A Gold Standard for Listening Evaluations

PeterA

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Good to hear you are a musical omnivore. It is news to me that unamplified music is "only one type of music".

The unamplified music that I listen to includes classical, large and small scale, opera, jazz, choral, girl with guitar, folk, and blues. I even have some male a cappella. It all serves as great references because one can go out regularly to hear this stuff.
 

audiobomber

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Even unamplified voice and instruments have gone through a microphone, amplifier, recorder, probably a mixer each of which adds its signature sound. Then there's pressing for vinyl, processing/downsampling for CD, which can have variable results.
 
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PeterA

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Even unamplified voice and instruments have gone through a microphone, amplifier, recorder, probably a mixer each of which adds its signature sound. Then there's pressing for vinyl, processing/downsampling for CD, which can have variable results.

yes, but what else is there better than this for a reference? People can surely choose not to have a reference or choose amplified music if they wish. Jimi Hendrix said that he played amplifier not guitar. I’d rather use an acoustic guitar to gauge the natural sound of my system.
 
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Gregadd

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Hendrix is an exception to say the least.
I think J.Gprdon Hol called it "distorted distortion." As far as I know distortion does not discriminate.
I could demonstrate how difficult it is s to reproduce electronic music. But if you like heavy metal then that should be your reference. If you like chamber music...and so on...


T
 

Al M.

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Hendrix is an exception to say the least.
I think J.Gprdon Hol called it "distorted distortion." As far as I know distortion does not discriminate.
I could demonstrate how difficult it is s to reproduce electronic music. But if you like heavy metal then that should be your reference. If you like chamber music...and so on...


T

Karen has laid out well in her opening post why using amplified music as a reference does not work.
 
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spiritofmusic

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I've heard a fair number of systems that were fantastic on unamplified acoustic, yet God awful on the rest. So it's a nice idea to say this "best on acoustic" principle should be the test, but it's not the whole story.
 
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audiobomber

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My system needs to do it all. I have a number of selections which I use to highlight difficult passages, including amplified rock, pure acoustic, electronic, etc. I'm not happy until all sound right to me. By "right to me", I mean no faults I can identify; no mushy bass, no zingy or plinky treble, no gauze around the performers, coherent voice, decent imaging and soundstage. Transient performance is particularly important. I am very sensitive to snares that go thump instead of snap, and cymbals that go pushhhh instead of pishhhhh.

There are systems that do all of the above better than my system, but my system meets my standards. It holds my interest for hours of listening every day, and never does anything to annoy me. Any improvement would cost more than I am willing to spend, so I'm done. All I want now is the time to continue enjoying music.
 

Al M.

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I've heard a fair number of systems that were fantastic on unamplified acoustic, yet God awful on the rest. So it's a nice idea to say this "best on acoustic" principle should be the test, but it's not the whole story.

What was the problem on the amplified music, I assume rock etc?
 

bonzo75

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What was the problem on the amplified music, I assume rock etc?

His problem is he plays his poorly recorded prog on it and it sounds awful. But that is usually the music and his recordings not the system
 
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K3RMIT

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I thought Karen's essay was excellent and spot on. I can't tell you how many times I have gone down a rabbit hole thinking my system was better, only to learn that it was in fact, more "bloodless" (to use Karen's term). More importantly, each time I went down that rabbit hole, the only thing that brought me back was not the multitude of concerts I attend regularly, whether they be at Carnegie, Madison Square Garden, or Birdand, but rather, it was playing the Steinway that has been sitting in my the listening room for over 30 years. Karen, believe me, I get it!!!
May I ask how much your real piano sounds
compared to any recording you play on your system ? this should be at the top of his post. i can’t see how a smaller system can compare to a larger one. just pointing to the large full of blood mammal in the room near your piano
 

K3RMIT

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I’m guessing any good system plays sone to most well. I’ll say any given system has tracks to truly flaw you , but no system plays all to an amazing level. add to this each of us have a residual type of hearing unique to each of us.
 

Gregadd

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Karen has laid out well in her opening post why using amplified music as a reference does not work.
And while it works for her, I think it is incomplete. I don't care to argue this point further.
 

spiritofmusic

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His problem is he plays his poorly recorded prog on it and it sounds awful. But that is usually the music and his recordings not the system
Yep, that's it Ked, how didn't I get it before?
 

marty

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May I ask how much your real piano sounds
compared to any recording you play on your system ? this should be at the top of his post. i can’t see how a smaller system can compare to a larger one. just pointing to the large full of blood mammal in the room near your piano
I'm not sure I understand your post. Nobody would ever mistake a live piano for a reproduced one, no matter how good the system is that is reproducing it. That said, one might say that perspective is like looking a glass that has 50% water in it, and calling it half empty. A more optimistic view is looking at the same glass and calling it half full, which is the perspective that the great Harvey "Gizmo" Rosenberg reminded us of about 30 years ago, when he said that for the first time in the history of mankind, we now live in an era where music reproduction can achieve a reasonable facsimile of the real thing . That's an impressive achievement, but still, only a live piano can sound like a live piano.
 

