Audiophile Rescue Plan, Part 2

Karen Sumner

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Apr 18, 2021
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Hi fi is a unique luxury hobby. It’s the only one I can think of that comes in kit form, but you also have to procure the parts of the kit with little or no reliable guidance. This sounds like a perfect environment for tinkerers who are looking for something, and they don’t quite know what it is. It’s not a very sustainable model because so few are satisfied with the end results, even over the short term. What can be done?

Tima said: “At root is the inability to describe listening to live acoustic music coupled with an unfamiliarity with the rudiments of music's inherent sonic characteristics. Or lack of experience with music performance while focusing on reproduction. The bottom line is this: the closer we get to describing live music the less effective is the audiophile vocabulary.”

Part of the purpose of these threads is to pull the conversation about hi fi into a simpler discussion that uses more musical terms, rather than hi fi terms. We have already discussed the idea of tonal density. To achieve a believable level of tonal density, a well-optimized system should deliver tonal balance where the harmonic and fundamental frequencies between approximately 100 to 1000Hz hold 90% of the music’s energy. If this seems to be an overstatement, please review the included chart again. To complete the musical picture, a tonally dense system should also reveal all the variations of dynamic range from ppp>fff and every dynamic nuance within that range, the sense of the performance venue's space and scale, and the sound of the fundamentals and harmonics of the instruments reflecting in that space. In other words, the system should have all the attributes to reproduce music on a believable level.

In this thread, we will discuss why a high-end audio system capable of reproducing a believable level of tonal density should also be able to deliver compelling and nuanced dynamics.

Let’s compare the music perspective with the typical hi fi audio perspective.

Audiophiles rightfully expect a lot more out of their sound systems than what a typical hi fi set-up can deliver. They want more out of their hobby than a system that can merely play the tune. Hearing alluring spatial and harmonic details coupled with slamming musical attack and unnaturally delineated transients is very seductive for many, but systems that are set up to favor those stimuli lack the necessary meat on the bones to trigger our hunger for an emotional connection with the music. In these types of systems, the pursuit of better hi fi becomes more of a process that only the owner can relate to rather than a music listening experience that many can share.

Just about any combination of high-end audio components has the power and range to provide a more dynamically exciting level of slam and transients than a typical hi fi system. With little or no guidance on how to use these powerful tools, it’s not too surprising that aspiring audiophiles tend to choose components and set up their systems to emphasize these qualities at the extremes. It’s only natural to want to hear these effects on a level we have never experienced them before in our homes.

Mastering engineers use Fletcher-Munson Curves or the ISO 226:2003 Standard as references to create the best mix for human ears in a typical hi fi set-up. In summary, these equal loudness contours are guidelines for how humans hear frequency and amplitude differences across the audio range. One conclusion to draw from these curves is that when volume is higher, lower and higher frequencies sound louder to our ears than mid-frequencies even though all the frequencies have actually been played back at the same measurable volume level.

If we choose components and set ups that favor the frequency extremes, it will always be at the expense of the critical 100-1000Hz frequency band because the louder the frequency extremes become, the less impact middle frequencies have. When one turns up the volume in these mid-range deficient systems, which is inevitable to satisfy our need to feel more connected with the music, the frequency extremes take on an even greater emphasis while pushing middle band information even further into the background — not a very appealing perspective to music lovers, but it’s like crack cocaine to an audiophile.

These systems do not do well at revealing the natural decay, the contrasting silences, and decrescendos that define the more subtle dynamics of the middle band — the sticky real details where most of the music magic happens.

The question remains, however, how do we get to experience these richly abundant “inner” details?

Not to bring up a touchy subject (again), please consider that different genres of recorded music have different dynamic range capabilities. If we are to evaluate a system’s real dynamic capabilities, we should be using music that has the greatest dynamic range; i.e., opera or orchestral music. Please see the attached chart taken from a study published by NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) in February 2016, in an article entitled “Dynamic Range Across Music Genres and the Perception of Dynamic Compression in Hearing Impaired Listeners”. The study concludes:

“The dynamic range of recorded music across genres based on an audio corpus of 1,000 songs was found to be smaller than the dynamic range of monologue speech in quiet. Samples from modern genres such as pop, rap, rock, and schlager generally had the smallest dynamic range, followed by samples from jazz and classical genres such as chamber, choir, orchestra, piano, and opera. Only in the lower frequencies was the dynamic range of speech surpassed by the dynamic range of music, and then only in the case of chamber music, opera, and orchestra.”

