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Crutchfield: The Podcast Ep. 41

Chris Stringer and Chris Kyriakakis of Syng

In this episode:

J.R. and Crutchfield staff writer Eric A. (not to be confused with regular cohost Eric H.) chat with Chris Stringer (Syng CEO/Chief Design Officer) and Chris Kyriakakis (Syng Chief Audio Scientist) about Syng's Cell Alpha powered speaker. They discuss balancing design with audio performance, the true meaning of stereo, the concept of "sweet spots" and a lot more. It's an informative discussion that might challenge your ideas about what home audio should be.

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Read episode transcript

Hello and welcome to another episode of Crutchfield, the podcast. We've got a pretty cool show for you today. Today, we will be listening to an interview that eric and I did with chris Stringer. Different eric. Yeah, I was about to mention, I'm glad you brought that up. It's very, it's very important to me, listeners at home would have known eventually because I predict a serious lack of horrible corny puns from you. Right. And eric the other eric kind of known for that, he can't stop himself. And he's also a little bit annoyed that we chose to go with you instead of him for this episode, but it just made sense because there's a very specific product at the heart of today's episode. It's a, it's a home speaker that is wireless. Like most homes. Lots of new home speakers are these days, but it looks like nothing else you've ever seen and it really approaches sound in a new and different way. Right? And I think part of the reason that I was in on this from the beginning is because I got a chance to hear them before we even officially decided if we were going to carry them at Crutchfield, uh, here at our headquarters. We have a house on the property. I assume it's been here since probably since Bill Crutchfield bought the property. Um, and we use it for all manner of things. It's kind of like our test lab for some of the home equipment that we carry. We've connected, you know, outdoor speakers to it, stuff like that. It's a great place to really simulate what you're going to hear if you hook something up in your own home because it's built like a house. Um and that's what the guys from sing did when they wanted to demonstrate these for us, they brought in three of these speakers and set them up so that we could listen to them in a real world situation and decide is it worth carrying these speakers? And we emphatically decided, yes, so from actual listening you were clearly clearly these need to be available at Crutchfield. So let's talk about these things sell alphas because that's going to be the topic of the interview and you should kind of know what we're talking about going into this. Right? So the company is called Sing S. Y N. G. Founded by chris stringer and uh and some others I think he's a co founder who spent 21 years working at Apple in doing design stuff. And yes I do ask him about his time at Apple and yes he does talk a little bit about it in broad strokes and very complimentary. I did try to pry and get him to talk more about Apple but I think lex may have smartly edited that out because clearly chris is not answering, you know you got your question, he was not going to get fooled, I was not the first person to interview chris stringer for sure, right? And the thing the thing that I thought was cool about this interview is it's very clear that he's an idea guy, he has lots of ideas and that was part of why he wanted to found his own company was because he just had an idea. And you'll hear later on that, you know, he told us kind of the genesis of this idea, but he then found like minded people who could help him realize this idea. And that's what I love about visionaries. I feel like we work for one here at Crutchfield, someone who just comes up with an idea and then says, I'm going to find people who can make that happen. And that's what Chris Stringer did. And so he brought in one of his people who works for him called Chris Karaiskakis, who was the guy who kind of helped him turn this vision into reality. And Chris Karaiskakis has quite the resume when it comes to audio. We learn about a bunch of cool stuff in this in this interview. And eric and I are probably going to interject occasionally throughout this interview. Uh if we think that there's something mentioned that maybe is deserving of a little bit deeper of an explanation. I think it's worth maybe describing this speaker since we're going since this is an audible podcast, we're going to kind of give you guys an idea of what it looks like if if you want to see it. I mean, obviously we can tell you all about it here, but you really want to see this thing, there's gonna be a link in the in the description of this podcast, but also you can just go to Crutchfield dot com and search for sing sell alpha, S Y N G cell alpha and you'll get a couple options, but it's basically the same speaker and you'll notice it's not a cheap speaker. Nothing wrong with that. I mean quality cost money and this thing again looks like nothing you've ever seen. It looks, I mean can you describe it? You did your part of your job was to describe it. Yeah, I mean for starters it's spherical. I always kind of think it looks kind of like the death star in a weird kind of way. Um it's got you know, a band around the middle that is where there are three horn loaded speakers that that kind of create the tri phonic sound. They go beyond stereo, they call this tri phonic sound um and that helps it kind of UNm or the sound from a specific location, like you hear it everywhere instead of in front of you. It's a very interesting design. And then they also put a couple of woofers in there uh that are back to back would be the best way I could put it so they force cancel so that they don't introduce any rumbling into that odd spherical structure that they're in. So one will for fires straight up the other one fires straight down and when you look at it, you gotta think to yourself, how is that even possible because the speaker is integrated with a stand that literally goes up through the middle of the bottom facing wool for that moves around the stand mount. It's wacky. Like how does this, it shouldn't work. Look at it going, I don't think this is gonna work. That's why we need these two brilliant guys to, to come up with something like this and figure out how it's supposed to work because if I looked at that, I'd say that can't be done. That's not the way they think we, we did actually feature this product on a recent episode of Crutchfield live. So if you go to Youtube dot com slash Crutchfield and start looking through the live videos, you'll find one with eric and me on camera playing music out of one of these things, sell alphas and we had a lot of fun doing that. So yeah, if you want a visual on it, there's ways to get it. Obviously we can't give it to you in the podcast, but now you have some idea what we're talking about here today. So let's get into this interview with Chris Stringer, co founder of Sing and Chris Correa Ka Kiss and uh eric and I'll be back if we need to clear anything up from the interview because there's a bunch of really cool stuff in there. So have fun, right? Yeah, Chris Stringer is Ceo and co founder of Sing um previously spent nearly 22 years at Apple um designing a lot of the products were very, very familiar with. So uh um yeah, so I'm on my uh own endeavor here was saying not my own endeavor by any means because surrounded by the best possible talents I can find in the field of acoustics, software and hardware engineering. So I'm chris I'm the chief fighter scientists uh for seeing in charge of various aspects of acoustics, algorithms and room acoustics, especially also psycho acoustics, part of a big team that deals with all of these things. My my other job is a professor of audio acoustics at USC in the School of Engineering. Uh I want to start with Chris Stringer uh if you don't mind and I heard in your intro when you said I've been at Apple and I'm I feel like I'm gonna do what most people might do is I want to ask you