Ron's Subjectivity & Balance Argument.

ddk

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This conversation was initially posted a system thread I thought it better to repost it here since it could be of general interest.

I am not re-posting anybody's particular post here because I am not seeking to criticize a particular comment.

I have no dog in this hunt.

It seems to me that people are fencing, once again, about issues which would be better understood and, maybe, reconciled, if a little bit of analytical rigor were applied.

A lifetime of experience listening to music in concert halls used to conclude that a particular audio system and room has the same perceived sonic balance observed in the concert hall is a subjective opinion. The longevity of a lifetime of experience does not make the observation any less subjective.
A lifetime of observation and experience is by definition objective a conclusion arrived from that experience by an intelligent person is most likely also objective. When an experienced and knowledgeable listener evaluates a system vs live it can be purely objective as his/her experience has taught them. Even if subjective why would it be any less valuable? A conductor's interpretation of a piece or selecting a soloist can be both subjective and objective does that somehow taint his choice or make it any less worthy?

An audio engineer could conduct a frequency sweep and frequency response analysis of the acoustics of a concert hall. That same engineer could conduct a frequency sweep and frequency response analysis of the particular audio system and room in question. The measured frequency response of the concert hall and the measured frequency response of the audio system and room are objective facts. (I am assuming industry-accepted test equipment, measuring techniques and reporting results.)
A measurement can be purely subjective depending on where the microphones are placed and how they're averaged. What are you sweeping for, it could be a subjective audible delay in a hall in the mid section that doesn't subjectively exist in the back or the front the hall. It's subjective measurements and the numbers on a screen are totally dependent on subjective decisions.
Finally, a definitional complication arises regarding the term "balance." Balance does not necessarily mean ruler-flat frequency response. Balance is itself a subjective term which could mean the listener's preferred subjective balance of focusing on midrange to the exclusion of flat frequency response at the top end or the lower end of the frequency range. Proper sonic balance, to a different audiophile, could mean emphasis of the low frequencies. In other words, balance, without a definition, could mean the emphasis or the de-emphasis of certain frequency ranges each of us merely subjectively prefers.

Perhaps people may care to restate their thoughts in view of this attempt at disentanglement and illumination.
In the context you posted this "balance" relates to many conversations that Peter & I had and I believe that his intent was based on those conversations.
Balanced in our conversations was about the neutrality of a system vs one that favors or pushes a certain frequency, dimensionality, soundstage, imaging, etc., to distract and divert one's attention from the music, artists and some would like to argue engineers intent.

"Balance" also relates to volume, ie sound level and dimensionality, size, scale and cadence of each instrument in the performance space. A "balanced" system would allow every instrument to play at the right "balance" instead homogenizing and equalizing them during playback. This is one the major and least mentioned issues that I come across during installations and system analysis.
I understand what you are describing. I just think it is confusing to call this perception "balanced." Balanced to me embraces the concept of one pole of some kind off-setting another pole of some kind -- something is being balanced.

What you are describing I would define as even or linear or smooth or flat or low in variance.
That's called a flatline Ron nothing to do with the "balanced" mentioned by @PeterA, it's actually the opposite of that :)!

david

 

Ron Resnick

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Thank you, David, for your detailed and thoughtful replies and explanations to my various points and questions!
 
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PeterA

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Thank you David for this wonderful thread topic. You have the experience and ability to articulate this quality of reproduction better than I could with my failed attempt. All I did was cause confusion. I have discussed this with you for a long time and I have heard it across a variety of systems. I think it is not a conventional way of looking at things and it is not something one would encounter in the popular press.

I think it describes what we all presume to be a given when we listen to live acoustic music. We take it for granted because what we hear live is a sense of balance. Once experienced from a good system, the concept became easier for me to grasp.

It will be interesting to see if this thread generates a discussion. In my view, your opening post is a seminal piece of writing and a very clear description of an approach to reproduction. This thread should be a part of your sub forum.
 

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Fantastic post, David! My hat is off to you, sir. I think that this thread will not simply fade off into the WBF abyss.

I do not have the time right now to respond but I do plan on it. Too busy alphabetizing/organizing my LP collection whilst listening to 3 new albums (to me) that came in....but as mentioned, I do plan on it. These kinds of topics are right up my alley.