The article goes on to say that one of the reasons that rock and pop have less dynamic range is that these genres have been produced generally speaking with a very high degree of compression so that the music can play relatively loudly in a home setting without damaging hearing. The balance of the mix of these types of recordings also favors the frequency extremes because mastering engineers know that that is what gets our attention. I am not saying that pop and rock have no place in helping to create a good balanced system. I am saying that all indications are, however, that it should not be the primary reference when making system adjustments.

Start by choosing components and system set up strategies that fully reveal the lushness of the critical 4 octaves at volume levels that do not excite room resonances. Add a subwoofer where one can control the volume of the bass to be at a believable level without doing harm to the middle region or exciting room resonances, or if one is using full range speakers without a subwoofer, position the speakers in the room to optimize this balance between low frequencies and mid frequencies. Finding the ballpark spot for a pair of speakers in a room by using the sound of a spoken human voice and listening to the reflections and weight of the voice to determine the most neutral speaker positions in the room works well, and it is a method recommended by some of the most respected speaker manufacturers. A spoken human voice is one of the best tools we have to determine the best location of speakers because it has greater dynamic range than recorded music of any genre, and it definitely covers the critical 4-octave region. Finally, adjust the toe-in of the speakers to more efficiently direct high frequencies to the listeners’ ears, but not to the level where the high frequencies are more prominent than the critical 4 octaves — more on this in the next thread. Protect your hearing, and get a DB meter to check your SPLs so you don’t listen to volume levels greater than 70db over a prolonged period of time. Set volume levels of all your favorite pieces based upon these guidelines, and write down your desired volume levels in playlists so that you can be in the music zone every time you and friends engage with your hi fi.

This all sounds simple, but it’s a bit of a counterintuitive approach to those of you who are on a meandering hi fi path that is full of twists and turns. To have the ability required to pull this off, you really need to have quite a lot of experience to achieve this balance in a predictable and repeatable manner. If you listen to a lot of live, acoustic music, you can probably eventually figure it out. If you also know everything about the use and application of a speaker, amplifier, sources, and cables, you might be able to figure this out. If you are also aware of your listening room’s acoustic properties along with all these other areas of necessary expertise, you might be able to get there. If you work with a good dealer who does business with manufacturers who follow a music model rather than a hi fi model, you will certainly get there and get there sooner. Although you may not get a smashing deal in terms of price on a specific component, you will end up with components and a level of service that will be guaranteed to give you years of value and listening pleasure.

What’s it like to get there?

Bobvin said: “Did I mention I'm having fun listening again? Some of the joy was missing as I knew my system just wasn't delivering what I knew it should. And a further benefit, I am listening at lower volume as I feel I don't have to force the music out, it now just flows so much more smoothly from the speakers.”

Next time we will examine how tonal density is also essential to recreating a more realistic portrayal of instruments playing in a performance space.
 

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tima

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This is a wonderful post Karen. You covered your topic very well and I enjoyed reading it.

And thanks for dynamics by genre graphic with associated quotes. Talk of genres is an area where one must tread lightly, but there is truth in the graph. With regard to setting up and assessing stereo systems it seems safe to say material with a wide(r) dynamic range is a better reference for doing that even if it does not match one's musical taste - using music with a narrower dynamic range for assessment and setup is analogous to compression in media production. It really is a one way street - a system set up with wide dynamic range music will handle genres with narrow range, but not vice versa.

And there's not just dynamic range, there is what I call dynamic gradient - I believe you say 'nuance'. Not all pp's and ff's are equal. The number of steps between pianissimo and forte are not solely a product of the artist's skill but also of the instrument. Amplified instruments seem to be handicaped from the start.

Having experiences of guys at Wilson Audio (Giolas, McGrath)'voweling in' a room and the results achieved through the technique were demonstrations of its practicality and the value in their service.

Here is a link to the article Karen cites. Note some of the other graphics.

 
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Blackmorec

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For the human voice to sound natural it has to have the right volume that encapsulates ‘distance from listener’ and ‘apparent speaking effort’….ie the amplitude the speaker is speaking at…..i.e how much breath is expelled. The amplitude for listening to human voice on my hifi is typically 3db lower than that at which I prefer my music. We are remarkably sensitive to human voice so it is a marvellous tool, although it has its limitations as it is also ‘recorded’ and therefore subject to recording distortions. I use the recorded announcers‘ voices on Swiss Radio Classics as a barometer of how well my network is operating.

