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Buddha
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Re: Ignoring facts is not Alex's redemption

Right!

With live acoustic music as a reference, we can, over time, get to a place where we have an idea
of which recordings and components or systems seem to come closest to this ideal.

If we persist, over time we will make progress toward that ideal. I think that's what drives me in this hobby, at any rate.
(As an aside, the apparent lack of the industry doing this, to his eye,
is what seems to have driven JGH to madness.)

I think Alex's point about there being no prefect "knowable" reference
for any given recording is true.
It's just that I don't think that perfectly reproducing one specific
recording is the goal of Hi Fi. I want my system to come as close as possible to doing this for as many recordings
as possible (if that makes sense.)
I think Alex is painting with too narrow a brush, but he's right about any single recording.

Jan Vigne
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Re: Ignoring facts is not Alex's redemption

It's been clear for some time that swapping out a single component can alter your perspective on a single recording. That should only matter if you only have a single recording in your listening library.

Alex, developing a reference in sound is similar to a chef developing a reference for what ingredients taste like. There is a wide variety of flavors in any one spice or herb but a good chef knows not to add fennel to a dish when the desired result is the flavor of sage or nutmeg. But continually sampling the taste of the references broadens your ability to discern ever more discrete additions and subtractions. Over time you know what is in a dish and how much and even where the spice originated.

But you must develop the reference. It isn't going to come to you without effort on your part. If you're lazy, you'll never make the effort to get beyond the mediocre. You must put forth the effort. If you are and you're sincere, you will be rewarded. If not, you'll just waste a lot of people's time. And you have no business telling anyone what they should like or insisting they should like what you like. Some people prefer fennel and some nutmeg. Know which is which and be happy with that knowledge.

Buddha
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Re: Ignoring facts is not Alex's redemption

I prefer fennel to anise, myself.

Anise sounds like some part they use to make hot dogs.

Anise Nin is OK, though.

What were we talking about?

Oh yeah, Hi Fi.

Jan, how much convergence do you think you've seen with the "dedicated" systems you've encountered?

System differences fascinate me, and it makes me wonder what some people must be hearing that that I don't, or, in some cases, vice versa.

I've heard such a spectrum of sound from "ape-shit level" systems, that sometimes I think it's a wonder we can talk about this subject at all!

Having said that, when I do encounter what I consider to be a great system, the common feeling I get sonically is that what I am hearing is occuring without any effort being put forward at all. "Effortlessness" may be my ultimate system compliment, and I do find some convergance between sonically different systems when I use that criterium - go figure!

Jan Vigne
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Re: Ignoring facts is not Alex's redemption

You'll have to explain "dedicated" systems. What exactly does that mean to you?

Buddha
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Re: Ignoring facts is not Alex's redemption


Quote:
You'll have to explain "dedicated" systems. What exactly does that mean to you?

Sorry for being obtuse.

I was thinking about the times you have run into systems that have been put together by "dedicated" audiophiles. I was typing along with the ideas in my head, but my fingers couldn't spill it out right!

So, systems that are the focal point of the space they occupy, no compromises for a specifically decorative room full of furniture, no cave in to the WAF/SAF (Spouse Acceptance Factor.) Systems that have been assembled by audiophiles who really try to focus on getting the last drop out of their gear. Not limited solely to the lunatic fringe amoung us, but in the realm of audio where the owner likes music, likes the gear, and is questing to make things sound "right."

Is that better?

I looked at how I wrote that original sentence and felt embarrassed. It was one of those, "I know what I mean, why don't you?" sentences!

trevort
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Re: Ignoring facts is not dup's redemption

More on what is the acoustic reference, when a single instrument can sound different up close vs far away etc:

It seems there's multiple layers of sonic signatures at play when sound is generated, and we can somehow separate them out easier than we're allowing in this discussion.

IE: We all know what a violin sounds like, vs another instrument.

We know what a given one sounds like, if we're a good violinist

We still recognize it when played with a different bow and in a different room, etc.

All the above is processed almost unconsciously. Thus, intuitively we have at least two layered references we can draw upon when evaluating sound (is violin? is my violin?)
This is a sonic signature that is more distinctive than the variations of room and player, say.
Its a lot like recognizing voices and accents for example among the other clutter of sonic signatures. Or the spice analogy -- same thing!
Also, just because our references are personal (maybe somewhat different from each others) and difficult to articulate, does mean they are not real and reliable

So, trying to apply this concept to our stereos: We have these references in mind -- we have no problem knowing what a violin or "our violin" is -- so we can easily recognize it on our stereo.

The only tricky thing left over is to objectify our reference: identify it as distinct from the sound we're hearing and then describe how the current sound is different from our internal reference. This seems a subtle cognitive exercise, which is maybe why we're scratching our heads over it.

Stab at describing the reference a bit:
Looking at an oscilliscope rendering of the violin there is much to distinguish it from other instruments. Just because you sort of alter the tone, so to speak, the relative relation between the fundamental note and its overtones is not violated. You can muck about with that sound signature a lot and its still a violin sound.

And finally, surely the reason why violin and human voice are so useful as references is because they are SO distinct. This distinctiveness makes them so interesting to us, because they allow for such variation from the "reference" and still come back home as a violin sound.
Also, the reason we can be "fooled by a stereo" when we hear say percussion rather than voice is again that the percussive signature is so much simpler.

Buddha
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Re: Ignoring facts is not dup's redemption

So, when a violin player listens to a violin recording, would his perspective of reference require that the system play that violin sound much more loudly out of the left hand speaker?

dcstep
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Re: Ignoring facts is not Alex's redemption

Well, my friend . Just because my system meets WAF standards doesn't mean I'm not a "dedicated" audiophile. I'll put my system up against many built by others. Yes, I've sacrificed some dynamic range from limiting my speakers to Vienna Acoustics Beethoven Baby Grands vs. Wilso MaXX (or whatever they're called) but there's lots of musical truth in my system.

Like I said up the thread, I don't try to match the experience of playing trumpet in a large orchestra playing a "big" piece of music. Nobody could sell a recording from that perspective except as an audiophile curiousity, or something trumpeters would buy.

To suggest that someone that stops short of a system that has every last iota of dynamic range, or another single element, is missing the point of audio. For me audio is about creating a pleasing musical experience, free of electronic hash and lacking major discolorations and including dynamics consistant with the listening environment (my home). (Or my head when I've got the AKG cans on).

Maybe it's because I get to play live music in performance and rehearsal several times per month that I don't try to get everything out of my audio system. I see striving for "everything" as futile. However, there are elements that I really love hearing in a system and I DO gravitate to recordings that "seem to be" spacially accurate (notice that I didn't say "are spacially accurate", because I can't know that unless I was there), timbrally accurate and with a pleasing dynamic range in my listening environment.

Speaking of dynamic range, it's interesting that so many singers are now recorded at a whisper in many "audiophile" recordings and pop. When we listen we actually expand the dynamic range of what was actually recording. Why are we please with that. We're please because it emulates what we hear at a "live" performance and the same singers uses a good mic through a good PA. (Usually a live performance is spoiled by crappy sound, so we're even more pleased to hear it through our wonderful systems).

I think why we see so many audiophile violin and cello recordings is that they're relatively easy to record. The dynamic range is actually pretty small and if you put them in a reasonably reverbant room the sound is pleasant. Listening to real violin in a dead room is actually quite excrutiating, IMHO, and I wonder how they can stand that scratchy sound in their ear all the time.

