Blackmorec

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Feb 1, 2019
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I would add, where the dynamics captured in the recording are clearly rendered by the system.
regards
Hey Gregm,
Indeed! Based on my experience, the biggest giveaway that you are listening to recorded vs live music are the dynamics, as you say and very specifically transient response. As I mentioned in my earlier post, the initial part of most notes from most instruments has a strongly percussive element. This includes the initial ‘burst’ of air from a brass instrument, the hammer hitting the strings of a piano, the ‘pluck’ of a guitar, the ‘whack’ of a drum etc. Live music obviously creates these percussive elements perfectly, but in a lot of systems, the transient response or rise-time of the system is too slow to capture the ultra-fast 0-100% rise in amplitude and therefore the systems attenuates this portion of each note. This has some major effects on what we hear. Firstly, the character and impact of each note is curtailed. Secondly and more vital to good sonics, the initial percussive element comes directly from the instrument and is critical to the brain’s ability to track multiple instruments, especially when they are playing the same or similarly pitched notes. There’s nothing worse in music replay than the outputs from 2 or more instruments combining tonally without the possibility of differentiating the instruments spacially. Then its not ‘messy’, rather its just an undifferentiated hodgepodge.
 

zerostargeneral

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Sir your cultural equivalence is notable and solid.

I am cryptically referring to a "Reddit" sub-forum, Noah(Noye) please get the boat?

Kindest regards,G.
 

tima

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As I mentioned in my earlier post, the initial part of most notes from most instruments has a strongly percussive element.

I will disagree a bit here. The initial part of most notes from most instruments do not reflect a strongly percussive element.

It can happen if the instrument is played that way.

A strong attack is more a product of the musician's performance art and less a function of the instrument itself. A score will indicate if the note is accented, also there are stylistic interpretations. There are what we might call gradations of transients and a believable system will reveal them. Imo, timbre differentiates notes on the same pitch more so than launch.

I'm somewhat sceptical of systems or components that emphasize attack transients; they can push the note at you, or push portions of the soundstage forward. For example, I hear this in the latest ARC Ref 3 and 6 series. Such a component may grab you or get your attention and yes some audiophiles like such an effect but over time it is homogenizing and unrealistic.
 
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zerostargeneral

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When pondering the Horizon effect I am always amused by instant profit from the demise.

De legal's well published trap mate is a perfect example of the negative outcomes derived once the trap is engaged.

The ability to avoid the trap in audio is extremely analogous, consumers and purveyors can be seen as black versus white on sixty four squares of the board.

Kindest regards,G.
 

Karen Sumner

Industry Expert
Apr 18, 2021
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I will disagree a bit here. The initial part of most notes from most instruments do not reflect a strongly percussive element.

It can happen if the instrument is played that way.

A strong attack is more a product of the musician's performance art and less a function of the instrument itself. A score will indicate if the note is accented, also there are stylistic interpretations. There are what we might call gradations of transients and a believable system will reveal them. Imo, timbre differentiates notes on the same pitch more so than launch.

I'm somewhat sceptical of systems or components that emphasize attack transients; they can push the note at you, or push portions of the soundstage forward. For example, I hear this in the latest ARC Ref 3 and 6 series. Such a component may grab you or get your attention and yes some audiophiles like such an effect but over time it is homogenizing and unrealistic.
I think you've made an important distinction here about attack. The artist's technique and interpretation controls the duration and intensity of a note's attack, sustain, and release, not the system. I agree with you that a system or components that emphasize(s) attack more than what is present on the source is interesting over the short term, but such a presentation becomes fatiguing after a while because the music's energy isn't being distributed in a way that sounds natural to our ears. I would add that most average, non-audiophile systems do a good job at presenting the artist's technique and interpretation in terms of their approach to forming notes. The problem occurs when owners of audiophile system set-ups seek to extract more than what is on the source material which almost inevitably leads to a psychoacoustic diminution of the meat of the music.