a few questions about your time at Apple. Are you are you okay to talk about that a little bit? We're not gonna stay there very long, but I'm curious about some things. Apple was certainly a collective of some extraordinary people and I'm very, very proud of my participation that um we were involved in um really shifting culture in so many ways more than we had imagined through devices first and software and experiences quickly on the heels. Um it was an extraordinary experience to be in the design team um on account of being at the heart of the company um during steve's tenure there, clearly that was his, his passion is making wonderful objects at the heart of incredible experiences, things that really appealed to people. Uh and I think the love that um together we put into the products was an extraordinary time. And um and not, and not to be a distraction other than to to really think of that as the, that was that was my university. Um that's where I I experienced, not just the design process at its absolute peak, but also strategic thinking of the overall company and that uh the design studio was the heart of beyond steve. The whole executive team continues to be to stay with tim really taking a great interest of course. But yeah, I I got to watch to be pertinent to this conversation of revolution in music and how music is, is shared first notoriously through the Mp three, but now through quality that I think is uh something we can be quite proud to be, to be listening with full attention to the full beauty of sound. So how do we think of the next generation audio company moving forward from that in this privileged position of when we, I didn't like something we made around. Um I had the same situation when I found myself post apple with a certain set of skills and and inclined to use them. And what I couldn't find was the music solution from my home. So I just started to figure it out. Well, let's make it, you guys really did change everything. It it was not quite overnight, but over a pretty short period of time. We went from, not really talking about Apple products at all, in relation to all of the other stuff that we sell at Crutchfield car stereos, home stereos, etcetera. two. We almost don't talk to any customers without discussing what type of phone they're going to be using with everything else, whether it's for watching listening to books, listening to music, it is integral to pretty much any audio experience. Yeah, so I I believe that. Well, there are two kinds of listening first and foremost and music synonymous with stereo and movies synonymous with surround formats, multi channel formats, essentially. Um clearly we're speaking to the initiated here, but stereo channel one and two, and just starting center, rear, left, rear, right, and then it's gone for crazy from there, through 7191. so what is it that we get to hear all this great sound and knowing that there's this boat burning industry and special audio for music, How are we going to be listening to that? So the question is, what's this new beginning? What's this, this way that we can hear or music beautifully? I don't know, this is an obtuse response to the, to the question that this is where my mind takes me is what, what is it related to this new way of playing from devices? Can be acknowledged that tv is maybe a little bit on the way out. Tv is an app. It's alive and well on all these devices, there are new devices coming our way there. Um Inevitabilities in terms of the platforms will be using um whether we relish the thought of the metaverse in somewhere or other. We're going to be the beneficiaries of some portion of that um, if audio allowed connects to these worlds. So, um, the initial goal of how do we play any number of channel count natively to satisfy the artistic creations in studios for both surround and stereo formats. How does that art get really hurt? How do we get more people listening to more music more of the time? Fundamentally was the objective But we discovered in the power of the solution that we have this ability to be very future facing. And the question is more of, what is this the beginning of why is this time Right with culture, technology and all aligning beautifully for a new new generation. That's the audio solution that we're looking to deliver. But first and foremost, it's to unite all the content that we love today, whichever format. Let's hear it natively. Let's hear it beautifully. You know, there's always been a segment of the population that, you know, cares about, the musical listening experience to channel enthusiasts, etcetera. Uh, and the rest of us really just want to play music. And it's not that we're enthusiastic or I say we, I mean the general public is not necessarily enthusiastic about the devices that play their music, but I would, I would say that that's, I feel like that's changing a bit. Would you say that there's more awareness now among the general population about do people care more about making sure it sounds good? Um, I think we're giving opportunity for people to care again, one of the most beautiful experiences of my life was my first expansion experience of what we'd probably call augmented reality. Now, listening to stereo, um, from an audio point of view, we've been masters for a very long time. The visual side has really stolen the attention, but we are really augmenting reality. We're bringing the band into the room, we're giving place to each musician in the way that they're later, um, in the stereo format, Strong in front of us. We're giving position, that's the sense of the real that got lost. It's not just the quality, which is stolen the conversation meaning the fidelity, It's that sense of place. That is what's beautiful about audio. That's what I think we need to be reminded of. And in many instances here for the first time because as we've used, uh, fabulous home theater, uh, installations to listen to music. We've up mixed those two channels into many more channels and lost that sense of place. So, um, this is something that I think we don't even know as a mass audience what we're missing. So, hearing this for the first time, like I remember hearing stereo for the first time and bringing that into spatial formats I think will give people with real uh, discerning taste in music. I understand there's a new stage coming, but in the meantime we should hear stereo absolutely beautifully as it was intended. And that's what we deliver amongst many other things. Yeah, thank you for bringing that up. I had it on my list of stuff I wanted to talk about. I personally have heard the saying sell alpha. I've heard one in a very large room, eric, who is also with us today, I'm pretty sure, has had the experience of listening to more than one in a little bit smaller room here at Crutchfield. And you know, when I heard it, of course it was loud, it was clear, it filled the entire room. I really was impressed. Uh, it looks great and sounds great. So it fulfilled on my expectations of what I was hoping this pretty cool looking little thing was going to sound like I immediately wondered now my experience was just one single cell Alpha in a large room. So, you know, I didn't necessarily have what I have always associated with a high quality music demo, which is a clear left and a clear right and a strong stereo image sitting in that sweet spot. I mean, it's pretty much sounded great anywhere in the room, which I think is kind of the goal, right? With the sing sell Alpha? What what about that stereo image? Are there people that are concerned that this isn't with just one? Anyway, you're not necessarily getting that. Do you get it with two? Can you talk about that? And this would also be a question for chris Karaiskakis as well? Uh, to talk about stereo, two channel left and right as it relates to the Cell Alpha. I'll hand it over to chris to to take this one and my observations at the end. Um, we always have a controversial twist and a creative conversation, I'll start being with being with of Greek background. Stereo is actually a word that in Greek means solid. Stereos means solid, three dimensional. It's been a misconception for almost 