Truth and Tonality: can they co-exist?

Jul 1, 2010
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#41
We were just debating the objectivity of the concept of accuracy. And it seems it was just shown it is not totally objective, as we can not reach a quantifiable state. As you know room acoustics, particularly small/medium room acoustics is very subjective - although there are some general accepted rules, each provider of acoustical treatments has his personal solution.
Yes, it does seem to get a bit messy when you release the sound into a room. Before that, even, as even great transducers don't seem to be capable of the fidelity of decent electronics. But even that can be measured at the listening position. Electronics, of course, are much easier, but the fundamentals remain the same: The component, transducer, room treatment, system that most closely reproduces the recorded signal in the listening position is the one that is the most accurate, the most transparent.

The most "natural" relative to some non-existant event? Now that is completely subjective - without any generally accepted rules.

Tim
 

Gregadd

WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
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#42
Let's see. All the arguments are here.

1. It's okay to indulge your euphonic preferences.
2. You are trying to recreate an original event that does not exist.
3. You can't make a real assessment because your room is not treated.
4. We even have the subjectivist and obectivist argument
At least we are on message.
 
Jul 1, 2010
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#43
Let's see. All the arguments are here.

1. It's okay to indulge your euphonic preferences.
2. You are trying to recreate an original event that does not exist.
3. You can't make a real assessment because your room is not treated.
4. We even have the subjectivist and obectivist argument
At least we are on message.
You're missing the most important one, the one that everything is predicated upon:

1) It is my system's coloration, therefore it is not less accurate, it is more natural.

Tim
 

fas42

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Jan 8, 2011
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#44
The component, transducer, room treatment, system that most closely reproduces the recorded signal in the listening position is the one that is the most accurate, the most transparent.
Since one arm of this discussion is that of the "truth" of the reproduction, which can also be called transparency, or accuracy, what means should be used then to determine that a particular system or setup is the most truthful? Are we only talking frequency and phase response, or the classic distortion measurement figures, more sophisticated variants of the latter, or even subjective evaluations, and combinations thereof. In other words, what are all the factors that should be brought to bear, and to what degree, so that somehow a conclusion can be made that one sound is or is not more truthful than another? Or can such a conclusion never really be made?

Frank
 
Jul 1, 2010
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#45
Since one arm of this discussion is that of the "truth" of the reproduction, which can also be called transparency, or accuracy, what means should be used then to determine that a particular system or setup is the most truthful? Are we only talking frequency and phase response, or the classic distortion measurement figures, more sophisticated variants of the latter, or even subjective evaluations, and combinations thereof. In other words, what are all the factors that should be brought to bear, and to what degree, so that somehow a conclusion can be made that one sound is or is not more truthful than another? Or can such a conclusion never really be made?

Frank
I think all of the above, depending on the levels in question, can be important (though the levels are often very unimportant). I think the question is always going to be pretty difficult, particularly when you get out of the electronics and into the transducers and the room. What is not difficult is to understand that there are "high-end" electronics that deliberately or inherently color the input signal and position that coloration as a marketing advantage, that the objective of hi fi is to reach for higher levels of fidelity to the aforementioned input signal, and that these colorations, while you may find them pleasant, do not make a reproduction system more accurate.

Tim
 
May 30, 2010
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#46
Yes, it does seem to get a bit messy when you release the sound into a room. Before that, even, as even great transducers don't seem to be capable of the fidelity of decent electronics. But even that can be measured at the listening position. Electronics, of course, are much easier, but the fundamentals remain the same: The component, transducer, room treatment, system that most closely reproduces the recorded signal in the listening position is the one that is the most accurate, the most transparent.

The most "natural" relative to some non-existant event? Now that is completely subjective - without any generally accepted rules.

Tim
So the objective debate ends when we BOTH have to rely on subjective opinions about our system performance and accuracy. This is the natural outcome - otherwise you would be listening with a top set of calibrated headphones just to be less subjective.

BTW, "generally accepted rules" is also just a dangerous subjective broad concept that usually can be used when nothing else is available.
 
