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Audio reproduction is a matter of taste?


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Just now, The Computer Audiophile said:

If people think they can judge accuracy of a playback system, then they should be clearly able to identify every instrument on the album, and I mean specific instrument not just guitar, but the model, the drum set and its make up (size of kick drum), the material on the walls of the studio (absorptive, reflective, etc...) the EQ used in mixing and mastering, and everything else involved. 

 

If you can't identify those aspects perfectly, then you can't judge accuracy because you need to know these in order to judge it. 

 

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. 

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11 minutes ago, hopkins said:

My objective in looking for an accurate system is to find one that reproduces the file/cd/LP while introducing as little distortion as possible.

 

Let's start with the fact that you've just told a professional musician, who is more familiar with the sound of live instruments than you will ever be, that he has "little to contribute" to this discussion.  Humility is in order.  How do you or any of us know for certain at all times what distortion is when we hear it?  As others have said throughout the thread, of course gross distortion is evident.  But what about when we are getting closer to the edge of what is possible, when the choice is not between distortion and no distortion, but between different forms of distortion short of perfection?  I pointed out to you in an earlier comment that such choices are unavoidable in speakers, amplifiers, and DACs.  (You were in error when you disagreed about DACs, again pointing to the need for a little humility.)

 

So now let me pose to you what will hopefully be a fun little challenge that may give you a notion of what people like @bluesman, @The Computer Audiophile and I have been talking about.  I'm hoping you have a music streaming service.  If you do, please bring up the Gillian Welch album The Harrow and The Harvest.  Now no fair peeking: In the 4th track, The Way It Goes, please tell me whether the guitar in the left channel is acoustic or electric, with effects or without, and how long into the track it took you to decide on your answer.

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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4 minutes ago, kumakuma said:

I'm really only looking for affirmation rather an actual discussion on the subject.

Not at all. I am interested in hearing contradictory arguments, as long as they are made in good faith and are not the result of a personal vandetta.

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1 minute ago, Jud said:

 

Let's start with the fact that you've just told a professional musician, who is more familiar with the sound of live instruments than you will ever be, that he has "little to contribute" to this discussion.  Humility is in order.  How do you or any of us know for certain at all times what distortion is when we hear it?  As others have said throughout the thread, of course gross distortion is evident.  But what about when we are getting closer to the edge of what is possible, when the choice is not between distortion and no distortion, but between different forms of distortion short of perfection?  I pointed out to you in an earlier comment that such choices are unavoidable in speakers, amplifiers, and DACs.  (You were in error when you disagreed about DACs, again pointing to the need for a little humility.)

 

So now let me pose to you what will hopefully be a fun little challenge that may give you a notion of what people like @bluesman, @The Computer Audiophile and I have been talking about.  I'm hoping you have a music streaming service.  If you do, please bring up the Gillian Welch album The Harrow and The Harvest.  Now no fair peeking: In the 4th track, The Way It Goes, please tell me whether the guitar in the left channel is acoustic or electric, with effects or without, and how long into the track it took you to decide on your answer.

 

And if I fail I will never be able to discuss accuracy of systems? 

 

I don't need lessons in humility, especially not when people in this thread are blatantly dishonest... 

 

This is not a pissing contest about music knowledge. I don't claim to have a perfect ear or a tenth of the knowledge someone like Bluesman has. I'll be happy to admit that I will fail this test and probably even simpler ones. 

 

I do believe we are able to recognize "levels of distortion" and whenever I have pointed them out to others I think they have agreed. 

 

I perfectly respect Bluesman's contribution, but find they are off topic here and explained why. 

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11 minutes ago, hopkins said:

you can use a vocal track of a singer you have heard live if you are more comfortable with that

 

We all know that vocals never change, all venues sound the same, and live performances all sound just as good as studio performances right? With that in mind, please play any vocal recording you wish and identify the post processing EQ used, the size of the venue, and the microphone used to record the vocals. You should be able to do this with your most familiar recordings. If you can't, then perhaps you can't judge accuracy. 

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Just now, hopkins said:

And if I fail I will never be able to discuss accuracy of systems? 

 

Heh, no, of course not.  It really isn't a pass/fail sort of thing. (You may understand that remark a little better after you've had a listen to the track.) The point is that when we get down to very fine distinctions, it starts to become extremely difficult to tell whether what you are hearing is a true reproduction of the live performance, something that went into the production of the album, or some very slight form of distortion in the playback system.

