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How do we know if the sound quality of anything is good?


Pairogue
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Well, comparing sound to video, video is quite easy. You get a nice display driver, a standard projection device, and you can have a really clear, rich, crisp display. You can see that the video is of high quality by it's color correctness, resolution and what not. But, coming to sound, what is quality sound? I mean sure, you can buy DAC's and monitors, and play FLACs. But what's the difference? Because unlike video, which can be of shitty quality in shitty devices, and high quality in powerful devices, sound can be played on every speaker/audio device.

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You need a reference.

 

So what audio information is equivalent to color correctness and to video resolution?

 

Color correctness is equivalent to audio frequency response.

 

Resolution might be close to SNR with audio.

 

"Because unlike video, which can be of shitty quality in shitty devices, and high quality in powerful devices, sound can be played on every speaker/audio device. "

 

I fail to see how this is unlike video. I can use top notch gear and it is far less good on a car speaker. I can use lousy gear feeding the worlds finest speaker and it is compromised. How is that different than video?

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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Interestingly, Blu-ray concerts can be enlightening. For example, although I prefer the 1971 studio recording of Cohen's Famous Blue Raincoat, the Songs from the Road Blu-ray live performance of it in HD Surround was better quality.

Not quite WHFT' date=' but some of what I'd like to review for, at least, the first 3 weeks of 2016 :

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Monstro quod ipse tibi possis dare, best wishes

 

 

Its YouTube, a shadow of what I'm referring to :

 

So, of the AV kind, any music Blu-ray recommendations from readers ?

 

«

an accurate picture

Sono pessimista con l'intelligenza,

 

ma ottimista per la volontà.

severe loudspeaker alignment »

 

 

 

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...string bass correct and doesn't suffer from obvious distortion in vocals, I'll give it a listen. If it's compressed (to sound loud in the car) I won't listen twice.

 

Remember that recorded music doesn't accurately recreate the performance, it evokes our response to the performance.

 

The best recordings are like watching High Definition sport broadcasts, my senses aren't sharp enough to see or hear what's displayed.

 

It's easy to get fooled into believing you missed something that the records capture...you didn't miss these additional details, they're obscure in real time. No one had such focus to disregard everyone else in the room.

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What AudioDoctor said.

 

For me music is an aesthetic and emotional experience. If my favourite tracks give me the response I want then the reproduction is good. The stronger my response, and the more tracks that generate it, the better.

 

I have listened to very expensive systems that bored me, and inexpensive systems that made me want to listen more.

 

Greg

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What AudioDoctor said.

 

For me music is an aesthetic and emotional experience. If my favourite tracks give me the response I want then the reproduction is good. The stronger my response, and the more tracks that generate it, the better.

 

I have listened to very expensive systems that bored me, and inexpensive systems that made me want to listen more.

 

Greg

Well said.

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I use the sound of live, unamplified music as my reference point. I've been attending classical and jazz concerts regularly for 40 years so I have a pretty good idea of what to listen for when doing any critical listening.

 

Can you offer examples that are closest to your reference built over 40 years. Examples of recordings is what I mean. The music recordings others might listen to if we knew what they are. (am I trying to steal 40 years of your experience.......well I prefer the term borrow).

And always keep in mind: Cognitive biases, like seeing optical illusions are a sign of a normally functioning brain. We all have them, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, but it is something that affects our objective evaluation of reality. 

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Primarily, I recall Ken (nearly 60 years making electronics, part of 1980s Philips team behind consumer-digital-release) saying 'they knew CD standard wasn't good-enough for true-high-end, 16bit/44.1 kHz gives about 80% of audiophile standard'

 

Recapped along with his views on SACDs, Blu-ray Audio, Streaming, Downloads, LaserDisc and LPs :

[video=youtube;lslw-HSoETI]

 

«

an accurate picture

Sono pessimista con l'intelligenza,

 

ma ottimista per la volontà.

severe loudspeaker alignment »

 

 

 

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But, coming to sound, what is quality sound? I mean sure, you can buy DAC's and monitors, and play FLACs. But what's the difference? Because unlike video, which can be of shitty quality in shitty devices, and high quality in powerful devices, sound can be played on every speaker/audio device.

