How Hi Fi Has Become a Standard Unto Itself

microstrip

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Lots of people can cook very few are Michelin Starred Chefs
Anyone can buy a sports car very few can win a race
Any one can buy a guitar but very few will ever play at Carnegie Hall
Anyone can buy a stereo/ hifi system but very few will sound great.

Interesting poetry - IMHO it would deserve a separate thread.

Three objective comments, that are true and above any discussion, followed by a final subjective one that IMHO deserves a lot of comment and personally my disagreement - I think many systems sound great. Surely we would need to debate what is sounding great separately according to Ron's list of audiophile objectives. ;)

Concerning recording quality it seems I am more optimist that most people in WBF - IMHO most of them are of very good or excellent quality.
 

Al M.

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Concerning recording quality it seems I am more optimist that most people in WBF - IMHO most of them are of very good or excellent quality.

Agreed. Especially classical and jazz; rock and pop perhaps to a lesser extent.
 
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Avidlistener

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Interesting thread. Especially about the recording aspect of it. My 2 cents is that while our playback gear and recording tech has advanced to a level where we can reproduce a decent percentage of the compressions and rarifactions that happened at the original event, it’s the mic technology that essentially hasn’t changed in decades and is holding back the entire pursuit.

In researching patents for a new (but very expensive) mic technology I’ve conceptualized, it seemed the more recent patents were mostly about lower cost ways to capture sound for phones, and for immersive 3D mapping, not the core tech behind capturing the nuances of those waves of air.

I’ve posted this before but luckily (at least before the pandemic) I had an opportunity to hear live acoustic music in home settings and small venues very often, and I’ve developed my ear to use that as a reference (often with my eyes closed), not other Hifi systems.

Just a few days ago I got to hear a trumpeter playing live outdoors here in NYC and stayed for a while just noticing what acoustical properties I was hearing, and how much inner detail there was, which is often not present in even top reproduction systems.

On a fun note, I have been hearing some battery powered portable music systems people walk around with here in the city and have at times been shocked at the level of quality voice reproduction they are able to deliver. Of course the realism is in a very limited bandwidth, but my point is that even the completely uninitiated are now hearing good quality vocal reproduction, with a lack of power line distortion (due to batteries) and without room interactions (being outdoors).
 

KostasP.

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Interesting thread. Especially about the recording aspect of it. My 2 cents is that while our playback gear and recording tech has advanced to a level where we can reproduce a decent percentage of the compressions and rarifactions that happened at the original event, it’s the mic technology that essentially hasn’t changed in decades and is holding back the entire pursuit.

In researching patents for a new (but very expensive) mic technology I’ve conceptualized, it seemed the more recent patents were mostly about lower cost ways to capture sound for phones, and for immersive 3D mapping, not the core tech behind capturing the nuances of those waves of air.

I’ve posted this before but luckily (at least before the pandemic) I had an opportunity to hear live acoustic music in home settings and small venues very often, and I’ve developed my ear to use that as a reference (often with my eyes closed), not other Hifi systems.

Just a few days ago I got to hear a trumpeter playing live outdoors here in NYC and stayed for a while just noticing what acoustical properties I was hearing, and how much inner detail there was, which is often not present in even top reproduction systems.

On a fun note, I have been hearing some battery powered portable music systems people walk around with here in the city and have at times been shocked at the level of quality voice reproduction they are able to deliver. Of course the realism is in a very limited bandwidth, but my point is that even the completely uninitiated are now hearing good quality vocal reproduction, with a lack of power line distortion (due to batteries) and without room interactions (being outdoors).
Real vs Processed

".....it's the mic technology that essentially hasn't changed in decades and is holding back ......."

Speaker technologies, amplifier technologies, etc. have NOT changed much either. Have you ever listened to a mic-feed of a properly set-up recording session? Even on relatively inexpensive speakers, the sound is direct, vivid, unimpeded and "real" BUT not REAL enough!