OTOH, piano and trumpet are incredibly dynamic and really hard to record and produce the sound of what you'd hear in a room. Jazz trumpeters resort to proximity playing, with their bells inches from the mic. Classical trumpet can work pretty well at a compressed dynamic, but when you try to capture a piece with the full dynamic range, most recording equipment craps out. (BTW, a few of my favorite brass records are at very low levels and they really respond to turning the volume up a bunch compared to average recordings of other subjects).

I think there's no "absolute sound" because we each have different priorities. I've listened to horn speakers that were breathtaking in their dynamic range, but had a midrange coloration that I absolutely couldn't stand. Others in the room thought I was nuts. My priorities made that particular system unacceptable to me, but the owner was as proud as could be and at least a couple of others in the room were mighty impressed and thinking about how they could replicate that sound in their own systems.

Anyway, just because a wife approves of a system does not negate its relevance as an audiophile reference.

Dave

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Re: Ignoring facts is not Alex's redemption


Quote:

Anyway, just because a wife approves of a system does not negate its relevance as an audiophile reference.

Actually, it does. That's one of the few criteria that can singlehandedly completely and totally negate a pure reference system.

Sorry, dude.

Jan Vigne
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Re: Ignoring facts is no one's redemption


Quote:
Jan, how much convergence do you think you've seen with the "dedicated" systems you've encountered?

I'm not sure how to begin because the convergence has in some ways become smaller and in others much larger. Reasons for this are, IMO, not that many buyers have a reference for live music and Home Theater. HT is one reason, but not the only reason, I left audio sales. The lack of concern for what sounds real (vis a vis music) was another. I saw the clientelle slowly change over the years from music lovers for the most part to people who just wanted a good system and didn't have too many ideas of why something was good or not other than they liked it or someone told them it was good. As I've suggested to Alex, you have to make an effort to have a reference and not many of the clients I spoke to over the last years had made the same effort as their parents. In 1975 selling to someone who brought in a stack of records was quite different than in 2000 when I was selling to someone who ran out to get a CD from their car.

Within my experience, the convergence has gone from JBL Century's/Klipsch Cornwalls vs. Double Advents/Ohm F's to Thiels vs. Harbeths vs. Wilsons vs. the ubiquitous B&W's in speakers. In amplification it has gone from McIntosh vs. Crown vs. Apt vs. Conrad Johnson to McIntosh vs. Conrad Johnson vs. Audio Research vs. Naim. (Dallas plays it safe; if a company hasn't been around for thirty years or so, they won't buy it.) If you recognize those names, you'll see we've mostly gone from a stereo with tone controls cranked full to a system without tone controls. The former still exists in too many stores but the latter is more present in what I hear today in dedicated systems. So the norm has narrowed to a smaller variation than when I began in audio. Where a few years back the dissimilarities between systems was still on par with toggling your TV between, "6900k", "Movies", "Sports" and "Games", the difference now is more similar to toggling the menu on your digital camera between parameters. But that preset white balance can be a killer if you care about such things.

I was taught and accepted that you had to get the midrange right. First and foremost. If you did that, then most other things would fall in line. So, while I was weaned on Advents and AR's I quickly accepted KEF's, Celestions and Rogers as the best a box speaker could manage and Quad as the least colored, most transparent speaker - period. I had my audio epiphanies and the original Quad was one of them - Bozak Concert Grands with Scully tape decks another. I thought acoustic suspension bass was terrific until I heard the big IMF's. I'm not a fan of typical vented boxes and just find it annoying in most systems but almost everyone builds them today.

To my ears, tone is everything and all else follows. I get the feeling Art Dudley has the same priorities in many cases and that's why I like his reviews. He seems a little harder to impress than when I first encountered his writings but appreciates the music over the equipment.

As I hear things, there still seems to be a division between speakers which get the middle right and those that don't - or don't so much as the next guy. But a Focal speaker's mids sound much more like a Harbeth today than a Klipsch ever did an AR.

Most of the dedicated systems I've heard lately have decent rooms which is a big step forward from not that many years ago. Not every owner knows how to actually treat the room but they've made some attempt and enough so that some is far better than none.

I get the feeling too many speakers still offer sound that is set on "Sports" and try too hard to impress. Whether that has to do with more speakers being required to do double duty with HT, I don't know but I somewhat think so. I was rather pleasantly surprised to hear the current Wilson WATT. Like it or not I think it tends to be a leader of the pack with too many other designs following the leader rather than believing in what is real about their own references. Having sold the first two generations of the Wilsons it has, IMO, gone from a speaker to marvel at to a speaker to listen through - though it's still not my cup of tea. No one sells real Quads in Dallas that I know of, just the HT oriented stuff but too many shops sell B&W. None of the "mainstream" shops really sell tubes here. PrimaLuna and Audio Research are sold because they are PrimaLuna and Audio Research, not because they're tubes. I don't know of anyone doing triodes. The big Wilsons are sold as art and not necessarily speakers. When I first started selling I sold Klipschorns when the oil well came in. Now it's B&W's when the flip house sells.

In the end, most dedicated systems today sound quite listenable even if I wouldn't buy many of them. Materials and workmanship are generally better than twenty years ago and CAD programs have allowed less variation in component sound. Also, the audio press has had its influence in which capacitors, connectors, types of power supply, cables, cartridges and so forth to employ. At the very top of what I've heard recently, which isn't all that high by today's standards ($70k or so), everything is much less noisey than a decade ago and distortions are minimzed. At their best it's much easier to carry on a conversation while the system is playing at any level than it was when I began selling. The sense of relaxation is better in almost all high end systems I've heard. The same colorations exist in today's stuff that were there twenty years ago but they are far less noticeable and you have to put more effort into discovering the characteristics of most electronics. In general solid state and tubes do sound more alike than ever.

I would say I can still tell whether the shop or owner of the system believes in getting the mids right, whether they like vented or sealed bass or don't know the difference, boxes or no boxes when it comes to speakers, lots of capacitors in the crossovers or none, whether the system can manage even a modest amount of PRaT is still easily detected with "Whummmmph" still replacing "And a 1 and a 2 ... ", and whether the system is meant to impress or to listen through. Which means it's still fairly easy to tell whether the shop or owner listens to live music or what type of music they like. The last few times I've been in a high end shop and asked to listen no one asked what music I preferred; they just started with a solo guitar and voice. OK, but you should be able to do that convincingly for about 1/10th the price. I get the feeling I'm being sold a TV instead of an audio system.

What I still seldom if ever hear is the high end of a speaker reproduce the way a string or percussion instrument explodes into the room. Panels are much better than boxes here but several of the panels I've heard recently seem to be too unbalanced. I don't know if it's the speaker or the set up. Martin Logans are the preferred panel in Dallas. I never have cared much for Martin Logans but I can still sit and listen through Magnepans all day. I guess the most important thing is I've not heard a system that I thought I needed to listen through for quite some time. Nothing has held my attention like it used to. Maybe that's me, maybe it's the equipment, maybe it's the demo material. Demo material seems to have literally taken a step down in quality; there's not much music played just demo stuff. The guy in a shop today (Classe/B&W) thought there might be some clasical selections on his demo disc.

At the very best the convergence of systems is about what you'd expect between good camera lenses. How color correct is the system and how does it retain its focus beyond the center image. I get the feeling nuance has generally been traded off for detail and I still prefer nuance. I don't need to hear the stops on a trumpet but I would like to hear how the player works the instrument and interprets the music. I seldom hear a system that does soundstage the way I hear it live. Part of that is usually the set up and part is the system. Probably 80%+ of the box speakers I hear have everyone sitting down. No one stands up to sing or play until I get to panel speakers. I always thought if a performer was six feet tall they should sound like it. Maybe I'm just not hearing the right stuff but Double Advents made Gordon Lightfoot sound like he was at least 5'7".

