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daveneumann 09-09-2019 06:34 AM

Sumiko master set-up process
How can I find this set-up process? I've got a pair of Strads incoming in a couple of weeks and want to get them positioned properly. They will be replacing my Amati Futuras and I'll start by placing them where the AF sounded the best. But I understand the Strads are more sensitive to positioning and I want to get the most out of them.

Pictures to come in a couple of weeks.



jdandy 09-09-2019 10:52 AM

Dave.......Here you go.

To go through the process you'll need to find a copy of Rob Wasserman's Duets CD. The track you will use is with Jennifer Warnes and is called "Ballad of the Runaway Horse."

What we are trying to do in the first two steps is to work with the room to get the most extension, most output, most linear bass with even bass pressure throughout the room.

So a couple of ground rules:
1 - Decisions in the first two steps will be made based on the sound of the bass ONLY.
2 - Always make your final decisions from the listening position even though you will hear most changes while moving the speaker.
3 - You must move the speakers smoothly and evenly. With Strad this will not be easy. If your floor is carpet, you will need two sets of teflon sliders. Cut out the rubber material to fit a Sonus spike cup in each.

Before you begin.
1 - Position the speakers in an equilateral triangle against the wall.
2 - Toe in the left speaker so that the tweeter points to a spot about 18" behind your head.
3 - Face the right speaker straight ahead.
4 - NEVER move the speaker without music playing. You need to hear the changes to evaluate them.
5 - Once you start moving speakers, correct toe-in from a stopped position only by pivoting on the outside rear spike of the speaker.
6 - Avoid the Dead Zone. This area starts 6-12 inches from the back wall and extends into the room anywhere between 12-24 inches typically. It is dependent on room geometry, furnishings and speaker. Bass will become one note with no power/extension.
7 - Start "The Ballad of the Runaway Horse." Volume should be loud enough to pressurize the room fully. (Be aware that as you continue the process you will likely have to turn the volume down a click at a time - anywhere between 3 and 6 dB is not unusual. Background noise and IM drops and dynamics and output increase as you lock in the correct position).

Part 2

Step 1: Set the Anchor - What to look for: Your priorities in the step are 1) Bass output - Is it louder? 2) Bass Extension - Does it go lower? 3) Bass Linearity - Can I hear all the notes?

Start with the left speaker only. While doing your best to maintain toe-in, move straight forward from the wall in a smooth motion. Listen to the bass from Rob Wasserman's bass. As you move be aware of the volume of the bass. If you think you hear the bass output increase, stop immediately. Check that toe-in is correct. At that point listen and ask your questions in order - louder, lower, all the notes. If it sounds good, take a CD case and mark the position.

Repeat the process until you come to the next point of increased output. Ask yourself the same questions as you did on the first stop. Is this one obviously better? If you are not sure, mark the front of the speaker with another CD case and bring the speaker back to your first marked point. Listen evaluate and then move to the front spot and do the same. Mark the better of the two spots.

Repeat this process until you reach the limit of allowable intrusion into the room. You should have one spot that you feel is better than the others. Move the speaker slightly in each direction to see if you can improve that point - it will be less than 1/2" and if there is an improvement, you'll hear it easily. From that speaker you should have more powerful and extended bass than ever in that room. From this point forward, you will not move this speaker at all - other than toe-in/toe-out or rake. Once you have confirmed toe-in, mark the speaker position with 1" painters tape all the way around the base. Be precise.

If you are having trouble just start over. This process is repeatable. The spots don't move. It may just take some getting used to.

Step 2 - Close the Gate: What to look for: Your priority here is to match the bass in the right speaker to the left and to the room.

Toe in the right speaker to match the physical toe in of the left. From the listening position, Jennifer Warnes will appear as if she is fully in the left speaker. While this step involves making bass decisions only, we will use her voice to define the range in which we will look. Begin to slide the speaker forward. At some point, JW will pop from the left speaker to an area just left of center. When this happens, mark the back of the speaker. Keep coming forward until she moves past the center and starts right. Mark the front of the speaker. The distance between the tape marks (minus the base length) should be 8-10 inches, give or take.

Now we go back to listening to the bass. This is very important. As we assess bass pressure it is critical to understand that is not the same as bass imaging. We are looking for even bass pressure side to side. When that happens, the imaging will place Wasserman behind and slightly right. If you key on the imaging instead of the pressure you'll go mad!