 

In the case of video, in most cases there is the source (e.g. Blu-Ray disc/player) and then the display (e.g. HD-TV).

 

In the case of audio, there are lots more pieces (e.g. source, doc, amp, speakers/headphones). You'd need to try combination of products/devices until you hear something that you think is "quality sound".

Let every eye ear negotiate for itself and trust no agent. (Shakespeare)

The things that we love tell us what we are. (Aquinas)

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Individual experience is the only thing that matters. Whether one defines that experience through listening or measuring or both or neither, ultimately it's up to the person to decide what's good is or isn't. No one can tell me what I experience just as no one can tell me how I interpret that experience.

If I am anything, I am a music lover and a pragmatist.

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Well, comparing sound to video, video is quite easy. You get a nice display driver, a standard projection device, and you can have a really clear, rich, crisp display. You can see that the video is of high quality by it's color correctness, resolution and what not. But, coming to sound, what is quality sound? I mean sure, you can buy DAC's and monitors, and play FLACs. But what's the difference? Because unlike video, which can be of shitty quality in shitty devices, and high quality in powerful devices, sound can be played on every speaker/audio device.

 

Subjective assessment of playback performance (through listening) is indeed much more difficult than evaluating the accurate reproduction of still or moving images.

My guess is that the visual references are far more common and more readily available for direct comparison, although for absolute accuracy one will have to resort to a display calibration system (and perhaps the visual cortex is more developed?).

Colour frequency accuracy is just easier to determine than sound frequency accuracy, and perhaps less influenced by taste.

I would say that sound resolution is perhaps more obvious but some types of distortion such as exaggerated high mids and treble can give the wrong impression of resolution (whilst spoiling the tonal balance which can be compared to colour balance in visual terms).

 

For sound you'll also need solid references of both live sound (what instruments and voices actually sound like in reality) as well as reproduced sound (one must educate oneself on what is possible to achieve in domestic reproduction).

 

 

 

The goal of a hi-fi system is to reproduce in the domestic environment the sound signals stored in a physical or dematerialised medium with the highest possible accuracy.

 

 

 

blowup1.jpg

"Blow-Up" - Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966

 

Let's draw a parallel with photography.

 

Imagine you wish to reproduce Edward Hopper's painting "Nighthwaks" and distribute the resulting poster so that it can be displayed in a domestic environment.

 

First you must position the painting under adequate lighting (neutral in tone, even in distribution) and parallel to the camera's sensor.

(with sound you'd be adequately positioning the musicians or instruments and the camera in relation to each other and the room for the best balance)

 

Next you will choose a lens that produces the lowest distortion possible and a high resolution camera, place them on a tripod, use a grey card for white balance referencing, measure the light with a high performance light meter (and perhaps bracket), set the camera to RAW capture, the lowest ISO and use a self timer or remote to trigger the shutter.

(with sound this would be the microphones, mic pre-amps and A/D converter).

 

how-to-correct-lense-distortion-with-photoshop7.png

Geometric distortion

 

Chromatic_aberration_%28comparison%29.jpg

Chromatic aberration

 

canon_vs_tokina_tele_corner.jpg

Corner sharpness comparison at different apertures

 

350px-Highimgnoise.jpg

High ISO digital noise

 

After the image has been captured it will then be processed in a specialised software like Photoshop and subsequently sent to reproduction/printing.

(in audio this would be the mixing/editing and mastering phases).

 

But the final stage, printing, also requires fidelity or accuracy and the best results will be achieved with the used of a wide-gamut printer and colour profiles that will match the image you see on screen with the colour tables of the printer.

(this is the hi-fi system).

