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Audio reproduction is a matter of taste?


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This is an age-old topic (well, since the beginning of the high fidelity golden era in the 50s) and has been written about extensively for decades.  It therefore can be instructive to look back, even though lots of it is from what has been described as the "old guard" on this site.  Some of them were very, very astute listeners.

 

JGH at Stereophile and Harry Pearson at TAS really ushered in the era of subjective assessment that is the foundation of subjective assessment of gear used on this site.  They were both dissatisfied when their listening impressions didn't correlate with fully objective (measurements) of the day and started their magazines based on this idea.  "The idea was of reality being the only valid metric when evaluating sound or systems that produce sound. Specifically, the point of your hi-fi was to recreate, as faithfully as possible, the sound of “the live event." The best hi-fi systems would freely cross the uncanny valley; playback would be indistinguishable from the original. Real instruments, played by real people, in real spaces — that was ever the barometer, the reference, and the aim. That was “the absolute sound.”  HP coined the phrase and JGH shared the goal.

 

https://parttimeaudiophile.com/2020/04/08/what-is-the-absolute-sound/

 

The other approaches, historically, have been "faithfulness/reproduction of what is on the recording" and "sound that I like" (the last a trend that increased over the last 20 years or so and that JGH decried, especially when it got into stereophile, Art Dudley being the main proponent, and apparently the majority belief here).

 

Pursuit of the "absolute sound" was also primarily focused on real instruments and real spaces (hi-fi listeners way back were primarily interested in the reproduction of classical music).  Many were also recordists who had the opportunity to compare what they heard at home to the halls.  JGH and JA in particular.  Or gmgraves, who reviews on this site.  Many times these days non-classical music never really exists as sound in a space so can't be judged in the same way. 

 

There was a thread here on the topic when HP died.  There are some nice thoughts from @gmgraves:

 

"Since HP coined the term, he certainly would have known what it meant. Gordon used it too, and his definition was the same as HP's. At the risk of being seen as repetitive, I don't see how it can be defined in any other way."

 

 

I'll stick with the absolute sound approach for me as my goal, especially with classical music and other music recorded with "real instruments in a real space."  If the other approaches make one happy I am fine with that (and their musical tastes might preclude any consideration of "accuracy"), but there are those who will pursue (though never reach) "accuracy," and I think it is a valid approach.

 

For those interested in the history of our hobby and how this road has been trod before:

 

It's the Real Thing!

https://www.stereophile.com/content/its-real-thing

 

The Absolute Sound of What?

https://www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/363/index.html

 

The Acoustical Standard (with follow-up)

https://www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/111

 

The Last Word on Fidelity

https://www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/589awsi/index.html

 

Bill

Labels assigned by CA members: "Cogley's ML sock-puppet," "weaponizer of psychology," "ethically-challenged," "professionally dubious," "machismo," "lover of old westerns," "shill," "expert on ducks and imposters," "Janitor in Chief," "expert in Karate," "ML fanboi or employee," "Alabama Trump supporter with an NRA decal on the windshield of his car," sycophant

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6 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

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. 

I completely agree that a hierarchy cannot necessarily be made between all equipment. In the case above, it is very possible that the 3 models are not that much different. 

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1 minute ago, bluesman said:

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.

 

I was just illustrating my point. 

 

If people claim they can judge accuracy in a recording, then that's impossible without understanding what is supposed to be represented in that recording. Let's take a very simple recording of a solo violinist. It isn't possible to say one's home playback is accurate unless one knows the exact violin, the recording space, the mic position, the exact microphone(s) used, etc... Each of those change the recording.

 

Violin > Neumann U 67 > a bunch of stuff > DAC > amp > speakers > ears

 

vs

 

Violin > Avantone CV-12 > a bunch of stuff > DAC > amp > speakers > ears

 

 

How can you say which one is accurate at home if you don't know which mic was used in the recording? 

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Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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12 minutes ago, Bill Brown said:

This is an age-old topic (well, since the beginning of the high fidelity golden era in the 50s) and has been written about extensively for decades.  It therefore can be instructive to look back, even though lots of it is from what has been described as the "old guard" on this site.  Some of them were very, very astute listeners.

