[Italian version here]
Author: Vincent Verdult
Book: Optimal Audio and Video Reproduction at Home: Improving the Listening and Viewing Experience
Publisher: Taylor & Francis - Routledge NY – Focal Press imprint
Price: £39.59 (soft cover) YMMV
Reviewer: Mark Wheeler - TNT UK
Reviewed: Winter 2019 - Summer 2020
Vincent Verdult offers us the opportunity to read, digest and implement accessible AV advice for the 21st century. Most of the seminal tomes on the subject (barring Winer's excellent Audio Expert) were written many years ago, many of them originally written before digital audio, let alone before AV and gaming. Most younger audio buyers will wish to incorporate their movie experience with their music tech and a high proportion of them want gaming integrated too. Here at TNT-audio.com we are the home of Real Stereo but this book is written in such an engaging manner that it could well lead readers, coming to high quality audio via AV, towards the true path of real stereo enlightenment.
Verdult writes well, infected by the enthusiasm of the true audio casualty, tinkering through lack of funds from an early
age and later struggling to balance domestic harmony with great sound reproduction (which as he explains is much more
domestically demanding than visual reproduction).
Audiophiles will buy this book just so that they can highlight and read sections aloud to their partners:
"Thanks to Madelon van Lujik, the love of my life, for being there whenever I need you. Thank you for...compiling the index, and allowing me to test out everything I write about in our own living room."
Verdult proceeds to explain that this book aims to provide practical advice help readers, starting from scratch,
to achieve optimal reproduction of audio and video with "your equipment in your room.
"Optimal does not mean perfect", states Verdult. There will always be practical constraints, aesthetic considerations, and limits on your budget."
This book is published by academic publisher Taylor & Francis, for whom your Old Scribe writes commissioned chapters and is a journal peer reviewer, but being unpaid this is not a conflict of interest. However, despite coming from an academic publisher, Optimal Audio and Video Reproduction at Home does not demand the level of a priori expertise needed to digest Martin Colloms' High Performance Loudspeakers or Audio Expert. The target reader may well be people who have read misinformed, and often conflicting, advice on the web regarding audio and now seek a single well researched, well written tome that presents a coherent narrative. Hopefully this review will indicate whether this intention is met.
Verdult's engaging style is evident from the introduction, extolling home audio and video thus, "I can also pause the program at any moment to get a beer or go to the toilet. As a bonus I can avoid...parking hassles". He also explains how we can achieve better sound quality at home than at public venues. All this is delivered as pragmatic suggestion not as pedantic instruction. Vincent Verdult never strays into dogma.
Initially Optimal Audio and Video Reproduction at Home explains succinctly how multi-channel 5.1, 7.1, 9.1
and Dolby surround systems work, adding that "If you, like some dedicated audiophiles,
prefer the sound of vinyl records over modern-day digital audio, you are often better off with a dedicated analog audio system."
Your Old Scribe has to disagree with this point, despite this being a stereo only page. Many, even high-end, stereo amplifiers offer a unity gain bypass input for connection to an AV receiver L&R post volume control line output for the front stereo 2.0 channels. As long as the mid and treble drivers of all loudspeakers in a surround system match the front L-R loudspeakers your Old Scribe has heard several systems where there is a Real Stereo 2 channel high end system integrated into a multichannel family viewing and listening system, although in the last couple of years, even these pragmatic owners have returned to stereo only.
From the introductory chapter onwards, Vincent Verdult emphasises the importance of loudspeaker position and the dramatic improvements that can be gained by small adjustments. This is a recurring theme throughout the book and one your Old Scribe wholeheartedly endorses. Audio room arrangement makes more difference than a ten-fold difference in total system expenditure. For example, at the TNT-Audio mountaintop lair, the high frequency drivers are frequently changed in a reasonably optimised room. Even substituting replacements with very similar dispersion characteristics, major changes in position and orientation are usually required. Two different brands of supposedly 90° horns using the same compression driver, despite all other things being equal might demand loudspeaker placement to change by over 25% to optimise with the new tweeters. Verdult cites the most reliable audio authorities to support his own experiences and the foregoing story adds further evidence from the TNT-audio mountaintop lair.
Vincent Verdult's explanations are clear and effective. The adage that anything could and should be explained so that an average 15 year old can comprehend it is fulfilled by Optimal Audio and Video Reproduction at Home. The explanations of video reproduction are perfectly pitched. As an undergraduate, your Old Scribe researched the creation of the illusion of movement in reproduction and the section on the basics of perception is perfectly pitched. Following this with the basics of physics of reproduced images, readers new to the topic will get as much explanation as they want or need. Similarly the most basic aspects of human perception of sound are covered, followed by which bits matter for music.
The information dense introductory Chapter 2 continues by describing environmental effects on sound. Diffraction and diffusion are explained at least as well as the Focal Press Acoustics primer that many older audiophiles still own, with less complexity than Leo Beranek's 1954 and subsequent classics. The book also contains some of the best basic explanation of the effects of loudspeaker directivity outside of specialist loudspeaker books. This is then put in the context of the listening room and its effects.
