Why is it always possible to distinguish "real" sound from reproduced sound? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 26 Old 06-18-2013, 06:49 PM - Thread Starter
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Something I've been wondering for a while. No matter how high quality the speakers may be, I've yet to hear any audio reproduction that can effectively fool me into believing the sound is "real". For instance, any time I'm watching a movie in my HT, while I might be quite impressed with authenticity and quality of the audio track....if I hear my dog clunk into something, a DVD falls from my shelf, etc - I instantly know that sound happened in my room. I can be on the other side of the house, and human voices are distinguishable from recorded voices 100% of the time.

So....why is that? It occurs to me that recorded sound is a one dimensional representation of a 3 dimensional phenomena - even if our ears only capture in one dimension, they're still immersed in a 3 dimensional sound field. Does that have anything to do with it?

Are traditional microphones and speakers just not up to the task of fully capturing and reproducing sound, to the point where it can completely fool us? Will we need a complete paradigm shift in technology in order to bridge that gap, and is there any fundamentally new technology on the horizon that might be able to do it?

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post #2 of 26 Old 06-18-2013, 09:12 PM
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This is something I have considered before, but one element I think gets in the way of sound reproduction. It seems to me (yes an opinion) that some don't want to have what you might call accurate sound reproduction. Some people prefer what you might call a "warm" sound, and they might go about that by, say, purchasing a tube amp to enhance this effect. Some might like to have deep bass enhanced (by intentionally turning up the gain on their subwoofer, for example) or exaggerated over other frequencies. Some may prefer a speaker that enhances or "un-enhances" various frequencies across the audible spectrum.

This is also a matter of mastering on records or cd's. The mastering engineer can make changes to a disc or record that changes what the producer and recording artist deliver on the master tape.

I suppose the point I am making is that there are all kinds of factors involved along the "chain", so to speak, that maybe go beyond how the music is captured, but how the music is delivered to the listener, and their own personal preferences.
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post #3 of 26 Old 06-19-2013, 07:22 AM
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We're very adept at distinguishing real sounds from reproduced one. We've built up a reference memory of sounds, over our entire life, ..and transducers, attempting to recreate these acoustic event really do a poor job at realistically illuminating the room's environment, in a similar manner in which real sound occurrences do.


Also, our systems can never do any better than the source material we feed them. Most recordings are enjoyable, but realistic? The pan-pot imaging offers a high level of control, but only the best attempts with minimalist mic techniques begin to capture an event correctly.


Then there's the loudspeakers, and all the non-linearity that they impart to the process. The best case scenario is a window, listening into the recording event. The manner in which a speaker polar response launches the energy is anything but realistic.


Just the simple limitations of converting electrical energy/impulse into acoustic energy that resembles the actual event. Detail is obscured, no question. Then, LRSE (latent release of stored energy) exposes us to multiple hits of the same impulses, smearing the detail. Open Baffle, and Infinite Baffle help in this regard.



Our boundaries distort the wave launch, walls too close, etc. Another thing, a loudspeaker needs to get out of the way,... just the physical size is often an issue. They need to be small relative to the wavelengths being reproduced. Many of these issues are intertwined, but the physical characteristics and shape interfere and prevent a realistic polar response of the point source.


Also, they need to project their energy uniformly throughout the entire range of the loudspeaker. This reflected energy needs to be spectrally similar to the direct sound. For us to psycho-acoustically accept the playback, these reflections, the reverberant field ... needs to be delayed, or low enough in level to allow the direct energy to be heard... as two distinct events.



Another issue is the way the room's decay characteristics, and treatment needs are so different from one another. The LF needs significant damping, yet the MF/HF needs to be retained to maintain some life sense of envelopment. But many enthusiasts do the opposite, they overly damp the MF/HF, and the LF decay runs wild. Exactly the opposite of what needs to be done.
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post #4 of 26 Old 06-19-2013, 08:21 AM
 
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Originally Posted by bd2003 View Post

No matter how high quality the speakers may be, I've yet to hear any audio reproduction that can effectively fool me into believing the sound is "real".
Try this if you have the means to record, have the system play a recorded dialogue (must be recorded in "anechoic" condition - outside may work) and that same person repeat the same dialogue (ideally at same volume) in the room where the speaker is (mono configuration). Then go outside of the room with the door partially open and listen. Try it and see what you notice. I did that and noticed something interesting.
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post #5 of 26 Old 06-19-2013, 08:22 AM
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I also think one needs to remember that the "exact" sound you hear when something really happens in your house isn't the exact same as the same type of sound on a movie sound track.