I think the transparency of the systems today is much better than most of what I sold. But I always thought the sound of music hasn't changed in fifty years so the sound of a system should still find that truth I spoke about. I listen to new gear and can still come home to my old Mac tube amplifiers. They're not as quiet and they don't have the "jump" of some new gear but they suggest live music to me and let me relax.

I don't know if that answers the question or not.

Jan Vigne
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Re:Finding facts is you redemption

Finding facts is your redemption. And knowing what you've found and how to use it is the best you can hope for.

Well said, ttt & dcstep, and I agree with what you've said and how you've said it.

It bears repeating:


Quote:
To suggest that someone that stops short of a system that has every last iota of dynamic range, or another single element, is missing the point of audio. For me audio is about creating a pleasing musical experience, free of electronic hash and lacking major discolorations and including dynamics consistant with the listening environment (my home).

Here's my criteria for what is correct in playback in this area. I cannot fit a symphony orchestra in my room but I can fit the perspective of an orchestra in my room. When I go listen live I prefer to be in a seat that allows the performers to occupy about 85-90% of my field of vision. That's what I try to replicate in my room. The tone and dynamic range of the system should, over the widest number of recordings, approximate that same sense of being at the live performance whether it is classical or blues music I'm hearing.


Quote:
Maybe it's because I get to play live music in performance and rehearsal several times per month that I don't try to get everything out of my audio system. I see striving for "everything" as futile. However, there are elements that I really love hearing in a system and I DO gravitate to recordings that "seem to be" spacially accurate (notice that I didn't say "are spacially accurate", because I can't know that unless I was there), timbrally accurate and with a pleasing dynamic range in my listening environment.

Every system has trade offs and how you establish what you require and what you will give up is how you cull out what is acceptable and what is a keeper. But it must begin with a consistent reference for what is real. I don't have to carry a stack of my favorite recordings into a shop to judge a component or speaker. While I'm disappointed in what is used as demo material in most shops, the reference to "is it real" is sufficient to make many decisions about what I'm hearing a simple matter whether the demo is with a solo voice and guitar or an amplified jazz group.


Quote:
I think there's no "absolute sound" because we each have different priorities.

If "absolute" means only one way to hear sound (or reproduce sound), recorded or live, then I agree. If absolute refers to 1+1+1 = 5, then I disagree. We have the flexibility to decide what each "1" is for us, but we cannot change the ultimate math. 1+1+1 must = 3 if we are to succeed in this endeavor.


Quote:
It seems there's multiple layers of sonic signatures at play when sound is generated, and we can somehow separate them out easier than we're allowing in this discussion.

Exactly!


Quote:
All the above is processed almost unconsciously. Thus, intuitively we have at least two layered references we can draw upon when evaluating sound (is violin? is my violin?)

I mostly agree here. Too many people, however, have no "reference" for "violin". They assume it's a violin if it sounds they way they believe a violin sounds when played through a system of some sorts. They've never heard a real violin and wouldn't know the physical or sonic variations and overlaps between a violin and a viola. How many people know the sound of an oboe?

But, yes, when dealing with a reference we have established we are making the decisions as to whether this instrument or sound source is 1) real, which is difficult to tell in many non-clasical recordings and 2) does it fit the critieria for "real violin" that I've established for myself.


Quote:
Also, just because our references are personal (maybe somewhat different from each others) and difficult to articulate, does mean they are not real and reliable

Reliable = consistent. Real = real.


Quote:
Stab at describing the reference a bit:
Looking at an oscilliscope rendering of the violin there is much to distinguish it from other instruments. Just because you sort of alter the tone, so to speak, the relative relation between the fundamental note and its overtones is not violated. You can muck about with that sound signature a lot and its still a violin sound.


Quote:
Its a lot like recognizing voices and accents for example among the other clutter of sonic signatures. Or the spice analogy -- same thing!

Yes, very much so. Every now and then I'll have someone ask me whether I grew up in Texas even though I've now been here for 30 years. I haven't been home in a decade since I have no family left in Illinois but the last trip made "fark" and "shart" sound quiet unnatural when they at one time were how I spoke and heard.


Quote:
And finally, surely the reason why violin and human voice are so useful as references is because they are SO distinct. This distinctiveness makes them so interesting to us, because they allow for such variation from the "reference" and still come back home as a violin sound.
Also, the reason we can be "fooled by a stereo" when we hear say percussion rather than voice is again that the percussive signature is so much simpler.

I find it interesting to hear you gentlemen describe which instrument is "easy" as far as your concerned and which is distinct. The voice, I think, we all agree on largely because we do have a day to day reference for what is real. But other instruments being made easy or reference quality is one of the reasons musicians are difficult sells in an audio shop. I've been told it's not so, but I contend most musicians hear their own instrument, the instrument(s) immediately beside them and whatever instrument is carrying the beat for the performance. Beyond those few things, most musicians have the same essential references as you or I. That, however, makes selling a system to a pianist very different than selling a system to a violinist.

dcstep
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Re: Ignoring facts is no one's redemption

Great discussion of convergence Jan. It brought back lots of memories of trends gone by.

My audiopilia was dormant in my Dallas years. I mainly frequented Audio Concepts to go pick up Linn recordings occasionally. I strayed to another dealer when I bought my PS Lambda and DAC, but I've forgotten the name. Seems like I bought my Bryston from Mark at Audio Concepts in Houston, in the early 1980s. I remember being impressed by the Maggies in his showroom, but I stuck with my Celestions.

Thanks for the stroll down memory lane.

Dave

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Re:Finding facts is you redemption

Can we talk about "pace" a little bit? The focus on this was probably started by the Linn nut-case (Igor, Ivan or something like that) claiming that you could sing along with a Linn TT, but you couldn't would other TTs. Of course, that was absolutely wrong because tens of millions of us routinely sang along with radio with no trouble, back in the day when they still used TTs. Also, us musicians routinely bought records from Music Minus One and Jamey Aebersold and played along with those on non-Linn TTs.

Still, just because one nut-case is totally in left field doesn't mean that there's not some validity to the concept. Still, I can't hear it in my audio system. I CAN hear wow and flutter from less than stellar TTs, but pace is something else in my mind.

For instance, the other night I had to play a little ditty on trumpet and the pace moves from about 60 bpm (beats per minute) suddenly to 160 bpm. The conductor starts beating at 160 and the friggin drummer is ringing sleigh bells at about 149, and I have to come in. I choose to join the drummer because you can't hear the conductor. That's what pace is about. Those differences are giant compared to what you might hear in audio.

I don't even hear the tiniest delay in my audio system. Now, OTOH, I've played guitar through certain tube amps where I felt there was a delay between my stroke and sound out the amp. Still, I don't see how the listener would know that.

Keep in mind, I'm mainly a solid state kind of guy, so maybe my equipment (Bryston for decades and now Conrad Johnson SS) doesn't have any slowness or inaccuracies of pace.

So, what is being referred to when reviewers talk about speed and pace????

One last thing, everyone knows that symphony orchestras occasionally don't play perfectly together, don't they? When I hear that on a recording, I KNOW it's the orchestra and not my system. It can be disconcerting and all the sudden the clarity will become muddied. You have to be a mind reader to follow certain conductors and it will occasionally show up in recordings. (Actually it's gotten pretty darn rare in commercial recordings -- because of punch-ins-- but I hear it in "live" recordings still).

