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BRuggles
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What makes for accurate sound?

I was talking to a buddy about what makes for an accurate speaker, and he suggested that perhaps hyper-accurate EQing could compensate for the imperfections in a loudspeaker's frequency response. That got my wheels turning, and I responded that EQ (even theoretically instantaneous-tracking, perfect editing EQ) would be insufficient, and I tried to come up with a list of what else is necessary. Here is what I have so far:

1) transient response - crucial for realism. I have heard we humans can detect accelerations equivalent to 60-100kHz - sorry CDs...

2) inertness - for realistic decay and consistent frequency response (no slow rise due to resonances)

3) size and spacing - I will include time alignment here, for realistic imaging and scale

4) consistent frequency-spectral performance for the above - tight mids and sluggish bass sounds unrealistic. (I am not a big fan of ports for this reason)

5) radiation pattern optimization - taste- and application-specific. More important for people who share music with visitors, and perhaps a touchy subject for ESL owners.

6) sexiness - totally consumer-taste, but can be any combination of performance, aesthetics, or techno-geekery (I want a plasma tweeter because it is an awesome concept - whatever the performance. It is freaking massless - sorta, almost.)

7) almost forgot dynamics! - you gotta have your snare rimshot sound different from a light brush stroke!

 

what else makes good audio playback? I would think most of the above apply to everything since the performance left the performers' mouths and hands and feet, from mics to storage medium to amps and cables, etc. I am pretty new, so please educate a brotha!

JoeE SP9
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Number 5

What do you mean with number 5? Why would this be a touchy subject to ESL owners? As an ESL owner I'm curious. If you're referring to the sweet spot, I only need one that can accommodate two people. Fortunately for me mine is just barely wide enough for three (two honeys and myself). I can't seat more than that comfortably on my love seat. Besides, it's been my experience that the larger the sweet spot the smaller and more imprecise the sound stage.

IMO what makes good playback is faithfulness to the original. This refers to what a Hi-Fi is for. It's for reproducing with a high degree of fidelity to the original. Then, there's the question of how do we know what the original sounds like. In other words, what's your reference? Well, if you listen to un-amplified music (classical, jazz, opera, etc.) and frequently attend live musical events you have a pretty good idea what the original sounds like. This is because un-amplified instruments, groups and orchestras have a sound that's remarkably similar regardless of where and what they're playing. 

If you listen to rock, pop, rap, etc. all bets are off, because unless you were there in the studio or at the event you really have no idea how the music (instruments) actually did sound. Those types of recordings tend to have little or no sound stage anyway. Multi tracking, overdubbing and studio "sweetening" are not conducive to a good (any kind of actually) sound stage.

So, IMO the closer one's system resembles the sound of live un-amplified music (orchestral recording) the more accurate it is. Of all the acoustic musical events only an orchestra reaches the frequency and dynamic range extremes. It's also been my experience that the closer a system sounds to that of a real orchestra the better it sounds on everything else.

1) transient response....

The only transducers that have lower moving mass than ESLs are plasma speakers. Lower moving mass means better transient response.

2) inertness....

What's more inert than saran wrap?

3) size and spacing (time alignment)....

Full range ESLs are inherently time and phase aligned because they use one diaphragm with no crossover for all the music.

4) consistent frequency-spectral performance....

See number 3.

5)radiation pattern optimization....

I've already commented about this.

6) sexiness....

In the eye of the beholder. Better yet, in the ear of the listener.

7) dynamics....

This is actually about the ability to play loud, soft or anywhere in between and do it instantly and effortlessly. The ability to tell the difference between a brush stroke and a rim shot is about a lot more than dynamics. Think about transient response and tonal accuracy.

BRuggles
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What else?

First off - I am mostly joking about ESLs. The mass, phase accuracy, and consistent frequency response is very appealing. However, when a sales rep (for a dynamic speaker brand) once referred to them as "screen doors in your living room," it resonated with me. The aesthetics are lacking. But sweet spots are limited anyway, right? Or you end up with timing, phase and volume inconsistencies. But I am one willing to sacrifice some visual sexiness for aural accuracy. I have been considering the wonderful world of Maggies.

and with regard to dynamics, I know there is a marked difference in a variety of aspects between a rimshot and brush stroke, but a large part of what makes a rimshot so forceful is the sharp crack with associated transient speed and dynamic range. 

What I am wondering, though, is whether there are other individual characteristics that work together to provide accurate reproduction. Even with multi-tracked, artificially-placed-in-the-stereo-image studio productions, a more accurate reproduction can still remain more faithful to what is truly captured at the source. Of course, as a fan of heavy rock, I kinda lament not being able to soak in the music while also geeking out concurrently. There just doesn't seem to be much by way of stereo/binaural accurate recordings of heavy music.

What other attributes play in? I suppose the sexiness has nothing to do with the sound, however much it does or doesn't matter...