Jul 1, 2010
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#47
So the objective debate ends when we BOTH have to rely on subjective opinions about our system performance and accuracy.
System performance? Yes. Individual components? Not so much.

You will see me point out the measurable and verifiable - that digital media is more accurate than vinyl, that active systems are capable of lower distortion than passive ones, that the differences between electronic components designed for accuracy instead of tone are small, perhaps even insignificant once you reach a reasonable level of quality. What you won't see me do is claim that my system, playing in my room, is more natural than yours.

This is the natural outcome - otherwise you would be listening with a top set of calibrated headphones just to be less subjective
I do. So when I take them off and listen to my speaker system, I have that reference. What that tells me is that, within its obvious limitations, my speaker system is good, but not perfect. Then I go to work and listen to many systems, in yet another room. They are not perfect either. So yes, all systems are colored and at some point you choose your color. But if you choose electronic components that are colored by design, you're choosing much sooner than you have to. That part doesn't have to be subjective, it can be accurate. And calling it "natural" doesn't dress it up any prettier.

Tim
 

Gregadd

WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
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#48
You're missing the most important one, the one that everything is predicated upon:

1) It is my system's coloration, therefore it is not less accurate, it is more natural.

Tim

Actually that's a new argument. Or at least in a new form.
 
Jul 8, 2010
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#49
people do not agree in what means "colors the sound as little as possible"
Then they are ignorant of the most basic audio metrics used to assess fidelity. Fidelity is easy to measure, and it's been done successfully for the past 60+ years. I understand that some people do not understand this, but there's nothing I can do about that.

--Ethan
 

mep

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 21, 2010
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#50
Then they are ignorant of the most basic audio metrics used to assess fidelity. Fidelity is easy to measure, and it's been done successfully for the past 60+ years. I understand that some people do not understand this, but there's nothing I can do about that.

--Ethan
How do you measure the sound of a capacitor or resistor? Every component used inside of our gear influences the sound even though it's not influencing the measurements. I've always said I would rather have a superior design built with inferior parts than a inferior design built with the best parts. However, given my druthers, I would rather have a superior design built with great parts.
 
Apr 3, 2010
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Seattle, WA
#51
The person who has the most accurate playback system in a room that colors the sound as little as possible. This is the only way to know what's really in the recording.

--Ethan
I disagree but not for the obvious reason :). Unless the recording engineer fully mixed the music with headphones, for us to hear what he heard, we must duplicate his room with all of its distortions! Otherwise, we are hearing yet another interpretation of the music.

Imagine if I record something with perfect mics but mix it to my liking using $50 plastic speakers. Do you think you will hear the same sound I heard with a different set up? I think not!

This is why we don't try to have flat response in our rooms because doing so means we will have less room gain potentially than what was used in the studio.

In general, I think the science of audio is totally broken. There is no standard to comply with. Who is to say a vocal is supposed to come out at 1:00 o'clock and not 12:50? What should its depth be? What should its tonal quality be? Why isn't there metadata in every recording to tell us that?

So at the end of the day, we wind up with subjective interpretations of what is good audio in our homes. We will never know for all recordings what the "right" sound or "truth" really is.
 
May 30, 2010
13,906
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#52
(...)
I do. So when I take them off and listen to my speaker system, I have that reference. What that tells me is that, within its obvious limitations, my speaker system is good, but not perfect. Then I go to work and listen to many systems, in yet another room. They are not perfect either. So yes, all systems are colored and at some point you choose your color. (...)

Tim
May be twenty years ago I went through a "headphone period". As you, I wanted to have the "more natural" sounding - I looked for frequency responses, distortion graphs. Happily at that time magazines made measurements - I remember they used a special setting for doing it. Koss, Shure, Senheiser, AKG, Beyer and a few more that I do not remember anymore - I really listened to a lot of them.

But one think was sure - the differences in sound between sets with similar measured performance were much higher than could be expected. Also, every brand had its typical type of sound, that sometimes propagated through the all its models, irrespective of relative sound quality.

I could find a preference for some models, but no way could tell that there was one of them that was less colored or natural sounding than the others .

