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What is, "Big Sound"?


fas42

As many say, when you experience "big sound", you know it ... :). Not equivalent to loudness, though the volume setting is part of the equation - a pretty good description of various aspects is here, https://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/what-does-big-sound-mean-to-you.1157065/#post-30558048.

 

The above link alone says that this is not an "impossible dream!" - people have achieved this regularly, pretty well since the birth of audio recordings, using various methods. A key part of this, is that is often done using physical big speakers, so one of the myths of the audiophile world is that humongous speakers are a necessary ingredient ... but are they really? Also, that enormous power is needed, thousands and thousand of watts - umm, drop a Marshall guitar amp into your lounge, a few feet way, with its miserable 60 watt tube amp, and have a decent player give it a solid workout - was that, err, a small sound? Or, did it blast you, with intensity? :D ... What matters, as always, is the integrity of the playback chain - get it right, and big sound emerges; get it wrong, and you won't ...

 

The two essentials are that the system can produce realistic sound levels, and, that at this level that distortion is under control - the latter is something that the audio world still struggles to achieve. The latest hifi show I visited demonstrated that quite significant gains have been made over the last decade, in that the general standard is much higher; you can now buy a combo of gear at something approaching sensible pricing that gets things right, in the ball park of always being able to produce, "big sound".

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How do you know whether your system can do, big sound? Well, certain types of music tracks are a good test of a system's capabilities in this regard; and showstopper songs from musicals, of current times, are prime candidates. Just mentioned, in a review of a DAC, was using this track,

 

 

... and I agree. Major changes of dynamics in the piece, great density at times ... can your playback do full justice to every part of this, from the most delicate, to the bringing the house down climaxes, when the level is set at realistic volumes?

 

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One thing that has to be got right to allow for large scale music presentation to be without audible issues, is the higher range of frequencies - the treble. But Redbook has been notorious for not seeming to do this so well ... to this day, many believe that this is somehow intrinsic to this format, as here,

 

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... ,  but the treble artifacts of 44/16  make me use it only for HDCD discs

 

Are there, "treble artifacts"? No ... this is merely an indication of below par replay equipment - like having a vinyl rig with the cartridge not mounted with correct alignment; the SQ will be degraded, unnecessarily.

 

Big Sound can just be a raucous mess if you don't get the treble right, for 44/16 - will take attention to detail to make it right, but that's just part of the journey if you want a presentation of a high standard ... :).

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An element of troubleshooting, which leads to a system being able to do Big Sound if the right moves are then made, is being aware if there is enough clarity in the playback so that you can "can go over to some instrument(s) and listen to just them". Being able to focus on sound elements, strong 'imaging', are other ways of putting this ... if you can't do this on some recording, then the number one rule is to not blame the recording!! ^_^ So easy, to put it in the "poor recording" basket ... but your rig won't improve, in the ways that really matter, if you follow this approach ...

 

A good example are 1930s swing orchestra tracks - a piece can range from an unlistenable, cacophonous mess, right through to a full, rich experience where each contribution to the track's sound is completely 'musical', and can be easily followed, as above. As an example, can you tune into the drumming, effortlessly see the man there, driving the rhythm section of the piece, his instruments echoing strongly off the recording room surfaces?

 

This is what's possible - and leads to Big Sound, on all sorts of material. Listening for the standard of reproduction being good enough to project this sense is a vital part of the toolkit, IMO - and should be 'learnt', and practiced ...

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