How wonderful to be in a world where the artist and the engineer together can bring us closer to the things we love, like music and movies.

Artist Meets Engineer The Art Of Tuning

Michael Green | Michael Green Audio

How wonderful to be in a world where the artist and the engineer together can bring us closer to the things we love, like music and movies.

by Michael Green of Michael Green Audio


For thousands of years, the artist reigned as the supreme inventor of things for the future. Everything that was done was done by doing and not by calculation alone, until the 20th century. The 20th century began a new breed of designer and technology that propelled this generation into the fastest intellectualized think-tank ever conceived. This era grew so fast that the artist found himself all but passed up. Everything in life became a number and a formula on paper. The "hurry up" era was running faster than ever and the phrase "time is money" was then coined and changed our lives forever. In this world, engineers became giants and walked the earth like an Orson Welles movie conquering everything in sight. Technology became so advanced that the engineering world became this monster that needed efficiency to survive. You see, the more efficient, the faster the production; the faster the production, the more the money, and so goes the financial cycle that controls the world. At first glance, you might take this as a negative statement being ready to be delivered against this great society we live in, but, to the contrary, this was seen as one of the blessings that could very well bring the balance back into place.

For years now I have seen this world struggling in the area of balance. Engineers were throwing down their technical papers like Moses delivering the tablets. "Here is the new truth", they cried out as the world became one step closer to efficiency. Look at the size of our new world, as an example. We have computers the size of a hand and amplifiers weighing less than a pound delivering hundreds of watts - unbelievable. Truly, this world has changed and everything in it has changed as well. Marvels are taking place right in front of our eyes and we have given ourselves the ability to accept change faster than we ever have, for we are the pockets of this new world. The faster we catch on to the times changing before us, the faster the changes can occur in technology. "Bigger is better" has been reversed, and the signal paths that now control our world travel on the thinnest of thin wires instead of the sturdy battleship mentality of the past. "Built like a tank, to last forever", has been replaced with "light as a feather, for your convenience."

Here's where I step in. Being an artist, I have had a struggle and fight of my own on my hands. Artist/designers work from a different set of values than Engineer/designers. Engineers work in the world of sums and fundamental values whereas artists work off of the sensitivities of something that is rarely talked about by many manufactures unless you are in the acoustical instrument building business, or other business, where the slightest vibration can alter the results of the performance. In fact, for years now in the audio business, signal was treated as something that should be only a fundamental or it was distortion needing to disappear. I always looked at these people who believe such a ridiculous notion as being very misinformed. But, without product to show the proof, because their products were so overbuilt, it seemed like it would be years before the truth would come out. You see, all fundamentals of energy (all energy) have always run off of a physical law call Harmonic Structures of Balance. This, for musicians, has always been a way of life, but for engineers sticking to the fundamentals only, well, this was too big of a concept to control so they proclaimed harmonics as being distortion instead of harmonics being usable and even critical note forming information. The harmonic structures that form around and inside of a musical instrument are what make each instrument sound different from each other. The reality is that no two instruments sound exactly the same playing the same musical note because of this structure. Now here's where the story becomes fascinating. For years, high end audio manufacturers thought that they could some how lock in the fundamental signal and the harmonics would magically reproduce themselves as they came out the other end. This defies everything in musical theory, but an entire industry fell into this pit, "ears first", and would not be climbing out soon if it were not for the saving grace of technology itself.

For years, my company has been building musical systems for studios and home entertainment knowing this truth, but has sat watching this sonic mistake taking place. I always knew that the time would come when the big wake up call would happen, but didn't think that it would come in the way of the need for efficiency. I would have thought that, like me, designers were just going to hear the problem and seek to correct it. The further I explored the opening up of the harmonic structures, the better the systems I designed sounded and the further the gap between me and high end audio became. It got to the point that I lost my desire to even show up at the big conventions that showed off the mighty warships of audio. It started to seem like the light was growing dim until I took another look, TuneLand, my new audio discussion forum, was just getting started when I realized that it was time for me to replace some of my audio front end source components. I hated to let go, but TuneLand could no longer hear me keep saying that you must search the eBays and Audiogons of the world for these old very "tunable" electronic components. I went to my near by Best Buy, mass production box moving audio store, wearing my frown of defeat to have my eyes completely opened.