I will also disagree a bit here about your reference to the new ARC preamps. I am not going to take a position on the performance of these components or any other components in these threads, but your statement leads to more questions than answers. Perhaps your reference preamp actually served the purpose in your system of blunting transient attack that other components, cables, and the speaker set up accentuated, and when you inserted the ARC, it actually served to reveal what the rest of your system was doing. I am mentioning this because part of the reason the review press is not more useful in helping customers build systems that are capable of delivering a high level of music satisfaction is that too many discussions are focused on the characteristics of specific components while not fully addressing every other aspect of the systems, the listening environments, and the source material.
 

Blackmorec

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Feb 1, 2019
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168
I will disagree a bit here. The initial part of most notes from most instruments do not reflect a strongly percussive element.

It can happen if the instrument is played that way.

A strong attack is more a product of the musician's performance art and less a function of the instrument itself. A score will indicate if the note is accented, also there are stylistic interpretations. There are what we might call gradations of transients and a believable system will reveal them. Imo, timbre differentiates notes on the same pitch more so than launch.

I'm somewhat sceptical of systems or components that emphasize attack transients; they can push the note at you, or push portions of the soundstage forward. For example, I hear this in the latest ARC Ref 3 and 6 series. Such a component may grab you or get your attention and yes some audiophiles like such an effect but over time it is homogenizing and unrealistic.
Hi Tima,
I’m pondering whether we actually do disagree, or did some of my poorly expressed writing create the wrong impression?. Im actually not necessarily talking about a strong transient attack but rather about a fast, purely percussive element that starts each note , with a very localised hammer strike, string pluck, or breath that initiates the note….in other words the sound before any resonance of air, string or instrument body starts. Essentially its the cue to your brain to identify/differentiate different timbres….and may actually be very quiet, as in a gently played flute vs 2 gently played flutes playing the same note, but with the initial start of the note coming from 2 different locations. By the time both instruments are fully resonating the 2 notes are filling the room and can no longer be differentiated spatially.
If you want to hear what music sounds like without these cues or clues, listen to the two Tchaikowsky and Beethoven tracks posted earlier in this thread, played back on your PC or iPad. The very beginning of each note seems to be curtailed to the point its often difficult to know exactly which instrument or instruments are creating the sound.
 
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Karen Sumner

Industry Expert
Apr 18, 2021
133
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Love this essay! Would love to know more details about your current system, if you’d be willing to share.

I am so pleased you found what I wrote to be good reading!

. . . More to come . . .

Although I am sure many people are asking themselves what I have in my current system, I decided quite early in the "Karen Sumner Talks Audio and Music" forum not to go there or to talk about specific brands — it's kind of a slippery slope in which there are no winners because as some WBF veterans have reminded me — hi fi and music are very personal journeys.

Thank you for reading and commenting.
 

Karen Sumner

Industry Expert
Apr 18, 2021
133
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Utter genius.
Hi, Zero -

Welcome. I think your performance suggestions are excellent. I love both works, and Morini is a genius. I would love to hear these on the big rig some time this weekend, if I can find higher res versions (I might have the Tchaikovsky LP), but perhaps I am wrong, but it appears that there is no higher resolution version of the Beethoven Concerto Op 61 you suggested. Thank you for sharing. It is totally in the the spirit of what we are trying to accomplish here!
 
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tima

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Mar 4, 2014
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I will also disagree a bit here about your reference to the new ARC preamps. I am not going to take a position on the performance of these components or any other components in these threads, but your statement leads to more questions than answers. Perhaps your reference preamp actually served the purpose in your system of blunting transient attack that other components, cables, and the speaker set up accentuated, and when you inserted the ARC, it actually served to reveal what the rest of your system was doing. I am mentioning this because part of the reason the review press is not more useful in helping customers build systems that are capable of delivering a high level of music satisfaction is that too many discussions are focused on the characteristics of specific components while not fully addressing every other aspect of the systems, the listening environments, and the source material.

An unusual response on this part, Karen, thanks for your thoughts; hopefully I do not misunderstand you. The point of my comment about transient attack was not intended for helping a customer build a system, although it might serve that way.. I find forum discussions rarely back up generalized statements or conclusions with examples that give a basis for assessing the generalized statements or conclusions, so rather than doing that I gave some examples. I suppose I could have made my case without example. ALlhough it would be true to me either way, if you think my point about transients would be made more effectively without example, that's fine too.

