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Thread: Excerpt from Tim de Paravicini regarding the state of digital

  1. #41
    Industry Expert MtnHam's Avatar
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    One of the joys of large electrostatic panels is that the 'sweet seat' becomes the 'sweet zone' which you can move around like a holograph and experience different perspectives of the 'stage.' The full frequency range doesn't collapse because you moved! The music is full and rich where ever in the room you are.

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  2. #42
    Member Sponsor microstrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al M. View Post
    That is fascinating.

    I grew up with vinyl, but as an audiophile later in life I built my systems on CD playback since I cared about availability of music and always had strongly disliked the clicks and pops of vinyl (CD, even with all its initial shortcomings compared to today's high-quality playback, made me breathe a sigh of relief, and I never looked back at vinyl). When after my first excursions into high-end I heard vinyl on highly resolving systems, I was impressed by the airiness on some recordings, an airiness not found on CD. Yet paying attention to the sound at live concerts of unamplified music (mostly classical, old and modern) changed that positive reaction over the years.

    In live situations I heard not just many degrees of air but also many different kinds of air, all depending on hall acoustics and seating position, close to or far away from the stage. Sometimes the sound was rather earthy, with quite little air, other times it was immensely airy (Boston Symphony Hall, row 4 close to the stage; in other concert halls I did not hear this air sitting so close, and when you sit further back in Boston Symphony Hall, the sound is more 'normal' as well).

    Yet even with all these different degrees and kinds of air, I never heard live the kind of air that quite often I heard from vinyl (and still do from that source, such as on quite recent occasions). I have now concluded that the 'air' on vinyl is frequently an artefact, which is in line with your observations. I rather preferred the comparative lack of air that I heard from CD to the nice sounding but artificial airiness from vinyl. Yet recently, with the addition of BorderPatrol external power supplies for my amps, which do not generate the electronic noise that previously was emitted by the amps' internal power supplies and entered the signal pathway, I finally heard resolution from CD that previously was buried in noise. And this resolution includes an airy bloom that I had thought could not be extracted from CD. See my review of the BorderPatrol units:

    http://www.whatsbestforum.com/showth...-for-tube-amps

    And guess what, the airy bloom from CD does strike me as rather similar to what I hear live, thus as quite real and not as an artefact like from vinyl. For me, CD now clearly wins on this point.

    My question would be, how could high frequency compression, applied to vinyl, create artificial airiness? Is it because of sonic byproducts generated in the process?
    Al M.

    Great post, small world. I was reading your words on air, airiness, little air, artificial airiness, and I was linking them to some great sessions and talks I had with two friends about twenty years ago, when I owned the more airy speaker ever existed, the Ensemble Reference with the matching and mandatory Landmark stands. One of these friends later got the speakers from me and I know he re-sold them to some one in the neighborhood - the speakers should not be far from me now. These speakers tell you -stop, please look how airy the sound is! And now I found you own them looking in your profile.

    There is however one aspect that I would like to remember - the Ensemble Reference always sounded much better with CD than vinyl. The great victim of our comparisons was the Misa Criolla sang by Jose Carreras - we listened to it tens of times. Great days. BTW, at that time we also found that only a Forsell Air bearing CD player and DAC could supply all the air they needed - I am not joking!

    I also listen to classical orchestral music almost exclusively in CD format - my strong preference for vinyl shows mainly in jazz and a little rock or opera.
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  3. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by microstrip View Post
    Al M.

    Great post, small world. I was reading your words on air, airiness, little air, artificial airiness, and I was linking them to some great sessions and talks I had with two friends about twenty years ago, when I owned the more airy speaker ever existed, the Ensemble Reference with the matching and mandatory Landmark stands. One of these friends later got the speakers from me and I know he re-sold them to some one in the neighborhood - the speakers should not be far from me now. These speakers tell you -stop, please look how airy the sound is! And now I found you own them looking in your profile.
    Interesting, I don't know how the Ensemble Reference speakers sound with Landmark stands which were introduced after I bought them in 1991. I have stands from De Jong Systems, and in my set-up the speakers don't sound particularly airy -- but just right, if anything, rather on the earthy side. It does depend on the cables as well -- my Monster Sigma cables give a much less bright balance (comparable to MIT cables that I had recently for auditioning) than Ensemble's own cables from that time, for example. I found the Magico S1 that I auditioned recently to be more airy sounding (on those MIT cables). I found that speaker inferior, not necessarily because of the airiness (which just gave a different perspective on possible live sound), but for other reasons.

