The Devil is in the Detail

dcathro

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Sep 16, 2016
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I believe that today's hi-end audio scene is overly focused on detail, and imaging to it's detriment.

Hi End Vintage systems from the 50's and 60's were more focused on Timing Texture and Tone, whilst the British in the 70's and 80's obsessed about PRAT (Pace Rhythm and Timing).

I think that there is a currently, widely-held view that the better a system is ( and usually more expensive ) the more information inherent in the recording will be produced, leading to more detail, a bigger sounstage, and a better experience.

Coherency and timing go hand in hand. Coherency is obtained when the fundamentals and harmonics of each note are in alignment, giving correct pitch and tone. When the fundamentals and harmonics are out of alignment then the music seems to slow down and we lose coherency, timing, tone and texture, but perhaps gain perceived added detail.

Rather than more detail, I believe we would be better served trying to extract better tone, more texture, and better musical flow and timing.

In my opinion, the obsession with detail and imaging leads to a more intellectual engagement with the music instead of an emotional one.

Here is a quote I like from art Dudley reviewing a Shindo preamp - Some day, listeners who respond to the sound of Shindo gear may help reclaim the art of critical listening from the ninnies who think it has something to do with "locating images in space."

An all time favourite quote of mine attributed to Colin Hammerton was - I don't want to hear where the musicians are on stage. I want to hear why they are on stage (in the late Marus Sauer's excellent think piece "God is in the Nuances").

In my experience, the systems that have timed the best (and are the most coherent) have either been single driver speakers - yes they can have lots of other problems - or simple two way speakers (these can be mini monitors or big horns). The more complex a speaker becomes with more drivers and complex crossover, then the more difficult it seems to keep coherence and timing. My own experience has been that lower (1st and 2nd ) order crossovers are best at this, but that is debatable.

To my ears, the very best systems I have heard have drawn me into the music in such a way that I don't really care whether I am sitting in the sweet spot or not.

A simple test of whether a system is engaging is to listen to it in mono using mono recordings. Without the stereo imaging we are left only with whatever tonality, texture, pace, rhythm and timing that system is able to reproduce that is in the music. If the system is all about detail and imaging, you may find mono recordings to be quite boring.

By the way, I am not meaning to attack people who have modern expensive hi end systems and of course you experience and your goals could be different to mine.

What do you think?

David
 

rando

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Coherency and timing go hand in hand. Coherency is obtained when the fundamentals and harmonics of each note are in alignment, giving correct pitch and tone. When the fundamentals and harmonics are out of alignment then the music seems to slow down and we lose coherency, timing, tone and texture, but perhaps gain perceived added detail.

Forgive me my sin, snippet, and those I'm about to commit. :eek:


Art and criticism are irrevocably linked in terms associable with music and reproduction. There is suspicion rising your views on artistic reproduction attempt to establish permanence in music as there is in text of a book. No sermon, no composition, no text, no expression of worth no matter how deeply embedded into a surface can be said to survive without losing coherency, timing, tone, and texture, but perhaps gain perceived added detail.

Observing constancy in musical forms is to observe as they shift constantly in reproduction. I posit there is at least small chance you have listened to newly created music without taking in said newly created artistry informing it. There is admirable sensitivity on your part deriving into mature expressions where this change is currently taking place. Still, the ideas and ordeals locked into all being stated above act at a remove from progress. Should it not be a welcome arrival today a few pieces of gear are being made for younger interests acute sensitivities of rhythms and timings active in their world. Relevant to the (audiophile) world's trajectory.

There is nothing disagreeable in your thoughts or how they are laid out. In fact I believe you could expect near total agreement and genial discourse where alignment wasn't possible on the characteristics of currently manufactured equipment. Here, impressions that can be applied to fresh inventions have lessened first level association with mono recordings of a previous century. Entering the second quarter of this one.

A simple test of whether a system is engaging is to listen to it in mono using mono recordings. Without the stereo imaging we are left only with whatever tonality, texture, pace, rhythm and timing that system is able to reproduce that is in the music. If the system is all about detail and imaging, you may find mono recordings to be quite boring.

By the way, I am not meaning to attack people who have modern expensive hi end systems and of course you experience and your goals could be different to mine.

What do you think?