Dynamic range is one critical area that contributes to a sense of reality…..but more important are macro- and even micro-dynamics and transient speed. When we listen to live music, there is a distinct difference between the birth of the note, which is often a very dry rasp of bow on strings, the pluck of a string, a hammer blow to a string, the ‘burst‘ of breath into a horn etc.
When these extremely fast transients are not properly formed, its a sure giveaway that the music isn’t ’real’ or ‘natural’. On a really great system, there’s all the dynamics, timbres and character of the note initiation, followed by the blooming of the resonant frequencies and harmonics of the instruments, the reflections of the venue in which the music is played and the decay of the note as the energy dissipates and the sound dies away. Listen to any YouTube recording of a hi-fi playing to hear what music sounds like without this transient energy…..its severely lacking

In terms of selecting and setting up a hi-fi, i personally don’t find any particular frequency more or less important than another. I want them all to sound natural and in balance with one another. If frequency extremes are emphasized, then midrange suffers….if midrange is emphasized, then frequency extremes suffer, so in my opinion they all have to be correct, relative to each other. I have selected my hi-fi based on accuracy, extremely low distortion, a flat frequency response and a ‘recognised synergy’ between components. To my ear the combination I chose sounds correct (as far as the recordings and my room allow) on all genres. In terms of further tuning and improvements I concentrate on resonance control, power supply perfection, EMI mitigation through screening and source removal and the removal of as much noise and jitter as possible. The more of this type of tuning I do, the more natural my system sounds, and dynamic, and exciting and rhythmical and emotional, so I’m confident that my tuning is going in the right direction. So in tuning I’m not adding anything per se….I’m minimising losses in cables, preventing parasitic currents from travelling around the system, removing PS noise, ripple and impedance, preventing the addition of conducted and radiated EMI and minimising resonance activating vibration.
So in my opinion, start with a system that has the correct balance across all frequencies, then refine its installation to minimize all the elements that cause sonic degradation and therefore prevent the system from delivering its full potential. The more I optimise my system and especially the network the better everything gets….the experience of listening to the system becomes more intense, more joyous, more emotional, more involving…..we talk about the law of diminishing returns when upgrading, but so far on this path I haven’t really encountered a gradual decline in gains, rather the opposite…..the better the system becomes the greater the gains realised but the more expensive those gains gradually become…..essentially now its bigger gains for more money.
 
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PeterA

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Thank you Karen for your opening post. I think this is a very interesting topic. I particularly agree with your notion that our language to describe what we hear needs to change and be more focused on the sound of real instruments rather than reproduction. We must first begin with the reference sound of live instruments to better understand how to assemble, set up, and fine-tune the audio systems in our rooms.
 
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Al M.

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Dynamic range is one critical area that contributes to a sense of reality…..but more important are macro- and even micro-dynamics and transient speed. When we listen to live music, there is a distinct difference between the birth of the note, which is often a very dry rasp of bow on strings, the pluck of a string, a hammer blow to a string, the ‘burst‘ of breath into a horn etc.
When these extremely fast transients are not properly formed, its a sure giveaway that the music isn’t ’real’ or ‘natural’. On a really great system, there’s all the dynamics, timbres and character of the note initiation, followed by the blooming of the resonant frequencies and harmonics of the instruments, the reflections of the venue in which the music is played and the decay of the note as the energy dissipates and the sound dies away. Listen to any YouTube recording of a hi-fi playing to hear what music sounds like without this transient energy…..its severely lacking

This is such a great and important point.
 

PeterA

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Below is a post I made in my Sublime Sound thread in Nov. 2020. Some of us were addressing the topic of audio language and how we write about and describe what we hear. I look forward to learning more about Karen's Audiophile Rescue Plan. Here is the text of that former post highlighting @KeithR 's wonderful description:




We have been discussing language and how to describe what we hear, both from reproduced music from our systems and also from our live music experiences. KeithR is posting short listening impressions of various speakers that he has heard recently. I think his post of the Tannoy Westminister is particularly good and refreshing. It communicates well to his reader what he heard. It is not flowery prose, nor is it a collection of the audiophile glossary of terms. He does use the terms "coherency" and "warmth" but these are fairly common terms, easily understood.

