What is a Good Book on High End Audio? - Page 4 - AVS Forum
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post #91 of 235 Old 10-16-2013, 09:13 AM
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Originally Posted by grigorianvlad View Post

So far I can see that his mysticism is much more restrained than mine smile.gif

There are a few things in the book that I had no idea about. For example I thought that pre-amplifiers are simply switches of some sort, having no impact on signal quality. I thought they just switch audio signal from one input device to another output device and that is it. Turns out not to be the case. The book tells me I was wrong.

Not entirely wrong. There are passive preamps that do not have a gain stage. They are indeed switchboxes with a volume control. Most preamps, however, do have a gain stage to drive amplifiers properly and some have phono stages.
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Also, I wanted to know why super high end pre-amps like MBLs dont have tone controls. That is explained in the book as well. Indeed, when I got some studio master quality recordings (24bit 192kHz), even on my low end equipment bass and treble became simply useless. There was no need to adjust anything. The original studio recording (better than 16bit 44.1kHz mass market audio CD) was very life like. Nothing to add to the sound or take away to make it better.
Mysticism again? Call it what you will.

Audiophiles have disdain for tone controls because they consider any signal processing to be negative. We've learned, however, that signal processing can be very positive indeed. Room calibration features in AV receivers are a good example. Instead of using tone controls, they prefer to use tube components and their belief in signal altering cables.
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But other things (like this biwiring business) I dont understand. But we covered that at length above. So, I will accept that it is pointless and move on.

Thank you.

Correct. Biwiring accomplishes nothing audible.
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post #92 of 235 Old 10-16-2013, 09:17 AM - Thread Starter
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But you were right, basically. The book is steering you wrong.
Incorrectly, I'm sure. The reason high-end preamps don't have tone controls is because "low-end" gear does have tone controls, and the high-end makers have to do something to distinguish their products from much cheaper ones that sound the same.

I told you this book would make you stupid. It's working. frown.gif

Thank you for the observation, Mcnarus. I gotta keep track of my IQ declining with every chapter finished. There aren't that many chapters, so hopefully I will still be capable of taking the last measurement. biggrin.gif
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post #93 of 235 Old 10-16-2013, 09:17 AM
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That was a great suggestion, Andyc56! I understand the sarcasm (all in good fun!), but I actually subscribed to The Absolute Sound. $12.95 isn't that much. Can't wait for the first one to arrive. Keep'em coming!

If it is entertaining, then it is certainly worth the price. I just would suggest you not take any equipment recommendations from it. I used to enjoy reading Stereophile, mostly because it was well written. They had a young reviewer (I forgot his name) that was very talented and always worth reading. He moved on to bigger and better things and so did I.
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post #94 of 235 Old 10-16-2013, 09:46 AM
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Not entirely wrong. There are passive preamps that do not have a gain stage. They are indeed switchboxes with a volume control. Most preamps, however, do have a gain stage to drive amplifiers properly and some have phono stages.
True, but Harley's implication (and Vlad's apparent take-away) is that these things affect "signal quality." (Vlad's term.) Phono stage excepted, they don't, barring truly incompetent engineering—which is only possible at the high end of the market.

If you can't explain how it works, you can't say it doesn't.—The High-End Creed

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post #95 of 235 Old 10-16-2013, 11:13 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

True, but Harley's implication (and Vlad's apparent take-away) is that these things affect "signal quality." (Vlad's term.) Phono stage excepted, they don't, barring truly incompetent engineering—which is only possible at the high end of the market.

I think what the book implies (and I might have inferred it incorrectly) is that a true audiophile wouldn't need to mess with tone control. If source is good enough and the rest of the equipment of high quality tone control is a distraction.
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post #96 of 235 Old 10-16-2013, 11:21 AM
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Originally Posted by grigorianvlad View Post

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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

True, but Harley's implication (and Vlad's apparent take-away) is that these things affect "signal quality." (Vlad's term.) Phono stage excepted, they don't, barring truly incompetent engineering—which is only possible at the high end of the market.

I think what the book implies (and I might have inferred it incorrectly) is that a true audiophile wouldn't need to mess with tone control. If source is good enough and the rest of the equipment of high quality tone control is a distraction.

Audiophiles shouldn't see how things are mastered I suppose, but then that's part of audiophoolery as well....fooling yourself about how that recording came about in the first place.

