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Buddha
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A crystalline moment...an audio tabula rasa...a Hi Fi uncarved block...

Hola,

Preamble: When I was young, I used to appreciate, savor, revere, cherish, relish, and revel in those moments where I was unfettered, bewtween obligations...literally with nowhere I needed to be. I knew those halcyon moments would end, kind of like Colonel Kilgore opining the fleeting nature of shooting at Charlie*.

Anyway, while I am pretty much fresh out of those limitless horizon moments, there are snippets of the feeling that can occur in Hi Fi, and here comes one now.

Got a new place to stay during work travel, and I gots an empty space to fill with Hi Fi. Hence, I'm posting this in "Entry Level." (It's about system building.)

I gots philomcsophical questions for y'all.

Starting with a blank slate, no preconceptions, what would you do?

I'm thinking a Lao Tse approach is indicated.

Striving for...

Naturalness, vitality, peace, "non-action" (wu wei - action without action, effortless doing), emptiness (refinement), detachment, the strength of softness (or flexibility), receptiveness, spontaneity, the relativism of life, ways of musical speaking/communication and guiding one's experience.

My wife, a Presbyterian, "follows the Tao" in a fine way. She can find places with very little apriori information - I want to find sound that way.

A proper room that respects the sound is going to be a given (I hope to enlist some of Ethan's products, actually,) but where would you begin after that?

There are some budgetary restraints, too. Also, I'm thinking maybe bringing some spares from home...but I don't want to pre-foil anybody''s great ideas...so, what's your Hi Fi philosophy and how do you/would you pursue it if faced with a suddenly 'uncarved' opportunity?

I'm wanting to learn how y'all think about Hi Fi as well as trying to discover some great gear choices.

Cheers!

__________________________________

* A combined Raising Arizona, Apocalypse Now! reference.

absolutepitch
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Re: A crystalline moment...an audio tabula rasa...a Hi Fi uncarv

Buddha,

Wow, what an opportunity.

Since you (and I, if it were me) already have equipment and experience with it, I would look at what system makes the recordings sound real, just like what I already have but better, and within the constraints if possible. It may be new components completely different from what I already have, or I may wind up going back to the same old familiar stuff because it sounds good and that's why I settled into it in the first place.

Maybe start simple and see if the system is satisfying, and go up in quality/price until you get to where you think the sound should be, and hope you don't break the $$$ barrier.

Sorry, I can't be specific or much more help, because your ears will be different from mine. Also this project can end up differently if you're looking at a start-up system vs. another great system.

bertdw
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Re: A crystalline moment...an audio tabula rasa...a Hi Fi uncarv

If I was in your situation, Buddah, I think I might try to put together something totally different from my other system(s). If my main system consisted of large, multi-way speakers, I might choose Lowthers for my secondary system. If my current speakers had dynamic drivers (cones and domes), I might try planars. If I had powerful, solid-state amplifiers, I might go with single-ended triodes. It would be interesting to see where this dichotomy would lead. Would I try to get these two very different systems to sound similar, or embrace their differences?

I remember an article in Stereophile, quite a while ago, entitled something like "Buy cheap speakers - Have fun!" The main point I took home from it was that since all such speakers sound different, each would let you hear something new and different in all your recordings. Would you want both (or all) of your systems to sound the same? If they were perfect, they likely would. But we can't have perfection, can we?

linden518
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Re: A crystalline moment...an audio tabula rasa...a Hi Fi uncarv

Buddha, I LOVE your thought-provoking questions! You really know how to start a good thread (pass the spliff, yo.) What would we do without your guidance, O wise one?

According to Lao Tzu, wu wei is actually the undoing of the rational, doctrinal knowledge that has accrued throughout mankind's history. So if I may tweak your original statement that you "start with a blank slate" according to wu wei, it's also that you "end with a blank slate": you become overloaded with a lot of ideas, things, doctrines as you live your life, but according to wu wei, you should work TOWARD a blank slate. The end result is to achieve nothingness.

