Truth and Tonality: can they co-exist?

mep

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No, Mark, they're not. A microphone was placed in front of the singer's mouth. Another was placed in front of the guitar. Heck, they were probably recorded at different times on different tracks, but regardless, there is no way to pan vertically in a stereo mix to represent the distance between mouth and instrument on a 4-foot singing guitar player seated on a 3-foot stool vs. a six-foot singing guitar player standing on a 4-foot stage. That would be interesting; quadraphonic in a left/right, high/low configuration. But that interesting configuration doesn't exist, so everything you hear in stereo to reproduce the singing and playing of the six foot standing singer/guitar player and the 4 foot seated singer/guitar player is created by conventional microphone placement, stereo mixing and mastering, and the effect the dispersion characteristics of your speakers and the acoustics of your room have on all of the above. If you hear a difference in physical stature between a standing Ray Benson and a seated Dolly Parton who were both recorded with microphones in front of mouths and guitars and mixed and mastered in stereo, you're absolutely right: It is not measurable. Neither is anything else that resides only in your imagination.

Tim
You and Tom missed my point. We have live recordings that attempted to capture the sound of musicians playing instruments in a real space. They for the most part are proportioned size-wise believably. For instance, a trumpet being played is not at the same level as the piano keyboard, the drums and cymbals sound as if they were at the correct height that you would hear if you were sitting in a club and looking at the stage, etc. In other words, instruments are scaled from one to another correctly for the most part. Sound takes place in three dimensions. I know of no measuring device that can tell me if I captured the scale of the instruments correctly. My ears will though and that’s my point.

There are so many things that are recorded that measurements can never tell you and that you will only know by listening and I listed some of them yesterday. Will measurements tell you whether the guitar player is playing a Fender Strat or a Tele? Will measurements tell you that someone is playing a Strad and not a $100.00 student violin? My point is that measurements can tell you certain things about the quality of the recording via frequency response and distortion measurements, but they can’t tell you anything about the size of the venue, the number of players and how they are arranged on the stage, and the type of instruments being played . You have to hear that for yourself and your ears will tell you if the recording is good or not.

And to Tim’s point about vertical height being recorded, check out Best Of Chesky Classics & Jazz & Audiophile Test Disc, Vol.2. Chesky recorded a shaker starting at ground level and steadily raised it up vertically. You can hear the shaker climb straight up. How do you measure that? It’s there to be heard. Ditto for the sound of drums being recorded further and further back from the microphone. Easily heard, but how do you measure that distance via test gear? My point is, we can’t measure everything we hear no matter how many times some people tell you that we can.
 

fas42

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But I have no reason to believe those conditions will reveal distortion levels higher than the usual SMPTE twin-tone IMD tests. Again, why do you think they would?
Because I have found many problems with amplifiers which are power supply related. In a stereo amp the power supply is usually common to the two channels, so if you heavily stress that power supply by driving one channel hard, you most likely will hear, and measure, a difference in performance of the other, test channel.

distortion decreases at lower levels, but not always.
By the nature of things distortion will increase at lower levels, which is exactly the behaviour we're looking for. As an extreme example, the stereo amp I've mentioned, one channel fed highly compressed heavy metal, at a volume just below clipping, connected via a long lead to a difficult speaker load that can take it, which is acoustically isolated from the listener. The other channel fed a soaring, sweet violin solo, played at low volume over a high quality speaker. Yes, there may be crosstalk, but will it only be equivalent to being in a hall listening to a performance, and also being aware that there is a band playing on the street outside?

Frank
 
May 30, 2010
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But if the sum of all distortion artifacts is at least 80 dB below the music, then nobody will hear it regardless.
--Ethan
And if the sum of all distortion artifacts is at least 70 dB below the music peak will anybody hear it?
 

fas42

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And if the sum of all distortion artifacts is at least 70 dB below the music peak will anybody hear it?
I believe Ethan is correct, but the problem is determining whether in fact the distortion artifacts, my low level distortion that I talk of often, is really, truly not there. My experience is that it IS there, that the normal measurements don't pick up that they are there, hence the apparent contradiction between published figures and what people hear ...

