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Audio reproduction is a matter of taste?


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34 minutes ago, semente said:

 

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.

 

I don't see people "tuning" their system in a particular way to make it systematically pleasing, and I don't know how that would be even possible. Perhaps you are referring to "compensating" - for example putting a "bright" component with a "darker" to strike a balance? Not a recipe for success IMO. But you see that being done even with people who have very expensive equipment. 

 

There are also many people who only listen to "audiophile" recordings, or worse specific types of music that "sound good". 

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Perhaps some people who claim all this is a matter of taste can explain in detail how they evaluate components or various tweaks they implement in their systems?  

 

Also, if it's all a matter of taste, do you follow others' recommendations and if so based on what you think their tastes are? How does all this work in practice? 

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49 minutes ago, hopkins said:

 

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

 

High fidelity is the accurate reproduction of the recorded signal.

To assess fidelity measurements and objective critical listening are required. The two are complementary tools for achieving the same goal.

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

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4 minutes ago, semente said:

 

High fidelity is the accurate reproduction of the recorded signal.

To assess fidelity measurements and objective critical listening are required. The two are complementary tools for achieving the same goal.

 

Agree on the definition. 

Let's put measurements aside. How do you go about doing "objective critical listening"? 

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6 hours ago, hopkins said:

 

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. 

You’re making many unwarranted, inaccurate assumptions and interpretations.  First, I never said that anyone doesn’t care about accuracy. I said that many audiophiles assume that their systems are accurate because they hear what they expect to hear, whether or not it sounds like the performance (or the master, if they differ).

 

Second, I said that whether or not you know anything about the instruments is totally irrelevant.  No one can judge accuracy without being able to discern the difference in sound between two instruments that truly and objectively sound grossly different but have the same name, eg kick drum, guitar, piano etc.  

 

I don’t give a rat’s rectum if an audiophile knows anything about musical instruments and I don’t base respect for people on such isolated and largely unimportant knowledge.  My point is simple and consistent: I don’t think that anyone can critically judge the accuracy of playback without being able to hear differences of the magnitude of those between a small and a large kick drum, an electric and an acoustic guitar, or a Fender bass and Brian Bromberg’s 300 year old upright acoustic bass in excellent and relatively unprocessed recordings.

 

I introduced the specifics of players and instruments only because most audiophiles I know didn’t have any idea there was so much variation.  Many seem interested and appreciate learning more.  Some take umbrage and assume they’re being belittled in some way.  I never said you couldn’t assess accuracy because you don’t know what kind of guitar Freddie Green played. But you truly can’t assess accuracy if you can’t tell that there’s a difference between the sound of Freddie Green’s guitar and the sound of Grant Green’s guitar. And that’s a task that can be accomplished without even knowing who’s playing each instrument or what they are.  All you need to do is recognize that you’re hearing two different guitar sounds.

 

Whether or not anyone can do this has nothing to do with my level of respect for him or her.

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1 hour ago, hopkins said:

Perhaps some people who claim all this is a matter of taste can explain in detail how they evaluate components or various tweaks they implement in their systems?  

 

Also, if it's all a matter of taste, do you follow others' recommendations and if so based on what you think their tastes are? How does all this work in practice? 

Well, I generally pay little head to reviewers in the major mags. I have been in too many rooms with some to know that they listen for different things than me. I guess that is the polite way to say it. I look for who the manufacturer is as part of the decision making process, generally for reliability. Don’t want to purchase from what could be a here today gone tomorrow company. Take Schiit for example. Back in the ‘90s I had some in person conversations with Mike M. and owned some Theta products, one of which still works quite well. Made it easier to decide to try one of his new DACs. I use previous experiences with designers like Richard Vandersteen and Steve McCormack in the process. But in the end, once I am satisfied with reliability and such, it is listening to the product either here on in systems that I have familiarity. Being in an audio group brings in all kinds of options for listening and experiencing numerous products. I have extensive joint listening sessions with a small group whose opinions I value, but I do not always agree. I have to make the ultimate purchasing decisions using my ears. If the company has a30 day return policy, that helps too.  Once I do extensive listening, I take the product out and listen again to try to make sure I am not fooling myself. It is amazing how many times I thought I was hearing a difference but wasn’t. I did not buy those products. On the other hand, there are times, like the ESP cords that I couldn’t put them back in the system fast enough. It is products like that which are keepers. Finally, if I have to think I hear a difference or an improvement, I really am not, so I never purchase those products.

