Saturday, 29 December 2018

Wharfedale Diamond 6R Upgrade Project

These Wharfedale Diamond 6R speakers were manufactured in 1995. These at the time were a budget speaker for around the £200/pair price range. Manufactured in England, in West Yorkshire, the construction is very good for their original price. The vinyl wrap is of a good quality, and so is the wood used to build the cabinet. But the second most important thing of all, is the drivers, those are very very good quality. But unfortunately, the most important thing of all, was to suffer as part of the budget speaker price tag.

The second most important component, would be the crossover network, which in a loudspeaker system, it is imperative the crossover network is well suited for the speaker and cabinet. If this is not the case, any money spent on a good cabinet or drivers has ultimately gone to waste.

The crossover network essentially corrects phasing issues, provides a frequency crossover between the two drivers (woofer and tweeter), so the woofer only plays bass frequencies where the tweeter only plays treble frequencies - which would make sense. However, Wharfedale decided to cut some corners on the crossover.

Like many other manufacturers at the time, Wharfedale established money could be saved by cutting corners at the crossover network. They did this by hot gluing the rather pathetic excuse of a crossover to the input terminals, and if this wasn't bad enough, they didn't provide an inductor for the woofer. This in turn means the bass driver will play treble as well as the tweeter, which is not acceptable because it results in a muddy, harsh sound because the woofer driver is not designed to handle this high frequency information. Your ultimately playing treble frequencies twice and through a driver that is not capable of it without any distortion.

My solution was to install a proper crossover in these speakers. The drivers are very similar to those found in the Wharfedale Programme 30D.6 speakers, and I had two crossovers left over from a scrapped pair of this model of speakers. I took the decision to rip off the hot glued crossover, so I could solder on the Programme 30 crossover which would have originally worked with more or less the same drivers and a similar cabinet.

The end result was this, as much better crossover. It not only has better quality inductors, but an inductor on the woofer as well as one for the phase matching of the tweeter. This created a MUCH better sounding speaker.

Below is a photo of the Programme 30 speaker to the left, and the Diamond 6R to the right. They look very similar, and also sound similar thanks to the similar drivers and the same crossover.

A video of how the speakers sound can be found here:

The Wharfedale Sound

Wharfedale sound is a British classic. Wharfedale sound is warm, inviting, and easy listening. It does not fatigue your ears after listening for a long period of time, and this is all the more reason they were so well suited for their market.

Wharfedale speakers had a massive huge success in pub installations nationwide due to their classic, unobtrusive form factor. Their sound was detailed, bass heavy, but the effect wasn't over done. This tone really set the atmosphere in a pub environment, which is most likely why they still remain on pub jukebox systems, 100V line pub systems and series/parallel installation systems.

Is it for everyone? No. Some audiophiles would argue the Wharfedale sound is extremely inaccurate. But it is this inaccuracy that makes them so exciting to listen to. Not every speaker has to be accurate, and these were well suited to the installation market with both their physical shape and appearance, alongside their sound.

Wharfedale remains one of my favourite brands. Unfortunately, they are led by the International Audio Group, which is a Chinese based manufacturer of audio projects. This company stupidly licensed the rights to the brand name to the likes of Argos, so they could manufacture cheap deceiving audio products under a high quality name. IAG also have significantly cheapened out the speaker range, and only the top end models are worth purchasing these days.

Overall, Wharfedale is a British classic, it was a huge success in the installation market and for domestic use alike.

Monday, 28 May 2018

100V Line System Expansion - Remote Paging Mic

Paging microphones are very simple, but the proper ones are very clever too.
They have a talk button which activates the priority circuit on your 100V line amplifier, which mutes the music for you automatically, without you having to utilise the somewhat temperamental vox mute feature.
Paging microphones are terminated usually as a 5 pin din connector, or to bare ends. The ones I use are TOA PM600D microphones, which do have the din jack. 3 of the pins are for balanced audio, like in an XLR connector, and the other two are your priority connectors.
However, I want to get the paging microphone to work downstairs, which would be impractical in some ways as you would at first glance have to run a 5 pin DIN extender cable, however there is a much better way of doing this. The other issue too is that 100V line amplifiers only have one 5 pin DIN paging mic input - which means unless you use a splitter, you can only get a single microphone on the system, and when you start using splitters things can get very messy very quickly because you are not only wiring all the mics to one channel, which causes impedance issues from the start, you can also get faults on the mic line, such as hum or excessive hiss, and when they are all wired together on a splitter it is very difficult to troubleshoot the source of the issue.

But, as there is only one DIN input, you might be lead to believe this is the only way of doing this.
As all your working with is balanced audio and 2 priority wires, you can run two separate leads. What I chose to do was to install a female 5 pin DIN wall plate connector, so the paging mic can connect cleanly downstairs where it is going to be installed on the living room table. Then, from behind of the wall plate, all I need to do is run two wires. The first being the balanced audio, which you can run with normal 2 core semi screened cable to reduce the noise. Then, you can use realistically any cable type of your choice for the two priority wires, such as single wire or even more two core semi if you wanted to. The audio lead will terminate at the amplifier end to a male XLR, but if you were only to do this, you would not be able to get the priority function to work. Then what you need to do is take to the amp the two priority single wires, and run them into the phoenix connectors onto your amp for the priority circuit. This creates an as good as connection as the DIN jack will give you on the amp, and it is actually wiring it in exactly the same manner and to exactly the same place! In addition this way, you reap the benefits of running the microphone on a separate mic channel.
This is the solution I am going to install in my living room in order to get a paging mic into there - I will still have one upstairs so it will in a way be a method of two way communication, just a very cool way of doing so!