Sincere doubts exist the main protagonists in this hobby (of which more than a few are present on WBF) have gotten this far by avoiding modern high end systems at many points over last 50+ years stretching from the 1970's on through 2024. ;)

A fairer example of simple test to be conducted with modern (digital) high end is connection the uninitiated are about to establish maintaining established criteria rigorously upheld on WBF. Simple enough to observe. Interpretations will vary if they were able.
 
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Al M.

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Rather than more detail, I believe we would be better served trying to extract better tone, more texture, and better musical flow and timing.

In my opinion, the obsession with detail and imaging leads to a more intellectual engagement with the music instead of an emotional one.

I don't understand this. Detail *is* texture. When listening to a string quartet, I want to hear all the micro-detail of the friction of the bows on the strings and the resonances of the wooden instrument bodies. That is both essential texture and essential detail -- they are both the same. Without that micro-detail -- texture --, believability is lost for me, and so is emotional connection.

Detail is also separation of instruments. Complex orchestral music becomes much more intelligible, and as such emotionally attractive, if you can hear all the little voices and timbres in the overarching polyphony of musical strands and sounds.

Or do you mean with "detail" exaggerated detail? The trick for a good system is to extract detail while the tonal balance is full and rich, not emaciated and tipped up in the highs. Under this condition, detail is something entirely positive, not the negative trait that you artificially make it out to be.

I agree with you on the importance of rhythm & timing. This has always been a major criterion for me when choosing gear.
 

Mike Lavigne

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i want it all. and i shall have it. all the immediacy and information. and that whatever the recording is presenting, i am getting. with as neutral a presentation as possible. holographic images are preferred but not as an artifact; as part of the realism according to the recording. got to fit into the flow. each recording ought to be unique. realism means that the human performance is coming through, and it's alive.

each driver type has it's characteristics, strengths and weaknesses. at the top of the food chain and ultimate execution they end up more alike than different.

polarization of rightness and musical reproduction truth based on driver type......i reject. but i get that it's dogma that what we like to talk about. heck, most wars are fought about it.

btw; in the last week been listening mostly to mono on vinyl. agree it's very pure and real. your brain can go into cruise control.
 
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microstrip

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I believe that today's hi-end audio scene is overly focused on detail, and imaging to it's detriment.

Surely due to technological developments current high end can convey more information in a more accurate way and we see some equipment that ruthless over exposes all this information.

Poor set up, such as some shops and most show sessions also enhance this aspect, it is why many people have such feeling. However, the same equipment, well matched and properly set up in our listening rooms results in enjoyable detail and imaging that enhances our listening.

BTW, most times the excessive focus on detail and imaging is intrinsic to the recording - no high end system can save us from it. It took sometime before sound engineers learned to use systems able to record in higher resolution that were surely not perfect.

Hi End Vintage systems from the 50's and 60's were more focused on Timing Texture and Tone, whilst the British in the 70's and 80's obsessed about PRAT (Pace Rhythm and Timing).

Sorry you are addressing some localized trends that become stereotypes. No way they can describe the status of the high-end along four decades.

I think that there is a currently, widely-held view that the better a system is ( and usually more expensive ) the more information inherent in the recording will be produced, leading to more detail, a bigger sounstage, and a better experience.

Almost no one seems to believe it in the terms you refer - but some people love to tell it.

Coherency and timing go hand in hand. Coherency is obtained when the fundamentals and harmonics of each note are in alignment, giving correct pitch and tone. When the fundamentals and harmonics are out of alignment then the music seems to slow down and we lose coherency, timing, tone and texture, but perhaps gain perceived added detail.

Rather than more detail, I believe we would be better served trying to extract better tone, more texture, and better musical flow and timing.

In my opinion, the obsession with detail and imaging leads to a more intellectual engagement with the music instead of an emotional one.

Here is a quote I like from art Dudley reviewing a Shindo preamp - Some day, listeners who respond to the sound of Shindo gear may help reclaim the art of critical listening from the ninnies who think it has something to do with "locating images in space."

An all time favourite quote of mine attributed to Colin Hammerton was - I don't want to hear where the musicians are on stage. I want to hear why they are on stage (in the late Marus Sauer's excellent think piece "God is in the Nuances").

In my experience, the systems that have timed the best (and are the most coherent) have either been single driver speakers - yes they can have lots of other problems - or simple two way speakers (these can be mini monitors or big horns). The more complex a speaker becomes with more drivers and complex crossover, then the more difficult it seems to keep coherence and timing. My own experience has been that lower (1st and 2nd ) order crossovers are best at this, but that is debatable.