    There is however one aspect that I would like to remember - the Ensemble Reference always sounded much better with CD than vinyl. The great victim of our comparisons was the Misa Criolla sang by Jose Carreras - we listened to it tens of times. Great days. BTW, at that time we also found that only a Forsell Air bearing CD player and DAC could supply all the air they needed - I am not joking!
    The reason why the speakers sound better with CD apparently has to do with subsonic trouble on LP. From Dick Olsher's review:

    The specter of subsonics
    While the lower mids always sounded smooth, I became aware over time of grain and roughness through the upper mids and lower treble—but only with LP program material. Violin overtones lost sweetness and smoothness. A sense of strain would creep in that was not volume-related. The Ensemble PA-1 appeared to be performing better with digital than with LP program material. I decided to investigate this discrepancy using the Wilson Audio recording of the Beethoven Sonata for Piano and Violin, Op.96. David Abel's Guarnerius on the LP version of this was not as pure-sounding as CD. By comparison, the LP was beset with noticeable levels of grain and roughness riding along with the violin's harmonic envelope. The CD also managed to develop a better sense of space, the Guarnerius occupying an almost palpable space within the soundstage. What! CDs sounding better than LPs? I can't have that.

    Naturally, I began to strongly suspect subsonic energy as the culprit. With the grille off, it was easy to see the wild gyrations executed by the woofer; the introduction of FM and IM distortion became real possibilities. The fact that the PA-1's passive radiator is tuned high means that it is vulnerable to subsonic energy. The woofer is on its own in the deep bass and below, without any damping from the air spring of the cabinet.

    I decided to test this theory. Not having a subsonic filter handy, I introduced the Threshold PCX crossover into the chain, using only the high-pass feed above 75Hz. The deep bass and subsonic frequencies were attenuated at the rate of 18dB/octave below 75Hz. This really did it—the transformation was dramatic. The Guarnerius began to sing sweetly and with excellent focus. All grain and strain were removed from the upper mids. At last, the proper balance was restored: the LP sounded better than its CD equivalent. I missed the lost deep-bass information; there wasn't that much to begin with, but when you have none at all you notice it. But the accrued benefits were so great through the upper mids that I could not imagine listening to the PA-1 full-range again

    Apparently, the designer is aware of his speaker's subsonic vulnerability, because in the Owner's Manual the use of a subsonic filter is recommended as it "banishes all those non-musical signals (such as record warps) below the lowest musical spectrum, thus allowing a very clean bass." To be fair, I should point out that most minimonitors, and especially vented designs, would greatly benefit from the use of a subsonic filter. Properly executed, the real benefits of such a filter should greatly outweigh the potential disadvantages of introducing another active device into the signal path.

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    Last edited by Al M.; 01-22-2014 at 03:34 PM. Reason: Tonal balance of Ensemble speakers, additions
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  4. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al M. View Post
    That is fascinating.

    I grew up with vinyl, but as an audiophile later in life I built my systems on CD playback since I cared about availability of music and always had strongly disliked the clicks and pops of vinyl (CD, even with all its initial shortcomings compared to today's high-quality playback, made me breathe a sigh of relief, and I never looked back at vinyl). When after my first excursions into high-end I heard vinyl on highly resolving systems, I was impressed by the airiness on some recordings, an airiness not found on CD. Yet paying attention to the sound at live concerts of unamplified music (mostly classical, old and modern) changed that positive reaction over the years.

    In live situations I heard not just many degrees of air but also many different kinds of air, all depending on hall acoustics and seating position, close to or far away from the stage. Sometimes the sound was rather earthy, with quite little air, other times it was immensely airy (Boston Symphony Hall, row 4 close to the stage; in other concert halls I did not hear this air sitting so close, and when you sit further back in Boston Symphony Hall, the sound is more 'normal' as well).

    Yet even with all these different degrees and kinds of air, I never heard live the kind of air that quite often I heard from vinyl (and still do from that source, such as on quite recent occasions). I have now concluded that the 'air' on vinyl is frequently an artefact, which is in line with your observations. I rather preferred the comparative lack of air that I heard from CD to the nice sounding but artificial airiness from vinyl. Yet recently, with the addition of BorderPatrol external power supplies for my amps, which do not generate the electronic noise that previously was emitted by the amps' internal power supplies and entered the signal pathway, I finally heard resolution from CD that previously was buried in noise. And this resolution includes an airy bloom that I had thought could not be extracted from CD. See my review of the BorderPatrol units:

    http://www.whatsbestforum.com/showth...-for-tube-amps

    And guess what, the airy bloom from CD does strike me as rather similar to what I hear live, thus as quite real and not as an artefact like from vinyl. For me, CD now clearly wins on this point.

