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Audio reproduction is a matter of taste?


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Discussing Schitt audio's new DAC options I realized that a number of you  believe that audio reproduction is a matter of taste:

 

 

I see this same type of thinking all the time, and it worries me! 

 

I believe this idea results from comparing equipment that are flawed and not being able to admit to those flaws (for whatever reasons). The idea is often used in bad faith by reviewers who will try to find qualities to all products. 

 

Arthur Salvatore explained that "MUSIC IS ART - AUDIO IS SCIENCE" (http://www.high-endaudio.com/philos.html#Mus). That is very different, by the way, from thinking that audio is all about measurements. Read the link if you don't understand the difference. 

 

 

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Yes, it is a concern - that's a peculiar logic, if you want the reproduction to both be 'transparent'; and at the same time have a flavour that suits you! Anyone who is in the business of making a piece of glass truly "transparent" knows that the goal is achieved when there are zero clues that the glass is intruding in your vision - if you want it to have a pink tint, or a touch of waviness, or to blur at the edges, well, that's fine - but don't delude yourself that you're getting closer to some type of perfect see through clarity !! The only type of veracity, for a recorded performance, that could make sense is if you set up with great precision a playback chain that perfectly matched what was in the mastering engineer's room at the time, in every possible detail - so that you heard precisely what they heard when creating the recording - a rather forlorn effort if you listen to hundreds of different types of recordings, from all around the world.

 

The marvellous place you can get to if you constantly aim to eliminate all disturbing, audible flaws in any setup you can work on optimising, is that of understanding that the intrinsic nature of every recording not deliberately engineered to sound 'off' is quite special, and requires no injection of 'spice' to improve it. The end result can be, that completely different rigs sound identical - because only the characteristics of the recording, which stays the same, are apparent.

Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

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Yes, domestic music replay is inevitably a matter of taste, regardless of how we attempt to dress that up.  The reason being that the ultimate  purpose of domestic replay is  pleasure, which in turn is why much “objectivism” is redundant and also why subjective opinion is valid - most of us on this site are human and like so many areas of human pleasure, if one person likes it there’s a good chance many others are likely to too (no sniggering at the back).

 

People can gain pleasure from listening with a DAC that sounds good to them  but measures badly.  I can’t see many persevering with the opposite.

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32 minutes ago, Norton said:

People can gain pleasure from listening with a DAC that sounds good to them  but measures badly.  I can’t see many persevering with the opposite.

 

Hold on, I specifically stated this has nothing to do with measurements. I don't care about measurements. 

 

I am in no way suggesting that we replace our ears with measurement tools! 

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13 minutes ago, JoeWhip said:

The simple answer is yes. We all have different processors between our ears and therefore process data differently. Why should audio be different than all other personal experiences?

 

So if we listen to the same music with  different systems there is no way we can agree on which system is reproducing the recording more accurately because it's a matter of taste?  Welcome to the matrix where everything is one big illusion and nothing is "real".

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I have been involved in numerous listening sessions with the same system playing all kinds of music where there was no universal agreement on whether the system was transparent or faithful to the fidelity of the recording. Unless you were in the room when a recording was made, you don’t know if what you are hearing   Is faithful to the original sound. Playback in the control room can be very colored too. I have experienced this myself. I sat at a Steinway ticking the ivories during one of my son’s recording session. Going back to the control room and listening to the live mic feed on a set of big JBL’s, I was struck at the difference in tone. Maybe the tone would have been perfect on a different set of speakers? Who knows? I do know that the final recording sounds great on my system but I can’t say it sounds just like what I experienced live. So yes, it is all a matter of taste. There are no absolutes in audio. Hey Chris loves Wilson’s. Me, not so much. I am good with that. The matrix has nothing to do with it.

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I like the link you provide as hors d'oeuvre for reflecting on the subject ...
and the "personal sound floor" is a point that is often excluded from discussions because for enthusiasts that would factor in aspects they can't control and compare. On the other hands it makes comparisons quite difficult, I'd reckon. That is, why objective data may prove valid date points for orientation.

However, let's think that the hearing capabilities of a group of people isnt' equal from one to the other
- The formal audio experience of these enthusiasts may differ
- Their form of imagination might not be the same
- Their mood, deriving from actual external circumstances may not be equal
- their psycho-acoustic training might not be the same
- they have different lifes (& experiences within) that may impact their presence
- the acquired knowledge about Art, Science, Biology and Psychology may be differnet
- their personal bias (the single one as expected, or all of them) may differ
...

for short " procesessing may be different" for different folks.

As a result there may be a broad vision on how to please humanity with audiophile products as opposite to a single solution. Broad in a sense of not defined, flexible and indefinite approaches to market equipment to indifferent customers, who are willing to spend money for their hobby: 
- some buying what the peer groupm advises,
- some buying what they find interesting by information and listening tests,
- some buying what's laudated & accomplished by the press or the web.