Your definition of coherency is very different from the typical audiophile and IMO confusing. Harry Pearson wrote excellent essays on the subject.. IMO coherency does not go hand on hand with timing. Many systems with excellent timing have little coherency.

To my ears, the very best systems I have heard have drawn me into the music in such a way that I don't really care whether I am sitting in the sweet spot or not.

The famous report of wife listening in the kitchen this times comes in an hasten to ask to listen to her favorite track ... :)

But yes, I also like being able to move in the room without abrupt discontinuities in sound stage and timbre. It is one reason why I dream about the WAMM's ...

A simple test of whether a system is engaging is to listen to it in mono using mono recordings. Without the stereo imaging we are left only with whatever tonality, texture, pace, rhythm and timing that system is able to reproduce that is in the music. If the system is all about detail and imaging, you may find mono recordings to be quite boring.

By the way, I am not meaning to attack people who have modern expensive hi end systems and of course you experience and your goals could be different to mine.

What do you think?

Well, I surely friendly disagree. Proper stereo will enhance all the good aspects you refer and is much more challenging and diverse than mono.

As many times pointed by Ron, different audiophiles have different objectives. For me sound reproduction is strongly connected to sound and visual perceptions I have of the real music - stereo (or multi channel) are strong part of it. The emotion is also unconsciously connected to imaging.
 
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PeterA

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I believe that today's hi-end audio scene is overly focused on detail, and imaging to it's detriment.

Hi End Vintage systems from the 50's and 60's were more focused on Timing Texture and Tone, whilst the British in the 70's and 80's obsessed about PRAT (Pace Rhythm and Timing).

I think that there is a currently, widely-held view that the better a system is ( and usually more expensive ) the more information inherent in the recording will be produced, leading to more detail, a bigger sounstage, and a better experience.

Coherency and timing go hand in hand. Coherency is obtained when the fundamentals and harmonics of each note are in alignment, giving correct pitch and tone. When the fundamentals and harmonics are out of alignment then the music seems to slow down and we lose coherency, timing, tone and texture, but perhaps gain perceived added detail.

Rather than more detail, I believe we would be better served trying to extract better tone, more texture, and better musical flow and timing.

In my opinion, the obsession with detail and imaging leads to a more intellectual engagement with the music instead of an emotional one.

Here is a quote I like from art Dudley reviewing a Shindo preamp - Some day, listeners who respond to the sound of Shindo gear may help reclaim the art of critical listening from the ninnies who think it has something to do with "locating images in space."

An all time favourite quote of mine attributed to Colin Hammerton was - I don't want to hear where the musicians are on stage. I want to hear why they are on stage (in the late Marus Sauer's excellent think piece "God is in the Nuances").

In my experience, the systems that have timed the best (and are the most coherent) have either been single driver speakers - yes they can have lots of other problems - or simple two way speakers (these can be mini monitors or big horns). The more complex a speaker becomes with more drivers and complex crossover, then the more difficult it seems to keep coherence and timing. My own experience has been that lower (1st and 2nd ) order crossovers are best at this, but that is debatable.

To my ears, the very best systems I have heard have drawn me into the music in such a way that I don't really care whether I am sitting in the sweet spot or not.

A simple test of whether a system is engaging is to listen to it in mono using mono recordings. Without the stereo imaging we are left only with whatever tonality, texture, pace, rhythm and timing that system is able to reproduce that is in the music. If the system is all about detail and imaging, you may find mono recordings to be quite boring.

By the way, I am not meaning to attack people who have modern expensive hi end systems and of course you experience and your goals could be different to mine.

What do you think?

David

David, This is a thought provoking opening post and a sobject I have thought about quite a bit in the last few years. I appreciate you starting this thread. I have come to think of system performance in terms of resolution rather than of detail. Some may think this is just semantics, but I think there is more to it.

A system's ability to resolve the information on the recording, and present it in a natural way, is to me, what distinguishes the best systems from the rest. I think of resolution as an holistic quality. When I think of detail, I think of separating out pieces of the performance for scrutiny. Details, by their nature, draw attention to themselves, and either whisper or shout, "look at me". I do not want that from a music listening experience. I do not think of bits and pieces of the presentation when listening to a live performance, and I do not want it imposed on me when listening at home.

