The Perfect Portable Speaker?

The Perfect Portable Speaker?

Please note: Princeton Audio’s award-winning Site:1 speakers are not perfect.

Oh, our Site:1 wireless speakers are, of course, beautifully designed, exceedingly well-made, expertly handcrafted and carefully assembled to create a portable, Bluetooth audio system that provides blissful, high-definition audio, looks gorgeous, and will last a lifetime. But they are not perfect.

Because “perfect” doesn’t exist. And thank goodness. As Leonard Cohen once observed, "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."

Little Boxes All the Same
One of the oldest marketing tricks is when the manufacturer tries to persuade you, the consumer, that what is convenient for them is actually advantageous to you, i.e.: "It's not a bug, it's a feature!" So it is with the marketing of audio speakers that are machine-built, mass-produced, cheap, and made of ticky-tacky (MDF, chipboard, and plastic). The fact that they are all made to look and sound exactly the same is supposedly to the benefit of the customer, but is it really? Sure, high-quality products must be consistent, and consistently well-made. In our obsessive pursuit of the false ideal of “perfection”, however, we too often confuse it with bland uniformity, and soulless anonymity. 

The Philosophers Agree
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In her essay, The Beauty of Imperfection, Dr. Marianna Pogosyan writes, "The relentless pursuit of perfection  in possessions, relationships, achievements  often fosters hasty judgments."  She goes on to describe how the ancient Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, an understanding of the beauty of imperfection, has long been regarded as central to spiritual enlightenment, "...these objects become beacons of our humanity: our ability to feel, to empathize, to connect, to love."

In “The ‘Perfect’ Problem: A Sketch”, writer David Plylar explores how perceptions of perfection influence our encounters with art, noting “There may be no “perfect” performance  but there is infinite variety in the pursuit of unattainable perfection.” 

The Musicians Agree
Trigger + Caption.pngGuitarists, cellists, violinists and other players of stringed-instruments have long understood that the natural variations in the finest tonewoods give each instrument a very desirable and distinct character all its own. It is those subtle yet distinct differences in sound that leads their owners to think of them as individuals, often giving them affectionate names and professing their love for them. It is no virtue to be bereft of individual personality, and that goes for musical instruments as well as people.

Even musical tuning systems are less than perfect. The book “Music: Techniques, Styles, Instruments, and Practice” quotes The Encyclopedia Britannica as stating, “The mathematical basis of accurate tuning systems has been the subject of philosophical and scientific speculation since ancient times; nevertheless, no single system has been deemed perfect. All practical tuning systems involve a series of compromises, a fact that instrument makers have known for centuries.”

The Audiophiles Agree
In “Accuracy is Not the Answer”, writer Steve Guttenberg of Stereophile Magazine recalls his first experience listening to compact discs. While the new digital music was far superior to analog in terms of distortion and noise, and he was told that the new format neither added or subtracted anything from the recording itself, it did not sound perfect, just different. In a companion article for CNet, "The Perfect Sound Myth", Guttenberg adds that “Great sound is more of an artistic than technical pursuit. Perfect sound isn't really what most engineers are striving for; they just want to make a recording that sounds good. And good sound is a purely subjective call.”

The Scientists Agree
According to a 2015 story in WIRED magazine, Minnesota radiologist Steven Sirr trained a CT scanner on a number of priceless concert violins in the hopes of unlocking the secret of their unequaled sound. The CT scans would provide the most accurate possible measurement of a host of hitherto poorly understood details about it that other instruments could not easily gauge. As the article notes of the instruments tested, “Each was, like people, unique.”

Stradivarius + Caption.pngIn a 2012 edition of the Telegraph newspaper, Science Correspondent Richard Gray revealed that the secret behind the magnificent sound of the most expensive violins in the world was their very imperfection. Physicist and amateur violinist Dr. Franco Zanini, of the Elettra synchrotron laboratory in Trieste, in Italy, trained a particle accelerator on a Stradivarius violin to examine it at an atomic level. What those high-energy beams of light revealed was “…a host of tiny imperfections that helped create the sound."

Light Through the Cracks
Did you catch that? These musical instruments are amazing, not despite their many small imperfections, but because of them. And there were a lot of them. The article quotes Dr. Zanini as reporting that the instrument had been repeatedly modified, there was evidence of past restorations, the f-holes had been modified, there were insect holes, patches, cracks, parts removed from one place and later glued onto another, and “a lot of asymmetries”. Zanini asserts that those same imperfections and asymmetries in the construction and thickness of the wood are responsible for an effect called harmonic rejection where the wood’s natural resonance negates undesirable harmonics that can make tones sound unpleasant.

Perfectly Imperfect
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We are proud to say that Princeton Audio's lovingly handcrafted, portable audio speakers are not perfect. Yes, they are impeccably designed, thoughtfully engineered, built to last a lifetime, and offer remarkable sound. But the pure tonewoods used in the Site:1's construction are all slightly different  each as individual as a fingerprint. Those unique grain lines constitute a chronicle of the long seasons that shaped the tree from which it was harvested. It is that history of adversities that the wood endured which finally define it, and truly make it look and sound beautiful. And it is why our exclusive use of 100% instrument-quality tonewoods makes the Princeton Audio Site:1 the world's best Bluetooth speaker. 

At Princeton Audio, we pledge that our products will be true, that they will be beautiful, and that they will last.

Stay tuned,

Mike