I guess I should explain here, shouldn't I? TuneLand is an online E-magazine that is all about the art of tuning, from musical instruments to recording studio and home acoustics to the electronics that play the music or video. TuneLand shows you how to get the most out of any system through my method of tuning. We produce over 250 different tuning devices that you can use to tune in the harmonics of any part of the signal. Whether it be acoustical, mechanical, or electrical, we can affect the fundamental dramatically by adjusting the structure of the harmonics anywhere in the signal path. This sounds absolutely crazy to the hobbyist who has never heard of such a thing. But as you visit TuneLand, you will see case after case of people who are getting rid of their boat anchor type systems and replacing then with minimalist systems and reaching performance levels much higher that their previous systems. Now when I say much higher I mean much higher. Read TuneLand and you will be amazed.

Now that I have explained the "why" and "what for" of why I was in Best Buy, let me tell you of the eye opening shock that took place. As I said, I needed to replace 5 or 6 sources, so I went to the DVD/CD player department and found a host of products at incredible prices. After going through my usual tapping on the chassis ritual that I use as step one of the tuning process, I took the whole lot of them home to try. What I found was something that was completely unexpected. Almost all of these DVD players outperformed the high end CD front ends. In fact, the only DVD player that did not perform well was one that used noted "audiophile" parts inside. I thought, "How could this have happened?" The mass production industries ship slipped past the high end audio ship in the middle of the night and no one knew it. The fact is that today's engineering world is harder at work perhaps more than we think. Even if this is purely by accident, the door was finally open for me to watch these two worlds come together. At last, the artist can meet the engineer. Let me show you how this works.

No one takes the time to tell you about this or maybe it isn't even clear to the industry of reproducing music as to what is happening here, but the magic of this is that once you apply this age old technology to your audio gear or anything electronic, your performance level increases dramatically. Now, not to turn this into a "how to" class, follow me on this if you will. As artist meets engineer, you have two different identities. One is basically based on movement (vibration) and the other is based on numbers (circuits), or so it seems. In reality, both of these two worlds have the same function and the same root of how that function is done. Both the instrument and the electronic component reproduce sound through one main energy source which is vibration. The signal that is being reproduced by an instrument is happening through the movement of vibrating parts. You tune these parts to rearrange the structure of the harmonics to develop whatever desired results you wish. For example, when you tighten a string, the sound goes higher; when you loosen a string, the sound goes lower. Now what happens when you take this same principle and apply it to an electronic component or a wire or anything else that is carrying a signal? Yes, you might be shocked at this point that the electronic signal reacts the same way. You can affect the harmonic balances of the electronic signal just as you can affect an acoustical instrument. In fact, if you don't, the chances that you will be able to put these components into tune with each other will never happen and the result is the loss of music content. On TuneLand, we show you how to take your system and literally turn it into a musical instrument, with remarkable results. Hobbyists are discovering that the tunable systems in their variably tunable rooms are able the reproduce life size soundstages of recorded performances. Each listener becomes both artist and engineer as they tune in the piece of music or movie to their own personal taste. You can imagine what the first responses of the engineering societies were as they first heard of this. "This must be distortion", they said, but one could not measure any distortion related to the opening up of the harmonics. The music takes on a real life real size presentation that is much more natural sounding than what has been presented in the past fifty years. As we began comparing the sound of low mass components with high mass components, we discovered yet another phenomenon. The lower the mass and the simpler the design, the more musical the presentation becomes. The higher the mass and more parts used to perform a particular function, the less desirable the music was and the less willing the instruments were to be in tune with each other.

Could it be possible that we have come to an age of understanding? How wonderful to be in a world where the artist and the engineer together can bring us closer to the things we love, like music and movies. Sure, sometimes these discoveries shake up things a little, but after the dust starts to settle, we realize that the laws of nature and the laws of technology don't have to be at war. Instead, the artist and the engineer should be and will be brought closer together the more our big world is better understood. One thing that is so amazing about the human race is that we don't stay stuck in our ruts forever; we are designed to progress and to find the answers to the mysteries of life. This is what makes living great. Here, all the time, we thought that the mass production world was heading in a direction solely to meet the needs of the many, we found ourselves together again embracing those things that are excellent and raising our lives to an even higher level.

In my next article, Tuning - Part 2 (The In-Home Concert), I will be taking this marriage of artist and engineer and showing you what hobbyists are doing to create their ultimate home system experiences. if you have any questions about this article, as always, you can visit TuneLand and make yourself at home. I look forward to talking to you again on HomeToys.com soon. So, for now, enjoy your home toys.


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