Dave

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Re:Finding facts is your redemption

Here's my way of talking to a client about PRaT.

I refer to a high school band , a college orchestra and a symphony full of professionals. If you'e ever heard or played in a garage band, the same ideas apply just on a smaller scale. As the high school band begins to learn a piece of music, each performer is so unsteady in their own capacities they will listen mainly to themself. They are interested in getting all the notes in mostly the right places and how they fit together with the other musicians is not in their mind at the very beginning. As they grow more confident in their own part, they slowly add the conductor and the other performers into the performance they are creating. So they are slowly integrating their timing with the other players. Once they are all playing the same parts at the same time, the conductor will take up the pace, playing faster and slower as the music demands. As they grow more confident still with each run through, the conductor now has timing and pace but must add the rhythmic momentum of the whole piece from start to finish as the ideas of the music ebb and flow from one section to the next. Dynamics and scale are introduced at this point. In the final performance, the entire selection has everyone playing together (timing), everyone playing at the same tempo (pace) and the music has emotional connection rather than just playing the notes by rote memory (rhythm).

Now take that same course of events and translate it to the college orchestra which has higher calibre players and better talent with more confidence from the start. That takes the PRaT to a higher level. Then think of the professional musician who plays together with others from the start while sight reading or improvising the music. The professionals begin at a more refined level of PRaT than where the high school band is likely to finish. Add a polished conductor who tightens the performance and seems to get more from the players as a whole and the level goes up one more notch.

However, my experience is someone gets the idea of PRaT from a magazine or forum and they expect something that doesn't exist in live music. My paragon of PRaT has long been the Dynaco ST70. With an under- or un-regulated power supply that swung madly from peak to peak, the PRaT of a ST70 is obvious - but not exactly real. If you can listen to boogie through a ST70 and not get yourself moving in or out of the chair, you have something wrong with you. OTOH, a Mac tube amp or Marantz 8b of the same vintage has a power supply that is tighter and more accurately follows the musical line but without the oh-so obvious swing to the music. As power supplies have progressed through the years they have gone from over regulated to the point of lacking PRaT in many cases to the more common ability to follow what is on the source with more accuracy. I think the popularity of lines such as Rega and Naim once again have made the point more obvious to a new generation of buyers.

Of course, the process of multi-channel recording, punch ins and over dubs along with the post production sweetening through multiple pieces of gear which all phase shift slightly in various directions make most such recordings devoid of the momentum of the music. Taking a "live on stage" recording and comparing the performance to the studio version, despite the post production work on both, usually reveals the degree of reality stripped from the studio work merely by way of how most recordings are constructed.

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Re:Finding facts is you redemption


Quote:
I find it interesting to hear you gentlemen describe which instrument is "easy" as far as your concerned and which is distinct. The voice, I think, we all agree on largely because we do have a day to day reference for what is real. But other instruments being made easy or reference quality is one of the reasons musicians are difficult sells in an audio shop.


While humans are most sensitive to listening to a voice, most of us have only the reference of spoken voice. Most people do not have any idea what a decent singing voice actually sounds like.

I suspect the lack of real world experience of singing may be why we are so tolerant of close-mic'ing and all the artifacts this induces (proximity effect, sibilance, ululations, etc.) and the practice (and need) of heavy compression. We accept this as real because we have heard it so many times.

(We need to use a lot of compression on a close mic'd voice because the dynamic range of even simple speech is tremendous, even more so for singing. Without compression close mic'd voice is essentially unlistenable.)

As for instrumentalists, we all are intimately familiar with the sound of our own instrument - at least from a performer's perspective. I've had plenty of arguments with trumpet players that there tone is not "warm and dark". It is only warm and dark when you are behind the bell or at least 30 degrees off-axis. This may have been yet an additional issue for Jan in selling to musicians.

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Re:Finding facts is you redemption

I haven't heard differences in PRaT. I also don't understand how there could be differences in timing in sound reproduction unless something is seriously wrong.

JA mentioned some time ago that he has heard timing differences induced through the use of compression added to a recording. I played around with compression and some of my own recordings after this. I found the same thing to be true, but only with certain compressors and with pretty heavy settings.

Thus, I can accept conceptually that if a playback system dynamically compresses the music, timing errors could be introduced.

I also can accept that a system that makes you want to tap your feet (for whatever reason) is more musical than other systems - and in this way has PRaT.

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Re:Finding facts is you redemption

Jan does good service to PRaT, which is probably one of the most bastardized and ill-used terms in Hi Fi. Kudos, jan. You and Martin Colloms make the terminology more clear.

I'm starting to think that about 99% of the usage of that term is just a way of someone letting you know they are an "official audiophile."

(It's the same with oenophilia. Many new wine aficionados tend to grab a word that they've heard other people use and start tossing it around whenever they are having any sort of wine experience. PRaT often suffers the same fate in Hi Fi circles.)

In general, PRaT seems to be used in place of "Je-ne-sais-quoi" when someone is trying to describe something he/she heard, for better or ill during a listening session.

Our hobby has cycles of favored terms being overused, and PRaT seems to be misused term of the last couple of years. We are currently surrounded by prats using PRaT with no sense of specific meaning.

Jan does a nice job of trying to make actual sense of the term, but I fear we are in for a few more years of PRaT prattle, until "cromulent," "beginulate, "brassafrax,", "sophistimacated," and "superliminal" get up to speed.

I'll try to get the ball rolling...

The new Sansuchi 666 gets right to the heart of the musical performance. It presents a cromulent view into the musical performance, and is able to really capture that moment of beginulation at the leading edge of sonic transients. It retains the brassafrax that gives one that certain "Je-ne-sais-quoi" feeling when in the presence of live acoustic music. The Sansuchi 666 can handle the complexity of multiple instruments playing simultaneously and presents a sophistamacated sound field. I am sure that if you take the time to audition this great new piece, you will find that it is a superliminal entry into the high end pantheon. When you think of the Sansuchi 666, think of what cromulent, sophistamacated sound means to you. It will bring great beginulation and excellent brassafrax into your home as part of the bargain.

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Re:Finding facts is your redemption

Ok, as I suspected, unless my system is totally fubar I'm not going to hear this "PRaT". BTW, I'm either too stupid or too lazy to figure out that acronym. What does it stand for? PacingR?and T?...

Dave

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Re:Finding facts is your redemption


Quote:
Ok, as I suspected, unless my system is totally fubar I'm not going to hear this "PRaT". BTW, I'm either too stupid or too lazy to figure out that acronym. What does it stand for? PacingR?and T?...

Dave

Hi, Dave!

PRaT stands for Pace, Rhythm, and Timing.

It basically boils down to "sounds nice."

If you like your system, it probably has PRaT.

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Re:Finding facts is your redemption

I've never heard a system that didn't have Pace and Rhythm. I'm thinking that since electrons are flowing through most systems in nano-seconds that all but the seriously flawed systems have PRaT.

I have heard systems with poor control of the woofer(s). I'd describe that as woofer overhang. I suppose that could be described as poor PRaT. I've also heard systems with a poorly placed sub-woofer or with a poor choice of cross-over point, those systems lack "coherence" in my view.

I think that the P and R parts of PRaT should be banished. I don't think I've ever heard poor Pace and Rhythm. The clouded coherency that we sometimes witness is more likely due to Timing in some component of the loudspeaker system or an interaction with the room. When someone tells me a system has good P and R, I immediately think they're BSing me.