Tom
 
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awsmone

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I think there is a practical reality that some people hear/perceive with great accuracy/understanding of what they are hearing
some of this is experience , and some of it inherent talent
I myself can comprehend better now after 25 years of audiofoolery the interaction of a speaker with the room.
I am sure there are others even better than me, and professionals who do this for a living
Although catholic to treat all views with respect , I think we all believe that certain people will set up our systems better than others , that’s just the truth.
When I listen to vids of David‘S and Peter’s systems playing familiar music, to me at least this is the sort of sound I wish to obtain
to me the balance is on all levels, timbral, frequency, clarity, maybe the best way I can put it is nothing stands out, but everything I want in a system sound seems to be there when I listen for it ….this to me is balance And allows one to turn off our analytic hearing, and go to enjoyment hearing

I have been redoing my audio room , and tuning it over the last few days
i have been looking for this triplex of balance, to be able to relax into the music
I believe I am getting close, to my taste, listen to the third movement of a Franck violin sonata, when the soft piano notes hung in the air with that clear ivory sound of the Steinway floating into the ambience of the recording, I almost held my breath by the beauty of it

would everyone agree with my sonic priorities , I think not , but would there be some who get where I am heading I believe so

An example of sonic priority difference is the people who initially set it up , marvelled at the bass response and stereo imaging, however I personally found the bass too big, and lacking timbre, you couldn’t tell an electric bass from double bass, and there was no “wood” in the double bass or cello, I dialed this back to my taste as a classic music listener , this to me is better balance , but may not suit a rock music listener with different bass priorities
this also cleared the lowest octaves of piano and the overtones of their decay…. And drums although less dramatic as a previous drum player, showed the tonal differences between the “Tom’s” than before …
 

Mike Lavigne

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In the context you posted this "balance" relates to many conversations that Peter & I had and I believe that his intent was based on those conversations.
Balanced in our conversations was about the neutrality of a system vs one that favors or pushes a certain frequency, dimensionality, soundstage, imaging, etc., to distract and divert one's attention from the music, artists and some would like to argue engineers intent.
i reject the thinking that infers that 'balanced' is exclusionary. and who is to say when the listener is being diverted from the attention to the music, artists or creative intent by realism of the soundstage. we can discuss aspects of presentation without going out of bounds. we can like it as we might. or not pay any attention to it. good either way.....if we feel it serves the music.

sure, there are listeners hung up on the sounds. it's a legit part of the hobby, but those are extreme cases. not my deal either.

it seems the idea is to relate balanced to music as opposed to sounds. i think we are trying too hard to find things to 'exclude'.

maybe there is an exclusionary school of allowable things to like about the music? not my view.
"Balance" also relates to volume, ie sound level and dimensionality, size, scale and cadence of each instrument in the performance space. A "balanced" system would allow every instrument to play at the right "balance" instead homogenizing and equalizing them during playback. This is one the major and least mentioned issues that I come across during installations and system analysis.
in this context i think the idea is that a balanced system would allow for the presentation viewpoint of the particular recording to be related. so we don't want that balanced system to paint with a broad brush and control limiting things, better to get out of the way of the recording. we hope that the recording did get it right, of course. but our systems should not regulate it.
 
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ddk

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I think there is a practical reality that some people hear/perceive with great accuracy/understanding of what they are hearing
some of this is experience , and some of it inherent talent
This is true in other fields too including "science" based one like medicine, that's why people ask for 2nd, 3rd and 4th opinions when it's a serious matter and then make up their minds about treatment. One can argue the treatment decision while subjective by the layman it's still objective because it's based on the recommendations and the patients knowledge of their own body.
I myself can comprehend better now after 25 years of audiofoolery the interaction of a speaker with the room.
I am sure there are others even better than me, and professionals who do this for a living
Although catholic to treat all views with respect , I think we all believe that certain people will set up our systems better than others , that’s just the truth.
When I listen to vids of David‘S and Peter’s systems playing familiar music, to me at least this is the sort of sound I wish to obtain
to me the balance is on all levels, timbral, frequency, clarity, maybe the best way I can put it is nothing stands out, but everything I want in a system sound seems to be there when I listen for it ….this to me is balance And allows one to turn off our analytic hearing, and go to enjoyment hearing

I have been redoing my audio room , and tuning it over the last few days
i have been looking for this triplex of balance, to be able to relax into the music
I believe I am getting close, to my taste, listen to the third movement of a Franck violin sonata, when the soft piano notes hung in the air with that clear ivory sound of the Steinway floating into the ambience of the recording, I almost held my breath by the beauty of it

would everyone agree with my sonic priorities , I think not , but would there be some who get where I am heading I believe so