If one has a decent mic and a way to record a sound.... then one should come up with some senario in there HT room that creates a certain sound. Listen to how it really sounds. Then play that same sound that you have recorded thru your HT system and see if it sounds the same.

But as the above posters have said there are soooo many things to consider as why things that really happen sound different than things in a movie. Also most of things that happen in nature are in the low end of trebel to the high end of bass and all of the midrange frequencies. In movies and in our HTs we like to over exaggerate things a lot especially the high treble and the low bass.... For instance I have been around many trees falling down, some naturally and some by axe or chainsaw. There is very little rumble and vibration and low frequency from that (not saying there isn't any just not the majority of what the sounds are from a tree falling). However in a movie or on TV when a tree falls there is all this bass and rumbling and vibrations that take place as the tree is falling and especially when it finally hits the ground. I'm not saying I would like this, but I'm not sure that making a speaker or sub that has a flat frequency response is the way to go if we want natural sound. I think for a speaker to sound natural the midrange needs to be much louder than the bass and treble.

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post #6 of 26 Old 06-19-2013, 09:34 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by diomania View Post

Try this if you have the means to record, have the system play a recorded dialogue (must be recorded in "anechoic" condition - outside may work) and that same person repeat the same dialogue (ideally at same volume) in the room where the speaker is (mono configuration). Then go outside of the room with the door partially open and listen. Try it and see what you notice. I did that and noticed something interesting.

I don't have nearly the means to properly do this, so there's no need to worry about coloring my expectations. What did you find?

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post #7 of 26 Old 06-19-2013, 09:43 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by flickhtguru View Post

I also think one needs to remember that the "exact" sound you hear when something really happens in your house isn't the exact same as the same type of sound on a movie sound track.

If one has a decent mic and a way to record a sound.... then one should come up with some senario in there HT room that creates a certain sound. Listen to how it really sounds. Then play that same sound that you have recorded thru your HT system and see if it sounds the same.

But as the above posters have said there are soooo many things to consider as why things that really happen sound different than things in a movie. Also most of things that happen in nature are in the low end of trebel to the high end of bass and all of the midrange frequencies. In movies and in our HTs we like to over exaggerate things a lot especially the high treble and the low bass.... For instance I have been around many trees falling down, some naturally and some by axe or chainsaw. There is very little rumble and vibration and low frequency from that (not saying there isn't any just not the majority of what the sounds are from a tree falling). However in a movie or on TV when a tree falls there is all this bass and rumbling and vibrations that take place as the tree is falling and especially when it finally hits the ground. I'm not saying I would like this, but I'm not sure that making a speaker or sub that has a flat frequency response is the way to go if we want natural sound. I think for a speaker to sound natural the midrange needs to be much louder than the bass and treble.

Well, I'm primarily thinking about a simple sound. Like the opening of a door or putting down a set of keys. Something that could potentially happen in a room. Certainly a speaker has the dynamic range to reproduce it, and the exact frequency of such sounds can vary. So as long as you have reasonably flat frequency response, you'd hope that it would be able to reproduce it to the point where it'd be indistinguishable from that event actually happening in your room....yet it doesn't seem to even come close.

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post #8 of 26 Old 06-19-2013, 10:10 AM
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Good question. I believe it's because your brain knows it's a reproduced sound, and judges it accordingly. Although once in a while, some surround sounds do fool me into believing they're real, like dogs barking in a movie... to which I'll look out my window and see what's going on, only to be fooled. I'm fooled because there are many dog owners on my block and I always hear real dogs barking, so maybe my brain is unable to make the distinction. This only works when the sound is below a certain db because if the speakers emit a loud barking dog noise my brain tells me it's fake as I never hear a barking dog that loud when I'm sitting in my room.

