MUSIC IS FUNDAMENTAL TO ALMOST EVERYONE

PeterA

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i have plenty of constraints. what "apparent" assets people commit to hifi is a different thing than their balance sheet. i'm guessing i have far greater constraints than many here. but i am more committed....to finding a way. and my biggest asset, my room, is long ago bought and paid for. i get by with 10 year old speakers, 15 year old RTR decks, minimal modest cables, and cheap acoustic treatments.....and much sweat equity.

yes, i want to enjoy myself, but that comes from the feeling the music is real and i can lose myself into the experience. no different than many others. it's fair to say i don't over think whether performers are playing a certain way, and why the music sounds better. if i like it better, it's better. not because i understand how it was played or not.

read my Wadax performance description. my biggest take away is how much more real in real space the presentation is and that part is new for digital. recording dependent of course. the more natural the recording, the more we hear this.

absolutely. i like music in any way i get it. but dedicated listening must be convincing or it's not worth the effort.

do you see any Zero, or K3, or M9? my guess is you could buy these if it was your choice. not me.

but getting top performance from relatively (to the tip top level) modestly priced pieces is how i must do it. a great room helps. i have splurged on the digital recently, although i got good value from my previous gear.

less real, or more real. more a sense of reproduced, or less a sense of reproduced. better textures and timbre, with natural tonality. better flow? more involving? do my shoulders relax? more physical and organic?

right now i'm assessing doing more cable treatments; i've suspended my pre to amp interconnects and then used the Audioquest Fog Lifters under it and under my power cords. it definitely did increase the realism. but did it tilt the tonality? i did this on Sunday and by yesterday determined it was a 100% win. no downside. but i wanted to take my time about it.

Thank you Mike for your excellent and thoughtful response to my questions. I am certainly envious of your room and the effort to which you went to make it sound right.
 

Mike Lavigne

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Thank you Mike for your excellent and thoughtful response to my questions. I am certainly envious of your room and the effort to which you went to make it sound right.
thank you Peter.

i love your real world room vibe, New England genuine, and in a different life would prefer it to mine as a listening/living space.

we both have what we want to have.
 
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tima

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all my listening. music and non music. format comparing over 30 years. live music listening. gear comparing. lots of focused listening in a mature music reproduction system. i have recordings where i have what i view as the source work parts. i try to get native versions of recordings when possible. it's helpful to do that and fits into an overall viewpoint of what is going on.

where is the line where your reference is legit? and it's not legit? that line does not exist in my viewpoint. there are simply degrees of your experiences. all of them.

Okay, your reference for gauging reproduction realism may include some live music but otherwise it is self-referential or based on gear to gear comparison. I can appreciate the appeal of porting reality to another platform - that's what the metaverse folks get hotted up about. This helps me understand your point that for you your system allows for a better experience than you hear live.

I have no response wrt yr questions about a reference as legit or not legit.
 
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tima

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I like to see a trained musician integral to hifi product dev.

It would be interesting to know if a high-end product developer is a musician, or what, if any, is their association to music playing. Or a fun game might be to guess which ones have music assocations. I enjoyed reading Dave Wilson's accounts of his trips to the Musikverein (sp?) in Vienna.

On a slightly different note, it would be interesting to hear manufacturers talk about what sonic goals they have for the equipment they make and how they assess how their gear sounds. Components require systems so knowing what system(s) are involved in development could also be fun.
 

bonzo75

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It would be interesting to know if a high-end product developer is a musician, or what, if any, is their association to music playing. Or a fun game might be to guess which ones have music assocations. I enjoyed reading Dave Wilson's accounts of his trips to the Musikverein (sp?) in Vienna.

On a slightly different note, it would be interesting to hear manufacturers talk about what sonic goals they have for the equipment they make and how they assess how their gear sounds. Components require systems so knowing what system(s) are involved in development could also be fun.

Many manufacturers and dealers talk about how they want to recreate sound of the concert hall. Doesn't mean they do or succeed. Often it is part of the talk and for the listener to judge.
 

PeterA

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I remember Nelson Pass writing that he and his fellow employees at Pass Labs design products they enjoy listening to. I don’t recall a reference to their attempts to make the products sound like the real thing. This approach was explained in some of the owner manuals.
 

Karen Sumner

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Apr 18, 2021
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Thanks for the nudge about talking more about music connections. I agree that manufacturers need to talk more about their music credentials, if they have them or if they decide to get them.

