Steve Elford

Steve Elford

About Steve Elford

Steve is a co-principle and co-designer at Vertex AQ. He is primarily responsible for the acoustic and RFI absorption strategies in the products, but has significant input into electronic design of the products too. He leads on the development of the Systematic Approach and runs the marketing and sales side of the business.

LeadingEdge Panels in Difficult Rooms

More and more of our customers are following the ‘Systematic Approach’ right into the domain of their room acoustics. Many people have now installed sets of LeadingEdge acoustic panels with fantastic results.

Big square or rectangular rooms can be treated easily of course, but what about more problematic shapes? Well (with the help of our dealers) customers with difficult rooms are finding great ways to solve acoustics problems. Ways that are stylish and aesthetically acceptable for everyone in the house, but that also solve the specific acoustic issues that such shapes always had before.

Indeed, customer’s who previously felt that their […]

By |April 22nd, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Yushan Cable Risers in Digital Systems

A few months ago we launched our new Yushan cable risers. For those who have not already heard about them, they are a set of 100mm wooden cubes that raise your cables and hold them secure with a clamp on the top. The inside of each cube is packed with an acoustic labyrinth to break down vibrations, and our EMI absorption compounds too.

The results under mains leads and speaker leads are excellent. The sound stage opens out considerably, the performance is tighter, faster and cleaner, with lots of extra detail.

But one of our dealers has many customers with big […]

By |January 30th, 2015|Computer Audio, System Setup, System Upgrading|0 Comments

The Aletheia dac-1 – Unsung Hero?

This week HIFICRITIC launched their new website and it looks great.

We’ve worked for many Years with Paul Messenger, who has written many reviews about Vertex AQ and also invested a fair wedge of his own money in our products. And Martin Colloms has followed us for many years, listening very intently to our products too.

When the Aletheia dac-1 went to Critic for review, Paul did the writeup. At the time he was telling all and sundry how smitten he was with the dac-1, but we also knew by comments on the Critic forum that Martin also really liked it. […]

By |August 8th, 2014|Uncategorized|0 Comments

LeadingEdge mini-panels with a turntable!

Over the recent weeks at The Right Note in Bath, GB, there have been several demo sessions for customer’s interested in the Spiral Groove turntable. And whenever Demos are carried out at The Right Note, there’s always a complete complement of Vertex AQ and LeadingEdge equipment used in the setup.

Now, if a customer comes along for a turntable demo, he might not be that familiar with some of the Vertex and LeadingEdge products and techniques, and this was the case a couple of times recently. Sure, the customers knew about our brands in general terms, the need for good […]

By |July 21st, 2014|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Brilliant Picos Raise Big Questions

The Pico Component Grounding Block (CGB) has been a huge success since its launch in November 2013. Already, many happy customers have been thrilled by the improvements one or more CGBs have brought to their systems. But how they produce such big changes to sound quality raises some serious issues about hi-fi component engineering, system building and indeed our understanding and perceptions about the theories and design priorities for hi-fi – from the bottom up!

First I’ll go over the background again, how Pico CGBs are used and how they work.

The Pico CGB has two RCA input sockets […]

By |April 19th, 2014|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Radar Love by Golden Earring (free upgrade!)

We use Radar Love for test listening quite a lot at Vertex, to develop prototypes and analyse system faults. A track like this is important because it stresses a system considerably. And we only need to have a few faults in a system to turn this track into an unpleasant mess.

Let’s consider a few specific details. First the drums – how they are played and recorded. In particular the kick drum and cymbals. The kick drum has a fast double beat and often a system loses the feeling of the quick pulses of ‘air pressure’. These pulses are smack […]

By |February 19th, 2014|Free Upgrades!, Sound Quality Discussion|0 Comments

Speakers In Corners – Or Not (free upgrade!)

It’s always a significant decision. Where do you put your speakers? There are domestic issues and sound quality issues to consider. And sure, it’s always going to be a compromise.

Elsewhere in this blog we have discussed the symmetry and accuracy issues of speaker positioning. But recently I saw a very simple and effective demo by Jeremy Baldwin of The Right Note, as he explained to a audience at a show a simple way to appreciate what can happen to the tonality of your systems sound if you put your speakers right into the corners of your listening room. […]

Time Domain Measurement

Update on the Time Domain Measurement Project

Back in 2008 we started a collaborative project with Nordost and Acuity Products to look at the possibility of new ways to measure hifi. Through 2010 and 2011 a considerable amount of work was done by myself and Dr Gareth Humphreys-Jones of Acuity Products. Over the last couple of years however, work on the project has been suspended. Whilst the results of the work is incredibly insightful, it was also very clear that to turn the software algorithms created by Gareth into an end-user friendly tool would require a large financial investment. And in […]

By |November 13th, 2013|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Aletheia DACs Power Switch

Why is the Aletheia DACs Power Switch on the back panel?