BRuggles
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What are you using

Side note: what sorts of music do you most appreciate with your ESLs? And what are you running?

Bill B
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sideways

looking at this sideways - why do you want to list ideal properties/adjectives?  Isn't the point to find speakers (or whatever) in the real world that are as good as possible for what we pay for them?  Some great sounding stuff will be semi-deficient in the List of Ideals.  

BRuggles
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Because I am an inquisitive nerd?

Bill, I wish I had an answer beyond the fact that I am just curious. Everything is a tradeoff of some sort. I am just wondering what other metrics there are that can "measure" what makes for accurate sound. If it were all about frequency response, then there could be no argument about about CDs vs vinyl, etc. I know dynamics and transients play in. What else? Assuming I cannot find the theoretical ideal, how would I know it? What attributes, subjective or objective, are there that be quantified or qualified on at least an abstract scale? What else should/could I be listening and looking for?

I am just looking for more nooks and crannies down this rabbit hole of hifi with which to baffle my friends with my obsession. I want to embrace the arcane.

Ariel Bitran
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Accuracy

by most technical definition is the closeness to which your system replicates not the performance, but the actual incoming signal.

i'm not sure what specs would lend a speaker towards accuracy (probably some sort of combination of sensitivity, wide frequency response, neutrality, and dynamic range), but the way I check for accuracy with a component is by listening to a wide variety of recordings of various character: crappy home recordings, live records with ambient space, and compressed recordings -- how do they differ? does the compressed recording sound boxed in? more-so than normal? is the hash and poor edits of an old high school recording made obvious by the system?

I used to think I wanted accuracy. turns out, accuracy doesn't make me feel too good. I'll take some gooey warmth and ease instead.

tmsorosk
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Your missing something

Many adjectives listed above , and the most important one was missed , musicality .  

JoeE SP9
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gear and listening taste
BRuggles wrote:

Side note: what sorts of music do you most appreciate with your ESLs? And what are you running?

Here's a list of my gear:

VPI HW19jr, Rega RB300, Marcof PPA1 head amp
Shure, Sumiko, Ortofon cartridges
Marantz CD63SE CD, Yamaha DVD S-1800 SACD player, MSB DAC
ARC SP-9 MKIII preamp, Accuphase T101 tuner, Lexicon MC8, Nakamichi LX-5, ZX-7, Teac V-7010

Front speakers: bi-amped with Behringer CX2310 crossover; Acoustat Spectra 22 driven by radically modified Dynaco MKIII's, two 12" DIY transmission line subs (Pass Labs El-Pipe-O), 2 bridged Crown XLS-402 drive the subs through a Behringer DSP1124P digital parametric equalizer. 

Rear speakers: bi-amped with Paradigm X-30 crossover; Acoustat Model 1 with Acoustat SPW-1 woofer cabinet, driven by 2 Adcom GFA-545.                                    

My gear is in a dedicated acoustically treated room that at one time was my living and dining rooms.

I listen to a wide variety of music (~3,500 LPs, ~1600 CDs), almost everything except Gospel and Bluegrass at what sometimes are quite realistic volume levels. I'm a militant agnostic so Gospel is out. Most Bluegrass just makes me want to cut off my ears and run away. My primary musical interests are classical and Jazz. The Philadelphia Orchestra performing at the Kimmel Center is my primary musical reference.

BTW: Magnaplanars are not electrostatic speakers. They are planar dynamic and have a "flat" voice coil glued to a mylar diaphragm which is suspended behind a steel plate with bar magnets on it. Electrostatic speakers have no magnets and no voice coils. Yeah I know ESLs and dipoles in general are usually large. I however, like the size shape and most of all the sound of my "room dividers".

I've tried to make my system and room (I consider them to be one thing) as neutral as possible. The music that I primarily listen to is usually well recorded and I want my system to add or subtract as little as possible from the recording. I have extensive room treatments and resorted to an equalizer (from 85Hz down only) when I was unable to correct some bass response irregularities with speaker positioning and room treatments. 

Were my musical tastes different, as in mostly rock and pop I'd probably feel quite different as most of it has no resemblance to anything live. It being completely studio dependant there is no way of knowing what it's supposed to sound like unless you were there during the recording and use the exact same gear and room during playback.

Classical and Jazz have an acoustic referrence that is easy to refer to. Attend a live concert or musical event of un-amplified music and you have your referrence for accuracy. Compare your system using a good recording to the sound of an orchestra or Jazz combo playing un-amplified music and you have your accuracy gauge. No instruments or test gear required. Your ears are all you need.                                

Exactly reproducing the sound of an orchestra or Jazz combo in ones room is pretty much impossible. No matter. The closer you get to reproducing that sound the (more accurate) better sounding your system is. It's also been my experience that the closer you get with classical and Jazz the better everything else sounds.