We purchase 10 season tickets to our local symphony each year, and often we need to buy additional tickets. On Tuesday, twelve of us are going to hear the Portland Symphony Orchestra perform Bartok's "Concerto for Orchestra" and the Silver-Garburg Duo perform Bach's and Poulenc's concertos for two pianos. It looks like we are going to miss most of the Boston Symphony season this year, but we have in the past and will again in the future provide our most passionate music listeners with the opportunity to experience as many BSO performances as they like.
 

Gregadd

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Here is hoping they don't use a sound reinforcement system making it truly "live."
 

cmarin

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Do you consider the overtones created by a violin's strings and body heard when playing or hearing the instrument played - as described by Kinch - as details similar to hearing the artifacts and noise created by digital reproduction technologies that distract you?

For me, hearing those same aspects of string music in a reproduction that I hear live enhances my enjoyment. Mike parcels them out as details unessential to enjoyment - getting into the weeds - and no doubt for some they are details. I find hearing them lends believability.
Hi Tima,

I’m not sure if I can give your question the care it requires, because it is an incisive question with a great deal of nuances and my ideas are not necessarily well formed yet. But let me give it a shot, and perhaps by going back and forth we can together find a way to explore the nuances and gain a better understanding.

For me in trying to define the ultimate test of whether something is an artifact/noise, is if it distracts your focus and as a result interrupts, or reduces the emotional connection you feel listening to the reproduction of a live musical event in your home; as compared to the emotional reaction/connection you would feel if you had been present at the live event.

So when you attend a live classic music event, do you focus on the violin overtones or on the emotional energy/engagement created by the overtones? Do you think, for example, about soundstage, or the emotional response to the acoustic energy of the hall? Or the trueness of the shimmer and decay of the cymbals, versus your emotional reaction to the cymbals together with the rest of the music?

It’s a subtle but profound difference that fundamentally gets to whether you’re engaging the left (analytical) side of your brain, or the right (emotional) side of your brain.

That is not to say you can’t derive pleasure from analyzing how closely your system reproduces a live event; or as in your case, how closely your system reproduces the violin overtones. I’m just suggesting that you probably wouldn’t think about how well the violin sounds if you were at an actual live performance. Unless of course you’re a musician or a connoisseur of violins.

Another way to think about it is to think of your experience in a movie theater where music plays the supporting role of underpinning and communicating the emotional content of the scene.

I’d dare to say that the majority of the audience’s heartstrings are pulled by the music without them giving a second thought to how the violins or any other instrument sounded.

I, on the other hand will sometimes listen for the fidelity of the reproducing system in the theater, and will be distracted from fully experiencing the emotional impact of the scene. But I would also be distracted if the system did a poor job of reproducing the music.

So we can define an artifact as anything that causes the listener to lose out on the emotional connection they’d normally feel by attending the actual event. And this can occur because either the system fails to reproduce the live event with sufficient “accuracy”, or the listener’s mind is predisposed to focus on how well the system mimics the live musical event. And in doing so the listener loses or diminishes their emotional engagement.

Now you could also argue that by focusing on how well the system reproduces the live event (e.g., violin overtones), the listener is more likely to interpret the reproduction as being alive/accurate, and therefore it enhances the emotional engagement.

I can also see this perspective. But I would argue that hearing the violin overtones and appreciating the emotional message of the music are mutually exclusive. In similar fashion to a wire frame drawing of a cube, where your brain can only see one view or the other at any one time, your brain can only appreciate the violin overtones or the musical emotion, but not both. And in focusing on the violin overtones the listener engages the analytical side and misses out on the emotional engagement for that particular moment at least. Unless, of course the listener perceives the violin overtones subconsciously without detracting from his focus on the emotional connection.

In any case as Groucho Marx famously said “Those are my principles. And if you don’t like them, I have others” ;)
 
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Mike Lavigne

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Do you consider the overtones created by a violin's strings and body heard when playing or hearing the instrument played - as described by Kinch - as details similar to hearing the artifacts and noise created by digital reproduction technologies that distract you?

