Karen Sumner

Industry Expert
Apr 18, 2021
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In a future thread, we will examine how to evaluate a hi fi system’s presentation of musical space, but before we go there, it is important to have a deeper discussion about the nature of individual music tones played by different instruments. If we are to talk about how a hi fi renders the sound of a musical instrument in space, we need to know what stimuli we need to trigger the level of musical believability that will result in at least temporarily suspending our notion that we are listening to a hi fi.

More than a few audiophiles are looking for listening experiences that don’t have much bearing on the actual sound of live acoustic music. If your objective is purely to have fun experimenting with sound and trying to achieve a sound that you personally like, you don’t need to continue to read this thread. If your objective is to create more musically engaging listening at home, I have a few more things to share. I have been reminded by some of you that hi fi is a very personal journey. It’s obvious from reading posts here that some of you never really arrive at a satisfying musical destination, and I have seen some audiophiles eventually giving up on the hobby because they are looking in all the wrong places for solutions. A few, for at least a time, are able to achieve a plateau of musically satisfying performance until at least they discover the flaws that stand in the way of taking their experience to the next level. Fewer than that ever reach their musical destination.

We’ve already talked at length about this meandering, and its basis lies within the nature of what many of us have come to expect from hi fi. The industry and press have given us very little to help steer us in the right direction. We are each more or less on our own, and while we are searching, many of us become more attuned to the industry’s hi fi standards where musical “seasoning” takes on more importance than the main course — the music itself. The hi fi standard is among other things focused on upper frequency harmonic details, 3-D imaging, tightly defined low frequencies, and ppp > fff dynamics. In hi fi circles, evaluating how a particular component or set up achieves these effects typically involves comparing how other components render the effects rather than using music as the reference. This process unfortunately most often leads to taking us further away from the musical truth.

Although present to one degree or another in these types of systems, the critical 100-1000 Hz region where 80% of the music resides takes a back seat to the quest to reproduce these hi fi effects. We often hear words like pure, clean, or holographic to describe these systems. Achieving a sense of “space between the notes” when listening to such a system has somehow become a desirable standard. Such a characteristic, however, does not actually exist when real instruments play together except in the rare instances when musical notation or technique specifically calls for it.

For example, when one listens to a string trio, such as Beethoven’s Opus 9 Trio, and the violin, viola, and cello play the same note, we should be able to hear 3 different instruments with 3 distinct tonal qualities. The differences in size, structure, and materials of the instrument bodies and the differences in the composition and length of their strings combine with the techniques employed by their musicians to determine the tonal quality of a particular instrument, or its timbre. Harmonic structure unfolds in a unique way in each instrument body and the way in which this harmonic information escapes the instrument and is broadcast through space is unique to that instrument and artist. Two violins do not sound the same. When 2 different artists play the same violin, the timbre is different because of differences in technique, and when 2 different instruments play the same note, the tonal quality is different. In addition, the sound of each note played by each instrument has its own attack-delay envelope that further helps to define an instrument’s timbre.

When listening to a string trio, one hears all 3 instruments at the same time and the combined timbre of the 3 instruments creates the overall texture of the music. The texture of a musical piece is the sum of all the timbres of all the instruments, and if it is musically pleasing, the texture of the musical fabric is dense. In real time, all this information mingles and sometimes augments one another (superposition).

There is no space between the notes, and actual music waves are not in and of themselves very often clean and pure.

Music is messy. When the critical mid frequencies have taken a backseat to hi fi effects, the effects, as we will explain in more detail below, obscure the timbre of instruments and the texture of the music performance. I want my hi fi to capture all the glory of that messiness. I don’t want a hi fi that sounds clean and pure no matter what I play on it. I want to hear each fundamental tone, and all the characteristics of the harmonic envelope that that instrument produces given its physical properties as a resonator, its artist’s technique, and its performance space.

I want to hear what’s on the source material, good or bad. I don’t want a golden age hi fi where enhanced euphony obscures the real details of music, and I do not want a hi fi that is stripped of its musical life so that it produces information in a way that hi fi effects get in the way of the actual music.

