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bifcake
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Dup's redemption

In the "King of Tubes" article, the EAR founder talks about his strive for excellence and his history of development. In the middle of the article, there was an interesting blurb:


Quote:

I commented to Tim that, although hi-fi can be a bullshit business, you can't bullshit pro audio customers.

"No. It's a tool to them, it's not a frivolity. And they're not going to suffer fools gladly. Home hi-fi, well, you can go back even 50 years and there's a lot of product that was cheesy, and came and went.


Isn't this what Dup has been saying all along? That the hi-fi industry is inundated with snake oil products and salespeople. He liked using the 100k turntable and outrageously priced cables as examples of such practices. He always pointed out how there's none of that stupidity in the pro audio industry and that hi-fi should heed pro audio's example.

Seems as though the founder of EAR agreed with Dup and whereas Dup's manner and presentation got him banned, the core of his sentiment was very reasonable. I wish more people could get past his abrasive nature and see the value of his thoughts on the subject.

Buddha
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Re: Dup's redemption

I suppose that if you or he now posted this same post on every thread that gets started around here, then it would begin to approximate DUP-ness.

But, to honor his majesty's wishes, I think we should take the "King of Tubes" at his word and look at BS in audiophile land.

First might be the almost (almost) total lack of tube gear in most pro applications.

Mr. "King of Tubes" makes a tube CD player that won't play SACD.

He also describes his tubed CD player this way: "Only plays standard CD not SACD, accurate clean smooth sound more like vinyl."

More like vinyl?

Is that how pros are talking?

He also sells 13wpc, 15wpc, 20wpc, and 40wpc tubed integrated amps. I guess pros differentiate between 13 and 15wpc or 20 and 40wpc amps in their studios and performance venues.

Maybe he could tell us about how different the pros think his 13 and 15wpc amps sound and the differing professional applications of each.

He makes five phono preamps, and a tubed headphone amp.

Checking his list of points of sale, he also seems to like to sell his gear through the same auidophile bullshitter salons that all those audiophile bullshit companies like to peddle their bullshit through.

I guess I could also point out that pretty much every industry has had products come and go over the last 50 years. I don't see a change of gear over a fifty year period as proof of his concept.

If you check his product line, it is exactly in keeping with all the typical Hi Fi bullshit we see for sale, to the point that him SAYING that he doesn't go for that audio bullshit is perfectly in place among all the audio bullshit.

Really, can you differentiate his product's line of schtick from any other Hi End manufacturer's?

How can we tell this unclothed king of tubes apart from all the other proclaimed doyennes of Hi Fi royalty?

I'm pretty much just goofing off, but I'm cynical enough to look at what lies behind a claim someone in the Hi Fi industry makes about not really going in for the stuff the Hi Fi industry does.

I'm also not all that familiar with his product line...has he made any gear in the last 50 years that has gone out of production?

bifcake
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Re: Dup's redemption

I think he was saying "bullshit in hi-fi" in terms of introducing products of dubious value, rather than your normal product life cycle. I think that he meant that in the pro-audio world, they look at new products with a much more critical eye and it's a lot more difficult to pull wool over the eyes of the pro-audio guys. That in turn leads to products introduced that are backed by solid engineering principles.

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Re: Dup's redemption

Hi, Alex. I apologize if I sounded too dour. I really meant to just be goofing around, maybe too cynically.

I've gotten so cynical about the claims manufacturers make that I've gotten to the point where I don't even trust other cynics!

No personal argument was intended, amigo.

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Re: Dup's redemption


Quote:
In the "King of Tubes" article, the EAR founder talks about his strive for excellence and his history of development. In the middle of the article, there was an interesting blurb:


Quote:

I commented to Tim that, although hi-fi can be a bullshit business, you can't bullshit pro audio customers.

"No. It's a tool to them, it's not a frivolity. And they're not going to suffer fools gladly. Home hi-fi, well, you can go back even 50 years and there's a lot of product that was cheesy, and came and went.

Isn't this what Dup has been saying all along? That the hi-fi industry is inundated with snake oil products and salespeople. He liked using the 100k turntable and outrageously priced cables as examples of such practices. He always pointed out how there's none of that stupidity in the pro audio industry and that hi-fi should heed pro audio's example.

Seems as though the founder of EAR agreed with Dup and whereas Dup's manner and presentation got him banned, the core of his sentiment was very reasonable. I wish more people could get past his abrasive nature and see the value of his thoughts on the subject.

Long answer

I believe most would agree that regardless his beliefs he be expected to express them in a restrained (at least not *always* bombastic) and comprehensible manner... he failed miserably on both counts.

Short answer

Cry me a river!

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Re: Dup's redemption


Quote:
I think he was saying "bullshit in hi-fi" in terms of introducing products of dubious value, rather than your normal product life cycle. I think that he meant that in the pro-audio world, they look at new products with a much more critical eye and it's a lot more difficult to pull wool over the eyes of the pro-audio guys. That in turn leads to products introduced that are backed by solid engineering principles.

You don't have much to do with pro gear; do you, Alex? It's the same old BS as home audio just dressed up in a different package. Pick up a Mix magazine sometime. What do you think, pro audio manufacturers keep stuff forever instead of having a product cycle that allows them to improve and revamp their line up on a very regular (yearly or more frequent) schedule? You do know professional audio manufacturers have regular shows similar to CES; right? And they introduce new products on a need-to-compete schedule. Do you think the pro companies don't try to beat the competition to the sales floor with each product and wring every dollar they can get out of a client with new models that have "upgraded" features and sound quality and that the pro guys also have products which cost lots of cash? Pro audio fads change even faster than consumer audio which by comparison is stodgy and set in its ways.

Companies that market to the "pro" users sell their stuff just like consumer audio only the stores are in seedier parts of town, look decidely dressed down and many times have an aroma that is not as inviting as the typical high end audio salon. You'll typically have a path to walk through to get passed the gear stacked up on the floor when you go to a pro sound shop. The pro user's "critical eye" is still on their wallet and they make mistakes just like the rest of us if they don't pay attention. Thing is they hardly ever get to audition their products in the setting they work in until after they've paid for it and pulled off the stickers. There's a lot more testosterone flying around in most pro shops and when some guy finds the microphone or flanger he thinks works best, he'll argue all night about its merits compared to what the other guy prefers. Engineering has nothing to do with it; it works and gets the job done fast- that's all that matters in most cases since studio hours are booked at some pretty high dollar rates and set up times are never long enough.

One big difference between consumer and pro gear is the non-consumer stuff is divided into more categories of users. The studio guys use some stuff and the sound reinforcement guys use others. The people who install sound distribution systems have yet another pile of gear to consider. And most of the non-studio gear is not meant for high quality sound and some of the studio stuff is not meant for highest sound quality. It is utilitarian. Lots of the pro gear is meant for a roadie who will drop it down a few flights of stairs, kick it to the truck, back up over it and then expect it to work at the next gig. Most consumer equipment is meant to be placed on a shelf and not run over by a truck.

Ask the guy at the pro shop if absolute phase matters. Then ask the guy at the audio salon the same question. Pro guys don't use expensive cables cause they get stolen or left behind or they just don't care. "Wire is wire" doesn't mean the same thing to a pro sound guy as it does on the Stereophile forum. All it means to him is he doesn't have to go find a new cable to get sound to come out where it's supposed to. Do read the liner notes on the better recordings you have. Telarc, Dorian, Wilson, Reference, Mapleshade, Chesky, etc. all list numerous consumer audio pieces as monitor speakers and electronics because they sound better than pro gear. Now, you can just say those guys are wrong like someone on this forum tends to, or you can think about why they would pick those pieces of equipment.

Don't get wrapped up in dup's claims for professional superiority; dup simply copy/pastes the stuff that agrees with his own view and ignores the rest. Studio/sound reinforcement equipment uses different connectors and has different labels on the controls - of which it has multiples - but there's cheap, crappy pro gear meant to sell to the newbies and there's high quality, high cost gear meant to last a decade or more. But pro audio guys fall for the same sales pitch and are even more fanatical about the next piece of equipment being be the one that will make everything "click". Read the magazines, go to a pro shop and ask a few questions and stop drinkin' the KoolAid. And don't think there aren't solid engineering principles behind what consumers buy. You do read the interviews in Stereophile; don't you?

http://mixonline.com/gear/newproducts/

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Re: Dup's redemption

Let's assume you're 100% correct. Let's assume that the pro gear is purely utilitarian and feature based and let's limit our discussion to pro studio gear because that's where it has any relevance to us.