Last week, a customer who had just purchased an Aletheia dac1 asked why it only had a mains power switch on the back, and nothing on the front to switch on the mains power? (Thanks to Ruud in The Netherlands for a good question).

Well it’s like this for design reasons that we think are important for the DAC (and probably any hifi unit).

In the Aletheia DACs we bring the power in through the IEC inlet on the back panel then the internal wiring goes immediately to the switch and […]

By |October 20th, 2013|Aletheia Components|0 Comments

Vertex AQ USB Leads

Customers are finding that using the USB format to transfer digital data is an easy, and increasingly, a musically effective option. At Vertex we have to admit we love our Macs and DACs, and happily stream data about using USB leads. “Once you have all your music in iTunes and an iPod touch in your hand with the ‘Remote’ app, its very hard not to use it all the time”, says John Cheadle.

We have 2 performance levels of USB lead – the Standard and the HiRez. And like all the Vertex leads, the standard has the basic acoustic absorption which […]

By |August 17th, 2013|Computer Audio, Vertex Signal Cables|3 Comments

Volume Stability

How your system responds to the volume control is a very clear indicator of it’s stability in terms of systematic interaction.

Roraima mains leads – key for improving system volume stability

If a system has no significant protection against microphony and Radio Frequency Interference (RFI), then it’s really not going to perform well generally. One of the major characteristics of a system in such a condition is that it will have a poor response to different volume settings. At low volume the system sounds weak and flat, there is not much tonal expression, rhythm or musical involvement. At this low level, the […]

By |August 17th, 2013|Sound Quality Discussion, Systematic Approach|0 Comments

Listening Tests

When we make a change in a system and then have a listen to that change, we rush. We seem determined to come to quick judgements about the new piece of kit – is it better or worse than the item we just replaced. Some people insist on blind tests, A/B/A or what have you. But we know from our years of experience at Vertex, that when you substitute one item for another there is a lot more going on with that change than might first be apparent.

Every individual piece of equipment in a system effects the whole system. And […]

By |August 17th, 2013|Sound Quality Discussion, System Upgrading|0 Comments

Cables – Upgrade Outside the Signal Path First

So many times we see people who want to upgrade something which is reasonably good already, whilst other parts of their system are woefully inadequate. If you take cables for example, there is a strong desire to upgrade signal leads, but when the better leads get put in, there is often not much of an improvement, even though all the latest reviews say its great!

We suggest you look at things in a different way here. Is there another reason why you might not be hearing any improvements? You see, in our opinion, a transparent system will show up differences in […]

By |August 17th, 2013|System Upgrading|0 Comments

Reposition those Speakers

Many times when we speak to customer’s about their general upgrading experiences, and their use of Vertex, they talk about swapping cables and supports around, plugging mains filters in and out and so on. They discuss the changes to sound quality – more detail, better imaging, better bass, sweeter treble – all the great improvements we’d expect using Vertex certainly. But every now and then we get a customer who says he gets some of the improvements as he starts to upgrade, but not all that we say he should expect. So of course we discuss this with the customer […]

By |August 17th, 2013|System Upgrading|0 Comments

Vertex and Computer Audio

Computer audio is an ever increasing topic of conversation. And its a topic that quite a lot of people are rather negative about. Generally we think of computers as inferior for playing music, dispite the logic that the files, if stored and played back using a reasonable resolution format, should be as good as any other source. But why does this often prove not to be so when listening to the results?

Well, lets first assume a fundamental here, that any serious computer audio system will be employing an audiophile quality DAC. Now there are good quality sound cards out there […]

By |August 17th, 2013|Computer Audio|0 Comments

Experimenting with Change (free upgrades!)

One of the very important aspects about all of us, as hi-fi enthusiasts, is our attitude to change and experimentation. Some people have a system that has been set-up, and then not touched in any way for years, whilst others buy and sell components on ebay with the weekly washing. Two unusual extremes of course, but in our view both of these scenarios, and most points in between for that matter, are far from beneficial for the enjoyment of music.

