<![CDATA[Electric Perfection - Blog]]>Sat, 09 Apr 2022 00:39:37 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[What I learned from Jack Frazier]]>Thu, 07 Apr 2022 16:01:33 GMThttp://electricperfection.com/blog/what-i-learned-from-jack-frazierSince about the age of eight, I have been fascinated with all things electronic. I have also been drawn to anything constructed with fine detail. In the detail, I believed I could feel the heart of the designer.
During my pre and early teens, I was obsessed with vacuum tubes and RF circuits, especially with large tank circuits. The visual construction and soft violet glow in vacuum tubes was mesmerizing to me. Later, in my late teens and early twenties, I developed a passion for learning about high-end high-fidelity electronics because the purpose of that equipment was to reproduce art in sound. I saw analog as the most artistic and elegant, because it is the closest to real-life. Digital is an illusion used by engineers to make their job easier – not more artistic or even realistic. Thus, some of the early high-fidelity equipment, in my view, was a work of art. I felt that a device that reproduces art must be true to the art, thus the mechanics; the electronics is also art.
My first full time job was a repair technician in a high-fidelity audio shop in 1975. That is where I first witnessed Frazier speakers. I was very impressed with the sound quality. Truly taken and mesmerized by the realism. My interest in Frazier speakers continued to grow as many models passed through the shop showroom and witnessing them in theaters, auditoriums and, night-clubs. I started saving money to purchase a pair of Concertos.
I called the Frazier factory and asked if I could purchase and pick up the speakers in person at the factory. I was told that I would be very welcome. A time was setup – June 22, 1977 (my birthday!). When I arrived, I was introduced to Jack Frazier himself. He was older but got around well. He asked if I had time to tour the factory? I felt like Charlie Bucket at the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory. I was mesmerized as Jack lead me through, showing each step of construction. Everything hand made, no automation.
He explained that a very prominent source of distortion was the speaker enclosure itself. When the enclosure flexes with the sound wave energy, it resonates, generating and radiating its own sound distorting the intended sound radiation. He showed me how the materials and construction, including complex corner cuts to lock the panels together, internal bracing, special non-resonant panel materials, no flush cuts for woofers among other unique techniques. He explained that the speaker enclosure was the speaker’s foundation. It was clear that Jack Frazier was deeply in love with his speaker designs and factory. He just beamed with delight showing me everything.
Then he took me to his office, which had many of the more popular Frazier speakers, plus a few in-work prototypes, all lined up on one end of the office. His desk was on the opposite end. Along with all the typical office desk items including a turntable. He said there was a very simple test to demonstrate speaker cabinet flexing. He pulled a nickel from his pocket and balanced it on edge on top of a large model home speaker – called the “Thing”. He then put a record on the turntable. I don’t remember what the music was, but it had some very heavy percussion and bass. He cranked it up. The base was nauseatingly powerful. The realism was unsettling. The drums and instruments were all right there, but not to be seen. The nickel remained on its edge with no movement. He turned it down then grabbed a few more nickels and placed them, on edge, on other objects in the room; desk, shelves, etc. He replayed the same piece. Immediately all the nickels throughout the room fell over, some jumping completely off the surface. The nickels on the speakers never moved – remained on edge. He then played a movie soundtrack that included a bomb explosion. It was shocking. It wasn’t just loud; I actually felt the bomb blast in my body. The nickel never moved.
I found this totally unbelievable, it had to be a trick. So, when I got back to work the next day, I decided to perform the same test in our showroom. Along with a pair of Frazier 7’s we also happened to have a pair of “Things” on the showroom floor, so I placed a nickel on its edge on both speakers. Just as in Jack’s office, all nickels in the room fell over except for the ones on the “Things” and 7’s.
It was clear from my visit with Jack Frazier that he was an artist in the truest sense. He sought to design and build the most faithful speakers he could. His interest was in the art, not the business. He hired people to run the business, leaving him to the art. This is also why Frazier inc, never became a mass market manufacture.
Jack understood Newton’s third law of motion: for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. Jack understood the requirement of a solid ground (foundation). In a speaker, the cabinet is the speaker’s foundation, it’s the reference point, the anchor. As in all electronics, a solid reference is required if any degree of accuracy is to be had.
This concept is also a focus in my quest to design and build extremely accurate amplifiers. There are many analogs between a speaker and the electronics of an amplifier. Likewise, an electronic amplifier circuit also requires a solid, rigid ground reference to faithfully reproduce a waveform. While the physics of a speaker is mostly mechanical, the same physics apply to electronics. Physics is never prejudice.