    My question would be, how could high frequency compression, applied to vinyl, create artificial airiness? Is it because of sonic byproducts generated in the process?
    Fascinating and very well articulated post...for a non-vinyl guy, I am fascinated to read your impressions built up over clearly a fair amount of time and experience. Thanks for that. Also appreciated the follow up discussions as well from Ethan.
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  5. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
    As I mentioned in the post you quoted, it helps to know what a regular compressor effect sounds like. Basically, a compressor varies the volume raising soft parts. So a singer's breath intake will be exaggerated. Since "airy" is associated with higher frequencies, a compressor that does this to high frequencies only will add even more "air."
    Thanks, Ethan, for the response. I am trying to understand a little better. The compressor raises soft parts, but isn't the purpose of high-frequency compression to lower the amount of high-frequency energy, so that cutterheads are not destroyed by the energy, as you pointed out? I would then assume that the compressor at the same time that it raises soft parts also lowers the high intensity parts of high-frequency content, and that everything is more equalized (compressed) towards the middle of the volume scale. Is that right?

    Also, why not simply have a high-frequency roll-off instead of compression? Or would uncompressed signal at, say 12 or 15 kHz, still have too much energy?
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  6. #46
    WBF Founding Member and Super Moderator JackD201's Avatar
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    Hmmmm. That was basic alright. It's been a while since I used one so be nice. Compressors will drop levels above a set threshold. The amount is determined by the ratio applied. At this stage compressors act and for all intents and purposes are peak limiters (depending on ratio selected). They make no distinction as to frequency, just everything that is at and over the threshold, are brought DOWN. The only time the soft parts come "up" is when the makeup gain is applied. At this stage EVERYTHING is brought up. Typically make up gain is set so you will have the same peaks (reference) so in a sense you could say that only the soft parts were brought up. As I've explained however, that isn't exactly what really happens. Everything is altered.
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    Addicted to Best! Ethan Winer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al M. View Post
    The compressor raises soft parts, but isn't the purpose of high-frequency compression to lower the amount of high-frequency energy, so that cutterheads are not destroyed by the energy, as you pointed out?
    A compressor actually lowers the loud parts, but then you can turn up the overall volume which ultimately raises the soft stuff. This article is mainly for recording types, but it explains in more detail:

    Compressors and Limiters

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ethan Winer View Post
    A compressor actually lowers the loud parts, but then you can turn up the overall volume which ultimately raises the soft stuff. This article is mainly for recording types, but it explains in more detail:

    Compressors and Limiters

    --Ethan
    Thanks, Ethan. Your reply with the link to your article was very helpful. I believe I now understand better the phenomenon of artificial 'air' on vinyl.

    The more general lesson seems to be, if the listener is not producing recordings like yourself, check the veracity of audio reproduction by comparison with the real (unamplified) thing, not by comparing formats or components amongst one another. One item that appears to sound "better" or "nicer" than another may actually sound worse -- less real -- in absolute terms.

    That lesson appears to have been disregarded for a large part during the 'analog vs. digital' wars -- and I am afraid, also by professional (or "professional"?) audio reviewers.
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  9. #49
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    Unfortunately the ambience and air is present on the work tape. So much for that theory.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FrantzM View Post
    Tomelex

    Read your comment about CD .. It's all good... One inquiry: Have you ever heard a CD recording of an LP? Do you think you would be able to separate the two? Reliably? By the way this inquiry is not to dispute your preference. One likes what one likes ...
    On my side it seemed to me the last time I conducted a serious comparison that the LP was as you say more realistic above 8 KHz... I did however find many CD on the Burmester system more satisfying than their (few and rare) LP counterparts... (Basis, Graham, Koetsu). The Mercury CDs in particular sounded very good on equal (different) but sometimes "better" than what I got from the few LPs I had... For the better piano recordings (Nojima plays Lizt Reference Recordings or the Stereophile Rhapsody by Hyperion Knight) and even for voices the CDs seemed better in term of verisimilitude of reproduction and when the LP was available as in the case of the RR Nojima...were IMO superior
    YMMV but CDs on the better DAC are far from "thin" IMO ...
    The sense of decay was a fault of earlier DACs up to the early 90's, the better contemporary DACs don't seem to have that problem...
    This experience of recording LP's digitally on a high quality LP rig was compelling to me. At 88 or 96khz I don't know I would say it is completely perfect. But maybe, close enough it is hard to say yes or no. Which leads me to think what people like about LP is an addition or coloration or some preferred sonic signature. And nothing wrong with that. LP's can and do sound great and are musically satisfying. But the sound of digital being different from that seems not to be due to an inability to pass the info that an LP does. LP playback has some character not present in a digital only recording.

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