70 years that stereo has anything to do with two channels. It's just because people make the association that we have two years and we had two speakers when stereo came out and somehow, stereos, two channels, it's not Stereo was actually invented in the 1930s at Bell Labs with three channels, Not many people know that there was just no way to deliver three channels to the consumer on LPS. There was an opportunity with C. D. That was blown because people wanted to just have two channels to match the previous format. So there's nothing to about stereo other than the fact that we've been stuck with two speakers by tradition. If if we treat it as what's the best way to reproduce the three dimensionality of it, which is what made stereo cell from the beginning. The first lP, one of the first lps was a thunderstorm recording and people were amazed that they could feel like a thunderstorm was playing in their house from two speakers. So if we if we stick to that, I think the cell is able to deliver even with one. It gets amazing with more than one. But the fact that we can extract left center, right and ambient information through algorithms from the music. And then use the technology in the cell to steer it appropriately produces this three dimensionality, this spaciousness. And I think that's what gets people when you when they hear it for the first time to be amazed if you put it behind a curtain and don't know how many speakers are there, you would probably not say one. It's it's an interesting, it's an illusion that works really well and that kind of gets into psycho acoustics a little bit. Absolutely. We perceive space through a combination of sounds coming directly at us and sound that is reflected and so again, depending on the room and the position of the nearby reflecting surfaces, that effect is augmented more or less. Uh but the combination of reflections and direct sound give us this sense of spaciousness and because we can direct sound in various directions intentionally, we get to control that. So and and that's why you're seeing cell alpha would have a three microphone array. Right, And that's what it's doing is it's uh I assume there's a setup involved. I wasn't involved in setting up the one I got to listen to, but I imagine it plays some sounds and it listens to how they bounce around the room. And it uh it can tell if it's close to a wall or in the middle of the room, that kind of stuff. Exactly, it has a three microphone array that does exactly what you said. We want to know where the nearby walls are and from that and how far and from that we estimate where people are most likely to be there. Probably not in the direction of the walls nearby, but in the opposite direction. But it also uses that information if there are more than one cells to find the exact location of the others. So together they can produce the right spatial algorithms that we have designed that we need to know where every cell is in the room and they find each other, but in addition to the three microphones, it also has three what we call horns. So that's a midrange and tweeter coincident, that also form an array of sorts and beam forming type array that allows us to steer sound in control directions instead of just playing it all together. So that was kind of cool chris Correa Kocsis revealed something that probably a lot of people already know, but most don't think about is that stereo doesn't actually mean to or left and right to speakers. It's a greek word for solid. Never would have guessed that. And that the original versions of stereo music and such was three channels. Did you know that ahead of time? I did not know that. I definitely had that mindset of stereo being a left and a right and that was, that was very cool of him to uh, as a professor, I'm sure he's very used to explaining and maybe sometimes breaking down those false assumptions that people make. And he taught me something today. Yeah, that was too cool. And that technology that he, you know, going back to the original stereo kind of has filtered its way into this product that sing sing, sing, sell alpha with tri phonic sound. It's kind of getting back to the roots of stereo, which is a neat way to think about him. Yeah, that's something interesting that, you know, he mentioned he's a professor of psycho acoustics and that's one of the interesting things that, that we kind of occasionally skim past when we're talking about audio gear, uh, you know, you look at the way sound waves bounce around the room and it looks chaotic, but your brain does something with that and sometimes it will just make it sound like more than what it would be. If you just could just only pick up those sound waves, your brain does a little translation in there and makes it sound incredible. It really does. Uh and the study of psycho acoustics, which is the psychology of sound Is there is so much to unpack there. We obviously we can't get into it and either, I don't think either one of us are able to to describe all of that. I, however, I have a podcast you might want to listen to if you're interested in this as a concept. The show is called 20,000 Hz, I think amended it on this podcast before. But there is a specific episode that would help you understand psycho acoustics and what your brain does as it interprets the sound entering your ear holes. The particular episode is called Relearning bolero and I don't know what number it is, but it's uh you know, this is, we're recording this on august 18th. It's come out within the last couple of months, so it's a pretty recent episode and I learned a lot, as I do from every episode of 20,000 Hertz, that show teaches me something every time, every single time. And I don't think there's a podcast that has a better or a higher level or a higher standard for how good it sounds like that episode will now never sound wonky. They won't let it happen. It's a sound design studio that makes a podcast and it's my favorite podcast besides this one of course course my name is ERIC and I'm the person who wrote the web pages for Crutchfield about the same products. I did get to be there for the demonstration they did at our house where we had three of them set up. I think that was the part that struck me the most was how they interact with one another without canceling each other out or fighting each other. How did you guys manage to test all of that and make that work? So just um, to rewind a little bit to address this question. The original thought of how to play um multiple channel counts from any number of speakers from any locations. Um my first thought was we are um too used to the idea of building a very fixed corral and sitting still and being a very small sweet spot to go back to another previous comment. Um there shouldn't be a sweet spot. Um It should be sweet for everybody in the room. That shouldn't be a first class, which because the implication is that everybody has an inferior experience. So how do you get more people listen to more music? More of the time when you get it in high traffic areas of the home, you have to have a very flexible layout in that case and you have to be prepared for them to be in the wrong place. And to compensate. That's why we put the time and effort into the mapping, not just for it to sound good to really understand the room to eq and to understand how to best use the walls to exactly locate each other. Um to use them in sort of different layouts and different formats and as it understands different home environments, especially the open plan room. I have them strung from my kitchen to the to the screen, the tv. Um this isn't a typical layout. Thinking about rooms, thinking about space is the whole ground floor. Um so yeah, it's important that in all these different contexts that we have this uniformity about space. Um and chris can speak more capably to technically what we do um in order such that at any place in any direction, you're getting this left, right center imaging um simultaneous with everybody else in the room. So chris perhaps you could take it from there. Yeah. How can the entire room be a sweet spot for that sort of three D. All sort of stereo sound. One