An example of sonic priority difference is the people who initially set it up , marvelled at the bass response and stereo imaging, however I personally found the bass too big, and lacking timbre, you couldn’t tell an electric bass from double bass, and there was no “wood” in the double bass or cello, I dialed this back to my taste as a classic music listener , this to me is better balance , but may not suit a rock music listener with different bass priorities
this also cleared the lowest octaves of piano and the overtones of their decay…. And drums although less dramatic as a previous drum player, showed the tonal differences between the “Tom’s” than before …
The best way to learn is to experiment, subtleties and the small is what's difficult to reproduce and components/setups that impress with large strokes tend to cover up the small.

david
 

ddk

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i reject the thinking that infers that 'balanced' is exclusionary.
What are you rejecting Mike, something is either balanced or unbalanced. High end is as exclusionary as a hobby gets you should reject it altogether if that's really your belief; specially at the level you're playing.
and who is to say when the listener is being diverted from the attention to the music, artists or creative intent by realism of the soundstage. we can discuss aspects of presentation without going out of bounds. we can like it as we might. or not pay any attention to it. good either way.....if we feel it serves the music.

sure, there are listeners hung up on the sounds. it's a legit part of the hobby, but those are extreme cases. not my deal either.

it seems the idea is to relate balanced to music as opposed to sounds. i think we are trying too hard to find things to 'exclude'.

maybe there is an exclusionary school of allowable things to like about the music? not my view.
The conversation was system centric as was the definition of "balanced" I offered when it was questioned, nothing to do with music.
What does exclusionary have to do with any of this? There are two states, "balance" and "unbalanced" systems can fall under either banner but there's Diversity :) of systems in both groups!
in this context i think the idea is that a balanced system would allow for the presentation viewpoint of the particular recording to be related. so we don't want that balanced system to paint with a broad brush and control limiting things, better to get out of the way of the recording. we hope that the recording did get it right, of course. but our systems should not regulate it.
Basically yes.

david
 

ddk

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Thanks, Peter. David has clearly stated he his not interested in discussing with people with different views, I will respect his wish in the thread he created and stay away of it.
You're mistaken about this Francisco, I might have said that I'm not interested in some topics but never refused to discuss opposing views. Unfortunately many of our recent exchanges have been toxic and I don't wish to continue down that path any more than you do but I still would like real conversations with you like we used to have.

david
 

Tango

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We do need a group massage.
 

tima

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I think it describes what we all presume to be a given when we listen to live acoustic music. We take it for granted because what we hear live is a sense of balance. Once experienced from a good system, the concept became easier for me to grasp.

You'd think so, but a natural balance does not happen simply because a performance is live. I agree we come to expect it.

In larger groups of musicians a director or conductor is responsible for achieving the composer's idea of balance reflected in the score through various markings in the music.. Lot's of practice reinforces the instructions coming from the score and the conductor and aids in affirming a relative uniformity of balance across performances. A touring orchestra has the challenge of maintaining a balanced performance across different venues. Same holds true with smaller groups through the intimate connection among the musicians or with the help of a sound man who does not direct but controls some degree of output through a board tied into amplifiers, pa system, auxiliary speakers, etc.

In reproduction, we do not want to alter the balance contained in the original. That may be easier said than done. Imo the balance of an audio system is not the same thing as the balance of a live performance.
I think there is a practical reality that some people hear/perceive with great accuracy/understanding of what they are hearing
some of this is experience , and some of it inherent talent
I myself can comprehend better now after 25 years of audiofoolery the interaction of a speaker with the room.
I am sure there are others even better than me, and professionals who do this for a living
Although catholic to treat all views with respect , I think we all believe that certain people will set up our systems better than others , that’s just the truth.
When I listen to vids of David‘S and Peter’s systems playing familiar music, to me at least this is the sort of sound I wish to obtain
to me the balance is on all levels, timbral, frequency, clarity, maybe the best way I can put it is nothing stands out, but everything I want in a system sound seems to be there when I listen for it ….this to me is balance And allows one to turn off our analytic hearing, and go to enjoyment hearing

I have been redoing my audio room , and tuning it over the last few days
i have been looking for this triplex of balance, to be able to relax into the music
I believe I am getting close, to my taste, listen to the third movement of a Franck violin sonata, when the soft piano notes hung in the air with that clear ivory sound of the Steinway floating into the ambience of the recording, I almost held my breath by the beauty of it

would everyone agree with my sonic priorities , I think not , but would there be some who get where I am heading I believe so

An example of sonic priority difference is the people who initially set it up , marvelled at the bass response and stereo imaging, however I personally found the bass too big, and lacking timbre, you couldn’t tell an electric bass from double bass, and there was no “wood” in the double bass or cello, I dialed this back to my taste as a classic music listener , this to me is better balance , but may not suit a rock music listener with different bass priorities
this also cleared the lowest octaves of piano and the overtones of their decay…. And drums although less dramatic as a previous drum player, showed the tonal differences between the “Tom’s” than before …

A fine post, nicely put, Andrew.
 