Frank
 

JackD201

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Apr 21, 2010
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For a start you appear to have a bewildering array of gear in your place. I am sure you know a particular combination of that kit that gives you the "best" sound for, say, particular recordings. To get things happening, and you're right, I'll be focusing on treble, what combo gives you the cleanest, sweetest treble sound, that makes it easiest to listen to "difficult" recordings without dumbing them down? Along with that, would you have a recording that you would really love to have sound better, but which has a treble content which bugs you normally?

Frank
Uh-oh. I'm not after cleanest and sweetest Frank. I'm after realistic if not ultimately real. By that I mean timbre that closely matches the real thing. A Cymbal crash is not sweet and clean. It's jarring. It's meant to jar. I'm starting to understand the original question about coexistence between "truth" and "tonality" now. I can do clean and sweet very easily. I can even mimic SET on a Mid-sensitive speaker to some extent but to not be jarred even just a little bit by a crash when I know I should is a distraction that will break the illusion just as easily.

I have absolutely nothing against people that want to make the most beautiful sound they can get all the time. In fact I think everyone should push for more enjoyment all the time. Thing is, even what constitutes enjoyment differs from person to person and within the very same person from time to time. Using myself as an example, currently my system is "sweetened" a bit (dipped ~1.5 to 2dB at the presence region for all you measurement types) to make even poor recordings listenable but not so much so that the really special recordings lose their verve. This is totally subjective I know, and it was a call I made deliberately. The problem is while I am a hobbyist, I also have interest in the production and recording side. As such, evaluating production values is part of my fun. It's a double edged sword. If I go balls out for the best recordings I possess, it renders a lot of my music unlistenable. If I make my worst recordings sound their best, it makes my best recordings mediocre. The quality of the recordings is outside my control and unfortunately setting up my system for every song is not in my interest.

Once upon a time, I tweaked with one reference recording just to see how far I could take it. Result? On that track it was heavenly. It did not translate everything else I played well.

But heck, give me the sequence Frank. I'll still do it. Maybe somewhere we'll find a stable improvement in system behavior.
 
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fas42

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Once upon a time, I tweaked with one reference recording just to see how far I could take it. Result? On that track it was heavenly. It did not translate everything else I played well.
Yes, that recalls an experience I had at an audio club some time ago. They did a grand finale at the end of year with an absolute monster of a VTL tube amp, 400 watts or something, people will know it. Put through top line electrostats, etc, etc. They put on the right audiophile CD recording, lots of splashy, gee whiz special sounds, sounded very, very impressive. Then I asked for a classic Sinatra CD, golden era, that I had, to be played.

What a disaster! It was the worst I had ever heard that recording sound -- a miserable, thin nothing! So I know where you're coming from ...

To continue, when I say sweet I DO NOT mean adulterated; I mean sweet in the way real violins sound sweet, extremely intense, but with a rich sweetness. Likewise for cymbals, yes, the experience should be intense, but the shimmer should have the quality of togetherness that, at least for me means I can use the word sweetness.

To try and find some common language here, I have a magazine cover CD here with Hendrix doing Voodoo Chile, a very, very good live recording. My brother used to play Marshall amps, I know what it's like standing next to one when it's grunting hard. This recording has it, and it should be there on playback. Simultaneously the drummer (forgotten his name) is hammering the kit at full bore, working the cymbals hard. Again, that has been captured perfectly by the mics.

Now I want you to wind up the volume to full concert level, as in standing 10 feet away from the action, no PA nonsense here. Is this making sense?

Frank
 

JackD201

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I'm not following you Frank. You're being a bit too esoteric for me to understand. There's definitely lots of losses in translation. Violins aren't always sweet either because many times they are not played to be sweet. That's where I lost your tracks again. I think I can follow the procedure better. How about we do that and see if we can come to better understanding then?

Lets go Mission Control, gimme the protocols and the launch sequence.
 
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fas42

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Okay, let's go cymbals then (which is what I normally use to fine tune!)

