From Getting Better Sound to breaking Through the Sound Barrier
Greetings, audiophiles and music lovers! Many of you know me already, but for those who don't: I'm Jim Smith. I'm an author, speaker, and consultant in the world of high-end audio. About four years ago I wrote a book called Get Better Sound: it's all about helping people make their current audio systems sound great. I then produced a DVD to go along with the book. Since then, tens of thousands of Get Better Sound books have been purchased by music lovers and audiophiles worldwide, as well as several thousands of the new GBS 3-disc DVD sets. You can read more about GBS, as well as the rave reviews, at www.getbettersound.com.
What happened next was a surprise to me. I found myself traveling often, visiting customers' homes to voice (AKA tune) their audio systems. This wasn't a service I ever planned to offer; I began doing it in response to requests from Get Better Sound owners. I've always referred to getting a system to work at its best as Playing the Room. Thus the RoomPlay concept was born. In looking back recently, I was stunned to realize that—in addition to producing a regular newsletter for Get Better Sound owners (Quarter Notes), speaking to various audio groups, and participating in countless phone calls and e-mails—I had done over 50 (!) RoomPlay voicing sessions in the past 4 years.
I hadn't even imagined RoomPlay until GBS readers surprised me by asking for it. What's more, I began to discover new things as I conducted these voicing sessions. These findings tugged at me as I tried to think how to apply what I had learned. Finally, I decided to offer this info in a usable format for all audiophiles who love music. The question was – what format would work best?
I knew that it couldn’t be just a book. Nor could it be just a DVD. At the very least, the project would require a book, a very special CD, and an informative DVD.
On top of that, there’d be questions, some of which might have or require a very timely application. So I decided to include podcasts, as well as the Quarter Notes newsletters – just like the ones Get Better Sound owners have received.
Here’s the main thing that I have observed... It seems that the better our components are, the greater are the opportunities to encounter barriers to enjoying our music. In fact, some of the most advanced systems I ran into were initially the least satisfying from a musical involvement standpoint!
But it’s not just the most advanced systems that can cause trouble – it’s any audio component system that an audiophile assembles in the hope of getting better sound and hopefully, greater musical enjoyment. I know that this seems counter-intuitive – so how can it be?
Thinking about how to describe what I have observed, the simplest term is sound barrier. Sounds become a barrier to ultimately allowing the music to speak to us in a powerful way.
Here’s what happens – as our systems get better - and we think about getting them even better – at some point they become good enough to make some really interesting sound. In fact, we think about the sound and compare it to the sound that we have heard – or heard about – from other systems.
I have no issues whatsoever with an analytical look at our systems from time to time. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I mean that listening to the cool sounds can slip in front of our goals as music lovers. Listening to “audiophile sound effects” can become a distraction from the main event. We don’t even recognize it when it happens.
In my experience, most systems that are created to reproduce this type of hyper-detailed, clinically-correct sound generally fall well short of the musical involvement that they could easily produce.
But when you find out what lies beyond that sound barrier – what audio can truly allow you to experience – it's transformative. And here's the point: you can get there.
There's no better testimony to that claim than the following note I just received from a RoomPlay client, telling me all about his listening experience after our session (reproduced with permission):
“Wow!!! I'm actually sitting here just about reduced to tears listening to Lucinda Williams sing "Blue." Think I'll stop for a while and listen to music; there is so much stuff I want to hear right now. Everything sounds different but fantastic in its own way.
“Now it's Clannad; harmonies are stunning, rich, and pure, like being surrounded by a choir of angels.
“Before last night, yes, it all sounded good and very technologically advanced; but now the system is absolutely compelling to listen to. I never would have had this happen without your help.
“Forty years I've been trying to find this experience. I'll be up all night.”
In case you are not a Lucinda Williams or Clannad fan (or even if you are), this is NOT about a certain kind of music. I promise you that YOUR music has another level of involvement available. You only have to want it.
Here's what was unique about this client's RoomPlay experience: when I visited him, I did not voice the system for him. Instead, I took this client through what he needed to do during a RoomPlay Reference session back at my listening room. (as a kind of test of sharing this information - though to be fair - he didn’t know it). With my help, HE accomplished this level.
Again: I did not voice the system; he did.