Dave

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Re:Finding facts is your redemption

Well, the Flat Earth crowd has been convincing people for over thirty years now that some systems have PRaT and others don't. I'd have to agree with them. Some systems have such an analytical nature that the music is lost in translation. Where the problem occurs is sometimes hard to pin point without swapping components. Time alignment problems in speakers are difficult to establish since they are typically only correct in a small area of the crossover frequencies and at a certain distance from the speaker when dealing with multi-way speakers. The more ways, the more problems which then creep into frequency domain issues. In most cases I would attribute poor performance in pacing or timing to phase distortions which are usually associated with either a reversal of absolute phase or phase lead/lag caused by inductors and capacitors. These problems can occur in either speakers or components though the larger issues are typically in speakers with high order crossover filters or multiple notch filters combined with first order designs.

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Re:Finding facts is your redemption

Jan (and others) can you post some specific, commonly known components that don't have PRaT?

I am still trying to get a handle on exactly what is being described as PRaT.

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Re:Finding facts is your redemption


Quote:
Jan (and others) can you post some specific, commonly known components that don't have PRaT?

Nope. I really am not that current with what's out there that you could go hear and I think you could find an amplifier that doesn't have PRaT paired with a speaker that excels at PRaT and think I'm crazy for suggesting this is an example of a PRaT-less component.

I would suggest you listen to some Naim equipment. Their forte has always been the Flat Earth approach to sound which places PRaT above soundstaging and imaging. Compared to Naim most everything else has less in the way of PRaT. (That just sounds so ridiculous.)

As has been pointed out, PRaT is "the" word to sell right now; so lots of components have discovered PRaT. I would tell you Wilson WATT's don't got no PRaT but that's just my opinion. The idea of pacing, rhythm and timing is similar to any other reference. First, go listen to some live music to hear what is there in the real thing. My opinion is there's generally less PRaT in live music than what some people want from their systems. Then recognize whether PRaT is high on your list of requirements for a system. For some listeners it's not, just as soundstage or tone are less admired by some people than others. You may accept the timing of the musicians as OK no matter what the system does.

If you just said, "Yeah, but I want to hear this PRaT everybody talks about", I'd tell you any single driver system has this quality by default. A pair of Quads has this because they can't not have it. SET's almost always have a great sense of timing and rhythm when paired with the right speaker.

What doesn't have PRaT? I would say NAD has never got it right. I don't know why but NAD has always sounded wrong to me. Their equipment has never managed to get the way live music stops and starts the way I hear it. OTOH, people buy it like it was on sale.

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Re:Finding facts is your redemption

Hmm, I think PRaT is really dynamics, phase coherance and speaker timing, at least based on Jan's description. None of those things have anything to do with pacing and rythym, IMHO. Perhaps it's a misnomer.

Is NAIM related to Linn? That Igor or Ivan guy at Linn has said a lot of really silly things about pacing. However, NAIM's vinyl has great PRaT on my system, but they're certainly not the only producers of great LPs.

Dave

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Re:Finding facts is your redemption


Quote:
I am still trying to get a handle on exactly what is being described as PRaT.

Elk - While this is going to sound really imprecise, it may at least convey a sense of this pace and rhythm that people are talking about. Years ago, I was auditioning a few different aftermarket power cords. One of them was a Synergistic Research Reference. This cord conveyed a better sense of rhythm than the others. The way the bass and drums came across with the other cords was like the notes were staccato, like separate unrelated sounds that happened to be played one after the other. With the Synergistic Research Reference cord, there was an organic fluidity to those same notes, but, they were linked with this undulating sense, flowing seamlessly like a snake.

Interestingly enough, I did not buy this cord. It shrank the soundstage too much, where the music seemed like it was contained in a small sphere between the speakers. One other cord presented the music with a very lush midrange and ball jiggling bass (far too romantic and overblown to be realistic). I opted for the cord that was more balanced across the spectrum, and seemingly dull by comparison. They served as my reference cords for almost 10 years, and I still use them in parts of my systems.

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Re:Finding facts is your redemption

Thanks guys! This helps a lot.

Ironically, I actually know someone with Naim electronics powering older quads! Great sounding system but I never stopped to consider why.

It has a great sense of "oneness" where everything fits together. Percussion and high harmonics are especially nice, as are smaller ensembles. Tasty.

I will re-visit his system and consider PRaT as a concept.

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Re:Finding facts is your redemption


Quote:
Years ago, I was auditioning a few different aftermarket power cords. One of them was a Synergistic Research Reference. This cord conveyed a better sense of rhythm than the others. The way the bass and drums came across with the other cords was like the notes were staccato, like separate unrelated sounds that happened to be played one after the other. With the Synergistic Research Reference cord, there was an organic fluidity to those same notes, but, they were linked with this undulating sense, flowing seamlessly like a snake.

OK, with all due respect Jeff , this is a description that leaves me doubtful. There's no way the rhythm and pace can be impacted by a cord. I can understand dynamic range or imaging or congestion (or lack thereof) but pace and rhythm are not going to be impacted by a power cord, unless there's something VERY seriously wrong with the pre-amp or amp.

Are you sure you're not mistaking dynamic range for rhythm and pace? When playing accents are very key to the feeling of motion in the music. It's a little push hear and a little lift there. A system that's at all constrained dynamically will lose some of that character. The music will seem lifeless even if the rhythms and pace are perfect.

Dave

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Re:Finding facts is your redemption


Quote:
Are you sure you're not mistaking dynamic range for rhythm and pace? When playing accents are very key to the feeling of motion in the music. It's a little push hear and a little lift there. A system that's at all constrained dynamically will lose some of that character. The music will seem lifeless even if the rhythms and pace are perfect.


An excellent observation. Dynamic nuance can drive music forward. If it is missing the music suffers a great deal. A phrase ending with a feminine cadence feels completely different than when ending this phrase as a masculine cadence.

Yet, rhythm and timing are the most important aspects of music - more than melody and harmony. The importance of timing was driven home for me a couple of weeks ago.

In one ensemble in which I play we are fortunate to have a musician who is incredibly sensitive to timing. She and I share the same line in one piece for a few measures.

She opined I was just a slight bit behind. No one else heard it. Yet we worked on this section until she was satisfied that I got it right.

I was recording the rehearsal for study purposes (I make copies for everyone). I was surprised to hear the difference in feel between the initial version and the last.

The timing differences were minute, so small as to be hard to hear on their own. Yet she was right! When I played as she did the piece had the sense of urgency it should.

If differences this small can make a piece feel quite different, I am willing to consider that electronic equipment can have different time presentations at different frequencies, enough so that the overall sense of timing would suffer.

Yet a big part of me still goes: "yeah...right".

Does a system with "bad PRaT" actually respond differently in time to 1kHz and 400Hz? Some of the electrons slow down through the amp, so much so that we can hear it?

<elk mental gears gnashing . . . >

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Re:Finding facts is your redemption


Quote:
If differences this small can make a piece feel quite different, I am willing to consider that electronic equipment can have different time presentations at different frequencies, enough so that the overall sense of timing would suffer.

Martin Colloms wrote about this for Stereophile 15 years ago; see www.stereophile.com/reference/23. Once you have heard the effect, it is unmistakeable. It is not specifically a frequency domain phenomenon, however, as Martin explains.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

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Re:Finding facts is your redemption

Thanks, John!