You have to decide for yourself whether you want accuracy or not. I know what I want. After all it's called Hi-Fi. That's a shortening of the phrase, "To reproduce with a high degree of fidelity to the original". Anything else might sound good to you but it won't be accurate and it certainly won't be "Hi-Fi". Just trust your ears.

I don't discount test gear and measurements. I'm a retired EE and have a bench full of test gear that I've accumulated over the years and know how to use. None of that gear has any way of measuring accuracy. That's why I use and trust my ears and a known acoustic referrence.




tmsorosk
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Accuracy

Joe makes many good points , as usual .

My two cents worth about accuracy , and it's only my opinion , is to forget measurements and electronic correction , purchase the most accurate speakers you can find and set them up by ear . I know it may not be a cheap way to go but my Revel Salons have made me forget the details and endless setup technics and kick back to enjoy music . 

 

                                                                                                                                                                         Regards  Tim 

absolutepitch
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Accuracy, how?

Tim says to purchase the "most accurate speakers". How does one determine that?

Joe says he can use the instruments of EE but none of them proves accuracy. So how do you determine any set of speakers is accurate?

Accuracy, as Ariel wrote correctly, is to reproduce the input signal exactly at the output.

The idea is that if the recording chain is completely accurate, then the reproduction chain must be accurate in order to reproduce what was recorded. If the recording captures great sonics, imaging, etc., then the reproduction system must reproduce that accurately without adding or subtracting anything. This means that if one compares the signal from the input to the output and gets an exact replica, the system is accurate, within the limitations of the source signal.

An accurate system is expected to sound "musical" if the recording captured the "musical" aspects. But just sounding musical does not necessarily mean the system is accurate.

Edited for grammar 9/29/13.

tmsorosk
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How do you determine accuracy

 

  Whats most important is what your ears and sences determine to be accurate .

  Listing to live music and then scurrying home and playing your closest reproduction of the event is a good place to start . 

 I've been upgrading and messing around with this stuff for nearly 40 years , It's taken many dollars and many changes but I'm finally at ease with my music maker , it now sounds like music not electronics .

absolutepitch
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Accuracy

Understand what you mean about where to start. I too have been doing this for a few more years than you, and I still have no good way to determine speaker accuracy.

I can see for an amplifier, one can compare the input and output signals, or perform a null test. One such test was done by Bob Carver vs. Stereophile where Bob showed that he could make his amplifier match any one of Stereophile's choosing. The listening panel could not tell the difference after two days of listening. Although this was comparing two amplifiers' signals output through speakers, it's just as easy to compare input and output and null test that on the same amplifier to prove accuracy sufficient that the residual difference is not audibly detectable.

With speakers, it's more difficult, as these devices output into a room, or an anechoic chamber, or free field hemisphere, or whatever conditions one chooses to test. Then there is the question of which microphone is used that won't also alter the signal reproduced by the speaker.

Some speakers have been tested for 'accuracy' in various ways or combination of ways. Some of these ways are amplitude vs. frequency, impulse response, passing a square wave of various frequencies, various distortion measurements, non-linear distortion measurements, linearity of output with power input, etc. All of these test (if done well) will improve accuracy. However, all these tests require a microphone. Listening tests also involves a 'microphone' - your ears. I agree that listening is a good start, and we may have no other choice. Listening won't answer the accuracy question of exact output compared to input.

 

Edited for misspelling.

JoeE SP9
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Accuracy

IMO the question of accuracy is a system related issue and I include the room as part of the system. You listen to a system, not individual components. Unfortunately there is no measurement of system accuracy. Without a way of measuring you have to compare. That requires something to compare to. In other words, a reference. That reference has to be un-amplified music because that's the only kind that has a consistent sound. Any music that's amplified in any way has a sound that's dependent on the electronics.

Comparing is the easy part. Go to a concert of un-amplified music. After the concert go home and play the same or similar music on your system. You now have your comparison. It's pretty much a given that you'll never get the same sound at home as at the concert. However, you now have a reference to work toward. You merely have to decide which aspect of your system is the worst in comparison and work on improving that first.

The hard part is realizing and admitting just how bad your system sounds in comparison to live music.

tmsorosk
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RE: Accuracy

   " The hard part is realizing and admitting just how bad your system sounds in comparison to live music " .

 

 I'll make no such admission . Although I'll admit that no audio system will ever sound the same as a live performance , when I arrive home after a concert whether it was a loud Rock event or an intimate Jazz venue and play some well recorded music I have to admit how acomplished it really is . It's taken time but it's finally close enough that I can sit back and smile .   

 Another way I fine tune my system is to record my daughter playing the Cello or guitar in my audio room , then play it back in the same room . Just as my daughters Cello playing has improved after much time and hard work so has my playback system .  