For me, hearing those same aspects of string music in a reproduction that I hear live enhances my enjoyment. Mike parcels them out as details unessential to enjoyment - getting into the weeds - and no doubt for some they are details. I find hearing them lends believability.
maybe i was not clear about what my meaning was, but hearing the details of the violin playing is essential to my listening. it's part of the 'more real' thing and the overtones, textures and timbres thing, the music being complete, but my knowledge of how and why the details are done (what i meant by the in the weeds part) is not important to me. i'm consuming, not analyzing. but the taste of the organic orange is essential. if those details are not there, the experience is diminished. and i can immediately notice it.

artifacts are a different thing entirely. the absence of something is not an artifact. an artifact is an apparently non musical 'something' added or simply a distortion. it could be something i even like to a degree but is not real musical truth. for instance, when comparing a vinyl pressing to the source tape we can many times identify the added space/scale as an artifact. and then debate which presentation is more real and why we are hearing that difference. doing my recent digital dac and server compares we did easily identify artifacts heard when doing the direct compare. and it was a musically significant reveal. in that case we had a combination of more truthful musically completing detail, and fewer non musical artifacts..........together. and think mostly that is how it goes.
 
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spiritofmusic

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Me and Ra were at a fantastic concert experience yesterday, a purpose built medium sized hall in Cambridge, the New Cambridge Sinfonia playing Grieg/Wedding At Troldhaugen & Piano Concerto A Min; and Sibelius/Symphony No.5 E Flat Maj. This kind of had everything you'd want in a symphony performance, from big dynamic piano and bold motifs in the Grieg, to the atmospheric subtleties in the Sibelius. A real shifting of moods, dynamics and tonalities.
And maybe for the first time, no compromise in hall acoustics. We heard Brandenburg Concertos at St. Martin's In Field in London, and it was so dilute and insipid as to sound worse than some audio systems I've auditioned.
What was really amazing about the pieces yesterday was how full tonal density was, instruments had a real boldness and fullness and projection, yet no deficit on attack, transients and incisiveness, and for the first time in concert I really perceived great articulation, tone and propulsion from the basses and lowest cello notes, these can often be MIA for me.
As a result of fantastic gravity of sound that I'll label part of tone density, and full immersion on timbres from around the instruments, no restriction on articulation, this became apparent as my fave concert experience ever, and a new mental comparo for my sound and what I want to hear at others.
The tonal density w unrestricted articulation was the big take way. I've never ever heard this so well represented as I did yesterday, a real experience and education.
 

tima

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Thank you for your well considered reply, Carlos. Your appreciation for listening to classical music is obvious. I believe I have an understanding of what you are saying, and while I might disagree somewhat, that is more in the vein of offering a different perspective rather than seeing this as a right/wrong argument.

But I would argue that hearing the violin overtones and appreciating the emotional message of the music are mutually exclusive. In similar fashion to a wire frame drawing of a cube, where your brain can only see one view or the other at any one time, your brain can only appreciate the violin overtones or the musical emotion, but not both. And in focusing on the violin overtones the listener engages the analytical side and misses out on the emotional engagement for that particular moment at least. Unless, of course the listener perceives the violin overtones subconsciously without detracting from his focus on the emotional connection.

My view may partly be a function of my reviewing activity as I 'look' at myself while I listen and consider listening behavior and reaction. I do not find myself consistently in an on/off emotional vs analytic listening posture, where I am in one state of the other.

I find my own listening more on a continuum that runs from hard analytic focus on a particular sonic characteristic in a particular music passage to enraptured limbic bliss, one feature of which is largely the absence of cerebral cortex activity.

I once wrote about those two end-states in an amplifier review under the heading "Reviewer Brain versus Paleomammalian Brain." There I described them as mutually exclusive states: "If a component or a system breaks the fundamental rules of human hearing, our music-listening brain reaches a kind of tipping point where processing of music occurs less in limbic areas and more in the cerebral cortex. If my ear/brain system detects distortion, for example an excess of third-order harmonics that cause increased loudness or forwardness from that trumpet section over there in right field, in an instant it can happen: focus is triggered, the eyes open and the non-inferential immediacy of our musical enjoyment collapses."

So yes, while we can write such description as being mutually exclusive, and, considering those alone, they very well may be distinct, where I find my own listening awareness is closer to some degree of one state and some degree of the other. There are times when the degree may be 100% of one and the absence of the other. Most of the time, when I listen for reviewing, which is a fair amount of my listening (my burden if you will), I can enjoy emotional engagement while recognizing what I'm hearing. I'll assume that recognition is cognition, but it can be more appreciative awareness than strict analysis. If I hear the wood body of a cello -- or what Nora Jones calls 'the dark and shady corners inside a violin' -- I will smile. That is neither distraction nor artifact for me. It enhances rather than diminishes my enjoyment. And the standard caveat: for me -- someone else may be different.

