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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
If accuracy of sound reproduction really is the Holy Grail of sound reproduction shouldn't all SOTA equipment from different high end manufacturers sound the same?


We all know it doesn't. Every manufacturer "voices" his/her (are there any her's in this game?) equipment with his/her own ears. Every high-end design has its own "house sound". Why? My assumption is that most high-end companies, especially those run by individual fanatics (Wilson, Rowland, Lamm, original Levinson, BAT, etc.) voice their equipment for accurate reproduction of a live event rather than the "recording". Each individual's interpretation of this accuracy to live music is subjective and therefore different. IMO no amount of objective, scientific testing can capture this faithfulness to live music.


If it were accurate reproduction of the recording, however, then the best specs could be considered the ideal test of accuracy. To me Krell, B&W, Classe', Revel, etc. fall into this category and, to me, also in the category of "sterile sound".


We, as audiophile consumers, simply pick the house sound (colorations?) that we subjectively associate with the real thing; accuracy be damned.


Thoughts?
 

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there is nothing wrong with a photo showing accuracy


there is nothing wrong with pre impressionists paintings showing minute details


there is nothing wrong with impressionists paintings and modern art


music does convey emotions and how one reacts to is very individual
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by MAK
If it were accurate reproduction of the recording, however, then the best specs could be considered the ideal test of accuracy. To me Krell, B&W, Classe', Revel, etc. fall into this category and, to me, also in the category of "sterile sound".
MAK,


The fact that products from different high-end manufacturers sound different shows that nobody

is 100% accurate.


Additionally, there's nothing special about the accuracy of a recording as opposed to a live event.

In fact - 100% accuracy for the recording may be impossible due to the "fictitious" ways many

recordings are made.


For example, let's take the fairly typical practice of "close miked" recordings. If the recording

engineer is using a "close miked" technique - they put a microphone next to each instrument

and / or vocalist and dedicate a channel of the digital recorder [ the same as a "track" of an

old tape machine - but there are more of them ] to that intrument or vocalist.


As soon as the sound from the instrument hits the mike; which is a very short time after the

sound is played due to the close proximity of the mike to the instrument; the sound is changed

to an electrical signal. From then on - it travels at a speed that is a fairly significant fraction of

the speed of light. [ The signal velocity in normal copper wire is about 40% of the speed of

light].


Because the signal is now travelling so fast - all the delays that should be in the music are

suppressed. If you go to the symphony; the typmani is typically in the back - while a first violin

is out front. If the violinist and percussionist sound their instruments at exactly the same time;

you will hear the violin first, then the tympani - because the violin is closer to you. The delay

should be about 1 millisecond for every foot the tympani is farther away than the violin.


If you close mike the orchestra - so that the violin and the tympani have their own mikes - then

since the sound signal starts travelling near the speed of light after it hits the mikes - the delay

between the violin and the tympani - as recorded - will be about a nanosecond per foot of

distance between violin and tympani. Therefore the delay will be one-millionth of what it really

should be - or essentially nonexistant.


But your ears / brain use those delays to determine distance! So it affects the "soundstage".


Add to this all the other things that the recording engineers do to recordings in the course

of mixing them down to the stereo mix that is put on your record or CD - and you'll see that

the whole recording process may be artificial.


So there's nothing "pristine" about recordings vis-a-vis live events.


I'm not knocking recording engineers - they are trying to give us a better musical experience

given the realities of the whole recording process.


Of course live events fare no better. When you attend a live event, you're not listening to the

artist; you are typically listening to the venue's sound system. Only if you are in a rather small

club, or at the symphony - which needs no amplification - will you hear the "real thing" Of

course, you have to be in the "best seat in the house".


I'm just trying to disavow you of the notion that there is anything "pristine", "special" or "holy"

about recordings. There isn't. They are just as imperfect as anything else.
 

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Yes accuracy is the Holy Grail, and there are two ways to look at this.


It depends on what you listen to. If you are a normal person...Everything you're every going to listen to via your stereo system has had it's sound affected by a human being. That human being/beings chose mics, wires, distances, media, volume, bit rate, tape brand.....If that person continues to affect the sound (and usually make it better) he will stop screwing with it when he's got it as good as he thinks it's going to get (or close, unless he's not being paid enough, or doesn't like you, or his job, or has had too much to drink.) In this situation, the best thing you can do is to have your setup simillar to his setup (assuming he maximized the material for his setup.)


