Transparency and the sound of a system


Well-Known Member
Sep 30, 2017
Yes, but i'd add to that a kind of 'see through' quality which comes primarly from accuracy and dynamic range. I still have vivid memories of the first time I heard the Infinity IRS-V's. Their ability to accurately reproduce complex orchestral scores with realistic scale and impact, and ethereal 'reach out and touch it' imaging was phenomenal.

My experience hearing the IRS-Vs was similar to a degree, but perhaps departs in another.

It was the first time I heard sound reproduction that combined that sense of SCALE with great transparency/detail. I was listening to some classical pieces and, with eyes closed, it was almost as if a full orchestra was laid out before me!

However, I was also struck with another impression. Once the sonic images of an orchestra through the sound system reached a believable life-like scale, what *wasn't* life-like seemed to suddenly stick out even more to me: the lack of believable timbral quality. Before me was a giant orchestra with every section and instrument doing their part, yet compared to the real thing (which I attended often) it was blanched, homogonized of tone, sort of like every instrument had been made from the same material. A synthetic, plastic version of an orchestra, rather than a real one made of a huge variety of truly different, vibrating materials.

I left with a new sort of question or epiphany: Did I just experience the fact that...maybe it's just too much to ask for one, or a few, types of driver material to TRULY reproduce all the timbral qualities of the real thing? Maybe this was a fool's errand. To that end, one of the things that has consistently stuck out to me in audio systems, ultra high end or otherwise, is to some degree or another, a homogenizing of tone and timbre.
Once I've heard a few pieces with saxophone, and/or drums, acoustic guitar etc, I have a good idea of how those instruments will sound foreever more through that system. Yes, recording quality will differ quite a lot and the system may reveal those differences exquisitely, but most systems seem to place some constraint, some voice, on everything that comes through. There aren't really any surprises left...unlike real life sound. (Though some systems do better than others).

That said, I'm not sure the intuition that one, or a few, driver materials can't reproduce the timbral qualities of many different instruments, actually holds up *in principle.* Because, it seems to me that given how sound works - ultimately for instance all the timbral qualities of instruments is reproduced by the vibrating of only a few materials in your ear - it seems that *in principle* some sort of speaker system could reproduce all timbres with realistic variety and accuracy.

Just some musings...


Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2014
But it isn't phase error (unless we're talking about port).
When certain frequency ranges reach your ears at different times than others or as intended on the recording, that is distortion of the original signal. Whether you hear it or not is another discussion. It is considered linear because, like frequency response, it is technically possible to correct it.

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