You write: "I think that there is a currently, widely-held view that the better a system is ( and usually more expensive ) the more information inherent in the recording will be produced, leading to more detail, a bigger soundstage, and a better experience."

Perhaps this is a "widely-held view", but I do not subscribe to it. I agree that the better the system, the more information it can retrieve and present to the listener. I do not agree, however, that this necessarily leads to more detail or a bigger soundstage. In my view, it does, or it should, lead to a better listening experience, but depending on what that information is, it may present a smaller soundstage and less attention to specific details. The sound should be balanced and not spotlit. I do not want my mind to constantly focus on the details I hear. I want my mind to be able to wander, shift and flow consciously to marvel at aspects of the sound captured by the recording and reproduced by the system, but I do not want that detail, those pieces, to overshadow the whole. It all depends on the recording and how the system resolves the information in the recording and then presents it. I want the freedom to let my mind wander the way it does when listening to live music at a club or concert hall. The best systems let you relax and overwhelm you by the music's gestalt and they allow you to choose to focus on aspects of the sound or performance. They do not dictate where you mind should go.

To me, the better the system, the more one will learn about the various recordings in his or her collection. The listener simply experiences more of the recording. And if it is presented in a natural way, reminiscent of the sound and experience of real instruments in space, the more the experience will engage the listener, and the more involved he or she will be in the performance. A good system should present soundstages of varying size and character. Each should be representative of the space in which the musicians were recorded, if that is the intent of the engineer.

I do agree these three sentences:

1. "Rather than more detail, I believe we would be better served trying to extract better tone, more texture, and better musical flow and timing."

2. "In my opinion, the obsession with detail and imaging leads to a more intellectual engagement with the music instead of an emotional one."

3. "To my ears, the very best systems I have heard have drawn me into the music in such a way that I don't really care whether I am sitting in the sweet spot or not."


I also like very much the notion that "God is in the nuances". A resolving system conveys nuance and ambiance, not details that stand out for attention. Clearly defined images with edges, is not how I hear musicians performing live. It is how I see them performing live. If a system does this, it is an effect, a manipulation or construction, and it is certainly appealing to some.

I agree with you that today's high end seems focused on details and imaging. This is perhaps due to listeners changing their values over time. Perhaps it is what sells today. As long as people can find what they are looking for, they can choose what they want.
 
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sbnx

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Mar 28, 2017
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Amen to that
I believe that today's hi-end audio scene is overly focused on detail, and imaging to it's detriment.

Hi End Vintage systems from the 50's and 60's were more focused on Timing Texture and Tone, whilst the British in the 70's and 80's obsessed about PRAT (Pace Rhythm and Timing).

I think that there is a currently, widely-held view that the better a system is ( and usually more expensive ) the more information inherent in the recording will be produced, leading to more detail, a bigger sounstage, and a better experience.

Coherency and timing go hand in hand. Coherency is obtained when the fundamentals and harmonics of each note are in alignment, giving correct pitch and tone. When the fundamentals and harmonics are out of alignment then the music seems to slow down and we lose coherency, timing, tone and texture, but perhaps gain perceived added detail.

Rather than more detail, I believe we would be better served trying to extract better tone, more texture, and better musical flow and timing.

In my opinion, the obsession with detail and imaging leads to a more intellectual engagement with the music instead of an emotional one.

Here is a quote I like from art Dudley reviewing a Shindo preamp - Some day, listeners who respond to the sound of Shindo gear may help reclaim the art of critical listening from the ninnies who think it has something to do with "locating images in space."

An all time favourite quote of mine attributed to Colin Hammerton was - I don't want to hear where the musicians are on stage. I want to hear why they are on stage (in the late Marus Sauer's excellent think piece "God is in the Nuances").

In my experience, the systems that have timed the best (and are the most coherent) have either been single driver speakers - yes they can have lots of other problems - or simple two way speakers (these can be mini monitors or big horns). The more complex a speaker becomes with more drivers and complex crossover, then the more difficult it seems to keep coherence and timing. My own experience has been that lower (1st and 2nd ) order crossovers are best at this, but that is debatable.

To my ears, the very best systems I have heard have drawn me into the music in such a way that I don't really care whether I am sitting in the sweet spot or not.

A simple test of whether a system is engaging is to listen to it in mono using mono recordings. Without the stereo imaging we are left only with whatever tonality, texture, pace, rhythm and timing that system is able to reproduce that is in the music. If the system is all about detail and imaging, you may find mono recordings to be quite boring.