JoeE SP9
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Comparison

You don't have to make such an admission. There is really no comparison. A stereo system will always come off a very poor second best when compared to the sound of a real orchestra. With smaller combos, solo instruments and a lot of Jazz I completely agree the comparison is a lot closer.

As happy and satisfied as I am with my system and even though many of my fellow audio buddies say it sounds very good it still pales in comparison with live music from an orchestra. This doesn't mean that IMO (and others) it isn't closer than the majority of what's out there. Nor does it mean that I come home from a concert and won't turn it on because it doesn't sound as good as the Philadelphia Orchestra. It only means that I'm being realistic with my comparison.

I think my system sounds damn good. OTOH I will jump at the chance to do whatever I can to improve the sound of my "rig", taking into consideration budget and architectural constraints. Regardless, I'm realistic enough to admit that not everyone may hear and/or appreciate the same things I do.

I've also been know to have a jam session with a couple of fellow musicians and record it. The playback of same has never disappointed anyone.

tmsorosk
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RE: Comparison

 A large symphony orchestra IS nearly impossible to imitate . Not to sound sycophant . 

 

                                                                                     Regards  Tim

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Planar speakers

As for the speaker being able to recreate the origional environment, I like the planar speakers.  I own Magnepans.  When a piano sits in a room, the striking of a key sends sound waves in all directions, not just forward.  If you stand behind a planar speaker, there is almost as much sound output from the back of the speaker as there is going towards the listener.  

I don't pretend to understand how front driving speakers project a 3D image, but it seems like a speaker capable of producing output forwards and backwards is fundamentally closer to the way sound projects in principle.  It is seems that a front driving speaker has a built in extra hurdle to fight. 

The challenge with a planar speaker is position and room characteristics are at a premium.  You have to have the ability to treat the surfaces to be properly reflective, and most importantly, have no limitations on speaker placement.  The sound waves off the back and side walls have to be controlled and "timed".  Room characteristics/treatment and speaker position are what control that.  Most of the photos I see of systems have the components in the living room, which make placement of planar speaker a tremendous challenge.  Planar speakers need to be away from the side walls and away from the front wall.  They are also quite large, adding to the challenge.  

Sadly, most owners of planar speakers will never know their true potential.

JoeE SP9
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Says you!

As the owner and user of planar speakers exclusively since May 1976, I have to disagree with your assessment of most owners not positioning them properly. I have six buddies that have either Magneplanars, Martin Logans or Acoustats. All of them have their speakers set up fairly optimally. I may have had some effect in this area as I was the first to have planars and I'm the only one that has a treated dedicated room. None of my buddies has poorly positioned speakers. In fact one of them has his Maggie 3.6Rs in a larger room than mine and the sound is to die for.

You shouldn't make generalizations. You are likely to be wrong when you do so. IME planar owners are more aware of proper speaker positioning than many others. Poorly positioned planars tend to sound pretty bad. "Newbies" tend not to buy them and they are rarely the first "good" speakers that enthusiasts buy.

tm: It's a given that an orchestra is damn near if not totally impossible to recreate in ones listening room. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try for it. Just remember, the closer you get the better your system will sound on everything not just classical music.

tmsorosk
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Planars !

Planars , don't get me started . Simply , I've heard many over the years and have not been a fan . Many things to like but many things not to like . That being said , one of are audio club members recently purchased some 20.7's ( upgraed from 20.1's ) and after much setup and an amp change there are somewhat listenable . 

JoeE SP9
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differences

The world would be boring if we all liked the same things. I for one can't stand most horns for longer than around ten seconds.

I'm not trying to talk anyone into anything. My post was prompted by Reed saying that most planar owners don't position them properly. This is something I've not found to be true. The only instance I can remember of truly poor positioning was in 1980. A friend bought a pair of Magneplanar Tympani's and placed them in a room that was too small for anything larger than a bookshelf speaker with an 8" woofer. He kept them for about a week. I heard them before he sold them and they sounded truly awful in that tiny room. He replaced them with a pair of Gale's. There was a substantial improvement in the sound

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comparison to live

I generally agree with both JoeE and tmsorosk, with respect to the sound of a audio system is not even close to live concert sound. My system is very satisfying to listen to, but is not close enough to live music. It does produce a good, satisfying illusion. When you get a career musician to listen to a system and if that person says it sounds good, then you've got audio that presents a good illusion. I have only had a few musicians that got to listen to my system; they all like what they heard, but the sample size is too small to draw conclusions.

As to JoeE's comment about the system including the room, that means that the gear+room is the system attempting to reproduce what is on the source material. If this system is to sound comparatively close to a live concert, the transfer function of the gear+room at the listening location must match the transfer function of what you heard in that concert hall's listening location. That transfer function will change with each seat in the concert hall, and with any changes in the listening room or listening location in that room. Accuracy is likely not attainable to the same level as comparing an amp's input and output with a null test.