If the pros use their gear to record, with whatever cables and accessories, doesn't that mean that the BEST sound reproduction that we can hope for is whatever they heard during a recording and mastering session? Doesn't it mean that if we're not hearing it the same way, then we're coloring the music during playback because the master was voiced on whatever stuff they used in the studio?

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Re: Dup's redemption


Quote:
Let's assume you're 100% correct. Let's assume that the pro gear is purely utilitarian and feature based and let's limit our discussion to pro studio gear because that's where it has any relevance to us.

If the pros use their gear to record, with whatever cables and accessories, doesn't that mean that the BEST sound reproduction that we can hope for is whatever they heard during a recording and mastering session? Doesn't it mean that if we're not hearing it the same way, then we're coloring the music during playback because the master was voiced on whatever stuff they used in the studio?

I think I'd disagree here.

"...doesn't that mean that the BEST sound reproduction that we can hope for is whatever they heard during a recording and mastering session?"

I think there are countless examples from the past where we can now plumb far deeper into a recording than the actual recording people used to be able to hear.

After reading the Stereophile article about it, I bet nobody involved with the original project could get better sound from "Kind of Blue" than many of us can now.

One of the whole points of Hi Fi, for me, has been to be able to hear as far into a recording as possible, which may, in fact, sometimes be farther than the original recording crew did.

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Re: Dup's redemption

Are you really hearing farther into the recordings or are you just coloring them during playback in a way that you like? There are certain limitations of the recording and mixing equipment, so how can you hear more than the original recording equipment has been able to record? How can you hear beyond the source's limitations?

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Re: Dup's redemption


Quote:
Let's assume you're 100% correct. Let's assume that the pro gear is purely utilitarian and feature based and let's limit our discussion to pro studio gear because that's where it has any relevance to us.

We can discus studio gear if you'd like but first let's get a few things straight. I never said pro gear is strictly utilitarian and feature laden. I specifically said you should read the liner notes to see what the pros are using when the information is provided. Read the artciles on the production of Attention Screen which JA recorded. Read the interviews with the artists and engineers presented in Stereophile. If anyone can pull up the column that ran a few months back on setting up a mobile recording system, that would be helpful also.

Studio gear is quite diverse because the needs, desires and budget of the users are quite diverse. Right now I'm using a small $199 digital recorder that fits in my pocket, puts the information on a 2G SD card in as high as 24bit/96kHz format with the ability to record in stereo, multichannel or mixdown after the fact. It does a terific job with no mic booms, cables or mixing board. But it's limited to certain applications. However, compared to the 16 track mixer I used years ago, which had lots more buttons and knobs, this $199 recorder does more and goes anywhere. It's a fabulous tool. But it's engineering is in making it a tool that is light weight and low cost. When it breaks, it is meant to be thrown away like a Walkman.

As a matter of fact, lots of pro gear for the road and the studio is full of IC's because they are cost effective and light weight. IC's are generally verbotten in high end consumer audio because of the typical sound of most IC's. If you'll read how high end studio engineers get around this issue, you'll find they do very much the same things high end consumer audio engineers do to place sound quality higher on the list. So, once again, please do not buy into this "superior engineering" and the idea pros are harder to fool. They just get fooled about other things than you and I.

And that's where pro gear and home equipment differ the most. No matter how much the pro user spends the professional is paying for something that will not cost them money. The ability of a product to get the job done quickly, efficiently, reliably, repeatedly and with the "best" user interface is always high on the pro consumer's list of must haves. After that, sound quality will be considered. Down time to a pro costs money. Down time to a consumer is at most an inconvenience and even then not so much if the dealer gives loaners to their best clients.

Go down to the local pro shop, Alex. Ask them about putting together a small mobile recording system and listen to the salesperson. Sound quality will hardly be mentioned. The idea of soundstaging and imaging are foreign concepts to those guys because the equipment doesn't recreate those things - it creates them. Ask what a few of the accessory pieces of equipment do. Sound quality is not discussed the same way in a pro shop as in a high end shop.

If we only discuss studio gear "because that's where it has any relevance to us", we've missed the boat here, Alex. We need a reference point from which to work. The end result that appears in the jewel box is not a reference!

Most listeners don't ever hear live music. Even among those people who read Stereophile, many never go to hear live music on a semi-regular basis. When they do, they more often than not hear live music as it is amplified through sound reinforcement equipment. Few high end customers actually hear unamplified music on anything other than a by chance situation. I know this from personal experience and I have no axe to grind to make my point.

Therefore, if you only hear live music through a group of 12' tall and wide stacks of 15" drivers and 3' wide horns, that has to be your "reference". If you never even hear that, then you can only have "preferences". You prefer that your home system sound this way or that way but it is based only on what you prefer not what you know to be a reference for the real thing.

dup claimed to hear live music but also said he had personal "preferences" - not references. IMO he has two personal "preferences"; SLAM and BIG. To dup that is REAL. I never heard dup discuss tone color or harmonic structure. Microdynamics and detail do not fit into a SLAM! system. I never saw dup mention soundstaging or imaging or PRaT. Nuance is a foreign word to dup in oh so many ways. Emotional connection with the music is apparently all tied up in SLAM! and BIG! as far as dup is concerned.

Unfortunately, he is not alone. So, you see, you cannot even begin to think studio gear is all we must discuss "because that's where it has any relevance to us". Even if all we hear is amplified music when we hear live music, we must consider what that does to our "references".

If, on the other hand, we hear live music without amplification, then we must consider an entirely different set of "references". When all we have is amplified music as our reference, the desire to stretch the point to cover our "personal preferences" is unabated. Whatever we wish to hear is what becomes our "preference" and references have little value. Building a high end system around one or the other becomes a very different task. So, you see, we cannot divorce our self from the making of the music to concentrate only on the final product that appears in the jewel box.


Quote:
If the pros use their gear to record, with whatever cables and accessories, doesn't that mean that the BEST sound reproduction that we can hope for is whatever they heard during a recording and mastering session?

Certainly, the goal of high end audio should be the complete and sympathetic reproduction of what is on the source. However, as I think you should be able to see by now, personal preferences and personal references will color how both the studio engineer and we go about achieving that goal. If the studio uses Belden cables, that doesn't mean we should do the same. If the studio uses Yamaha NS10M's as near field monitors, we do not need to follow suit. If the studio is using 64 channels, we hardly need that many amplifiers and speakers.


Quote:
Doesn't it mean that if we're not hearing it the same way, then we're coloring the music during playback because the master was voiced on whatever stuff they used in the studio?

Alex, move your equipment into another room and listen to the difference. Get the idea? The studio is creating a sound that is relevant to what they wish to hear. The sound they wish to hear the most is the sound of cash hitting their bank acount. While I'm sure you can appreciate that sentiment; is that what you're listening for? The studio engineer more often than not has lots of preferences (and the gear to get those on tape) and very few references.

If each performer is in a separate isolation booth (or not even in the same country or time) when they record; what is the "reference" for that? Why do you suppose a drum set might have as many as a dozen microphones on it during a recording session? Is that what you hear live when you hear unamplified music?

Alex, you seem to be ignorant of the fact that most of the "sound" of a contemporary recording is created after the musicians leave the building.

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Re: Dup's redemption


Quote:
Are you really hearing farther into the recordings or are you just coloring them during playback in a way that you like? There are certain limitations of the recording and mixing equipment, so how can you hear more than the original recording equipment has been able to record? How can you hear beyond the source's limitations?

Well, I guess if that were the case, I could just buy vintage 1959 gear and hear everything that the recording contained.

I did not say that the I claimed we could hear more than was put on tape, I was saying that I think we can hear more of the recording than even the best recording playback equipment could produce back in the day.

Do you think that the people who recorded the original shaded dogs heard everything that was on the tape, or would you allow that modern playback gear may deliver more of what was on the original master tapes than the recording engineers and producers originally thought?

If I am "coloring" the music by extracting more detail, should I have to go and buy some 50 year old studio monitors in order to a recording as it was originally intended?

Yours is certainly an interesting take on Hi Fi reproduction. If the best we can hope for from recordings is to hear what the original recording people heard on playback, then we should all be busy buying up those great studio systems from the 50's and be done with the quest!