By the way, I am not meaning to attack people who have modern expensive hi end systems and of course you experience and your goals could be different to mine.

What do you think?

David ti that.

Amen to that.

to me, timing, tone and coherence are closely related. By this i mean if the drivers are ‘t coherent it will effect the tone. If timing is off the coherence is automatically wrong and thus tone.

imaging has nothing to do with music. It just comes along for the ride and is free when timing, coherence and tone are correct. Imaging is fun and does add to the enjoyment factor.

texture is obscured by incorrect timing and coherence.
 

analogsa

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Hi End Vintage systems from the 50's and 60's were more focused on Timing Texture and Tone,

I don't believe this was the result of a conscientious effort, it just reflects what the technology was able to offer at the time. Often, the technological deficiencies were overcompensated with artistic mastery at all stages of record production.

Today, we certainly have more choices. If it appears detail and resolution in a recording exceed a listener's threshold, it's relatively easy to compensate using equipment specifically designed to obscure detail, reduce apparent speed and dynamics and dumb down excessive resolution.
 

Ron Resnick

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I believe that today's hi-end audio scene is overly focused on detail, and imaging to it's detriment.

. . .

I think that there is a currently, widely-held view that the better a system is ( and usually more expensive ) the more information inherent in the recording will be produced, leading to more detail, a bigger sounstage, and a better experience.

. . .

Rather than more detail, I believe we would be better served trying to extract better tone, more texture, and better musical flow and timing.

In my opinion, the obsession with detail and imaging leads to a more intellectual engagement with the music instead of an emotional one.

Do you think your view and the pro-detail view can be reconciled by considering that you and they simply may have different high-end audio objectives?

Perhaps you seek to "create a sound that seems live" (Objective 4), whereas perhaps they seek to "reproduce exactly what is on the tape, vinyl or digital source being played" (Objective 2). So maybe different objectives lead to different sonic preferences?
 
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microstrip

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(...) A system's ability to resolve the information on the recording, and present it in a natural way, is to me, what distinguishes the best systems from the rest. I think of resolution as an holistic quality. When I think of detail, I think of separating out pieces of the performance for scrutiny. Details, by their nature, draw attention to themselves, and either whisper or shout, "look at me". I do not want that from a music listening experience. I do not think of bits and pieces of the presentation when listening to a live performance, and I do not want it imposed on me when listening at home. (...)

Well, IMO you define detail in an non natural way, as an artificial thing - so you reduce the discussion to a semantics affair.

John Gordon Holt addressed it, it is summarized in his glossary :

Detail
Good: accurate, crisp, delicate, focus, resolution, snap
Not Good:
Excess: accurate (misused), analytical, clinical, etched
Deficiency: closed-in, congestion, diffuse, hangover, haze, opaque, smearing, veiling, velvet fog

Many audio writers wrote about it in a similar sense and it is interesting that in most reviews I have read of Lamm equipment the reviewers refer to its excellent detail.
 

PeterA

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Well, IMO you define detail in an non natural way, as an artificial thing - so you reduce the discussion to a semantics affair.

John Gordon Holt addressed it, it is summarized in his glossary :

Detail
Good: accurate, crisp, delicate, focus, resolution, snap
Not Good:
Excess: accurate (misused), analytical, clinical, etched
Deficiency: closed-in, congestion, diffuse, hangover, haze, opaque, smearing, veiling, velvet fog

Many audio writers wrote about it in a similar sense and it is interesting that in most reviews I have read of Lamm equipment the reviewers refer to its excellent detail.

All I know is that I do not want to enter a room and hear a system focused on details and images. That’s not music to me.
 

dcathro

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There is nothing disagreeable in your thoughts or how they are laid out. In fact I believe you could expect near total agreement and genial discourse where alignment wasn't possible on the characteristics of currently manufactured equipment. Here, impressions that can be applied to fresh inventions have lessened first level association with mono recordings of a previous century. Entering the second quarter of this one.

Thanks Rando,

I hope that we can have genial discourse even if we have disagreement.
 
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dcathro

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I don't understand this. Detail *is* texture. When listening to a string quartet, I want to hear all the micro-detail of the friction of the bows on the strings and the resonances of the wooden instrument bodies. That is both essential texture and essential detail -- they are both the same. Without that micro-detail -- texture --, believability is lost for me, and so is emotional connection.