His loudspeaker example is particularly helpful as a starting point, as well as his description of dynamic limitations (an observation already made by Dave above).

The "reader's lament" is satisfying for me as he discusses the subtle, but critical, differences in timing in performance, and how some CD players capture this and others do not.

Fascinating stuff.

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Re:My facts/your facts


Quote:
Hmm, I think PRaT is really dynamics, phase coherance and speaker timing, at least based on Jan's description. None of those things have anything to do with pacing and rythym, IMHO. Perhaps it's a misnomer.

I'll have to revisit MC's article to get a refresher on how someone else hears what I hear. But I think we can all appreciate Elk's story of getting the timing right. As another example, we are getting a new symphony director here in Dallas and our new guy has chosen to perform the Beethoven Symphonies as his initial entry into the job. All the reviews and comments are saying he has pulled new excitement and higher emotion from the same musicians we've had playing for many a year now. Some of the difference I'm sure is the excitment of the players as they hear new ways to describe what they are playing and how they are to play it. But more importantly the most often used phrase among the commentators was "better timing" of the players. The orchestra operates more as a single unit rather than a group of players.

Why are some orchestras better than others? It's not just the hall or the conductor since these same orchestras are usualy better no matter where they play and who conducts. I have to think it is due to the ability of the players to play as a unit. They know how to do it and no matter who conducts, they simply do it. Whether it was a single conductor who taught them how to play this way or whether their talent is simply knowing how to play this way is somewhat irrelevant as the two typically follow each other and one finds the other; good players play for good conductors. The conductor uses his or her reference for what is desired from the performer and chooses a Wilson, a Quad or a Sonus Faber as the player for this symphony orchestra.

Therefore, timing affects pace and pace affects rhythm. The rhythmic flow of one segment of music into another is affected by pace; and, if timing is not correct, the pace is off no matter what the dymanics of the performance can achieve.

If you want a very simple and effective demonstration of this idea, move your speaker. Just one speaker. Just about three feet closer to you than the other. Listen to some selection you know well. Ignore the soundstaging and all the other errors of this set up and just listen for how the timing of the music (with one portion of the performance arriving at your ears micro-seconds before the other half) affects timing which affects pace which results in rhythmic failures.

The system has all the dynamics it had before you moved the speaker and the music has not changed in it's traversal through the system. But the timing cues are off and, if you're like me, this makes this set up impossible to listen to for more than the time it requires to make its point.

Now imagine what can screw with timing in the system. As I mentioned many recordings are not timed well due to the numerous pieces of studio equipment they pass through which alter phase slightly or in absolute terms 180 degrees. If one instrument requires sweetening and passes through a 180 degree phase shift while another instrument that was meant to play along is not subjected to this shift in absolute phase, the performance suffers. Add this to several instruments where the aboslute phase is altered at various stages of post production and the timing goes to hell in hand basket.

In your system you may be more or less sensitive to phase and timing errors than someone else. My impression is this lack of coherence to absolute phase bothers me and thus I have a preference for single drivers and point source reproduction. How does timing and phase get screwed up in a price of equipment? The typical way is through complex circuits which are designed without absolute phase in mind. If the designer doesn't hear it, they won't correct for it. Think of two things here; ST's remarks that European audio - the stuff that is not necessarily aimed specifically at the American market at least - gives the music more emotional "personality" than many Americam products will. If that's the case, those designers get something American designers don't. Secondly, SET's have very simple circuits and SET's are virtually unparalled in their ability to create an emotional connection with the performance. This is not just second order harmonic coloration stuff either. This is a signal coming out less screwed with than high wattage solid state amplifiers can manage. Think also of ST's suggestion that single pairs of output devices sound better than multiples required for higher power. Simple = better IMO.

I would surmise that capacitors are the main culprit as they influence the lead/lag of the signal flow. Inductors do the same - just as both components affect the electrical phase of a passive crossover - though in the opposite manner than a cap. One has current leading voltage while the other has voltage leading current. Pass the signal through sufficient numbers of these components and the signal does not come out the way it went in.

A negative feedback circuit will obviously affect phase of the output signal compared to the input signal. Many cheap receivers, due to the heavy reliance on NFB, sound very much like your speakers moved three feet out of alignment. Circuits which ring due to insufficient NFB can also result in sound that appears out of time. While I've not had a power cable affect timing (mainly because I've not played with aftermarket power cords) I've certainly had the same experience when trying different speaker cables and interconnects.

Timing is something you either get or you don't. I don't know that it can be taught in a situation where you cannot alter the timing as Elk did in his performance but I do think after you've heard the difference timing cues make and how they affect the emotionally perceived performance of the players, you'll recognize it for what it is.

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Re:My facts/your facts

As I've said before, I fully understand the importance of timing in 2-channel reproduction. Where I'm troubled with the PRaT model is the P and the R. Pace is absolute. If a horn and a trumpet play at slightly different tempos, no system in the world will resolve that. OTOH, I think if a trumpet and horn are playing with perfectly matched pace and rhythm, then no system in the world will pull them apart.

Forgetting turntables for the moment, I don't see how a purely electronic component, like a power cord, can have any impact whatsoever on pace and rhythm. The illusion of pace is impacted by dynamics. As I said before, muscians emphasize certain notes and lift off others to give the music more illusion of motion. If dynamics are compressed or congested by a component, then there'll be a perceived loss of pace, but no actual loss of pace, at least IMHO.

Dave

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Re:My facts/your facts

Great thread and commentary by all!

Facts are simple and facts are straight
Facts are lazy and facts are late
Facts all come with points of view
Facts don't do what I want them to
Facts just twist the truth around
Facts are living turned inside out
Facts are getting the best of them
Facts are nothing on the face of things
Facts don't stain the furniture
Facts go out and slam the door
Facts are written all over your face
Facts continue to change their shape

Talking Heads
"Crosseyed and Painless"
Remain in Light

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Re:My facts/your facts

Dave - Perhaps, my distillation of my observations came across as imprecise as I warned--I was trying to convey a sense of the different effects each cord had without getting into writing paragraphs (plus, this was about 12 years ago). The overall feeling with that one cord was the music had a connected, pulsing that seemed more organic and of a single cloth than the others. Whether this was due to differences in dielectric or construction, it's hard for me to say--I have certainly heard time smearing when it comes to PVC insulation on certain cables. Your explanation of dynamics might very well be a more accurate reason for what was happening, but, the perceived sense was of the pacing and rhythm being affected (the Electraglide cord that definitely came across with more dynamics did not create this same sense of pulsing rhythm).

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Re:My facts/your facts

Jeff, I've heard the things you describe in changing cords. I AM indeed focusing on just what we're hearing and how we describe it. Since PRaT is a commonly used "audiophile" term, I think that it serves us to understand what it really means. If we use it imprecisely, then we open ourselves to riducule by those that think we're a bunch of clueless "tweaks."

I have a hard time hearing Pace and Rhythm impacted by electronics. Maybe I'm listening for the wrong thing. That's why I'm probing here.

Thanks to all for a great thread, all the way back to the beginning.

dave

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Re:My facts/your facts

Dave - I own two DACs (same model) that were modified by different companies. The one I prefer in my system has a less black background than the other--my toe taps to the music more with the preferred one than with the one with the blacker background. The one with the blacker background (it has a different grounding scheme to cut down on digital noise) allows me to hear deeper into the recording, but, comes across as a bit more strident and less harmonically complete. With a Shakti Stone on my preferred DAC, the background becomes blacker, much closer to the other DAC, but, retains the harmonic fullness. I wonder if this toe tapping effect is due to harmonics being retained in the music, and this is part of what contributes to PRaT; in this regard, I could see how a power cord might have some bearing on all this.