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, The Computer Audiophile said:

 

We all know that vocals never change, all venues sound the same, and live performances all sound just as good as studio performances right? With that in mind, please play any vocal recording you wish and identify the post processing EQ used, the size of the venue, and the microphone used to record the vocals. You should be able to do this with your most familiar recordings. If you can't, then perhaps you can't judge accuracy. 

 

And why would I want to do that given what I have just explained? Who cares about the model of microphone when you compare the same recording on two systems? 

 

Your insistance is really baffling. You spend your time comparing systems, equipment, looking for "realistic sound" and all of a sudden you claim it's all BS? Really? 

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Just now, hopkins said:

 

And why would I want to do that given what I have just explained? Who cares about the model of microphone when you compare the same recording on two systems? 

 

Your insistance is really baffling. You spend your time comparing systems, equipment, looking for "realistic sound" and all of a sudden you claim it's all BS? Really? 

 

In order to judge accuracy you MUST be able to identify which microphone was used for the recording. If you can't do this, then you have no idea if playback is accurate. 

 

Question: If you listen to DAC A and it sounds like XYZ, then listen to DAC B and it sounds like ZYX, how do you know which one is more accurate if you don't know which microphone was used for the recording? 

 

 

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4 minutes ago, hopkins said:

 

And why would I want to do that given what I have just explained? Who cares about the model of microphone when you compare the same recording on two systems? 

 

Your insistance is really baffling. You spend your time comparing systems, equipment, looking for "realistic sound" and all of a sudden you claim it's all BS? Really? 

 

It really isn't one extreme or the other, and I think you'd probably agree.  We all try to achieve something that sounds "real" within our budgets, but we can never be certain we've achieved it - or for that matter, that a different system wouldn't sound more real to someone sensitive to different forms of distortion than ourselves.  There's a reason there are lots of different brands of audio equipment at any given price point.

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:

 

Heh, no, of course not.  It really isn't a pass/fail sort of thing. (You may understand that remark a little better after you've had a listen to the track.) The point is that when we get down to very fine distinctions, it starts to become extremely difficult to tell whether what you are hearing is a true reproduction of the live performance, something that went into the production of the album, or some very slight form of distortion in the playback system.

 

Of course and I would absolutely agree with that. But I am not trying to determine whether it is "true" to the live performance because I know the recording has already introduced its own degrading.

 

However, that being said, I do not believe it is contradictory to say that there are characteristics of instruments that we can  focus on when comparing how the same recording is being  reproduced by different equipment. 

 

At the end of the day, if not one sees this, then fine, no problem. 

 

I understand the argument that the reproduction system can never be "perfect" and introduces different types of distortion. In a way, it's a lose-lose game. But there are some things that we can do, I think to minimize distortion. Salvatore, which I quoted in my first post, talks about it as well. First of all, not all equipment are equal, and there are some interesting ones out there. Second thing is obviously to keep things as simple as possible, and keep the signal path as short as possible. More about this later... 

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1 minute ago, hopkins said:

But there are some things that we can do, I think to minimize distortion.

 

Yes, but (and I apologize for the repetition) - since as I've noted there are multiple unavoidable places in the system where minimizing one form of distortion increases another form, it really must come down to which forms of distortion bother you the most.  And that is where I think what we call "taste" unavoidably comes in.  This is apart from the issue of being able to identify whether quite low levels of distortion are present, whether it was something in the recording, or whether whatever instrument it is really sounds like that.

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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15 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

Question: If you listen to DAC A and it sounds like XYZ, then listen to DAC B and it sounds like ZYX, how do you know which one is more accurate if you don't know which microphone was used for the recording? 

 

 

I think you have implicitely answered this yourself many times already in your product reviews.

 

If I listen to a violin on two different DACs and one sounds closer to "all violins" I have heard, then I don't think I need to know that much about which violin was played and which microphone was used in that specific recording. 

 

Words that all of you regularly use come to mind: micro-detail, transients, etc... I'm not an expert in describing what I hear. 

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5 minutes ago, Jud said:

 

Yes, but (and I apologize for the repetition) - since as I've noted there are multiple unavoidable places in the system where minimizing one form of distortion increases another form, it really must come down to which forms of distortion bother you the most.  And that is where I think what we call "taste" unavoidably comes in.  This is apart from the issue of being able to identify whether quite low levels of distortion are present, whether it was something in the recording, or whether whatever instrument it is really sounds like that.

 

I understand that point. It could come down to finding the right equipment.. Hard to say without having compared all technologies and models! 

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I'm still curious to read your reaction to the Gillian Welch track (I don't know if it's to your taste, but I like it).  I know you understand the point, but there is nothing like an actual demonstration.

