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Audio reproduction is a matter of taste?


hopkins
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Just now, Jud said:


What if the producer's intent was to meld the two, but your speaker's crossover happens to separate the frequencies at which they're playing?

 

How could the producer meld the two? I'm curious. What does 'separate the frequencies' mean and how could that impact the way perception decodes the components of the recording?

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2 minutes ago, opus101 said:

 

How could the producer meld the two? I'm curious. What does 'separate the frequencies' mean and how could that impact the way perception decodes the components of the recording?

 

By "meld the two," I mean emphasize the point/counterpoint interplay and harmonies so the two instruments are heard almost as one.

 

Separate the frequencies simply means the instruments are playing very near a crossover point so that depending on what frequency each instrument is playing at, it jumps to one driver or another.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> USPCB -> ISO Regen -> USPCB -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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9 minutes ago, Jud said:

 

By "meld the two," I mean emphasize the point/counterpoint interplay and harmonies so the two instruments are heard almost as one.

 

It seems to me that the harmonies are determined by the composer not the producer. As for "point/counterpoint interplay" I am not clear what it can mean in practice. Care to elucidate more?

 

11 minutes ago, Jud said:

Separate the frequencies simply means the instruments are playing very near a crossover point so that depending on what frequency each instrument is playing at, it jumps to one driver or another.

 

Both are violins so will occupy the same frequency band. I see no way for a crossover to be sensitive to the 1st violin's frequencies in some way without responding to the 2nd's in the same way. Sounds like it could be a job for Maxwell's demon.

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57 minutes ago, Jud said:

 

Separate the frequencies simply means the instruments are playing very near a crossover point so that depending on what frequency each instrument is playing at, it jumps to one driver or another.

 

Which driver a particular note played emerges from is irrelevant, if the system is working well - the auditory cues place the instrument well apart from the drivers, and speaker; the notes of that instrument appear to originate from a specific position in the soundstage; unless for some reason a mic for that instrument was literally attached to the body of it, and no artificial ambience was added.

 

Jumbling of the sound of the instruments, in the mix, is a giveaway that the resolution of the system is not adequate; quite a bit of effort would be needed in the mastering to produce a 'jumbled' sound which never sharpened, no matter how good the replay was. Indeed, the recording studios rely on the lack of clarity of most setups to do the jumbling - saves them the work!! 🤣

Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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To drift off into the realms of speculation, there might even be an objective measure of a system's accuracy judged within the framework of Information Theory.

 

Wikipedia says in its article on Entropy (Information Theory) :

 

The basic idea of information theory is that the "informational value" of a communicated message depends on the degree to which the content of the message is surprising. If an event is very probable, it is no surprise (and generally uninteresting) when that event happens as expected; hence transmission of such a message carries very little new information.

 

The above correlates rather well with my subjective experience of what I might term 'more accurate/transparent' DACs - they render the recording more interesting to listen to, have better 'jump factor' (surprise element).

 

 

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7 minutes ago, fas42 said:

Jumbling of the sound of the instruments, in the mix, is a giveaway that the resolution of the system is not adequate

 

In my little town we have quite a good chamber concert series. (We've had a Van Cliburn winner and other award winning artists.) I've been lucky enough to have very good seats. If you close your eyes you often cannot pinpoint the locations of the violins in a quartet. So if that were presented to me from a recording, it would be a good representation of what I have heard in live performance.

 

My speakers, like many, have the bass drivers at the bottom, midrange higher, and tweeters at the top.  Instruments or vocals at higher frequencies literally form images that are vertically higher than those at lower frequencies. This is one (artificial) way of creating a sense of vertical dimension from a stereo recording.

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> USPCB -> ISO Regen -> USPCB -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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1 minute ago, Jud said:

 

In my little town we have quite a good chamber concert series. (We've had a Van Cliburn winner and other award winning artists.) I've been lucky enough to have very good seats. If you close your eyes you often cannot pinpoint the locations of the violins in a quartet. So if that were presented to me from a recording, it would be a good representation of what I have heard in live performance.

 

I have visited concerts too and my experience concurs with yours. The 'instrumental separation' beloved of some reviewers isn't primarily about physical separation in the image, rather its about cognitive separation in our mind. The ability to follow the different musical strands (in ASA I think they're called 'streams') and switch focus from one to the other effortlessly. 

 

BTW - is there a missing negative in your last sentence - 'it wouldn't' ?

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12 minutes ago, opus101 said:

 

I have visited concerts too and my experience concurs with yours. The 'instrumental separation' beloved of some reviewers isn't primarily about physical separation in the image, rather its about cognitive separation in our mind. The ability to follow the different musical strands (in ASA I think they're called 'streams') and switch focus from one to the other effortlessly. 