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Re: Dup's redemption

Let's assume that everything you said is 100% correct. The recording studio/mixers and so on do not use a reference at all, rather they create a disk based on their own preference. Ok, so that disk, that master tape which is the culmination of the recording engineer's preference is OUR reference because if OUR playback equipment is accurate, then we should hear our CD or LP or whatever the same way that the recording engineer heard it when he produced the disk/tape. So, live music is irrelevant as a reference. The only thing that's relevant and the way we can judge our playback equipment is by whether or not is faithfully reproduces the sound that the recording engineer heard when he produced the tape. Everything else is approximation, simulation and we can argue til we're blue in the face over LP vs CD, tube vs SS, woodies vs schmoozies, etc, but the bottom line is that no matter which side of which argument you take, unless what you hear sounds like what the recording and mixing engineers heard, all you're hearing are colorations.

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Re: Dup's redemption

Very interesting question!

What I extract from the thread at this point is:

"Kind of blue" recorded, mixed and released as LP.
What did that album sound like
a) by the mixing engineers in state of the art mixing room
b) by folks listening to the LP on state of the art home stereo when it was released
Then, after remastering today on state of art equipment, what does album sound like
c) in current state of art studio
d) in current state of art home system.

It may be possible to answer the question definitively. Anyone know whether original recording studio playback is still a functional archive? One could even reassemble and have a listen to get a rough idea, instead of idle speculation.

However, idly speculating, I believe there's a fork in the logic here.
True, there are limitations to the source materials -- the original master tapes.
Those that originally mixed from those masters are not hearing all of it, but what they hear when mixing -- while affecting decisions for the mix -- do not necessarily further limit the final product.
So its possible that hearing the original final recording on a different stereo can be allow the listener to hear deeper into the recording than the engineers.
But more obviously, when a later generation of engineers return to the original masters with better equipment, they are going to hear -- and move to production -- a clearer rendering of the original master tapes.

It then follows that b), c) and d) can all potentially hear more than a)

Every step in the process from musician's intention > performance > recording > production > playback (and lots of sub-pieces in each) provide colouration/degradation, but the pro audio gear under discussion is just in the production step.

The playback equipment in the production step is not directly in the degradation layer (though its true the equipment used in transferring the sound from master to production media is)

It seems fair to argue that we'll never hear more than what's on the master tapes, but there's a lot of layers of degradation to remove/reduce before the playback of those masters yields up everything in them.

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Re: Dup's redemption

The point that I'm trying to make here is that it seems that hi-fi is ALL about coloration and preferences and unless we hear what the engineers hear, because that's our reference, all that we're doing is arguing whose coloration is better. Furthermore, this also means that the entire review process is irrelevant because it's all subjective and preferential. I like product A, I don't like product B. DUP likes product B and not A. JA likes both A and B and MF likes neither. Who's right? Yes. It's spinning wheels. The playback equipment is not necessarily getting "better" because there's no standard measure of better. So, all we do is we go from one fad to another. From warm to cold, from PRAT to tone, from bass to mids, etc.

So, if this is the case, then DUP is right in a sense that if pro equipment lets us hear what the engineers heard, then objectively, pro equipment is better. DUP is wrong in a sense that if his point of reference is a live event and he needs all that power to generate the feeling of the live event, then all he's proposing is his own set of colorations because the master is not a live event based.

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Re: Dup's redemption


Quote:
Let's assume that everything you said is 100% correct. The recording studio/mixers and so on do not use a reference at all, rather they create a disk based on their own preference. Ok, so that disk, that master tape which is the culmination of the recording engineer's preference is OUR reference because if OUR playback equipment is accurate, then we should hear our CD or LP or whatever the same way that the recording engineer heard it when he produced the disk/tape. So, live music is irrelevant as a reference. The only thing that's relevant and the way we can judge our playback equipment is by whether or not is faithfully reproduces the sound that the recording engineer heard when he produced the tape. Everything else is approximation, simulation and we can argue til we're blue in the face over LP vs CD, tube vs SS, woodies vs schmoozies, etc, but the bottom line is that no matter which side of which argument you take, unless what you hear sounds like what the recording and mixing engineers heard, all you're hearing are colorations.

I still disagree.

If we can extract more information from the original master tapes, we are not coloring the information at all, we are just hearing more of what was probably fine detail or spatial/acoustic cues on the original recording.

If you are correct, and we are merely "coloring" the sound by listening with more advanced playback media, then we are stuck "coloring" every recording ever made unless we go back into the studio and exactly recreate the equipment and settings used by the recording engineers. By your definition, then everything we try to use to listen to a recording is just a set of coloring items; which, I guess is true to the degree to which we re-create what the engineer heard, but since what I am given is a downstream product from the original, it should behoove me (and you) to seek ways to extract as much information from that product as I can. I'm not "coloring" the recording, I'm trying to get every last drop of sonic information from it.

Are you saying that you do not?

What makes into my hands is a recording. From there, it is my "job" as a hobbiest to do as little further harm to that product as possible. If I can retrieve sonic cues at a level the the original recording engineer could not, should I be buying a masking item to render the recording detail to "1959 playback" or continue to try to plumb the low level depths of the recording?

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Re: Dup's redemption

Jan wrote, in part:

"One big difference between consumer and pro gear is the non-consumer stuff is divided into more categories of users. The studio guys use some stuff and the sound reinforcement guys use others. The people who install sound distribution systems have yet another pile of gear to consider. And most of the non-studio gear is not meant for high quality sound and some of the studio stuff is not meant for highest sound quality. It is utilitarian. Lots of the pro gear is meant for a roadie who will drop it down a few flights of stairs, kick it to the truck, back up over it and then expect it to work at the next gig. Most consumer equipment is meant to be placed on a shelf and not run over by a truck."

This is absolutely correct. There is a lot of pro sound equipment for which sound quality is a secondary consideration. In fact, there is a lot that sounds pretty awful - but its loud and tough and will play all week at ear-bleed levels without breaking a sweat.

There are also additional categories: serious recording studios and mastering studios, and prosumer recording.

The typical prosumer buying recording and playback equipment is just as subject to buying into fads and excited reviews as we are as high-end users. For example, there is a software based limiting plug-in whish was reviewed well in a number of magazines. (One of the uses of a limiter is to get that last dB or two of loudness by compressing/limiting transient peaks and raising the overall RMS dB of the program source.)

After these positive reviews this plug-in sold like mad and continues to do so. I can't tell you how many small studio/home studio users that I have talked to that are absolutely convinced that every mix should be run through this program even though it damages the sound unless very carefully used - and then only when needed.

OTOH, the better studios, and mastering studios in particular, are exceedingly picky as to the quality of sound they produce in their products. They buy excellent speakers, good solid specifically called out cable, excellent amps (Pass Labs are a favorite among mastering engineers), etc. This group is not easily mislead by advertising claims and fads (although it certainly can happen).

I can guarantee that any of us would love to get the sound quality that is produced in the average mastering studio. The sound is delicious. You truly can hear the difference when a recording is tweaked by a +1/2dB of high quality equalization in exactly the right spot, etc.

Consider John Marks' columns. He takes recording and producing recordings seriously and has good ears. His equipment recommendations are dead-on. He doesn't use exotic cables but insists on solid, good quality wire. He is particular with equipment set-up, etc.

Summary: High-end audio has little to do with sound reinforcement, live sound, prosumer recording, and most project studios. It has a good deal in common with better studios and mastering studios.

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Re: Dup's redemption


Quote:
If we can extract more information from the original master tapes, we are not coloring the information at all, we are just hearing more of what was probably fine detail or spatial/acoustic cues on the original recording.

I agree.

I would add that we are also hearing more harmonic information and texture, more dynamic nuance, etc.

We are better able to reproduce the sound of a 1950's mastertape now then the original engineers could when it was recorded. Sound recording technology appears to always exceed our ability to reproduce what is recorded.

I believe this is still true. There are microphones with astoundingly flat frequency response, incredible mic pres, astoundingly precise ADC's. All of this is routinely captured in delicious high resolution. I only wish I could begin to approach this level of accuracy upon playback.