Since different concert halls will have different transfer functions, to achieve sufficient accuracy in the system as JoeE defines 'system' will require tweaking the gear or room or both for different source material. That means accuracy will be a difficult to achieve goal, and a moving target from room to room, source material to source material. Comparison of system to memory of live sound helps achieve satisfying sound, but not accuracy. 

To 'achieve' accuracy, get gear that gives the same output as the input as best as possible, then minimize the room influence on the output of the gear to hear what was recorded in the source, as best as practicable. IMHO, this approach could yield the best compromise of achieving accuracy over the range of source materials. 

 

JoeE SP9
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Agree

I completely agree with absolutepitch. My room and gear together are a compromise. I've selected gear that within my budget constraints is as neutral as possible. I've treated the room to minimize it's influence as much as is reasonably possible while leaving it livable. It is after all, what used to be my living and dining rooms. All in all I have achieved what to me and my audio buddies is very satisfying sound.

I realize that I'm aiming at a moving target with what are not the most precise tools. Consequently I don't reject anything that may improve my listening experience.  

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musicians

I love and admire all musicians but I don't find them very discriminating, necessarily, in evaluating home stereos.  Remember they listen to car radio and ipods etc, too, just like non-musicians.  The only musician I know well who has a decent stereo sets up her nice speakers according to decor, not sound.  Last time I was at her house, the left speaker was standing (vertically) behind an upholstered chair and the right speaker was horizontal, on top of a tall cabinet on the adjacent wall (i.e., one speaker facing north and the other east).

tmsorosk
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Re: Musicians

Agreed , musicians are not audiophiles . 

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try telling that

i know you're not making an absolute statement here, but

try telling that to the stereophile editorial staff and writers

JA: bass

SM: guitar

me: guitar

RB: piano

JI: gamelan

BJR: piano

AD: guitar

(and this is probably the shortlist).

Bill B
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True but

Yes the are audiophiles who are musicians - but in my experience, musicians would rather buy a new guitar or amp or keyboard or mike than upgrade their stereo speakers. Which is probably good... 

Ariel Bitran
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I can confirm

I would rather buy an instrument. cheeky

JoeE SP9
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Musicians

IME there are more audiophiles that play an instrument than vice versa. Most of my musician friends own either no system or a very mediocre one. The few that care about reproducing sound and not just playing tend to have "mediocre" gear. In fact, most of it's in the BPC, all in one rack system category. Just about none (one out of 30+) of them have separates or any sort of system that a poster here would consider "high end".

They always seem to really enjoy my system when they visit. They opt for the sweet spot and will usually not move until they leave.

PS: I just bought a Steinberger electric bass.

BRuggles
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Opposite Day

Steinbergers look funny. 

I just recently realized that guitar amps and audio amps often have completely contrary aims. My amp is switchable from Class A to AB, and I prefer the harmonics of the Class A. But between the dramatic clipping, added harmonics, tonal coloration, tube rectifier sag and softened dynamics, my amp sounds juicy and tasty. And it sounds nothing like an acoustic guitar when I have the gain good and high (which is the right way). 

But my stereo is supposed to preserve and reproduce the attach and decay of drums, or flat-picked guitar strings. It is supposed to maintain the frequencies and intensities of the records and CDs. 

I do wonder what makes musicality a thing. Being an engineer, I really want to measure every facet that makes music what it is, so I can see that I have a good setup on a scope. But it turns out our ears are better measurement tools than anything we have built. But they can be tricked, confused, and led astray. I have been dabbling in binaural sound, and it is fascinating to experience the effects of some of what ears are good at. 

JoeE SP9
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Funny!

Yes, Steinbergers do look a little unconventional. They have nice necks and really good intonation. They also stay in tune. It's a nice addition to my collection of Fender Precision, Gibson (not Epiphone) EB-3, Hagstrom and Ampeg Baby Bass.

Yes, there is a very large difference between the gear (amplifiers) used for making music and reproducing it.

Measure anything and everything you want. No measurement ever devised can tell you how good something sounds. The ear is the only decider. This is from a retired EE.

John Atkinson
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Re: Funny

JoeE SP9 wrote:

Yes, Steinbergers do look a little unconventional. They have nice necks and really good intonation. They also stay in tune.

I have a Steinberger Spirit bass in my collection. One advantage you didn't mention is that as it does't have a head stock, it's much easier to take as hand baggage on planes.

JoeE SP9 wrote:
It's a nice addition to my collection of Fender Precision, Gibson (not Epiphone) EB-3, Hagstrom and Ampeg Baby Bass.

Nice. The irony is that now I am a magazine editor, I have several basses from which to choose when I want to play. But when I was professional I had just one, a 1964 P-Bass, and even buying strings was occasionally financially out of reach :-)

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

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Satisfying sound

Congratulations to JoeE for achieving "satisfying sound". It appears many of us here have also reached that goal. Of course, that sound can still be improved, I acknowledge.

