Jump to content

Can TAS still be relevant today?

Recommended Posts

The problem is that most pop and rock will not sound good with a high performing system because it's usually poorly balanced (tone), loud, compressed and dry-sounding. Some of the worst examples clearly benefit from a low-fi coloured reproduction...


While I agree that the above certainly applies to a lot of pop/rock recordings, I think that use of the word "most" is an overstatement. The "loudness wars" is a relatively recent phenomenon. The vast majority of my music library consists of that genre and most of it sounds very good or excellent. I don't think I am being immodest when I characterize my system as "high performing". It is true, however, that poor recordings sound worse because of the higher resolution and transparency typical of a high-end system.

"Relax, it's only hi-fi. There's never been a hi-fi emergency." - Roy Hall

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." - William Bruce Cameron


Link to comment
The "loudness wars" is a relatively recent phenomenon.

It can be shown to have started around 1985, then got even worse in succeeding years.




How a Digital Audio file sounds, or a Digital Video file looks, is governed to a large extent by the Power Supply area. All that Identical Checksums gives is the possibility of REGENERATING the file to close to that of the original file.


Link to comment
It can be shown to have started around 1985, then got even worse in succeeding years.


C'mon, Alex, we are close to the same age. I said "relatively" recent. :)


A lot of the pop/rock music in my library was recorded in the 60's and 70's.

"Relax, it's only hi-fi. There's never been a hi-fi emergency." - Roy Hall

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." - William Bruce Cameron


Link to comment
This thread is concerned with the concept of the 'absolute sound' ('tas'), not the magazine ('TAS'). :)

There were a lot of audio store across the USA that also used that name, but we're not talking about them either. But I do agree with your comments about the magazine. I haven't seriously read a TAS in decades :(


I will have more to say about the 'tas' here later...


Look forward to it. Wouldn't mind seeing a proposal from your perspective for a more civilized forum as well. Sorry for the OT.

Link to comment
Look forward to it.


Thanks, I need to assemble and edit a bunch of my posts from a contentious, flawed, poll thread. when time allows...



Wouldn't mind seeing a proposal from your perspective for a more civilized forum as well. Sorry for the OT.


Well, Put up a fixed post somewhere. Something like "Welcome to CA - Read This First". Every member gets an initial read.very new member gets sent to that Thread/post. Members can be gently, or firmly, referred to it to reread the parts that apply to whatever kind of offensive, trollish, illegal behavior they are caught engaging in. Try civilizing the sinners first before casting them out. Or warning off the real assholes.

The post(s) should have the clear rules of conduct on the CA forum. Not different from now, but written down, accessible, expanded enough to communicate well to a broad audience. State the rules/guidelines. State the penalty's , and the process. It doesn't have to be tough or draconian, Just clear, fair, and effective.

Then links to other posts to help learn about User Profiles, sharing your system, posting images, a rundown off all the CA features, full membership, and other helpful stuff.

It explains that the simple rules are only there to insure that everyone, from far and wide, can enjoy and participate in the CA community. Then, it talks about what a great community this is, with a diverse group of audiophiles, engineers, musiciphiles, and more, from all over the world, proving the CA motto "Where HiFi and High Tech Converge". Welcome aboard, new member. Enjoy !


Something like that ??

Link to comment
Something like that ??


… yes. and, most of this is already included in the welcome message you get when you sign on as a member.

imo, the big picture = there is just us + this place. we like it, we stay. we don’t, we go.

if we choose to stay, we should speak expressively + freely = interact openly with open minds + hearts. no other rules are necessary or relevant.

pls note: flip sides of humour + wit = sarcasm + sardonicism. pls also note: people are people = moody, unpredictable, even cruel sometimes.

anybody’s right on any day to view posts as being “loaded", personally motivated, agenda-driven, commercially-driven, “double-speak”, delusional, barbed, rude, traps, dangerous, "not useful” or even “bashfull” (as in full of “bashing" someone or something), etc.

or, perhaps, posts are just someone’s viewpoints/questions/findings/experiences. that are posted in a public forum to be shared/discussed/debated/corrected/compromised in any and all ways.

getting involved in any thread is always at one's own risk. attempting to save souls is cool… anytime it feels right, just do it. but don’t expect thanks = more meaningful when it is forthcoming.

tbh, maybe, we ought to laugh at ourselves more often. simply because this hobby + CA can get ridiculous sometimes/somedays.

and, leave it to the moderators to ban whomsoever they want, for whatever reason, in whichever way they wish. because that is their job.

we, otoh, are here to enjoy ourselves ;)


I will have more to say about the 'tas' here later...


yes, please.

Link to comment
  • 2 weeks later...
I will have more to say about the 'tas' here later...