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4 minutes ago, bluesman said:

You’re making many unwarranted, inaccurate assumptions and interpretations.  First, I never said that anyone doesn’t care about accuracy. I said that many audiophiles assume that their systems are accurate because they hear what they expect to hear, whether or not it sounds like the performance (or the master, if they differ).

 

Second, I said that whether or not you know anything about the instruments is totally irrelevant.  No one can judge accuracy without being able to discern the difference in sound between two instruments that truly and objectively sound grossly different but have the same name, eg kick drum, guitar, piano etc.  

 

I don’t give a rat’s rectum if an audiophile knows anything about musical instruments and I don’t base respect for people on such isolated and largely unimportant knowledge.  My point is simple and consistent: I don’t think that anyone can critically judge the accuracy of playback without being able to hear differences of the magnitude of those between a small and a large kick drum, an electric and an acoustic guitar, or a Fender bass and Brian Bromberg’s 300 year old upright acoustic bass in excellent and relatively unprocessed recordings.

 

I introduced the specifics of players and instruments only because most audiophiles I know didn’t have any idea there was so much variation.  Many seem interested and appreciate learning more.  Some take umbrage and assume they’re being belittled in some way.  I never said you couldn’t assess accuracy because you don’t know what kind of guitar Freddie Green played. But you truly can’t assess accuracy if you can’t tell that there’s a difference between the sound of Freddie Green’s guitar and the sound of Grant Green’s guitar. And that’s a task that can be accomplished without even knowing who’s playing each instrument or what they are.  All you need to do is recognize that you’re hearing two different guitar sounds.

 

Whether or not anyone can do this has nothing to do with my level of respect for him or her.

 

I understand your point of view (and appreciate learning more as well, within the limitations I explained before). First of all, you confuse being able to "discern" sound differences, and being able to "name" them or associate them with a specific instrument. I certainly hope that people can hear differences in sound even if they cannot explicitly name the instrument being played.

 

I am trying to find out whether we can actually compare equipment and assess their accuracy even if we were not in the recording booth (which rarely happens, I think we can agree on that). I think it is a valid question as most of us here actually spend quite some time discussing the merits of various equipment.

 

I don't understand what we can conclude from your explanations other than "don't waste your time buying equipment if you don't know the difference between x and y instruments". What are your recommendations ? That we spend time learning about all these different instruments before we go out and purchase an audio system ?

 

You've made your point (you had already made it in your articlese). Thanks. 

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4 hours ago, Rexp said:

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

 

Hah! That's a very good question actually, and raises the issue of what's meant by "realistic."

 

Relative to other speakers on the market, the Vandersteens when properly set up produce more of a sense of a sound field or "soundstage" that contains singers and players at individual, consistent locations within it, so it is more realistic in that sense. Horizontally the soundstage is quite realistic in terms of the intent of the artist and producer, which may or may not reflect actual positions during recording.

 

Like many (but not all) other speakers, with the Vandersteens the bass drivers are low, the midrange in the middle and the tweeters on top. This produces a purely artificial soundstage height from a stereo recording, vocals coming from a higher apparent position than kick drums and bass for example. That isn't necessarily realistic in the sense of reflecting actual positions (though a kick drum and a bass guitar will likely be closer to the floor in reality than the singer's mouth), but because sounds come from different vertical positions in real life, this does instinctively feel more "real" than speakers that present everything at the same vertical level or don't have such a well defined vertical soundstage.

 

In fewer words: Horizontally, they reflect the reality the artist and producer want. Vertically, they *feel* more realistic, though they aren't actually.

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 hour ago, hopkins said:

 

Agree on the definition. 

Let's put measurements aside. How do you go about doing "objective critical listening"? 

 

You need training and adequate testing methodology.

This might be a good place to start:

 

SoundGym - The Gym for your Ears

Get audio ear training online, improve core listening skills like frequency detection or compression, and start sounding like a pro. Anytime, anywhere. Let's start training!

https://www.soundgym.co

 

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

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45 minutes ago, hopkins said:

 

I understand your point of view (and appreciate learning more as well, within the limitations I explained before). First of all, you confuse being able to "discern" sound differences, and being able to "name" them or associate them with a specific instrument. I certainly hope that people can hear differences in sound even if they cannot explicitly name the instrument being played.