I also read that many here have treated their listening rooms, which is generally known as the most influential to the sound, if the speakers are good enough. I have very modest treatment to my room. I have not yet gone to strengthening and damping the walls, which is one of the important steps after wall reflection treatment. Yes, it's a hobby that's always a work-in-progress.

Enjoy your music!

(Edited for clarity 10/12/13)

absolutepitch
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musicians and audio

BillB, I agree that musicians also listen to iPods and car audio. Most that I've met have modest audio, perhaps mass-market audio systems. I think it's not that they don't appreciate audio as an audiophile would, but they remain quite discriminating in their ability to tell good sound from the just-OK sound.

One piano teacher told me after listening to my system a few minutes that the sound is so clear. My guess is that it's not that the system is great although it's probably better than 80-90% of the stuff out there. It's that my system is better than what they have heard nearly everywhere else so that they take notice.

A violin teacher told me that CDs do not sound good and rather listen to LPs. There must be something LPs have that CDs is missing for that observation to come from someone that plays live music much of the day and nearly all days of the week. How often do audiophiles (I included, even though I play two instruments) experience live music compared to career musicians? Musicians have a live reference most of the time, and most extended recent reference experience. I do not think this person has heard a good system playing hi-rez digital e.g. 24-bit 96 kHz or higher. It may changer their mind. With what I got for audio, LP's still have a liveness that CDs seem to lack.

One observation I offer is that musicians are too busy, or perhaps prefer, producing music to bother with the search for better systems to re-produce music. Many do not have the financial resources that another profession can offer. 

A possible explanation may be that musicians know live music so well and have a busy career that any audio system is 'terrible' in comparison so that it's not worth putting a lot of money into it when they don't have the time to listen to stereo.

A further observation is that when musicians do listen to audio systems, they listen to the musical performance more so than the sonics. But they take notice when a system can reproduce the sonics and the dynamics.

 

 

JoeE SP9
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Steinberger
John Atkinson wrote:
JoeE SP9 wrote:

Yes, Steinbergers do look a little unconventional. They have nice necks and really good intonation. They also stay in tune.

I have a Steinberger Spirit bass in my collection. One advantage you didn't mention is that as it does't have a head stock, it's much easier to take as hand baggage on planes.

JoeE SP9 wrote:

It's a nice addition to my collection of Fender Precision, Gibson (not Epiphone) EB-3, Hagstrom and Ampeg Baby Bass.

Nice. The irony is that now I am a magazine editor, I have several basses from which to choose when I want to play. But when I was professional I had just one, a 1964 P-Bass, and even buying strings was occasionally financially out of reach :-)

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

Fortunately, being retired I'm relatively stable financially. The Spirit XT-2 in Black is the model I bought. The price for them ($399 from Musicians Friend) is quite reasonable, relatively speaking. The double ball strings are the major reason I wanted it. I don't fly much but I especially like that you can put it in a gig bag and not detune it.

I've had my Precision since 1970 when I bought it used from a pawn shop. Playing it helped finance my college education. The GI Bill payed for the basics but I needed more than what the GI Bill provided. 

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Posting from the RMAF.

I've listened to some fantastic systems at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest this weekend. Even so, there was a violin / piano performance next to the lobby an hour ago, and sitting 15 ft from the violin, it struck me that there was no way I could ever mistake that sound for a recording. I could be wrong. There are degrees of accuracy, but still a long way to accurate in my opinion

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real

agree.  At the last audio show I went to there was live music, and from down a hallway 100' from the band, i knew it was live.  Even the most ultra high end systems at the show wouldn't have had that certain something.

JoeE SP9
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Me to

Here's another that agrees about accuracy. I regularly attend live musical events and every system I've ever heard regardless of cost has a long way to go. That doesn't stop me from trying even with my limited budget.

Even if I didn't attend live concerts playing a bass in my listening room is an ear opener.

If you're not trying to get the best reproduction you can what's the point?

BRuggles
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You gotta have faith...

This thread is bringing to mind something interesting. I would say everyone here has a good grasp on potential shortcomings in reproducing live events in sound and why our stereos don't quite sound "real." Also, I would posit that everyone here has an idea of what "digital" means, even if we cannot explain the ins and outs of the DAC process replete with equations and dithering and jitter and that geeky drivel that drives our women away screaming, clutching their brains. Let's be honest; this hobby is statistically dominated by the sausage-fest set.

Further, most people on here, JoeE and JA among them, concede that we don't have all the answers and technology to measure everything that matters to be perfectly accurate. Now for my point: why is there still such a debate about CDs measuring up to LPs? Obviously, production matters. Sure, some mainstream, hyper-compressed master loses it's ability to sound as real as it could regardless of the playback source format. But why are people holding so strong to the Nyquist theorem and sine-wave theory, clinging to the notion that it works in the lab and on paper according to pure theory, when we so freely suspend the need to fully grasp each concept wholly. Also, so many of us like higher-resolution and analog so much more.