I highlight phrases and sentences that resonate with me and give me a strong impression of what the sound of these speakers is like in this system. I think Keith's description is excellent, and it could serve as an example of writing that could help to make audio reviews more enjoyable and accessible. It uses language which is also used to describe the sound of live music and be understood by people who are not familiar with HP's glossary. The conclusion kind of says it all.

Thank you for this, Keith.



Tannoy Westminster:

I've been meaning to hear the big Westminsters for quite some time - a friend of a friend has owned them for several years. He is analog only and runs them on ARC gear. Currently, his amp is being repaired so a pair of Canary Audio amps were in the mix. Jim has a converted garage, a big 25' x 20' space, and has inserted some room treatment smartly to contain the sound.

The speakers are massive, in a good way :) Honestly, I always find them ugly in pictures but they look much better in person. The cabinetry work is mighty fine, and while very wide, aren't as deep as I anticipated. They are quite flexible in the treble and bass, to suit various rooms. The big difference in the Westminsters vs the other Tannoys is a large, folded horn for the bass. And as I've recently discovered, that's a huge part to the success of this speaker.

What I heard in just the first 10 minutes was big, bold, and present sound. Music just came to life right in front of you. When I played Trios Palabras, a female Cuban quartet, the classical guitars and congas just had such snap and vividness. It was a "you are there" kind of experience. What I also noticed early on was just how visceral the bass was - I'm telling you the snap and gut punch that is available with these speakers is off the charts cool. I kept referring it as such to Jim throughout the evening. Simultaneously there was a relaxing nature to the sound due to the speakers coherency - again, something that people tend to ignore these days and just adds so much. My friend with me quipped that he could listen to these speakers all day.

The Tannoy Westminster isn't a "hifi" speaker - you don't think of imaging, soundstage, and other hifi fireworks used by the TAS writers in their uniformly boring reviews. It's a rock n roll speaker just as much as a jazz one. It doesn't have the full resolution of a Magico M3 and you don't really care. Bad recordings are even listenable (unlike my YGs, unfortunately). As far as negatives, I'll admit on a few tracks there was a little warmness which I feel goes away when returning to the ARC amps. The soundstage isn't as deep as others, nor is it meant to be. And the speakers don't totally disappear. But all of these things seemed insignificant- we ended with Tony Bennett/Bill Evans on Analogue Productions and it just sang into the room. This is a world class speaker in a sea of boring hifi. A welcome respite for the music lover as compared to the music analyzer.
 
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spiritofmusic

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Peter, just returned from a flute/piano duo playing amongst other things, some fantastic Bach, in a beautiful aesthetic 17th century high ceilinged/art adorned listening room, wonderful calm acoustics.
As per usual, hifi jargon didn't come into it, the music had amazing weight, density through all the frequencies, nothing skeletal or thin about the presentation, no highlighting of high frequencies, the music both grounded (piano especially) and ethereal (flute), but times when the flute locked the centre of gravity, and the piano soared. And of course, dynamics that turned on a dime.
It's these attributes I'm continually working on improving w my system, I guess it's a tough ask, but my sound has matured a lot over time, that many of the things I hear and value in live classical (and occasionally jazz) is represented well via my system.
And after hearing Bill's horns' superlative way w timbre, texture and dynamics, and Montesquieu's full range vintage Tannoys' way w flow and fluidity, and more live classical data points, I know exactly what I'm getting right (a lot) and what needs improving (a shrinking list of "to do's").
 
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tima

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We must first begin with the reference sound of live instruments to better understand how to assemble, set up, and fine-tune the audio systems in our rooms.

This is certainly one avenue. My suggestion is to pick an instrument and describe how it sounds. Each has its own timbre, its own unique voice. Consider how the instrument physically makes sound and how a musician makes sound playing it - both instrument construction and performance technique are very much parts of why an instruments sounds as it does.

For a brief introduction to the sound of instruments, get a copy of the LP The Seraphim Guide to the Instruments of the Orchestra with Sir Adrian Boult (Seraphim S-60234) which takes one through hearing different orchestral instruments individually and with a piano as narrated by Boult. (Peter I believe you already have this record.) Or a LP copy of Segei Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, which is intended as a child's guide to music and instruments. Or Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. Get both combined on EMI ASD 2935 (Previn, LSO with Previn & Mia Farrow narrating) or RCA RL 12743 (with Ormandy and David Bowie narrating.)