If however the engineer maximized his setup for what he thinks most people are going to have in their houses.....Then you have to play the game of matching your system to be close to what you think they maximized the material for.


2. You can also play the objectivist and do you part of the equation the best you can, getting your stereo equal to what they hand you in media, and if it doesn't sound good, it's their fault for not optimizing their mix for the very rare experience of really hi-fi equipment. And if you go this route, you can eq to make believe you had a similar setup to theirs (or make it sound better.)


Either way, unless you are making and recording your own music, your system is not going to kick maximum ass with engineered, eq'd and maximized to sound good on normal stereo'd sources. Because they didn't design it to sound best for you (emphasized highs and lows I would imagine would be the normal eq'ing that an engineer would do.).


So yes, accuracy really is the holy grail, it's just your choice whether you want to be accurate to what they hand you, or accurate to what they heard when they decided to call it a night and have the CD made. Given these two choices, it's best to have ultimate accuracy to what they hand you (0 distortion, 0 phase anomalies, 0 frequency response error, perfect waterfall plots with speakers that have infinite stiffness, as close to 0 mass as possible, are perfectly linear across their range, no echos in your listening room.....) Unfortunately, measuring flat sounds like crap (there is not enough bass, and if you like to hear your performance with some depth, instead of in the room with you, too much highs.)


So now you have to define whether you'd rather be accurate or happy.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Excellence
Because they didn't design it to sound best for you (emphasized highs and lows I would imagine would be the normal eq'ing that an engineer would do.)
Excellence,


You've raised another good point - as I've discovered recently.


My guitar instructor is in the final phase of mixing down the recordings of his music group.

He's been instructing me on some of the finer points of being your own recording engineer,

and what professional engineers do.


He listens to the "mix" on your typical "boom box". If there's too much bass in the mix; while it

may sound great on a nice sound systems [ like the one Excellence has ], it may overload a

boombox. So he has to equalize down the bass for the benefit of those customers that are

listening on boomboxes.


So the high-end audiophile in essence gets "short changed" by the necessity of mixing the

recording for those other customers that are listening on cheap equipment. C'est la vie.
 

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A better question is from where should the "house sound" come from. Electronics are not necessarily the best place to voice a sound system. As it stands, one can buy an amp or a CD player for $1K that is for most speakers as accurate as the ear can discern. However, speaker design is an exercise on compromise, so house sound becomes relevant. Now as to the euphonics added by tubes and SE equipment, an electronically more reliable method, and financially more viable option would be to address this at a digital level.


However, I think the prejudices of the high end market preclude the above approach. One point that should be made is that some reviewers totally dismiss electronic engineers/designers that create a "house sound" as incompetent, but when it happens by design, the statement could not be further from the truth. Said individuals are not only purposely designing equipment with euphonics, but they are achieving certain design parameters that they have identified as euphonically pleasing and worth pursuing (and the following they have provides them with some credibility). (Sadly in high-end audio most reviewers are incompetent at assessing why a product may be special, and they are too quick to validate exhorbitant asking prices).


Raul
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Morbius
He listens to the "mix" on your typical "boom box". If there's too much bass in the mix; while it may sound great on a nice sound systems [ like the one Excellence has ], it may overload a boombox.
I did not realize they were also using that measure for classical music (it certainly explains some recordings) :( :mad:
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I was hoping you would chime in Morbius. BTW I have learnt a lot from reading your posts over time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Morbius
I'm not knocking recording engineers - they are trying to give us a better musical experience

given the realities of the whole recording process.


I'm just trying to disavow you of the notion that there is anything "pristine", "special" or "holy"

about recordings. There isn't. They are just as imperfect as anything else.
There isn't; I totally agree.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Morbius
The fact that products from different high-end manufacturers sound different shows that nobody is 100% accurate.
I hold a different opinion on this point. IMO generally highend manufacturers, like the examples I gave in my original post, are not aiming for this 100% accuracy, which necessarily has to be to the recording they are trying to reproduce. Most manufacturers like Wilson and Von Schweikert tune their speakers by ear. What are they listening for? Accuracy to the recording? IMO, no. They are listening for: does that string instrument sound like the real thing, are the piano notes realistic, etc.