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Re: Dup's redemption

Are you saying that the microphone technology is a few generations beyond speaker technology? Otherwise, it wouldn't make sense that you're able to extract information from 1950's recordings unless the recording technology was leaps and bounds ahead of the monitoring technology. If that's the case, it's not just the microphones that are superior, but also the tape recording equipment and mixing boards used to record the tapes. So, in effect, the recording engineers didn't even know what they were getting because at the time, their monitoring/playback equipment was so bad, they had no way of accurately monitoring a recording.

On the flip side, if I were to record a 32kps MP3, I don't care what kind of playback equipment you have, you won't be able to squeeze any more out of that MP3 than what it has. The older recordings are your MP3's except that instead of the sampling and compression rate being your limiting factor, I think it's the recording equipment and monitoring that's the limiting factor. Hence, when you're playing that recording on your hi-fi, I'm not sure you're getting any more detail out of that recording. You're probably just coloring it with what seems like detail.

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Re: Dup's redemption


Quote:
Are you saying that the microphone technology is a few generations beyond speaker technology? Otherwise, it wouldn't make sense that you're able to extract information from 1950's recordings unless the recording technology was leaps and bounds ahead of the monitoring technology. If that's the case, it's not just the microphones that are superior, but also the tape recording equipment and mixing boards used to record the tapes. So, in effect, the recording engineers didn't even know what they were getting because at the time, their monitoring/playback equipment was so bad, they had no way of accurately monitoring a recording.

I would admit to saying that the technology for capturing audio information back in the day did capture more information than the playback equipment revealed.

I bet in a hundred years, there may have been adequate progress made in the playback chain that may allow current recordings to yield more information than even the best playback equipment of today can reveal.

You may be right, though, and the engineers with their original playback gear heard everything in the studio that we do now. If so, then you should be fully stocked up on old studio monitors and your Hi Fi work was complete 45 years ago.

I do think you are using faulty language in your post...

"...the recording engineers didn't even know what they were getting because at the time, their monitoring/playback equipment was so bad, they had no way of accurately monitoring a recording."

You are putting words into people's mouths.

It's not that they "didn't even know what they were getting." I was saying that nowadays, we have the technology to hear further into the recording.

You make it sound as though I'm implying that they were listening with ear-horns, asking each other if that was a trumpet they heard. I'm sure they had pretty good windows into the recording, but I think we can now extract more from the source than they could.

If you read John Marks' excellent article about listening to the "Kind of Blue" master tapes, then you may have some idea about the lengths to which we can now go in order to delve as deeply as possible into the original source material. If you think about the gear they assembled to listen to the master tapes, would you not say that this newer gear got more out of the recording than could be gotten 50 years ago?

If not, then that studio equipment from back in the day must be considered to be definitive.

Heck, I even think I get more information out of the grooves of my modern record playing set-up than the engineers who made the LP's 50 years ago were able to. Yes, I think the playback technology has improved.

Again, I think you are over simplifying what we are saying about the progress that has been made in recording and playback. I'm sure the LP mastering people of 1959 were getting a pretty good idea of how their LP's sounded, I just think that now I can get more out of the product than they did. Hence, I do not use a vintage 1959 table, phono-pre, and "needle."

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Re: Dup's redemption


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Are you saying that the microphone technology is a few generations beyond speaker technology?


More than this, the total sound recording chain appears to always exceed the sound playback chain.

I believe Buddha is correct; modern playback equipment can reveal more of a 50 year old recording than the playback equipment of 50 years ago.

Not all technology is equally mature at any given snapshot in time.

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Re: Dup's redemption

What you guys are implying is that the recording technology is at least 50 years ahead of the playback technology.

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Re: Dup's redemption


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What you guys are implying is that the recording technology is at least 50 years ahead of the playback technology.

OK, I get it. Since this is "DUP's redemption," you're pretending to be dense.

To play along with you, yes, recording technology is actually more like 100 years ahead of playback technology.

I think in 50 more years, we may be hearing even more small detail in some recordings from 50 years ago. I think it's easier to get information into a recording than it is to get it out.

Proof of that is that someone just found a 78 that had musical information at 28Hz. No way those parlor phone acoustic record players reproduced that content, so there's some proof from almost 100 years ago that they were recording more than could be played back at the time.

To accept your position, are you implying that everything you hear on modern equipment playing a 50 year old recording was heard by those people in the studio listening to the playback of that recording when it was made?

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Re: Dup's redemption

I don't see how the claims that newer playback can reveal more of the master tapes necessarily means that the playback is "behind" the recording process.

It may be, but there is also the additive effect of degradation in the chain.

There is x amount of loss from performance to recorded artifact, there is y more amount of loss from master tape to studio monitors.

Upon revisiting the masters a generation later, there will be z amount of loss from masters to monitors. If z is less that y, we'll get a better view into the music.

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Re: Dup's redemption


Quote:
What you guys are implying is that the recording technology is at least 50 years ahead of the playback technology.


I resent this!

I am stating directly that recording technology is well ahead of playback equipment.

I am not implying anything.

Of course, you may well disagree.

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Re: Dup's redemption


Quote:
I don't see how the claims that newer playback can reveal more of the master tapes necessarily means that the playback is "behind" the recording process.

It may be, but there is also the additive effect of degradation in the chain.

There is x amount of loss from performance to recorded artifact, there is y more amount of loss from master tape to studio monitors.

Upon revisiting the masters a generation later, there will be z amount of loss from masters to monitors. If z is less that y, we'll get a better view into the music.

Exactamundo.

Well said.

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Re: Dup's redemption

John Risch, whose DIY Cable Recipes have a popular following on the Audio Asylum, has some interesting ideas on this topic which he refers to as error budget.

As I understand the idea is that distortions in the recording chain, e.g. cables, mixers, faders, etc., are additive and when the net sum is very high the fidelity of the recording becomes seriously compromised and that's that.

The idea of a distortion budget is a limit beyond which the sum of distortions become obvious and seriously impacts the sound. If the studio "used up", as he puts it, the better part of the budget then even just a very little additional distortion in the playback chain can cause the budget to be exceeded.

It's a compelling idea. What comes to mind for me when thinking about it is cheap CDs that contain obscure material from latter day greats. In particular I have quite a few Duke Ellington budget CDs that contain recordings from air checks and live club dates. This stuff is poorly recorded in general, much of it has that "peaky" annoying sound, like when the the brass gets loud it seems to hit a ceiling and becomes annoyingly glaring.

I've noticed however that as my system has improved (including cables) that I get greater tonal richness from these recording and they have become much more enjoyable. I often marval at how great the improvement and I have little doubt that this is because the system is serving up more of what is actually on the recording and not itself getting in the way... it seems even a little getting in the way, in line with Risch's Error Budget idea, is the difference between being annoyed and being amazed.

I've gotten into the habit of using one such Ellington CD when comparing cables. Interestingly I discovered later, upon hearing a selection on the local Jazz station, that the material on the CD was not all that old but rather from his 1969 70th Birthday Concerts in England. The radio version obviously had superior sound so I expect the CD was stuff from a bootleg recording, if not then the recording was surely seriously abused before it got on that budget CD!

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Re: Dup's redemption

Nice posts, TTT and BJH.

Both are interesting and well-stated.

Thanks!

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Re: Dup's redemption

John Risch's concept is very interesting, and shouldn't be controversial at all.

I guess where the arguments take place are over the relative negative contributions of everything in our playback chain.

For some, cables don't rise to the level of seeming to matter, for others, they do. You'd think the people who don't think that the contribution of something like a cable would be glad for themselves instead of mad at others.

The same phenomenon occurs in my wine hobby. Those who can't tell a pinot noir from a cabernet should be happy that they only need to spend 2% of what others need to spend in order to reach the same plateau of enjoyment. I've run into many a wine taster who was adamant that anyone who would spend more then they did on wine was a snooty idiot...and you can probably fill in the rest from your Hi Fi experiences!

The toughest part of the Hi Fi quest for the grail in my life has been to decide at what point the law of dimishing returns trumps further expenditure.

Thanks for a lively thread, AlexO!

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Re: Dup's redemption


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Are you really hearing farther into the recordings or are you just coloring them during playback in a way that you like? There are certain limitations of the recording and mixing equipment, so how can you hear more than the original recording equipment has been able to record? How can you hear beyond the source's limitations?

When the Mercury and Living Presence recordings were remastered for SACD release, much of the original recording/mastering systems were reassembled.