David Lapp, Fellow, Wright Center for Innovative Science Education at Tufts University writes in The Physics of Music and Musical Instruments:

At the smallest of perceptible sound intensities, the eardrum vibrates less distance than the diameter of a hydrogen atom! If the energy in a single 1-watt night-light were converted to acoustical energy and divided up into equal portions for every person in the world, it would still be audible to the person with normal hearing.

Our ears are the most powerful instruments, and by design, we are naturally able to hear every nuance of timbre and texture that musical instruments are capable of producing. The good news is that today’s high resolution, powerful audio components have the capacity to render all that information. With a few exceptions, however, we haven’t yet managed to put all these powerful tools together to achieve musical success. The operating principle here is the word “yet”. I consider myself to be among the lucky few who have achieved a firm foundation of musical success in a hi fi. To get there, I have devoted my life to listening to live acoustic music and putting together a hi fi system that honors it. I never would have gotten there, however, if I had not been excited about learning about how instruments sound, why they sound the way they do, and the effect that different acoustic spaces have on the textural elements of the musical presentation. We are each left to explore our hi fi journeys on our own, and if the objective of our journey is to get closer to music, it takes work, listening, and studying to make your investments pay off. You can’t get there without really knowing what instruments sound like. It is not enough to say that you’ve heard a violin, so you know what a violin sounds like. You need to know what actually contributes to the sound of that instrument, and musical memory is short. I confessed in a previous thread that I had been seduced by hi fi sound during the pandemic because it was not possible to attend live music events. I believe one needs to listen to live acoustic music frequently to fend off hi fi as the new normal.

A violin is not just a string tone which is what typical hi fi systems emphasize. Many hi fi set ups do not deliver much, if any, of the violin’s rich and woody timbre that builds within the body of the instrument and provides support and foundation to the sound of its strings vibrating. That support and foundation not only triggers a “this feels real” listening response, but it is vital to how we perceive the instrument playing in space — the final frontier to achieving fully satisfying music listening at home.

David Lapp goes on to say:

However, our sensitivity varies tremendously over the audible range. For example, a 50 Hz sound must be 43 dB before it is perceived to be as loud as a 4,000 Hz sound at 2 dB. (4,000 Hz is the approximate frequency of greatest sensitivity for humans with no hearing loss.) In this case, we require the 50 Hz sound to have 13,000 times the actual intensity of the 4,000 Hz sound in order to have the same perceived intensity!

Let’s examine how this factoid applies to typical hi fi sound. The standard assortment of hi fi effects typically reside at the frequency extremes which according to Lapp require a greater level of intensity to hear at the same volume that our ears naturally hear mid-frequencies. By focusing on hi fi effects, the system set up and component choices tend to result in a greater intensity of frequency extreme information than is present in musically balanced sound. Because these details are at an unnatural level of intensity in these systems, the critical mid-band frequencies and all their intricately complex harmonics are suppressed. This type of stripped, disembodied sound does not resonate with our spirits over the long term because it is too far from the truth.

If our ears are naturally more sensitive to mid-frequencies, this greater sensitivity leads to greater auditory sensations. Our brains are hard wired to translate this greater stimulation into thoughts and feelings. If we are on the right path, emotions and memories well up in us on a more deeply personal and satisfying level when we listen to music at home than the pursuit of hi fi effects can ever provide.
 

marty

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Karen,
I enjoyed your thoughtful essay. I have no disagreements but wish to raise a minor point. When you say "Our ears are the most powerful instruments" and cite that an ear drum movement of the width of a hydrogen molecule elicits perception, I am compelled to respond. I'm not sure that the word "powerful" is the right descriptor for the point you wish to make, but I'll give you a pass for that one as I appreciate the context. However in terms of absolute sensitivity thresholds for human sensory systems, nothing trumps the visual system. If you light a match in the desert it can be perceived as light 10 miles away because of the energy that a single photon can transmit and turn into chemical energy by a single photoreceptor in the retina which is then transmitted by a neuron which sends a signal to the visual cortex in the brain. That's quite a feat. The auditory system cannot compete! As I recall from a grad course many moons ago, the sensitivity of the visual system trumps that of the auditory system by at least 4 log units. Take that, O beautiful thine ears! ;)

