carpet with all the equipment turned on), but I consistently heard the described differences in distortion. This single, to me critically important recording, was enough for me to establish a worthwhile improvement with the rack move. Subsequently, I heard reduction of distortion on other music as well.

After this, it was just listening for drawbacks, but I could not find any. Imaging did not change either. Given my experience with having discovered how bad for the sound the presence of the subwoofers at the front wall had been (albeit with them greatly elevated in height on SubTraps) -- in terms of basic acoustics, not even including the issue of their bass performance -- I had been afraid of stuff at the front wall creating "turbulences" with the back wave of the speakers. Hence also my trepidation to make the full move of the rack to the front wall right away. One thing that I diligently listened for was separation of instruments on complex orchestral music, but it did not change (I checked again by moving the rack back and forth).

(The described experiments with moving the rack back and forth were between the old position and a new position 12.5 inches back from that; only after that I settled for the final position of 14 inches back, 1.5 inches further. This is pretty much as far as I can go without getting into trouble with my cables.)

In the meantime, while I still had been battling the last few distortions on period instrument string quartets at peak levels of 90 dBa (ca. 95 dB), the system had become enormously free of distortions on orchestral music at peak levels of 95 dBa (ca. 100 dB). When I tried it again after having listened to it last quite a while ago -- before all the rack moves, the removal of tube traps, better footers under speakers and the covering up of the reflective gloss paint of the subwoofers with rubber mats -- my favorite recording of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring sounded so clean that at first I thought it sounded less loud than before, yet my SPL meter gave the usual readout. Some complex timbres were even more resolved than before, to a degree that made my jaw drop. Tone colors were more differentiated. Unbelievable all those improvements with no gear changes, just changes in acoustics and in control of reflections and resonance.

The solo violin on Scheherazade (Reiner/CSO on XRCD) had sounded a bit harsh and artificial before, and I had heard better on vinyl in Peter A.’s system (albeit with another recording). Now the violin sound is sweeter and more natural, and compares quite well, I think, to what I heard on vinyl.

Another nice surprise with all the latest changes was yet more weight of sound on recordings that needed it. The sound of Stravinsky's masterful, highly original Symphony in Three Movements (Philharmonia Orchestra/Robert Craft) has -- especially in the low midrange, the “power” range of the orchestra -- so much more heaviness and weight than I had been used to from my system that I was actually shocked, no exaggeration. A considerably greater weight was present as well in the opening movement of Mahler 3 (LA Philharmonic/Zubin Mehta). Now this monitor based system clearly has much more of a big-speaker sound also on orchestral music, very satisfying -- while on some small-scale music there is still a heightened intimacy that comes so easy to monitors. On the other hand, on most orchestral music they throw a rather large, deep soundstage.

Again, just the system set-up considerably changed, nothing else. No gear changes since early summer 2020, before the subwoofer move that set in motion the cascade of all the recent, unexpectedly large improvements. The last change had been the addition of an Empirical Audio re-clocking system between CD transport and DAC; the last big change was the Octave preamp in May 2019, almost two years ago.

After the recent improvements in my system it is now clearer than ever to me that optimizing system set-up is everything. No amount of gear change and expense will be able to bring you to audio nirvana without it.
 

PeterA

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Good news Al. Really glad those tube traps are out of there and that the rack is as far back as possible. Seems like a clear improvement in every area.

have you considered removing the window plugs only in the back of the room to remove a bit more absorption behind the listening position? I remember removing the sofa from back there was a big improvement.

congratulations on all the diligence and methodical comparisons resulting in better sound.
 
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Al M.

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Good news Al. Really glad those tube traps are out of there and that the rack is as far back as possible. Seems like a clear improvement in every area.

have you considered removing the window plugs only in the back of the room to remove a bit more absorption behind the listening position? I remember removing the sofa from back there was a big improvement.

congratulations on all the diligence and methodical comparisons resulting in better sound.

Thanks, Peter. I need soundproofing of the windows, due to proximity of neighbors. Yet for the reason that you mention, having a more live back half of the room, I did not install ASC window plugs there. Instead I have wooden window shutters. They do have mass loaded vinyl on the back side, but that is covered by 1/2 inch thick wood.

Originally I had these window shutters everywhere in the room, but they did not work acoustically in the front half of the room, as they were not absorptive. I then replaced only those in the front half of the room with ASC window plugs.

The window shutters in the back are covered for the most part with diffusers. This neutralizes the effect of the gloss paint (big mistake!) of the shutters. I should at some point take care of that, so that the parts that are no covered by the diffusers do not overly reflect either. A layer or two of colorless matte paint should do the trick.

This is what the rear window shutters look like (I have the same on the rear side window; the image reminds me that I should remove other reflective items there as well):

DSC01974_cr.jpg
 

PeterA

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Thank you Al. I had forgotten that those are actually just plywood plugs with the gloss finish covered by those wall panels. I did not realize those were diffusion. I thought they were absorption.