Britten Young Person's Guide Previn EMI ASD 2935.jpg


Consider writing down some adjectives while you listen. Doing so one may find one's self entertaining a different vocabulary than found in typical audiophile descriptions - most of which do not reference sounds of live acoustic instruments rather they talk in terms of reproduction. Most audiophile descriptions compare one system or component to another system or component and are not much help wrt the sound of live instruments. If you like to read, consider The World Atlas of Musical Instruments, ISBN 3848000512 / 978-3848000517.

Ideally one has access to a musician that plays an instrument and can demonstrate it and what they do. Or, one is a musician and learns how instruments sound by performing with other instruments. The latter is not going to happen for most of us. You can contact a local orchestra and ask for someone who teaches the instrument and request from that person (usually at some small cost) to spend an hour or so with you as they demonstrate their instrument - most will be happy to do so. (Or ... take a few lessons - that could be the quickest entre to other musicians and other instruments.)

When listening to a piece of music, particularly orchestral music, take a look at its orchestration to learn what and how many various instruments are specified by the composer. This will tell you what instruments you are hearing. Wikipedia is usually helpful for this. Another suggestion is to learn some of the basic music notation that is used in a score - I don't mean learn how to read a score, but gain some familiarity with markings for timing and dynamics as these instruct the musician while playing.

Just suggestions - come to know the sound of live acoustic instruments - my pardon if this came across as homework. :)
 
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Karen Sumner

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For the human voice to sound natural it has to have the right volume that encapsulates ‘distance from listener’ and ‘apparent speaking effort’….ie the amplitude the speaker is speaking at…..i.e how much breath is expelled. The amplitude for listening to human voice on my hifi is typically 3db lower than that at which I prefer my music. We are remarkably sensitive to human voice so it is a marvellous tool, although it has its limitations as it is also ‘recorded’ and therefore subject to recording distortions. I use the recorded announcers‘ voices on Swiss Radio Classics as a barometer of how well my network is operating.

Dynamic range is one critical area that contributes to a sense of reality…..but more important are macro- and even micro-dynamics and transient speed. When we listen to live music, there is a distinct difference between the birth of the note, which is often a very dry rasp of bow on strings, the pluck of a string, a hammer blow to a string, the ‘burst‘ of breath into a horn etc.
When these extremely fast transients are not properly formed, its a sure giveaway that the music isn’t ’real’ or ‘natural’. On a really great system, there’s all the dynamics, timbres and character of the note initiation, followed by the blooming of the resonant frequencies and harmonics of the instruments, the reflections of the venue in which the music is played and the decay of the note as the energy dissipates and the sound dies away. Listen to any YouTube recording of a hi-fi playing to hear what music sounds like without this transient energy…..its severely lacking

In terms of selecting and setting up a hi-fi, i personally don’t find any particular frequency more or less important than another. I want them all to sound natural and in balance with one another. If frequency extremes are emphasized, then midrange suffers….if midrange is emphasized, then frequency extremes suffer, so in my opinion they all have to be correct, relative to each other. I have selected my hi-fi based on accuracy, extremely low distortion, a flat frequency response and a ‘recognised synergy’ between components. To my ear the combination I chose sounds correct (as far as the recordings and my room allow) on all genres. In terms of further tuning and improvements I concentrate on resonance control, power supply perfection, EMI mitigation through screening and source removal and the removal of as much noise and jitter as possible. The more of this type of tuning I do, the more natural my system sounds, and dynamic, and exciting and rhythmical and emotional, so I’m confident that my tuning is going in the right direction. So in tuning I’m not adding anything per se….I’m minimising losses in cables, preventing parasitic currents from travelling around the system, removing PS noise, ripple and impedance, preventing the addition of conducted and radiated EMI and minimising resonance activating vibration.
So in my opinion, start with a system that has the correct balance across all frequencies, then refine its installation to minimize all the elements that cause sonic degradation and therefore prevent the system from delivering its full potential. The more I optimise my system and especially the network the better everything gets….the experience of listening to the system becomes more intense, more joyous, more emotional, more involving…..we talk about the law of diminishing returns when upgrading, but so far on this path I haven’t really encountered a gradual decline in gains, rather the opposite…..the better the system becomes the greater the gains realised but the more expensive those gains gradually become…..essentially now its bigger gains for more money.
Hi, Blackmorec -