I'll be focusing on treble, what combo gives you the cleanest, sweetest treble sound, that makes it easiest to listen to "difficult" recordings without dumbing them down?
So back to that, what combination of gear gives you that AS WELL AS the intensity of the performance? Is it CD, R2R, TT, pre-amp, amp combo? Is it the setup that you normally listen to, the default so to speak?

Frank
 

fas42

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Jack, if it helps the understanding, I am trying to simplify the environment in which you working, to give this experiment the best shot. Hence I will have to go through a series of questions and answers so that I can nail, from a distance, the best configuration to get a result. I can't just give you a recipe in one hit for doing it, I need to understand exactly what sort of environment you've got there.

Sorry it's not so straightforward ...

Frank
 

mep

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Jack, if it helps the understanding, I am trying to simplify the environment in which you working, to give this experiment the best shot. Hence I will have go through a series of questions and answers so that I can nail, from a distance, the best configuration to get a result. I can't just give you a recipe in one hit for doing it, I need to understand exactly what sort of environment you've got there.

Sorry it's not so straightforward ...

Frank
It never is straightforward with your distortion buster methods is it Frank? Should I put a smiley face here?
 

fas42

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Mark, if it was so straightforward people would have had it under control totally decades ago. That's why the high end is still blundering around, banging into walls, stubbing its feet, cursing and muttering, why the hell is this not coming together like A,B,C ...

Am I allowed one, just one tiny smiley ??:eek:

Frank
 

fas42

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And, and yet a bit more, to help the understanding ...

What I am trying to do with Jack's system is to get it into a state where any weaknesses that are causing problems are minimised as much as possible, for hopefully a decent period of time. Typically you can only fend off these problems for a short period of time, and then they knock the sound quality down -- this is especially a problem with cheaper gear. Jack's stuff is at the high end, so he has a much better chance of getting a good result ...

Robert's setup gives him good insight into the "good" sound at times, check out some of his postings. His system is so close to "Being There" (Peter, what are doing here ...? :)), which is why he did that original post, that inspired this conversation ...

Frank
 
Jul 1, 2010
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You and Tom missed my point. We have live recordings that attempted to capture the sound of musicians playing instruments in a real space. They for the most part are proportioned size-wise believably. For instance, a trumpet being played is not at the same level as the piano keyboard, the drums and cymbals sound as if they were at the correct height that you would hear if you were sitting in a club and looking at the stage, etc. In other words, instruments are scaled from one to another correctly for the most part. Sound takes place in three dimensions. I know of no measuring device that can tell me if I captured the scale of the instruments correctly. My ears will though and that’s my point.

There are so many things that are recorded that measurements can never tell you and that you will only know by listening and I listed some of them yesterday. Will measurements tell you whether the guitar player is playing a Fender Strat or a Tele? Will measurements tell you that someone is playing a Strad and not a $100.00 student violin? My point is that measurements can tell you certain things about the quality of the recording via frequency response and distortion measurements, but they can’t tell you anything about the size of the venue, the number of players and how they are arranged on the stage, and the type of instruments being played . You have to hear that for yourself and your ears will tell you if the recording is good or not.

And to Tim’s point about vertical height being recorded, check out Best Of Chesky Classics & Jazz & Audiophile Test Disc, Vol.2. Chesky recorded a shaker starting at ground level and steadily raised it up vertically. You can hear the shaker climb straight up. How do you measure that? It’s there to be heard. Ditto for the sound of drums being recorded further and further back from the microphone. Easily heard, but how do you measure that distance via test gear? My point is, we can’t measure everything we hear no matter how many times some people tell you that we can.
I didn't miss your point, Mark, but I did try to segue into a related one, which was that the thing you're basing so much of your view of audio reproduction on, those recordings that attempt to capture the actual ambience of the room a performance happens in, are very rare and usually not particularly good. And I'll bet that most of the time when you think that's what you're listening to, it's not. Why? Because microphones don't hear like people do, most don't record voices and instruments well from a distance at all, they don't contour and delay and process and compensate sound in the same way human ears and brains do at all. As a result, almost no "live" recordings are recorded the way you imagine they are, the way you imagine you hear them. The microphones are on the stage, close to the instruments, where they can capture their timbre and texture without being screwed up by the room. More microphones may be in the audience, capturing some of the room sound, and those two sources will be mixed back together to create an illusion of the musicians in the room, but what you think you're hearing would be created by a couple of stereo mics in a good seat in the audience. Heard very many concert bootlegs? Not so good, huh? This is not the way your favorite live recordings are made, and an accurate reproduction of the musicians playing in the ambient space of that room is not what you're listening to, no matter what is in your system.