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awsmone

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I think this thread has merit
although their seem to be people of a similar mind posting, for more inclusiveness , perhaps some of our resident experienced audiophiles such as David and Tim, could talk about their approach , thought process to achieve a balance towards their vision of “A balance “
this may draw struggling or newbie posters to the thread, as there is a wealth of knowledge and experience here

also common issues and how they are overcome

imho opinion far too much time is devout at tweaks, that to me can paper over correctable deficiencies ( at no or little cost)

David’s idea of removing all the “puffery” first I think is a great message, and I have lIke PeterA spent three weeks, dismantling everything , and putting it back slowly, a process which is still incomplete, but showing much promise
 
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Mike Lavigne

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What are you rejecting Mike, something is either balanced or unbalanced. High end is as exclusionary as a hobby gets you should reject it altogether if that's really your belief; specially at the level you're playing.
your description of these items (one that favors or pushes a certain frequency, dimensionality, soundstage, imaging, etc.) as somehow unwanted in a 'balanced system' infers that those things are broadly undesirable. i get the '"pushes a certain frequency' is not preferable, but generally excelling at those other soundstaging aspects, or working to improve them, ought not to be in some way anti-balanced. it's a personal preference as to how much to pursue those things, but their presence does not likely detract from the musical qualities IMHO. agree they are not the singular goal of a balanced musical system. and some type systems do excel (and are desired) more at those things than some others.

my issue is that your narrative is viewing the term "balanced" referring to a particular (exclusive) type of system character like "natural' was inferred by Peter's thread title. that viewpoint could become another polarizing point. if i've misunderstood your intent then set me straight. that is how it reads to me. any type system can be balanced and musical. or not. and fully agree that a system having balance (in the various ways that term can be applied) is desired.
The conversation was system centric as was the definition of "balanced" I offered when it was questioned, nothing to do with music.
What does exclusionary have to do with any of this? There are two states, "balance" and "unbalanced" systems can fall under either banner but there's Diversity :) of systems in both groups!
i understand and agree!
Basically yes.

david
thanks,

mike
 
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ddk

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I think this thread has merit
although their seem to be people of a similar mind posting, for more inclusiveness , perhaps some of our resident experienced audiophiles such as David and Tim, could talk about their approach , thought process to achieve a balance towards their vision of “A balance “
this may draw struggling or newbie posters to the thread, as there is a wealth of knowledge and experience here

also common issues and how they are overcome

imho opinion far too much time is devout at tweaks, that to me can paper over correctable deficiencies ( at no or little cost)

David’s idea of removing all the “puffery” first I think is a great message, and I have lIke PeterA spent three weeks, dismantling everything , and putting it back slowly, a process which is still incomplete, but showing much promise
Honestly Andrew "balance" as I articulated is a process and will take some time as you go through setting up of your system and room. Most important part is recognizing what it is and it's what you want which you seem to have grasped but you need to be aware that a lot of gear is skewed and unbalanced no setup will fix that.

Main reason to start off without "puffery" is so can understand your components and their relationship with one another, the room and you the listener. Going through the effort of properly setting up your speakers and seating position will teach a lot about your system and reproduced sound in general. Once you get this part of the setup right you'd know what to do next, things will fall into place because you can hear your choices.

david
 
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ddk

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your description of these items (one that favors or pushes a certain frequency, dimensionality, soundstage, imaging, etc.) as somehow unwanted in a 'balanced system' infers that those things are broadly undesirable.
I didn't describe any of those things nor said that their undesirable. Point I was making is that if the system is skewed towards any of those things where they compete with the music and musician it's not what I would call balanced. For me it's a coloration feel free to label it as you wish.
i get the '"pushes a certain frequency' is not preferable, but generally excelling at those other soundstaging aspects, or working to improve them, ought not to be in some way anti-balanced. it's a personal preference as to how much to pursue those things, but their presence does not likely detract from the musical qualities IMHO. agree they are not the singular goal of a balanced musical system. and some type systems do excel (and are desired) more at those things than some others.
Nothing wrong with working towards a goal or liking different things. I offered an explanation to "balanced" when it was questioned you can have your own defining attributes, similar or different I'm not going to argue with it but for me a strong coloration, good or bad is unbalanced.