OK, here goes... There was a recent Poll thread about tas, but it was fatally flawed. The OP only had choices about opinions on reproduced sound and neglected to include the correct 'live music' definition. So I hesitate to link to it here. There was strenuous argument, no agreement and finial descent into ugly name calling :(


So the following is pieced together from my various posts from that thread, and edited to have some cohesion. I apologize that I didn't do a total rewrite, and thus it may be rambling, redundant, or whatever. But it should do the job :)

Link to comment



Where did this 'absolute sound' thing come from ?

First off, I did not invent this stuff. My original understanding of the absolute sound comes from Harry Pearson and early issues of his magazine 'The Absolute Sound' As best as I can tell, he invented the concept, and the methodology of applying it to equipment and recording reviews.


The Absolute Sound was, and is:

the name of a magazine

an audacious claim;

the name of the reference sound source for grading audio equipment (and our concern here)

a 'term of art' within the audiophile arena for over 40 years

various audio stores also used the name, but off topic for this post.

Maybe there are other interpretations on the name, but I find it a lovely combination of meanings, almost literary.


NOTE: I will refer to the magazine as 'TAS', and the concept as 'tas' for the rest of this post.


Harry Pearson started 'The Absolute Sound' magazine (TAS) in 1973 with an editorial in the 1st issue explaining the concept of the absolute sound (tas) and how it would apply to the magazines audio reviews. The TAS equipment reviewers all used the methodology designed by HP, implementing 'tas' in every review. They synced their perceptions with the other reviewers for consistency and regularly trained their ears with live, acoustic music (tas). I found the TAS methodology very scientific, for such a 'subjective' pursuit. I read almost all the early TAS issues - not all the reviews, or every word, but always the philosophy, methodology, and things that addressed the 'why' questions. My interest in those kind of audiophile issues continues to this day



What is 'the absolute sound' (tas) ?


HP, in this initial TAS editorial: "the magazine(s) goal was to discover and extol those products that came closest to reproducing the absolute sound—the sound of (primarily classical) music as heard in a concert hall."


Jonathan Valin, a TAS reviewer, recalled: "As HP pointed out in that first editorial, the magazine’s very mandate required the philosophical assumption that there is an absolute in the reproduction of music—a referential reality to which the recorded thing can and should be fruitfully compared."


So the 'absolute sound' (tas) is the sound of the real thing, the sound of live acoustic instruments playing in a real space. That is, with no electronics or electromechanical devises involved. Live music, not canned music (of any kind). HP was primarily a classical music fan, and frequent concert attendee. I think his writings about the idea didn't address the idea of electronics mixed with live music, since it just did not exist in his live musical world.


The Absolute Sound is not about reproduction, or records, or recording. It is about the Goal, the Reference, the Prototype… that which we try and reproduce with our recording, storage and playback systems. It is the sound of un-amplified instruments in an acoustic space, as passing the sound through mikes, amps, speakers, etc. diminishes it as a reference.


I was lucky to attend a small local orchestras concert recently. The string sections playing was terrible, but the sound was reasonably good in the largish library room. The cello surprised me in the 'gutsiness' of the real sound as opposed to what I usually hear through various (good!) audio systems. This was an example of 'tas', and helped me refresh my sound memory of the real thing. The absolute sound is readily available to audiophiles in concerts, clubs, friends homes, and wherever, to calibrate their ears whenever they wish, or have an opportunity.


I was a scale model builder before long I became an audiophile (and still am), so the concept of the Prototype, and its relationship to the Model , is very clear to me. The 'absolute sound' is the Prototype that we strive to model as accurately as possible with the reproduction of the original sound through our audio systems. But, almost by definition, it can not be rendered perfectly.


I see the relationship between the prototype and the model as a mathematical limit. The difference between the two can approach zero (with effort and cost approaching infinity), but a true zero difference is impossible. It could be argued that the difference could be non-zero, but surpass the ability of human hearing to detect the difference, but so far the evidence is that trained human hearing is much better at that task then we had thought.


I often laugh, or cringe, when I read CA people talking about some audio thing sounding 'better' ! Better then what ?? If it is closer to that Absolute Sound reference, then fine, but most of the time it is just personal preference. And I think that most peoples lifetime of exposure to ubiquitous electronic sound (including mine), makes their preferences suspect, without frequent, and conscious, hearing calibration with, you guessed it, the Absolute Sound !


As you can probably tell, I don't like the term 'better'. Perhaps we can try to use 'more/less accurate' here more often, that is, if one is familiar enough with the Absolute Sound to hear the difference. Or, simply be honest and say one simply likes it better, not that it is better.


When I gauge something with a dial caliper or micrometer to see if it is properly to scale or not, it has nothing to do with how I feel about the model or part, only its accuracy (or lack thereof).


