Audiophile Sonic Terms Redux

PeterA

Well-Known Member
Dec 6, 2011
12,444
10,556
3,515
USA
Guided learning is a form of education that most of us are not keen to accept. We want to enjoy the hobby our own way.

I have benefitted from guided learning for the last four years. I am keen to accept it. There is a lot to learn about this hobby. This does not mean that I don’t enjoy the hobby in my own way.
 
  • Like
Reactions: tima and Amir

dcathro

Well-Known Member
Sep 16, 2016
566
713
228
Melbourne, Australia
I look at it this way:

Just as there are different groups that like different genres/styles of music, so there are people who value different qualities in their listening replay. Some people are into soundstage, some into tonality, dynamics, PRAT, etc and some are maybe into the pleasure of owning beautifully made gear. If you know what you like then good for you, and the fact that it is different from what I like does not mean that either of us need to be educated.
 

gleeds

Industry Expert
May 29, 2018
746
1,196
235
Great comments as usual. I might note that in addition to Jacob, there are several reviewers at TAS with a high quality, purpose-built listening room.

I also agree that we need to get the word out across more digital channels including video. I have done my best to create more innovative digital channels and solutions while at TAS.

A good bit of our YouTube channel focus has been on a correct setup and some tips on how to achieve that.

My own personal view is that hiring someone like Jim Smith or Stirling Trayle is one of the best investments one can make.
Karen, I really enjoyed reading your insights.
Lee, et. al., I visited a dedicated audiophile in Westchester, New York today who has a very decent but not over the top acoustically treated room. He has however taken a great deal of care to optimize bass in the room and the difference in realism it makes is not trivial. This evening my wife and I went to the Village Vanguard in NYC to catch the late set of the Kurt Rosenwinkel quintet. The bass realism I experienced at the Vanguard and the bass at my clients may be as close to live as I have heard.

Tam Lin hit the nail on the head. There is no substitute for live music if you want to know what your room and your system are doing!
 
Last edited:

Salectric

Well-Known Member
Jan 15, 2012
366
472
968
Karen, I really enjoyed reading your insights.
Lee, et. al., I visited a dedicated audiophile in Westchester, New York today who has a very decent but not over the top acoustically treated room. He has however taken a great deal of care to optimize bass in the room and the difference in realism it makes is not trivial. This evening my wife and I went to the Village Vanguard in NYC to catch the late set of the Kurt Rosenwinkel quintet. The bass realism I experienced at the Vanguard and the bass and at my clients may be as close to live as I have heard.

Tam Lin hit the nail on the head. There is no substitute for live music if you want to know what your room and your system are doing!
I am pretty sure Karen has left the building.
 
  • Haha
Reactions: Lagonda

Al M.

VIP/Donor
Sep 10, 2013
8,617
4,406
963
Greater Boston
Our loss, tho quite understandable as her thread began heading down the Pishadoo from post #65 onward.

Wrong link. But you're right about #65.
 
  • Like
Reactions: bonzo75

Al M.

VIP/Donor
Sep 10, 2013
8,617
4,406
963
Greater Boston
Amended … :)

Great. Thanks for doing the forensic digging to investigate where the train derailment started. Very interesting.
 

PeterA

Well-Known Member
Dec 6, 2011
12,444
10,556
3,515
USA
Our loss, tho quite understandable as her thread began heading down the Pishadoo from post #65 onward!
.

Mrs. Sumner started the thread in March and has not posted since. It is difficult to conclude that she is not here because of post #65.
 

Argonaut

Well-Known Member
Jul 30, 2013
2,352
1,592
530
N/A
Mrs. Sumner started the thread in March and has not posted since. It is difficult to conclude that she is not here because of post #65.
I don’t recall saying that she had … My point being that the raison d'être for Karens thread, imho, offered very little Scope to interdict fanboy manufacturer semantics into the spirit of her thread , indeed quite the opposite …
 

Rensselaer

VIP/Donor
Mar 23, 2021
538
443
275
69
During my recent interview with WBF, I think additional clarification of why relying on audiophile sonic terms like detail, pinpoint imaging, crisp leading-edge transients, black background, and slam to describe the attributes of component performance is counterproductive if one’s goal is to reproduce music in your home to a believable level. It is interesting to note that Harry Pearson was not the originator of these terms. He was rather more oriented to talking eloquently about the emotional experience of listening to music performed on a believable level through a home audio system. The press’s sonic terms really came from those who have unsuccessfully tried to emulate him.

