My Theory of Sonic Cues to Explain Different Sounding Systems

Ron Resnick

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I think we all hear substantially the same thing in the concert hall if we are sitting in the same seat in the concert hall. So why do we end up with audio systems which sound very different?

My theory is that suspension of disbelief is facilitated by emotionally-engaging satisfaction of the particular sonic cues each of us subjectively and idiosyncratically selects for our stereo systems which most directly trigger in our brains our memories of the sound of live music.

Audio components don’t reproduce sound perfectly — either the sound of a single acoustic instrument played live in front of us in a small room, or the overall sonic experience we enjoy in the concert hall. We don’t achieve 100% suspension of disbelief while listening to our stereo systems.

Since our audio components collectively cannot re-create the entire experience we feel in the concert hall each of us chooses components that re-create those particular attributes of sound (sonic cues) we hear in the concert hall which subjectively maximize our personal suspension of disbelief. Which particular attributes of sound are most important to us as conduits -- as cues -- to maximizing our personal suspension of disbelief is subjective. Different audio components will be used by different audiophiles to achieve certain cues.

Focusing on different cues to select subjectively different components for our audio systems results in our audio systems sounding different from each other. This is why our different stereo systems sound so different, even though we all are hearing substantially the same thing in the same seat in the concert hall.

Sonic cues may not be recognized consciously or implemented subconsciously until an audiophile has sufficient live music experience and sufficient audio system auditioning experience. But over time and with evolution of an audiophile's experience and discovered preferences an audiophile's component selection and system sound will be driven by the sonic cues he/she selects knowingly or subconsciously.

revised November 22, 2023
 
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Ron Resnick

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An audiophile whose most valued sonic cue is dynamics is unlikely to select a small monitor loudspeaker

An audiophile whose most valued sonic cue is clearly delineated and focused sonic images is unlikely to select a planar dipole loudspeaker.

An audiophile whose most valued sonic cue is upper bass/lower midrange "weight" and density is unlikely to select a full-range electrostatic loudspeaker.

A corollary of this theory is that having subjectively selected our individual preferred sonic cues, we tend to dislike systems assembled to best achieve other sonic cues. If one assembles a system to maximize dynamics, is it any surprise that such person would prefer his/her system to a system which is not designed to focus most closely on the cue of dynamics?
 

Ron Resnick

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Which sonic cues do you believe you have selected for your stereo system to remind you most directly and effectively of your memory of the sound of live, unamplified acoustic music?
 

bonzo75

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I think we all hear substantially the same thing in the concert hall if we are sitting in the same seat in the concert hall. So why do we end up with audio systems which sound very different?

To relate to the rest of your post, which I deleted, the audiophiles also need to have similar gear and recordings experience. If you take an audiophile who has just been to concerts, and expose him to only one speaker and ampllfier, he will take it as the standard. If you expose him to a few more, he will choose between them.

I personally don't think audiophiles differ that much when they have similar exposure. Most of the disagreements that happen on the forum, are often between people discussing different experiences - both gear and music and recordings.

Where audiophiles diverge the most on the same experience is often at hifi shows, but show conditions cause that.

Why do you write apology theories for the less clued audiophiles
 
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bonzo75

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An audiophile whose most valued sonic cue is dynamics is unlikely to select a small monitor loudspeaker
I value macro dynamics, in dual FLH. Dynamic range in simple crossovers, highest in crossoverless speakers.
An audiophile whose most valued sonic cue is upper bass/lower midrange "weight" and density is unlikely to select a full-range electrostatic loudspeaker.
Disagree, I like both, I would take a well done dual FLH over Martin Logan hybrids, but I would take the hybrids over many other speakers. The Universums I like are more electrostat like and not like the FLH.

You also left out that I would like tone, flow, nuance, coherence, and transparency to recordings apart from the bass and macro dynamics and dynamic range. I generally have choices that do some, all and sometimes two choices are opposites of each other. So your theory doesn't hold
 

bonzo75

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Which sonic cues do you believe you have selected for your stereo system to remind you most directly and effectively of your memory of the sound of live, unamplified acoustic music?

I don't believe I "selected" any. I listen to systems/components and they click to the auditory template formed by live. If they click, I use hifi vocab to explain why they clicked. Often each of them can have different cues from each other, even opposing. Some can have more, some less.

If something does not click, that too I can describe using hifi vocab. I would say 95% would not click.
 

Elliot G.

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I totally disagree with the premise Ron. I really think many don't really have a goal, a direction that drives the system.
Is the goal live music? unamplified? Rock concerts? Jazz club? what is it?
Do you si t in the back , the nose bleeds the front rows? all of these things far more determine what you experience and therefore ,one would hope, what you seek to achieve. I believe too many truly don't know what they want and or what information they should use to choose.
May I ask you Ron why you chose planar speakers, tubes, records and the limited musical selections you listen too. I think this far more influences your choices than sonic cues. For me the gear I have chose me , I did not choose it. I was not looking for any of it yet it found me.

TAS was founded on the sound of live unamplified music in an acoustic space but that is far from the gtoal of most or I believe many.
So your goal is?
This is a significant factor and if you don't have one how do you know where you are or how to get there?
 