It is not great science to be critical with reviewers and their methods, and if someone's loving reading reviews, I would advice to get an idea if the reviewer's personal tuning corresponds to the one of him/herself.

Famously, that environment creates a whole industry which provides
- friendly, controverse and very ugly discussions,
- joy & frustration,
- wonderful experiences with likeminded fellows and
- selected people, who think so fondly about their personal capacities, that they only need other human beings as reflection points and discussions as arenas for their personal bliss.

Plus , there are people who want to compare things, because having a choice may be good in principal, but offers "too much" food for thought and demands "too much" time to find conclusions by themselves ... sometimes


 

 

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47 minutes ago, JoeWhip said:

I have been involved in numerous listening sessions with the same system playing all kinds of music where there was no universal agreement on whether the system was transparent or faithful to the fidelity of the recording. Unless you were in the room when a recording was made, you don’t know if what you are hearing   Is faithful to the original sound. Playback in the control room can be very colored too. I have experienced this myself. I sat at a Steinway ticking the ivories during one of my son’s recording session. Going back to the control room and listening to the live mic feed on a set of big JBL’s, I was struck at the difference in tone. Maybe the tone would have been perfect on a different set of speakers? Who knows? I do know that the final recording sounds great on my system but I can’t say it sounds just like what I experienced live. So yes, it is all a matter of taste. There are no absolutes in audio. Hey Chris loves Wilson’s. Me, not so much. I am good with that. The matrix has nothing to do with it.

 

My experience is different. When comparing systems I fee I can tell which one is more accurate, or at least I can tell how far they are from sounding accurate ! It may not be possible to evaluate this on a single track (ex: as on your son's recording session), but with a variety of tracks you can come pretty quickly to a conclusion.

 

I think we all know how instruments sound like, what "specificities" they have and whether those specificities are accurately reproduced. Naturally, there are subtelties, as pointed out by @bluesman in his articles (on accurate sound). Not all saxophones sound the same, not all pianos sound the same, and obviously the recording process is not fully transparent as you already pointed out. Fine - but  this does not mean, IMO, that we are relegated to being completely blind as to the accuracy of the system (hence the matrix).

 

Comparing systems side by side is the best way to evaluate all this. It is not always easy to do so, especially with speakers, for practical reasons.

 

 

 

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51 minutes ago, DuckToller said:

I like the link you provide as hors d'oeuvre for reflecting on the subject ...
and the "personal sound floor" is a point that is often excluded from discussions because for enthusiasts that would factor in aspects they can't control and compare. On the other hands it makes comparisons quite difficult, I'd reckon. That is, why objective data may prove valid date points for orientation.

However, lLet's think that the hearing capabilities of a group of people isnt' equal from one to the other
- The formal audio experience of enthusiast may differ
- Their form of imagination might not be the same
- Their mood, deriving from actual external circumstances may not be equal
- their psycho-acoustic traing might not be the same
- they have different lifes (& experiences within) that may impact their presence
- the acquired knowledge about Art, Science, Biology and Psychology may be differnet
- their personal bias (the single one as expected, or all of them) may differ
...

for short " procesessing may be different" for different folks.

As a result there may be a broad vision on how to please humanity with audiophile products as opposite to a single solution. Broad in a sense of not defined, flexible and indefinite approaches to market equipment to indifferent customers, who are willing to spend money for their hobby: 
- some buying what the peer groupm advises,
- some buying what they find interesting by information and listening tests,
- some buying what's laudated & accomplished by the press or the web.

It is not great science to be critical with reviewers and their methods, and if someone's loving reading reviews I would advice to get an idea, if the reviewer's personal tuning corresponds to the one of him/herself.

Famously, that environment creates a whole industry which provides
- friendly, controverse and very ugly discussions,
- joy & frustration,
- wonderful experiences with likeminded fellows and
- selected people, who think so fondly about their personal capacities, that they only need other human beings as reflection points and discussions as arenas for their personal bliss.

Plus , there are people who want to compare things, because having a choice may be good in principal, but offers "too much" food for thought and demands "too much" time to find conclusions by themselves ... sometimes


 

 

 

The group of people reading you and reading this forum is probably fairly "homogeneous". 

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21 minutes ago, mfsoa said:

Just thinking out loud - not directed at anyone-

 

Ooooh I hate the term "Accurately" or "Accuracy" in these discussions.

 

Accurate to what?  <snip>

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An addition: If I listen at a volume that is different than that of the mixing room/earphones then the treble-bass balance changes due to the ears different sensitivity at different volumes.

..............

While in general I like to hear—as close as possible—what is on the recording, I've got more than a few recordings that are bad enough I want to change them.

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8 minutes ago, hopkins said:

I don't know about drum sets, but I've been to a good number of classical music concerts in my lifetime (and also played piano for a number of years) to know what violins, for example, sound like in a good concert hall.

 

Rhetorical question: You know what all violins sound like in all concert halls?