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 minutes ago, hopkins said:

If I listen to a violin on two different DACs and one sounds closer to "all violins" I have heard, then I don't think I need to know that much about which violin was played and which microphone was used. 

 

If that's what you believe, I'm totally cool with it. But, suggesting that has anything to do with judging accuracy is preposterous. You're essentially using echoic memory to combine all violins you've heard into one violin sound, and using that as a baseline for accuracy of something that perhaps isn't supposed to sound at all like that amalgam of violins in your head. 

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At least one person (Salvatore) seems to support the same ideas - and he is certainly experienced. I was curious to know how others felt about all this. There have been some interesting points made. Sorry to those I have offended. 

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1 minute ago, Jud said:

I'm still curious to read your reaction to the Gillian Welch track (I don't know if it's to your taste, but I like it).  I know you understand the point, but there is nothing like an actual demonstration.

 

I'll check it out tomorrow and do it honestly!

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1 minute ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

 

If that's what you believe, I'm totally cool with it. But, suggesting that has anything to do with judging accuracy is preposterous. You're essentially using echoic memory to combine all violins you've heard into one violin sound, and using that a baseline for accuracy of something that perhaps isn't supposed to sound at all like that amalgam of violins in your head. 

 

I don't think so, but I realize that I am not able to argument my case very well. I'll think about it some more. 

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1 minute ago, hopkins said:

At least one person (Salvatore) seems to support the same ideas - and he is certainly experienced. I was curious to know how others felt about all this. There have been some interesting points made. Sorry to those I have offended. 

 

It's a very interesting discussion, and because of the level of interest becomes a little heated at times.  But I doubt you have really offended anyone, and I hope none of us has done so to you.

 

By the way - Salvatore is experienced, but he is not uncontroversial! 🙂

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, hopkins said:

At least one person (Salvatore) seems to support the same ideas - and he is certainly experienced.

 

I just read the page to which you linked earlier. I didn't find anything suggesting we could listen to components and judge accuracy. Perhaps I missed that?

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Yes Salvatore is definitely controversial. He is probably less experienced when it comes to digital audio, but that is not really relevant here. He has certainly had his share of online feuds it seems. 

 

To answer Chris, the term "accuracy" is maybe what is missing from his explanations but if you read some of his other chapters (especially his "audio philosophy") you will see that the attributes he looks for (low level detail, absence of "distortion") are really synonym to accuracy, which is basically = reproducing all the information from the source, nothing more, nothing less. 

 

Holding that everything is "subjective" or that there is no possible hierarchy in components (putting aside the obviously defective ones) does have consequences in terms of how we interpret what people say (on forums) and what perhaps we should say ourselves. 

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11 minutes ago, hopkins said:

you will see that the attributes he looks for (low level detail, absence of "distortion") are really synonym to accuracy, which is basically = extracting all the information from the source, nothing more, nothing less. 

 

That's not what I glean from his statements at all. If accuracy was an attribute he looked for, he could've easily just said that. Low level detail has nothing to do with accuracy in and of itself. I can use tons of EQ and still get low level details. The absence of something, in this case distortion, doesn't automatically mean the presence of another tangentially related thing, in this case accuracy. 

 

I'm certainly not holding that everything is subjective all the time. I'm saying that once we get to a certain level of performance, it really comes down to taste. The new Schiit Yggdrasil DACs all measure terrifically. There really isn't anything else objective that's indicative of each model's performance differences. It comes down to which one people like. 

 

I don't think it's possible to listen to the new Yggdrasil LiM and MiL and identify which one is more accurate. I like LiM much better and believe it sounds more accurate but that's not an objective statement. It's my taste. 

 

For example, through MiL, an orchestral piece sounded jumbled. Perhaps the recording sounds that way and the LiM just un-jumbles it. I find that hard to believe though. Other people heard just the opposite from me. 

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1 hour ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

If people think they can judge accuracy of a playback system, then they should be clearly able to identify every instrument on the album, and I mean specific instrument not just guitar, but the model, the drum set and its make up (size of kick drum), the material on the walls of the studio (absorptive, reflective, etc...) the EQ used in mixing and mastering, and everything else involved. 

 

If you can't identify those aspects perfectly, then you can't judge accuracy because you need to know these in order to judge it. 

Unless you’re exaggerating for effect, ya kinda lost me here, Chris.  Anything and everything in the chain from mic element to the final product can and often does diminish the differentiators among instruments etc. So it’s simply not possible to do that for many, if not most, commercial recordings.  Only if the recording is accurate can reproduction be judged for accuracy.

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