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Re: Dup's redemption


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I've run into many a wine taster who was adamant that anyone who would spend more then they did on wine was a snooty idiot...and you can probably fill in the rest from your Hi Fi experiences!


Let me guess...wine doesn't taste real unless you have SLAM!

But . . . .

. . . what's wine slam?

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Re: dup don' need no stinkin' redemption


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OK, I get it. Since this is "DUP's redemption," you're pretending to be dense.

Oh, my!

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Re: Dup's redemption

Jan- At the risk of sounding too reverential, your posts on the subjects of reference recordings, playback technology, high-end sales economics, film and even photography (I worked at my cousin's custom print black and white lab in the '70's) ring with the authenticity of experience, knowledge and, most importantly, respect for the intelligence of the forum members. The term "Renaissance Man" is often over-used to describe those with half your lucidity.

Thank you for the refreshing break from insanity.

Elk and Buddha: You ain't chopped liver, either!

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Re: Dup's redemption

Ain't nothing wrong with reverence. That and $2 will get you a cup of coffee.

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Re: Dup's redemption

Both the wine and photograph analogies resonate with me -- very cool!

Maybe one bit of confusion regarding questioning live music as the reference for playback has to do with the performance that serves as a reference. From previous posts it seems fair to assume we've mostly heard our favourite performers in different venues and sometimes the sound is not very good, particularly with amplified music in venues not dedicated to the purpose (read stadium rock). Hearing our favourite performers in a fine studio or similar optimized venue may give a much better idea why a live performance should be the reference for our playback experience.

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Re: Dup's redemption

This is why I chose to concentrate on the pro sound as experienced to the studio, rather than concerts because of the controlled environment to eliminate variables.

Anyway, my point was that this: There are so many things that go to produce a recording such as choice of mike, placement, recording engineer's preferences, cables, mixing boards, mastering techniques and equipment, etc that it's impossible to use live music as a reference because that's not what's on the disk. What you have on the disk is the recording engineer's vision of what the studio performance should sound like. Therefore, in this respect, DUP was wrong in arguing that the system should sound like live music.

I think that in order to do any kind of an objective measure as to the performance of the playback system, we can only use the master recording of a particular disk that we're playing as our reference. If it sounds like what the mixers/recording engineers' vision, then it's accurate, if it doesn't, then it's not accurate even if it sounds like live music.

Since we don't know what a master tape sounded like when it was recorded and mixed, we have no objective reference by which to judge our playback systems. Therefore, the best we can do is pick playback components that color the recording in the most enjoyable way. Some prefer blue, and some prefer red colors. Which is better? Both and none. Both because each enjoys his own, none because both are not accurate (however, since we don't know what is accurate, it doesn't matter if it's accurate or not).

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Re: Dup's redemption


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Hearing our favourite performers in a fine studio or similar optimized venue may give a much better idea why a live performance should be the reference for our playback experience.

One area where dup and I move closer to agreement is venue sites. There aren't many good ones. And a chimpanzee on the board can ruin even the most well thought out acoustics. I think stadium performances are along the lines of going to a fight and a hockey game breaks out. Expecting one thing at a 65,000 seat venue and getting another is the norm if good sound quality is why you went there in the first place. While I consider every experience with live music to be full of potential for enlightenment, some are more so than others.

However, your post reminds me of the great "Prof." Keith O. Johnson of Reference Recordings. One of his earliest releases was a sampler that included bits and pieces of recordings he had made going back to his youth. Freight trains and marching bands and the sorts of things that have unusual value on a recording meant to show off the wonderful sound quality he can capture. I suspect the point of including these bits and pieces was to instruct rather than give historical background. Johnson found wonder and amazement in how our ear/brain works and how an inanimate object such as a micrpohone captures those signals. His learning came from a cornucopia of sounds around him since he found his classroom to be immense. Nothing was too small or too large to attract his attention. Learning how to present the sound of of a band marching past his hand held microphone gave him a grounding in how to recreate a single voice or the Dallas Wind Symphony.

The point here is we don't require the perfect setting in order to know what good sound is any more than we require a $100k system to know what good audio is all about. What is required is the openess and desire to learn from what we hear all around us in our everyday life. You can learn about good sound reproduction by walking into a crowded restaurant or a theater before anyone else arrives. There is a learning opportunity to be found in walking past the two piece band playing in front of the supermarket just as there is in a high priced seat at the symphony.

Let me tell a story here. Late this summer a friend came down from Canada to visit, wishing to spend some time listening to the latest improvements a mutual friend had made to his audio system over the past year. I joined them at the third friend's home and the event went into the evening before we took a break. With a few alcoholic beverages having seen the fulfillment of their "beverageness" we retired to the patio to wait for the pizza to arrive. With the backyard full of cicadas wishing to score big before crawling into the mud for the duration of the winter the width and depth of the backyard was full of cricks, cracks, whistles and chirps. Off in the distant background was a highway that brought the ocassional sound of vehicles passing from side to side. Behind us were the sounds of the neighborhood with bikes and cars and bar-b-ques. "J" and I sat and listened to the competition amongst the cicadas as one tried to impress more than the last and the rhythm of the chirps shifted in location, frequency and intensity. We heard one low chirp from the left and another from the right rear then a higher, sharper crick from the middle. Then a car passed across the soundfield in the distance and a bike with its rider sounded to the left rear. "J" and I were entranced by the power of the grouped cicadas and the natural harmonies and musical structure of the competition for a mate which was being punctuated by the unscripted addition of human and mechanical grace notes. All the while, "M", who had commented earlier that a shift in his speaker's position allowed him to "hear the bass player shift his foot before he began", sat mystified by what we were hearing.

IMO there is an example of listening without hearing and hearing without listening. "M" has every right to be pleased with his system's performance but he has yet to find that larger truth about how those small "details" he so fervently seeks - and pays for - relates to the larger truth of the music. He's coming around but this is something that, like learning a new language at age fifty, is a steep curve when it hasn't been part of your thought process since youth.

So, there's why Prof. Johnson's freight train and marching band are important to hear on a "reference recording". The sound quality is that of a young man's first recorder and therefore it is limited in frequency and dynamic range. Its fidelity to the truth is in what you hear as much as what you don't hear. Even without rumbling bass frequencies or sparkling highs you hear what Johnson heard. And that is what led to the later tracks and the most wonderfully natural "reference" recordings possibly ever put on this Earth.

I often suggest someone interested in improving their system go listen to some live music before making a decision on equipment. It doesn't have to be anything expensive or in some super acoustic space. It doesn't even have to be a good performance though that helps you get through the night. In fact I've suggested to some parents they go listen to their teenager's high school band as they practice to hear just what PRaT is all about. Inside the assembly hall or out on the football field, you hear the same music but you must listen differently.

If we return to the photography for a second, we can look at the B&W photos of the masters and learn from them. We can look at the same scene in a color print and learn from that. We can see the similarites and the differences and why we don't require every last bit of information to know the thing we are seeing. Often times, less is more. But we must know how to look while seeing and see what we are looking at. In sound we must know how to hear while listening and listen to what we hear.

The engineer's at the "Kind of Blue" sessions heard what they recognized as the truth in the recordings even if they didn't hear all the details we can reproduce today. As someone who uses forty five year old amplifiers and had thirty year old speakers in and out of my system for the past twenty years, I can tell you what made those tape machines and tube microphones classic pieces of gear is that they capture the truth of the moment. As someone who listens to 78's I can tell you there is less "truth" in playing a recording from 1914 on a 2007 system than on the equipment it was originally meant for. OTH, I can also tell you what you hear playing a Les Paul 78 with today's equipment is a far cry from what you must listen through on the original equipment. But the key to it all, IMO, is knowing what you're hearing. It is being able to find the truth through the limitations or the excellence of the playback system. That is something you must learn and learning comes from the experience of listening to a reference whether it be a recording or the real event.

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Re: Dup's redemption


Quote:
since we don't know what is accurate, it doesn't matter if it's accurate or not).