of the benefits, what I guess one of the problems with sweet spots is that with the two channel system, the sweet spot of the the the phantom center, that of the senior, let's say in the middle between the two channels is phantom, which means there's no there's it doesn't exist unless you are in exactly the same spot and receive sound. That's exactly the right time delay between the two years by not making it phantom and making it real. We have an actual speaker there producing that so called center using the singer voice as an analogy, that means you can walk anywhere around the room and she will be there coming from that spot. Now there's still stuff happening to the left and right of her um guitars, keyboards, whatever it needs to be, which has some spatial information in it that was embedded in the mix. Somebody decided where to put it when they were mixing. And we developed an algorithm that basically extracts that left left nous and rightness amount of the information and decides what combination of the horn speakers to use to produce it to the left and right of center. So yeah, and as it has a different number of cells in different layouts, it best chooses how to deliver left, right and center so that uh they hand off as eric pointed out very beautifully in this seamless manner. And this is really interesting. Side effect of this is that you can leave music slightly higher, more enjoyable levels and still be able to speak because you don't have allowed end of the room and a quiet end of the room. It's actually a very polite way to listen louder, which means, again, the music enjoyment is up, that sense of imaging is stronger, that sense of presence and um, the privileged position of actually being on the stage with them. Um, this takes you away from that, um, patient observant, um, uh, person being entertained, sitting in the perfect spot in the audience, sitting still, staring straight. I truly believe that passive listening is an invention born of technology as opposed to an original desire where everything but passive with music, it's against our instinct. So this brings motion. This brings our distracted selves into the norm. We're playing from devices, we're wandering around space in ways that serve, you know, our needs from one minute to the next, we're not, we're not, we're not patient any longer. This isn't victorian England. So, um, we really are actually experiencing that folks are engaging a lot more with sound and that, that's a beautiful thing and it's because it's delivered beautifully everywhere you are. Eric did chris stringer just say there shouldn't be a sweet spot. He did. And I know I took that, I mean that he's saying everybody should be hearing great audio no matter where they're standing, there shouldn't be just one spot. And, and I know that you've heard one speaker, one of their speakers and you were impressed just with the one, I only got to hear one and it was in a big room and our vendor training room, which is right, that room can see like 50, 100 people and huge projector. It's a big, big room and there's one of these things tell alphas in the middle of it. And I mean, I walked all around the room and I thought, well this sounds good here. It sounds good here. It sounds good when I'm close to it. It sounds good when I'm far away from it. Uh it didn't go quite as loud as I wanted it to, but that's because there's only one in a huge room. So to give me the volume I needed, I would have, I would need two or three of them. Which is kind of, it's kind of the idea, right? And, and I heard it in our house, uh here at HQ, not my house, but in our house that we have here on our campus, here at Crutchfield. And they did have three set up and all I could think, and I think I wrote this in my presentation on the web for the speaker. Uh is this would be the coolest thing to have at a cocktail party. If you could put one in each corner of a big room and just turn people loose to kind of wander around and chit chat and have the music going on around them. You would literally feel like you were being surrounded by the music and that no matter where you went in the room, that you were hearing exactly the same thing as you did when you were standing over by the kitchen or whatever, you can just move around and the music is right there present uh, and sounding amazing wherever you're standing, here's your quote from what you wrote on the sing sell Alpha Web page on crutchfield dot com. All I could think was I desperately want the world's coolest cocktail party to break out right here and now because nobody in town has a more impressive sound system. Yeah, and I knew that for a fact at that moment, even working here, I'm not always certain that I am listening to the best sound system in Charlottesville, but at that moment I knew it for sure because nobody else in town had anything sell alphas except us. Yeah, I'm kind of curious about what kind of things did you have to do to be able to develop a product that both looks and is designed in a way that is aesthetically pleasing. It's cool looking as well as accomplishes your goals for the sonic benefits of the saying sell alpha? How did you guys, uh, did you have to meet in the middle on some things chris stringer, did you have to give up something that you wanted to do where it looked amazing, but it was just not gonna work sound wise, you know, that kind of stuff. Um, the whole principle of designing a speaker ought to be at the service of sound. So you just wait for it to tell you what it ought to be. Um And then it's uh the designer's task to make elegant of make the principle as elegant as possible. Um uh What's beautiful about designing speakers is it's it's it's got to be in the um an understanding of um it's it's much like building an instrument and it became profoundly clear as I was pointing out before and needing to be able to project sound to deliver these different channel options. Um And the capabilities that chris has elaborated on further needed. Well it's what's the leanest projector or three outputs in a circle with their outputs um very close to each other. So you can create a very uniform um output around the whole device such that then you have the basis of steering by playing with volume and phase. You can create your cardioid and multiple cardioid and and be directing many sounds from 111 note. So three drivers, twitters and mids can be quite small especially when piggy backed. So how do you create a big enough volume for the base? Well that's where the horns came in. I became obsessed with. First compression drivers and then ultimately the solution we delivered more conventionally sort of horn firing piggyback co ax tweeter and mid through. Um this three D. Printed horn array which the three outputs the horns um merge very close to each other on the exterior. So you get that uniformity of sound in a larger volume, this had to be on the horizontal meridian fitted to their level. So now we have this um sputnik in the air um so it's begging for the what's the base solution? Well um opposed what is if you pay attention, don't create mechanical vibration. So canceling out all that mechanical vibration, you're just getting pure sound so that clearly the only space left is top and bottom facing up facing down. How do you get to stand through that? I don't know, blow through the speaker. The actual stand um um is clearly going to ground, hard work force or the ceiling of upstairs. That's why we really cared to make sure that we're not creating a sort of a nuisance to neighbors. So the configuration was clear. The problems are clear including how do we get that hole through the bottom wafa? Um and that we did such that mechanically, you're actually holding onto the heaviest part which is the magnets dead center. All the drivers have pushed towards the absolute core of the device. So every voice, every instrument has one output because you cannot get off access on this thing because it's round. Um So it's it's it defined itself. Um you can't have design get in the way of acoustics because as you shape, shape shape. Well you're taking the wrong approach, how do you just not get in the