There is a smarter way

Carlos269

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Over the past five years I have been on an extreme deep dive into the world of Single Ended Triode amplifiers and Directly Heated Triode filament bias preamplifiers paired with ultra high-efficiency horn systems of various topologies, Open Baffle speakers of the JE Labs variety, and field-coil drivers. All done at the highest level, and to the extend that I’m now surrounded by what I consider the best available components of their kind in every variety and configuration. I even rearranged my main listening room to give these systems and components both of the long walls.

What these simple, and some may say primitive systems, have brought to my ears is a level of intimacy and musicality in a very organic way, beyond anything that I had previously experienced with my more traditional high-end systems.

Before I go too far, I can not understate what Jussi Laako’s Signalyst HQPLAYER has contributed to my musical enjoyment, specially now with HQPLAYER 5.

What prompted me to draft this thread is that once again I got seduced into playing the “Audiophile” game of buying more and different components and experimenting with them to find pairings that deliver more than previous arrangements. As I looked up and saw my 10 mono amplifiers driven Wisdom Audio Adrenaline Rush based system in front of me, which has been dormant for the majority of the last couple of years, and then looked to my right at my ultra high-end mastering studio system, which has not been played since Jussi released HQPLAYER 4, it hit me like a lightning bolt………that I had figured this out years ago and that I had found a smarter way for my stereo system to sound exactly the way that I want.

With my SET amps, DHT preamps, field-coil drivers, JE Labs Open Baffle, and horn based cabinets experience now with me, I asked myself, can I make my big reference system sound like, as good or even better, in terms of intimacy, detail and organic character, than my 4P1L, 01A, 71A, 26, VT-25/10Y/80146, 45, AD1, 2A3, 300B, 211/VT-4-C, 845, 13E1, SE-OTL, F2J and M2X based amplifier systems that I have assembled the last few years.

Could I practice, what I have been preaching about for years on this and other forums?

In my previous mastering systems I have used a combination of both digital and analog processing to accomplish my goals. With HQPLAYER 5, I already get phenomenal resolution and sound quality in the digital domain so I decided to forgo any digital processing and take the HQPlayer straight to my DSD512 ValveDac and LampizatOr DSD-Only dac as the entry point to my system. Then I decided to only pick my favorite analog mastering tools; over the years I have gotten smarter and now don’t require 70 processors to accomplish my objectives. It is fun to have all that fire power at your disposal but this time I wanted to keep things as simple as possible, in the spirit of the SET/DHT credo.

Well after some serious fun and experimentation the last four weeks, I’m very happy to confirm that there is still is a smarter way to achieve one’s sonic objectives without succumbing to the traditional trial and error approach that is the basis of the audiophile experience.

Once a capable system has been assembled, nothing is as powerful as remastering the source material to make said system sound exactly the way we want it to sound. No engineered room, no grounding box or the latest toys from the Munich audio show will give you the power to dial in your sound the way a well thought out, capable and true high-end mastering setup will and does.

.Just think for a minute of how flawed the premise of trial and error component/cables/and associated equipment swapping is. The logic of the merry go around is shooting in the dark. There is a smarter way and if you want to know more contact me and perhaps you can have the awakening that I experienced decades ago and just recently again.
 
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dcathro

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Sorry Carlos, I don't understant what you are saying. Do you mean you are remastering recordings to suit you system/room ?
 
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Carlos269

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Sorry Carlos, I don't understant what you are saying. Do you mean you are remastering recordings to suit you system/room ?

Yes and no, I’m adjusting the sound of my system to suit my preferences. I have done that by playing back recordings that are well known to me and making adjustments until I hear exactly what I want to hear. Once I achieve a set of settings with my mastering studio equipment it then becomes a set and forget activity. Obviously there are always recordings that require adjustments that fall outside of the standard settings, but my equipment is at arms length and I’m able to make the necessary adjustments in real-time, by ear, as required; in practice what I have found out is that once you have the system dialed in there is no adjustments necessary, again for the most part; in other words this approach is not about making adjustments for each recording but to make adjustments to the system’s overall presentation.