I agree that if I'm listening to symphonic music live I'm not likely to focus my attention on the sound of a particular violin, although if it is the reproduction of a violin sonata I might very well enjoy the harmonics and overtones without losing my emotional connection with the music. I may very well describe what I heard in writing and that will come across as analysis, but it is for the purpose of exposition rather than an account of my mental state when I heard it.

I guess I'm making a different distinction between artifact and non-artifact than you are. But, that's okay. We can both have our way - there is no right way to listen though some may be more enjoyable than others for each of us.


 

tima

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aybe i was not clear about what my meaning was, but hearing the details of the violin playing is essential to my listening. it's part of the 'more real' thing and the overtones, textures and timbres thing, the music being complete, but my knowledge of how and why the details are done (what i meant by the in the weeds part) is not important to me. i'm consuming, not analyzing. but the taste of the organic orange is essential. if those details are not there, the experience is diminished. and i can immediately notice it.

I understand - thanks for the follow-up, Mike.
 

Karen Sumner

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maybe i was not clear about what my meaning was, but hearing the details of the violin playing is essential to my listening. it's part of the 'more real' thing and the overtones, textures and timbres thing, the music being complete, but my knowledge of how and why the details are done (what i meant by the in the weeds part) is not important to me. i'm consuming, not analyzing. but the taste of the organic orange is essential. if those details are not there, the experience is diminished. and i can immediately notice it.
I once wrote about those two end-states in an amplifier review under the heading "Reviewer Brain versus Paleomammalian Brain." There I described them as mutually exclusive states: "If a component or a system breaks the fundamental rules of human hearing, our music-listening brain reaches a kind of tipping point where processing of music occurs less in limbic areas and more in the cerebral cortex. If my ear/brain system detects distortion, for example an excess of third-order harmonics that cause increased loudness or forwardness from that trumpet section over there in right field, in an instant it can happen: focus is triggered, the eyes open and the non-inferential immediacy of our musical enjoyment collapses."
This is an interesting discussion because I think it depends upon which side of the equation of consumer/industry professional one happens to be. Consumers have a right to expect a high level of emotional engagement from their home music systems. In contrast, the professionals — designers, manufacturers, and review press — necessarily have to engage the analytical side of the brain sometimes to the extent that it makes it very difficult to listen to an audio system with the emotional right side. It's our burden to bear, and we all have triggers that either aide or stand in the way of our home music listening enjoyment. I listen to live music to trigger my emotional connection with music.

Last night I attended a very compelling Portland Symphony Orchestra performance. I was so grateful to be there and let live music wash over me that I couldn't stop the tears when the Bach Concerto for 2 Pianos (originally harpsichords) began. Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra, a piece many of us have heard many times by different orchestras — recorded and live, was also on the program, and I thought to myself that I probably could get through the PSO's performance without tuning out. I was stunned that I quickly became swept up in the music.

My left brain kicked in at the end of the performance. I thought Eckart Preu, our new conductor, must be a stickler for the entire orchestra being in proper tune, paying attention, and having spot on instrumental entrances and exits. (I can't wait to hear the high res file of this performance on our reference system.)

I went back stage with Brad Michel, a good friend and PSO’s recording engineer through Parma, to meet Eckart after the performance. I told him that I had never heard the PSO play with such power and articulation, and I congratulated him for the achievement. He said: "We have been working very hard with our brains, and we have more to do."

I replied: "You work hard with your brains so we can listen with our hearts. Thank you!"

There are many in the high-end audio industry who work hard with their brains to create musically representative products or to talk about them in the press so that consumers can be free to listen with their hearts. I figure that even with audiophiles who are attempting to create their own sound, a musically representative component does no harm, and it might just help lead them down the path to more musical enjoyment.
 

Elliot G.

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In any case as Groucho Marx famously said “Those are my principles. And if you don’t like them, I have others” ;)

Groucho also said and this is something I truly believe
"I will never join a club that will have me as a member."