Once again, Alex, you've managed to turn things on their head to suit your own desires. In this case, I can only say you are not alone and you have the ability to choose whichever path you wish without ethical condemnation. But your path leads to a sonic dead end and lots of frustration. If we only choose those colors that we like, we are somewhat asking, "Does this system make me look fat?", and then taking offense at the answer. As a salesperson I can tell you that dealing with a customer who cannot tell you what they like or whose likes shift with each recording is a frustrating experience. The customer is trying to explain to me what "blue" looks like to them and I can only ask if they mean sky blue or baby blue. If you don't know where you're going, you cannot arrive there by the shortest, least expensive route and you can waste lots of everyone's energy trying to find where you wish to end. If you don't know the difference between the blue of the sky at dawn and at dusk, you cannot easily find either blue yourself and you will repaint the bathroom a dozen times before finally giving up in defeat. Do you understand this? Or will this be another case where you just say we cannot agree because you don't wish to agree or move from your set opinion?


Quote:
Since we don't know what a master tape sounded like when it was recorded and mixed, we have no objective reference by which to judge our playback systems.

Come on, Alex! That is ridiculous. Do you know the difference between the abstract art of Picasso and Van Gough compared to the representational art of Rembrandt? Is Warhol's "Elvis" a painting or a photograph? You should know the diference because you have a reference for the subject. Do you know why Picasso placed both eyes on one side of the face? It was not a mere "preference". Until you can understand why Mondrian is important, you cannot understand why Monet was a genius. But you have a reference for why Dali did what he did. If you "get" anything about Dali, you are saying you aleady have a "reference" now you need to extend that to other areas. That takes work and being willing to extend yourself beyond yourself. You must take down the poster of the puppies.

Now, Alex, you can go through life saying, "I don't get modern art", or you can make the effort to learn about something bigger than yourself. Once again, if you choose the former, you really have little need for high end audio other than as an extension of yourself. Buy good gear and be happy. Show it to your friends, maybe they'll buy something nice too. But do not suggest the rest of us do not require a museum, a library or a symphony hall. There is a world that waits for you, Alex, but you must be willing to meet it halfway.

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Re: Dup's redemption

There's something in the cicada soundstage you describe that expresses a real distinction between live and recorded sound: recordings with their 2-ish point sources, and the live music with some sort of different source. Earlier there was discussion of how even a solo piano provides a diverse sound origin.

Kind of like how those stereovision units let you see 3-D from two photograhps doesn't really fool you that is the real 3-D world you're looking at.

It may be the way the soundstage shifts when you move that gives away that you're hearing a recording of cicadas rather that a field full of them.

On another note: maybe we're talking about "reference" in more than one way.

Seems Alex is interested in comparing his playback system to a reference, to experience deviation from it. Given various systems all use the same source material, and the source material was created by mixing down the master tapes in the control room, the control room's playback system then makes for, almost by definition, the reference.

Does that capture your position, Alex?

What seems faulty about this view is that the engineers can create the production version of the recording (I wish I new the proper words for all this items!) with sub-optimal equipment. In other words, they make decisions based on what they can hear, which creates the artifact, but another playback system can extract more detailed sound out of that artifact.

Yet another wacky analogy: Photographer takes a picture with his glasses off. Then he puts his glasses on and looks at the photo. Is the reference view of that photo what he sees without glasses? I would argue no -- the view is the ultimate reference, being that is what is being captured.

This speaks to the use of reference to say we should look to live sound -- that's what we're trying to get close to with our hobby. True, we are kinda stuck that we have no control over what happens between the performance and the recording we have in hand, but still, that's what we're trying to get close to.

The photo itself is a reference as well, I think, in Alex's definition, because that's like the recording, and it provides the limit in how much detail we can get from the now-vanished performance. But while the photographer without glasses (or the engineer with an imperfect system in the control room) is working without a certain amount of detail, the guy who views the photograph with good glasses (or better playback system than the engineer had) may well get closer to the artifact (the secondary reference).

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Re: Dup's redemption


Quote:
I think that in order to do any kind of an objective measure as to the performance of the playback system, we can only use the master recording of a particular disk that we're playing as our reference. If it sounds like what the mixers/recording engineers' vision, then it's accurate . . .

Interesting point.

If I understand you correctly, you are positing that since we can't stuff live music into the front end of our systems we can only rely on recordings. If what comes out of the playback system is exactly what is on the recording, then the playback system is accurate.

If this is you thinking, I agree.

Whether the recording itself has succeeded in capturing the actual sound of live musicians is a separate question.

However, if the playback system meets the above test and the recording itself contains the sound of live musicians, live musicians should come out upon playback.

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Re: Dup's redemption


Quote:
Photographer takes a picture with his glasses off. Then he puts his glasses on and looks at the photo. Is the reference view of that photo what he sees without glasses?

Actually, this would be the reverse of your supposition. You take your glasses off to get your eye close to the viewfinder. If you take the picture with your glasses on, the picture will be out of focus because of the relative distance between your eye/glasses and the viewfinder if you manually focus the lens. This is paricularly true once you reach the age where bifoclas are a necessity. Diopters are sold to allow for the adjustment in focal length if you find it a hassle to constantly remove your glasses but are gross adjustments at best.

But your point is well taken and reminds me of the time Mick Jagger used a 6X9 car speaker (out of a box for bass reinforcement) to complete the mix to one of the Stones radio hits. As I understand his logic was he wanted the song to sound "right" on the gear it would be used on. Assuming the main audience was car stereos and boom boxes, he mixed for the audience. The album went platinum. Can't think of the title of the song. "Harlem Shuffle"? But it has always presented an interesting dichotomy between truth and sales.

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Re: Dup's redemption


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Whether the recording itself has succeeded in capturing the actual sound of live musicians is a separate question.

Here's a proposition I've posed to many people and always found the answer to be illuminating. I assume we all understand one benefit of a "better" system is its resolution of space and what is on the source. And we've all read the reviews which state "the performer was standing in my room" or words to that effect.

My experience says a vocalist recorded with the microphone two inches away from their face will appear on the recording to be quite different than a vocalist recorded with the microphone a few feet away; say the difference between a studio recording of a pop/rock vocalist used to working with the mic close to their mouth to minimize feedback or bleed through of other musicians when performing live and an opera star in performance. Using the close mic'd position the captured sound is predominantly what is immediately in front of the microphone and little else in terms of their body or the surrounding space of the room. If the performer steps back just a bit, the microphone picks up more ambient sound from around the space and the sound of their body in that space influences the final product. This is not coloration but reality.

I find most people are expecting to visualize the performer "standing" in front of them no matter how the sound was recorded. The question then is; when you "see" the performer in front of you, do you make mental compensations for whether this is a person standing in front of you or this is a person standing in front of a microphone? What do you expect to hear?

Along those same lines, what do you expect to hear if the electronic instruments (guitar, bass, piano, etc.) are plugged directly into the board rather than a microphone placed in front of the amplifed speaker the instrument is playing through? I find many upright bass players will feed their instrument's sound through an amplifier when playing with a drummer in the group which immediately takes the level of the sound up a few notches to compete with the drumset. I think most people consider this a bit of esoterica and think the reviewer's terms of "woody bass" should be the same no matter how the instrument was played or recorded. The sound of an electric piano playing through a speaker in an isolation room or an open studio is quite different than that of the same instrument plugged directly into the board feeding the recording device. My experience is most people expect to hear something that isn't the relaity of how the performance was recorded and trying to explain that one thing cannot become another is futile.

I would say the response to JA's recording of Attention Screen is similar in some ways. When people read this was to be an "audiophile" recording, they seemed to expect a minimalist microphone set up with two or three mics only. When they received something very different than that in terms of microphone technique, they seemed a bit outraged.

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Re: Dup's redemption

There are tremendous differences in sound between extremely closed mic's singers (a couple of inches at most), close (a foor or two), five feet away, 20 feet away, etc. These decisions are part of what makes a pop recording sound very different from a classical recording.

In general, the further away the more "realistic" in the sense that it sounds like a singer in space as you would hear it as an audience member.

As a side note: I am amused when someone describes being able to hear a singer or instrumentalist moving from side to side in a pop recording. Uh huh. Right. All this from a single mic. Sure.

Diana Krall is typically recorded very close and sounds like she is bellowing in your ear - amusing but annoying - every lip smack and uvula waggle is memorialized. Add lots of compression to her voice as they do and who knows what she actually might sound like.

Attnetion Screen surprised me. In the article JA stated "I can then record the band as though it was a classical acoustic ensemble." I thus expected a stereo pair of mics maybe 10-15 feet away with some spot mics for balance when needed.