In a concise way, what I’m doing by turning knobs, moving sliders and pressing buttons is to achieve the same objective that the constant buying and “upgrading” in doing equipment, cable, isolation/coupling/grounding by trial-and-error is attempting to achieve in the conventional approach, but with a more predetermined, scalable, defeatable/by-passable, recallable, more cost effective and overall smarter manner than the traditional audiophile high-end audio method.

The one thing that this approach requires is intelligence as you need to not only know what knob/slider/button needs to be adjusted to achieve the desired end result and in order to do that you need to be familiar with psychoacoustics. This is one approach that if you don’t know what each knob/slider/button does then things will go terribly wrong really quick. This is also something that you can not throw money at and buy your way in, like the rest of high-end audio world. If you want to excel at it you have to be smart and get smarter quickly as you go because it is not a linear exercise and requires specialized mastering studio techniques.

I hope that provides some insight.
 
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MaxwellsEq

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What you are describing sounds like the sort of activity historically performed by a mixing desk (mastering studio equipment; knobs, sliders etc.) but you are doing this in the digital domain using a parametric equaliser.

To summarize my understanding: you have got your system to sound the way you like it (conveying emotion etc) and now you equalise your music to sound correct to you on the system, since the music producers had no way of knowing how your system would sound and so could not mix the music to suit your system.
 

cjfrbw

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Yes, it makes sense. Components take you a certain ways into the journey.

Addressing the differences from the original mastering suite compared with one's own listening space through the preferred chain, adaptive remastering of the source for room/components would put the cherry on top.

Remastered recordings would then not be adapted to any other system/ room without another remastering.

Of course, the remastering I assume would not be destructive of the original.

It does, however, seem to be an arduous and time consuming task.
 
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Ron Resnick

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Carlos,

Distilling all the fancy descriptors . . . you are:

-- starting with a digital source

--> pure/simple full-range, line-level DHT signal

--> running into an analog parametric equalizer

--> to pure/simple SET amplifier

--> pure/simple speakers

-- with no fancy cables, vibration isolation, grounding boxes or other audiophile tweaks

. . . and you are reporting that this achieves greater suspension of disbelief and realism than your big, contemporary system.

I can understand this. I, personally, have adopted a non-adulteration ethos, but if the frequency response manipulation gets you closer emotionally to the music then I am in all in favor of it! Bravo! (I appreciate the DHT/SET purity philosophy, and the no tweaks simplicity philosophy.)

But I don't think it makes sense to call this "mastering."

Why start with a digital source when you could start with analog and remain purely in the analog domain?

And implicitly you are reporting that whatever deterioration in transparency is caused by the parametric equalizer and other signal manipulators is more than offset by greater believability and emotional engagement?
 
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Carlos269

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What you are describing sounds like the sort of activity historically performed by a mixing desk (mastering studio equipment; knobs, sliders etc.) but you are doing this in the digital domain using a parametric equaliser.

To summarize my understanding: you have got your system to sound the way you like it (conveying emotion etc) and now you equalise your music to sound correct to you on the system, since the music producers had no way of knowing how your system would sound and so could not mix the music to suit your system.

No mixing console is involved, what I’m doing is far beyond equalizing or EQ’ing the signal in the traditional way. Equalizing is a static step function, while the processes and techniques that I’m utilizing are dynamic in their responses.
 
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Carlos269

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Yes, it makes sense. Components take you a certain ways into the journey.

Addressing the differences from the original mastering suite compared with one's own listening space through the preferred chain, adaptive remastering of the source for room/components would put the cherry on top.

Remastered recordings would then not be adapted to any other system/ room without another remastering.

Of course, the remastering I assume would not be destructive of the original.

It does, however, seem to be an arduous and time consuming task.

Once i had my selected 2-buss mastering chain in place and inserted in its optimal entry point, it took me four listening sessions to dial it in. In a sense, I’m not remastering the recordings with the equipment but rather remastering the system’s tonal, spectral and dynamic presentation. Now that I have my system sounding exactly like I would like it to sound, I just listen to music and don’t do any further adjustments. It’s a set and forget once you have the system dialed in.
 