 

255nhnq.jpg

"Nighthawks" - Edward Hopper, 1942

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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...string bass correct and doesn't suffer from obvious distortion in vocals, I'll give it a listen. If it's compressed (to sound loud in the car) I won't listen twice.

 

Remember that recorded music doesn't accurately recreate the performance, it evokes our response to the performance.

 

The best recordings are like watching High Definition sport broadcasts, my senses aren't sharp enough to see or hear what's displayed.

 

It's easy to get fooled into believing you missed something that the records capture...you didn't miss these additional details, they're obscure in real time. No one had such focus to disregard everyone else in the room.

 

For me music is an aesthetic and emotional experience. If my favourite tracks give me the response I want then the reproduction is good. The stronger my response, and the more tracks that generate it, the better.

 

I have listened to very expensive systems that bored me, and inexpensive systems that made me want to listen more.

 

I'm not disagreeing with you here but in my experience if you are listening to the reproduction of a live performance of acoustic un-amplified music the most accurate system (not necessarily the most expensive one) will recreated the event with more realism both tonal as well as soundscape wise.

A cello suite will sound more realistic in a higher-fi system and in my opinion there is a direct relation between realism and emotion triggering.

 

On the other hand, if you are listening to a highly processed, fabricated studio recording with close mic'ed vocals and acoustic instruments, electronic instruments and synthesisers and sometimes amplified instruments directly plugged into the consoles, and each musicians recording his/her part individually in a tiny phone booth monitoring the others with headphones, then you won't be looking for realism because there wasn't an original musical event to begin with nor does the recording have realism as a goal.

But you will still be aiming at maximising your response to the music and here the road gets split, with some preferring to mold their system's sonic "presentation" to taste and other opting for accuracy in spite of...

 

R

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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You bring up an important point. Studio recordings are often a patchwork of tracks; taken from multiple microphones, at different times, even when the musicians may not be together.

 

There can be little doubt that this is a construct, but it may still evoke a response in the listener.

 

Where things fall off the rails is with older studio intensive recordings that don't age well as playback systems improve and reveal flaws, mastering gaffs and production shortcuts.

 

I prefer recordings that get all the player together to rehearse forum a couple of days, then return to 'roll the tape' and do little in post production.

 

My best exampled is the Yellow jackets recordings with Bob Mintzer versus the far more successful Jay Beckensein fronting Spyro Gyra.

 

The Yellow jackets recordings have more dynamic range, feel like there are fewer microphones in play and have a natural presentation of a band at work, on stage.

 

My beloved SpyroGyra favorites feature a soprano saxophone the size of a billboard and instruments that appear to be affixed to the sidewalls.

 

The first was recorded with more traditional techniques, the second was playing almost constantly in car radios, somewhere for thirty years.

 

I'll gladly play the first collection at home or on the road.

 

The second only sounds good in my car.

 

******

 

See David Byrne's thesis on the venue forming the sound of a composer for a corollary.

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I agree.

The Beatles' recordings are a good example of the kind that benefits from some flaw masking i.e. the harmonic-rich, high-crosstalk sound of a record player.

 

My car is to noisy for listening, I generally play music to keep me company in long drives or when I feel like singing...

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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The real trouble with remastering some of these beloved recordings is that the source tapes are disintegrated. Many do well if carefully transferred at high sample rates to digital storage. The downside is as you mention, with less noise in playback, artificial sounds are clearly evident.

 

There was a trend in the 1980s and 1990s for breakout bands to sound really good on their indie release with rudimentary recording gear only to falter under the weight of big budget production values.

 

It's a fine line to walk, between good sound with some humanity remaining and a burnished , meta human sound that is more robotic.

 

Listen to the Canadian Brass 'Perfect Landing's to hear what people can really do on a recording that neither adds nor detracts.

 

Contrast that to Michael Buble's heavily processed vocals that have synthesized undertones added that make my subwoofers walk across the room - it's as if music must sound like a Michael Bay soundtrack, just to get noticed.

