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The Purpose of Audio Reproduction



Time to crack this back open again, 😄.


Yes, what's the point? There could be a zillion answers, but my answer is to be true to the contents of a recording ... I was going to post this to that unloved thread, now gone to zombie land, but I'll do it here, instead,



Bit of a mess, eh? And, this is the remaster, from 2015!! - I've got it on a double CD from 1998 - a low cost release - sludgy, plus? ... You bet!


What should a system do to, for this? In my book, absolutely nothing more than the best job possible to being accurate to the data - now, what I'm getting at the moment is not elimination of the sludge - but is a realistic pickup of what was heard in that club. The reproduction, currently, is not the best it could be - my active speakers still need to be refined more; which will gain me greater clarity, a better connection to the musicians doing their thing ... this sort of track is very helpful in making it clear where the shortfalls are.


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This review, https://www.soundstagesimplifi.com/index.php/equipment-reviews/164-heavenly-soundworks-five17-active-loudspeakers, deftly points out what the apparent dilemma is - note how many times terms like, "hard", "harsh", "edgy" are used when comparing the Heavenly Soundworks speaker against the others; but, OTOH, the concepts of greater detail, clarity, and similar, is used to describe what the FIVE17 actives bring to the equation.


So, is it a tradeoff? No!!! ... An emphatic no! What's happening is that as the resolution improves, so does the need for utmost cleanness, integrity of the chain - so if you decide you want to hear everything that's on the recording, then you will need to do all in your power to ensure maximum integrity of the chain - there's no alternative ...

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Just looking around, on YouTube ... how to get it wrong, reeeally wrong, 😉



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Is the sound above, the fault of the speakers ... of course not! A counter example can be found,



So, what's going on ... the chain, of course! Get those speakers, set them up better - and drive them with a relatively clean playback rig; and everything changes. That is, no component "solves" subpar SQ - it takes the ability to debug issues that maketh the system; not the addition of some special part therein.

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Courtesy of another thread here, found another example of someone "who has seen the light" 🙃 ...



He's achieved the 'breakthrough' with very high end gear - and that is a good thing, because it means that the quality of engineering necessary will steadily percolate down to more value for money components - it will become less and less necessary for highly focused tweaking to be applied, to get these results.


What made it happen? Well, the DAC is the item most sensitive to noise normally - and the owner of this rig inserted one which is highly optimised to be impervious to those sort of factors ... which just happened to tip the SQ of the overall system into the zone of sufficient integrity. "Magic sound" emerged, as it always does 😉 - the language he uses to describe the experience tells the story ...

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Just going back to a post of that just linked to thread,



So today's gem is Peter Green's Splinter Group disc called Destiny Road


I have an earlier album, and the same qualities are there in spades, in the live tracks of this record, as described in that post. This track is as good as any from it,



This should rock your socks off ... be a powerful hit of pure audio adrenaline - if this doesn't happen, then the particular system is not up to scratch ... 😉.

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Now curious about the Wadax Reference DAC - this seems to get most things right ... looked around, and this clip - one of the better ones - of a reasonably tidy setup 😁 ticks a lot of boxes,



Plenty of space in the sound, and decently clean ... good!

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Most audio systems are "broken", to pick up a point currently discussed in the MQA thread - and what I mean by that is that they distort, or 'mask', what's on the recording enough to lessen one's chance of being at ease in the listening, or largely attenuate the immersive qualities of the experience. The latter is the "land of magic", and needs no explanation for those who have been exposed to it, at some stage of their audio journeys, 😉.


If you "know" that your system is performing at lower than optimum, then you won't be happy, 😆. Or, put it this way - you will be highly motivated to explore all and every avenue that hints at being a means for reaching that peak performance.


Where most conversations about how to go about it are waaay off target is that they are obsessed with Adding Goodness; rather than recognising that the key is acknowledging that their rig is "broken", meaning that it is quite easy to hear that it is misbehaving; and that the solution is to resolve the causes of the below par performance - that's the vitally important Subtracting Badness part of the matter.


An essential step in this is recognising that interference, electrical noise factors are tremendously influential on the subjective experience - every effort aimed at reducing these ultimately reaps big rewards, in terms of what you hear ... what is unfortunate is that so few audio people recognise this, and hence, "the lack of happiness" ... 🤣.