Return to the rear tape mark and begin sliding the speaker forward. Ask yourself the same questions as before, using the same cues to stop. Now comes the tough part. Lean left, then lean right and feel the bass pressure. You may want to get up and step a full step left and a full step right from the listening position to help you. Where is the pressure coming from? Still left? If so mark the spot and continue forward. Notice the increments within which we are working are getting smaller and smaller. Keep coming forward stopping on the potential spots until the pressure is even. When you are on the spot, the noise floor will drop greatly, dynamics will pop out of black and the bass will appear to increase in pace. Think alignment. Until you hit this spot the two speakers bass wave launch of common transients is blurred in time. Getting on the right spot aligns them. As with the first speaker, check toe in and move slightly (this time less than a 1/4" in all directions). As a last check make sure both speaker bases are parallel to the floor side to side.

That's the end of step 2. If you can get to this point you should have better sound than 98% of the speaker set ups out there!

You might want to try and do this a few times to get the feel of it. It's like anything you do - the more practice the easier it becomes.

Remember too that if you get stuck you can always go back to the step before. Chances are the step before is not right - that's why you're stuck.

At this point set toe in and rake the same with each speaker though ultimately they may be different based on your room.

Lastly, a tape measure is for historical record only. Do not use it to set up the speakers. What the speaker sees in the bass acoustically is almost never the same as what your eye (tape measure) sees.

Step 3

The next two steps are harder than the first two. In the first two we got the bass to work with the room and with each other. In the next two we will take as much of the negative aspects of the room out of the equation as we can.

After each movement always check to see that you have not lost bass lock between speakers/room. If you do you must reestablish it before continuing. (Remember bass lock is bass pressure, not bass imaging) Without bass lock you cannot make proper decisions in steps 3 and 4.

A few reminders and new information before moving on:.

Make sure the speaker is always firmly on the floor (sliders). No rocking allowed.
Always toe in/toe out from the outside rear spike only.
Moving the speaker in or toeing in typically increases warmth. Too much warmth is thick and honky.
Moving the speaker out or toeing out typically increases detail and openness. Too much detail is thin and bright.

In step 3 we are first going to establish distance apart. We are going to use the size of Jennifer Warnes mouth, not her throat and not her chest. This part is fairly simple. Her mouth should be 3-4 inches across.

Make sure both speakers are toed in the same amount (crossing 12-18 inches behind your head, toed only using the outside rear spike) and that when they are you have bass lock and Jennifer Warnes positioned in the center.

Unless her mouth is now 3-4 inches across you will need to move the right speaker only. Which way you choose does not matter. Usually, because in is warmer we choose in. Move the speaker about 1 inch on a straight line toward the left speaker. If you got the first two steps right 1 inch should make a very large change. (Make sure you still have bass lock and check toe in.) If you have moved the correct direction, Jennifer’s mouth will get smaller. If you have moved the wrong direction, it will get bigger. Why? Think of each speaker’s image as a large circle. If you pull the circles too far apart Jennifer gets too big with a hole in the middle. If you get too close together, the circles overlap too much and Jennifer becomes too big. When you hit the right spot, the tonal balance should also be better. But get size right.

Once that is done, we move on to toe in and toe out. This will fine tune what we just did. You will need two people for the first part of this step if you are using sliders. Having a second from here on also makes many of the adjustments easier – one to move and one to listen.

First, remove all the spike knobs. Wearing soft shoes, place your feet on the rear spikes so the speaker cannot slide. Tip it back and have your partner remove the front sliders. Now go to the front of the speaker and repeat in the other direction.
Next we will make sure the speakers are level. Place a level on the base between the two rear spikes. Lift the speaker off the front spikes. Adjust the rear spikes as little as possible, but make the plate level. When you drop the speaker, it may rock back and forth. Correct by using the front spike(s) only to make it solid.
Now listen to Jennifer Warnes. Move your head to the left and listen to the left speaker. Move to the right and listen to the right speaker. Do the speakers sound the same? Does one sound better than the other? Leave the one that sounds best. Toe in/ toe out the other to change the sound in the direction of the better speaker. Need to be more open – toe out. Need to be warmer – toe in. Repeat this process until you have a smooth transition and both speakers sound the same. There is a good chance that toe in amounts will not be exactly the same when you are done.