That is what Through the Sound Barrier is all about: empowering audiophiles to reach another level of musical involvement. Once they know how, it’s eminently achievable.
The Get Better Sound book & DVD set continue to serve as a valuable resource for making a dramatic improvement in the sound quality of ANY audiophile's system. TTSB doesn't replace GBS - it builds on it.
The TTSB Project is my attempt to raise the listening standards of music lovers and audiophiles everywhere.
Through the Sound Barrier is a book, a DVD, and a special CD. It includes the Quarter Notes newsletters, and Breaking-Through podcasts. It's really an audiophile’s toolkit. With it, we are going to realize another level of musical enjoyment, one that you most likely have not experienced much – except maybe at live concerts ...The Through the Sound Barrier Book
Where my previous book, Get Better Sound, was chock-full with 202 useful tips for audiophiles and a great list of good CDs, Through the Sound Barrier makes the case for a far higher level of musical involvement from our audio systems.
Of course, it doesn’t just make the case; it explains how to get there.
With an insightful Foreword by Art Dudley, Stereophile’s Editor-At-Large, and additional contributions by folks such as Jeff Day (PFO Online reviewer & blogger) and others, you’ll quickly realize that there really is an awakening among audiophiles. And you’ll want to take advantage of this trend.
In the book, although there is a section that is based on technical aspects, I never explain those issues in a technical manner. I don’t do it at seminars, one-on-one with clients, on message boards, nor did I do it in Get Better Sound.
I very purposefully write in a manner that is as if you and I are sitting across from each other, having a discussion. The style is meant to be accessible and enjoyable, not like some difficult-to-comprehend textbook (too many of the textbook-style books about audio inadvertently cause audiophiles to move toward that technically excellent and otherwise uninvolving sound that we’ve been talking about).
A very special Through the Sound Barrier CD
An integral part of the TTSB project comes in the form of a CD. This disc contains nine hand-picked musical selections, each of which is particularly exemplary of one or more of the key principles in the TTSB book. These are full cuts from various commercially available CDs that I personally use to voice systems.
Not only have I selected certain cuts, I explain – on the actual CD - what you should be hearing. And you'll learn what to do if you don't hear it from your system. And after we have examined the relevant parts of each cut in real time on the CD, I then include all nine complete high quality cuts, without interruption. And the cuts are fully legal – all licensing rights will have been paid.
And this is a standard CD, not something that only a few audiophiles can play.
The Through the Sound Barrier DVD
Though not quite as expensive as the CD, it’s still very costly to professionally shoot a DVD on location.
In this case, the location is my personal listening/RoomPlay Reference demo room. I will take you through all of the techniques that I talk about in the TTSB book, but with far greater detail. There is no replacement for actually seeing how something is done! And see it you shall.
The Quarter Notes Newsletters
Designed to be quarterly newsletters, these are the original Quarter Notes Newsletters that Get Better Sound readers love to receive.
Already equivalent to another book in size, the Quarter Notes provide updates, timely articles about topics of current interest in audio-land, and much more.
For Through the Sound Barrier, I want to continue the practice. The good news is that every Kickstarter TTSB project backer will receive the Quarter Notes - even if they never buy Through the Sound Barrier!
The Breaking-Through podcasts
My first real experience listening to podcasts was when I listened to my son Randall Smith’s podcasts. They were fun and informative. Randall has agreed to set me up so that I can do the same thing. We have some interesting ideas that I am sure that you will LOVE!!!
In fact, I can hardly wait. Maybe I’ll do one early…. :)
So what's this Barrier Buster reward thing?
The Barrier Buster (and the Early Bird Barrier Buster) pledge reward is the bread-and-butter of this project. It includes the TTSB Toolkit in its entirety, plus several add-ons made possible by our reaching certain stretch funding goals. In other words, it's growing all the time as our funding increases! Here's what you get when you pledge at the Barrier Buster level (updated as of 2/27/13):
1. Through the Sound Barrier Toolkit (softcover book, DVD, and CD)
» Update: the CD element now includes three more musical selections and will span two discs - Stretch Goal Achieved!