my issue is that your narrative is viewing the term "balanced" referring to a particular (exclusive) type of system character like "natural' was inferred by Peter's thread title. that viewpoint could become another polarizing point. if i've misunderstood your intent then set me straight. that is how it reads to me. any type system can be balanced and musical. or not. and fully agree that a system having balance (in the various ways that term can be applied) is desired.

i understand and agree!

thanks,

mike
Merely words to describe certain qualities in reproduced sound, I and some others have a very clear idea what they are but if you disagree please feel free to define them as you wish. "Natural" and "balanced" is neither inclusive or exclusive nor has it been pushed as the domain of only one brand it comes down to the system's character nothing else.

david
 
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microstrip

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You're mistaken about this Francisco, I might have said that I'm not interested in some topics but never refused to discuss opposing views. Unfortunately many of our recent exchanges have been toxic and I don't wish to continue down that path any more than you do but I still would like real conversations with you like we used to have.

david

Yes, I now realize that when you have no arguments the subject becomes "toxic" ...
 

ddk

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Yes, I now realize that when you have no arguments the subject becomes "toxic" ...
You know well that it’s not the subject but how we interact together that’s been toxic. We can continue with toxic exchanges if that works for you, I’m flexible.
david
 

PeterA

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Yes, I now realize that when you have no arguments the subject becomes "toxic" ...

Fransisco, David has clearly articulated what he means by a balanced system. He expanded on my more limited explanation. You stated that the term is meaningless, so you seem to disagree with him. It seems you are the one not willing to put forth your own alternative and argue why he is wrong. I would welcome your opinion about this in hopes of learning something. There is no need for things to turn toxic. The OP is admirably respectful and extremely informative, IMO. It has given my much to think about, especially as I upgrade my power and evaluate cartridges.
 
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Ron Resnick

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Dear Peter,

In the other thread you asked me:

It would help me if you would explain why balance is confusing and inappropriate in this context especially after reading David’s opening post in the other thread.

I am also interested in why you don’t like his use of objective and subjective in this context. Some believe we gain a view of reality through observation by our senses. Is it “our truth” or “the truth”, or is it not that simple.


I don't see these issues as being complicated.

Based on The American Heritage Dictionary definitions of "objective" and of "subjective" I believe that even a lifetime of experience listening to music in concert halls used to conclude that a particular audio system and room has the same perceived sonic balance observed in the concert hall is a subjective opinion. The longevity of a lifetime of experience does not make the observation any less subjective. Longevity of experience does not transmute subjective into objective.

An audio engineer could conduct a frequency sweep and frequency response analysis of the acoustics of a concert hall. That same engineer could conduct a frequency sweep and frequency response analysis of the particular audio system and room in question. The measured frequency response of the concert hall and the measured frequency response of the audio system and room are objective facts. (I am assuming industry-accepted test equipment, measuring techniques and reporting results. Different audio engineers might use different equipment and place microphones in different locations in the same room, but the resulting measurements, competently performed, should be much closer to repeatable objective fact than to personal subjective opinion.)

The American Heritage Dictionary's fifth definition of "balance" seems to be what you and David are aiming at: "A harmonious or satisfying arrangement or proportion of parts or elements, as in a design." Whether referring to a live concert performance or to a reproduction by an audio system I think the evaluation of balanced or not is subjective, not objective.

Your formulations of "balance" such as "nothing is spot-lit" and "nothing is exaggerated" and "no frequency range seems to stick out and call attention to itself" and "nothing seemed enhanced or rolled off" seem to be variations on your subjective perception of "harmonious or satisfying arrangement or proportion of parts or elements."

I also think that descriptions such as "nothing is spot-lit" and "nothing is exaggerated" and "no frequency range seems to stick out and call attention to itself" and "nothing seemed enhanced or rolled off" are inevitably synonymous with "even" or "linear" or "smooth" or "flat" or low in variance. How could they not be?
 
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marty

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When I listen to vids of David‘S and Peter’s systems playing familiar music, to me at least this is the sort of sound I wish to obtain
The day I aspire to have a music system that sounds like a video of anybody's music system is the day I want to be institutionalized. I thought the idea was to have a music reproduction system that sounded like unamplified instruments in their actual performance space (as best as it can be captured by microphones and a talented recording engineer). What was I thinking? :eek:
 

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