 

I am trying to find out whether we can actually compare equipment and assess their accuracy even if we were not in the recording booth (which rarely happens, I think we can agree on that). I think it is a valid question as most of us here actually spend quite some time discussing the merits of various equipment.

 

I don't understand what we can conclude from your explanations other than "don't waste your time buying equipment if you don't know the difference between x and y instruments". What are your recommendations ? That we spend time learning about all these different instruments before we go out and purchase an audio system ?

 

You've made your point (you had already made it in your articlese).

Your continued misinterpretations and misrepresentations of what I keep saying tells me that I've failed miserably to make my point...at least, to you.  I absolutely do NOT "confuse being able to 'discern' sound differences, and being able to 'name' them or associate them with a specific instrument".   I said in my preceding post in this thread that "whether or not you know anything about the instruments is totally irrelevant".   In a prior post, I said that "I don’t give a rat’s rectum if an audiophile knows anything about musical instruments and I don’t base respect for people on such isolated and largely unimportant knowledge".  I've said this so many times on AS in so many ways that I'm beginning to wonder how attentively you're reading.

 

My main recommendation is that those with the desire to do so can learn more about the nature of the music and instruments to which they love to listen.  Many find this knowledge to be valuable, in that it enhances their enjoyment of their hobby by opening up new listening experiences for them.  My second recommendation is that people who don't hear differences of the magnitude I'm discussing and don't think they're important should continue to enjoy the hobby however they wish.  They should buy whatever equipment pleases them.   But I wish they would not pontificate about sonic accuracy, because I think they're confusing accuracy with their perception of realism.

 

I respect everyone's opinion and wish them nothing but joy in pursuit of their goals.  I'm simply uninterested in the judgments of audiophiles who can't hear and/or don't care about grossly audible sonic differences that matter to many of us.

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18 minutes ago, semente said:

 

You need training and adequate testing methodology.

This might be a good place to start:

 

SoundGym - The Gym for your Ears

Get audio ear training online, improve core listening skills like frequency detection or compression, and start sounding like a pro. Anytime, anywhere. Let's start training!

https://www.soundgym.co

 

Wow - that's pretty cool!!  Thanks.

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26 minutes ago, bluesman said:

Your continued misinterpretations and misrepresentations of what I keep sayting tells me that I've failed miserably to make my point...at least, to you.  I absolutely do NOT "confuse being able to "discern" sound differences, and being able to "name" them or associate them with a specific instrument".   I said in my preceding post in this thread that "whether or not you know anything about the instruments is totally irrelevant".  I've said this so many times on AS that I'm beginning to wonder of you're actually reading what I post.

 

My main recommendation is that those with the desire to do so can learn more about the nature of the music and instruments to which they love to listen.  Many find this knowledge to be valuable, in that it enhances their enjoyment of their hobby by opening up new listening experiences for them.  My second recommendation is that people who don't hear differences of the magnitude I'm discussing and don't think they're important should continue to enjoy the hobby however they wish.   But I wish they would not pontificate about sonic accuracy, because I think they're confusing accuracy with their perception of realism.

 

I respect everyone's opinion and wish them nothing but joy in pursuit of their goals.  I'm simply uninterested in the judgments of audiophiles who can't hear and/or don't care about grossly audible sonic differences that matter to many of us.

 

Am I pontificating about accuracy ? I have asked a question, and challenged some of the answers that have been given, pointing out inconsistencies. If anyone is pontificating here, I think you are.

 

I have read your posts carefully, and your article as well. Lets not play on words - within the "guitar" family, you correctly point out how many models/types there are. So substitute "guitar" with "guitar model", and my point is the same.

 

"despite the early assertion in this thread that "...everyone knows what a guitar sounds like, kick drum etc", few have any idea how many different kinds of guitars, kick drums etc there are and how different they sound from each other.   Freddie Green played an 18" archtop acoustic guitar behind Count Basie.  Wes Montgomery played a 16" Gibson 175 archtop electric with a laminated maple top (aka plywood) for the first part of his career and a 17" Gibson L-5 with a carved solid spruce top for the rest of it.  And Ed Bickert played the same kind of music made by Green and Montgomery on a solid body Fender Telecaster, a guitar created and most often used for country music and blues.  These guitars are as different as night and day from each other - but most listeners probably have no idea which is which. "

 

So when it comes to "accuracy" we should all check our hearing, and we should not think that we know what an instrument sounds like.  OK. Thanks.

