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vortecjr
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Chris, I got this idea responding to another post. Lets jot down all the frustrating things we are encountering regarding Computer Audio Playback. Anything goes people, but lets keep the discussion to a minimum and launch new posts as needed!

 

If I may start :)

1. Lack of spell check on the CA forum....hehehe just kidding!

2. Having to restart iTunes to reset the sample rate.

3. The lynx AES 16 not having a SPDIF output.

4. The price of Amara.

5. RF in the air spoiling our tunes.

6. ASIO issues with Foobar2000.

7. Having to set the sample rate of the emu 1212 card in software.

8. $2500 usb-dac stuck at 24/96.

9. Your issue here....

 

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In all honesty, I think you have some very good issues but most have been discussed before at various levels of involvement. Instead, why don't we discuss the psychological aspect of some of these items and whether they truly make a difference or if it's the power of suggestion re-asserting itself deep within the recesses of our sub-conscious?

 

One thing I tend to notice is a steady stream of discussions concerning the technical aspects of everything computer-related with very little reference to actual music. Most audiophiles are obsessed with specs and numbers, among other things, believing that it will somehow translate to a deep and meaningful connection with the music.

 

In what sense?

 

a. The actualization of the re-creation of the live music event?

 

b. Placing the listener in the studio/stage with the musician(s)?

 

c. I don't know. It just sounds "better".

 

I would like to re-introduce a post I submitted in May and see what sticks and what gets tossed out with the garbage :-) Please keep in mind that this is not a condemnation of audiophiles and their beliefs. I'm just trying to help us define more clearly why we do what we do and if it has any relevance to computer-related audio reproduction or if it's just blowing smoke:

 

****************

 

"I would like to throw a knuckle ball into this arena and discuss "the absolute sound" (the concept, not the magazine). In theory, there is what we know as "the absolute sound", that is, an acoustic sound (single I assume) that exist in an open space, the parameters of which have never been fully disclosed to my knowledge. This is not to be confused with "an absolute sound" which would indicate more than one possible acoustic sound within more than one type of open space (which actually defines our existence as audiophiles in the real world).

 

Now, here is where things gets a little fuzzy: because of our inherent inability to fully understand the enormously complicated, yet deceptively simple concept of what truly makes up the elements of "the" absolute sound, we cannot even begin to understand the process of reproducing it accurately. Sure, we can break down what we hear in so-called audiophile terms but the thing that distorts it all is our varied (and flawed to a point) ways of describing what we are hearing. Our hearing mechanisms pretty much work the same, biologically, but explaining what we hear and our ways of re-creating what we hear are many.

 

This leads me to believe that manufacturers of audiophile equipment, as well as those who try to capture a live event (in a venue or recording studio), can only attempt to re-create what they believe is "the absolute sound" as it registers on their psychoacoustic mechanisms. In other words, when we listen to a piece of gear, or a recording as realized by its' engineers, we are only listening to their re-creation of the event which is as far removed from the actual event as you can possibly imagine. Whether you have a $300.00 mini system or a take-no-prisoners $300,000.00 "I-Have-More-Money-Than-Sense" set-up, it can't possibly re-create the actual event! I know, big news, right? However, the illusion of that event that a system can provide is powerful, albeit totally inaccurate.

 

We could very well agree that an acoustic guitarist playing in an open space (Carnegie Hall, my living room, or a corn field) is a representation of "the absolute sound" for that environment at that moment regardless of who the guitarist is or the type of guitar that's being played. Or maybe we, in our current state of evolution, are incapable of universally agreeing on what "the absolute sound" is. If we all agreed on what it is, we would in theory, have a single manufacturer of a single component capable of re-creating the event that would garner universal acceptance. This concept would make discussions of "tube vs. solid state", "analog vs. digital", "objective vs. subjective", etc., completely and absolutely moot. Now, I realize that the pursuit of an actual re-creation of a music event is the holy grail of our hobby and that's what manufacturers are trying to strive for but with so many different interpretations and applications of this "holy grail", it's impossible to realize this vision.

 

So what's the default in this case? Illusion. Illusion is everything. This is one reason I believe a blind evaluation between two or more musical components is pointless because it can't possibly tell you which is better or worse than another because "better or worse" cannot exist when there is no universal agreement on a true re-creation. All this does is teach you how to evaluate sonic differences between similar products. That's it. It ultimately boils down to what is individually appealing and what's not. You like component 'A' and not component 'B' - or - Component 'B' over 'A' - or - "Hey, I can't tell any difference!" Introduce opinion and conjecture and we've opened up a Pandora's box (or maybe that's a DAC box to see if it has the "right parts" in it!) :-)

 

Everyone is right and everyone is wrong. Whatever you believe, enjoy the illusion!"