Detail is also separation of instruments. Complex orchestral music becomes much more intelligible, and as such emotionally attractive, if you can hear all the little voices and timbres in the overarching polyphony of musical strands and sounds.

Or do you mean with "detail" exaggerated detail? The trick for a good system is to extract detail while the tonal balance is full and rich, not emaciated and tipped up in the highs. Under this condition, detail is something entirely positive, not the negative trait that you artificially make it out to be.

I agree with you on the importance of rhythm & timing. This has always been a major criterion for me when choosing gear.

Hi Al,

I think we are basically in agreement! @PeterA expressed it better as Resolution as apposed to detail.

I think it is about priorities. As someone who is into DIY, I can tell you that it is very easy to modify equipment to get more detail. The problem is, if that comes through the loss of coherence and timing then it is, in my experience, a pathway to frustration. If the other attributes such as Coherence, texture, tone, timing, etc are at the forefront then the greater the resolution the better.
 

dcathro

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Sep 16, 2016
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Melbourne, Australia
Surely due to technological developments current high end can convey more information in a more accurate way and we see some equipment that ruthless over exposes all this information.

Poor set up, such as some shops and most show sessions also enhance this aspect, it is why many people have such feeling. However, the same equipment, well matched and properly set up in our listening rooms results in enjoyable detail and imaging that enhances our listening.

BTW, most times the excessive focus on detail and imaging is intrinsic to the recording - no high end system can save us from it. It took sometime before sound engineers learned to use systems able to record in higher resolution that were surely not perfect.

I agree that poor setup is often a big culprit in creating systems that lack coherence, tone, texture and timing. Also the greater the resolution of a system, the harder it is to set up and get right. It is a little like the difference between tuning a family sedan and a racing car.

Sorry you are addressing some localized trends that become stereotypes. No way they can describe the status of the high-end along four decades.

Well i wasn't around, but I have heard some pretty special vintage systems that majored in coherence, texture, tone and timing. I would say that, as with all things, not all vintage systems would have done this, or even probably a majority.

Your definition of coherency is very different from the typical audiophile and IMO confusing. Harry Pearson wrote excellent essays on the subject.. IMO coherency does not go hand on hand with timing. Many systems with excellent timing have little coherency.

I would like to know more - is there a link to Mr Pearson's essays? Which systems have you heard that time with little coherence?

I know that I have heard Naim systems that time but, for me, lack tone and texture.

Well, I surely friendly disagree. Proper stereo will enhance all the good aspects you refer and is much more challenging and diverse than mono.

As many times pointed by Ron, different audiophiles have different objectives. For me sound reproduction is strongly connected to sound and visual perceptions I have of the real music - stereo (or multi channel) are strong part of it. The emotion is also unconsciously connected to imaging.

Thanks for being friendly ;)

I understand that we all have different experience, different influences, and different objectives.
 
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dcathro

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David, This is a thought provoking opening post and a sobject I have thought about quite a bit in the last few years. I appreciate you starting this thread. I have come to think of system performance in terms of resolution rather than of detail. Some may think this is just semantics, but I think there is more to it.

A system's ability to resolve the information on the recording, and present it in a natural way, is to me, what distinguishes the best systems from the rest. I think of resolution as an holistic quality. When I think of detail, I think of separating out pieces of the performance for scrutiny. Details, by their nature, draw attention to themselves, and either whisper or shout, "look at me". I do not want that from a music listening experience. I do not think of bits and pieces of the presentation when listening to a live performance, and I do not want it imposed on me when listening at home.

You write: "I think that there is a currently, widely-held view that the better a system is ( and usually more expensive ) the more information inherent in the recording will be produced, leading to more detail, a bigger soundstage, and a better experience."

Perhaps this is a "widely-held view", but I do not subscribe to it. I agree that the better the system, the more information it can retrieve and present to the listener. I do not agree, however, that this necessarily leads to more detail or a bigger soundstage. In my view, it does, or it should, lead to a better listening experience, but depending on what that information is, it may present a smaller soundstage and less attention to specific details. The sound should be balanced and not spotlit. I do not want my mind to constantly focus on the details I hear. I want my mind to be able to wander, shift and flow consciously to marvel at aspects of the sound captured by the recording and reproduced by the system, but I do not want that detail, those pieces, to overshadow the whole. It all depends on the recording and how the system resolves the information in the recording and then presents it. I want the freedom to let my mind wander the way it does when listening to live music at a club or concert hall. The best systems let you relax and overwhelm you by the music's gestalt and they allow you to choose to focus on aspects of the sound or performance. They do not dictate where you mind should go.