On the other hand, the visual system wouldn't know what to make of the difference between an arm bowing a cello versus rowing a boat, so there's that!
Marty
 
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andromedaaudio

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owever, our sensitivity varies tremendously over the audible range. For example, a 50 Hz sound must be 43 dB before it is perceived to be as loud as a 4,000 Hz sound at 2 dB. (4,000 Hz is the approximate frequency of greatest sensitivity for humans with no hearing loss.) In this case, we require the 50 Hz sound to have 13,000 times the actual intensity of the 4,000 Hz sound in order to have the same perceived intensity!
Karen you can contact wilson and they will confirm to you that the bass driver in their/ your speakers ( which does 50 hz ) does not play 43 - 2 db = 41 db louder then the midrange
May be 3 db louder anechoic , they specify their speakers as staying within +- 3 db ; +- 2 db respectively over the 20 hz - 20 khz range
 

tima

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Dear Karen - I find so much in common with your words and my own thoughts about our audio hobby. I do appreciate the time and care you are putting into your essays and saying what some here have talked about perhaps with less eloquence - things that should be said and should be repeated, both from the past and for now. Our discussions are part of our time's evolution with our hobby while also reaffirming a set of values that are worth keeping alive - even when sometimes some find us redundant.

If we are to talk about how a hi fi renders the sound of a musical instrument in space, we need to know what stimuli we need to trigger the level of musical believability that will result in at least temporarily suspending our notion that we are listening to a hi fi.

I want to riff on that thought in a way that may sound orthogonal but that is not my intent. First though let me concur with your use of the word believability, it is one of my words too. I substitute it for natural - I have no problem with natural and the notion of natural sound, they are equally apt. Believability brings the leitmotif of subjectivity to natural, carrying both the reality of live acoustic music coupled with our individual experiences of it.

My thought is about believability as a goal - what you describe as attaining through our stereo systems stimuli sufficient to having a level of believablity. For me, before levels of believability, before the goal of system-borne natural sound, above all other goals lest we lose sight of it, is music itself. It is the love - for me, my love - of music that carries all other goals in tow, that rationalizes them, that justifies them.

It maybe a uniquely audiophile conundrum, a burden if you will - our enjoyment of, sometimes our lust for, sound, good sound, very good sound, believable sound. My own progression came first from music then to audiophilery, then to fanatical audiophilery, and now, hopefully with age and maybe insight, back to music with the desire to have it manifested well when I have it at home. As I expose myself to more great composers, great musicians, and great performances, I have learned more personally, with fullfilment, than I gained with any system upgrade, with any new component, with any new audiophile excitement or thrill. I do not want a desire for believability as a goal, for some level of believability to supercede that, to deflect from music itself.

Even with our sometimes snooty, hyper-judgemental audiophile attitudes about this wire or that cartridge or those speakers I, we, can bring to myself, to ourselves what music has to offer with simple systems, entry level systems, and of course on up the ladder - no denying the ladder, but the ladder is not the goal. Too often we judge by our systems and not our music collections. A man with a meaningful record collection is a man who believes in the power of music first.

Somewhere, each of will stop or at least quiesece (sp?). We run out of money or desire or simply step off the treadmill for a while. It actually may be a good thing.

A few, for at least a time, are able to achieve a plateau of musically satisfying performance until at least they discover the flaws that stand in the way of taking their experience to the next level. [my emphasis]

And with that above and your below is where I believe we are akin.

We are each more or less on our own, and while we are searching, many of us become more attuned to the industry’s hi fi standards where musical “seasoning” takes on more importance than the main course — the music itself.

The hi fi standard is among other things focused on upper frequency harmonic details, 3-D imaging, tightly defined low frequencies, and ppp > fff dynamics. In hi fi circles, evaluating how a particular component or set up achieves these effects typically involves comparing how other components render the effects rather than using music as the reference. This process unfortunately most often leads to taking us further away from the musical truth.

And hopefully this godforsaken social virus madness will end and we will reacquaint ourselves with live peformances and real acoustic music.

I want to hear what’s on the source material, good or bad. I don’t want a golden age hi fi where enhanced euphony obscures the real details of music, and I do not want a hi fi that is stripped of its musical life so that it produces information in a way that hi fi effects get in the way of the actual music.