way in the first place so the there's an inevitability to this form factor. And because it's now essentially this sphere of sound um with a simple stem beneath it. That's where we place the microphone so that we have this close capture of sound out sound return. So we can understand cell to cell location, more position and take you to the room. Um, and this ends on a screw thread so you can mount it to a short stand, tall stand. And we have other standard amounts coming to make it even more versatile in the home. So architecturally it's um, it's how do you get out of the way? How does design get out of the way? Much like your phone? There's no design in the way when you're on um the doing a male on, on the web, Tiktok, it's full screen. This is a perfect example. Design just gets out of the way when it's done. Well, you're not aware of it. So how do you create the most elemental? And as we look forward, you might think obvious way to have a sound out. But for something that can be used casually in any number in any place and create a single network, essentially a map of the room onto which to map sound. At one point he mentioned the word cardioid without fully explaining it. You want to talk about that a little bit microphones, like the one I'm sitting in front of right now, they record sound in a pattern. Uh sometimes you can have one that will recur a very wide pattern so that if you have, say a large singing group and you just want maybe like a choir to be recorded by a single microphone. That will have a very wide pattern. Most microphones like this one that I'm speaking directly into will have like a cardioid pattern, which just means it's heart shaped, starting at the microphone is the base of the heart and then it comes out and and widens out from there and it should then reject any sound that's coming from outside of there, which is a good thing if you're in a noisy environment or there are a lot of people around you want to just get my voice. Yes. And all microphones have a specific pattern. And uh so is he saying that the microphones that are built into the tri phonic arrays on the sing sell alpha, use a cardioid pattern, That's what it sounded like. He was saying to me, Yeah, that they but there are several overlapping cardioid patterns so that he's picking up all the sound in the room, which I thought was another fascinating thing, the way that they use technology to teach the speaker what the room is like. I thought that was a really amazing concept and I think chris stringer is absolutely right in saying that, you know, people do need this right, the technology of a microphone listening to sound, how sound bounces around your room and fixing problems, but that nobody wants to actually hold that mic in their hand and put it in there listening position and put it back and deal with all of that can't the speaker just do it automatically. And that's what this thing um when, when you left Apple, was it to start saying, was that the reason? No, it was to find out what I wanted to do? Um I really had opportunity to Step off at a good time from something that had been quite wonderful for over 20 years and there are plenty of great, great people rising through the ranks and it was time to figure out some things for myself and on reflection. I realized it was audio products that always stole my heart, my deeply involved myself itself and everything that made sound at Apple from early days, um, sort of working on the harmon, kardon on the ice up through all body old products, through to um, and in the, these um, pro maxes that I'm wearing now, um, it's always been something very close to my heart and I think it was that early experience I had when I was a kid hearing stereo for the first time here, in the power of the imaging the phantom sound, where it clearly wasn't. Um um that has, that had me building speakers when I was 14. So I sort of returned to my old passion, I guess I've always been the behind the scenes guy on performance and this was the opportunity to, to live that out. But again, it's because I couldn't find my own speakers and speakers, you have an opportunity to design something that can last a lifetime in last generation's. Um, and that's where the tech really became front and center is how can we have the technological new curve for this to be a lifetime purchase? So when you see this thing sell Alpha, obviously it looks different than every other speaker. And uh, I was thinking maybe in this discussion we might find, uh, was there a moment that you knew what this thing needed to look like? And I think from what you've already told me not necessarily right. The look of the thing sell Alpha might have been, might have come later or was it the sonic benefits came first? Oh yeah, this, it's doesn't do very well in a podcast, but I'm holding up my little sketch, but that I carry around like it's my, my worry beads. Um, about four years ago I did a sketch of what I think is very, um, uh, clearly saying sell alpha. Um, on that sketch, I hired the first few people to, to realize this, uh, this vision and within um, something like 60 days we had a working prototype, uh, to demonstrate much of what we can do now, in terms of placing sound in space and creating extraordinary experience with sound that we thought was already very familiar, but I'm really starting to hear the beauty of sound again. And uh, that on top of that we built the company. So, the vision for the object was really clear in terms of when you think about what instinct is, it's not something you're born with, it's what you obsess about. I spent decades obsessing about sound. Somehow I paid a lot of attention to the great engineers that I've managed to interface with in in my career. So it just came to me what the obvious solution was for delivering. Um this this any number of channels from any number of speakers solution that it was obvious to me that we needed. Um so, um, it was in many ways the easiest design if the design is to configure um an object. Um, but clearly it was four years of brilliance from the team to recognize and realize what that sketch was hearing you talk about. That reminds me of all the interviews I've heard with musicians where they will describe the process of coming up with their most famous song, right? And somebody had an inkling of an idea and they brought it to the band and then the band collaborated and that was how we got the finished product. Uh, I'm wondering for chris Karaiskakis when you saw those sketches that chris Stringer just showed us when you saw that? What was your first thoughts that will never work as a speaker or were you immediately in on this? How did that work? So, I I actually joined the team after that step. Shortly after the step where the sketch became a prototype. Our chief architect, the electroacoustic person in charge of the speaker design. Ryan, like I said, I think what you just said, um and that he has a lot of experience designing from the, from the tiniest two very large speakers, but he didn't say it couldn't be done completely. There were some modifications I know that were made that brought us to what we have today and when we look at the prototypes that we still have around the office and chris loves to show them because they're so representative of the, of the journey. Um, the idea, the idea of placing three drivers and wolfers and creating a whole technology of how to steer sound, outside running on a computer uh taught us so much about how to control sound and space that I think, I mean, I think if we really look at the original design that chris has sketched, it's really close to what he envisioned that. That's my opinion. It yeah, I would agree from the sketches, I just saw they look, I would say, oh that's that's a saying sell Alpha, maybe that's the first drawing of it. I immediately knew what it was as soon as he showed me. So yeah, the final end product was pretty close to the original vision but and yeah and that's this is from years of paying back just paying attention. I mean that the job is to um of design isn't to think about shapes. Um I think we've compartmentalized roles so much by making sense of