But of course that Taoist call to return to nothingness, to the uncarved blank slate, is realistically impossible. In this sense, I like what Chuang Tzu proposes (he's my fave Taoist philosopher); he gives a more practical bent to the wu wei. He says a fish trap exists because of the fish; once you catch the fish, you can forget the fish trap. Rabbit snare exists for the rabbit; once you catch the rabbit, you can forget the rabbit snare. And he says Words exist because of meaning; once you get the meaning, you can forget the words. (Interestingly enough, Wittgenstein says almost as much in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, about throwing away "the ladder" - words & propositions - once the meaning is attained.)

This dovetails perfectly into what a lot of us are trying to achieve with our music systems, right? Sometimes, we know too much or strive to know too much about how things work. And the more we find out, our gears start accumulating, and we start tweaking this, tweaking that, and our audio racks start looking like industrial waste dump zones. So much clutter. This happens because as we gain in sophistication - learning what equipments work better vs others - we naturally start wanting more. And we forget that the fish trap exists only for the fish. That words exist only for the meaning. Similarly, our equipment exists only for the service of music. Once we attain the music, we have to throw away our attachment to our gear, I think. But often, we forget that our equipments are merely instrumental tools to get music, and the "tool" becomes larger than the "meaning". Lao Tzu warns against this, saying that "the uncarved block is but a freedom from desire."

So I think Taoism can apply to audio, too. Working toward a kind of nothingness, a 'stillness', as Lao Tzu calls it, detached from purposive desires. Less is more definitely applies here, and I think in that sense, I guess I'd like to work towards being an audio-Taoist. I'm a pretty strong believer in quality integrated amps, for example. I'm all for giving up some degree of control or finesse for less clutter, one less interconnecting part. At some point, I have to remind myself to stop trying too hard, to leave good enough alone. Which is tough for me to do b/c I can too often be a pretty driven, obsessive bastard. But I think we would all be better served if we can remember to listen to music, and not to the sound of our machines. To the meaning, and not its tool.

Jan Vigne
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Re: A crystalline moment...an audio tabula rasa...a Hi Fi uncarv

Buy a Tivoli table radio and explore the purity.

judicata
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Re: A crystalline moment...an audio tabula rasa...a Hi Fi uncarv

Ah, this reminds me of one of my favorite cinematic moments. The movie Castaway ends with Tom Hanks, after losing everything he had (his entire life, really), at a crossroad (figuratively and literaly), and may go any direction he chooses without any baggage.

You could go minimalist and see what you could build using only Craigslist and garage sales...

RGibran
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Re: A crystalline moment...an audio tabula rasa...a Hi Fi uncarv

For me, logistics would dictate a music server front end. I would want a good portion of my collection at my fingertips without the hassle of lugging it from location to location. Not to mention the wife threatening my life if I take the new CD!

Businessman already has a laptop with fairly large drive. USB outboard drive no problem either. Add dBpoweramp for ripping and all your file format needs and a Transporter, and that takes care of THAT! A state of the art digital front end that has additional digital inputs and can be connected directly to a power amp or powered speakers for additional system simplicity. Don

ethanwiner
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Re: A crystalline moment...an audio tabula rasa...a Hi Fi uncarv


Quote:
Starting with a blank slate, no preconceptions, what would you do?


Easy. Stereo, yes?

Get a pair of Mackie HR824 powered loudspeakers, an inexpensive consumer receiver, any CD player, and blow the rest on room treatments. State of the art sound for not much cash. If the Mackie 824s are too expensive for this budget, they have a new line that (they claim) sounds similar for less than half the price. But be sure to get the model with the 8-inch woofer. The 5-incher needs a sub and thus is more appropriate for HT surround.

--Ethan

Elk
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Re: A crystalline moment...an audio tabula rasa...a Hi Fi uncarv

Good active monitors offer a lot of sound for the money.

