As Reviewers See It Page 9
Mitchell: I think we need to make a distinction between being able to hear more clearly what's in the recording vs being able to say this speaker reveals more ruthlessly the flaws of that CD player, therefore the speaker must be better. In that case, it might in fact be worse.
Holt: One tends to go with the other, though.
Mitchell: You have to watch out for that distinction.
Archibald: There was a classic example of this a few years ago. The key thing that somebody said earlier was that while it may be sometimes unpleasant to listen to the musically involving component, it will still draw you into the music. John was reviewing a speaker that was extraordinarily revealing, but he found that he wasn't paying any attention to the music, he was only paying attention to all the things in his sound system. He was paying attention to the cables, he was were paying attention to the mike techniques, he was paying attention to flaws all over the place and could barely listen to the music. I listened to these speakers myself and within five minutes was doing exactly what John had been spending several days doing. This was a characteristic of the speaker which was a flaw.
Atkinson: This speaker was and still is highly praised as being "accurate."
Mitchell: It was transparent but sterile.
Archibald: And you can't immediately tell, on an absolute basis, whether or not the recording was inaccurate or the speaker was inaccurate...However, you listen to these recordings your whole life. And this is not the only revealing piece of equipment you've ever listened to. If you find yourself paying attention to flaws all the time, it's a sign that that piece of equipment has something wrong with it.
Olsher: I think it's a fallacy to assume that a component that is supposed to be better gives you more. More detail, more depth, or more of anything. I think what it has to boil down to is the musical message...It's the ability to communicate the joy of music that counts the most in my book. And hearing a little more of this or a little more of that when the sum total doesn't add up to the message is plain wrong.
Deutsch: I agree with that.
Atkinson: Let the record also show that Bob Harley is nodding his head.
Larry Greenhill: There is a perspective which I think may be helpful here. You listen to your system nine out of ten times, and the tenth time you try a new component. That component has a boost [in its] frequency response in an area where your hearing is weak. You go to a concert, you don't hear that area. But with this particular speaker or component, suddenly you hear problems with cables or problems in your system you hadn't heard before. That's not necessarily an accurate transducer, but it's giving you more information. Why? Because it's like a magnifying glass on one part of the music that's coming through. Now you might say in your review of this component that it is "ruthlessly revealing." Well, yes, but actually because it's exaggerating one part of the response of the system...the rest of the music may actually be somewhat subdued.
Tellig: I remember listening some time ago to Martin-Logan Sequel IIs and being bowled over by all the detail that was in there. But it became hyper-detail...It was obvious to me that subjectively the speaker had gone over the edge in presenting all of this detail. Yet people would come in briefly and sit down and say, "Wow, look at all that information!"
Two amplifiers that I recently wrote about, the B&K M-200 vs the Adcom GFA-565 monoblocks—both of which I liked—were a very good example of this frustration. The B&Ks had a sweet sound and perhaps did a better job at presenting musical timbres. The Adcoms, however, were much more open and more transparent; they let in more detail; and they allowed the differences in recordings to show through. I was really torn [between these two amplifiers]. I think over the long run my interest would be held up more by the Adcoms. (Actually, I'd probably prefer a better amplifier than either one of them.) But I think you reach a point beyond which you get too much information.
Archibald: I think the presumption that I don't like, though, is that in all these discussions, the basic assumption—and everybody seems to make it—is that the piece of equipment which reveals more is the more accurate. And the piece of equipment that sounds nicer is the less accurate. I think that's possible but not necessary.
Holt: I think the truth is somewhere in between.
Archibald: I think that's a cop-out. I think the truth may or may not be in between. The more revealing component may be better. But...it may be the other way round.
Tellig: I think of Krell. Some of the earlier Krell amplifiers were extraordinary at producing a great deal of detail. And that's why they became audiophile favorites. The latest generation of Krell amplifiers—the KSA-250, the 150, and, I gather, the MD-500s that Larry is using—are much more mellow-sounding...They're not gritty and they're not dry, yet all the detail—I'm listening through Lars's system, which has extraordinary resolution with his WATT/Puppies—all the detail was still there. It's just not thrown at you.
Archibald: You don't pay it as much attention.
Tellig: That's right.