But a good experiment might be to play a recording of a single instrument, say an electric guitar, then have an actual person standing in your room holding an electric guitar. The person will then mimic playing the notes. I wonder if this will fool our brains into thinking the sound is real? As long as you aren't using cheap satellite speakers this experiment may just work... just my theory.
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post #9 of 26 Old 06-19-2013, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by bd2003 View Post

Well, I'm primarily thinking about a simple sound. Like the opening of a door or putting down a set of keys. Something that could potentially happen in a room. Certainly a speaker has the dynamic range to reproduce it, and the exact frequency of such sounds can vary. So as long as you have reasonably flat frequency response, you'd hope that it would be able to reproduce it to the point where it'd be indistinguishable from that event actually happening in your room....yet it doesn't seem to even come close.
Two speakers can never reproduce the sounds come from all around you in real life. Nor can a single microphone pick up all that you would hear with two ears. Knowing this, the goal of commercial production of music and movies is akin to a painting of a scene, not a photograph. It is new "art" not attempting to duplicate the live event/sounds. Multi-channel is very helpful in this regard.

The other factor is that the speaker has colorations. +- 3 dB in room performance would be superb (and rarely achieved) but way, way higher than threshold of coloration which can be ~0.5 dB (for broad resonances). Many speakers can't even attain such targets in anechoic chambers let alone real rooms.

Fortunately as I think has been mentioned, the brain doesn't literally translate what it hears. It draws upon all of our life experiences and latches into a version of reality even in the face of poorer fidelity in room. The sound of the keys will sound like the keys although maybe not "the" key that you may be comparing it to. So we get to enjoy that painting, even though it is not "real." smile.gif

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post #10 of 26 Old 06-19-2013, 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by bd2003 View Post

Something I've been wondering for a while. No matter how high quality the speakers may be, I've yet to hear any audio reproduction that can effectively fool me into believing the sound is "real".

Several reasons, including you may be wrong at least some of the time because you may not have heard every possible permutation of room and recording.

(1) Most recordings end up with two sets of echoes due to room reverberation embedded in them at your ears. One from the room in which the recordings is made, one from from room that it is played in. Usually they are vastly different rooms.

(2) So, if you make a recording in an anechoic chamber and play it in a regular room you will hear only reverb from the room you play the recording in, which is usually very dissimilar from a room you would be likely to hear the recording played in live. It will usually be pretty strange.

(3) Our ears are designed to remove or reduce some of the effects of the acoustics of the room we listen to music or other sounds in, but this works better in small rooms than large rooms.
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post #11 of 26 Old 06-19-2013, 12:04 PM
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Originally Posted by bd2003 View Post

No matter how high quality the speakers may be, I've yet to hear any audio reproduction that can effectively fool me into believing the sound is "real". For instance, any time I'm watching a movie in my HT, while I might be quite impressed with authenticity and quality of the audio track....if I hear my dog clunk into something, a DVD falls from my shelf, etc - I instantly know that sound happened in my room.

The difference is the acoustics of your room. But it's definitely possible to have reproduced sound be indistinguishable from a live event. If you record a guitar amplifier with the microphone very close, then play that through a loudspeaker, what comes from the loudspeaker will sound like it's the original guitar amplifier. I once recorded a small hand drum in my large home recording studio. First I recorded it from several feet away, and when played back it sounded like a recording. I moved the microphone to about two feet away, and it sounded much more like the drum was where the speaker was. When I put the microphone right next to the drum, played back it sounded exactly like the drum was where the speaker was.

Most music is recorded with a mix of close and far microphones. Then reverb and other ambience effects are added, unless it's an orchestra recording where the distant microphones picked up sufficient reverb. In this case, the best way to reproduce such a source is in a room free from reflections. That will get you closest to hearing what the microphones picked up.

I have notes for an article about this I plan to write when I get around to it. In the mean time, this is a first attempt at a live demo:

Recorded Realism

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post #12 of 26 Old 06-19-2013, 01:50 PM
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Originally Posted by bd2003 View Post

Certainly a speaker has the dynamic range to reproduce it, and the exact frequency of such sounds can vary. So as long as you have reasonably flat frequency response, you'd hope that it would be able to reproduce it to the point where it'd be indistinguishable from that event actually happening in your room....yet it doesn't seem to even come close.