I really enjoyed your post, and I thought your description of dynamic range was particularly eloquent. It seems that dynamic range and all its subtleties is something that truly distinguishes that which one hears live from that which is what one hears recorded. One can tell for instance that the sound of an instrument or a human voice is real even if the sound emanates from another room with the door shut. The sometimes subtle and sometimes instantaneous graduations and transitions from loud to soft are so infinite in live sound. Because our ears and brains are tuned to the most dynamic instrument, the human voice, even before birth, it's quite a slight of hand to fool even the least interested of parties with reproduced sound. If we are at all serious about this hobby delivering on its promises, we should at least try to get the most dynamic range possible that we can out of our hi fi systems to be able to enjoy the full measure of what they are capable of delivering in terms of musical enjoyment. We will never really know how well we are doing in that department as long as hi fi is a standard unto itself, and unless we choose the most dynamic sources available as our references; i.e., live, acoustic music in the vocal and orchestral categories.
 
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Karen Sumner

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One more item to pass along ...

Exploring the Fascinating World of Instrumental Sounds

View attachment 85821

Hi, Tima -

Thank you for sharing your excellent references. I look forward to delving into the Vienna Symphonic Library Instrumentology Programs during the long nights of December and January and beyond.

We can only hope that these words reach at least a few who currently underestimate the power of live acoustic music to show us the way in evaluating and fine tuning a high end audio system.

Speaking of homework, it’s evident from reading these WBF pages that there are quite a few folks out there who speak more about musical results than they do hi fi qualities. Because this viewpoint seems to have been driven by a genuine personal interest in music itself, it doesn't really feel like homework to those of us who have spent decades exploring our passion. If we keep on talking and making sense, perhaps our message will infect some others. Let's hope that they will want to put in the time to experience and learn about a much larger musical world and that it doesn’t seem like work.

If we are to be successful in creating a new musical hi fi language, we need to start to do a better job at defining it, and I invite all of you who care about this subject to weigh in as we try to reframe the sounds we hear from a hi fi into music listening experiences. I believe that if we find ourselves valuing a component for its ability to reveal and honor what is on the source material rather than to have a “sound”, we will have taken a major step in the right direction.
 

the sound of Tao

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Karen it’s great to see industry show some interest in talking other than just the typical fallback bounds in hi-fi design and marketing criteria and terminology. While musicality is often mentioned here the defining of this as a quality (let alone assessing and benchmarking in it) seems to cause minor conniptions among various posters. But I do see this journey as a lifecycle and that many of us start with music and perhaps that’s a clue also to a lasting destination.

There'll always be those who struggle or mistrust the value of any term steeped in synthesis and personally interpretative of an experience. There are many here who see the experiences created by the music we hear through our systems as a summative assessment so I’m sure there’s nothing too revelatory there. But perhaps rather than us stamping a simple one aim for all strategy its probably more important to develop a process for guiding a seeker by first identifying what they are indeed at any point in their journey seeking. I’d suggest initially that we take time out periodically to define and review and so redefine what it is we all are aiming for individually. That is where greater diversity and latitude in our language can come into play.

Also while you suggest we should look to dealers to help us get there (wherever that there may be) earlier that advice can be variable in quality even from established sources. But a learners journey is a life cycle and external direction and self direction play differently weighted roles as a learner builds experience through time. Early on in our journeys I’d suggest it is typical and reasonable to look towards more advice from reviewers and dealers. Eventually though most will discover the limitations that can be set in by that advice though and I’d suggest that many people here are just attempting to go further than just a quick and quite nice solution and many are discovering their way as part of a deeper journey rather than just racing to somebody else’s conclusion. Self discovery which comes through time rather than just here merely struggling or meandering aimlessly.

Few are the dealers or manufacturers that offer much more than just an alternative view on the whole subject of assessment of gear and the voicing of systems and equipment… and let’s face it gear is mostly based upon simple preferences set by bias and expectation and with varying levels of objective and subjective analysis applied in our development… and then quite reasonably and obviously fairly well weighted then by individual commercial interest. These factors can also reflect the limitations of advice found from just looking to reviewers as well. All this is variable and there are some who are more knowledgeable or experienced and there are those who are very authentic… but still mostly just other seekers under way towards an unfolding objective for themselves.