Yes, exactly - you are so right. Keep saying this.

There is no space between the notes, and actual music waves are not in and of themselves very often clean and pure.

The "space" between the notes is time. Less we forget music is performance art. It thankfully is preserved for posterity in a score (where there actually are spaces between notes!) but it is alive only in time. If you think you are hearing 'the space between notes' - you are not wrong, but you have the wrong vocabularly, you are hearing a performance. It is time that is messy. Serial ordination is not a natural phenomenoni - we bring time to our perception - with our selves messily and with devices we create cleanly, we experience music

edits: grammar/spelling
 
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Gregm

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May I briefly thank you for another very thought-provoking post / discussion. Putting it aside to read thoroughly (after work), I promise to contribute to the discussion.

A very quick spontaneous remark: in this line you have singled-out a sizable chunk of audiophiles whose...
"...objective is purely to have fun experimenting with sound and trying to achieve a sound that (they) personally like"

My own sonic preference is for a more palatable, "real" and thereby engaging sound; however, the "dedicated sound-tweakers" have given me lots of useful hints and shared know-how that helped me in my own pursuits!
 

Gregm

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Mar 14, 2019
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I want to hear what’s on the source material, good or bad. I don’t want a golden age hi fi where enhanced euphony obscures the real details of music, and I do not want a hi fi that is stripped of its musical life so that it produces information in a way that hi fi effects get in the way of the actual music.
Years ago, my original quest was for "naturalness", i.e. a sound that is as subjectively close as possible to my auditory perception of live sound. I listen to a lot of live, mainly classical, music.
Then I realised that there are variables totally out of my control: mixing & mastering and, to a lesser deleterious extent, the recording process. So my original target was unattainable by my own means.

And so I focused on extracting as much of whatever is on the source material, just as you and other audiophile wise (e.g. Linkwitz...).

And I also endeavoured to reproduce it as "well as possible". Of course this begs the question: how can I gauge that what I am hearing of the source material is "as well as possible". I think that the answer cannot but be at least partly subjective, i.e. partly reproducing what is on the source matl and in part, emulating how we believe what is on the source should sound.

I.e. a Bösendorfer should be identified as a piano and I would expect it to sound rich, deep (i.e. somewhat more bass-toned) --- but are those nuances in the original recording? My assumption is, and I speak for acoustic /classical instruments, that many / most recordings (speaking classical) have captured a sufficient number of nuances to, at least, hint at the Bösendorfer referred to above.

Maybe I'm being overly optiimistic!
 
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Karen Sumner

Industry Expert
Apr 18, 2021
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Karen you can contact wilson and they will confirm to you that the bass driver in their/ your speakers ( which does 50 hz ) does not play 43 - 2 db = 41 db louder then the midrange
May be 3 db louder anechoic , they specify their speakers as staying within +- 3 db ; +- 2 db respectively over the 20 hz - 20 khz range
I think the point is that even if a component measures in a linear fashion over the entire audible range, our ears, in fact, do not hear it that way. This is without considering additional factors that affect what we actually hear in a sound system such as listening room acoustics, the position of the speaker in the room, and the associated components and cables hooked up to it. Attached is a chart from Lapp's book that shows the differences in sensitivity of human hearing to different frequencies. This is why ears ultimately need to be the judge.
 

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Karen Sumner

Industry Expert
Apr 18, 2021
133
377
65
May I briefly thank you for another very thought-provoking post / discussion. Putting it aside to read thoroughly (after work), I promise to contribute to the discussion.

A very quick spontaneous remark: in this line you have singled-out a sizable chunk of audiophiles whose...
"...objective is purely to have fun experimenting with sound and trying to achieve a sound that (they) personally like"

My own sonic preference is for a more palatable, "real" and thereby engaging sound; however, the "dedicated sound-tweakers" have given me lots of useful hints and shared know-how that helped me in my own pursuits!
Greg -

I think tweakers and music lovers are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Everyone is welcome. I look forward to reading your further thoughts on these subjects.
 