I was very surprised that he used direct injection for the bass guitar (output of guitar is recorded directly - there is no "sound" as it appears in air recorded, only the mechanical signal from the guitar's pickups), multi-mic'd the drum set, recorded the guitar amp with a mic an inch away from the speaker, etc. This isn't how a classical ensemble is recorded as I think of things.

However, he did not use EQ nor compression on the resulting mix. Thus, while what is on the CD is not what the audience heard, it is a wonderful recording with delicious timbre, dynamic range, lightening fast transients and great balance.

Is it "real"? No, in that it isn't what the audience heard. Yes, in that the instruments sound much more like real instruments and less like studio animals.

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Re: Dup's redemption?


Quote:
This isn't how a classical ensemble is recorded as I think of things.

Oh, then you've never heard a 1980's DG classical recording? I do believe the orchestra had to sign a contract agreement to have no less than 50 microphones on the performers.

LOOK OUT! THAT VIOLIN IS FIFTY FEET WIDE AND COMING AT YOU!!!

Yeeeeesh!


Quote:
Is it "real"? No, in that it isn't what the audience heard. Yes, in that the instruments sound much more like real instruments and less like studio animals.

Possibly John will comment here. He and RR have both made the claim the recording is "what they heard" at the performance. One from the stage and the other from the location of the recording equipment.

But, I agree the tone and timbre, the dynamics and timing of the performers and their instruments is excellent. I admit to having "issues" with the multi-mic'd drumset even if I understand why it would be done. And the direct injection of the bass gives me pause when I channel Cozart Fine.

But if we agree this is an excellent and quite possibly "reference recording" for reasons other than being recorded with two or three omni directional micrpohones, doesn't that infer that things other than the typical audiophile qualities of soundstaging can still make a convincing recorded experience? And, if that's true, how far is the stretch to AD's, "The next time someone tells me that they know that the realistic reproduction of music in the home requires 1) 24-bit/192kHz (or whatever), 2) perfectly flat frequency response, 3) bass down to 20Hz, 4) 5.1 channels

Elk
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What is real?

There are indeed some awful recordings of classical music. Particularly awful are those that sit the listener at many places at once; for example, simultaneously up close and far away so that certain instruments sound as they are next to you with others fifty feet away. Weird.

I expected JA to use a microphone pair or two on Attention Screen to record the sound of the ensemble as he recorded Cantus. I did not expect the use of DI, an exceedingly close mic'ed guitar amp, and close field multiple drum set mics. These are studio techniques.

Moreover, these methods do not capture the sound of the instruments as heard by an audience. For example, DI gives a bass a punchier attack than the sound that comes out of the amp.

(I have no objection if the bass player used compression on his instrument while on stage, many (most?) bass players run their instrument's output through a compression pedal before the signal gets to the amp - it's part of the sound of the instrument.)

Again, the resulting recording is wonderful! It just is not what I expected. I readily admit however that I made incorrect assumptions as to how it would be recorded.

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Re: Dup's redemption


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Diana Krall is typically recorded very close and sounds like she is bellowing in your ear - amusing but annoying - every lip smack and uvula waggle is memorialized. Add lots of compression to her voice as they do and who knows what she actually might sound like.

I guess this only shows that just like wide ranging subjective views of components the same hold true for recordings as well.

I have a real fondness for her recent From This Moment On release and think the sound is absolutely fantastic. I've heard it on a number of systems and even had the extreme pleasure of hearing the entire thing on McIntosh (amps)/Levinson (pre and CDP)/Wilson Maxx 2 system.

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Re: Dup's redemption

Elk, you and ttt got what I was trying to say.

If you want to relate it to photography, your print can only be as good as your negative. You can spend lots of money on the best enlarger lens, paper. You can spend lots of money on ensuring that there's no deviation from your enlarger's light by putting in a voltage regulator, and have the freshest batch of chemicals, but when all is said and done, you are limited by your negative. Hence, as a printer, the photographer's lens is your reference not the actual scene. I understand that it's that scene that you want to reproduce at home, yet once again, you're limited by the negative. So, the best you can do is manipulate the print to your liking.

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Re: Dup's redemption

But if the negative is faulty, you either deliberately chose to make it so or you began with faulty equipment. You are still missing the point, Alex. If you intentionally distort the recording and deliberately deviate from reality, then a reference is still of value to tell you that is what has happened. The argument has always been against using electrified instruments as a reference because there are no reality checks on what an electric piano plugged directly into the board actually sounds like. In essence it becomes a two dimensional rather than a three dimensional object. It's like looking at the image in a mirror, there is a reflection of depth but there is no real depth to the image.

I hope we are not headed down that path of head beating once again. If you really wish to redeem dup, then, yes, that is his position that only what he chose to care about is important and thus "real" simply because he chose to make it his position and shouted down any and all who would dissent. That does not however, make dup right, only obstinate.

I do believe we must discuss qualities where a reference is possible. We can have a reference for the tone and timbre of an acoustic instrument just as we can recognize the signature tone of a humbucker pick up on a Fender Stratocaster as opposed to a Les Paul from Gibson. We can recognize the attack of the hammers on a "real" piano but cannot have a reference for what those hammers sound like on an amplified, electrified piano since there are no hammers. We can understand how a standup bass can fill the room as the sound propels itself from the instruments' body and blooms out into the acoustic of the room. That isn't what we hear when a direct feed from an electric bass is plugged into the board. We can listen for the timing and the nuances of technique made real by the performers in any recording.

If those are deliberately distorted or ignored, then we have a reference for that as being not real. It is the same process as looking at the Dali vision of clocks. We know clocks do not melt around objects because we have a reference for how a clock looks and works. We know that because we have a "reference". If you did not have that reference for reality, you would drive the salespeople crazy looking for one of those cool looking clocks you saw the other day. Understand? No reference for sky blue, you repaint the room. No reference for clocks, you can't have what you saw because it doesn't exist. No reference for what real instruments should sound like when recorded properly, you cannot properly build a high end system. If colorations are want you want then you must look elsewhere. If the source is intentionally distorted, then you can recognize that - if you have a reference for the relaity of the thing. Having that reference gives you the ability to recognize when the clocks or the piano are being deliberately manipulated. Which gives you the ability to appreciate the distortion. Otherwise, you would simply think, "Gee, that Dali guy's real good at painting stuff; I like that"

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Re: Dup's redemption

Ok, we're getting there...

You're not the one who created the negative, but you're the one printing from it. The negative was not intentionally distorted, but the camera's lens was not as good as your enlarger lens. So, you're printing your negative, but your results are only as good as the camera's lens. You can't get more resolution, contrast, color fidelity than what's on the negative.

Now, there seems to be consensus here that the from the sound quality point of view, the recording equipment in MOST studios isn't as good as the uber hi-fi rigs audiophiles have in their homes. I am excluding audiophile labels from this discussion because they're too small to cover a significant range of available music. So, if most audio recording equipment is of grade B, what's the point of spending megabucks on grade A playback equipment? It's like spending your money on a great enlarger lens when you know that most of your negatives are coming from disposable cameras. Hence, DUP's argument. This argument is especially poignant when it comes to cables. If the studios use pro quality cables, then what is the point of spending a grand on mystical cables? Even if they are better than the pro stuff, your print will only be as good as the negative.

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What is real?


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Now, there seems to be consensus here that the from the sound quality point of view, the recording equipment in MOST studios isn't as good as the uber hi-fi rigs audiophiles have in their homes.

I won't even come close to accepting this premise. Every professional studio has sound recording equipment that easily beats our ability to reproduce what has been recorded.

For that matter, many hobbyists and project studios do also. It's actually one of the frustrations (and delights) of being a hobbyist recording engineer.

For example, I must playback what I have recorded on an excellent system to begin to completely appreciate the differences between moving a microphone pair a foot.

However, this difference is easy for the mics, mic pre and ADC to capture. And my recording equipment, while decent, doesn't even begin to approach what the average studio is using.

On a different point, while I understand the argument of "why use better cables than what the recording engineer did?", if one accepts the premise that cables matter, one should use the cables that do the least amount of damage to the sound that exists on the recording.

That is, to mix in the metaphor, if a better cables allow a more pristine view of the negative, these cables should be used.

I also believe that any recording you know intimately and have heard on various systems can be used as your personal reference to judge a system. Thus it is perfectly appropriate for a reviewer to use a studio pop recording to help evaluate a piece of playback equipment.

For example, if you know the synthesizer sound has a certain subtle formant sweep that is not revealed by the piece under evaluation you know something is not right.