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Every now and again I'm strongly reminded of the absurdity of the world of audio objectivists, and right now is one of them ... to sum it up, they have close to zero clues about how to assemble an audio system so that it produces capable, competent, convincing SQ - and they dispute that such is even possible, 😉 - and they jump up and down in great agitation, when someone suggests that more than the assortment of normal numbers that get thrown around matters.


The most obvious shortcoming of their viewpoint - they have no ability whatsoever to specify what are acceptable levels of resistance to electrical noise interference, no matter what the source is, that guarantee that the impact is inaudible. You get blown over by the windstorm of arm waving that occurs when such things are mentioned, with comments like, "All competent designers know how to make sure their products are good enough!!"; with absolute zero information about how to assess whether a particular component, or setup, is "good enough".


So often when I read what they say, is to be reminded of something like the home security "expert" huffing and puffing about how fabulous is the lock on the front door, who when queried about what has been done with the back door, glares, and snorts in sarcastic tones, "The bad guys never come in through the back door!!" ... 🤣

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One of my favourite people on this forum, 😉, most likely objected to my response to @pkane2001's post on another thread, where he said,



Hmm, no, I’m just recounting what happened from my perspective. Bit identical can sound different, as noise and timing errors can interfere. But maybe that’s all you were trying to prove to Mans. If so, the test design was OK, but the result is really not that surprising, and to me, not that interesting. Maybe it’s just that my expectations were wrong.


Deemed "not objective" most likely, and then deleted, this is very roughly what I said:


The part bolded above is the heart and soul of why playback can be boring or irritating, leading you to leave the room as soon as possible; versus having you enthralled for hours - trying to deal with the anomalies in what you hear, when noise and related factors are affecting the SQ to a significant degree, is stressful, even when it is occurring completely unconsciously - and you rapidly lose interest in continuing to listen ... commonly termed "fatigue", and this is a fair term to use; you are indeed tired of putting up with the need to constantly unscramble what you want to hear, from that which is equivalent to a mosquito constantly buzzing nearby.


So, it is indeed immensely interesting, to understand how to make things different in the playback chain, so that those factors are far less present - learning the "why" a change in the subjective experience occurs is where genuinely useful knowledge is acquired, and things progress. Unfortunately, the audio industry is currently failing us by almost always delivering components which are not engineered well enough to be unaffected by these things - meaning that tweaks and, yes, even "snake oil" are thrown at the situation, trying to get the setup to perform better.

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An idle thought ... I was just browsing through some YouTube channels, of people talking about audio, and demo'ing stuff - and got the sense that things are definitely better than they used to be ... the gear playing is not doing so many obvious things wrong - although it's still extremely easy to find highly expensive rigs sounding appallingly bad, 😆 - and the attitudes of the runners of the channels were more attuned to the need to work very carefully with what one had, and use value for money techniques to achieve optimum SQ ... much less the thinking, just keep throwing money at it, to get the good stuff ...


I could be totally wrong, of course - I may have just lucked on just the right clips 🙂; but it gave me a sense of optimism, in the watching, for the future.

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Here's an interesting part of




Tsuyoshi Yamamoto's piano sounded like I've never heard it previously. In fact, I spent about an hour listening through my own system last night just to compare what I heard from memory. The presentation of this piano in my own system is vastly different from the APL Endless in Joel's listening environment. I can't say which one is more accurate to the original performance, I can only describe the sonic differences. 

On the APL Endless I could picture the piano in a large space behind the left speaker. There was this huge openness to each note as it went on endlessly into the empty spaces around the piano. If anything, the Endless is about a presentation of natural sound that is tailor-made for an acoustic jazz trio. On my own system, in my acoustically treated listening room, the sound isn't nearly as large. The piano is much more localized with much less decay than can be heard through the Endless



Now, to me, the APL setup was much more accurate - the sense of openness "around the notes" is a key part of what makes for convincing playback; the sounds on the recording have their own space, which is entirely dependent upon how the recording was done; and this interacts with the space in which you are listening, but there is never a conflict - the listening mind can separate the two acoustics, and so what you listen to can be massively expansive, or extremely intimate - without there being unpleasant aspects in the listening.


I have heard systems in highly treated rooms, and I don't like it - far, far too unnatural; I start getting itchy before too long and want to leave them - it's a better solution to have a system work well enough, so that any environment will be fine ...

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