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Carlos269

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Carlos,

Distilling all the fancy descriptors . . . you are:

-- starting with a digital source

--> pure/simple full-range, line-level DHT signal

--> running into an analog parametric equalizer

--> to pure/simple SET amplifier

--> pure/simple speakers

-- with no fancy cables, vibration isolation, grounding boxes or other audiophile tweaks

. . . and you are reporting that this achieves greater suspension of disbelief and realism than your big fancy system.

I can understand this. I, personally, have adopted a non-adulteration ethos, but if the frequency response manipulation gets you closer emotionally to the music then I am in all in favor of it! Bravo! (I am a fan of the DHT/SET purity philosophy, and of the no tweaks simplicity philosophy.)

But I don't think it makes sense to call this "mastering."

Why start with a digital source when you could start with analog and remain purely in the analog domain?

And implicitly you are reporting that whatever deterioration in transparency is caused by the parametric equalizer and other signal manipulators is more than offset by greater believability and emotional engagement?

Ron, I’m sorry that I wasn’t more clear in my original post, because your summary above is completely off basis. Let me try this again:

After sitting there watching my big, 8 towers (4 per side) powered by 10 mono-block amplifiers driven, reference system, based around my Wisdom Audio Adrenaline Rush speakers go mostly unused for the last two years because I have been enjoying my SET/DHT/Field-Coil/Horns systems so much……. I decided to listen to the big system and after a few seconds/minutes of listening to it, it became obvious that it lacked the intimacy, detail, musicality, organic tone, and general character that I have been enjoying with my SET/DHT/Field-Coil/Horns systems.

At that point, I said to myself, I bet that I can make my big reference system sound and have a musical presentation like my SET/DHT/Field-Coil/Horns systems or better. And that is what I set out to do and what I have achieved by “remastering” my big reference system’s musical presentation.

The only classic “equalizer” involved in my set up is the Cello Audio Palette MIV version, which was already in the system and whose controls were not adjusted from their previous settings. So no “equalizers”, in the classic parametric or graphic were used to achieve the results. Different types of filters of a dynamic nature were used and these required careful setup of o only affect the portions of the bandwidth targeted. What I have done is far more teaching than frequency manipulation as it also involves dynamic shaping and stereo image components decomposition and convolution processes.

I hope that the above clears up the misunderstanding and confusion.
 
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Ron Resnick

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Ron, I’m sorry that I wasn’t more clear in my original post, because your summary above is completely off basis. Let me try this again:

After sitting there watching my big, 8 towers (4 per side) powered by 10 mono-block amplifiers driven, reference system, based around my Wisdom Audio Adrenaline Rush speakers go mostly unused for the last two years because I have been enjoying my SET/DHT/Field-Coil/Horns systems so much……. I decided to listen to the big system and after a few seconds/minutes of listening to it, it became obvious that it lacked the intimacy, detail, musicalityorganic tone and general character that I have been enjoying with my SET/DHT/Field-Coil/Horns systems.

At that point, I said to myself, I bet that I can make my big reference system sound and have a musical presentation like my SET/DHT/Field-Coil/Horns systems or better. And that is what I set out to do and what I have achieved by “remastering” my big reference system’s musical presentation.

The only classic “equalizer” involved in my set up is the Cello Audio Palette MIV version, which was already in the system and whose controls were not adjusted from their previous settings. So no “equalizers”, in the classic parametric or graphic were used to achieve the results. Different types of filters of a dynamic nature were used and these required careful setup of o only affect the portions of the bandwidth targeted. What I have done is far more teaching than frequency manipulation as it also involves dynamic shaping and stereo image decomposition.

I hope that the above clears up the misunderstanding and confusion.

Sorry I totally misunderstood. Thank you for explaining!

And implicitly you are reporting that whatever deterioration in transparency is caused by the Cello and filters and other signal manipulators is more than offset by greater believability and emotional engagement?
 
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Carlos269

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...it doesn't clear anything up, actually.

I have not attempted to explain the details of what I have done; I have only explained the concept.

As my college Physics advisor, Dr. Ernst, would say, if you don’t start by understanding the concept, then you have no real chance of understanding the details.

The details are also system dependent, and disclosing them would be more confusing, subject to misinterpretation, and would not add any real value at this point.
 