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Re:My facts/your facts - we all got facts


Quote:
As I said before, muscians emphasize certain notes and lift off others to give the music more illusion of motion. If dynamics are compressed or congested by a component, then there'll be a perceived loss of pace, but no actual loss of pace, at least IMHO.


Quote:
Since PRaT is a commonly used "audiophile" term, I think that it serves us to understand what it really means. If we use it imprecisely, then we open ourselves to riducule by those that think we're a bunch of clueless "tweaks."

But what PRaT amounts to is a subjective quality not a temporal quantity. Obviously the component or speaker cannot alter time in the absolute sense that the music slows and a selection that is listed on the liner notes at 18:47 now takes 19:25 to play. However, listening to two components, one which times very well and one which does not, will have the subjective impression of time slowing down with the lesser of the two in this sense. As MC points out in his article, your attention wanders when confronted by a "slow" component while it is more common and simpler to follow the ebb and flow of a selection when pacing and timing are intact. In speakers an excessively high or low Qtc can sound poorly timed and lacking in pacing as the bass becomes either too ripe or overdamped to the point of robbing the music of its beat.

I agree with the assessment that dynamics affect the relative pacing of a component or speaker. I suggested earlier the Dyna ST70 is my standby PRaT machine due to a fairly unregulated power supply that oftentimes over emphasised the actual dynamics of a selection and gave a somewhat false impression of the "beat" and swing of the music. IMO this amounts to dynamics in the reverse sense in that here they are too emphasized and therefore PRaT is too obvious. OTOH the ST70 is fun to listen through and as MC points out there are more than a few components - particularly from the Golden Age - which played music quite well despite their colorations and faults or possibly due to the designer's choice to make the music listenable rather than achieve flat response. Remember the "truth" which could be found in the tubed microphones, recorders and mastering amplifiers used in the Mercury Living Presence series? Is this possibly what ST means when he says European audio has more personality and makes the music more enjoyable than American hifi? Sonus Faber and Jadis would seem to be manufacturers who strive for music first and specs later.

I wish I had an easier way to demonstarte PRaT, however, the misplaced speaker alignment should give you some idea of PRaT gone wrong due to timing cues. I mentioned NAD is my most common example of a contemporary component that does not time well to my ears. IMO this is a consistent flaw with the NAD line and my reference says the notes simply do not start and stop correctly when compared to live music or better components. I have explained this for several years to a member (on another forum) who owned NAD. He believed I made it all up until he finally swapped his NAD for a Musical Fidelity system. He posted a thread commenting on just how improved the start/stop had become with the new components. So, if you have a NAD dealer in your area, take along some music and ask for a demo on a few systems.

Anecdotally once again another friend, "J" from the cicada story, got my old VPI HW19 when I upgraded and he compared the same music on CD and LP. As MC suggests in the linked article, the performance on the turntable seemed faster and better timed though switching between sources showed both to be playing at the same speed and both finsihed the selection at the same time. When he upgraded his CD player to a Rega Apollo the timing was much closer but the LP still won the PRaT war.

I don't think I have any better examples to illustrate the subjective value of PRaT. It is not a quantifiable specification but a subjective response. Possibly you've always been blessed with a system that did a good job in this area and never knew what you were hearing because it was always there and that's the way you listen. I find most peole who do not listen to live music to have the wrong idea about PRaT and wish for too much just as they desire imaging that is more 3D than real life. Personally, I find tubes to be more consistently good at PRaT than transistors and find that same start/stop issue with many solid state components. Past examples of amplifiers that didn't do much for me in the way of PRaT include the Quad 405 and the PS Audio amplifiers from the late 1980's. Those amplifiers measured well but sounded flat to my ears just as do any Bob Carver designs. However, I think as JA suggests, once you've got PRaT in your scope, it's difficult to miss. Obviously, if you have a local Naim dealer or an old ST70 in your closet, this is where I'd suggest you begin your exploration of PRaT. Then, if you can, go listen to the same music through NAD components.

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Re:My facts/your facts - we all got facts


Quote:
what PRaT amounts to is a subjective quality not a temporal quantity. Obviously the component or speaker cannot alter time in the absolute sense that the music slows and a selection that is listed on the liner notes at 18:47 now takes 19:25 to play.

Something that has not yet been mentioned in this thread (I think) is that lossy compression codecs do introduce timing differences, due to the need to split the continuous datastream into discrete blocks. The lower the bit rate, the more transient informatiun gets smeared across more than one block, with the subjective result that the musicians' sense of timing is degraded. Tony Faulkner describes this in detail in the December 2007 issue of HiFi Critic, and I also discuss it in the February 2008 issue of Stereophile, following some comments along these lines made by Stephen Mejias after he compared the hi-rez original file of one of my recordings with a 64kbps MP3.

John Atkinson
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Re:My facts/your facts - we all got facts

Thanks to everyone for trying to help me understand PRaT better. I still think it's a slight misnomer, having more to do with Timing and Dynamics and not much to do with actual Rhythm or Pace, BUT at least I think I know what you guys are referring to when you use the term.

Dave

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Re:My facts/your facts - we all got facts

I had forgotten about timing issues in the context of lossy compression. "Time" to do some experimenting.

As to whether the issue is solely one of timing versus also Pace and Rhythm, who knows?

If the timing is off, the perception of pace and rhythm will suffer.

I do understand Dave's point however and agree with him in absolute terms.

Perhaps it is like electric guitarists referring to the whammy bar as creating tremolo. It doesn't; tremelo is modulation of volume. A Whammy bar creates vibrato; modulation of pitch.

Sometimes it's just in the terminology.

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Re:My facts/your facts


Quote:

Quote:
Hmm, I think PRaT is really dynamics, phase coherance and speaker timing, at least based on Jan's description. None of those things have anything to do with pacing and rythym, IMHO. Perhaps it's a misnomer.

I'll have to revisit MC's article to get a refresher on how someone else hears what I hear. But I think we can all appreciate Elk's story of getting the timing right. As another example, we are getting a new symphony director here in Dallas and our new guy has chosen to perform the Beethoven Symphonies as his initial entry into the job. All the reviews and comments are saying he has pulled new excitement and higher emotion from the same musicians we've had playing for many a year now. Some of the difference I'm sure is the excitement of the players as they hear new ways to describe what they are playing and how they are to play it. But more importantly the most often used phrase among the commentators was "better timing" of the players. The orchestra operates more as a single unit rather than a group of players. ......................Edited for sanity.

Or perhaps it just that some folks know how to capture the attention of a crowd and maintain that attention, to generate excitement, to convey. To understand the nuance of such, as in not loosing them. I have seemingly learned that exact point, over time. I find it is necessary, in order to get the point across to a given crowd, or to convey the message, so that they remember. 'The art of public speaking', some call it. It's a whole lot more than that.

Jan Vigne
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Or perhaps it just that some folks know how to capture the attention of a crowd and maintain that attention, to generate excitement, to convey. To understand the nuance of such, as in not loosing them. I have seemingly learned that exact point, over time. I find it is necessary, in order to get the point across to a given crowd, or to convey the message, so that they remember. 'The art of public speaking', some call it. It's a whole lot more than that.