 

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3 hours ago, bluesman said:

My point is simple and consistent: I don’t think that anyone can critically judge the accuracy of playback without being able to hear differences of the magnitude of those between a small and a large kick drum, an electric and an acoustic guitar, or a Fender bass and Brian Bromberg’s 300 year old upright acoustic bass in excellent and relatively unprocessed recordings.

I agree that, as a starting point, one has to be able to hear differences of this magnitude in order to judge playback accuracy. OTOH, whereas well recorded unamplified acoustic instruments can be used as a standard for "the absolute sound" as defined by Harry Pearson, electric or amplified ones cannot. Moreover, the judgment is not based on a single recording but rather a series of different recordings of the acoustic instruments with which one is familiar.

"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

 

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18 minutes ago, Allan F said:

I agree that, as a starting point, one has to be able to hear differences of this magnitude to judge playback accuracy. OTOH, whereas unamplified acoustic instruments can be used as a standard for "the absolute sound", electric or amplified ones cannot.

Thanks!  With all due respect, I think you’re correct about many but not all.  Trying to differentiate between heavily distorted flying 32nd notes from Hendrix, Guy, and Stevie Ray is most often a fool’s errand.  But in jazz, there are some clearly audible differences, eg the “thunk” of Tal Farlow, the sweet smooth sound of Johnny Smith, the woody sound of Mundell Lowe, and the relatively flatter drier electric sound of Wes Montgomery.  All of them played amplified archtop guitars, and they all have distinct sounds both recorded and live (I’m old enough to have enjoyed them all - I even had a stage side table to hear Wes on my 21st birthday).

 

Hopefully without stirring more flames, I suggest going to YouTube and listening to the four guitarists mentioned above.  For similar differences in basses, listen to Brian Bromberg, Ron Carter, and Richard Davis (all of whom play upright basses).

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I am listening to two different amps today.  One has ultra low distortion and an SNR of 126, fully balanced, ultra clean.  The other is a modern version of a traditional push/pull tube amp with respectable specs for its ilk.  The former was designed for optimal measurements using lateral mosfets.  The latter was designed to sound like real instruments.

 

Well, they don't sound exactly the same, but I expect if anyone were to be fooled into thinking that actual musicians were playing in the room, they would be fooled by the tube amp.

 

So, which is more accurate?  Perhaps, "accuracy" is a matter of taste.

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45 minutes ago, Kimo said:

Perhaps, "accuracy" is a matter of taste.

Perhaps so - but I suspect it's more the fact that "realism" is a matter of taste. So is "sound quality".  GIven that there's no such thing as the best, this is both understandable and reasonable.  If there were truly a "best" anything, most of us would be uniform in our praise and our desire to have it.

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1 hour ago, Kimo said:

The latter was designed to sound like real instruments.

 

Do you really believe that such a thing is at all possible?

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

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6 hours ago, hopkins said:

 

I don't see people "tuning" their system in a particular way to make it systematically pleasing, and I don't know how that would be even possible. Perhaps you are referring to "compensating" - for example putting a "bright" component with a "darker" to strike a balance? Not a recipe for success IMO. But you see that being done even with people who have very expensive equipment. 

 

There are also many people who only listen to "audiophile" recordings, or worse specific types of music that "sound good". 

 

I agree somewhat because many people use reviews and trial and error as their upgrade method, which will at best produce the occasional fortunate accident.

But also see a lot consistency in what individuals say that they prefer.

 

I also agree that two wrongs don't make a right. One could in theory achieve a more neutral tonal balance by matching equipment with inverse tonal characteristics but there's more to the sound of an equipment than just its frequency response and often tonal balance issues are accompanied by other problems.

Oversimplification can only lead to falacy.

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

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1 hour ago, bluesman said:

Perhaps so - but I suspect it's more the fact that "realism" is a matter of taste. So is "sound quality".  GIven that there's no such thing as the best, this is both understandable and reasonable.  If there were truly a "best" anything, most of us would be uniform in our praise and our desire to have it.

 

Well, I can tell you that the solid state piece is "better" based on the typical Stereophile criteria, but I also suspect that most non audiophiles would pick the tube amp, likely along with the VPI spinning a slab of vinyl.  

 

As far as "best," I thought that it has been generally accepted that would be Bose.

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