When I read all of this I sit back and think that I truly believe the audio Industry has done a really horrible job. It seems that everything in our world seems to come down to money and chest pounding. If we are not on the side of what someone likes or owns then we dismiss and disparage them. This Industry has no standards and even less credentials for entrance. I had said many times that many are seeking approval and a permission slip to purchase or enjoy their purchase and much of this comes from the lack of direction and truth from the Industry.
I see many "reviews" on the internet and some of these growing followings without ever considering who is this person that is saying these things? What are their credentials? education? background?
Grinding through loads of gear without ever having a mature, finally tuned and set up system makes no sense to me and to many others. It takes a lot of time and effort and sometimes money to get to the point of having a really excellent musical producing system. ( there are those who can help you). Karen has two wonderful rooms FYI
I do realize for many this is virtually impossible. They have their system in a family room or multi purpose space and have sever limitations that they can't overcome. That's life! However they should take a deep breath and recognize that.
Those who have gone through the process, spent their money, had their mistakes (WE ALL HAVE if we are honest) and continued the path and done some research and taken the time learn that it all counts. Every little detail counts. Its much more than just the silver Bullitt product that is going to give me audio organisms.

Going to live music is fundamental in understanding what you are trying to accomplish at home. YOu may never be able to make your room sound like Carnegie hall however you may be able to have your system transport you there. HP and I used to discuss all the time that a great system is a time machine and when well working can take you to places that you can't do on a regular basis. I learned form him and many others and went to dozens of live events with him and we discussed these and then went back to listen at home and work. Audio has really gotten so much better in every way but the marketing and promotion of the business of audio has gotten worse IMO.
 
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kinch

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Thanks for the nudge about talking more about music connections. I agree that manufacturers need to talk more about their music credentials, if they have them or if they decide to get them.

We purchase 10 season tickets to our local symphony each year, and often we need to buy additional tickets. On Tuesday, twelve of us are going to hear the Portland Symphony Orchestra perform Bartok's "Concerto for Orchestra" and the Silver-Garburg Duo perform Bach's and Poulenc's concertos for two pianos. It looks like we are going to miss most of the Boston Symphony season this year, but we have in the past and will again in the future provide our most passionate music listeners with the opportunity to experience as many BSO performances as they like.
That music manufacturers need to talk more about their credentials is a loaded issue. What exactly drives their certainty in quality, comparisons, and pricing of components? So many manufacturer websites are front loaded with pitches based on either seemingly objective discussions (of algos, response curves etc) or subjective language (of musicality etc) that the dev's own background - not their p.r. "approach" or "philosophy" - is often a big unknown. What exactly is their street cred? What should hi fi consumers expect?
 

Elliot G.

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That music manufacturers need to talk more about their credentials is a loaded issue. What exactly drives their certainty in quality, comparisons, and pricing of components? So many manufacturer websites are front loaded with pitches based on either seemingly objective discussions (of algos, response curves etc) or subjective language (of musicality etc) that the dev's own background - not their p.r. "approach" or "philosophy" - is often a big unknown. What exactly is their street cred? What should hi fi consumers expect?
I don't think its a loaded issue at all. What a designers background, Education, experience and musical listening is IMO very important and so is that of a reviewer again in my opinion. I also believe that if they do not have a , for the lack of a better word, a full time reference system and listening room its hard for me to take anything they say seriously.
We have been approached by reviewers to review our products that have no room, and no gear of there own. Yet they write for a magazine and give their opinions. We should all do our research as to who to listen to and take advice from based on more than you liked their opinion.

Would you purchase gear from a place that can't produce great sound? If they can't do that why would you believe anything they say?
My father always said to me do your research as to where to buy before you decide what to buy. I still hold this to be one of my great life lessons.
 

kinch

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I don't think its a loaded issue at all. What a designers background, Education, experience and musical listening is IMO very important and so is that of a reviewer
100%. Discuss the devs' background. Show us the manufacturer listening room. Decribe ancillary equipment.
Kudos for not going with reviewers in 10" x 12" rooms in old buildings no matter how lyrical they wax.
 

PeterA

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100%. Discuss the devs' background. Show us the manufacturer listening room. Decribe ancillary equipment.
Kudos for not going with reviewers in 10" x 12" rooms in old buildings no matter how lyrical they wax.

I agree, but what is wrong with old buildings? The construction is often much better than new buildings, especially for sound.
 

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