As I described in my post above, one primary reason is the polar response, the manner in which the sound is imparted to the space ... it's not much like the sounds in real life.


Ethan's guitar cab, close mic'd example works, as it's a speaker as the source,...so the polar response is essentially accurate.


I've sat and pondered this many times, both while mixing very small, intimate shows...where I can hear both the direct acoustic output of vocals, or instruments (drums, acoustic guitars, horns, etc), or when working drum corps events, or even when attending orchestral performances for pleasure.

Brief anecdote;
In my last live orchestral event I attended, I sat up front in this superb live hall. Anyway, the bass drum being struck was spectacular! That modestly sized drum, in that big hall, had a tactile component ... punch! I'd never experienced punch, like that, from live, unamplified acoustic music in a hall. Now, full disclosure it wasn't like anything I experience at home, ... bass wise.

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post #13 of 26 Old 06-19-2013, 03:03 PM
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The late Brian Cheney, of VMPS loudspeakers, used to perform live vs recorded demos at audio tradeshows. Here's a very brief mention of such. Here is a much better illustrated, and longer discussion of these demos.

VMPS is no more, I always drooled at those big monster towers advertised for years back when we read magazines.


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post #14 of 26 Old 06-19-2013, 07:39 PM
 
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I don't have nearly the means to properly do this, so there's no need to worry about coloring my expectations. What did you find?
I found out that I was fooled by reproduced sound.
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post #15 of 26 Old 06-20-2013, 03:48 AM
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Ethan's guitar cab, close mic'd example works, as it's a speaker as the source,...so the polar response is essentially accurate.

When you close mic anything including an electronic instrument's loudspeaker, you are essentially bypassing the the directionality or polar response of that loudspeaker. You are still adding the colorations of the on-axis response of the musical instrument amplifier.

Musicians seem to be pretty much universally afflicted with the mistaken idea that they are the best judge of what their instruments sound like in a large performance space. IME they usually have no clue. What they do know which is worth paying attention to is what they want the instrument to sound like in the room. The problem is that there is know way for them to know what the instrument sounds like throughout most of the room.

But a musician who is also a good acoustician seems to be a rare bird.
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post #16 of 26 Old 06-20-2013, 04:03 AM
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I don't have nearly the means to properly do this, so there's no need to worry about coloring my expectations. What did you find?
I found out that I was fooled by reproduced sound.

I've fooled myself and many people with reproduced sound in large rooms.

BTW after about 12 years of doing live sound I've been retired. Interestingly enough the complaint level has increased very significantly since then. No, its not about loudness as I like things loud. The new operators have very little idea what a parametric equalizer is for, and over the past 6 months a lot of the "special sauce" that I painstakingly worked out for the 30-odd channels over those 12 years has sort faded out.

Essentially what happened is that the musicians are adjusting the console with a mixture of outright incompetence and the perception that they know what the room sound is like from what they hear down in the band pit. I'm just as happy to be engaged in other efforts and I admit it gets harder to mix well as the years pile on.

One of the best jobs of fooling I implemented was accomplished using a digital recording of the analog output of a digital pipe organ fed into a carefully tuned large scale sound system. No surprise.

I've also at least temporarily fooled a female vocalist's father into thinking that his daughter was singing but it was a close-miced recording. I have also done it with piano recordings.

IME it is far easier to fool people in larger rooms, and generally very hard to do so in mid-sized rooms. A really small room and near field monitors can almost work like a pair of headphones.

I don't know if the problem with mid sized rooms is the wrong visual cues or something psychoacoustic is going on.
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post #17 of 26 Old 06-21-2013, 07:28 AM
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Musicians seem to be pretty much universally afflicted with the mistaken idea that they are the best judge of what their instruments sound like in a large performance space.

When a good friend of mine was shopping for a new (expensive) cello, he brought five contenders over to my large home studio and we took turns playing and listening, because we know that what the musician hears is far from what the audience hears.
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But a musician who is also a good acoustician seems to be a rare bird.