industry that there has been a suggestion, there is a division between design and engineering. I just don't see it. Um I'm kind of blind to that because an object is what it does. Um And the more you get out of the way of of of of cause and effect, the better designer you are. So because there's an awful lot of poetry in in these principles that will be demonstrating and it's just by showing that the true nature of the true nature of the acoustic path. To make it transparent. So you really can see it's full of air and that's why we call the enclosure of the lungs. It just gives breath to the to the base and you can see discreetly inside of that, the fully sealed higher mid array which is essentially sat in um at the center of this uh sphere. This this black sphere that contains this X drivers three pairs individually sealed, providing sound to the horns. Um So yeah, that's that's a complete subsystem inside of the wall for it really is expressive of what it does. It's just showing what it does because again, most of its air and air pathways. So it's what's not to love it really is like an instrument. I'm curious to know from both of you guys. Uh, what are, what music are you passionate about listening to like when you go home, when you're done at work or maybe while you're working, what music do you have on in the background, what music do you critically listen to? What, what music drives you? My usual answer to that is something I've never heard before. Um, I um, I have to admit I fell out of a music habit despite my obsession behind the scenes. Um, because hearing music at home out loud is kind of how I want to hear it. It was, I had my, uh, my first paycheck at apple. I went to music lovers in san Francisco and my full Conrad johnson system tubes and so on and um, but once that got retired out of not being able to fit in the house, hence my thesis. Um, my listening habit fell off, but just listening to all kinds of genres again. But I would have once dismissed everything sounds better when you hear it Well, quite honestly. I really loved listening to a lot of instrumental music, really hearing um, sound that you understand that has place, um, as in humans playing instruments. So, um, sort of, yeah, real, real band, real um, instrumental music and voice definitely more than to synthesize personally, but that, that it's all down to taste. It's um, certainly no, no dogma about about genre were very genre fluid. And now we're here, hey, if it sounds good, it is good. It doesn't, doesn't matter what genre it. Exactly, yeah, chris Karaiskakis, any, any thoughts I want to share about what, what do you like to listen to? Like what music makes you move? Classical music is my passion. I grew up with it. My dad was growing up in Greece, one of the first audio files when audiophile was actually a good word in the, in the beginning. Um, and so we grew up and he was a mathematician as well. And so a lot of interesting panels about audio and, and classical music. Um, I have 100 and three recordings of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, that it's a little known fact. I love to compare them. I love studying conductor styles. So the ability to listen to them from what I have now from lps all the way up to laser disc and all formats you can think of is amazing when you can hear them on a, on a system that produces spatial sound, the way it was supposed to be, even even from mono recordings. And so, um, there, that's a little secret that nobody knew. Nice. We got the exclusive here on that. Uh, one of the other things I wanted to ask you guys and again, this is kind of the crux of our podcast is we want to know what stuff did you like so much, What gear did you like so much that you wanted to purchase it and take it home and chris maybe you can elaborate on the system you bought, like you said with your first paycheck from Apple or maybe there's some piece of gear. Maybe it's your tv, your projector, your home theater. I assume you have sing sell alphas around the house. Right? So, uh, but anything any other gear, maybe it's the headphones you're wearing right now. You mentioned them earlier. Is there any other gear that you just love so much you went out and bought it? Honestly. Um, the true answer to that is probably, um, this is ridiculous. It's cooking. Um, the guy I love is my new inductive stovetop. Um, it's a revelation. I love cast iron cookware. Um, I'm not much of a technology guy is what I'm saying. Um, it's, it's strange. Most of what I use are things that continue to buy my friends an apple. Um, and um, I don't know very much of a technological footprint in the house. So yes, that's why I built sing, sell alpha because from the devices I can listen to and watch it and that's what I'm watching beautifully. Um, so yeah, I'm not much of a electronics guy. Um, yeah, probably my coffee machine would be the next one that, yeah, I just got the new weber workshops, um, key grinder. Um, that will probably be up on my list too. So I apologize for not being deeply electronics and my desires and tastes. I see electronics and technology as a tool for realizing things I want to build and um yeah that's that's the kind of world I designed to sell for is um is for for them to take a side seat and just just be useful not demand too much attention and when my attention is needed it's usually on the on the yeah the coffee and the food. No need to apologize for that chris. Absolutely. Uh when you watch I'm just curious now when you watch tv if you watch tv or movies or anything are you just watching them on a you know a 55 inch flat panel or do you have something a little bit nicer than that? Oh no no I'm I've been through the phase of building building in audio and sound and I'm just loving the liberty of uh placing speakers where they fit amongst the furniture and I do have a guess 55 65 watch your Tv. But yeah now we can about to launch the single link cable so you can have 512 using cells straight from that and there's nothing better. Yeah that's the H. D. M. I. T. USB C. Cable is basically is that basically what that is? So we can get tv sound using enhanced A. R. C. Audio return channel into the sing. So it becomes a great way to make a tv sound great. Absolutely. Uh I actually could I redirect that question to chris Correa caucus about because if you've been comparing all of these recordings for so many years before the Alpha came along, what kind of a system did you do that on? Yes. So yeah, I'm kind of at the other end of this. So in the early two thousands in my lab at USC together with my colleague at the time at USC was Tom Holman of THX fame. He was a professor at USC at the time. Along with me, We developed a system that was called 10.2 which was a clever marketing name for being twice 5.1 uh and then and developed content for it and so on. Um many discussions with the industry trying to promote the idea that more channels is better because it's more enveloping and that's what sells. And so I've had A 10.2 system at home for a very long time now it's called at most of course. Um and there's actual content for it other than the content that we used to make, just specifically for that. The thing that so I don't want to get into brands of loudspeakers, but I do so I have a 71 floor system with a large projector screen that pulls down or actually in my case up from the floor. Um but the thing that I won't live without is my previous passion II. The receiver that decodes everything has to have something that really drove me from academics into the real world, which was the development of odyssey room correction. And so you can't have a you cannot have products and now we have them in the cell doing it in a very different way, but without adjusting for the environment, you have to you're missing out. And so that's what odyssey was a game changer for us selling home theater receivers to our customers. We used to have to talk to them about going into the menu and telling it, you know, small medium or large and putting in an approximated distance for how far each speaker was from your listening and set up of a home theater was a daunting task. Uh and many calls into