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Karen Sumner

Industry Expert
Apr 18, 2021
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Years ago, my original quest was for "naturalness", i.e. a sound that is as subjectively close as possible to my auditory perception of live sound. I listen to a lot of live, mainly classical, music.
Then I realised that there are variables totally out of my control: mixing & mastering and, to a lesser deleterious extent, the recording process. So my original target was unattainable by my own means.

And so I focused on extracting as much of whatever is on the source material, just as you and other audiophile wise (e.g. Linkwitz...).

And I also endeavoured to reproduce it as "well as possible". Of course this begs the question: how can I gauge that what I am hearing of the source material is "as well as possible". I think that the answer cannot but be at least partly subjective, i.e. partly reproducing what is on the source matl and in part, emulating how we believe what is on the source should sound.

I.e. a Bösendorfer should be identified as a piano and I would expect it to sound rich, deep (i.e. somewhat more bass-toned) --- but are those nuances in the original recording? My assumption is, and I speak for acoustic /classical instruments, that many / most recordings (speaking classical) have captured a sufficient number of nuances to, at least, hint at the Bösendorfer referred to above.

Maybe I'm being overly optiimistic!
I believe that you are definitely on the right path. No matter what tools and experiences we apply to the pursuit of musical perfection, we can never really get there.

I don't think you are being overly optimistic about being able to hear instrumental timbre on a hi fi. The majority of today's source material can reveal instrumental timbres such as the differences between Bosendorfer, Steinway, Baldwin, and Yamaha pianos. It probably is a stretch, however, to claim one can hear the timbral differences between 2 different Bosendorfer pianos on a recording unless you happened to be there at the performances and the performances were played by the same artist in the same hall with the same microphones and placement.

To me, at least, talking about whether a system can render this kind of low-level music information that is so vital to creating a "you are there" listening experience is a lot more interesting than comparing the "imaging" capabilities of 2 components!
 

Karen Sumner

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Apr 18, 2021
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Karen,
I enjoyed your thoughtful essay. I have no disagreements but wish to raise a minor point. When you say "Our ears are the most powerful instruments" and cite that an ear drum movement of the width of a hydrogen molecule elicits perception, I am compelled to respond. I'm not sure that the word "powerful" is the right descriptor for the point you wish to make, but I'll give you a pass for that one as I appreciate the context. However in terms of absolute sensitivity thresholds for human sensory systems, nothing trumps the visual system. If you light a match in the desert it can be perceived as light 10 miles away because of the energy that a single photon can transmit and turn into chemical energy by a single photoreceptor in the retina which is then transmitted by a neuron which sends a signal to the visual cortex in the brain. That's quite a feat. The auditory system cannot compete! As I recall from a grad course many moons ago, the sensitivity of the visual system trumps that of the auditory system by at least 4 log units. Take that, O beautiful thine ears! ;)

On the other hand, the visual system wouldn't know what to make of the difference between an arm bowing a cello versus rowing a boat, so there's that!
Marty
:)
 

Blackmorec

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Feb 1, 2019
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In a future thread, we will examine how to evaluate a hi fi system’s presentation of musical space, but before we go there, it is important to have a deeper discussion about the nature of individual music tones played by different instruments. If we are to talk about how a hi fi renders the sound of a musical instrument in space, we need to know what stimuli we need to trigger the level of musical believability that will result in at least temporarily suspending our notion that we are listening to a hi fi.
Hi Karen,
Above everything else I value a system that sounds like real instruments playing in a realistic acoustic, so I want perfect 3 dimensional spacial resolution, I want the system to sound clean and pure and I want the bass to sound exactly like it does when a percussionist hits a snare or timpani or a contrabasist draws his bow over a string

Allow me to define in more detail what I am looking for.