I’m not convinced that the people who sustain themselves in this hobby and set the highest goals for themselves are actually looking for the limitations of performance that buying into someone else’s preferences can then incur. It’s why we are here committed to discovering ourselves and understanding how our systems can build further upon our experiences. Speeding ourselves up to someone else’s favourite destination may not actually be the goal.

Greater cross discipline infiltration and enmeshing of definitions and language over from the origination of the art form across into the science of this pursuit will clearly very likely help us all and there are many here who already champion that. I feel there’s much we all can learn from each other. Sharing understanding creates greater understanding for both the person who shares as well as the person who receives. Perhaps that’s why the forum is here for us. Understanding what actually drives us and being honest about our goals and motivation is the first step to discovering who we truly, authentically are in all or any of this. Great to see you contribute here, the more perspectives we can share the better.
 
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tima

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@the sound of Tao - a dense read but I made it to the end! :)

So you're observing that people listen to others to help them get started then some people listen to themselves ... and they should share their discoveries. Is that the gist of it?


Few are the dealers or manufacturers that offer much more than just an alternative view ...

Wrt your various comments about the "audio industry" - I suspect that if manufacturers, dealers, and various commercial interests did not stay alive and well, the hobby may fail to sustain itself soley on "discovering ourselves".
 

tima

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Thanks, Karen.

I look forward to delving into the Vienna Symphonic Library Instrumentology Programs during the long nights of December and January and beyond.

There is lots and lots of interesting material about the sound of music on the Web. Most of that comes from and is oriented to musicians and music lovers. Audiophiles who want exposure to that should come to it rather than expecting it to come to them. Alas, I suspect the predominant interest in such comes from those who listen to classical music; others may be fine having descriptions of reproduced music given to them but may not be interested in doing that themselves. Maybe that could change ... I don't know.

I understand about how a curiousity and desire to learn about music does not seem like 'homework' to those with that interest. It is a hobby and fun and a natural inclination for some. Just look at how many books there about composers and their lives, even some conductors. "What was it about Mendelssohn's time in Scotland that led him to write his 3rd Symphony - and stuff like that." To some of us it's fascinating. The marriage of an interest in music with audiophilia ... I don't know how much of that there really is. An interesting question might be: did you come to your interest in music from being an audiophile or did you become an audiophile from an interest in music?

If we are to be successful in creating a new musical hi fi language, we need to start to do a better job at defining it, and I invite all of you who care about this subject to weigh in as we try to reframe the sounds we hear from a hi fi into music listening experiences.

This is a bit of a sticky wicket. For now, my inclination is start from the music side though your suggestion could work as well. I don't know if we need a new musical hi-fi language - maybe we do. Comparing gear to the sound of live acoustic music rather than to other gear might be one approach. Having a common reference allows for gear comparison.

Some of us on the forum are culling the more obvious audiophile descriptors from the concert hall experience. Or asking what is unique to the listening room experience that is not found listening to live acoustic music. Fwiw, there has been a fair amount of pushback or at least scepticism coming out of that exercise here - forty years of review litany is well entrenched. And, lots of folks enjoy what they hear in their listening rooms, the concert hall, the sound of live acoustic music and its comparison to their audio system's output is not their priority. Describing sound is difficult, there is a tendency to lapse into visual metaphors, particularly for psycho-acoustic effects. I could rattle on, but I'll stop ... for now.

(The sound of live acoustic music. I've never liked the word 'slam' in the typical review language. It is too vague and brusque. But I could maybe accept slam as shorthand for 'sound of live acoustic music ' - I do get tired of writing it out. :) )
 
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the sound of Tao

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Jul 18, 2014
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@the sound of Tao - a dense read but I made it to the end! :)

So you're observing that people listen to others to help them get started then some people listen to themselves ... and they should share their discoveries. Is that the gist of it?




Wrt your various comments about the "audio industry" - I suspect that if manufacturers, dealers, and various commercial interests did not stay alive and well, the hobby may fail to sustain itself soley on "discovering ourselves".
@tima… yes fairly much on all counts. Apologies on the denseness of my post, I post on the run and probably need an editor ;) Perhaps I’m being a bit glass half-full but I feel a life long pursuit of music and putting systems together and refining our understanding of how our setups change our experience of music is something that is part of our process of self discovery…for those in the “industry” as well as for us.
 
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