 

BTW - is there a missing negative in your last sentence - 'it wouldn't' ?

 

Yes ... this is the point that I was intending - it's not that the outline of the played instrument is almost a 3D model that one can reach out and touch; rather, the sense of what each instrument is contributing can be clearly focused on.

 

The Michael Jackson album Bad is a very different version of that concept - there is layer upon layer of sound in what's going on, in the tracks; with good replay all those layers exist as very distinct sound sources, each of which can be followed, with no effort.

Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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4 minutes ago, opus101 said:

 

I have visited concerts too and my experience concurs with yours. The 'instrumental separation' beloved of some reviewers isn't primarily about physical separation in the image, rather its about cognitive separation in our mind. The ability to follow the different musical strands (in ASA I think they're called 'streams') and switch focus from one to the other effortlessly. 

 

BTW - is there a missing negative in your last sentence - 'it wouldn't' ?

 

Sorry if I was unclear, I meant the sense that the physical locations of the instruments weren't separate pinpoints would match my live experience.

 

I agree that ability to follow instrumental lines is very often a reliable indicator. There are times, however, when the sense of two or more instruments or voices as one dominates. (One example is early Beatles recordings, where John and Paul's harmony vocals blended so well.)

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> USPCB -> ISO Regen -> USPCB -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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2 minutes ago, Jud said:

 

Sorry if I was unclear, I meant the sense that the physical locations of the instruments weren't separate pinpoints would match my live experience.

 

The way I parsed your sentence was different from your intent it seems. I took 'that' in your last sentence to mean 'the locations of the violins' whereas you intended it to refer to 'you cannot pinpoint'. No worries.

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Someone wrote over at ASR about the speakers I own:

 

"I don't have Vandersteen 3A sigs, but I am very familiar with them, my brother owns a pair. They can sound quite wonderful or be blah and disappointing. It all depends where you sit. They have a narrow sweet spot, and if you move slightly to the left or right of that spot, they loose that wonderfulness.

"They have 1st order crossovers (measured acoustically). Those 6 dB/octave crossover slopes mean that drivers on each side of a crossover frequency will both contribute to the sound you hear for more than an octave above and below the crossover. That can cause some additions and cancellations that change with your seating position. Both vertical and horizontal changes (in stereo) in position make a difference."

 

There are multiple pages in the owner's manual devoted to positioning of the speakers. I can tell you that both horizontal and vertical relationships between speakers and listener are important.

 

There are many, many people who justifiably feel such fussing with how one sits isn't at all what they want in a speaker (or what a high end speaker should be). On the other hand, for those willing to put up with it, magic can happen, enough so that the Vandersteen 2 series is the best selling high end speaker ever (when I last bothered to look several years ago, over 60,000 pairs IIRC).

One never knows, do one? - Fats Waller

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. - Einstein

Computer, Audirvana -> optical to EtherREGEN -> microRendu -> USPCB -> ISO Regen -> USPCB -> Pro-Ject Pre Box S2 DAC -> Spectral DMC-12 & DMA-150 -> Vandersteen 3A Signature.

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5 hours ago, bluesman said:

The only difference between you and me seems to be that I know and care how inaccurate my systems are.  

 

If I did not care about the accuracy of my system I would not be discussing all this now. So what you really mean is that I don't care about knowing which instruments (models, brands) are being played.You are right on that point, I am not so interested in that aspect of music. My loss. I do respect the fact that you are; whether you respect "audiophiles" like me who do not share your point of view is another question...

 

Not knowing which guitar model Freddie Green plays, can I still make a difference between a good and a bad recording of Freddie Green? And can I make a difference between a more accurate system (if there is such a thing)? Your answer is no to both of these questions. Thanks for your contribution. 

 

 

 

 

my blog

 

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11 hours ago, Jud said:

  Humility is in order.

Maybe so, but in some cases it will never happen.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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7 hours ago, bluesman said:

The only difference between you and me seems to be that I know and care how inaccurate my systems are.  

 

P. S. I never claimed that my system was accurate! I am fully aware of some of the limitations of my system, here again not because I have sat in my living room recording a guitar and playing it back, but because I have heard plenty of other systems (and live music). 

my blog

 

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13 hours ago, hopkins said:

 

Nonsense, but you can use a vocal track of a singer you have heard live if you are more comfortable with that. End of story. 

Not really.

 

Was the singer voice amplified? If so then you won’t have listened to the singer.

 

And if the singer was not amplified how close was he/she mic’ed and which mics were used and were any EQ, compression or effects applied to the final edit?

Even if you were in the mastering suite with the engineer the monitors and the room will sound different to your own speakers in your room, even if you have the same speakers.