You speculated about what might 'really be the case' as a way of saying my examples raise more questions than answers. I suppose we can always create hypotheticals about context and imply that unless those are addressed no comments about components should be made. I don't know. Is it is reasonable to expect full contextual reviews accompany component comments in an audio forum from anyone - maybe - though that question is probably outside the boundaries of your post here. That audio is a personal journey does contradict our coming here for opinions of others. (Fwiw, my references for my comment was the ARC Ref 10 line and phono stages.)
 

tima

Industry Expert
Mar 4, 2014
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Hi Tima,
I’m pondering whether we actually do disagree, or did some of my poorly expressed writing create the wrong impression?. Im actually not necessarily talking about a strong transient attack but rather about a fast, purely percussive element that starts each note , with a very localised hammer strike, string pluck, or breath that initiates the note….in other words the sound before any resonance of air, string or instrument body starts. Essentially its the cue to your brain to identify/differentiate different timbres….and may actually be very quiet, as in a gently played flute vs 2 gently played flutes playing the same note, but with the initial start of the note coming from 2 different locations. By the time both instruments are fully resonating the 2 notes are filling the room and can no longer be differentiated spatially.
If you want to hear what music sounds like without these cues or clues, listen to the two Tchaikowsky and Beethoven tracks posted earlier in this thread, played back on your PC or iPad. The very beginning of each note seems to be curtailed to the point its often difficult to know exactly which instrument or instruments are creating the sound.

Hi Blackmore,

Yes, I'm not sure we agree or disagree. I'm struggling to understand the difference you are describing between "a strong transient attack" and "a fast, purely percussive element that starts each note , with a very localised hammer strike, string pluck, or breath that initiates the note…" as that applies to "most notes." You further describe the latter as "the sound before any resonance of air, string or instrument body starts." Or so goes my reading. I'm not sure what you are describing.

To me that last description is of no sound at all - no note is launched, no air is initiated into an instrument, no body part moves an instrument - at least that's the way I interpret your words. Are you trying to describe a musician's intention to play a note - the moment before he moves his hand or pushes out his breath as describing "a fast, purely percussive element that starts each note"? Perhaps the absence of understanding is mine. My limitation is that I'm going entirely off my own experience as a piano player and a woodwind player and largely unable to abstract from those experiences to your description of a fast percussive element that characterizes most notes.

As regards your one flute vs two flutes example I'll say first, I struggle to see how that ties in to your description of most notes having a strong, fast purely percussive element. And second I see that example as more about the relative discrimination of a listener's ability to locate sounds in space. One might not distinquish two flutes playing the exact same note if they are sitting next to each other, which in orchestra will be the case, or the listener is a certain distance from them. If they are in time, following a score, then the difference between one initiating the note and then the other may be imperceptible. If they are not in time, then sure, if you're close enough you can hear the launch of each of two same-pitched notes.

I listened to the beginnings of the Tchaikovsy and LVB videos. I don't hear strong transient attacks nor fast purely percussive elements from either performer or orchestra. Both are concertos so the recordings give some priority to the soloists. Are you talking about identifying the soloist's instrument or not being able to know which other instruments in the orchestra are playing? I think we are getting into individual subjectivites rather than characterization you offered of how notes sound, but I may be missing your point.
 

Blackmorec

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Feb 1, 2019
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Hi Blackmore,

Yes, I'm not sure we agree or disagree. I'm struggling to understand the difference you are describing between "a strong transient attack" and "a fast, purely percussive element that starts each note , with a very localised hammer strike, string pluck, or breath that initiates the note…" as that applies to "most notes." You further describe the latter as "the sound before any resonance of air, string or instrument body starts." Or so goes my reading. I'm not sure what you are describing.

To me that last description is of no sound at all - no note is launched, no air is initiated into an instrument, no body part moves an instrument - at least that's the way I interpret your words. Are you trying to describe a musician's intention to play a note - the moment before he moves his hand or pushes out his breath as describing "a fast, purely percussive element that starts each note"? Perhaps the absence of understanding is mine. My limitation is that I'm going entirely off my own experience as a piano player and a woodwind player and largely unable to abstract from those experiences to your description of a fast percussive element that characterizes most notes.