Yet, the ultimate test for me remains whether the playback system recreates the sound of unamplified acoustic instruments played in a real space. This is what matters to me.

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What is real?


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Diana Krall is typically recorded very close and sounds like she is bellowing in your ear - amusing but annoying - every lip smack and uvula waggle is memorialized. Add lots of compression to her voice as they do and who knows what she actually might sound like?


I guess this only shows that just like wide ranging subjective views of components the same hold true for recordings as well.

I have a real fondness for her recent From This Moment On release and think the sound is absolutely fantastic.


Nothing wrong with this at all!

The only caveat is to understand that this is not "real" in any sense; the voice that is on the recording is not her voice, but a studio creature. Even Elvis does not hear this sound when Ms. Krall sings directly into his ear.

While it will never happen, it would be wonderful to have a recording of just Ms. Krall playing the piano and singing, minimally mic'd, no compression, no EQ.

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Re: Finding a reference is not dup's redemption


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Now, there seems to be consensus here that the from the sound quality point of view, the recording equipment in MOST studios isn't as good as the uber hi-fi rigs audiophiles have in their homes.

I believe you are once again reading something into our words that does not exist. Studio equipment for mastering purposes is generally very high quality. The equipment the performers take on the road with them must meet standards which place ultimate fidelity lower in rank.

It is how the studio engineers and producers use the equipment they have at hand and the decisions they make in using those pieces which have a distorting effect on the typical pop/rock final product. Unless the producer deliberately chooses to mix on a 6X9 car speaker, the equipment is of better fidelity than most listeners will use.

Therefore, let's discount your first "proof".


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I am excluding audiophile labels from this discussion because they're too small to cover a significant range of available music.

BANG! BANG! BANG!!!

OK, that's the sound of my head hitting the wall a few times. Try to understand this one, Alex, you cannot exclude the audiophile labels because they are the labels largely responsible for the reference quality recordings. You cannot listen to "Kind of Blue" or the Mercury Living Presence recordings and say you prefer to ignore what is the highest form of art possible. They are a necesary part of your references - as you should see later in this post. You cannot continue to buy the $12.98 poster of a Van Gough and believe you have the best representation of art possible. Even if you've never seen the real thing, you should be able to understand the difference between the poster and the actual thing or the cheap imitation of reality and fifth row seats at the symphony.

Let's discount your second "proof".


Quote:
So, you're printing your negative, but your results are only as good as the camera's lens.

If you insist on owning nothing other than $5 disposable cameras because you just don't feel like putting your resources into anything better, why would you want to buy the expensive developer? By doing its job correctly it will only show the lack of resolution and flaws in the source recording. That doesn't mean you do not recognize the flaws as distortions of reality; but having those flaws constantly displayed only serves to further point out how far from the reality the recording has strayed. If you don't care, then there is no need for this thread.

If you care not for the intial product, why care about the final product? If you don't care about the sound of live music, why buy a high end system? If everything you buy as source material is flawed, then you have two choices IMO.

1) You can look past the colorations and find the truth underlying the flaws, in which case you will need equipment capable of doing just that job and not adding further colorations of its own. In which case you will require a reference to allow your aural memory to do its job where the recording equipment failed. Young Prof, Johnson's equipment did not capture the bass element of the train. That doesn't mean I don't know it should be there. In fact, I know it should be there because I have a reference for a train in real life. Therefore, I can accept that the bass is missing but the train is still real as my brain fills in the missing parts pulled from my reference memory of a train passing by me.

2) You can live with the added colorations of the equipment, in which case the need for high resolution equipment is not there and may be better served by equipment which has consistent colorations you can learn to over look. In that case, the colorations of the equipment might become part your reference but you accept that you do not have the highest fidelity to the truth. If this is where your budget takes you, then there's no objection to this as a stopping point. If, however, you deliberately choose to ignore the lack of fidelity out of lack of concern for fidelity there is no need for this thread.

Buying high end equipment in the former instance would be prudent. Spending for high end equipment in the latter is ridiculous.

Discount your third "proof".


Quote:
You're not the one who created the negative, but you're the one printing from it.

Then what is your responsibility as a passive process server? You do not get to decide what is the intent or reason behind the "distortion". That is not your job. You do not get to decide how to alter that negative. That is not your job. To do otherwise would make you an editor of the process. If you prefer to deliberately "edit" or in some way alter every recording without regard for fidelity, then there is no need for high end equipment or this thread.

The job of the person given the distorted negative is to reproduce the distortion without comment. Period! You can recognize the distortion for what it is - but only if you have a reference for the real thing. Without a reference you won't know whether the recording is distorted.

It is not your job to make a decision to further distort the distortion. If the distortion was intentional, then trying to repair the distortion only interferes with the intent. If you are then handed the next source recording and it has a different amount or type of intentional distorion, using the same settings as for the previous "correction" will only make the second recording further from the truth. You will further edit the content in unpredictable ways. That makes you an active participant and not a passive observer. Fidelity is not served by active participation of an editor.

If the photographer's intent was for the negative to be in color and you make the print black and white, you have not served anyone any purpose other than yourself. You have created a lie merely to please yourself. If you, as the developer, are handed a photo taken at f16, it is not your job to make the photo look as if it were taken at f4.5. To do so as the one involved in the distortion of the distortion is a deviation from the photographer's intent and makes you an editor and not a passive process server.

If the negative is faulty due to poor equipment in the way a disposable camera distorts color, darkens areas in an unpredicatable manner and lightens other in just as unpredicatable a fashion, looses sharpness outside the central area of focus and flattens perspective, your task in the studio is not to sharpen the photo's qualities and so forth unless you are asked to do such editting.

In order to do so, however, would require you to have a reference for where you should take the photo to make the proper corrections. You cannot color correct for the original photographic recording of a flower unless you have a reference for what that specific flower should look like. Another photo will not do unless you have a "reference quality" photo. Hence the need for reference quality sound recordings when discussing audio equipment.

Discount your fourth "proof".


Quote:
You can't get more resolution, contrast, color fidelity than what's on the negative.

To do so would be adding colorations where they do not exist. I think we've covered the issue of old recordings and new playback gear so I'll assume this is not the circuitous route to which you prefer to return. However, you are mentioning only a few of the qualities which separate the recording process of a stationary object - a photograph - from the recording process of an event which occupies time - a performance. I'm not going to spoon feed the differences to you, Alex, but rather have you think about what those variables might be. And how the recording process of one thing is not the same as the recording process of another. And what we should take away from those difference that make up our references.

So, we'll just put your fifth "proof" on hold for the moment.

Now it is your job to think, Alex. So far you are operating with yet more logical fallacies. You cannot say one thing effects the other when the two have no relationship to each other. You cannot ignore or distort facts in order to make a case that relies on accuracy of the facts.

I will grant you one thing at this point. If you only wish the final product to have the low fidelity a disposable camera provides, you really have no reason investing in anything with greater resolution than the recording equipment can produce. (Though I don't believe that was the point you were trying to make.) However, that does not obviate the benefit of a reference.

If you listen to one recording of a human voice or a common acoustic instrument, you already have a reference for the human voice and that instrument. If you've seen a clock and understand how it must operate, you have a reference for why Dali's disortions are just that - distortions. If you wish to have a deliberate distortion of that thing, and you wish it to be consistent across all recordings, you must have a reference for the distortion vs. the reality.

If you don't mind that it is distorted and can live with the fact it is distorted differently with each passing recording, then you have no need for the high end audio business any more than you have any reason to own a high end developer.

But if you wish to have the most realistic reproduction of that item for which you have a reference, you cannot accept distortions that change with the whim of the developer/equipment. You should therefore seek the equipment with the highest fidelity to reproducing the original which you can then compare against your reference in order to judge that piece of equipment's deviation from or lack of fidelity.

If you have that reference for a human voice or a single instrument, it then only requires you to extend the effort to have the same reference for other things. If you choose not to, then continue to buy the disposable camera and the one hour, free double print developing process. Buy your equipment at WalMart. But do not deny the rest of us need for the 5x4 range finder or the knowledge of the flower's true colorations and details.

In other words, Alex, I don't care if you don't wish to have a reference. But do not assume me a fool for wanting to have a reference for my sources and recordings and the ability to reproduce it accordingly. That is where dup was always wrong.

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