In my view ( with some experience in recording ), the predominant reason is our unrealistic, even incongruous expectation that the PROCESSED should be an exact facsimile of the REAL! Do we forget that microphones, amplifiers, speakers, cartridges, tapes, turntables, DACs ...our ears \ brains even, are processors!!! It is almost hubris to have such an expectation. We should be more than grateful that we have been bestowed with an infinite variety of components and, based on our personal aptitude, knowledge \ experience and taste, we can attain a level of sound reproduction that can momentarily suspend disbelief and consistently give us invaluable pleasure, satisfaction and, dare I say, the highest form of healing therapy!

The other reason for the "hold - back" is the actual STORAGE medium, whether tape, vinyl or hard disc ( hence my direct feed reference above ). The compression, veiling and obvious deviation \ distortion of the real thing is undeniable.The mics are not the weakest link, it seems.

This new mic technology that you have conceptualised ( and I really hope it is an improvement on current technologies ) will be just another "processor"; it can never "personify" the trumpeter in NYC, no matter how much more "inner detail" the mics capture, for it is NOT the inner detail BUT the real entity of the trumpeter that is missing!! And that is how it should be.

We should be aware of our limitations and delusions as designers, makers and listeners and celebrate and exalt the plethora of music and music-making equipment that we have at our disposal, for there is no greater path to edification than music.

I hope that I did not come across as too "aphoristic" with my genuinely felt comments. Good luck with your patents.

Cheers, Kostas.
 
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Elliot G.

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Concerning recording quality it seems I am more optimist that most people in WBF - IMHO most of them are of very good or excellent quality.


"optimism has very little to do with quality"
quote from ME :)


I have a huge music collection and used to had over 6000 LPS before I gave them away around 10 years ago. When I had 6000 records probably around 10 percent of them were worth playing on my system if I was looking for good to excellent quality. I am talking all genre's. Great recordings and great performances are very very rare. Today whether I stream or play files or spin a compact disc the percentages may have changed but the difference in recording quality is extremely evident. If you are not hearing the differences then I don't know what to say.
I am both a focused and sometimes a casual listener. When I am listening to escape and want to get in my "time machine" just ok recordings don't cut it. I don't want to hear bright, or dull, or bass heavy or two dimensional, with no dynamic range etc. Those recordings keep me square in an ordinary chair with very little involvement. Like I said perhaps the percentages have changed but I listen to all kinds of music, avoid audiophile stuff, and want to listen to Jazz, Classical, Rock, Blues etc. I even started a list that I published with my favorite songs and even that list went from the pretty good to the WOW quality.
Making great or amazing recordings is truly an art form and IMO a fairly rare one at that..
 
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Atmasphere

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Agreed. Especially classical and jazz; rock and pop perhaps to a lesser extent.
I'm finding a lot of pop recordings that are really well done. Probably 'pop' isn't the right word- since most of what I'm finding doesn't get a lot of radio play.
Interesting thread. Especially about the recording aspect of it. My 2 cents is that while our playback gear and recording tech has advanced to a level where we can reproduce a decent percentage of the compressions and rarifactions that happened at the original event, it’s the mic technology that essentially hasn’t changed in decades and is holding back the entire pursuit.
I don't agree- you might want to get a really decent set of mics and just listen to what they can do thru a set of decent headphones. I've seen exactly that fool some very jaundiced audiophiles. They've been able to fool me plenty of times- I've heard sounds that sounded so real, I've spun my head around only to find there's noting behind me (headphones to me always sound like things are behind me rather than in front of me). Mics are so good, its spooky. What isn't so good is the media- that's where the biggest degradation seems to occur, but rooms themselves are the tricky bit.
 

Avidlistener

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I don’t mean to hijack Karen’s thread, but I have a few mics, including a matched pair of 414XLS, and a U67 (and looking to add a schoeps CMIT which to my ears is by far the best sounding mic for exterior film dialog) however I’m going on what I hear recorded by much more talented and dedicated people that do this for a living with much better mics.