"I realize that somebody playing free music isn't as commercial as a hamburger stand. But is it because you can eat a hamburger and hold it in your hand and you can't do that with music? Is it too free to control?" - Don Van Vliet (aka Captain Beefheart) discussing commercial success in the music biz


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post #97 of 235 Old 10-16-2013, 11:34 AM
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I think what the book implies (and I might have inferred it incorrectly) is that a true audiophile wouldn't need to mess with tone control. If source is good enough and the rest of the equipment of high quality tone control is a distraction.
That sounds like something Harley might say. (I'm surprised he doesn't say that the mere presence of tone controls degrades the signal.) But it's a value judgment, not a fact, and presumes that his values are right for everybody. Why shouldn't audiophiles want tone controls available to them—to compensate for the occasional bad recording, for example?

Modern AVRs have taken tone controls to the extreme, of course, in the form of digital equalization for room correction and bass management, both of which demonstrably improve the quality of the sound you hear. Harley insists on some sort of purity of the circuit which prevents his sort of audiophile from enjoying these benefits.

If you can't explain how it works, you can't say it doesn't.—The High-End Creed

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post #98 of 235 Old 10-16-2013, 01:15 PM - Thread Starter
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Here is another part I am struggling with. What it says is that larger speaker enclosures are worse than smaller ones. I understand that this may be true if we put woofers from a Blows speaker into a McIntosh XRT2K enclosure. But larger and higher quality speakers have appropriate crossovers and their enclosures are designed and tested for higher rigidity.
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Two high-quality drivers are much better than four mediocre ones. Further, the larger the cabinet, the more difficult and expensive it is to make it free from vibrations that degrade the sound. The four-way speaker’s more extensive crossover will require more parts; the two-way can use just a few higher-quality crossover parts. The large loudspeaker will probably be unlistenable; the small two-way may be superbly musical.

Also, I think McIntoshes forty tweeters, sixty-four midrange and six woofers (residing in each speaker) will produce a better sound for 3 reasons:

1) Better quality drivers
2) No hot spots (almost) - a listener seating close will hear the same sound as one far back
3) Each type of drivers (lets say 64 midrange drivers) splits and produces its respective part of the signal in parallel, reducing the load on other midrange drivers and producing a cleaner sound.
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post #99 of 235 Old 10-16-2013, 01:27 PM
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Note the use of "probably" and "may", which are conditional statements, whereas your statement makes it definitive ("What it says is that larger speaker enclosures are worse than smaller ones"). So its just poor reading comprehension in this case.

"I realize that somebody playing free music isn't as commercial as a hamburger stand. But is it because you can eat a hamburger and hold it in your hand and you can't do that with music? Is it too free to control?" - Don Van Vliet (aka Captain Beefheart) discussing commercial success in the music biz


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post #100 of 235 Old 10-16-2013, 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by grigorianvlad View Post

I think what the book implies (and I might have inferred it incorrectly) is that a true audiophile wouldn't need to mess with tone control. If source is good enough and the rest of the equipment of high quality tone control is a distraction.

The audiophile has no control over the source. The source material is burned into a plastic disc or downloaded from a web site or pressed into vinyl. The use of tone controls is completely subjective. Those who like them can use them and those who do not don't have to use them. Their presence in a preamp doesn't affect anything if they are left at neutral.
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post #101 of 235 Old 10-16-2013, 01:42 PM
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Originally Posted by grigorianvlad View Post

Here is another part I am struggling with. What it says is that larger speaker enclosures are worse than smaller ones. I understand that this may be true if we put woofers from a Blows speaker into a McIntosh XRT2K enclosure. But larger and higher quality speakers have appropriate crossovers and their enclosures are designed and tested for higher rigidity.
Also, I think McIntoshes forty tweeters, sixty-four midrange and six woofers (residing in each speaker) will produce a better sound for 3 reasons:

1) Better quality drivers
2) No hot spots (almost) - a listener seating close will hear the same sound as one far back
3) Each type of drivers (lets say 64 midrange drivers) splits and produces its respective part of the signal in parallel, reducing the load on other midrange drivers and producing a cleaner sound.

What larger enclosures do is allow woofers to go lower in frequency. Whether that is good for the sound of the speaker or not depends on many things in addition to the enclosure. Generally, it is easier to design a speaker system when there are no limitations on enclosure size. My father's system had 8 15" woofer drivers (4 per side) in an infinite baffle. They were installed in a rock covered concrete wall that vented to the outdoors so there were no back waves at all within the house. That's about as clean as you can get. That is an infinitely large "enclosure."