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

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3 hours ago, Jud said:

Someone wrote over at ASR about the speakers I own:

 

"I don't have Vandersteen 3A sigs, but I am very familiar with them, my brother owns a pair. They can sound quite wonderful or be blah and disappointing. It all depends where you sit. They have a narrow sweet spot, and if you move slightly to the left or right of that spot, they loose that wonderfulness.

"They have 1st order crossovers (measured acoustically). Those 6 dB/octave crossover slopes mean that drivers on each side of a crossover frequency will both contribute to the sound you hear for more than an octave above and below the crossover. That can cause some additions and cancellations that change with your seating position. Both vertical and horizontal changes (in stereo) in position make a difference."

 

There are multiple pages in the owner's manual devoted to positioning of the speakers. I can tell you that both horizontal and vertical relationships between speakers and listener are important.

 

There are many, many people who justifiably feel such fussing with how one sits isn't at all what they want in a speaker (or what a high end speaker should be). On the other hand, for those willing to put up with it, magic can happen, enough so that the Vandersteen 2 series is the best selling high end speaker ever (when I last bothered to look several years ago, over 60,000 pairs IIRC).

Which produces the more realistic soundstage, the well set up 3A's or poorly set up? 

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1 hour ago, semente said:

Not really.

 

Was the singer voice amplified? If so then you won’t have listened to the singer.

 

And if the singer was not amplified how close was he/she mic’ed and which mics were used and were any EQ, compression or effects applied to the final edit?

Even if you were in the mastering suite with the engineer the monitors and the room will sound different to your own speakers in your room, even if you have the same speakers.

 

You are right, of course, that the recording process may introduce some degradation or distortions. I just meant to say that you would have a general idea of the singer's voice qualities if you had heard her live. That's all. 

 

Regardless of recording quality there are some features in each artist's playing (or singing) which makes them instantly recognizable (whatever brand of instrument they are playing). The instrument played may contribute to the "style" but to a very limited extent. Art Tatum played piano the way he did regardless of which piano he was playing on. In fact, what do we really care whether we know which piano it was? It's "music folklore". In some instances the choice of instruments will obviously considerably change the sound. You can play Bach on period instruments, but so can a monkey (with a little luck). 

 

But we are getting sidetracked... 

 

 

 

 

 

my blog

 

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How can we evaluate accuracy independantly of the recording? The most obvious characteristic of a system that we can evaluate is the ability to reproduce details.

 

When I listen to a song on my phones with my awesome Koss Porta Pro headphones (just joking, though I do like them a lot) I don't hear as much detail as when I listen to the same song on my speakers. I also hear more detail when I listen to the same song on my DAC with my Etymotic Er4sr headphones than on my speakers. 

 

The ability to hear "micro details" is not a given with high-end equipment, far from it, but that is for everyone to find out on their own. 

 

Now some people may not like "détail". They'll say "this system is too analytical". For them détail is not accuracy? Or are they referring to something else? 

 

More to follow... 

my blog

 

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7 minutes ago, hopkins said:

The ability to hear "micro details" is not a given with high-end equipment, far from it, but that is for everyone to find out on their own. 

Or, the lack of ability to reproduce details, is, by definition, a sign that the equipment isn't "high-end". Which is correct? Sounds like a preference or matter of taste to me.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
Living Room/Kitchen: RPi 3B+ running RoPieee to a pair of Morel Hogtalare. 

All absolute statements about audio are false :)

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49 minutes ago, firedog said:

Or, the lack of ability to reproduce details, is, by definition, a sign that the equipment isn't "high-end". Which is correct? Sounds like a preference or matter of taste to me.

 

What is high-end to you? Is a 4000 $ DAC high-end or do we need to push it up to 10000$?

 

What do you mean by "which is correct"? 

my blog

 

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1 hour ago, hopkins said:

How can we evaluate accuracy independantly of the recording? The most obvious characteristic of a system that we can evaluate is the ability to reproduce details.

 

When I listen to a song on my phones with my awesome Koss Porta Pro headphones (just joking, though I do like them a lot) I don't hear as much detail as when I listen to the same song on my speakers. I also hear more detail when I listen to the same song on my DAC with my Etymotic Er4sr headphones than on my speakers. 

 

The ability to hear "micro details" is not a given with high-end equipment, far from it, but that is for everyone to find out on their own. 

 

Now some people may not like "détail". They'll say "this system is too analytical". For them détail is not accuracy? Or are they referring to something else? 

 

More to follow... 

 

They may be referring to a certain presentation that exaggerates or illuminates the presence region.  A bump at 8K should make you feel all detailed and airy, but it won't be accurate.    