I just don’t hear on even the best recordings what exists in real life, and I feel like it’s the mics that are responsible for not picking up the fine details. Using a membrane to convert pressure waves to electrical signals is essentially unchanged from its inception, and I truly believe there is a much more accurate, modern way to do it. (Although very expensive to develop)

DSD I think is a good medium for encoding and storing sound and while it may not be identical to a mic feed, (I haven’t tried) I don’t feel like it’s responsible for the big loss of fidelity I’m hearing. I also believe the very best transducers, like the CST in my TAD’s are capable of reproducing much much more of the original waveform.

Incidentally, I know common wisdom is that headphones are supposed to provide one of the best experiences. I have HD800’s (internally damped and the dust shields removed) running balanced with cardas clear cables driving them with your excellent MP1 preamp outputs. So it’s a very solid rig (through electrostats would be better), but still can’t provide the level of detail compared to listening on my speakers.
 
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KostasP.

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I don’t mean to hijack Karen’s thread, but I have a few mics, including a matched pair of 414XLS, and a U67 (and looking to add a schoeps CMIT which to my ears is by far the best sounding mic for exterior film dialog) however I’m going on what I hear recorded by much more talented and dedicated people that do this for a living with much better mics.

I just don’t hear on even the best recordings what exists in real life, and I feel like it’s the mics that are responsible for not picking up the fine details. Using a membrane to convert pressure waves to electrical signals is essentially unchanged from its inception, and I truly believe there is a much more accurate, modern way to do it. (Although very expensive to develop)

DSD I think is a good medium for encoding and storing sound and while it may not be identical to a mic feed, (I haven’t tried) I don’t feel like it’s responsible for the big loss of fidelity I’m hearing. I also believe the very best transducers, like the CST in my TAD’s are capable of reproducing much much more of the original waveform.

Incidentally, I know common wisdom is that headphones are supposed to provide one of the best experiences. I have HD800’s (internally damped and the dust shields removed) running balanced with cardas clear cables driving them with your excellent MP1 preamp outputs. So it’s a very solid rig (through electrostats would be better), but still can’t provide the level of detail compared to listening on my speakers.

I also have a matched pair of AKG 414XLS, Millennia mic pre-amp and Sennheisser HD 800s driven by the SPL Phonitor 2 amplifier and two pairs of STAX electrostatic earspeakers and Ultrasone Signature Pro closed-back headphones for tracking whilst recording. They are all excellent in what they are designed and assigned to do but no man-made artefact ( software and hardware ) is meant to replicate an exact reality.

Once again, as stated and explained in my previous post, the microphones are NOT the weakest link.
 

Al M.

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Concerning recording quality it seems I am more optimist that most people in WBF - IMHO most of them are of very good or excellent quality.


"optimism has very little to do with quality"
quote from ME :)


I have a huge music collection and used to had over 6000 LPS before I gave them away around 10 years ago. When I had 6000 records probably around 10 percent of them were worth playing on my system if I was looking for good to excellent quality. I am talking all genre's. Great recordings and great performances are very very rare. Today whether I stream or play files or spin a compact disc the percentages may have changed but the difference in recording quality is extremely evident. If you are not hearing the differences then I don't know what to say.
I am both a focused and sometimes a casual listener. When I am listening to escape and want to get in my "time machine" just ok recordings don't cut it. I don't want to hear bright, or dull, or bass heavy or two dimensional, with no dynamic range etc. Those recordings keep me square in an ordinary chair with very little involvement. Like I said perhaps the percentages have changed but I listen to all kinds of music, avoid audiophile stuff, and want to listen to Jazz, Classical, Rock, Blues etc. I even started a list that I published with my favorite songs and even that list went from the pretty good to the WOW quality.
Making great or amazing recordings is truly an art form and IMO a fairly rare one at that..

