Rahul Athalye


Growing up, I used to watch my dad tinker with the turntable, speakers, and his tube amp. We always had music playing in the home, and good hi-fi was a part of my life. I came to the US for higher studies, and since completing my education, I've been working as an engineer at a National Lab. To get my audio system going, I decided to invest in a pair of speakers. When you're coming out of grad school, the DIY route or, the cheap route, looks attractive. It is also more fun to work with tools, wood, raw drivers and electronics than just driving to the store and bringing home a pair of speakers (although, in hindsight, there is some thrill in the latter as well).

I went with the Audio Nirvana 8 inch driver paired with the t-amp based on Geoff Husband's suggestion here on TNT-audio. And thus TNT-audio had a hand in my hi-fi beginnings. Continuing on my audio journey, I was inspired by Nelson Pass. I had moved on to experimenting with open baffles, full range drivers and solid state class A amplifers. Nelson has had a big influence on my DIY adventures. I like his (and Einstein's) philosophy of making it as simple as possible, but not any simpler. I've also learned a great deal from the DIYaudio.com forums.

Then I got a chance to listen to an extremely well set up Altec VOTT system and that really was an eye-opener. That system was so effortless and lifelike. I wanted one for myself. After I moved across the country, I met John Inlow and built a pair of his paper mache horns, which also have that unmistakable quality of effortless dynamics.

My system is in a state of constant change. These days, it is some combination of pro 15" woofers, large-format compression drivers with paper mache horns and SEOS-12 waveguides. I listen to all kinds of music, from K.L Saigal to Rachmaninov to Led Zeppelin. Powered by a Firstwatt M2, the overall sound has a neutral balance and low distortion, allowing me to enjoy all kinds of music at nearly any volume. I've found that as the system, and in particular the loudspeaker, becomes more transparent, it allows more of the music to come through, and you hear more of what the artist is trying to convey.

More data... less wank Zilch

A lot of research has been done to correlate sound quality with loudspeaker measurements. We now know what makes for audibly better sound from loudspeakers. I hope to use measurements, when possible, to characterize the sound. The measurement setup includes: a Daytom EMM-6 mic, M-audio mic pre, EMU 0204 USB soundcard, and an old Tek o-scope.

As other TNT writers have said, all reviews need to be taken with a grain of salt. At the end of the day, nothing beats listening to the equipment yourself, in your own home with music that you like. A lot of manufacturers are now allowing customers to audition components in their home for long periods, sometimes as long as a month.

What qualifies me as a reviewer? My system is not super-expensive, although, it will probably score high on fidelity. I don't claim to have golden ears. But I have heard good systems and that helps put other gear in perspective. And I do try to keep up with the research. My goal is to guide readers towards buying audibly better equipment. Hopefully, I can keep the waffle at a minimum and provide data that readers find helpful. Lastly, I'm privileged to be writing for TNT, which has been a great resource over the years.

[current system]

© Copyright 2013 Rahul Athalye - rahul@tnt-audio.com - www.tnt-audio.com