 

Fads like this don't last, and the next unimagined generation of playback will likely have an algorithm designed to remove post production tweaks like auto tune at the listener's request.

 

At that point we will most definitely be in the subjective realm of what sounds good as even the source material was unhinged from reality.

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"Nighthawks" - Edward Hopper, 1942

 

Greetings Ricardo, and because the essential of an audiophile is seeking quality media, I (searching briefly around) recommend LA Times' 2048 x 1115 pixels upload :)

 

Indeed, your display monitor can't possibly (as luck would have it) be same as my Acer P191W

 

«

an accurate picture

Sono pessimista con l'intelligenza,

 

ma ottimista per la volontà.

severe loudspeaker alignment »

 

 

 

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Greetings Ricardo' date=' and because the essential of an audiophile is seeking [i']quality media[/i], I (searching briefly around) recommend LA Times' 2048 x 1115 pixels upload :)

 

Indeed, your display monitor can't possibly (as luck would have it) be same as my Acer P191W

 

Thanks, that one looks like a proper painting with brush strokes and all.

Looks good in my old iMac LCD.

"Science draws the wave, poetry fills it with water" Teixeira de Pascoaes

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You're most welcome ; I should go and have breakfast (perhaps even take a stroll around the block for exercise and morning air beforehand).

Another quick point is comparing moving images (like comparing playback of a whole song rather than a static signal of it), say 720P YouTube vs Vimeo :

 

www.vimeo.com/73370105

www.vimeo.com/35625828

 

On your reproduction system, is one provider-site very evidently better than the other for same upload ?

 

«

an accurate picture

Sono pessimista con l'intelligenza,

 

ma ottimista per la volontà.

severe loudspeaker alignment »

 

 

 

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But, coming to sound, what is quality sound? I mean sure, you can buy DAC's and monitors, and play FLACs. But what's the difference?

 

For me sound quality is identity degree of input and output of audio system (it may be a balck box).

 

It is more abstract concept than resolution. Resolution is tool only here.

 

1. There all measurable.

 

2. Quality may be estimated for different points of the system (acoustic - acoustic, electrical analog - electrical analog, logical digital logical digital).

 

3. Measurement too should have 3 ... 10 times more precision than measured feature.

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Because unlike video, which can be of shitty quality in shitty devices, and high quality in powerful devices, sound can be played on every speaker/audio device.

 

Agree with much of what is said above.

 

With video you have experience to see different levels of quality, from (perhaps depending on your age) CRT all the way up to 4K and with different levels of dynamic range, color correction, sharpness etc.

 

Audio is no different. You need to listen to different sources and systems and gain experience with differences. In the same way that you usually don't have access to the actual scene when viewing a movie, nor do you have access to the live sound when listening. But in the same way that you hopefully have been able to view an actual sunset over the beach in real life, or see the Grand Canyon, or view from the Alps, or Amalfi coast ... well those are just examples, there is natural beauty everywhere. In the same way you should gain experience with live music ... this will serve as a reference point. Similarly you can use reference recordings that you like such as Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon (I select this because of the electronics, and not necessarily having a live, acoustic reference ... there are others) ... the point is that these all serve as your internal reference.

 

So like video which as you say:

 

Because unlike video, which can be of shitty quality in shitty devices, and high quality in powerful devices, sound can be played on every speaker/audio device.

 

Video can be similarly displayed on all devices, and like video, in audio there will be differences in quality. So start with your iPhone and stock earbuds and use as a reference to start and move on from there. If you can't tell a difference in the bass, for example, don't buy those speakers ;)

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I'd also like to add that if your definition of "good" is "what sounds good to you" we have that here, alternatively if your definition of "good" is "what measures good" we also have that here, and we can also swirl chocolate and vanilla together. Two scoops or three? :)

Custom room treatments for headphone users.

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