Take a piano, a violin, a drum, a harpsichord or a classical guitar as examples. Each of the notes of those instruments starts with a percussive hammer on a string, a scrape of a resinous horsehair bow on a string, the whack of a drumstick on a skin or the pluck of a fingernail or plectrum on a string. When I’m listening to the string trio in your example what Im looking for is the live experience and that live experience has the initial sound of each instrument originating from exactly where the violinist or cellist is sitting, spacially very precise. Then the instruments start to resonate, the notes bloom to fill the whole room before wall reflections from the venue join in and add their contribution to the sound. I want all of that….the spacial accuracy of those initial ‘scrapes’, the blooming of the note to fill the venue and finally the venue joining in to add greater body. Music is highly 3 dimensional so in order to sound like live instruments, my system must create sound waves that allow my brain to recreate all that different, rich spacial information, assuming of course that its there on the recording in the first place.
Then there’s ‘clean and pure’. That’s exactly what I want. How would you enjoy a classical concert if the air conditioning above your head is whirring, the people behind you were talking and the 20.15 train rumbled into the underground station below. When I talk about clean and pure I’m not talking about the music….I’m talking about similar background stuff that would disturb live music. On a hi-fi that would be for example record contamination, electro-magnetic interference, tape hiss, digital jitter, transformer hum, noisy electronics, resonance exciting vibration…..indeed whatever undesirable artefact that obscures all that beautiful and subtle information you and I want to hear. Pure and clean isn’t about cleaning up the music, its about cleaning up the background noise that interferes with and obscures the music.
Then bass. In live music a string vibrates until it stops naturally, same for a drum skin but its not necessarily the same for a big heavy woofer….so the bass I’m looking for has the ability to track the musical signal perfectly and precisely, not a woofer that starts too slowly, stops too late and can’t follow subtle shifts to produce timbral information from whisper quiet bass lines.
In summary, what I want is a hi-fi that tracks the recording perfectly….that reproduces the pinpoint start and 3 dimensional bloom of each note….that provides music against a pure and clear background so even the quietest parts of the music are revealed, with bass that reflects the precise start, stop and subtleties of the note with no blurring or losses caused by a poorly controlled woofer.
 
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Karen Sumner

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Apr 18, 2021
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Dear Karen - I find so much in common with your words and my own thoughts about our audio hobby. I do appreciate the time and care you are putting into your essays and saying what some here have talked about perhaps with less eloquence - things that should be said and should be repeated, both from the past and for now. Our discussions are part of our time's evolution with our hobby while also reaffirming a set of values that are worth keeping alive - even when sometimes some find us redundant.
Hi, Tima -

Thank you for your encouragement. You and probably many others who frequent WBF could write far more expansively on the subjects I have only brushed upon in these threads. I thank you and other industry veterans for taking the time to read my pieces and respond.

I've taken on this project for a number of reasons:

1. If I am able to help a few lost souls out there find their musical truth, it would have been worthwhile.
2. I do not really know the demographics of the WBF readership, but I am hoping that at least a few budding audiophiles and music lovers have started to frequent these threads. I think that people who are newer to the hi fi game have a hard time finding answers that will really help them make hi fi and music satisfying lifetime hobbies.
3. It's a bit of a "call out" to the professionals (manufacturers, dealers, review press) in our industry to start talking more about hi fi as a vehicle to get closer to music, rather than an end unto itself — now if we can only get them to listen to more live music.
4. I am a better writer than I am a talker, and I really wanted to share my thoughts and experiences from my 40 years in this industry in a way that would help the younger, less experienced members of Transparent's staff (front facing and operations) embrace our "why".

. . . More to come . . .
 

Karen Sumner

Industry Expert
Apr 18, 2021
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Hi Karen,
Above everything else I value a system that sounds like real instruments playing in a realistic acoustic, so I want perfect 3 dimensional spacial resolution, I want the system to sound clean and pure and I want the bass to sound exactly like it does when a percussionist hits a snare or timpani or a contrabasist draws his bow over a string

Allow me to define in more detail what I am looking for.