It is common for engineers to find and use shortcuts and easy ways to accomplish impressive results. The limits of human perception is often used as a convenient mask of design flaws. Equally often, easy workarounds are promoted as engineering advancements. A good example is digital technology. Digital makes the life of an engineer dramatically easier by breaking the signal up into coded bits. This reduces the resolution of the audio which is perceived as “quiet”.
Another example is negative feedback. Negative feedback is an error correcting circuit where the amplifier’s output is inverted and feed back to the input to cancel out any part of the signal that does not match the input. The problem is that any errors negative feedback may correct, is after-the-fact due to propagation delay. So, not only is it unable to completely eliminate the errors, it actually adds new ones. The result is distortion induced by the very circuitry intended to eliminate it.
Another distortion source is reactive components; capacitors and inductors. These are energy storage devices that charge or discharge with any change in signal voltage or current. This is very convenient for the design engineer by DC isolating the inter-amplifier stage bias differences. However, these components are like adding a trampoline to the foundation. Without them, however, the engineer must figure out a way to match the bias points between every stage in the amplifier. It also means that any bias error is amplified through all the amplifier stages; meaning that the bias must be extremely accurate. At least 1000X more accurate than in typical designs. It also means that thermal drift must be designed out – without using any negative feedback methods. A particularly difficult task.
Additionally, capacitor coupling also induces non-recoverable distortion because the capacitor is always charging or discharging towards equilibrium (a feature that makes engineers job easier). However, this means that every audio waveform will encompass that equilibrium drift distortion. It is argued that the induced distortion cannot be heard by human hearing. Perhaps... but I don’t want it there regardless. Besides, I’m not entirely convinced there is no one that could hear it.
Thus, the design criterion of Electric Perfection is to design amplifiers with an absolutely rigid ground and power supply, no negative feedback and no reactive components. Yes, that’s very hard to do, but that’s what makes it’s art.

<![CDATA[An Inspiration]]>Thu, 30 Nov 2017 20:56:17 GMThttp://electricperfection.com/blog/an-inspirationYears ago, I witnessed a symphony concert with a violin concerto staring Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg. I do not remember the particular music piece performed, but I will never forget the effect of that performance. The piece started out with a calm, soothing and subtleness that slowly, but progressively grew into wild passion. As the music grew in intensity, Nadja’s movements grew wilder and wilder in obvious effort to make every note; her face drawn in extreme determination. Her efforts to move her fingers and bow in exact step and time to make each note started to seem impossible, but it just kept getting more and more intense. I kept thinking the complexity and energy can’t get any more, but it just kept growing. It grew and grew until it became completely surreal; dream-like. I felt nervous in my seat and looked around trying to ensure reality… but the music just kept intensifying. Then I was struck – shuddering at the shocking realization that Nadja was no longer playing her violin; she was no longer playing the music. Instead the music was playing her. As if Nadja was caught in the works of a giant iron machine forcing her through every impossible movement, every impossible note with impossibly perfect timing. Every note was perfect because the music was playing itself and Nadja was just caught in the unyielding works of the music. There was no option or choice but to be perfect. Since that time, I have always pursued electronic design in that spirit.

<![CDATA[Quality Standards]]>Sat, 25 Mar 2017 21:32:04 GMThttp://electricperfection.com/blog/quality-standardsElectronic equipment manufactures strive to meet established state-of-the-art industry quality standards.  These standards are defined by the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) and IPC (Institute for Printed Circuits).  These quality standards are globally recognized and is the most widely used quality acceptability standards in the electronics industry.
Throughout my previous electronic design career, these standards were a major design criteria. However, in many instances, I had found design and construction methods that out-perform and/or are more reliable than the industry standards.  Such designs, however, are disallowed because it is not listed in the industry standards and/or may be unfamiliar to manufacturing.
Many aspects of designing to standards is to ensure manufacturability; allowing products to be mass produced from a set of standardized documents. Taking this further; many design firms are increasingly relying on cut-and-paste reference designs to produce a product.
I came to realize that traditional designs following industry standards are, in reality, generic; where the engineer designs like an artist painting on a paint-by-numbers canvas. This has been a career wide frustration for me. My heart has longed to design without constraints of a pre-conceived template - where the electrical and mechanical design and construction is not restricted or guided by established tradition, where the devices are hand-built, not by a factory worker or skilled assembler, but by the original designer him or herself. This pursuit of artistic design freedom is the embodiment of Electric Perfection.