 

I think you're reading far too much into what people are saying about taste and you also believe there is a way to judge accuracy when listening to music through a component. 

 

You're fooling yourself if you think that your memory of a concert, or several concerts, will allow you to discern if a violin on a recording sounds accurate through an audio system. If all violins sound the same, all concert halls are the same, there are zero production decisions to be made when recording, mixing, and mastering the music, all concert goers sat in the same seat the same distance from the violin, and all musicians pull the exact same sounds from all violins, then you'd be on the right path. 

 

However, people have been fooled for decades into believing it's possible to judge absolute accuracy through a HiFi system. 

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16 minutes ago, GregWormald said:

While in general I like to hear—as close as possible—what is on the recording, I've got more than a few recordings that are bad enough I want to change them.

 

Same here, but that is not really relevant to the discussion...

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1 hour ago, hopkins said:

I think we all know how instruments sound like, what "specificities" they have and whether those specificities are accurately reproduced

Not even remotely close IMHO. 

 

Some ramblings that come to mind - If we're talking about generalities sure everyone knows what a guitar sounds like, kick drum etc..  but if we're going to talk about evaluating sound, its going to be different for a newbie or inexperienced listener vs a mastering engineer, a seasoned listener, a classically trained musician etc..  

 

I said this in another thread - "everyone at some point has different acuity "levels" (think beginner listener vs mastering engineer) throughout their audio journey.  Those levels give us experience".  

 

There's no way a general listener knows what/how a 1920's black beauty sounds like and all the other similar references to various instruments musicians play if you haven't played one/recorded with one.  You don't have to be a musician to like, appreciate, understand "sound", but I'm just addressing your statement

 

I read some of info in your link (Aurthor S), and some of it is ahem..interesting, but a lot of gibberish in the brief section I read (IMHO).  His listening room is full of mirrors?

 

Then you get into understanding music > melodic changes, song structure, rhythm vs melody, chord progressions etc..  knowing + understanding these intimately completely changes what that person hears vs an audience member / general listener.

 

Audio playback is sound, sure, and unless you just listen to 50hz, 300hz, 3k test tones, you're also hearing the music which will be an emotional thing, extreme at times.  So if we are talking in just generalities sure everything sounds the same, not sure how relevant that thinking is though

 

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5 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

 

Rhetorical question: You know what all violins sound like in all concert halls?

 

I think you're reading far too much into what people are saying about taste and you also believe there is a way to judge accuracy when listening to music through a component. 

 

You're fooling yourself if you think that your memory of a concert, or several concerts, will allow you to discern if a violin on a recording sounds accurate through an audio system. If all violins sound the same, all concert halls are the same, there are zero production decisions to be made when recording, mixing, and mastering the music, all concert goers sat in the same seat the same distance from the violin, and all musicians pull the exact same sounds from all violins, then you'd be on the right path. 

 

However, people have been fooled for decades into believing it's possible to judge absolute accuracy through a HiFi system. 

 

I am talking about sound "characteristics" not the actual sound of a given violin on a given day, on a given concert hall. There are obviously differences, but there are also similarities. Take a good recording, and compare it in several systems and you'll start to understand what I am talking about :) 

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1 minute ago, hopkins said:

 

I am talking about sound "characteristics" not the actual sound of a given violin on a given day, on a given concert hall. There are obviously differences, but there are also similarities. Take a good recording, and compare it in several systems and you'll start to understand what I am talking about :) 

 

What do you mean by characteristics? 

 

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1 minute ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

 

What do you mean by characteristics? 

 

 

All these different violins played on different occasions, places, by different people, recorded with different microphones, etc.., share some similarities. I think our brain is able to tell us, when we listen to a variety of recordings whether two different systems are better at reproducing sound based on these types of attributes (low level detail, distortion, possibly others).

 

2 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

 

Totally.

 

Plus, not even a person who owns and black beauty knows how it was processed at the recording session and in post production. 

 

But who cares ? We don't evaluate a system only based on 1920s recordings. Do you ?

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24 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

OK, I'm out. 

 

Don't give up. I'll try to make things simpler for you...or perhaps someone can help me out !

 

What I understand from the answers given by those who think that it's all a matter of taste is this: we don't know what the actual recording sounds like, because we were not there, or even if we were, the recording process introduces its own "filter". 

 

Well, I was not present during the filming of every scene of every movie I have ever watched, but I am still able to tell whether the director is filming things with "accuracy" or whether he is introducing effects. I can also tell whether the scene is filmed in a studio or in a real outdoors setting. I am also able to tell the difference between a low and high resolution image. Why ? Because the brain is able to establish patterns and similarities. Its the same with musical instruments. I don't know how to explain it better - it seems so obvious to me, and it seems really ludicrous to think that because we were not present at the moment of the recording then we cannot judge how systems reproduce sound (...though in fact, that's what this hobby is all about and what everyone does all the time)

 

 

 

 

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