 

JGH at Stereophile and Harry Pearson at TAS really ushered in the era of subjective assessment that is the foundation of subjective assessment of gear used on this site.  They were both dissatisfied when their listening impressions didn't correlate with fully objective (measurements) of the day and started their magazines based on this idea.  "The idea was of reality being the only valid metric when evaluating sound or systems that produce sound. Specifically, the point of your hi-fi was to recreate, as faithfully as possible, the sound of “the live event." The best hi-fi systems would freely cross the uncanny valley; playback would be indistinguishable from the original. Real instruments, played by real people, in real spaces — that was ever the barometer, the reference, and the aim. That was “the absolute sound.”  HP coined the phrase and JGH shared the goal.

 

https://parttimeaudiophile.com/2020/04/08/what-is-the-absolute-sound/

 

The other approaches, historically, have been "faithfulness/reproduction of what is on the recording" and "sound that I like" (the last a trend that increased over the last 20 years or so and that JGH decried, especially when it got into stereophile, Art Dudley being the main proponent, and apparently the majority belief here).

 

Pursuit of the "absolute sound" was also primarily focused on real instruments and real spaces (hi-fi listeners way back were primarily interested in the reproduction of classical music).  Many were also recordists who had the opportunity to compare what they heard at home to the halls.  JGH in particular.  Or gmgraves, who reviews on this site.  Many times these days non-classical music never really exists as sound in a space so can't be judged in the same way. 

 

There was a thread here on the topic when HP died.  There are some nice thoughts from @gmgraves:

 

"Since HP coined the term, he certainly would have known what it meant. Gordon used it too, and his definition was the same as HP's. At the risk of being seen as repetitive, I don't see how it can be defined in any other way."

 

 

I'll stick with the absolute sound approach for me as my goal, especially with classical music and other music recorded with "real instruments in a real space."  If the other approaches make one happy I am fine with that (and their musical tastes might preclude any consideration of "accuracy"), but there are those who will pursue (though never reach) "accuracy," and I think it is a valid approach.

 

For those interested in the history of our hobby and how this road has been trod before:

 

It's the Real Thing!

https://www.stereophile.com/content/its-real-thing

 

The Absolute Sound of What?

https://www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/363/index.html

 

The Acoustical Standard (with follow-up)

https://www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/111

 

The Last Word on Fidelity

https://www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/589awsi/index.html

 

Bill

 

Thanks for the post. I value historical perspectives whether or not I agree with the authors of those perspectives. 

 

Thanks Bill. 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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2 minutes ago, JoeWhip said:

Hopkins, please stop calling people here with different opinions than you on this subject dishonest. You also made similar assertions against Schiit for having three flavors of Yggy. 

 

I should have said "inconsistent"? 

I did exaggerate saying they were scamming their customers. 

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3 minutes ago, JoeWhip said:

I will have the LIM on Friday and will be doing a ton of listening. I doubt that Schiit is scamming their customers. They are telling you exactly what they are doing with the three dacs. Scamming is taking an Oppo Blu ray player and putting it in a fancy box and tripling the price without telling the customer.

Agreed

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1 hour ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

 

Thanks for the post. I value historical perspectives whether or not I agree with the authors of those perspectives. 

 

Thanks Bill. 

 

Which would appear to suggest that you value those historical perspectives with which you agree more than those with which you don't. 🙂

"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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5 minutes ago, Allan F said:

 

Which would appear to suggest that you value those historical perspectives with which you agree more than those with which you don't. 🙂

 

Don't we all? 👺

Sometimes it's like someone took a knife, baby
Edgy and dull and cut a six inch valley
Through the middle of my skull

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5 minutes ago, Allan F said:

 

Which would appear to suggest that you value those historical perspectives with which you agree more than those with which you don't. 🙂


Huh?

 

I really like history and the views of those who think differently than I do. The only way to learn and even strengthen one’s perspective is to understand that of others. 

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9 minutes ago, Allan F said:

 

Which would appear to suggest that you value those historical perspectives with which you agree more than those with which you don't. 🙂

 

4 minutes ago, kumakuma said:

 

Don't we all? 👺

 

3 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:


Huh?

 

I really like history and the views of those who think differently than I do. The only way to learn and even strengthen one’s perspective is to understand that of others. 

 

Being exposed to historical perspectives different from our own of which we were unaware may have the opposite effect of challenging or even changing our previously held perspective.

"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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5 minutes ago, Allan F said:

Being exposed to historical perspectives different from our own of which we were unaware may have the opposite effect of challenging or even changing our previously held perspective.