Take a piano, a violin, a drum, a harpsichord or a classical guitar as examples. Each of the notes of those instruments starts with a percussive hammer on a string, a scrape of a resinous horsehair bow on a string, the whack of a drumstick on a skin or the pluck of a fingernail or plectrum on a string. When I’m listening to the string trio in your example what Im looking for is the live experience and that live experience has the initial sound of each instrument originating from exactly where the violinist or cellist is sitting, spacially very precise. Then the instruments start to resonate, the notes bloom to fill the whole room before wall reflections from the venue join in and add their contribution to the sound. I want all of that….the spacial accuracy of those initial ‘scrapes’, the blooming of the note to fill the venue and finally the venue joining in to add greater body. Music is highly 3 dimensional so in order to sound like live instruments, my system must create sound waves that allow my brain to recreate all that different, rich spacial information, assuming of course that its there on the recording in the first place.
Then there’s ‘clean and pure’. That’s exactly what I want. How would you enjoy a classical concert if the air conditioning above your head is whirring, the people behind you were talking and the 20.15 train rumbled into the underground station below. When I talk about clean and pure I’m not talking about the music….I’m talking about similar background stuff that would disturb live music. On a hi-fi that would be for example record contamination, electro-magnetic interference, tape hiss, digital jitter, transformer hum, noisy electronics, resonance exciting vibration…..indeed whatever undesirable artefact that obscures all that beautiful and subtle information you and I want to hear. Pure and clean isn’t about cleaning up the music, its about cleaning up the background noise that interferes with and obscures the music.
Then bass. In live music a string vibrates until it stops naturally, same for a drum skin but its not necessarily the same for a big heavy woofer….so the bass I’m looking for has the ability to track the musical signal perfectly and precisely, not a woofer that starts too slowly, stops too late and can’t follow subtle shifts to produce timbral information from whisper quiet bass lines.
In summary, what I want is a hi-fi that tracks the recording perfectly….that reproduces the pinpoint start and 3 dimensional bloom of each note….that provides music against a pure and clear background so even the quietest parts of the music are revealed, with bass that reflects the precise start, stop and subtleties of the note with no blurring or losses caused by a poorly controlled woofer.
This is a beautiful description!
 
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Kal Rubinson

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I think the point is that even if a component measures in a linear fashion over the entire audible range, our ears, in fact, do not hear it that way. This is without considering additional factors that affect what we actually hear in a sound system such as listening room acoustics, the position of the speaker in the room, and the associated components and cables hooked up to it. Attached is a chart from Lapp's book that shows the differences in sensitivity of human hearing to different frequencies. This is why ears ultimately need to be the judge.
The basic shape of the sensitivity curves were established at the the 1939 World's Fair where people lined up "to have their hearing tested."
 
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andromedaaudio

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Basically all top speaker designs measure flat within + - 3 db , anechoic .
Which is perceived neutral by listeners otherwise they wouldnt buy them
Place them in a room close to walls etc and you will get another 3 may be 6 or 10 db lift in the bass .
Depending on freq

But nowhere near 41 db higher in the bassregion , that would be like hearing only bass and no mid and highs.
Totally of balance , Kal im sure JA would agree on that

I agree with mid range importance , because with a decoupled bass unit and tweeter in a 3 way design you still have a speaker of some sort .
But decouple the mid and there is not much left
 
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Gregm

Well-Known Member
Mar 14, 2019
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(...) what Im looking for is the live experience and that live experience has the initial sound of each instrument originating from exactly where the violinist or cellist is sitting, spacially very precise.
I.e. the speakers have been optimally placed in the (sound optimised) room...
Then the instruments start to resonate, the notes bloom to fill the whole room before wall reflections from the venue join in and add their contribution to the sound. I want all of that….the spacial accuracy of those initial ‘scrapes’, the blooming of the note to fill the venue and finally the venue joining in to add greater body. (...) my system must create sound waves that allow my brain to recreate all that different, rich spacial information, assuming of course that its there on the recording in the first place.
The point is to correlate that sound with some guiding, recognisable characteristics. E.g. an outstanding small speaker will simulate the sound of an orchestra; a well engineered large speaker comes much closer to emulating the actual sound of an orchestra
In summary, what I want is a hi-fi that tracks the recording perfectly….that reproduces the pinpoint start and 3 dimensional bloom of each note….that provides music against a pure and clear background so even the quietest parts of the music are revealed, with bass that reflects the precise start, stop and subtleties of the note with no blurring or losses caused by a poorly controlled woofer.
I would add, where the dynamics captured in the recording are clearly rendered by the system.
regards
 

Sampajanna

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Apr 1, 2021
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Love this essay! Would love to know more details about your current system, if you’d be willing to share.
 

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