I, for one, enjoyed watching classmates learn about relativity or Schrodinger's wave equation. They really wanted to understand those things within their [my classmates'] known paradigms, but it cannot be done. Those happen to occur in some dimension higher the third, and we have a hard time with visualizing that kinda stuff. But in audio, I have read so many people argue that AC power is power, and no cable upgrade on earth can help. You may as we'll run the power through parallel tubes of salty water.

But I believe the truth is greater than we understand. I believe. 

BTW - no disrespect to Steinbergers. I haven't gotten to play one of their guitars yet, but the nerd in me loves their transcendent pragmatism. And weirdo vibe/aesthetics. 

tmsorosk
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How far

   I don't look at it as how for we have to go to reach audio perfection as much as how far we've already come .

  When I think back to the sixties and early seventies and listening to one channel AM radio broadcasts and records on a crappy player I'm forced to see just how far we have come .

  Live and recorded music will never reach convergence but I enjoy my system very much after coming home from a live musical event , and marvel at it's excelence .

  I guess this is another case of deciding whether for you the glass is half full or half empty .

  

BRuggles
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I have an advantage

Most of the live music I go and see is loud rock music (generally quite heavy stuff, at that), and it is played too loud through crappy PAs. Even my fledgling setup sounds better!

Obviously, I see the downside here. I do go and see some orchestral music, and occasionally, the rock concerts have decent sound. But the further I dive in - and I am quite new - the more I want to get yet more live reference beyond sporadically jamming with friends.

BRuggles
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And my disadvantage

I do like classical, but I am really not very into jazz. I don't mean to start a controversy, but it sounds so much the same to me.

I know if you are on the hunt for dynamics and such, distorted electric guitar kinda counteracts that, but it provides for so much tonal diversity. AND THEN, you add in effects, and it makes for very exciting, diverse, unique stuff. That, and the unending supply of fresh blood looking to reinterpret a familiar style and/or push new boundaries and break new ground. 

JoeE SP9
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Sounds the same!

Music appreciation is in the ear of the listener. For me most rock and pop music is formulaic and boring. In addition, many of the musicians simply don't play all that well. I'm not really interested in effort, emotion or intent unless it's mixed with great chops. For me, all the effects and passion in the world can't make up for what's at best mediocre talent.

I feel almost the same way about "smooth jazz". To me it's music that mostly never really goes anywhere (boring) while being played by musicians with great chops. Kenny G is IMO the epitome of this. He has lots of talent and superb chops while playing the most insipid collections of notes I can imagine. If your exposure to Jazz revolves mostly around "smooth jazz" I can understand and agree with your sentiments about it.

While I'm thinking of saxophone players, I suggest giving Sonny Rollins a listen. If your exposure to saxophone has been restricted to Kenny G and others of that ilk you may be pleasantly surprised.

Try Saxophone Colossus

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4DTR0I7xhA

His playing in the video is very different from his playing on the CD/LP. Jazz musicians rarely play a "tune" the same way.

BRuggles
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This probably warrants a new thread...

I really don't want to disparage jazz as a whole. There is some stuff I quite like, and the technical proficiency is staggering. I need to find more of the kind I like, but I don't know the types well enough. I don't like smooth jazz, this I know, and cool jazz seems a little subtle for my knuckle-dragging tastes. I just watche Bullitt again recently, and the jazz in that (and I am fully aware that seems a weird source) is of the sort I want to find more of. Real uptempo and grooving hard. But when I try hard bop, so-named, it never seems to be it. Perhaps it is because I am still fairly young, especially in the audiophile crowd, but I like music that superficially lacks subtlety. But it is there beneath he noise and volume.

I like a lot of stuff. My favorite guitarist ever is still Stevie Ray Vaughan. But I tend to listen to a lot of what is termed "progressive metal." It has a lot of the progressive rock elements items of song structures, composition, and themes of 70's prog rock, but rather more intensity in the delivery. I will echo your comments regarding so much of pop and rock lacking talent or ingenuity, but I tend to find myself off the beaten path with music that stands no chance of breaking into the mainstream due to its patience. Radio does not take too kindly to 3-5 minute intros.

Incidentally, one of my favorite and best-recorded albums has wonderful musicianship, composition, recording quality, and utterly howled vocals. I acknowledge it is not for everyone, but I have seen some old school audiophiles (of the "there hasn't been good rock since 1967 set) concede that some of my music from the fringes tickles something left untickled for 45 years.