our tech support department to help people get through that or people just didn't do it and who knows what their home theater experience actually turned out to be compared to what it could be. And uh odyssey and most a V receivers now have some version of a room correction software built in and it pretty much does the job, I mean you plug the mic in, you hit play, you you shut up for a second or you leave the room so it can do what it does and it's amazing how well it can fix a room. Uh and of course that's with speakers all around your room. So it just makes sense to most people's brain, that of course it can do that. Uh and then to put that technology into a single 12 or three speakers in the room and to utilize that same stuff and kind of in a, in a new way uh is that was the challenge actually, it had to be different because new, new ways had to be developed and because the customer of odyssey, you know them very well is is the geek that doesn't mind putting up a microphone on their couch when their partner is not in the home or even when they are. That's not scalable. I mean it's it's a wonderful and a big part of that geekiness. But if you want to reach the world, the way chris is talking about, you have to do this seamlessly has to happen in the background. So we have to develop a whole new ways of doing this without involving stuff in the middle of the living room and elaborate setup process, very proud of having been part of that because it works really well. So yeah, these, these systems we talked about with great pride. Um these are hard working, very expensive and take medication obsession. So how do we get 9/10 of that satisfaction to 9/10 of the people. So that's that's the goal is to democratize that. Um and also really paying attention to home ownership and adaptability, flexibility. We'd rather be putting out time and money into experience that we can keep with us. Um, so this is how I see how technology can serve and the reasons that have driven me not to engage, take those away because I'm part of the other world, the, the, I'll go do something else if it's too hard when it comes to electronics and I think there are many others and it's ironic that I um, speakers speak like this from the world I'm from, but I see it technologies and service to our behavior and therefore our benefit chris how do you like your new life of running a company versus being a cog in the wheel? Probably an immediately a big cog, right? But it's a, it's a little bit differently than being an employee. What's it like to run the company now? I'm enjoying the whole experience of the brand and the product. Um, that's what I've always cared about and an ability to conduct the overall is, is a beautiful thing and you sort of described it. Um, the way that the process sounds like being in a band, well, it's got our own band, um, and enjoying my role in it and the way you described, how it works. It's exactly how it works and to build that culture, the creative culture, to deliver products for creative people. Well, that's, that's great for me. Thank you guys so much for being here with us today, Chris Stringer? Thanks again for spending your time with us. Chris Karaiskakis, thank you for taking the time out to hang with us today. Uh, and uh, it's, it's been a pleasure to talk to you both. Thank you. So that was our interview with Chris Stringer and Chris Karaiskakis from Sing, talking all about their brand new Sing sell Alpha. We've had it available at Crutchfield here for a good little while now and we're super excited for you to hear more about the story of how it came to be. We've been selling it long enough eric to have a customer review written on it and it's not a short little throwaway review. Somebody really passionately wanted to explain their experience with the saying sell alpha kind of review. There is, yeah, get this, you're gonna love the title of this review. First off, it's five stars. Started with two cells now own six. Yeah, this is Peter from Tampa Florida. Peter says, I have never actually owned a high end sound system, however, I have a few friends who do and I own high end ear monitors. So with some understanding of what good sound is, like, I can tell you the sound sing cells put out is incredible. It is better than some $10-$20,000 setups I've experienced. I am especially impressed with the balance between very powerful bass and the crisp clarity of higher range as well as the clarity of sound overall so far. Does this sound like what you remember experiencing with thing cells in the room? Yeah, I appreciate his context. For some people will spend way more than this. We talked about this being kind of an expensive speaker but people will spend way more than that to build a stereo system to some people. This is a cheap speaker. Please know that Peter goes on to say not a hint of distortion even at high volume. I definitely noticed that even when I was turning the single cell sing sing cell speaker in the vendor training room up to its max to get it to be as loud as I wanted it to be. Never once did I hear distortion on that. So it, it controlled itself very well. The definition is such that I heard many nuances in my favorite tracks for the first time. Even balanced armature headphones couldn't deliver them. The sound stages very alive and engaging. It's like going from HD to four K. That's high praise. We're not done. Also, somehow, even when it's loud, it's not deafening or uncomfortable, the sound is so clean. There is certain transparency to it which makes for a finer listening experience that sort of speaks to that cocktail party where you can have the music loud and you can have a conversation at the same time. Peter goes on to say you don't get tired from sound even if played for hours and remain aware of the environment. I can talk to someone and hear them well without turning down the music much. And when you get three cells playing together, there is that space volume multiplier which just makes it intoxicated. We might get this guy to start writing for pretty good. You don't know where the source of sound is anymore. You are just bathing in layers of sound which penetrate your whole body. It's an experience like I've never had can't get used to it and can't get enough of it. Initially I got only two cells to try them out, then added one more and then got another three cells system, yep, that's how it works. You just get one and then all of a sudden here you go. Everyone in every room in the house and that's actually something I don't know. Is there more to what Peter had to say? He's got some pros and cons and I do what he did. Give us a con. So I think that's fair to make sure everybody gets to hear one thing that Peter didn't find great about the sing sell alpha. All right, well, let's let's hear what Peter has to say. First his prose incredible, voluminous sound with an extremely satisfying bass, beautiful high end quality item which is almost like a piece of art in appearance. Lossless sound streamed effortlessly from phone or tv a great home theater with no wires across the I don't know of anything of similar value for the money. This is a very good deal unpacking and setup feels like an adventure. Great user experience that beats even Apple. He clearly loves his six sing sell alphas. He does list a con here it is. The app is pretty and straightforward but can be glitchy needs some debugging. The speakers get disconnected from wifi sometimes if not used for a while I had to unplug them to restart. Can be annoying. So I think the lesson there is don't go very long without listening to your single self and you'll be fine. Obviously, obvious takeaway in fairness though, you know, getting an app just right is not an easy thing to do when it comes to, you know, a multi room, multi speaker music system. It's a tall order for that app to do everything it's supposed to do. And the beauty of an app usually is that when they come out with a fix, it gets downloaded off automatically. You don't have to go to any trouble to get it. Yeah, there's nothing wrong with the hardware. I never replace the saying sell alpha, but the app will get better over