Similarly, I use the best 'event' recordings (that I can stand or afford) to gauge how far away my audio system is from the reference (tas), and to 'measure' changes as moving closer or farther away from that reference. Then, I quit that hard work and enjoy whatever music and recording quality I like from my personal musical preferences, trying to ignore crappy recordings, and being delighted when better ones show me what my system is capable of


BTW; I am not trying to claim that I am some kind of 'golden ear'. Many have better audiophile senses then me, and I am better then some others. I have to constantly work at it, but, I have been thinking about these issues for a long time, as you may suspect :)


And just to be very clear about this, recordings are not the Reference, they are derivative of the original sonic event (or studio mash-up). To go back to my Prototype vs Model analogy, recordings are all Static (or potential?) Models, that are rendered by various playback systems into Dynamic Models (moving air), at any time we choose.


The Absolute Sound can only be perceived by your ears, at the time the real sounds are created by musicians and instruments and rooms. Once any microphone, amps, speakers, or any other electronic gear is introduced, the sound is derivative, a model, corrupted, impossible to know its original sound, and no longer Absolute !


(end of part 1)

Link to comment
Thanks. Nice work pulling that together.


Thanks !


But, please don't quote my entire post. Everyone has to scroll through all that extra text, again. I usually try to select something short, but representative of the post. Or just the first line, or just enough specific lines to reply to that idea.

TIA :)

Link to comment



thanks for taking the trouble to articulate, consolidate and clarify your viewpoints here for easy ref.


posts by you, and some others, helped me to re-align thoughts how to perceive/pursue high fidelity. so, please do not consider that thread a total loss.


hopefully, re-introducing and re-establishing the concept here will help more “younger” audiophiles to think things out as well.


btw, discovering ‘tas’ helped me to re-discover good classical music. have acquired a number of classical albums via downloads recently, as well as the xrcd of “Prokofieff’s Lt. Kije” (Reiner/CSO), as recommended by gmgraves2. he is right, it sounds great – musically as well. and now, i know the origin of that tune used in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”.


btw, am good with the approach of referring to the concept as ‘tas’ (non-capitalised) to differentiate it from the magazine… mainly for the benefit of “speed readers”.


So you are saying: "Love it, or leave it" Is that the world you want to live in ? Not me, I want to make things better, for all, if possible.


CA-ers help to define this “world”. but the reality is: they do not “own” or “run” it.


however, being “assets”, CA-ers have some leverage. to show, by words and deeds, what this community can/should be. so, maybe show is better than tell?


“go” sounds extreme. that said, leaving on one’s own accord is better than being banned, banished or vanished. and, yes, was/am looking at the mirror.



Link to comment

I go to more concerts than most, about 70 a year, almost all classical, with unamplified instruments. For the vast majority of classical music, I believe that home audio enthusiasts (audiophiles?) are trying get to some sense of what they hear or would like to hear in a good concert setting in their home in the recordings that they listen to. It may be the opposite for rock concerts, where the audience usually wants to hear the songs that are on (or will be on) albums that they hear at home played at the concerts. The big stars even do tours based on the albums that they are trying to sell. Not true for most classical music concerts, where the programs almost always consist of pieces that the artists have never recorded. Certainly a concert environment at a rock concert is very different than a classical music concert. For jazz, I'm not too sure, since improvisation is such a big part of jazz, so the piece you have on a studio album will sound different, sometimes very different, in a jazz club performance.


One quite sad situation has arisen over the past couple of decades is the use of amplified music in Broadway type musical shows, with singers mic'd. We do see one or two West End musicals a year, and the sound quality is definitely brought down by the PA quality amps and speakers. Also, to cut costs, where there used to be a nice orchestra playing, there are now half a dozen amplified instruments, with maybe a couple of string players.



Analog-VPIClas3,3DArm,LyraSkala+MiyajimaZeromono,Herron VTPH2APhono,2AmpexATR-102+MerrillTridentMaster TapePreamp

Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,MykerinosCard,PacificMicrosonicsModel2; Dig Play-Lampi Horizon, mch NADAC, Roon-HQPlayer,Oppo105

Electronics-DoshiPre,CJ MET1mchPre,Cary2A3monoamps; Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR

Other-2x512EngineerMarutaniSymmetrical Power+Cables Music-1.8KR2Rtapes,1.5KCD's,500SACDs,50+TBripped files

Link to comment
It can be shown to have started around 1985, then got even worse in succeeding years.


Hi Alex,


Actually, I remember the first instances occurring during the vinyl days, long before digital, CD, or the popular use of the term "loudness wars". It was not uncommon in the '70s (!) for vinyl mastering engineers to make the first 30 seconds or so of a vinyl side louder than what could realistically be cut for the whole side.