I've never heard the Macintosh speakers to which you refer so I can't comment. I would assume they sound great because the designer that handles Mac speakers is a legend. Not only are the drivers important but so are the enclosures and the crossovers. Many designers would say that the crossover is actually the most critical element. As an example, Pioneer has a very cheap line of speakers designed by Andrew Jones. They are flimsy and made from inexpensive materials but they sound pretty good. The reason is the overall design and integration of all the elements of the system, not the elements themselves.

The last element, of course, is the room. For any given room, some speakers are better than others and there is no way to know which is better without installing them and listening.
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post #102 of 235 Old 10-16-2013, 01:43 PM
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Here is another part I am struggling with. What it says is that larger speaker enclosures are worse than smaller ones. I understand that this may be true if we put woofers from a Blows speaker into a McIntosh XRT2K enclosure. But larger and higher quality speakers have appropriate crossovers and their enclosures are designed and tested for higher rigidity.
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Two high-quality drivers are much better than four mediocre ones. Further, the larger the cabinet, the more difficult and expensive it is to make it free from vibrations that degrade the sound. The four-way speaker’s more extensive crossover will require more parts; the two-way can use just a few higher-quality crossover parts. The large loudspeaker will probably be unlistenable; the small two-way may be superbly musical.
Harley couldn't construct a "telephone" out of two tin cans and a string, let alone a loudspeaker. He doesn't know what he's talking about. You can't make generalized statements like, "larger speaker enclosures are worse than smaller ones," because all design choices entail tradeoffs, and everything depends on how well the designer juggles those tradeoffs. There are plenty of large 3-ways out there that measure and sound better than plenty of small 2-ways. Also, fewer, "better" components doesn't necessarily make a better crossover. There are plenty of good, complex crossovers out there, too.

Basic rule: If Harley's book isn't clear, it's because he doesn't know what he's talking about.

If you can't explain how it works, you can't say it doesn't.—The High-End Creed

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post #103 of 235 Old 10-16-2013, 07:14 PM
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Originally Posted by grigorianvlad View Post

I think what the book implies (and I might have inferred it incorrectly) is that a true audiophile wouldn't need to mess with tone control. If source is good enough and the rest of the equipment of high quality tone control is a distraction.

There are many examples of audiophiles adjusting various aspects of their sound system to achieve different results. Some "audiophiles" like to (pretend, since properly designed cables don't affect anything) essentially use cables as "tone controls" - to make things "brighter" or "more warm". (and go about other voodoo stuff) Some go about real improvements such as adjusting placement of speakers, and room treatments, or using Audyssey. What makes the tone controls on a pre-pro or AVR something that an "audiophile" can't touch, but everything else (even imaginary stuff) is fair game?
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post #104 of 235 Old 10-16-2013, 07:32 PM - Thread Starter
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Some "audiophiles" like to (pretend, since properly designed cables don't affect anything) essentially use cables as "tone controls" - to make things "brighter" or "more warm".

Yes, this is exactly what is mentioned in the book. He doesn't suggest using cables as a tone control substitute , but merely states that some audiophile use them for that purpose with some positive results.
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post #105 of 235 Old 10-16-2013, 07:54 PM
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He doesn't suggest using cables as a tone control substitute , but merely states that some audiophile use them for that purpose with some positive results.
That word "positive"—I do not think it means what he thinks it means.

If you can't explain how it works, you can't say it doesn't.—The High-End Creed

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post #106 of 235 Old 10-16-2013, 08:02 PM
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Yes, this is exactly what is mentioned in the book. He doesn't suggest using cables as a tone control substitute , but merely states that some audiophile use them for that purpose with some positive results.

(rolls eyes at the cable stuff)

The point being that why are the tone controls somehow a verboten topic, yet everything else is fair game?
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post #107 of 235 Old 10-17-2013, 05:16 AM - Thread Starter
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What a beautiful language! Absolut unter Todesstrafe verboten.
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post #108 of 235 Old 10-17-2013, 06:05 AM - Thread Starter
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Its interesting that this book doesnt even mention HDMI connection between a Media Server and an AVR. S/PDIF and USB are covered. But HDMI (that is what I am using) has been around for ages but not even mentioned. Strange.
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post #109 of 235 Old 10-17-2013, 09:53 AM
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Its interesting that this book doesnt even mention HDMI connection between a Media Server and an AVR. S/PDIF and USB are covered. But HDMI (that is what I am using) has been around for ages but not even mentioned. Strange.

