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‘Aphex exciter’ effect: the hidden “holy grail” of audiophilism?

AJM1981

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Being around as an audio enthusiast for a while I noticed a few things.

1) Besides some general regulations on electronics and a company’s own definition of looks and quality, it does not seem that there are any regulations on what an amp should be or how it should measure etc.

2. Audiophiles like to mention that everything should be as 'direct' and flat as possible. Given that; an outsider would think.. “fine, an amp is an amp and now all equipment should sound the same”. But that is not what keeps the world going round. Amp X can sound like Amp Y with the bass dial 1 click ahead. Marketed by reviewers as ‘Amp X seems to be made for music genre x and y for genre y). As long as it is baked in, everything is fine.

3. Audiophiles seem to embrace the tube sound and like it when equipment stands out from the rest and has a bit of sparkle.

It was on this forum in another topic that I posted about that descriptions of measurements of the enhancer effect of class D Yamaha amps matches the description of the valve sound. That “sparkle in the midrange” and extra groove in the bass range. And Yamaha’s description came down to what is described in the link below.


  • Making vocals sound more "breathy". This is why the original product was called an Aural Exciter
  • Enhancing dull recordings, especially analog reel-to-reel tape recordings that have lost their "sparkle" due to repeated overdubs
  • Restoring old recordings by simulating lost spectral content

And another source, a must-read in my opinion

I didn’t know tube amps were utilising a variation of this effect, but it seems it is what historically set the standard for ‘the valve sound’.

Now audiophiles seem to hate physical or digital switches due to the “everything should be direct” opinion.

But… when a variation of that same effect is ‘baked into’ the amp without emphasising it is; and if they don’t have to toggle a switch, that amp certainly seems to get an own identity and emotional value to audiophiles.

When I read descriptions of some vintage class A-B that “sound like valves” or have “a distinct sound” that are sought after, I now suggest the chances are high they utilise a variation of the Aphex exciter effect.

Bit like the metaphor of an illusionist telling how the trick works, versus a wonder healer that claims “this is magic”.

Disclaimer: This is to create a foundation to a myth of magic, not to trash the effect. I personally really like applied variations of this effect. My Yamaha Wxa50 has it and the vintage Sansui AU101 I bought recently might also have one (‘baked in’). I mainly bought the latter because it is a perfect design match to my Denton 85th loudspeakers. It is now in revision

Opinions? Or do you have gear utilising this effect in some way and do you like it or dislike it?
 
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Blumlein 88

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1710967711834.png
 

Doodski

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1) Besides some general regulations on electronics and a company’s own definition of looks and quality, it does not seem that there are any regulations on what an amp should be or how it should measure etc.
The standards that peeps in the know follow is the standard theories from the great contributors of science that studied and developed electrical and electronic theories. Those are what matters the most at any rate. Those are the standards that are used for metering amps. Ohm, Kirchhoff, Volta, Tesla, Coulomb, Ampere, Faraday, Joule, Wheatstone, Maxwell, Hertz, Edison, Marconi, Fleming, Schottky, Schockley and many others have set the standard.
2. Audiophiles like to mention that everything should be as 'direct' and flat as possible.
The direct method was and is a effort from manufacturers to eliminate sections of electronics from gear so they have a lower cost of production.
3. Audiophiles seem to embrace the tube sound and like it when equipment stands out from the rest and has a bit of sparkle.
Some do and some don't. Each to their own. There are great audio systems made from both SS and valves.
 

Frank2

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I use the Behringer SX3040 Sonic Exciter and love it (if used in moderation).
 

mhardy6647

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source: https://www.worldradiohistory.com/A...iFI-Stereo/70s/HiFi-Stereo-Review-1977-12.pdf pg. 99 of the magazine

Full disclosure: I do like the way this album sounds -- but it's got an undeniable late-70s/southern California sheen to it. ;)

EDIT: Dang, that was a stupid review! :facepalm:
Carmelita is one of my favorite-est Warren Zevon songs of all of his oeuvre -- and I'd consider myself a significant fan, even at this late date. :oops:
 
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Doodski

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If this is the unit you Doods are discussing this a excellent enhancement in my opinion.
I really like what it does to the top end.
It fits with my PEQ settings and my ears' taste.
I also really dug the BBE enhancer. It made the high frequency sing too on audio gear.
 

DVDdoug

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The Aphex Aural Exciter was widely (albeit not universally) considered to be spawn of the devil himself back in the late 1970s.
It's a studio effect and anything goes in the creative process.

It might have helped with otherwise 'dull sounding records" which were far too common. Or maybe the producers using it were paying more attention to sound quality than most. There were some good sounding records so my impression is that they didn't care. The rumor was that classical music recordings (which I didn't listen to) had better quality.

I'd guess the effect was "turned-up" more than accidental tube distortion.

Most tube amplifiers I've heard were dull sounding (rolled-off highs) but I had a tube McIntosh once and it sounded perfect. I've never heard distortion from any amplifier unless the amp was broken over-driven. ...I grew-up in the 70s when tubes were mostly obsolete, but there was still some old tube stuff around. I haven't heard a modern tube amp, other than guitar amps, which aren't supposed to be high fidelity.
 
OP
A

AJM1981

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Press ENHANCER to enable Compressed Music Enhancer and add depth and breadth to the sound, allowing you to enjoy a dynamic sound close to the original sound before it was compressed. This function can be used along with any other sound modes.

Source : the manual of my Yamaha WxA50

I know it can come as a module, like demonstrated above on which it can be driven to the max.