Last step

Almost there. Lastly we’ll do rake. Rake is nothing more than vertical toe in/toe out.

To check where you are, have someone wearing soft sole shoes stand behind the left speaker placing their feet at the back corners (on the rear spikes) of the base so it can't move. By tilting the speaker slightly back from the top front, the person in the listening chair can hear if the two speakers properly align. If they appear to get worse, repeat on the other side and raise the front spikes until both speakers are the same. Strad spikes are very finely threaded. Don’t be afraid to be precise.

Now ask yourself if the stage height/decay sounds like it's where it should be. It will likely be low. Remove you listening chair and move your head toward the floor. The most integrated sound will likely be somewhere between your knees and the floor. What we are going to do is bring that up to your listening position.

Use the tilt test to find the range with the left speaker. When it sounds like it is in the right position, count the turns on the spike as you raise them to hold that position. Jennifer’s mouth should be about 5’ to 5-1/2’ off the floor.
Next raise the right speaker the same number of turns. Using the tilt test, fine tune until they match sonically. When that happens the speakers should relax and open up.

Revisit toe in and toe out. How is the tonal balance of the entire image. Would you like it warmer or more detailed. If so, toe the left speaker the sonic direction you would like to go. Match the movement on the right speaker? Better?

Revisit rake to make sure the speakers remain properly raked. At this point adjustments will be within 1/16 to 1/32 of a spike turn, sometimes less.

Lastly make sure you haven’t fallen off bass lock. If all has gone well you should have a rich full sounding tonal balance with good, not etched detail, and a wide deep soundstage that decays effortlessly into dark analog black.

This set up process takes a couple of days to learn for the first time. People get better the more sets they do. Stradivari's can be difficult but almost always has more to give if you are willing to work for it.

Masterlu 09-09-2019 11:05 AM

Dan... thanks, I made this a sticky thread. :thumbsup:

jdandy 09-09-2019 11:58 AM

Ivan.......Hopefully this speaker setup process will prove useful to all. I thought I had my Sonus faber Amati Anniversario's set up properly and sounding good, that is until I performed the Sumiko Master Setup Process. My Anniversario's went from sounding good to sounding astonishing. The bass energy improved substantially, and the sound stage dimensions grew in width, depth, and focus. It took me a couple days of trial and error until everything jelled. The difference between what I thought was good and what I ended up with was worth every hour I spent with this process. I haven't moved the speakers since getting them properly coupled with the room. This process works but it requires tenacity and patience. Repeating a step often results in improvements until that moment when it all locks in.

Cohibaman 09-09-2019 12:37 PM

Good post!

daveneumann 09-10-2019 06:03 AM

Dan - Wow, I can't thank you enough for the time you put into laying this out this process. It sounds rather involved but is not unlike Jim Smith's method which I have used before. Thanks, support like yours is what makes this site such a special place!

Now...the long wait for my Strads to arrive.



jdandy 09-10-2019 08:07 AM

Dave.......I can't take credit for making that post. That information was provided to me from a friend via the "speaker whisperer". It is solid information, and when followed the results are very impressive. The Master Process certainly transformed my listening experience with my Amati Anniversario's. I am happy to be able to forward this information for your use, but the credit for this golden information belongs to another fine audiophile.

My advice to you based on my experience with the process is do not rush through any steps. The more carefully you follow the instructions the greater the final results will be.

Congratulations on your new Strads. Fabulous speakers that will forever be true classics.

nicoff 09-10-2019 08:55 AM

An individual named Bob Robbins has published videos and materials describing in detail how the Sumiko method is done. He uses the same musical material for evaluating positioning so it is possible that the information provided above can be traced back to Bob Robbins. You can find more information from his website. Here is the link.

metaphacts 09-10-2019 02:55 PM


Originally Posted by nicoff (Post 979177)
An individual named Bob Robbins has published videos and materials describing in detail how the Sumiko method is done. He uses the same musical material for evaluating positioning so it is possible that the information provided above can be traced back to Bob Robbins. You can find more information from his website. Here is the link.

That information most emphatically did not come from Bob Robbins. He was however, taught the method with it.

crwilli 09-10-2019 03:06 PM

Keyboard Drop

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