The Mackies do sound decent at n affordable price, but there is no reason for the receiver. Just put a volume control between the CDP and Mackies and one has a decent inexpensive setup.

Don't use a cheap mixer however (such as Behringer's offerings as these thing are shiny sounding monstrosities.)

michaelavorgna
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Re: A crystalline moment...an audio tabula rasa...a Hi Fi uncarv

What a lovely scenario.

I

dbowker
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Re: A crystalline moment...an audio tabula rasa...a Hi Fi uncarv

If I had a situation like that I'd be trying out one of those well-designed all in one solutions from Music Hall, or a nice setup with a Wadia/DAC approach and some defy the physics smallish speakers. You could do a Music Hall Maven Stereo Receiver (built-in DAC) with Wadia music dock and a loaded up ipod (assuming you have one already). Have fun!

rvance
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Re: A crystalline moment...an audio tabula rasa...a Hi Fi uncarv


Quote:
Buddha, I LOVE your thought-provoking questions! You really know how to start a good thread (pass the spliff, yo.) What would we do without your guidance, O wise one?

According to Lao Tzu, wu wei is actually the undoing of the rational, doctrinal knowledge that has accrued throughout mankind's history. So if I may tweak your original statement that you "start with a blank slate" according to wu wei, it's also that you "end with a blank slate": you become overloaded with a lot of ideas, things, doctrines as you live your life, but according to wu wei, you should work TOWARD a blank slate. The end result is to achieve nothingness.

An interesting (to me anyway) correlation is Christ's Sermon On The Mount (a perennial Christian Top Ten hit)where he exhorts "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for their's is the kingdom of heaven." There was a revolutionary subtext to the usual poverty/charity take on this beatitude. Some feel that Christ was referring to the Pharisees who were so filled with their own "spirit" there was no room for God Consciousness to enter their hearts and souls. So Christ was blessing those who were willing to empty themselves of man-made constructs and the self- righteous, counter-spiritual attitudes these foster.

In a similar way, sd, you and Buddha show the wisdom of the empty vessel and how it can facilitate the discovery of musical truth and sonic salvation.

Go with God, ye spiritual warriors!

mrlowry
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Re: A crystalline moment...an audio tabula rasa...a Hi Fi uncarv


Quote:

Striving for...

Naturalness, vitality, peace, "non-action" (wu wei - action without action, effortless doing), emptiness (refinement), detachment, the strength of softness (or flexibility), receptiveness, spontaneity, the relativism of life, ways of musical speaking/communication and guiding one's experience.

Buddha

That is the most eloquent description of the sound of a full range electrostatic speaker that I

KBK
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Re: A crystalline moment...an audio tabula rasa...a Hi Fi uncarv

First, what does the space look like? Now big is it? How acoustically hard or soft, is it? Where and how will you be contexturally supine, bathed in the system's auditory glory - in that moment between waking and sleeping, the eternal moment that brings back that feeling you so desire?

That is the place, space, and context of the system, methinks.

For such an effect to be workable, you'll have to work against the audio norm.

What is that norm?

The norm is to utilize audio gear, cables and speakers that emphasize transients in an effort to create the impression of space.

The opposite of that, is to have gear that translates body and the flush of the body of music in all it's subtle warmth and shifts.

The two are compatible but seldom is it achieved and seldom is it pursued..and only by the most knowledgeable and experienced of audiophiles and designers. The shame is, if given enough time with such a system - we all know it when we hear it. It is a part of the fundamental difference between analog and digital.

Most loudspeakers -approximately 95%+ of all of them- have such poor S/N ratio's (20 db or less) that the vast (90%++, this includes designers and shop owners alike) majority of audiophiles have not learned how to hear such a thing.