Glad to read the room acoustics are better now.
 

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Thanks, Peter. I need soundproofing of the windows, due to proximity of neighbors. Yet for the reason that you mention, having a more live back half of the room, I did not install ASC window plugs there. Instead I have wooden window shutters. They do have mass loaded vinyl on the back side, but that is covered by 1/2 inch thick wood.

Originally I had these window shutters everywhere in the room, but they did not work acoustically in the front half of the room, as they were not absorptive. I then replaced only those in the front half of the room with ASC window plugs.

The window shutters in the back are covered for the most part with diffusers. This neutralizes the effect of the gloss paint (big mistake!) of the shutters. I should at some point take care of that, so that the parts that are no covered by the diffusers do not overly reflect either. A layer or two of colorless matte paint should do the trick.

This is what the rear window shutters look like (I have the same on the rear side window; the image reminds me that I should remove other reflective items there as well):

View attachment 74240
I have found rough wallpaper to be a good compromise on my window plugs. Reflective, but not too bright :)
 

Al M.

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I have found rough wallpaper to be a good compromise on my window plugs. Reflective, but not too bright :)

Excellent idea, thanks!
 
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Al M.

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Peter A. thankfully reminded me of contact cleaning, which I completely had forgotten. I was looking back through my notes, the last cleaning was 16 months ago! Usually it is recommended every half year or so (I have finally made myself a half-year reminder in Google Calendar).

I use DeOxit D5 spray (cleaner/deoxidizer), followed by DeOxit G5 spray (contact enhancer/preserver). I directly spray the male plugs, and use pipe cleaners, with liquid sprayed upon, for female plugs and outer shells of interconnect plugs. I have the pipe cleaner "on a short leash" with my fingers so that it cannot go too deep into the female socket; the last thing you want to do is poke the electronics inside components.

After a few minutes following both the D5 and the G5 treatments I dry the contacts, either with tissue or with pipe cleaner (for G5, this leaves only a thin film of contact enhancer).

Result as usual after cleaning of all my signal cables (analog and digital interconnnects, speaker cables) and connections: Yet again significantly less distortion, especially in the highs. Human voices sound purer, and the overall sound may be slightly more open as well.

My beloved recording of Haydn's string quartets op. 20, played on overtone-rich period instruments by Quatuor Mosaiques, now sounds really nice after it had given me so much trouble (see post # 598) before all the latest changes and finally this contact cleaning.
 

Al M.

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At last, I want to put in a musical plug for those wonderful Haydn's string quartets op. 20, which lately I have mentioned repeatedly when monitoring system improvements. The opus 20 number is misleading; Haydn wrote those quartets when he was already 40 years old and had written a ton of music before these works (including 40+ symphonies or so).

The Wikipedia page reads:

The six string quartets opus 20 by Joseph Haydn are among the works that earned Haydn the sobriquet "the father of the string quartet".[1] The quartets are considered a milestone in the history of composition; in them, Haydn develops compositional techniques that were to define the medium for the next 200 years.

[...] When Haydn published his opus 33 quartets, ten years after the opus 20, he wrote that they were composed in "an entirely new and particular manner".[14] But, if the opus 33 was the culmination of a process, opus 20 was the proving ground. In this set of quartets, Haydn defined the nature of the string quartet – the special interplay of instruments that Goethe called "four rational people conversing".[15] Many of the compositional techniques used by composers of string quartets to the present day were tried out and perfected in these works.

"This cannot be overstated," writes Ron Drummond; "the six string quartets of Opus 20 are as important in the history of music, and had as radically a transforming effect on the very field of musical possibility itself, as Beethoven's Third Symphony would 33 years later".[16] And Sir Donald Tovey writes of the quartets, "Every page of the six quartets of op. 20 is of historic and aesthetic importance... there is perhaps no single or sextuple opus in the history of instrumental music which has achieved so much".[17]

Here are some of the innovations of the quartets:

Equality of voices

Prior to opus 20, the first violin, or, sometimes, the two violins, dominated the quartet. The melody was carried by the leader, with the lower voices (viola and cello) accompanying. In opus 20, Haydn gives each instrument, and particularly the cello, its own voice. An outstanding example of this is the second quartet in C major. The quartet opens with a cello solo, accompanied by the viola and second violin. This was virtually unheard of in Haydn's time. Another example is in the slow movement of the fourth quartet, in D major. This movement is a set of variations, written in D minor; the first variation is a duet between viola and second violin, and the third variation is a solo for cello.


Here the Wikipedia page gives a note example from Op.20/4, showing interplay between the first violin and cello:
Haydn20-4.jpg
This is from the first movement of op. 20/4, about 50 seconds in. Here is an example of the music on YouTube, beautifully played by the Attacca Quartet (they also play the album release of "Orange" by Caroline Shaw):


The Wikipedia page continues with a list of other innovations that each are discussed:

Structural innovations
Depth of expression
Length and symmetry of phrases
Use of counterpoint

The entire page is a worthwhile read.
 

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