2. Acknowledgement by name in book as Kickstarter backer
3. Subscription to Quarter Notes online newsletter
4. TTSB Listening Notes (.pdf format)- Stretch Goal Achieved!
5. System Log Book (pdf format) - Stretch Goal Achieved!
6. A Top Ten's Top Ten (pdf format) - Stretch Goal Achieved
Thanks to our reaching Stretch Funding Goals, Barrier Buster backers also have the ability to add to their rewards with the following optional purchases:
1. System Log Book (printed bound notebook) - add $15 to your pledge
2. Signed Hardcover of TTSB book - add $15 to your pledge
For more information on the current Stretch Goal Reward Additions (and what's next!), see the Updates tab at the top of the page.
You voiced my system - do I still need Through the Sound Barrier?
Technically, no. At least not now.
But what if you want to replace your speakers later - or you relocate your system to another room or another home? TTSB will show you how - in an interesting and accessible style - to maintain your musical enjoyment and just maybe improve on it. And you can take your time doing it - actually enjoying the process - no need to push like I did at your home...
Anyway, don't you want to participate in a project aimed at raising the level of musical involvement for audiophiles worldwide?
So what will be the post-Kickstarter retail price for the basic TTSB package - Book, DVD, CD, Breaking-Through Podcasts, & Quarter Notes newsletters?
$99.80What is RoomPlay Reference? It's listed as a pledge reward.
What is RoomPlay? It's listed as a pledge reward.
I'm new to Kickstarter. What are these Pledge Rewards?
This is where we are going to have fun! You can see in the right column that there's a variety of pledge levels and rewards. There's something for everyone, and the rewards are meant to be interesting, meaningful, valuable.
The limited pledge reward I want is already sold out. What can I do?
If I see a category that is sold out, I will try to come up with another similar limited category, as long as the resources are there to be able to supply more. So definitely check back in a day or so.
Honestly speaking, to fully fund the Through the Sound Barrier project will require significantly more than twice the $30,000 funding goal. As I did with Get Better Sound, I will finance the balance through a lending institution or through other similar means. For me, reaching the $30,000 goal is a sign that there are enough audiophiles who actually want to break their sound barriers!
Of course if we reach our goal - and hopefully surpass it significantly - that’ll mean an even better TTSB, delivered even sooner!
What if we don’t reach $30,000?
It's important to remember that if we don’t reach the goal, then your pledge will never be charged to your credit card. And I probably won’t do the project, because the overall level of interest and/or awareness was below expectations.
Risks and challenges
The big advantage of using Kickstarter for TTSB is that we can move much more quickly to produce the project than we would if I were to try to fund and self-publish the TTSB toolkit. This is a lesson I took from creating TTSB's predecessor project, Get Better Sound, both the book and also the 3-disc DVD set.
Indeed, the production of the TTSB toolkit will be a more-or-less familiar process, in that I learned the ropes when I wrote and published Get Better Sound, as well as producing the GBS DVDs. I'm very comfortable with how that will proceed, and the timelines for production and delivery.
The most significant risk of the project lies in the production of the accompanying CD. This is one of the most expensive aspects of the TTSB project . That’s because there are nine full cuts from various commercially available CDs that I use to voice systems. Getting the licenses is – well – expensive. Would you believe that it’s well over $25,000 to produce the first 2,000 CDs? Because I'm using actual existing tracks, I am legally required to obtain mechanical reproduction licenses for each track separately. To do so entails complex negotiations with multiple record companies, with varying costs and restrictions. I have contacted legal counsel who specializes in conducting these negotiations, and the prospects look great.
All of that said, if for some reason the licensing falls through for any of the tracks, I will have to take the time to select another track that serves the same purpose. This may delay the project by a week or two. Again, though, I don't foresee this actually taking place.
Other than that identified risk, there are the usual publishing risks associated with receiving materials from contributing authors or reviewers. These are common, though, and I am projecting the project timeline to account for and mitigate these risks.
In sum you'll find that the biggest risks lie not so much in delivery of the project as they do in the potential scope and speed of the project. The greater the funding, the more we can make happen; the greater the awareness in the music-loving and audiophile communities, the more powerful the impact of the TTSB project.
To me, the greatest personal risk is that people might not have the chance to find out what they've been missing, and what emotional and therapeutic power that reproduced music can have for them. That's the passion that drives my efforts.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (32 days)