Instead, they listen for transient edges of notes, as this is how the ear works, primarily. So, they have forgone the following body and harmonics of the note for equipment and wire that emphasizes these effects. The note must be released as a hardened edge of a transient, off of the given box or 'speaker' type device..before the rest of the system explodes with resonant and temporally 'long tailed' noise..this noise then obscuring the rest of the structure.

This has become the essence of what 'audiophile' means today. It is SO wrong..so fundamentally , so incredibly...wrong.

It is only a small percentage of us that understand this and work to cure it.

The problem is, that for all their measurements and testing, the very vast majority of audio gear, speakers and cables..are only capable of this sort of emphasis, in their varying degrees and flavors..and this is all the given designer and audiophile have ever had to work with. Meaning, how can you ever know what chocolate is, without ever having tasted it or having been exposed to it?

Now, ask yourself again..what is it that you hope to achieve?

linden518
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Re: A crystalline moment...an audio tabula rasa...a Hi Fi uncarv


Quote:
Starting with a blank slate, no preconceptions, what would you do?


That PHY driver project is calling your name... Buddha... Buddha...

michaelavorgna
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Re: A crystalline moment...an audio tabula rasa...a Hi Fi uncarv

PHY? Mr. SD are you speaking French, again?

Now that's an interesting road to travel. You can end up in a very musical place. Oh la la

linden518
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Re: A crystalline moment...an audio tabula rasa...a Hi Fi uncarv


Quote:
PHY? Mr. SD are you speaking French, again?


Picked up that filthy language from you, good sir.

Buddha
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Re: A crystalline moment...an audio tabula rasa...a Hi Fi uncarv

Hey, Mr. Lowry!

I share your love of electrostatic and panel/open baffle designs, and I agree with your about their strengths.

Maybe it's the Quad time of my life.

The room is about 20 by 15, with a sort of bay window arrangement at one end and an open arch entry in the rear left.

Carpet.

I'll fuss with the room to accomodate the gear.

The more I navel gaze about this, I seem to perseverate on the DeVore line, among others.

I've heard the DeVores at CES many times in the past few years, and they have a certain sweetness/finesse that I find very beguiling. They also sounded great "at play" with various sources, and, this may be controversial...I think the designer's musical sensibilities make for a copasetic match, too. They also seem to offer a very friendly impedance that opens up more amp consideration. (And, to make the situation even more certain as to their quality, my wife heard them and pronounced them "lovely;" and her ear is uber alles. If Katy pronounces something I'm digging to be "nice," that's the ultimate endorsement.)

The PHY's in the infinite baffle DIY array seem to be calling, as mentioned. They are more in line with the budget, too. (Once again, it will be a sort of "panar arrangement," and I like full range drivers. (Glad DUP can't post here... ...)

Even those new Sunfire ribbons seem cool - gotta hear 'em.

For digital, Costco/Sam's Club has a Phillips DVD/CD playes for 40 bucks that rivals the sound of the Sony PS1. I was shocked by the quality. We bought one for a quaternary system we use on vacation, and I am blissful. That will free up some budgetary requirements.

Anyway, the DeVore's melody haunts my reverie. They sound almost "single ended." You know that certain je ne sais qua? They do that.

That being said, I'm off to buy some lotto tickets!

michaelavorgna
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Re: A crystalline moment...an audio tabula rasa...a Hi Fi uncarv


Quote:
I've heard the DeVores at CES many times in the past few years, and they have a certain sweetness/finesse that I find very beguiling. They also sounded great "at play" with various sources, and, this may be controversial...I think the designer's musical sensibilities make for a copasetic match, too. They also seem to offer a very friendly impedance that opens up more amp consideration.


Now we're talkin'! And I'd say embrace that kind of controversy, give it a hug. It sure beats arguing about the sound of theories.

In the mean time, I think you need one of these.

mrlowry
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Re: A crystalline moment...an audio tabula rasa...a Hi Fi uncarv

If you are looking for planar sound inexpensively it's impossible to touch Magnepan. Wonderful folks too.

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