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PeterA

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I have not attempted to explain the details of what I have done; I have only explained the concept.

As my college Physics advisor, Dr. Ernst, would say, if you don’t start by understanding the concept, then you have no real chance of understanding the details.

The details are also system dependent, and disclosing them would be more confusing, subject to misinterpretation, and would not add any real value at this point.

Carlos, thank you for clarifying the first post in response to Ron with your second post. My question is if you really enjoyed your simplified SET horn system, why not just listen to that and sell off the big system? In other words, manipulating your big system into sounding the way you want it to, for lack of better words, and is that preferable to your SET horn based system? And if so why? And, are you listening only to vinyl? It is interesting to me that you’re finding you prefer what you call a “smarter“ way to what seems to me to be the simpler approach. Could you talk a little bit about that? Thank you.
 

Carlos269

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Carlos, thank you for clarifying the first post in response to Ron with your second post. My question is if you really enjoyed your simplified SET horn system, why not just listen to that and sell off the big system? In other words, manipulating your big system into sounding the way you want it to, for lack of better words, and is that preferable to your SET horn based system? And if so why? And, are you listening only to vinyl? It is interesting to me that you’re finding you prefer what you call a “smarter“ way to what seems to me to be the simpler approach. Could you talk a little bit about that? Thank you.

Peter there are simple answers to your questions:

1) Why manipulate the big system to provide the magic of the simple SET/DHT systems? Because the big system is much more capable in terms of scale, dynamics and frequency extension, with its 1,400 Watts per channel of power and its dedicated limited frequency range towers at its disposal, than the smaller 0.75, 1, 1.25, 2, 2.5, 3.5, 6, 8, 10, 18, 32 Watts systems could ever possibly achieve. In other words, I’m able to achieve more of those qualities I like of the simple systems from the dialed in big reference system. The big reference system now gives me these qualities and beyond.

2) Because I have well over 0.5MM$ invested in my big system and close to or over a 1MM$ in high-end mastering equipment. Might as well put it to use. Most is rare and one of a kind so not really interested in selling.

3) Because I find it challenging and a fun exercise to do and it contributes to my enjoyment of the hobby. I like challenges and problem solving, it is in my nature.

4) It is a departure from the mindless trial and error traditional approach, which is the norm and devoid of intelligence.

5) And lastly simply because I can!
 
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Carlos269

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...I knew I would regret posting to your thread. I won't be back, so no need to engage further or parade more of your professorial condescending wisdom for my sake! Have fun with your music. Cheers...

… you lost me here. All I did was answer your question directly and honestly. I’m sorry if my response came across as condescending. I can assure you that was not the intent.

My wife often complains of my direct communication style. Perhaps you can point me to what words or phrases came across as condescending so that I can refrain from their use in the future.

Obviously I’m oblivious as to what triggered and bothered you.
 

wil

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Definitely interesting, but not much for anyone to chew on here.

1M$ in mastering gear.
“… dynamic shaping, decomposition and convolution processes…”

I know convolution filters are used in DSP. Are you using DSP?

I think the Levinson Cello Pallete sounds really useful for tailoring the sound of recordings that need it. Levinson is also touting some sort digital “C wave” correction or high frequency dithering that Richard Burwen developed.

Maybe you could describe more as to what you are actually doing (without diving too much into the technical weeds)? Otherwise it’s just more of a curious head scratcher.
 

jeff1225

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I think you are using an incorrect word: mastering.

Mastering:

Mastering a song involves taking a mix and putting the final touches on it by elevating certain sonic characteristics. This can involve aspects like adjusting levels, applying stereo enhancement, and monitoring for clicks and pops–anything that could distract the listener from the music.

So are you remastering music to listen on your big system so it sounds like a DHT/Horn system but with more scale?
 

Carlos269

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Definitely interesting, but not much for anyone to chew on here.

1M$ in mastering gear.
“… dynamic shaping, decomposition and convolution processes…”

I know convolution filters are used in DSP. Are you using DSP?

I think the Levinson Cello Pallete sounds really useful for tailoring the sound of recordings that need it. Levinson is also touting some sort digital “C wave” correction or high frequency dithering that Richard Burwen developed.