Not for as long as the year in which the book was written. HDMI didn't exist in the 1990's.
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post #110 of 235 Old 10-17-2013, 10:04 AM - Thread Starter
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Not for as long as the year in which the book was written. HDMI didn't exist in the 1990's.

Not really
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Copyright © 1994—2010 by Robert Harley
Fourth Edition
First Printing—2010
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post #111 of 235 Old 10-17-2013, 11:43 AM
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What a beautiful language! Absolut unter Todesstrafe verboten.

Cute. Nice that you avoided the question too biggrin.gif
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post #112 of 235 Old 10-17-2013, 12:22 PM - Thread Starter
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Cute. Nice that you avoided the question too biggrin.gif

Sorry, wasnt my intention to avoid the question. Perhaps I didnt understand it. What do you mean by prohibited topic? Who prohibited it? Harley?
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post #113 of 235 Old 10-17-2013, 12:46 PM
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What do you mean by prohibited topic?
The word he used was "verboten," which isn't as strong as "prohibited." I think his point was that Harley disdains tone controls, but has no problem with people using (or trying to use) cables as tone controls. Either messing with frequency balance is OK, or it's not. Harley is being inconsistent about this.

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post #114 of 235 Old 10-17-2013, 12:46 PM - Thread Starter
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Cute. Nice that you avoided the question too biggrin.gif

I re-read your post.
Here is what the book says, verbatim:
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Don’t be surprised to find very expensive preamps with almost no features; they were designed, first and foremost, for the best musical performance. Most high-end preamps don’t even have tone (bass and treble) controls. Not only do tone controls electrically degrade the signal—and thus the musical performance—but the very idea of changing the signal is antithetical to the values of high-end audio. The signal should be reproduced with the least alteration possible. Tone controls are usually unnecessary in a high-quality system.
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post #115 of 235 Old 10-17-2013, 12:57 PM
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Not for as long as the year in which the book was written. HDMI didn't exist in the 1990's.

Not really
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Copyright © 1994—2010 by Robert Harley
Fourth Edition
First Printing—2010

What do you mean not really? HDMI was designed in 2002, production in 2003 (per wikipedia for now but seems about right). Or do you not understand copyright and printing dates?

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post #116 of 235 Old 10-17-2013, 01:04 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mcnarus View Post

The word he used was "verboten," which isn't as strong as "prohibited." I think his point was that Harley disdains tone controls, but has no problem with people using (or trying to use) cables as tone controls. Either messing with frequency balance is OK, or it's not. Harley is being inconsistent about this.

Does "verboten" have a softer meaning in English than its direct German translation (forbidden, prohibited, illegal)? What does it mean then?
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post #117 of 235 Old 10-17-2013, 01:46 PM
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To me verboten is German for forbidden. I don't know why we would use it in an English sentence since we have plenty of English worlds that get the job done.
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post #118 of 235 Old 10-17-2013, 02:28 PM
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I'm late to this thread, below is a easy chart of subjective audio listening terms


Now, have "fun" correlating these to objective measurements.....
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post #119 of 235 Old 10-17-2013, 02:29 PM - Thread Starter
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post #120 of 235 Old 10-17-2013, 02:40 PM
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Grig, can I call you Grig, from what I've read here and considering your newly acquired audio (technobabble) vocabulary, I would suggest a career change. Harley has an opening for a speaker reviewer. But prior to your first interview I strongly suggest you develop the fluent use of the critical term "AIR". Yup, "AIR" is one of the most descriptive words in the speaker reviewer lexicon. In fact I think it has been proven that the more expensive a speaker is, the more "AIR" it has.

In lieu of landing the dream job you might consider reading books without a bent. You know, something factual. Written by someone who doesn't care if you have a pair of Majicos in your dedicated listening room, even if they are tri-wired.

In fact, maybe you could benefit from taking time off from this thread and reading a good book, with your gullible eye closed.

But then I would miss this thread.

With that said, I'll admit to enjoying the four part article last year on Computer Sound in TAS.

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