There is certainly more to it when we are discussing a symphony orchestra. While a single voice can convey pacing, rhythm and timing along with dynamics, it is far more difficult to get an entire 60-100 member orchestra to speak with one voice. The ability to pull all the same players together into a more cohesive entity is more than just "speaking well". The point, for sanity's sake, is this is the same task a speaker or component faces when we listen with an ear for PRaT. No one single piece of gear or single player/conductor can be solely responsible for holding our attention; but a single player or a single piece of equipment can be responsible for distracting from the performance of all the rest.

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I've been away from my computer for a few days, and it feels like I'm a jackal arriving at a water buffalo carcass after its been nearly picked clean, but this is a fascinating topic (PRaT), and a new term for me.

From what's gone before, we have a general definition of
pace, rhythm and timing, and that's all pretty clear.

What has been alluded to is that what we are really talking about in terms of audio systems is how realistically we hear these musical attributes expressed.

Again it seems to come back to championing "reality" as a reference, but in the temporal rather than tonal dimension.

The reference performance has those PRaT characteristics manifest, and the playback captures these elements more or less faithfully.

Tempo loses fidelity if the playback is not at the same speed as the original. Easiest example of this is the turntable is at 45 or 33.2 instead of 33 1/3 rpm

Pace seems to refer to the change in tempo within the music? This would be affected by how well the timing of events are tracked. I can see how wow especially will cause an accelerando to vary from the original.

Rhythm seems to imply both the steadiness of the events (both wow and flutter will impact this), but also the organization of timing events, which includes how well accented beats are presented, so there is possibly a dynamic/volume component to this quality. At the macro level, this is how a certain dance rhythm is articulated (rock beat vs. polka for example), but more appropriate to this discussion is the micro level, more in the realm of two performers playing the same piece with slightly different style. The control of the volume of each note helps to clarify the grouping of notes into rhythmic patterns, and the better controlled, the clearer and more persuasive the rhythm. So for the Rhythm charactieristic, microdynamic nuance is perhaps a contributing factor.

I agree that coherence, which seems to be what previous folks have emphasized, is a factor in clarify each of these characteristics, but perhaps by distinguishing them, we can find that there are other factors that impact each characteristic differently.

Jan Vigne
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I agree that coherence, which seems to be what previous folks have emphasized, is a factor in clarify each of these characteristics, but perhaps by distinguishing them, we can find that there are other factors that impact each characteristic differently.

Wow and flutter are measurable quantities which are not present in pre amplifiers and power amplifiers nor in speakers. The linked article is suggesting the device with superior technical measurements is often the most likely to fail at the subjective measurements. So, yes, the discussion is largely about discovering other factors which contribute to greater or lesser degrees of PRaT.

Possibly it might be worth considering whether the three are inextricably knotted together. Can pace exist without timing? Can dynamics - micro and macro - not contribute to rhythmic flow?

Also, what do you hear in the live reference compared to most audio components or reference recordings? For my part, as I've stated, reference recordings and classic components always seem to excel at these basic qualities while what I hear live is in line with those reference recordings and too many commercial recordings destroy timing in post production.

Are you ever aware that your toe is tapping? Are you ever aware it is not?

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Jan, I think that micro dynamics contribute as much to the perceived musical flow as tempo and rhythm. Earlier in the thread I talked about how we musicians accent certain notes or parts of certain notes and lift off others to give the music a feeling of moving forward. Tempo alone is not enough to "make that thing swing."

You mention live performance as a reference. Perhaps evaluation of a horrible live performance, that I was part of, will be instructive. I sub as lead trumpet and play guitar in a decent 17-piece big band. We had a gig at a large community recreation center. This place is huge, with indoor pools, indoor water slides, a gym, a concert hall, locker rooms, etc. Normally we play in the concert hall, but there was some conflict that forced us into the gym, with hardwood floors, concrete walls, high metal ceiling and a ball-curtain dividing the room in half.

No matter how soft we played, there were echoes ringing around the room for a second after each note. Now, I've heard long-delay echoes be a good thing (the Myerson hall in Dallas has a wonderful long-delay echo). The problem for us was that the long-delay echo was just one of many echoes. The back and side walls were also giving an almost immediate echo. So we had at least four primary reflections that we just could not deal with, at all. Everything we played was smeared sounding and we couldn't lock into tempos (most good big bands listen for the tempo rather than look to the director, who only "kicks off" most tunes and leads through transitions sometimes).

Of course, we hear these same things in audiophile systems, due to things like overly reflective rooms, out of phase speakers, mis-aligned speakers (internally misaligned and/or misaligned within the room).

I think that we hear these problems and call it "PRaT" but the problems have nothing to do with actual pace and rhythm. Instead the problems are all caused in either the timing or micro-dynamics area. If you listened only through headphone, you'd never hear the system changing a rhythm or altering the pace. You'd also be less likely to hear timing issues except when it's purposefully introduced to try to simulate surround or noise cancelling is flawed. Still, the music might sound lifeless if micro dynamics are constrained.

Dave

Jan Vigne
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I think that we hear these problems and call it "PRaT" but the problems have nothing to do with actual pace and rhythm. Instead the problems are all caused in either the timing or micro-dynamics area. If you listened only through headphone, you'd never hear the system changing a rhythm or altering the pace. You'd also be less likely to hear timing issues except when it's purposefully introduced to try to simulate surround or noise cancelling is flawed. Still, the music might sound lifeless if micro dynamics are constrained.

Before this thread finally runs its course, I would like to thank all who participated in the discussion of truth, references and PRaT which have taken place on this thread. It has been a pleasure to discuss these things in a civilized manner. It is what this forum can do best. Once again, thank you.

Also, I found an article in The New York Times Magazine last week that spoke of the John Ford/John Wayne film "The Searchers" which I had mentioned quite a ways back in the thread. At the time I said, " ... So much so, that it is a "reference" for all that follows. We learn by it and we learn from it. You can therefore say this recording is a reference recording simply because the musical event is the reference and it just happened to be captured in a truthful, reference quality recording. But one cannot exist without the other. "The Searchers" cannot exist as a classic reference point for Western films and the United States without John Wayne, John Ford, the storyline, the moral implications and Great SouthWest with its Big Sky as the backdrop to all of the preceding parts."

Add VistaVision on an 80' screen to these "reference" parts. I've never seen "The Searchers" in that format but my references for the film, the real Big Sky and the VistaVision films I have seen give me the idea this is how that film should be experienced. Therefore, a "reference" can be colored to make a point (and sell tickets) just as long as that coloration serves the truth of the experience; "The Searchers" would not be the same film in Black and White. Does it follow that the slightly rising low treble response of the 1950-60's RCA Living Stereo recordings is a coloration or a bit of truth about the audio capabilites and listening sensibilities of the day? Is it possibly a little touch of VistaVision applied to the recording arts to make the whole greater than its parts?

To dcstep's point; I do believe you are correct that speakers can do the most damage to the signal. Too many crossover components that alter electrical phase and designs which shift timing cues wreak havoc with the performance. However, in reference to your comment, "If you listened only through headphone, you'd never hear the system changing a rhythm or altering the pace", I would suggest you take some headphones and a favorite disc down to the local Best Buy and plug both into a cheap DVD player.

To that end I'm still interested in whether anyone is ever aware their toes are not tapping along with the music. Or, is PRaT something that needs to be pointed out to you before you pay attention to such things. If so, does that say anything about how we develop our personal references?

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Re:My facts/your facts - we all got facts

I don

bobedaone
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Thanks for that.

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so here
dcstep
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Re:My facts/your facts - we all got facts

For some reason my toes are curling, not tapping...

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