And if the goal isn't accuracy to the the recording, but to make it "sound" like the real thing then why care about specs. I do realize that specs are necessary "initially" to design the cabinets, drivers, crossovers, etc., but final tuning has got nothing to do with specs. It is, and IMO always should be, by ear.


The end product is the result of both science (objective) and art (subjective). So no amount of objective measurement can tell you how a speaker will sound.
 

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Hi


It is a physical impossibility to perfectly reproduce the sound of the real event in your room. Be it music or HT. A reasonable fac-simile is what we should aim for. A live symphony orchestra in anyone living room, is a sure prescription for total loss of hearing after just a handful of audition. As much as a photograph can be a very accurate representation of an event, it is not the event. Different photographers will, for example, chose different angles to show the same event on film. Same with real Hi-End designers. They take a different viewpoint, a different route if you will, to try to capture the musical event. The best ones often arrive at a harmonious blend.


Greg


Despite the close-mike process, some engineers arrive to re-create a believable ersatz of the real sound field. They add some delay, artificial reverbs and have a whole bag of trick to recreate a considerable amount of success.
 

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Significant, in what you said, is that all audio engineering involves compromise and the specific trade-offs that each designer chooses are what determine the characteristics of that model and brand. Consumers have preferences, as well, and these may be based on truly coherent determinations.


However, there are competent designers who intentionally design for a particular "house" sound and there are competent designers who aim to be as neutral as possible. There are, of course, others who are committed to a "house" sound due to limited intellectual and/or physical resources.


Kal
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by FrantzM
Greg


Despite the close-mike process, some engineers arrive to re-create a believable ersatz of the real sound field. They add some delay, artificial reverbs and have a whole bag of trick to recreate a considerable amount of success.
Frantz,


Or they use "minimal miking" techniques - which is what I prefer - using just a few mikes out in

the "audience". Of course, for that you have to use a real performance hall instead of a studio.

[ You let the performance hall do the "mixing" for you.]


One of my favorite recording labels that uses that technique [ Dorian ] is in receivership. :(
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Kal, thanks for saying what I wanted to say more cogently.


Further to this point, all I am trying to say is that these house sounds exist because of the differences in subjective interpretations of those who do the final tuning on their products. We just gravitate to the house sound that we associate with the most - the most euphonic to our senses.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by MAK
Kal, thanks for saying what I wanted to say more cogently.


Further to this point, all I am trying to say is that these house sounds exist because of the differences in subjective interpretations of those who do the final tuning on their products. We just gravitate to the house sound that we associate with the most - the most euphonic to our senses.
Actually, I was directly responding to Raul GS's post but we are not far apart. Let me add that the type of music one prefers plays a big role in determining one's biases.


Kal
 

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Personally, I find the majority of all commercial recordings way too bright. Some of them are so bright that they're totally unlistenable.
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rutgar
Personally, I find the majority of all commercial recordings way too bright. Some of them are so bright that they're totally unlistenable.
Mebbe you are listening to the wrong music. :rolleyes:


Kal
 

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Kal,


I saw your article on the new Phase Tech system. Can you tell us whether it sounded accurate or was it too quick a listen (or you are prevented from saying too much)?
 

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I do not believe that the demo they gave informed enough for me to draw any conclusions. The room was huge with a relatively low ceiling and there were too many people directly between me and the speakers. Also, except for one movie scene selection that I knew, the demos were of unfamiliar material. Considering all that, it didn't suck.


Kal
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kal Rubinson
Mebbe you are listening to the wrong music. :rolleyes:


Kal
Well, I listen to all kinds of music. Plus, I don't see what the kind of music has to do with it being a poor mix. I've heard good and bad mixes of all kinds of music. One example of too bright that I can think of is two CD's from Telarc entitled "Spies", and "Spies 2". The first "Spies" is well recorded IMO. But the second one is just way too bright. Some of the saxaphone riffs will just rip your ears off. Even when I've taken Spies 2 to use as a demo in Hi-End showrooms, I've had salespeople say they thought it was too bright as well, even on their showcase systems.
 
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