 

****************

 

OK, so with all the tech talk and applications, will it bring us closer to the central idea of "the" absolute sound or do we accept that we all have our own "ideas" where no individual is right?

 

 

Sources: iPad Air 3, iPhone 8+, Asus Chromebook C201-PA

DAC/AMP: Hidisz S8, Astell & Kern XB10 Bluetooth module

IEM's: Fiio FA1, Hidisz Seeds, Fiio FH1S, Shouer H27, BGVP KC2, KZ ZS10 Pro's, (and several lesser iem's and earbuds)

Accesories: Various MMCX and 2-pin cables.

-----------------------------------------

Professional pianist, composer - master improvisationist.

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At the Symposium we heard a live performance recorded by a top recording engineer on top equipment and played back on a world class system. Nobody would have mistaken the recording for the live version. Desire all our time, effort and money spent, recreation of the absolute sound seems far in the distance. Yet we keep on spending because it does keep on getting better so we keep doing it. Or maybe we're just stupid.

 

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Hi Jeff - I agree with the fact that the live tracks could not be mistaken for the recorded versions even on a wonderful system.

 

On another note, one thing that bugs me is when people suggest we stop trying to reproduce high quality sound because we'll never get "there." To not even try to reproduce the absolute sound because it's unobtainable, would be no fun and very unsatisfactory. I love this hobby. Better sounding systems have brought me more enjoyment out of my music than I could ever have imagined. For example, after the Symposium session on Sunday Maier, Tim and I spent a little time actually relaxing listening to the big system in Studio A ourselves. I put on the Christina Aguilera track Save Me From Myself and listened to the song like I'd never heard it before. I felt like Christina was literally singing between the speakers and it gave me goose bumps. Sure I would still love the song on an AM Radio, but the emotional experience wouldn't be as powerful for me.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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...is a wonderful thing and I agree that equipment capable of extracting the most out of a recording is rewarding, but does that mean we each have our own meaning and interpretation of what's involving? And, perhaps most importantly, does this have anything to do with the absolute sound? I think it's important to pursue it as Chris states, but how can we do that if manufacturers are creating their versions and interpretations of this concept in what they create? It just seems very fragmented, not only in the audiophile community but in every facet of society who holds their preferred methods of audio reproduction dear to their hearts. Sure, we audiophile hold dear a common bond for accurate and involving musical reproduction but with a near-infinite variety of formulations and applications, how can anything "absolute" come from this?

 

While "the" absolute sound may exist somewhere in the voids of time and space, I believe it would be more accurate to describe it as "an" absolute sound which live music can best be defined. "Live" sound can be as varied as the equipment used to reproduce it which can then be used to explain why some prefer, say, tubes over sold state, or a NOS DAC's over an upsampling DAC's, or even more mundane comparisons such as copper interconnects with 6% silver content over the same cable with "only" 4% silver content, or PMT Metalized Polypropylene Capacitors over 630 Volt Polystyrene Film Audiophile Capacitors. What the...? :-P

 

And, of course, all of this is suppose to bring us closer to the source. Does it? Or does it give us an illusion of that? Don't let your ego get in the way of the "truth". :-)

 

Randall

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources: iPad Air 3, iPhone 8+, Asus Chromebook C201-PA

DAC/AMP: Hidisz S8, Astell & Kern XB10 Bluetooth module

IEM's: Fiio FA1, Hidisz Seeds, Fiio FH1S, Shouer H27, BGVP KC2, KZ ZS10 Pro's, (and several lesser iem's and earbuds)

Accesories: Various MMCX and 2-pin cables.

-----------------------------------------

Professional pianist, composer - master improvisationist.

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Looks like an actual discussion has broken out in the midst of our list-making. Tut tut! :) To be fair, it's an interesting discussion, but I just want to list my #1 pet frustration:

 

It's that darned volume control! Or should I say volume controls (plural). Gah!

 

Back in the day, you just had the one rotary knob on your preamp and away you went. You set it where you wanted and if you wanted to change it you got up off your backside and turned it. Then they complicate things by inventing a remote control - you realise you want to change it, reach for the remote, pick up the wrong one, curse as the shopping channel comes on full blast on the telly, spend half an hour searching for the right remote, find it stuffed down the back of the armchair, try to remember which one of the 5,000,000 (no exaggeration!) tiny cryptically labelled buttons changes the volume...