Maybe you could describe more as to what you are actually doing (without diving too much into the technical weeds)? Otherwise it’s just more of a curious head scratcher.

As I mentioned in the original post, I did not want to connect my mastering system to my Wisdom Audio Adrenaline Rush system as that is a very complex processing chain with a very large number of potential adjustments. Over the years, I have become more knowledgeable and the use of HQPLAYER has changed my perspective on the need for any additional processing in the digital domain beyond what HQPLAYER 5 offers.

Let’s be clear about the 1MM$! in high-end mastering studio equipment, that is how much of these equipment I have throughout the house and not how much was implemented in the Wisdom Audio Adrenaline Rush system over the last four weeks.

I can walk you through the process that I used and next thing you will want to know the equipment that I used and this is where it will get complicated as it is not necessarily about the equipment used but rather how it is configured, in terms of both connectivity and settings.

The Cello Audio Palette MIV was added to the system before I got the pair of Wilson Audio WAMM Series VII subwoofer towers and Acapella Acoustics ION TW-1S plasma super-tweeters for the system, when it was only the four Wisdom Audio main ribbon and bass towers. The Cello Audio Palette MIV was used then and still used today for compensation at both frequency extremes.

What I have done is to insert a few of my mastering processors in the chain after the Cello Palette and before the Wisdom Audio’s advanced “Brain” processor and electronic crossover.

Walking through the process:

1) The first thing I did was change the attack and sustain of the mid-bass from around 70 to 185Hz, by sculpting the transient characteristics of the mid-bass; this enhanced the mid bass’ texture and made it more tuneful

2) Second thing I did was decompose the Left and Right signals into X and Y components

3) In the X-Y domain, I adjusted the stereo field with a superlative very unique & novel boutique processor from Germany to add space and dimensionality to the sound, without resorting to the use of reverb or my room simulator

4) In the X-Y domain, I then used inserts in both the Mono and Differential channels

5) To the Mono signal I added some dynamic filtering and expansion at 148Hz with a relative narrow Q factor and at 12KHz with a broad Q factor. I then adjusted the threshold, attack/release, and ratio for each dynamic filter, this processor adds some great air broadly down from 26KHz

6) I then send the Mono signal to a magnetic tape head and associated circuitry where it adds tape saturation, soft clipping and the bass bump that we all like

7) Meanwhile the Differential signal goes to a different magnetic tape simulator with different characteristics, which adds more 3 dimensional texture to the bass lines and an airy harmonic richness to the upper treble

8) I then adjust the soundstage’s focus and depth before reconverting the X-Y signals back to Left and Right signals

9) I then flow the Left and Right signals to a processor that lets me put the final touches to sound by adding harmonic color and thickness to the sound without loosing focus or detail, or rolling off at the frequency extremes. This box allows me to tailor the harmonic spectral content to achieve the tone and organic character of the sound that I get with the SET/DHT systems

This is a very streamlined process with only the minimal number of processes required to achieve the sound objectives.

I hand picked the mastering tools that I wanted to use and then I sequenced them in an optimal process flow before any adjustments were made. With the push of only four buttons, I can bypass the entire process and I’m back to the original signal routing for quick A/B comparisons. I can also isolate the changes in the decomposed signal components to hear what is being added or subtracted at each stage in the work flow.

This should provide more of the detailed insight that you requested Will.

PS - To answer your question, no DSP, it’s all analog hardware based processing that was added. The only DSP in the system is HQPLAYER.
 
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Carlos269

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I think you are using an incorrect word: mastering.

Mastering:

Mastering a song involves taking a mix and putting the final touches on it by elevating certain sonic characteristics. This can involve aspects like adjusting levels, applying stereo enhancement, and monitoring for clicks and pops–anything that could distract the listener from the music.

So are you remastering music to listen on your big system so it sounds like a DHT/Horn system but with more scale?

You would think I would know what I’m talking about having spent time in the mastering studios in the old Sony Classical Music in New York and at Sterling Sound Studios, but if you believe that you know the terminology better than I do, then I will just leave it at that.
 
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