To me, the better the system, the more one will learn about the various recordings in his or her collection. The listener simply experiences more of the recording. And if it is presented in a natural way, reminiscent of the sound and experience of real instruments in space, the more the experience will engage the listener, and the more involved he or she will be in the performance. A good system should present soundstages of varying size and character. Each should be representative of the space in which the musicians were recorded, if that is the intent of the engineer.

I do agree these three sentences:

1. "Rather than more detail, I believe we would be better served trying to extract better tone, more texture, and better musical flow and timing."

2. "In my opinion, the obsession with detail and imaging leads to a more intellectual engagement with the music instead of an emotional one."

3. "To my ears, the very best systems I have heard have drawn me into the music in such a way that I don't really care whether I am sitting in the sweet spot or not."


I also like very much the notion that "God is in the nuances". A resolving system conveys nuance and ambiance, not details that stand out for attention. Clearly defined images with edges, is not how I hear musicians performing live. It is how I see them performing live. If a system does this, it is an effect, a manipulation or construction, and it is certainly appealing to some.

I agree with you that today's high end seems focused on details and imaging. This is perhaps due to listeners changing their values over time. Perhaps it is what sells today. As long as people can find what they are looking for, they can choose what they want.

Hi Peter,

Thanks for your excellent considered response. You are right that Resolution is a goal that, for me, coincides with other desirable attributes.
 
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dcathro

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Sep 16, 2016
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Amen to that.

to me, timing, tone and coherence are closely related. By this i mean if the drivers are ‘t coherent it will effect the tone. If timing is off the coherence is automatically wrong and thus tone.

imaging has nothing to do with music. It just comes along for the ride and is free when timing, coherence and tone are correct. Imaging is fun and does add to the enjoyment factor.

texture is obscured by incorrect timing and coherence.

Thank you for puting it so clearly!

I love the way you express imaging as coming along for the ride. I have always though of it as the icing on the cake - the last of the priorities. :)
 
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Al M.

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Do you think your view and the pro-detail view can be reconciled by considering that you and they simply may have different high-end audio objectives?

Perhaps you seek to "create a sound that seems live" (Objective 4), whereas perhaps they seek to "reproduce exactly what is on the tape, vinyl or digital source being played" (Objective 2). So maybe different objectives lead to different sonic preferences?

Interesting, Ron. I do have objective 4, and I still want all the detail. Because detail is what I hear in the concert hall, sometimes even to almost a degree of sensory overload.
 
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dcathro

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Do you think your view and the pro-detail view can be reconciled by considering that you and they simply may have different high-end audio objectives?

Hi Ron,

I hope so! I understand that we all have different experience, different influence, different taste, and therefor different goals. I do think we can influence each other and learn. I try and learn from others all the time and look for positives when I listen to other peoples systems. I have been into audio for 50 years and it was only 25 years ago that someone introduced me to the concept of timing in music. It then took me a few years to understand it and appreciate it as something more than a concept. My appreciation for horns and single driver systems has only come about in the last 10 to 15 years.
Perhaps you seek to "create a sound that seems live" (Objective 4), whereas perhaps they seek to "reproduce exactly what is on the tape, vinyl or digital source being played" (Objective 2). So maybe different objectives lead to different sonic preferences?

I think that you need to have an objective or target in order to progress and move forward and, as you suggest, I think we have different goals in mind ( although I have met a lot of audiophile who have not formulated theirs).

I could list a whole series of adjectives that would form part of my objective, such as:

Coherence
Tone
Timing
Texture
Flow
Lucidity
Reality
Emotional Grip
Etc

but these are just words that anyone else could claim as theirs too. It is led by a collective of experiences from both live music and listening to other systems.

I use particular recordings as the core of my references along with a wide range of classical recordings. A principle recording that I always come back to is Joni Mitchell's Blue. The emotional content of this is phenomenal, and yet it can sound awful if the desired system attributes are missing.
 
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treitz3

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Dec 25, 2011
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Also the greater the resolution of a system, the harder it is to set up and get right.
Interesting. I would argue for this as well, with all due respect. I relate this to first world issues that....

Tom
 

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