The Chesky recording? A parlor trick. How does it move that shaker up? First let's ask how your ears do that: They only record in stereo. And the two channels are oriented horizontally, so how do our ears locate things above, below and behind the plane of our hearing? This is not a mystery. Our brains, the greatest DSPs of all, interpret a code written in tiny variations in delay and mostly, frequency response, caused by the stuff the sound has to go around and through to get to our ears when it isn't coming directly at us -- head, hair, cheeks and, of course, all the fleshy external parts of the ears that are on the outside. Now, consider the microphone:



Hmmm...no hair no head...no brain. So how does Chesky do it? They emulate the minor variations in delay and frequency response caused by the organic stuff that is not around that microphone. Or maybe they recorded it with microphones in the ears of a dummy head, the way some of the best binaural recordings are made.

But regardless, the minor variations in FR and delay, the code is on the recording, and it is measurable.

Tim
 
Jul 1, 2010
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Mark, if it was so straightforward people would have had it under control totally decades ago. That's why the high end is still blundering around, banging into walls, stubbing its feet, cursing and muttering, why the hell is this not coming together like A,B,C ...

Am I allowed one, just one tiny smiley ??:eek:

Frank
Frank, my headphone system is exceedingly simple. Lossless files from a MacBook pro go, via USB. to a little box that re-clocks, galvanically isolates, converts the signal to digital coax then sends it to a ADC/DAC/Amp combo that converts every in-coming signal, analog or digital, to 24/192 so it is all processed and volume is set in the digital domain with loads of digits of headroom, then it is converted to analog just before a non-descript op amp bumps the signal up to a few hundred milliwatts on the way to a pair of Sennheiser HD580s. Where could I remove some small distortions and make my Senns disappear?

:)

Tim
 

JackD201

[WBF Founding Member]
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Let's make this simpler Frank. Give me just one routine to try out, one hopefully I haven't tried yet. If there is an audible effect. I'll let you know. We can set aside for the moment if that effect enhances or detracts and why that is so. It will just be conjecture anyway. Let's even set aside what your definitions of distortion are for now, as I find your use for it nebulous and broad. Then we go on to another, again setting things aside. Let's start with an easy one shall we?

Routines that are system do not auger well for the hypothesis. We'll be going around in circles or back and forth as you say. I already stated I am not out to get one recording sounding perfect but if there are ways to "reduce distortion" across the board, and by that I mean distortions wrought by factors that affect performance I'm game. I know I should be spending more time hunting that pesky hum on my analog rig down but hey this is what vacations/sabbaticals are for right?

Let's get crackin', BTW my contacts are all clean.
 

JackD201

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Mark and Tim,

From a spectators viewpoint, I noticed you are talking about common observations but have different explanations.

I'm jusy sayin'.
 

tony ky ma

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experience in recording with two microphones in stereo

May be I can share some experience of mine, if one mic to the mouth another to guitar or mix it later will not has good result in repro . I was instructed by a engineer of CBC to place two mic apart 6 feet in a normal height (similar as the speakers in repro) to the back wall more than 6 feet, with attention of room effect will have the best 3D in repro.
once we did recording to-getter for a cello solo, the CBC engineer use 5 mic(ribbon) left right and center, two more far away from the front mic, all to a potable mixer and pre amp to a Apple computer for recording in digital, and we put only two mic 6 feet apart (ribbon mic with tube inside) direct to a tube pre amp and to recorder (Studer A80), at the end, computer can edit the whole thing right away and copied to CD, ours took too long to cut and tape it back to have the master tape,
in CD vs Tape compare listening, you guys will know my answer may be those digital lovers will not agree, but one thing for sure 5 mic through a mix isn't better than only two mic in direct, and if in measurement, the CD must has better spec, than tape, but I only trust my ear and the sound from the speakers, and no measurement can tell the difference of them, of cause you need a repro system is good for strings music listening to catch the difference
tony ma
 

fas42

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All right, we go for a simplified one then ...