Thanks for an interesting debate - I now understand better what are your priorities in sound reproduction.
 

mep

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Apr 21, 2010
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#53
My point is that measurements cannot and will not tell you how the parts you are using are influencing the sound you are hearing. Sure, you can measure their values, but that won’t tell you a damn thing about how they sound. Ethan was trying to say that measurements tell us everything and I don’t agree. We could build two identical amps or preamps but build them using different brands of parts. We could make sure all parts measure exactly what the schematic calls out for them to be. At the end of the day, the two identically measuring preamps or power amps will not sound identical.
 
May 30, 2010
13,906
4
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Portugal
#54
Then they are ignorant of the most basic audio metrics used to assess fidelity. Fidelity is easy to measure, and it's been done successfully for the past 60+ years. I understand that some people do not understand this, but there's nothing I can do about that.

--Ethan
Point taken.

“Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit” Matthew 5:1-13. And the ignorant?
 

mep

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 21, 2010
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#55
I disagree but not for the obvious reason :). Unless the recording engineer fully mixed the music with headphones, for us to hear what he heard, we must duplicate his room with all of its distortions! Otherwise, we are hearing yet another interpretation of the music.

Imagine if I record something with perfect mics but mix it to my liking using $50 plastic speakers. Do you think you will hear the same sound I heard with a different set up? I think not!

This is why we don't try to have flat response in our rooms because doing so means we will have less room gain potentially than what was used in the studio.

In general, I think the science of audio is totally broken. There is no standard to comply with. Who is to say a vocal is supposed to come out at 1:00 o'clock and not 12:50? What should its depth be? What should its tonal quality be? Why isn't there metadata in every recording to tell us that?
So at the end of the day, we wind up with subjective interpretations of what is good audio in our homes. We will never know for all recordings what the "right" sound or "truth" really is.
Amir-Do you really want recording engineers to be forced to have all voices coming out of your speakers at exactly 1:00 or all depth to be no more than 10’ behind your speakers? That would get pretty boring pretty quickly. I don’t want those types of standards. Where I think recording is broken is where engineers are forced to hammer recordings to 0VU so nothing has any dynamic range anymore. That’s where I would like to see some standards imposed, but even that would be tricky. It might be helpful if every recording had a couple of paragraphs written by the recording engineer describing what you should hear based on how he made the recording. And if the engineer was forced by the recording label to make a loud recording with no dynamic range, he should be able to come out and say he knew better, but he did what he was told.
 

Robert

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Nov 10, 2010
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#56
Would someone please list some components and speakers that are neutral and as accurate to the recording as possible? Or, at least please list one virtual system that would meet this goal.
 

fas42

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Jan 8, 2011
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#57
Fidelity is easy to measure, and it's been done successfully for the past 60+ years.
Every component used inside of our gear influences the sound even though it's not influencing the measurements.
These two statements put us in a great dilemma. How can we move forward sensibly in this discussion if somehow we can't get a handle on what's going on?

Frank
 

mep

Member Sponsor & WBF Founding Member
Apr 21, 2010
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#58
Would someone please list some components and speakers that are neutral and as accurate to the recording as possible? Or, at least please list one virtual system that would meet this goal.
Are you serious? I feel lilke I am watching Animal House and someone just yelled "Food fight!"
 
Jul 1, 2010
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#59
Actually that's a new argument. Or at least in a new form.
It's not a new argument at all. Whenever anyone takes the position that their source, amp, system, etc, is more natural, more life-like, more musical than equipment that measurably and objectively performs much better, they are making that argument. It is an argument made on audiophile forums daily.

Tim
 
Jul 1, 2010
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#60
My point is that measurements cannot and will not tell you how the parts you are using are influencing the sound you are hearing. Sure, you can measure their values, but that won’t tell you a damn thing about how they sound. Ethan was trying to say that measurements tell us everything and I don’t agree. We could build two identical amps or preamps but build them using different brands of parts. We could make sure all parts measure exactly what the schematic calls out for them to be. At the end of the day, the two identically measuring preamps or power amps will not sound identical.
There's a pretty simple solution to that, mep. Don't measure the parts; measure the performance of the completed component.

Tim