As regards your one flute vs two flutes example I'll say first, I struggle to see how that ties in to your description of most notes having a strong, fast purely percussive element. And second I see that example as more about the relative discrimination of a listener's ability to locate sounds in space. One might not distinquish two flutes playing the exact same note if they are sitting next to each other, which in orchestra will be the case, or the listener is a certain distance from them. If they are in time, following a score, then the difference between one initiating the note and then the other may be imperceptible. If they are not in time, then sure, if you're close enough you can hear the launch of each of two same-pitched notes.

I listened to the beginnings of the Tchaikovsy and LVB videos. I don't hear strong transient attacks nor fast purely percussive elements from either performer or orchestra. Both are concertos so the recordings give some priority to the soloists. Are you talking about identifying the soloist's instrument or not being able to know which other instruments in the orchestra are playing? I think we are getting into individual subjectivites rather than characterization you offered of how notes sound, but I may be missing your point.
Hi Tima,
Its very straightforward. You know where a guitar is placed in a room not because of its string and body vibration, which is sustained and fills the whole room but because of the initial finger nail or plectrum ‘pluck‘ which is very fast, transient and therefore spatially well defined. When a system is too slow to properly respond to these fast, short lived initial transients, you will not easily detect the placement of the guitar.
Similarly, if 2 guitars are playing the same music, your brain requires that initial spatial information in order to recognise that the notes you are hearing are coming from 2 instruments. Differentiating 2 instruments based only on timbre without this spatial information a far more effortful process
 
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marty

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Although I am sure many people are asking themselves what I have in my current system, I decided quite early in the "Karen Sumner Talks Audio and Music" forum not to go there or to talk about specific brands — it's kind of a slippery slope in which there are no winners because as some WBF veterans have reminded me — hi fi and music are very personal journeys.
Go for it! It hasn't stopped anyone else on this forum so you would hardly be an exception. Even a manufacturer is entitled to have a little fun! :)
 

tima

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Mar 4, 2014
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the Upper Midwest
Hi Tima,
Its very straightforward. You know where a guitar is placed in a room not because of its string and body vibration, which is sustained and fills the whole room but because of the initial finger nail or plectrum ‘pluck‘ which is very fast, transient and therefore spatially well defined. When a system is too slow to properly respond to these fast, short lived initial transients, you will not easily detect the placement of the guitar.
Similarly, if 2 guitars are playing the same music, your brain requires that initial spatial information in order to recognise that the notes you are hearing are coming from 2 instruments. Differentiating 2 instruments based only on timbre without this spatial information a far more effortful process

Hi,

Okay, well that and two ears. I don't know that relative transient speed (duration? Rate?), whatever that is, is relevant to sono-location, maybe it is - I would say articulation or definition. Plucking a string is probably your best example though a sharp glockenspiel strike works too. I gather you are concerned with a possible issue of reproduction more so than how instruments are played or how music sounds to us. I can live with that while disagreeing with the original contention:

the initial part of most notes from most instruments has a strongly percussive element.
 
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marty

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In this case I would respect Karen’s decision
Respectfully disagree. To begin, we already know what speakers she uses, as well as the cabling. (You don't really think she uses Nordost or Audioquest, right? :eek:). But just like many others who have detailed their gear, it provides a useful metric for the readers as to her (or any user's) bias and preferences and to help the reader's context when specific discussions occur. For example, I always find it useful to learn if a user prefers SS or tube amplification, DAC's etc. I see no downside in these sorts of disclosures.
 
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microstrip

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In this case I would respect Karen’s decision
I would say "In this case I would respect Karen’s wise decision". References to brands would soon poison the thread and create many off topic posts.
 
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Al M.

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Respectfully disagree. To begin, we already know what speakers she uses, as well as the cabling. (You don't really think she uses Nordost or Audioquest, right? :eek:). But just like many others who have detailed their gear, it provides a useful metric for the readers as to her (or any user's) bias and preferences and to help the reader's context when specific discussions occur. For example, I always find it useful to learn if a user prefers SS or tube amplification, DAC's etc. I see no downside in these sorts of disclosures.

On a separate thread, yes.
 
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