* Run the system until everything is stabilised, I don't know whether you keep anything on 24/7, so if you don't, run everything in your system in a time frame sequence or other ways that you know will cause it to fully stabilise -- no more changes in sound quality would occur if you keep it running longer. Every piece of gear that is not directly connected with doing the test should be switched off, pulled from the mains, and disconnected from the components doing the test. If you find shorting inputs helps the sound do that, make sure all the tweaks you rely on normally are working properly
* Time all of the above so it will come together when the power is cleanest. I don't know whether you have power conditioning. In any case, do what you need to do here to have a situation where the power into the gear is cleaned as much as possible
* For the last hour or so before the proper testing give the speakers a good high level workout where the tweeters are hammered hard. Lots of high energy cymbals, drive them as hard as you dare. What are we doing, obviously, is conditioning the driver and the crossover cap's as much as we can.
* I'm taking your word on clean contacts, and what you do or use here. If this is not right it could easily all be in vain ...
* Just before you're ready to go with the test, try playing a key recording, as I mentioned earlier, where if the treble is not working right it will be a bit of mess. If at this moment it's sounding pretty good, get a worse recording, find one that is definitely sounding shaky.
* When you ready to go, shut the house down electrically apart from the system, and I mean EVERYTHING. You're turning the house into a pure spur for the system. This means pulling all the fuses, switching of all circuit breakers off at the supply box: lights, hot water, HVAC, the works. We're in for the kill here ...
* All cellphones and devices that are wireless, that run off batteries switched off. Cordless handsets for the land line are a good one to make sure you've ticked of
* Every remote should be removed to at least a few rooms away. I'm still not sure about this one, but it's still worth doing
* If you're playing music in a intrinsically dark room you may have a slight problem now! If so, prepare a whole of candles beforehand, plus it's romantic!
* Back in the music room, switch off ALL the gear, leave a reasonable time so the power supplies cap's mostly discharge, say 30 secs for CD player, and a few minutes for the power amps, then switch on again
* As part of this procedure pull out and reseat every power chord, at both ends, switch the wall sockets off and on if they have switches
* While waiting for the powering on again, or just after, move every switch and control on the working gear. Every toggle, up, down, in, out, on, off, whatever. Every volume and level control needs to be rotated back and forth, and put back in the correct position, including those on the back of speakers!
* In spite of what you say about the contacts I would still reseat every one of them, if the only thing you did sometime before was to clean them. If they are treated in some way I wouldn't touch them
* Immediately play that key recording and see what it sounds like. If you used a remote to kick it off, take it to where the others are. Depending on the gear's behaviour it may still have to settle in from the switch on, but the key thing is to note what happens to the sound in the first few minutes, and from then on up to a half hour later. At this point you need to focus on the highest treble: how clean, sweet, intense without harshness is it? If all has worked well the treble should be those last 2 things: intense, but not harsh.
* Now undo all that house tweaking before the rest of the family start screaming at you!
* If all this seems a bit extreme, even crazy, remember it's an exercise to, hopefully, prove a point ...

Frank
 
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JackD201

[WBF Founding Member]
Apr 21, 2010
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Woah!!!!!!!!!! My system does sound best after 4 or 5 hours of continuous play but I have two serious reservations and running about like a maniac flipping switches and lighting candles isn't one of them.

First I'm in a tropical country Frank. Heat is a big issue. I could fry my gear quite easily. I'm using amps in full class A operation. They'll need HVAC any time their run hard.

Second, I don't live alone. If I cut the power, I just might be living alone.

I'll have to chicken out of this one Frank. I hope you can't hear my clucking from down under.
 

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