Vertex customers will be familiar with our Systematic Approach philosophy, whereby the whole hi-fi, the room, the mains and so on […]

By |August 17th, 2013|Free Upgrades!, System Setup|3 Comments

Upgrade Planning

When people start with a few pieces of Vertex AQ, they have normally spoken to a dealer and read the Vertex AQ book about all the products, how they improve sound quality, how they are used and so on. With Vertex, the starting place is invariably mains products and supports, and of course upgrading is normally done in stages, a few products at a time. The obvious question at the beginning is, ‘where do I put my new items for best effect?’

So lets say as an example, the customer’s first purchase is 2 mains leads and 2 platforms. We do […]

By |August 17th, 2013|System Upgrading|0 Comments

Left, Right and Central Imaging (free upgrade!)

Often an area of great confusion and debate, soundstaging and imaging is a subject that needs to be properly understood in terms of both musical presentation and hi-fi functionality. Over many years now, throughout our research and product development, we have learnt a great deal about 3D soundfield perception, the science of signal behaviour and the reproduction of signals in a stereo context.

Here let’s consider the elements of left, right and central perception. The obvious mechanism is simply a level difference between channels, but the more important one probably, is the phase difference between channels. Phase difference relates to time […]

By |August 17th, 2013|Free Upgrades!, Sound Quality Discussion|0 Comments

Single-ended or balanced?

One of the significant decisions that confronts all of us sometime during our hifi upgrade journey, is the choice between a single-ended or balanced configuration.

There is a long history of supposed pros and cons for both systems, some based in truth, and some in myth. Probably the most significant misunderstanding with this topic is that its just a choice issue between single-ended or balanced interconnect leads – whereas in truth (for hi-fi), its more about the use of one or other of these configurations throughout large sections of a system, such as a single-ended or balanced amplifier topology for example. […]

By |August 17th, 2013|System Upgrading|0 Comments

New Topics

This post is here so that you can raise a question about something new.

When you first come to the blog, with a burning question perhaps, we suggest you first look at the categories. You may find here a category that will likely include the topic you are interested in. In that category you will find a range of posts, and one of those may be close to your question, or may even answer it. Or it might be that a thread of comments about that post may answer your question.

Of course you can also use the search function.

If the posts […]

By |August 17th, 2013|New Topics|3 Comments

Dynamic Loading

When we consider the often well held view that many modern recordings are badly engineered, particularly with excessive compression, we invariably find that this is not actually the case. Sure, a lot of your pop and rock is somewhat compressed, but equally, a lot of good modern recordings are actually very good.

But modern recordings are often more dynamic, busy and energetic than those of the past. Artists and studios do have commercial pressure on them to grab the listener’s attention for sure, but they simply are not that unprofessional as to drive their hard work into masses of distortion. No, […]

By |August 8th, 2013|Sound Quality Discussion|0 Comments

Dressing Those Cables!

The other day at Vertex Towers, we were discussing again the vital issue of cable dressing in a high-end system. Its a topic that comes up regularly, and users of Vertex cables will know that we describe cable dressing issues in the Systematic Approach, as well as in our instruction leaflets.

One reason why this was a topic of discussion again, was our experience during the Friday setup at the Heathrow Show back in March. At the show we had the new Aletheia dac-1, and the new Kaiser Vivace speakers, fitted with the upgraded Vertex crossovers – so plenty of performance […]

By |August 8th, 2013|System Setup|0 Comments

Introducing Unwanted RFI

In essence, watch out for something new being introduced into the environment around your hi-fi system or house that may instantly add another source of unwanted RFI. We’ve had several conversations with customers who have been puzzled over sudden strange and unwanted drops in sound quality, only to discover that they have recently installed a new router, or their kids have a new games console.

If your going to make any equipment changes in your house, by moving or adding any computer or RF transmitting device, or anything with a potentially noisy switched-mode power supply (TV, DVD player, DAB radio), be […]

By |August 4th, 2013|Sound Quality Discussion|0 Comments

Listening Height

Now that Vertex AQ is working closely with Kaiser Acoustics of Germany, we are involved in a lot more R&D across a wide range of technologies and equipment. One of these development streams has been with the Kaiser Vivace loudspeaker, for which we helped produce an enhanced crossover.