The only omission in the introduction, which might be missed by skim readers, is inadequate coverage on the importance of the time domain (Haas effect is mentioned p33) in the respect of reproduction before it reaches the room. It is covered, but somewhat more theoretically than other aspects. In the summary overview in Chapter 3: Optimal Reproduction it is a sub section of Clarity, itself a sub heading in Timbral Quality qualifying a paragraph on p57 and omitted from the summary description of transient impact.
Room design accords 54 pages (p64-p118) and is not only spot on for multi-channel systems, its advice is equally applicable to 2 channel Real Stereo. Rather than the well known placement and set up guides (e.g. Wilson) explaining the best ways to find the least worst positions for loudspeakers in an existing furnished room, Verdult more effectively proposes considering the whole room from first principles and arranging everything to work as well as it might within those room dimensions. "Flexibility in furnishings and decoration is essential if you want to achieve the best results".
Your Old Scribe found nothing to dispute in the sections on audio so it is reasonable to assume that the video chapters are equally well researched. Your Old Scribe's last experience making video was with a camera the size of a long slice toaster, tethered to a Umatic shoulder suitcase apparently filled with bricks. In the time since then technology has changed until the smartphone in my pocket makes better recordings. The rigorousness of the audio sections is likely to be matched by the video section. All the classic texts seem to have been considered in the audio material and some of the less academically rigorous loudspeaker and domestic audio are acknowledged reasonably critically. The references are as comprehensive as any academic text.
Vincent Verdult's book increases in depth and complexity as it proceeds. The later chapters include the basic mathematical models for impedance relationships between components and cables and for various acoustic properties of rooms and their treatments. Recommendations are based on the assumptions that components are not audio outliers. It may be that Vincent expects that owners of output-transformer-less valve amplifiers or single ended zero feedback amplifiers, or wild loudspeaker impedance characteristics, would know their foibles, so he recommends low inductance 0.1ohm loudspeaker cables without caveat, while the high output impedance brigade will require at least an order of magnitude lower cable resistance and low inductance. Verdult's book does contain enough fresh material to interest even the dyed in the wool devotee of the Flat Earth or high-efficiency full-rage drivers, so some consideration of the wild and wonderful extremes of audiophilia nervosa would be a welcome inclusion.
As it is, this book will guide novice, home cinema and audio casualty to new heights of system optimisation. It will even be useful for AV installers, cctv suite installers, interactive art installation creators, school, college and higher education technicians, teachers and students.
This is a really excellent contemporary primer for anyone who needs a well researched and edited guide to audio. Unless audiophile readers are already at the level of Winer's Audio Expert there is no better up to date book available. It will also help audiophiles improve their video reproduction at home as much as those setting out to create the perfect home cinema to entertain their friends.
“Surely all this information is available for nowt on t'interweb?” demand more cheapskate plebs, stage left
Indeed this information may be present on the world wide web, However, it will be buried among massive quantities of incorrect drivel and misinformation. Audio misimformation is driven either by commercial interest or by ignorant repetition. Readers would need to have sufficient a priori information, rigorously developed critical faculties, and plenty of time on their hands to delve beyond the first few pages of search results. To buy and read properly edited material like this book by Vincent Verdult will ultimately be less expensive than following much of the "free" online advice.
Your Old Scribe is sufficiently up to date and well informed to recognise the accuracy and validity of the audio chapters. Your Old Scribe is sufficiently out of date, but was many years ago sufficiently well informed, to benefit greatly from the visual reproduction chapters.
Now that great stereo is not perceived in the mainstream as a basic building block of civilised living, there are fewer opportunities for properly peer reviewed and edited audio books. Unless you own and fully understand a shelf of books books by Winer, Dearborn, Briggs, Colloms, Driscoll, Beranek etc., your accurate audio knowledge will grow substantially when reading this book. TNT-Audio readers will also gain the information wherewithal to improve their screen experiences, if they ever have enough time away from stereo.
In Optimal Audio and Video Reproduction at Home: Improving the Listening and Viewing Experience, Vincent Verdult has written the perfect audio visual primer for our time.
Music enjoyed while reading this book
Equipment listened to while reading this book and writing this review:
Extensive and ever evolving acoustic treatment including corner bass absorption, high frequency (above 2kHz) absorption at primary tweeter reflection points, high frequency diffusers at other critical points, sloping ceiling with absorber >2kHz. Solid walls and argon filled triple glazing and no radiators. Hanging rugs and thick textured floor rug between listeners and loudspeakers, solid slate floor.
Some wire is used to join these components together. No interconnects cost more than 10% of the device at each end, much of it made by the Old Scribe from high quality components without Pixie Dust. Old Scribe amplifier-to-loudspeaker wire (full range, mid-range, tweeter) is ultra-low impedance Black Rhodium S900, a low-Z variation (3x3mm^2 csa) on the Black Rhodium S300 & S600 cable that came out well in Ben Duncan's objective and subjective correlation tests, selected primarily to match the OPT/driver damping factor, not for any magical qualities. Bass only loudspeaker cable Naim NACA 5, which remains rarely challenged below 300Hz. Mains is supplied by an audio only ring main with Radex earth (ground) non-inductive connections and a technical earth. Crossover and power amplifiers fed by a minimum connections hydra. Sources and pre-amp from terminal blocks within the audio only ring.
Copyright © 2020 Mark Wheeler - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.tnt-audio.com