I have found that the better my system becomes, the more recordings there are that sound great.

As for great performances, they are abundant. There are so many modern classical performances that are superb, it's a joy. I don't subscribe to the notion of a golden age of classical music. Also modern jazz features many fantastic performances.

If you ask me about rock, I am more partial to the Seventies, but also today there is great rock music. It just doesn't get the airplay anymore.
 
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kodomo

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Did somebody say microphones? Here is a sample of what we had at the said gathering :)
 

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tima

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I have found that the better my system becomes, the more recordings there are that sound great.

As for great performances, they are abundant. There are so many modern classical performances that are superb, it's a joy. I don't subscribe to the notion of a golden age of classical music.

With regard to a "golden age of classical music" - it's a label we can go around about whether there is such. For some vinylistas, an all analog produced LP might be considered 'golden age'. I know you don't do vinyl.

I won't disagree that today there are many great performances.

However, without getting into individual performances, there may be a "golden age of classical music recording engineers" and a "golden age of classical music conductors"' and perhaps there are fewer orchestras of "golden age" caliber.

Seems to me it's largely a matter of money. Some of the record labels that were prominent in the past (Decca, RCA, Philips, Mercury et al) had huge sums of money to support and promote conductors, super star performers, orchestras and concert tours. Boutique labels from the past had larger catalogs, eg. Lyrita. Nowadays, some of the larger orchestras have their own labels out of necessity. Far fewer releases of large orchestral recordings of classical music.

You may have read this, but if not I suggest having a look. It is hugely entertaining.

The Life and Death of Classical Music.jpg
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 9781400096589
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1400096589
Just look at who's on the cover (L to R): Leonard Bernstein, Glenn Gould, Maria Callas, George Solti w/ Kiri Te Kanawa, someone i don't recognize, and Luciano Pavarotti.


I do agree that the better my system becomes the more particular labels and recordings get.
 
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Avidlistener

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Did somebody say microphones? Here is a sample of what we had at the said gathering :)
If those are all yours I’d love to see a video walkthrough of the mics and descriptions of each.

I have a drum sample package called Superior Drummer 3 I trigger with Roland Vdrums and it’s quite interesting to have a dozen or so different mics on each kit and to be able to isolate each one to listen. There is a recent sample pack the late Al Schmidt did at Capitol studios and he didn’t use any eq, but got the tone he wants solely via choice of mic and placement/angle. He started recording before there were eq’s if you can imagine. There are some great docs they put out on the process.
 

kodomo

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If those are all yours I’d love to see a video walkthrough of the mics and descriptions of each.

I have a drum sample package called Superior Drummer 3 I trigger with Roland Vdrums and it’s quite interesting to have a dozen or so different mics on each kit and to be able to isolate each one to listen. There is a recent sample pack the late Al Schmidt did at Capitol studios and he didn’t use any eq, but got the tone he wants solely via choice of mic and placement/angle. He started recording before there were eq’s if you can imagine. There are some great docs they put out on the process.
I have microphones as I also had a studio but this is not my collection. It belongs to a friend of mine who was at our gathering as the recording engineer. He mostly records orchestras and co-owns a recording studio. This is half of is collection. We wanted to make people hear that each mic has a different sound and different types of mics has different applications depending on their directivity and type. There is no one true microphone!

About what Al Schmidt did, he did not use any outboard electronic eq, but mic placement/angle and mic type combination is the physical eq :)
 
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KostasP.

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I have microphones as I also had a studio but this is not my collection. It belongs to a friend of mine who was at our gathering as the recording engineer. He mostly records orchestras and co-owns a recording studio. This is half of is collection. We wanted to make people hear that each mic has a different sound and different types of mics has different applications depending on their directivity and type. There is no one true microphone!