The Vivace has its ribbon tweeter mounted in a separate enclosure on top of the speaker, which brings benefits such as keeping the tweeter away from the high sound pressure levels found within the main cabinet. But this arrangement also enables a significant extra feature – the provision of an adjustment mechanism which […]

By |August 4th, 2013|System Setup|0 Comments

Background Software

Software running in the background when using a computer as a streaming source, may be a serious sound quality issue.

At a show a while ago we used a Macbook Pro with Pure Music. Pure Music is a much more ‘pure’ way to output the data from a Mac. It uses iTunes for you to select your music, manage playlists etc, but when you play the music it bypasses the normal apple replay processes (buried in the depths of iTunes and the operating system) with specially designed replay software which does the job much more efficiently and in a dedicated way, […]

By |August 4th, 2013|Computer Audio|0 Comments

Electronic Components – Generation and Susceptibility to RFI

Recently we received an excellent question from a customer. “is there an order of priority with components, with regards to their priority of ‘treatment’, based on both their generation of RFI and their susceptibility to RFI?”

Here is our answer which is in 2 parts:

1. Firstly we can make BASIC assumptions about the types of electronics, such as what type of technology is within them, how well they will be designed etc, and therefore their likely generation and susceptibility to RFI. But everyone should note that each product from any individual manufacturer may be much more, or much less of a […]

By |August 4th, 2013|Electronics|0 Comments

Using Multiple Jayas

Right from the early days in Vertex history we always knew that using more than one Jaya mains filter in a system was a key aspect of the Systematic Approach. Lowering RFI at more than one point around your mains network has a hugely beneficial effect.

You would normally start on the path of Vertex upgrades with maybe one Jaya, as well as perhaps a couple of Roraima mains leads say. This combination is going to bring a significant reduction in both RFI and microphony within the power supplies of the systems components, bringing a significant increase in performance. With your […]

By |August 4th, 2013|Systematic Approach|0 Comments

Upgrading to HiRez

The question of when to upgrade to HiRez components is an important one that is dependent on several significant factors. Performance and value for money always remain key targets of course, and we need to make sure we don’t get this aspect wrong because of an incorrect upgrade strategy. A fundamental guiding mantra must always be ‘find and fix the system faults’, rather than geting fixated on the last good Vertex upgrade – and wanting to upgrade that item to the next level. And also of course, ensuring that (more or less), we stick to the upgrading order – mains, […]

By |August 4th, 2013|Systematic Approach|0 Comments

Rhythm and Timing

As we make improvements to a system, what are we expecting to achieve?

The hi-fi industry has created a large range of ‘adjectives’ to describe the improvements we hear, ranging from the obviously technical, such as accurate frequency response, to those that are essentially human, such as a better expression of emotion. Some of our descriptions are very important to understand in some detail, because they enhance our ability to analyze system performance.

‘Good imaging’ might be one example. As well as basic left/right power levels, the ability to image well is dependent on a system’s ability to retain the phase integrity […]

By |August 4th, 2013|Sound Quality Discussion|0 Comments

Moving a system

When we move a complete system – litterally box it up, all the cables and everything and plonk it into a different location, it always sounds different. But also, if you pack up a system, then rebuild it back in the same room, in the same place in that room, it still sounds different!

Firstly what happens? (to the sound). Well it might get better, but it can also get worse. Often the soundstage is a different shape, often there is more clarity but also sometimes it sounds more splashy, and at other times it seems less clear with more distortion […]

By |August 4th, 2013|System Setup|0 Comments

Systematic Approach – General

For many years now, we have used the expression ‘Systematic Approach’. We use it in discussion with customers and dealers, with the press, at hi-fi shows, and so on. But what are we talking about?

Well, the Systematic Approach is a unified way of thinking. It means we consider all the influences on hi-fi performance in an integrated and balanced way. And to do this we need to have real breadth of information, not just a partial story based around individual components. The Systematic Approach draws together the views that a system is both a set of discrete components and a […]

By |July 31st, 2013|Systematic Approach|0 Comments

Amplifier Feedback

Let’s consider the amounts of feedback in your choice of power amps. Many times in the past this topic has come up with customers, and what choice they make. Is feedback an important consideration, or should they just look at the power and frequency responce figures alone?

Well in our view feedback figures are much more important than power or frequency response. If power is reasonable for the system, then its often the amount of feedback in an amplifier design that really influences the musical presentation.

When designing an amp, we can increase the amount of feedback in the circuit in order […]

By |July 31st, 2013|Electronics|0 Comments