Yamaha only seems to apply a subtle coloration of it with its enhancer feature. No option to go into extremes.

One can add a pinch of salt to a dish or empty the whole jar in it. The two outcomes differ, but the first one is preferred.
 

Robin L

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EDIT: Dang, that was a stupid review! :facepalm:
Carmelita is one of my favorite-est Warren Zevon songs of all of his oeuvre -- and I'd consider myself a significant fan, even at this late date. :oops:
And Poor Poor Pitiful me is one of mine, although the Jackson Browne/Bonnie Raitt version in the tribute CD "Enjoy Every Sandwich" is a better and more plausible version.
 

DWPress

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I used to have (still have in a closet) a Carver HR-772 integrated from the 90's that has a Sonic Holography feature. It was an interesting effect but certainly limited to a sweet spot.

Nowadays, running XO, convolution and EQ in the digital realm I could use any number of pro audio plugins to do similar things or really botch the signal. The days of hardware effects units are slowly coming to an end.
 

Keith_W

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All Exciters work by adding harmonic distortion to the signal. If you have the capability, you could look for a VST plugin that provides the Exciter effect. Some of them are free.

I have tried an Exciter VST plugin, and I quite like the effect. That lead me to look for a finer way to adjust the harmonic distortion components in my signal, which lead me to use @pkane's PKHarmonic. I am pretty sure he wrote it to demonstrate the effects of distortion, but if you use enough of it, it can mimic the effect of an Exciter plugin. I did multiple blind tests with visitors and I wrote about it here: Do we crave distortion. In that blind test, the majority of people liked the effect of added distortion, even though you should see the look on their faces when I told them what I was doing!

All this definitely goes against the typical purist audio mantra, but I think both sides are missing a trick. Objectivists who are opposed to it think that nothing should interfere with the artist's intentions. Subjectivists think that it is contaminating the signal, whilst ignoring the fact that many of their choices (e.g. valve amps, turntables) are already contaminating the signal. I think: some of these plugins are free, it costs you nothing. It can be easily defeated at the push of a button. You can A-B the effect in your own system, and if you prefer it, there is nothing wrong with that.
 

mhardy6647

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So now you've got me wondering how this effect ;) compares to the rich buttery sound :rolleyes: of a single-ended transformer coupled amplifier using a direct-heated power triode for output.
:)
 

wwenze

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I look at the photos coming out of my Samsung phone and I wish they can tone down on the edge "exciter"
 

Blumlein 88

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So now you've got me wondering how this effect ;) compares to the rich buttery sound :rolleyes: of a single-ended transformer coupled amplifier using a direct-heated power triode for output.
:)
I've said it before, if you want the SET sound, but your speakers need more than 3 watts, just load the SET with a resistor, and use the SET as a preamp. You will have the genuine SET sound. Plus you get the pretty tubes to look at while listening.
 

Keith_W

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So now you've got me wondering how this effect ;) compares to the rich buttery sound :rolleyes: of a single-ended transformer coupled amplifier using a direct-heated power triode for output.
:)

There was a blind test some time ago on ASR that compared the output of a SET with a solid state amp. I can't remember the outcome of the test (maybe someone can link to it?) but I do recall one member analysed the output and found that the SET varied its spray of harmonics depending on volume. It was quite clean at lower volumes, but loud transients were accompanied by a spray of harmonics.

The difference between an Exciter and all Exciter VST plugins is that they inject harmonics independent of volume. It was pointed out to me in another thread that there are volume dependent harmonic injector VST's out there, but I haven't found one yet.

BTW, you might roll your eyes, but that "rich buttery sound" of a SET is a real thing. But as JJ said, don't argue with someone else's preference. If someone likes that sound - great! Good for them, although it may not be for me. My only beef is when they are not honest about it, or go about it in a really expensive and complex way. I really roll my eyes when someone buys a >$100k SET amplifier and think that it is better than something more reasonably priced. This is not the same thing, we are talking about a free or inexpensive VST.

There is no need for you to wonder, BTW. Go here, download that VST, and choose Demo mode to try it for free. Waves is a reputable company, and if they said they designed that Exciter in collaboration with Aphex, I believe them.
 

mhardy6647

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There was a blind test some time ago on ASR that compared the output of a SET with a solid state amp. I can't remember the outcome of the test (maybe someone can link to it?) but I do recall one member analysed the output and found that the SET varied its spray of harmonics depending on volume. It was quite clean at lower volumes, but loud transients were accompanied by a spray of harmonics.

The difference between an Exciter and all Exciter VST plugins is that they inject harmonics independent of volume. It was pointed out to me in another thread that there are volume dependent harmonic injector VST's out there, but I haven't found one yet.

BTW, you might roll your eyes, but that "rich buttery sound" of a SET is a real thing. But as JJ said, don't argue with someone else's preference. If someone likes that sound - great! Good for them, although it may not be for me. My only beef is when they are not honest about it, or go about it in a really expensive and complex way. I really roll my eyes when someone buys a >$100k SET amplifier and think that it is better than something more reasonably priced. This is not the same thing, we are talking about a free or inexpensive VST.

There is no need for you to wonder, BTW. Go here, download that VST, and choose Demo mode to try it for free. Waves is a reputable company, and if they said they designed that Exciter in collaboration with Aphex, I believe them.
Did you not know?
I am an SET kinda hominid. :cool:



I am - now - curious about the add-on! As if I needed more distractions in life ;)
 
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