 

Pretty much covers at least half the equipment ever produced.  

 

If you want to evaluate SNR by ear, reverb is a good place to start.

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9 minutes ago, hopkins said:

 

What is high-end to you? Is a 4000 $ DAC high-end or do we need to push it up to 10000$?

 

What do you mean by "which is correct"? 

 

I believe that the original meaning of high end was higher fidelity or performance equipment (capable of superlative accurate reproduction).

It unfortunately very quickly became a synonym of luxury goods...

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

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7 hours ago, PeterSt said:

 

 

People should read this as long as it takes to get the message out of this;

If you can't hear that a floor tom is really that (and confuse it with a kick) when played singular (hence out of the context of the other), then your system is not doing well at all. Obviously this requires the knowledge of the sound of the two *and* how they are played (which obviously is totally different from each other).

I really don't need to know whether it is a Yamaha or Pearl. I also don't need to know the brand of skin used.

Harder it becomes if you don't know the tension of the skins because a lower tension is quite similar to an under performing system in the transient-bass (making drums sound like paper).

 

@Judand his little contest also hits the nail on the head with the differentiation between electric and acoustic guitar. This too is something not every system can do easily. Here too, I really don't need to know the make of the guitar. You'd need the experience of the sound of the two types, though.

 

Might you be more in the beginning of your travel to good sound, then you could start to discern nylon vs metal strings, the latter with wound vs non-wound. And talking Yggy, the vibrancy of the ever back not-so-good-measuring device which nobody was supposed to hear because of the too low level, would make all metal strings sound like wound ones.

Would I need to know the make of the guitar ? of course not. The sheer fact that suddenly too many strings are wound ones (especially for their (frequency) reach), would make me decide something is wrong.

I would need to have the real-life reference of the wound string, though.

 

One of the best examples of things which can go wrong, is that most cymbals suddenly sound like China cymbals. Many drummers have one, but few have more than one in the set. Thus, if in a track two different cymbals sound like China ones, something is definitely wrong.

I would need to know how a China cymbal sounds in real, though. There's really no need to know whether it is a Zildjian or a Paiste, never mind the two sound distinctly different in themselves.

Would I need to know the microphone used ?

 

My father ever practicing the viola, my mother the grand, I know perfectly what to watch for when I tune gear or elements in it, for the most realistic sound. The grand really does not need to be a Steinway or any other make I never listened to because it is not about that. However, it *is* about how the artist brings across his mind, mood and feelings to the instrument. This is obviously totally different for both instruments, including the drums and *all* instruments. Would I need to know the mood or intent of the artist ? it would help - but it works so nicely the other way around; his/her music would teach me that (and the title may be / should be telling). Once you got the hang of this in real life, you can do it with each instrument, if you only have that reference in your own system. From there on it can improve (no reference makes you blind and left to taste).

Btw, this is one of the most difficult aspects of music reproduction (I suppose, obviously ?).

 

There are dozens and dozens of these examples, which may not tell you a thing. But they really exist and can be used for measure when it is about how realistically a system performs. Or better said: what still annoys and distracts, hence what's subject for improvement.

 

I don't recognize really that this is about distortions as such (as in shrill sound). It is far more about the consistency in frequencies which create the timbre. Jud's example with the woofer via the cross-over to the mid is almost a good one, but in the end it is not so much because the speaker would be not-so-good if that would really show (but is a first thing which goes wrong in a chain).

 

The theoretical improvements are so infinite, that it makes the hobby ever-lasting just the same. The best fun is that your standard of today, is your challenge for tomorrow.

 

Great post.

 

I would add that after many years of participating in several forums I have come to truly believe that for some people it is more important that their system makes nice sounds or presents their favourite recordings in a pleasing/exciting/vibrant manner.

They are not (that) interested in whether the floor tom isn't actually a kick, only that it sounds good to their ears and enhances the music-listener engagement.

And that's brings us back to the original question:

 

Audio reproduction is a matter of taste?

 

Yes, it is.

 

Had @hopkins asked "high fidelity" then my reply would have been different...

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

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16 minutes ago, semente said:

 

Great post.

 

I would add that after many years of participating in several forums I have come to truly believe that for some people it is more important that their system makes nice sounds or presents their favourite recordings in a pleasing/exciting/vibrant manner.

They are not (that) interested in whether the floor tom isn't actually a kick, only that it sounds good to their ears and enhances the music-listener engagement.

And that's brings us back to the original question:

 

Audio reproduction is a matter of taste?

 

Yes, it is.

 

Had @hopkins asked "high fidelity" then my reply would have been different...

 

Then I'll ask you: what is high-fidelity, how do you know when you have achieved it (if at all possible)? 

my blog

 

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