Because our industry struggles to grow beyond its infancy, quite a few high-end audio companies do not yet have the resources or know-how to promote their own products. Many unfortunately have relied and rely upon the audio press to do their bidding. For our industry to move closer to our goal of helping our customers suspend their disbelief that they are only listening to a hifi, more manufacturers need to grow beyond depending on the press to build their notoriety. Instead, more designers and manufacturers should be telling their own stories more effectively with the power of videos, interviews, the internet, and customer events in listening conditions that are more acoustically controlled than hotel rooms. With a handful of exceptions, members of the audio press do not have a listening environment that is capable of accurately reproducing a wide variety of source material at believable levels, nor do they typically have a reference standard system of components in place that is on a level that would qualify them to judge the performance of a well-designed audio component. Quite a few of them also do not have extensive and ongoing live acoustic music listening experiences. It perplexes me why so many manufacturers still run to the press for approval, and some dealers bank on reviews to attract customers. In contrast, Jacob Heilbrunn comes to mind as an audio writer who has broken the mold of the “amateur audio press.” He has a professionally designed listening studio that helps him become immersed in all types of music listening experiences. He also has an established reference system and a huge, eclectic music collection. He’s also an articulate, knowledgeable, and creative professional writer who attends a lot of live music performances. Are there others like Jacob out there?

Because more than a few manufacturers rely upon good reviews to keep their public interested in their brand, some of these companies I fear calibrate their products to get good reviews by designing to the press’s fabricated sonic terms. By and large, the audiophile publication readership has likewise been “schooled” by the articles they read to seek out these qualities — which are just words that might appeal to the front of our brains, but do not reach our emotional engagement centers. Using the press’s own terms to describe the listening experience is like residing in a tiny echo chamber.

Here’s why the high-end audio echo chamber seems to be so well sealed from music-loving interlopers. Unfortunately, in most homes where there is a substantial audio system set-up in rooms that are built according to standard residential construction methods, it is very unlikely that a person can play a wide range of different types of music at believable volume and dynamic levels and achieve across the board full natural tonal balance; i.e., reproduce the critical 100Hz -1000kHz range to the same level that it is actually recorded on the source material. The energy that results from amplifying the critical emotional-connection frequencies overloads most of these rooms resulting in frequency nodes and cancellations and out-of-phase reflections that cover up the very qualities that the audio press has tried to teach us should be the priority; hence, the solution to this conundrum is to strip away that energy, the life of the music, that is so important to creating an emotional connection by selecting components that reproduce music in a way that is natively leaner than what is on most source material and by speaker set-ups that emphasize the frequency extremes.

One can only imagine how disheartened some music-loving audiophiles might be when they discover that in their home environment, they can play perhaps a dozen songs from a small handful of albums that deliver truly musically satisfying results. Some have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on individual pieces of equipment that have been deemed ground-breaking by the audio press only to find that their systems and listening environment are unable to reproduce music in an emotionally compelling way. This is not a sustainable model for customers, dealers, or manufacturers. No one has told the simple truth: that everything matters, including listening space.

Does everybody need to invest in a professionally designed, purpose-built listening room to achieve a really satisfying level of music reproduction at home? If one wants to experience the ultimate in music reproduction from today’s best source material and components, the answer is “yes”, but there are many musically enthralling stops along the way that are far more affordable and achievable.

To be continued . . .


View attachment 106889
I applaud your speaking truth to power. The descriptive vernacular of the high-end has, IMHO, indeed been taken over by the Publishing/Advertising wing on the behalf of manufacturers. It is certainly fit-for-purpose if the purpose is selling very expensive, but usually one-trick devices, but not for truthfully describing how (or even if) it compares with other devices of a similar ilk in presenting the music in "an emotionally compelling way". Terms of use can be chosen to close avenues of discussion, leaving one with either/or choices that do not illuminate the truth in any way (Does your doctor know that you are troubled by bizarre beliefs).

I think your suggestion that "everyone should invest in a professionally designed, purpose-built listening room" (wouldn't that be nice), over-emphasises that part of the equation. I think that additionally more information about the effects of components and design (solid state vs hollow state, transistors in the signal path, capacitance associated with different insulation materials, skipping capacitors where one is able with use of transformers, of natural materials vs synthetic (synthetic materials sound synthetic), and of course, the subject of your OP, changing our "audiophile terms" to more helpful terms that describe endpoints.

I came across an article (it was referenced on the Athens Audiophile Club website) written by a man who, with his son, visited and listened to the hi fi system belonging to the designer/owner of Ypsilon. He is not a professional reviewer and finds difficulty describing what he hears using the terms reviewers use, except to say that the system doesn't showcase them and for that he prefers it.


Perhaps I am reading into it too much of my own views, but have a look and tell me what you think.
 

About us

  • What’s Best Forum is THE forum for high end audio, product reviews, advice and sharing experiences on the best of everything else. This is THE place where audiophiles and audio companies discuss vintage, contemporary and new audio products, music servers, music streamers, computer audio, digital-to-analog converters, turntables, phono stages, cartridges, reel-to-reel tape machines, speakers, headphones and tube and solid-state amplification. Founded in 2010 What’s Best Forum invites intelligent and courteous people of all interests and backgrounds to describe and discuss the best of everything. From beginners to life-long hobbyists to industry professionals, we enjoy learning about new things and meeting new people, and participating in spirited debates.

Quick Navigation

User Menu

Steve Williams
Site Founder | Site Owner | Administrator
Ron Resnick
Site Co-Owner | Administrator
Julian (The Fixer)
Website Build | Marketing Managersing