Of course. It depends on the person and the perspective. I like to understand where people are coming from. 

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Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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3 hours ago, hopkins said:

 

I think I have demonstrated at length that you and a number of other people here reviewing audio equipment do care about the "realism" of the reproduction they offer. Let's not go there again... 

 

The topic of this thread concerns whether the quality of audio reproduction can be assessed "objectively" and not whether there is a "purpose" to seeking higher quality audio reproduction. 

 

 

In fact, there is a very straightforward method of evaluating, and purpose, when progressing the standard of a replay setup - making the speakers completely invisible, as in, it is impossible using your hearing to locate the position of your speakers - even when your ears are only inches away from the drivers of one channel. Only a system working at a very high standard can pull this off, because human hearing is extremely sensitive to sound anomalies which "don't fit" - the latter give the game away, which is why essentially every normal rig, no matter how expensive, will always fail this test.

 

This literally fell out of the air for me, for my first capable setup, decades ago; and has been the measuring stick ever since - current combo has got pretty close at times, but have not yet achieved this level.

 

If I was standing right next to a set of live instruments going for it, I would have zero clues about the dimensions, and models of the items being used - but I would certainly be aware of whether it was obviously the real thing, versus being the output of a normal hifi, 🙂.

 

 

Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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10 minutes ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

Of course. It depends on the person and the perspective.

 

And, of even greater importance IMO, is keeping an open mind.

"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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3 hours 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.

 

Disagree ... if one has spent some time focused on evolving the standard of a setup, where only the weaknesses of the parts of it are addressed, then it become quite easy to pick the distortions of the playback chain - the more those are removed, the more distinct the techniques used in the recording become clear; the layering of the sound elements, and effects, becomes more obvious.

Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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3 hours 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 as a baseline for accuracy of something that perhaps isn't supposed to sound at all like that amalgam of violins in your head. 

 

I have string quartet CD recording which is serving me right now very nicely with refining my system - if I'm hitting the spot, I get musicians putting their all into an interpretation of Schubert ... if I'm even a tiny bit off the mark, this very same recording is,

 

Squeak, scratch, squawk, ... saw, saw, saw, saw ... squeeeeeal, squeal; scratchy, scratchy, scratch ... and so on ...

 

For some reason, I prefer the first variation of perceived violin sound, 😉.

Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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1 hour ago, Allan F said:

 

And, of even greater importance IMO, is keeping an open mind.

 

I assume this means that you're going to remove Frank from your ignore list... 

Sometimes it's like someone took a knife, baby
Edgy and dull and cut a six inch valley
Through the middle of my skull

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3 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

If people claim they can judge accuracy in a recording, then that's impossible without understanding what is supposed to be represented in that recording.

 

Yes, but if we compare two components in the signal chain its reasonable to say which is the more accurate. For example if I'm listening on YT to Schubert's Octet and one DAC gives me distinct images of the first and second violins and allows me to follow their contributions at will but a second tends to blur those together then I'd say its reasonable to claim the first is more accurate (or more convincing).

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3 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

 

 

If people claim they can judge accuracy in a recording, then that's impossible without understanding what is supposed to be represented in that recording. Let's take a very simple recording of a solo violinist. It isn't possible to say one's home playback is accurate unless one knows the exact violin, the recording space, the mic position, the exact microphone(s) used, etc... Each of those change the recording.

 

Once you have created the recording, what is "supposed to be represented" is completely irrelevant - the end product is all you have to work with, irrespective of what recording and mastering path was used to assemble it. The best you can do, in the first instance, is to perfectly, precisely reproduce the contents of that end point ... now, as a next step, if you wish to editorialise what you hear in some way, to exaggerate or hide some features of it, to make it seem closer to what you believe the artists, etc, wanted you to hear, or what they agreed on when listening over the monitors, there is no reason why you can't then add various bits and pieces to your playback chain, to manipulate what is actually there, to create a "new recording". But you are now another step in the mastering chain, inserting effects, and are creating your own, 'accuracy' ... it's not, the accuracy of the recording ...

 

 

 

Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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4 minutes ago, opus101 said:

 

Yes, but if we compare two components in the signal chain its reasonable to say which is the more accurate. For example if I'm listening on YT to Schubert's Octet and one DAC gives me distinct images of the first and second violins and allows me to follow their contributions at will but a second tends to blur those together then I'd say its reasonable to claim the first is more accurate (or more convincing).


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?

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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