100V Line System Expansion - Remote Volume Control

I have already installed speakers in most rooms of the house, except from the living room.
The reason they were never installed in the living room was because A, I ran out of zones on my 100 volt amp, and B, people downstairs in the living room would get annoyed with the background music as due to running out of zones, I would have no way remotely of turning the living room speakers off upstairs.
However, as the main reason lied with not bothering people downstairs, I have come up with a slightly complicated yet clever solution to resolve this issue.
Although for the reasons explained above I cannot control the speakers downstairs in there, I can however hand the control of the speakers over to downstairs, which does result in a few issues, but these can be resolved.
APart Audio and a whole host of other installed sound manufacturers make 100V line volume controls. These enable you to essentially mute or adjust the volume for a certain set of speakers only, the ones that will be wired off your 100V line volume control. However, the issue this poses is that the users almost have too much control over the speakers. Yes, they can mute the music, but by doing so it will also mute any announcements, say this was in a professional setting and emergency announcements didn't get through thanks to the user settings on the volume controls, it would be a fundamental flaw in your 100V line system. This however is still an issue with my system, as I utilise one paging mic upstairs, soon to be two as I am adding one downstairs, and if I announce something over it, I still want people in the living room to be able to hear it as clear as day.
However, this is an issue that has been thought of in both the design of the volume controls and the 100V line amplifiers. There is something called a 24 volt priority, this ultimately connects from your amplifier to all the volume controls. What this allows you to do is pass the 100V signal of the lets say microphone announcement at full volume, as this activates a relay on the volume control when the amplifiers priority circuit is active, which would happen if for instance you engage one of the paging microphones. Once the priority circuit is inactive, for example when an announcement is finished, the relay will open again on the remote volume control, which will result in the user set volume to be resumed, which may even be set to mute. So if you put this into perspective, I can let downstairs listen to the music at any volume level they want, including complete muting, but I can still get my announcements across on the microphones, all thanks to the priority systems. The volume control I have selected for this application is the APart Audio EVOL60. It's important to consider how many speakers you intend to wire off the volume control, because like 100V amplifiers, volume controls also have a maximum amount of speakers you can wire to them because they have a wattage rating that you cannot exceed. This isn't an issue for the living room though as I am only going to be using two speakers in there, both of which are set to a power rating of 15 watts on the transformers.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Acoustic Solutions Instate 70 - Classic Pub Jukebox Speakers!

These are some very special speakers!
These were produced in the same factory as the Wharfedale Programme 30D speakers, and are essentially the same speaker. The drivers are ever so slightly different, and the placement of the crossover/terminals is towards the top rather than in the middle.
However, these were installed in the pubs just like the Wharfedale Programme 30D speakers were, and they do sound very good.
Don't let the Acoustic Solutions name put you off - these have no relation to Argos, Acoustic Solutions were a perfectly acceptable brand until Argos bought their name out in order to replace their production line with cheap crap products to try and make the end consumer believe the products are good because at the time it was a reputable and recognised name.
I scored a pair of these for £40, brand new in the wrapper and in immaculate condition with no marks.
Image result for instate 70 speakers

3x APart MA200 amplifiers - The best sounding 100V line amps I've ever heard!

I now have two APart MA200 amplifiers running my indoor/outdoor 100V setup.
With them being higher end models, they use a superior output stage in comparison to the lower model MA125. This has resulted in a noticeable increase in sound quality throughout the Wharfedale Programme 30D speakers inside the house. I also scored an MA200CDR from APart, it is esentially the same as the normal MA200, just with a built in CD player and tuner. The amplifier section of this works flawlessly, however., there is a fault with the power supply and/or the CD/tuner unit, as the CD/tuner section is not functional, it simply is dead. However, as this is an extremely rare, flagship and discontinued model, so I am going to send it off for repair despite the expensive costs. Once repaired I will utilise it in the main 100V line setup.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

APart Mask 6W 8 Ohm Restoration - From Pleasure Island!

You wouldn't believe these were the same pair of speakers!
These were taken out of an install at Pleasure Island in Cleethorpes a few months ago, it shut down in 2016 but it recently got new owners and all the loudspeakers were gutted recently. One of them cleaned up as good as new, whereas I had to unfortunately scrap the other one due to screw heads being so rusted and worn I could not take the cabinet apart other than using a brute force method. However, this wasn't an issue as I managed to source a single speaker on it's own, which was the same model to complete these as a nice pair again.
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Wharfedale Diamond 6R Upgrade Project

These Wharfedale Diamond 6R speakers were manufactured in 1995. These at the time were a budget speaker for around the £200/pair price ran...