Ron Resnick

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Why do you write apology theories for the less clued audiophiles

You view it as an apology theory only because you believe that people who do not hear the same way you hear, or do not have the same sonic preferences you have, or do not like the same systems you like have something to apologize for.*

*I agree with you that much noise, heat, confusion and argument is generated by people having inadequate live music listening experience or inadequate components and system auditioning experience, or both. People don't know what they don't know. And when they learn it, a lot of things can fall into place and former disagreements and misperceptions can be understood, resolved and reconciled.
 

bonzo75

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You view it as an apology theory only because you believe that people who do not hear the same way you hear, or do not have the same sonic preferences you have, or do not like the same systems you like have something to apologize for.

totally wrong. You are fighting strawman
 

bonzo75

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*I agree with you that much noise, heat, confusion and argument is generated by people having inadequate live music listening experience or inadequate components and system auditioning experience, or both. People don't know what they don't know. And when they learn it, a lot of things can fall into place and former disagreements and misperceptions can be understood, resolved and reconciled.
exactly. so do you have data points for people who visited live, listened to similar gear and recordings, and have varying preferences? Also, they shouldn’t have agendas, such as owned stuff bias or dealer bias. You will struggle to find data points. Afaik, Bill, General and I for example had 1:1 agreement on the Mayer pnoe system.

Bill and I have listened together for years and both value classical and recordings. In room we have complete agreement, on videos 95%, where things differ are usually when we come at each other on theory or such. I can state many common agreement experiences in room, even with people who have different objectives. Differences largely come when auditioned separately, due to different gear, set up, and use of different music/recordings.

live association of cues itself is not difficult to do. Difference is that a regular live goer has that as an objective and the cycle positively feeds itself.
 

treitz3

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Which sonic cues do you believe you have selected for your stereo system to remind you most directly and effectively of your memory of the sound of live, unamplified acoustic music?
I don't believe that anyone can simply pick certain cues. One must pick all of them and hope to arrive at the best approximation that they can achieve.

Tom
 
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Ron Resnick

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May I ask you Ron why you chose planar speakers

My primary musical genre interest is solo vocals. I feel that the transparency and open presentation of planar dipoles achieves for me the greatest suspension of disbelief of different speaker topologies on solo vocals.

So my cues here are transparency and "breath of life," in-the-room presence.

I find the "wetness"/liquidity of tubes achieves a greater sense of the cue of "breath of life" and in-the-room presence than solid-state.


I wouldn't say records, I would say analog. If the tape sound quality is there I much prefer the tape medium closer to the generation of the original master recording than to the mass market distribution medium of vinyl.
and the limited musical selections you listen too

I simply listen to what I like. And the stuff I really like I like far more than the stuff I like only a little bit. So I'd rather spend time listening to the former, rather than to the latter.
 
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Ron Resnick

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For me the gear I have chose me , I did not choose it. I was not looking for any of it yet it found me.
This sounds romantic, but I'm not sure what it means. It's too woo-woo for me.

You've heard tons of components and loads of systems. You chose to purchase or to represent or both the components you like, no?
 

Ron Resnick

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So your goal is?

My personal high-end audio goal is a combination of:

3) create a sound subjectively pleasing to [me] (about 20%)

and

4) create a sound that seems live (about 80%)
 
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Al M.

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I don't believe that anyone can simply pick certain cues. One must pick all of them and hope to arrive at the best approximation that they can achieve.

Tom

Sure, but everyone still has their own listening priorities, what they find most important in reproduction and what less so.

Add to this that how we experience live music in the first place is also of our own choosing, according to our tastes. Mostly I prefer an up close perspective in the concert venue, others will prefer mid-hall. So everyone will have somewhat different live references, too.

All this is how we arrive at different systems.
 

treitz3

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Can't argue that!

Tom
 

bonzo75

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My personal high-end audio goal is a combination of:

3) create a sound subjectively pleasing to [me] (about 20%)

and

4) create a sound that seems live (about 80%)

sad to read that you have tried to fix your goals into a word play. Maybe you read too many business management books where McKinsey insisted businesses try to define what business they are in, and these books seem to have influenced your audio journey.

audio should be about a process. For example, my personal audio goal (notice I dropped the sham words high end as they are misleading) is to keep listening to systems, keep learning, discover music and records, and try to recreate the best possible reproduction of the music via the recordings to resonate with my auditory template that is formed from listening to live
 

bonzo75

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Ron, I think you should take data points and try to explain them, which would give you a theory, rather than write a premise and try to force things in
 

Mcsnare

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I think we all hear substantially the same thing in the concert hall if we are sitting in the same seat in the concert hall. So why do we end up with audio systems which sound very different?

My theory is that suspension of disbelief is facilitated by emotionally-engaging satisfaction of the particular sonic cues each of us subjectively and idiosyncratically selects for our stereo systems which most directly trigger in our brains our memories of the sound of live music.

Audio components don’t reproduce sound perfectly — either the sound of a single acoustic instrument played live in front of us in a small room, or the overall sonic experience we enjoy in the concert hall. We don’t achieve 100% suspension of disbelief while listening to our stereo systems.

Since our audio components collectively cannot re-create the entire experience we feel in the concert hall each of us chooses components that re-create those particular attributes of sound (sonic cues) we hear in the concert hall which subjectively maximize our personal suspension of disbelief. Which particular attributes of sound are most important to us as conduits -- as cues -- to maximizing our personal suspension of disbelief is subjective. Different audio components will be used by different audiophiles to achieve certain cues.

Focusing on different cues to select subjectively different components for our audio systems results in our audio systems sounding different from each other. This is why our different stereo systems sound so different, even though we all are hearing substantially the same thing in the concert hall.
I am fascinated by discussions like this. The aural perception of music and what our brains do with that raw data could be an entire field of scientific inquiry. Live and recorded.
Oh, and Ron, it was so great to meet you and chat at CAF!
 

Tangram

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Agree. Very interesting topic. Taking it up a notch would be a discussion of the ear/brain interface, bias, and psychoacoustics.
 

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