PeterA

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I'm not sure I understand your post. Nobody would ever mistake a live piano for a reproduced one, no matter how good the system is that is reproducing it. That said, one might say that perspective is like looking a glass that has 50% water in it, and calling it half empty. A more optimistic view is looking at the same glass and calling it half full, which is the perspective that the great Harvey "Gizmo" Rosenberg reminded us of about 30 years ago, when he said that for the first time in the history of mankind, we now live in an era where music reproduction can achieve a reasonable facsimile of the real thing . That's an impressive achievement, but still, only a live piano can sound like a live piano.

I have always thought that it’s pretty amazing that we can even identify the sound of the piano over a car radio. We can quickly identify exactly who’s on the other end of a telephone call. Those little amplifiers and speakers are quite incredible. Good audio systems are so far beyond any of that. I have to think the glass is much more than half full, but I’ve been exposed to some pretty good audio and I am generally optimistic by nature.
 
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K3RMIT

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I'm not sure I understand your post. Nobody would ever mistake a live piano for a reproduced one, no matter how good the system is that is reproducing it. That said, one might say that perspective is like looking a glass that has 50% water in it, and calling it half empty. A more optimistic view is looking at the same glass and calling it half full, which is the perspective that the great Harvey "Gizmo" Rosenberg reminded us of about 30 years ago, when he said that for the first time in the history of mankind, we now live in an era where music reproduction can achieve a reasonable facsimile of the real thing . That's an impressive achievement, but still, only a live piano can sound like a live piano.
You are one of the most honest posters here. i truly value your comments. to have a standard for evaluation alone is a complex task. the size , type , room , source and so on yields to many directions to comment on. we all know the goal we want but even this is a complex debate. while I’m attending the next ausio show I wonder how many rooms I could even enjoy on any level.
just what gold standard do I attempt to apply ? your place is way above most all rooms to be heard at the event.
 

marty

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If you like the music being played, enjoy them all! Don't overthink it. It's like wine. There are only 2 kinds- wine you enjoy and wine you do not. All that other stuff (it tastes like plums, cassis, tobacco, burnt toast etc) is mostly crap. You either like it or you don't. Some of the best listening rooms at shows are the most humble of systems. (Did anyone ever hear a room at a show by Dick Shahinian-RIP- that they didn't enjoy? And his entire system probably cost less than most high end preamps today!) Conversely, some of the least enjoyable rooms are the ones with the most expensive Goliath systems. The hard part is to try and figure out why you liked the sound in a particular room and then try at figure out what you might take away from it that you can use to enhance what you are trying to do at home. If I knew the answer to that, I'd be a smart man.
 
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ashandger

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Totally agree with Karen’s comments. I would like to add that, for me, so many systems and components that I have heard over the last 35 years have failed to reproduce the live energy of instruments and vocals especially at low to moderate listening volumes of say 55-70dB. Even a gently plucked acoustic guitar string has so much energy that so many systems and components have failed to reproduce in a satisfactory manner for me, especially in the midrange. I don’t actually recall any manufacturer that I have spoken with over the years even making reference to this aspect of sound reproduction being part of their design criteria. I have heard heard components that are supposed to have low noise floor, excellent micro dynamics etc but they still haven’t done it for me so I guess there is more to this than just low noise floor but I am not an electronics engineer so can't be sure. Some systems and components are obviously better than others.
 

PeterA

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Totally agree with Karen’s comments. I would like to add that, for me, so many systems and components that I have heard over the last 35 years have failed to reproduce the live energy of instruments and vocals especially at low to moderate listening volumes of say 55-70dB. Even a gently plucked acoustic guitar string has so much energy that so many systems and components have failed to reproduce in a satisfactory manner for me, especially in the midrange. I don’t actually recall any manufacturer that I have spoken with over the years even making reference to this aspect of sound reproduction being part of their design criteria. I have heard heard components that are supposed to have low noise floor, excellent micro dynamics etc but they still haven’t done it for me so I guess there is more to this than just low noise floor but I am not an electronics engineer so can't be sure. Some systems and components are obviously better than others.

I agree that energy and life is a key component of convincing reproduction. It is often missing.

Have you ever heard a super efficient system, say 105 or 115 dB? IMO, The energy from a guitar string being plucked or a cello string being bowed can be pretty convincing but the electronics and rest of the system have to be high-resolution and the room can not be over damped.
 

Ron Resnick

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I agree completely with so many of Karen's individual statements that I am not sure which ones to highlight. There is so much wisdom embedded in her essay that I truly believe this essay is, in and of itself, an introductory education to our hobby.

I would like to highlight two paragraphs in Karen's essay which I think are monumentally important and which have great explanatory power for much of the behavior of many audiophiles:

Although ears can’t be fooled over the long term, we all have a tendency over time to lose sight of the real reference unless we constantly massage ourselves with live music. It’s just too easy to become wrapped up in a never-ending process of trying to get the system more in balance without any real point of reference.​

Achieving and maintaining a believable level of tonal density in a hi fi system should be the foundation of building any system regardless of its price tag or the type of music that one prefers. Unfortunately, it is the first quality to fall by the wayside in a quest to hear more information.​

These views, I believe, explain my personal preference for components whose sonic "center of gravity" is the lower midrange/upper bass portion of the frequency spectrum.
 
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