To date, in our ‘Meet Your…’ series, we’ve concentrated on dealers and makers. This time, we’re making a bit of a change. Audio Systems Optimized is a small company specialising in the set-up and installation of top-flight audio equipment. Essentially, Audio Systems Optimized is Stirling Trayle. He’ll be your resident expert for the day!
Stirling Trayle is not your ordinary audio installer. He has 30 years of experience under his belt, setting up systems for dealers like Bradford’s High Fidelity and dB Audio. He has also worked for companies like Immedia, Sumiko, and Spiral Groove, and now spends his time working for manufacturers – setting up their systems for events – or a select list of audiophile clients who use his services both for initial installation and regular resets of the system, especially for those who use turntables, which frequently require periodic maintenance.
His client list has learned that a thorough installation and set-up and occasional tune-ups works out considerably less outlay than regularly changing components in an often fruitless search for improved performance. Trayle believes most audio systems have the potential to sound good, but poor installation and bad set-ups squander that potential. So, he has devised a four-step programme in installation to make a system sound better. First, he evaluates the mechanical stability of a system, ensuring both external vibration and resonance, and self-generated noise in a system is kept to an absolute minimum. Next, he turns his attention to the electrical input to the equipment, checking everything from the circuit breakers in the fuse box to other devices on the same electrical circuit, to help reduce the ingress of noise from electromagnetic interference.
Then, Stirling Trayle addresses the room acoustics, although generally not in as heavy-handed approach as some feel important. He is more concerned with subtly placing the loudspeakers in the room and gentle treatment of room acoustics concerns, than turning every listening room into an acoustically dead studio control room through over-treatment. The loudspeaker placement issue is not a trivial one, blending the physics of placing the loudspeakers in the right place in the room, and the art of fine-tuning that placement until just right. This leads naturally to optimisation of the system. Everything up until this time could be considered ‘first fit’, as from here Trayle checks and rechecks everything, slowly balancing the system until it works perfectly.
It would be easy to dismiss this process as relatively prosaic. Get the equipment level, ‘dress’ the cables so that there are no power cords running alongside signal cables, clean the contacts, tighten the bolts, and so on. And yes, this kind of basic installation will help bring out some of the potential of a system. But Trayle has that unique combination of knowledge, experience, and something close to obsessive-compulsive disorder, which makes him uniquely qualified to not give up until he has extracted the last scintilla of performance from a system.
Many of Trayle’s clients are vinyl lovers, and it’s with turntable set-up that Trayle really makes his mark. To demonstrate this, we handed over the Editor’s VPI Prime with a Lyra Delos cartridge in order to watch him work.