About what Al Schmidt did, he did not use any outboard electronic eq, but mic placement/angle and mic type combination is the physical eq :)

My preferred technique is a variation of this: I use a matched pair, usually in a spaced omnidirectional polar pattern ( depending on the number of musicians ) and I place the musicians at an appropriate distance from the mics depending on the DYNAMICS of their instruments. No post-recording mixing or mastering.

This technique of a minimal set-up and manipulation suits my recording philosophy but I do NOT claim any superiority over any other technique. I value and admire many recordings regardless of the technique used. In the final analysis, it is the end result that matters.

....Anlayana sivrisinek saz, anlamayana davul zurna az!

Cheers, Kostas.
 

Edward Pong

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Just look at who's on the cover (L to R): Leonard Bernstein, Glenn Gould, Maria Callas, George Solti w/ Kiri Te Kanawa, someone i don't recognize, and Luciano Pavarotti.
I completely agree, these are some of the all time greats in classical music....

I'd like to ask, are "we'" collectively going to be chasing these recordings and artists another 50 yrs from now??
I'd like to suggest, there is always a "changing of the guard" and there are some incredible violinists, cellists and pianists of this young generation, who will be the next "ones".... I feel we need to support these now & any recordings of these should be cherished as one day they maybe the "Glen Goulds" of tomorrow...

Maybe it's not much fun chasing a digital recording of current soloists. Or perhaps another way of saying it is, there are no more classical recordings, at least of orchestra, made with tape, like the "good old days of DECCA"....

Ed
 

microstrip

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"optimism has very little to do with quality"
quote from ME :)

No, if the optimism results from a careful analysis of our recording collection played through our systems and his documented. I have several times referred to this subject in WBF, referring to my preferences, labels and many examples of recordings.

I have a huge music collection and used to had over 6000 LPS before I gave them away around 10 years ago. When I had 6000 records probably around 10 percent of them were worth playing on my system if I was looking for good to excellent quality. (...)

As we do not have the list of your over 6000 LPs we can't analyze it . However if 90% of your recordings were of poor quality it seems you were really unlucky, a non insightful buyer , unable to extract the best of them or simply their recording technique was not your cup of tea.

The problem of the "Circle of Confusion" associated with the stereo system is known and must be taken in consideration when assembling a system. Good high-end designers know about it, they know about preference and know they can't get please everyone.

BTW, I easily hear differences in recordings. But extremely different recordings can be both excellent, sometimes the more we dig in them the better they sound.

Surely , just my subjective opinions, nothing else.
 
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microstrip

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(...) I do agree that the better my system becomes the more particular labels and recordings get.

Can you explain us what you exactly mean by "particular" in this sentence?
 

microstrip

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(...) However, without getting into individual performances, there may be a "golden age of classical music recording engineers" and a "golden age of classical music conductors"' and perhaps there are fewer orchestras of "golden age" caliber. (...)

Well, if you model the definition of "golden age" around them you are 100% correct. But IMHO this subject deserves a separate thread.
 

Mike Lavigne

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No, if the optimism results from a careful analysis of our recording collection played through our systems and his documented. I have several times referred to this subject in WBF, referring to my preferences, labels and many examples of recordings.



As we do not have the list of your over 6000 LPs we can't analyze it . However if 90% of your recordings were of poor quality it seems you were really unlucky, a non insightful buyer , unable to extract the best of them or simply their recording technique was not your cup of tea.

The problem of the "Circle of Confusion" associated with the stereo system is known and must be taken in consideration when assembling a system. Good high-end designers know about it, they know about preference and know they can't get please everyone.

BTW, I easily hear differences in recordings. But extremely different recordings can be both excellent, sometimes the more we dig in them the better they sound.

Surely , just my subjective opinions, nothing else.
one of the truly serendipitous things about the system development process and evolution of one's taste for different genre's of music is how once seemingly mediocre sounding recordings, or less appealing recordings, can take on new life. it expands how we view collection quality.

in my early years of collecting i passed by many i had acquired till the system or my understanding was able to reveal them to me.
 

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