time. For sure. Yeah, it's, it's an ongoing process anytime you come out with something, especially something that innovative because that was what I wanted to add in was we never really talked to them much about the app and the app that we played with was pretty cool. The way you could use the visual interface to decide which speaker you are going to throw the music to. It was kind of like you could almost move the music around the room. I thought that was very, yeah, it has like the big circle and you can sort of identify where the speakers are and then move the sound around the room to cool. Uh, peter, the guy that wrote the review from Tampa florida also did upload a picture so you can see what the to sing sell alphas behind his couch looked like I love our customer reviews. So many people upload pictures now. So it's kind of cool to see the stuff we're selling selling in action. That's another decent point because chris Stringer has a design background and thinks like a designer. I think a lot of people who might balk at putting a bunch of equipment in their house would look at these and go, that looks great. I don't really have a problem with that being in my house. No. Yeah, it has a sort of modern look to it. It doesn't look like a big honking speaker. Uh, it looks space age and cool. And then it happens to sound amazing too. Did you find it interesting? When I asked chris Stringer, uh, the question I asked everybody on our podcast, which is, tell me, tell me about the stuff you loved so much you bought it, right. And, and I think it's usually fairly obvious to the person I'm asking these questions to that I'm asking about, you know, audio gear, car stereo, home stereo, turntables, tv cameras, drones, anything we sell, right? He did not go that direction at all. He talked about his coffee grind. Yeah. And, and his cooking utensils, his cast iron pans and stuff, but he's not a technology guy. Yeah, So he made that quite clear, but, but he does love music. So I'm assuming that since he's invented, what is his perfect speaker, he didn't really need to buy anything else after that. Probably not. I think he's probably, he's probably his house probably has several things cells and he's good to go. In fact, he did mention that he had them strung along throughout the entire house. So yeah, he's got that covered. Now he can just cook and drink coffee. And that's kind of what we want these products to do is be part of your life, enhancing your life as you go about your daily business. And the things sell Alpha is one of those things that does that in a really nice way. Yeah, you may love music, but you probably love other things too. And how nice is it to just let the music just be there when you're doing all the other stuff. You love. Uh, so now that we're at the end of this erIC, I think I need to ask you, you get, uh, as part of your job, a lot of exposure to a lot of really, really cool products, you write pages about some of the coolest stuff we sell, high end gear turntables, things like that. Right? What have you purchased? What have you chosen to keep at your house that you're excited about? Well, this has been a big thing. The people who worked with me know this, like I had lived in a two bedroom apartment for a long time so I could keep my son in the right school district that he was already in. Uh, and when he graduated, I was like, we're moving to a house now and it's going to be close to work and all that kind of stuff. And so now I'm in a house where I can listen to my music louder than I would in an apartment. So I got a leak stereo, 1 30 amplifier, and I got a couple of dolly uh, loudspeakers, the Oberon Sevens, I believe that what they're called. Uh and uh, I love them. Uh that's, that's what I like. The look, this is kind of ties into what we're talking about. Like I like the look of the leak. It's wrapped in walnut. It's got a kind of an old school vibe. That's my vibe. That's what I want. If you didn't know better, you would say that the League stereo and 30 was maybe something made in the seventies, right? And I, and I just loved that walnut, you know, feels warm and I have wood floors. It just kind of matched the place where I was living. It looked right in my room and it sounds right. Yeah. You're pretty happy with how it sounds. Yeah. Tell me more about the speakers again with a dolly. Which one's the towers? I believe they're called the Oberon seven. Oberon seven. I'm pulling them up on the website now. Okay. Yeah, Mass pair of floor standing speakers in the black ash or the light oak or the dark walnut? Did you go dark walnut meets the leak. I got the black ash because I got a great deal on that color. But otherwise I would have gone all walnut. Yeah. So these speakers look pretty um good reviews on them from customers so far. How did they take any kind of break in period for them to sound the way you wanted or did they sound pretty good right out of the box? I I got them after we had used them in a demo here. So they had had some break in period before I actually took them home. Um but that's part of also why I got them for a better price was they had already been opened and used. So I was like, cool, I can, I can take advantage of this and and take home a great pair of speakers and, and save a couple bucks. Nothing wrong with that. Not at all. They, they did have a little damage, but you know, like a little on the, like one of the plants uh, was, was cracked and then the other one had some damage to the mdf on the back. The medium density fiberboard, pardon me. Um, and so things that you can't really see and that did not affect the way that they sounded, but we would not put that in a box and try to sell that to a customer as a perfect, you know, example of this speaker. We only send you ones that are pristine. Do you have the grills on your speakers or did you take the grills off? Yeah, because they look pretty nice. Either way, these are good looking speakers. I would love to come over to your place and listen to some music. Something they're danish. Right. Uh Dolly is danish probably I believe that's accurate. Let's see if I can find out really quick. Sure enough dolly danish. Audiophile loudspeaker industries is what dolly D. A. L. I stands for. They've been making high end speakers since 1983. The company's designs are guided by fundamental principles like wide dispersion and low distortion. While rigorous manufacturing standards ensure that every dolly speaker delivers natural detailed and ultra revealing sound with music and movie soundtracks. Did you write all that? Somebody else? Did somebody from dolly? Probably I don't know if there's any of this is going to make the show or not because this show is not about dolly, but not at all. I mean, I had you here, I figured I'd ask you the Crutchfield the podcast question. Uh, and uh, would you say your dolly speakers live up to that hype? I mean, that's a pretty bold statement. Yeah, I think they sound great. I've, and I've had a chance to listen to them with a more powerful amplifier, a Rotel amplifier and they sounded even better. But you know, the leak is my choice. They sound great in the, in the room with that. I think it's like 45 watts of amplification though. They're six ohm speakers. So, uh, they're probably getting a little bit more. About 50 or 60 watts probably. And that leak is no slouch. When it comes to power, it doesn't, 45 watts doesn't sound like a ton of power, but audiophiles know if you got the right kind of amplifier, 45 watts is plenty awesome. ErIC. Thank you so much for coming in and replacing the other ERIC. This has been a lot of fun. I've enjoyed it. Not one pun the entire time, I feel good about it. We'll get ERic back in here for the next episode. He will be back and he's already planning to, to overload us with puns. I'm sure Big Thank you to Chris Stringer from Sing and Chris Karaiskakis also from sing. Uh, and for eric to take time out of two different days, one to interview those guys and to to be here with me to talk about it. Uh, and thank you guys at home for listening to Crutchfield, the podcast.

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