I'll take that as a compliment. biggrin.gif

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post #18 of 26 Old 06-21-2013, 08:09 AM
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When you close mic anything including an electronic instrument's loudspeaker, you are essentially bypassing the the directionality or polar response of that loudspeaker. You are still adding the colorations of the on-axis response of the musical instrument amplifier.

Musicians seem to be pretty much universally afflicted with the mistaken idea that they are the best judge of what their instruments sound like in a large performance space. IME they usually have no clue. What they do know which is worth paying attention to is what they want the instrument to sound like in the room. The problem is that there is know way for them to know what the instrument sounds like throughout most of the room.

But a musician who is also a good acoustician seems to be a rare bird.


FWIW at least some musicians (e.g., me) have always known that the sound they hear close by the amp/cabinet is not what the audience is hearing (especially bass), and it torments them, making them wish they could be two places at once during sound check. frown.gif
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post #19 of 26 Old 06-22-2013, 10:46 AM
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Last night I was watching a re-run of The Mentalist, which uses the surround speakers more than most TV shows. At one point someone on the show dropped something and they panned the loud crashing sound to the rear right speaker. I looked there to see what my cat knocked over. biggrin.gif It occurred to me this has happened many times before, not only with this particular TV show. So to me this confirms that a loudspeaker can indeed sound like a live event in a room.

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post #20 of 26 Old 06-22-2013, 12:46 PM
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I've never taken the time to investigate, but The Mentalist has some of the finest bass lines, and bass in general, and great overall sound quality.

It's a well executed, well written series. But damn the LF is really tasty. Ethan, with that corner placement of your sub, and your treatment, I'm confident you're aware of what I'm referring to.

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post #21 of 26 Old 06-22-2013, 02:56 PM
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I have about come out of my skin various times while watching movies in my HT, with some foley artist/mix hitting the mark, and making me actually get up and check as to whether someone (or something) is lurking nearby biggrin.gif
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post #22 of 26 Old 06-23-2013, 10:05 AM
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The Mentalist has some of the finest bass lines, and bass in general, and great overall sound quality ... But damn the LF is really tasty. Ethan, with that corner placement of your sub, and your treatment, I'm confident you're aware of what I'm referring to.

Yes, composer Blake Neely is really good, and the overall sound design of the series is excellent. I hear everything perfectly in all its glory on my HT system. The show itself is very funny and entertaining too!

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post #23 of 26 Old 07-10-2013, 09:13 AM
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FWIW, I had the chance of attending a SHV showcase of NHK. They had a 22.2 system reproducing an organ concert - a huge organ - from a church. It did look, sound and feel like the real thing to me, with all that many echoes. However, every organ/church is different and I didn't experience that particular one myself - and not that I would be keen on setting up 24spks in my home, I'm allready happy to come somewhat close to sort of a real thing wink.gif
And btw - if yo system reproduces a 'wet' sound atmosphere and your room is a rather 'dry' sound in real, real sounds will always instantly be distinguishable, no matter how many speakers...i think.
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post #24 of 26 Old 07-14-2013, 09:17 PM
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Please tell me what happened in this night.
It's like the cat inside the box.
 
Please tell me what happened in this night.
You don't know if the cat in the box is dead or alive.
 
Please tell me what happened in this night.
The cat in the box was dead.
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post #25 of 26 Old 07-20-2013, 01:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fotto View Post

I have about come out of my skin various times while watching movies in my HT, with some foley artist/mix hitting the mark, and making me actually get up and check as to whether someone (or something) is lurking nearby biggrin.gif

For others Floyd did a great job dialing in his room with fact based measurements and placement of his acoustic treatments, here is his thread
http://www.avsforum.com/t/1374014/room-measurement-treatment
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post #26 of 26 Old 07-22-2013, 04:52 AM
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:)I admire Your opinion - my experience does proof to many what You'we said and even more . If anybody like to see conclusions of my 40 years of experimenting please look to my web page "Michal Czabajski D.I.Y. Non fatigue sound system" To make You more interesed I would like to state that of many ways to descreen reality from fatiguing fancy sound I found the best just to compare material in range of main hearing range - it means no more than 80 - 8000 Hz between super Hi-Fi columns to simple widerange speaker . If the reality is to be heard with material in full range ]the HiFi should sound just as widerange. All support for that statement is in my page.
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