 

But I digress...

 

Along comes wonderful computer audio, but guess what, instead of just one volume control we now have at least three: application, system, and preamp. And instead of one remote we have, ummm.... at least two different iTouch apps, the little apple remote, a volume slider on your keyboard plus a whole encyclopedia of application specific shortcuts, ditto the mouse which has some weird combination of buttons and hand gestures, and no doubt you've flexed your tweaky hacker skillz and programmed yet more system level ways to alter volume... And then you have to remember which one does what and where and how in the quest for the nirvana of 'unity gain', because - well at least for people with tin ears like me - once you get into the music you tend to not notice even some quite extreme sonic flaws. Like for example the balance shifting bug which affects some older G4 macs (which is another moan altogether, which normally I'd have time for but I suspect I've exhausted the patience of anybody still reading).

 

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I take it back actual discussion is fine. I guess is didn't see the possibilities!

You know what is really bugging me is this darn "bit perfect" talk. Bit perfect this and bit perfect that. I don't know and I cant tell and I guess I dont care if its bit perfect! Ok, yes have a good player and the proper settings, but I dont want to worry to much about this player and that player. I guess I just want to enjoy some music. Listening to analog a few weeks back was a big mistake....I actually loved it! Its like its for dumb people! You put it on and your done and if it goes snap crackle pop....no big deal! On the hand lps? No way to much junk and not really good for a guy that likes to flip songs from the couch.

You cant win!

 

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I find I listen in different ways at different times...

 

Most often I listen in the background as I think we all do. For this I tend to use iTunes, click iTunes DJ and let rip, often use the SoundCheck function.

 

Other times I will be listening more carefully, I ensure that iTunes is set to 100% volume, select more carefully what I want to listen to. I tend to listen through an album at a time this way, often finding that tracks I wouldn't enjoy independent of each other, become part of a whole and more enjoyable that way. At these times I also often listen to vinyl.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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..do you think you have the best sound available or is there room for improvement? Would any improvements be based on your musical preferences or a "standard"? I assume the scenarios you described are for your musical pleasure.

 

vortecjr - Your feelings concerning bit-perfect reproduction are certainly valid. I think it serves to re-enforce the listener's own ideas of what sounds better, yet it can never really be explained musically. Sound vs. Music. Hard to say who serves who! :-)

 

Just for the record, the issues I'm bringing up affect me too so there's no devil's advocate mentally looking to undermine the audiophile status quo (well, maybe shake it up a little). I have my own personal "sound" that gives me pleasure and I know that it simply cannot come close to anything resembling "the" absolute sound, whatever that may be. However, I can think of ways to improve my sound but it would be no closer to absolution than tweaking a sport car to be the fastest one on the road. Those are the ones who spend ungodly sums of money on modifications hoping to shave 0.05 seconds off their 1/4 mile time. Measurable only under the most controlled circumstances but completely undetectable by the seat of the driver's pants.

 

But oh, the illusion of it all! :-)

 

Randall

 

Sources: iPad Air 3, iPhone 8+, Asus Chromebook C201-PA

DAC/AMP: Hidisz S8, Astell & Kern XB10 Bluetooth module

IEM's: Fiio FA1, Hidisz Seeds, Fiio FH1S, Shouer H27, BGVP KC2, KZ ZS10 Pro's, (and several lesser iem's and earbuds)

Accesories: Various MMCX and 2-pin cables.

-----------------------------------------

Professional pianist, composer - master improvisationist.

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I am with you 100%. I am here reading your post saying to myself yep yep yep...hehehe!

 

One more thing, say we due get to bit perfect (IF) and we make it to our dac of choice. Our prefect sound wave is now chopped up into smaller bits at the dacs sample rate by a computer algorithm written buy a human. So different dac given life by different people all sounding different! Nothing in that sounds bit perfect to me no matter how great the signal was to start off with. To be clear though, I am not against trying to get the best signal just over doing it.

 

I recently went to hear a new usb dac. It sounded horrible. Mind you telling things apart is not my strong attribute. However, I think it sounded horrible because the speakers were really slow and heavy on the low mids and bass. I goes back to what you were saying about your own sound. This setup was out of my own sound comfort zone even though I am sure the dac is the bomb.

 

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