My take was that these were the first instances of competing with sonic quantity instead of sonic quality. Of course, attempting to maintain such levels through a whole side would result in running out of "land" (space to cut a groove in a lacquer disc) before the program for the side was complete. Of course rolling off the bass helped a bit, which accounts for much of the thinness of those discs. Ultimately, however, those introductory levels had to come down, so after the first half minute (perhaps the producer's attention span?) you can hear the level fading down to where it will remain for the rest of the side.


Things only got worse in the digital era (error?) but the roots of the wars and the earliest sonic and musical casualties came long before.


Best regards,


Soundkeeper Recordings


Barry Diament Audio

Link to comment

A really excellent thread. I am a bit (nudge, nudge) surprised that there is such a close consensus and uncharacteristic general agreement in a CA thread, in spite of preferences for different music genres.

My own preferences are overwhelmingly classical, but not exclusively. I attend about 2 dozen live classical concerts a year, and I have been doing so for over 30 years. (astrotoy, I am impressed that you are able to go much more than I to live concerts.). Much of that has been Philadelphia Orchestra concerts, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, our Choral Arts Society, the Metropolitan Opera, etc. That experience has been most pleasurable and it was of tremendous help in better focusing my search for better audio at home.

It also raised the perplexing question: why don't audio systems sound more live the live concert experience? I realized that the gap was quite substantial, although my system had cost several tens of $thousands. That remained true also in spite of rave equipment reviews in TAS - the magazine - and elsewhere, much personal listening to hyper expensive setups, many equipment upgrades, etc.


I have found several answers that substantially reduce that musical realism gap vs. live for me, although my closest concert-going friends have all independently arrived at exactly the same general conclusions. First and foremost is discretely recorded multichannel sound vs. stereo. Mch just delivers a much more accurate sense of being there live. I find that to be true spatially, tonally and in terms of dynamics. It simply conveys more information from the live event than stereo ever could. That is true for the gigantic Berlioz Requiem all the way down to solo instrument or voice. It is a bonus that almost all Mch recordings are also hi rez, although the contribution of that to the result is less powerful.


The second critical solution is DSP Room EQ to tame the major, inevitable speaker/room issues that distort what is on the recording. Passive acoustic treatments may be equally effective, if not even more so. But, they are much more difficult to achieve properly and accurately, have serious WAF issues, and they are not cheap if done completely and thoroughly. Acoustics issues are the "elephant in the room" that almost no audio reviewer talks much about, mainly except Kal Rubinson at Stereophile.


Component quality obviously matters. But, audiophiles, manufacturers, dealers and the audiophile press tend to believe the answer to greater realism lies entirely in the never ending pursuit of micro improvements in components, speakers, wires, etc. and now PC hardware and software, as well as tweaks to all of the above. Some of that pursuit may be of value. But, it is generally misfocused and its sonic impact exaggerated, I find, because there are much bigger sonic issues this paradigm totally ignores. Stereo is assumed to be adequate. But, Mch vs. Stereo is, by comparison, a macro difference, a really big deal sonically. Ditto for taming room acoustics.


Obviously, the comparison of live vs. home playback is a subjective one. We have only the recollection of what we heard live at some earlier time to use as a reference. With experience and frequent refreshment, though, the characteristics of that live sound remain unmistakable. Yes, fine details of the "hall sound" differ, for example, of the Concertgebouw vs. my town's Verizon Hall, as they also do to a degree in different seats in the same hall. But, there are still essential characteristics of live sound in the hall, any decent hall. As Harry Pearson of TAS used to say, there is a "gestalt" to live sound that we should also be seeking in reproduced sound. It is clear to me that Mch renders the combination of direct sound plus the effects of reflected hall sound on it much more plausibly and realistically than stereo is capable of, even at its best.


I did not want to become a Computer Audiophile. Though I have a technical background, I did not want to hassle with computers when it came to my musical enjoyment. But, now I have thousands of classical Mch recordings from SACD, BD-A, BD-V and downloads on my NAS. My PC has entirely replaced my former Mch prepro, disc player and TV cable box. And, with Dirac Live and an Exasound e28, my sound is really quite extraordinary, far beyond any stereo at any price I have ever heard. It is not perfect, but it provides a far better illusion of live music than I had previously thought even remotely possible.


Most hi rez Mch recordings are classical. Other musical genres are not so fortunate. And, the classical selection is limited compared to what is available on CD. But, there is enough music to keep me happy most evenings. The sound quality more than makes up for the more limited selection, and I am not precluded from listening to plain old stereo, as I do from time to time. Though some friends like simulated Mch from stereo sources, I still prefer to hear what was on the disc, no more, no less.


I have not heard it myself, but I am impressed with the potential of Auro3D to take this further, if it becomes a viable format for discretely recorded music. (Dolby Atmos is not a recording format, just a movie-oriented mixing format for spatial manipulation.) Time will tell.

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...