If you are feeling brave, check out Mastodon's "The Last Baron" and Baroness's "Isak" and The Company Band's "Lethe Waters." These are three very different songs from three very different bands. One of the guitar solos in the Mastodon song, and 13 minutes provides plenty of time for a few solos, might strike you as pleasantly jazzy since it eschews every traditional rock and blues form. And The Company Band might be the easiest transition for someone not accustomed to shouty vocals.

I really want there to be more heavy, complex, interesting music that has sonic quality to match the chops of the musicians. Of note: I think that in all of music, the groups I generally expect to be the nerdiest in terms of theory are jazz guitarists and pianists, and extreme metal guitarists. They seem to do the most improvisation in unusual keys, scales, etc. with chord involved.

thanks for the banter!

Demondog
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You took it off topic,

but it's your thread. Just curious if you have an opinion on Jeff Beck's playing?

BRuggles
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I hesitate...

I think Jeff Beck is a fantastically talented, proficient, and above all, creative player. But I am not exactly into what I have heard from him. I consider him in the same company with Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Eric Johnson, Yngwie Malmsteen, etc. I respect their knowledge and abilities and even creativity, but I just don't really get into their music. Often it seems the point is just to showcase their considerable abilities.

I like songs to tell stories. Incidentally, I like music with fictional or fantasy lyrics. Check out The Sword's Apocryphon album for a great reference of fun songs that eschew the compulsion to have pathological from-the-heart lyrics. Also, respect the Quantum Mechanics references!

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"I'm a militant agnostic"

Isn't that kind of an oxymoronic statement?

Athieist and agnostic are not, mind you, one in the same.  A (not pertaining to or participating in) Theist (believer in a higher power), and often have little to no specific moral guidelines outside the self (think Ayn Rand).  A - Gnostic (specific God, usually Judeo/Christian)  Agnostics are, generally speaking, non-believers in a specific God, but often somewhat spiritual, mostly very moral, and mostly, to each thier own is thier motto (think Penn Jillette).  Atheist are specifically non-believers in anything related to the spiritual world.  Sometimes they can be used interchangably, and the statement be accurate, but not precise.  Words do as it turns out have very specific meanings. 

Plus, you say "militant agnostic", I hear,  "I've so little faith in anything, I'll never really be able to enjoy anything I own."   Here's a hint, all we do is pay for the pleasure of renting our life in this world, you can't ever REALLY own anything.  So analyze less, enjoy more.  As Buddha might say, were he an American from the South.  It is what it is.  And that's ALL it is.

JoeE SP9
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Jazz

Since the OP doesn't seem to mind this thread being off topic I'll continue in that vein. Mr Ruggles, you have commented several times about your taste in vocalizing. I suspect that as long as you prefer the mostly "shouty" fantasy type lyrics that you'll never really like Jazz.

Even when I was much younger and heavily into metal and progressive rock I didn't like those vocalists who IMO couldn't sing (all the "shouty" ones).

BTW: The guitarists that you mentioned are solidly on my "meh" list. Yes, they have great chops but their music reminds me of smooth Jazz. Both types of musicians have plenty of talent and great chops but their music is essentially unfulfilling. With smooth Jazz the music doesn't seem to have any real spirit. To me Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Satriani, et al sound to me like they're masturbating. They seem to be getting off but it doesn't transfer to me.

The blues: IMO playing or listening for a short while is fun. A long term diet is kind of boring.

tmsorosk
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Agreed
JoeE SP9 wrote:

Since the OP doesn't seem to mind this thread being off topic I'll continue in that vein. Mr Ruggles, you have commented several times about your taste in vocalizing. I suspect that as long as you prefer the mostly "shouty" fantasy type lyrics that you'll never really like Jazz.

Even when I was much younger and heavily into metal and progressive rock I didn't like those vocalists who IMO couldn't sing (all the "shouty" ones).

BTW: The guitarists that you mentioned are solidly on my "meh" list. Yes, they have great chops but their music reminds me of smooth Jazz. Both types of musicians have plenty of talent and great chops but their music is essentially unfulfilling. With smooth Jazz the music doesn't seem to have any real spirit. To me Yngwie Malmsteen, Joe Satriani, et al sound to me like they're masturbating. They seem to be getting off but it doesn't transfer to me.

The blues: IMO playing or listening for a short while is fun. A long term diet is kind of boring.

 

Well said Joe , I couldn't agree more .

" sounds like there masturbating " , LOL

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Is accurate our preference or

Is accurate our preference or the way a -perhaps otherwise preoccupied- recording engineer put things down. In a perfect world I'd like every musician to play instruments that directly put down great 88-24 streams as well as their location compared to other instruments in the studio. Ain't gonna happen.

the Dsd discussion is a good place to follow the perfect algorithm religious battles. Heavens if people really find out how most recordings work...

JoeE SP9
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Perfect world

In my perfect world more recordings would be made using the direct to disk technique. That means recording using a minimal number of microphones, a passive mixer and going directly to a two track master without any mucking it up in the studio. Sadly no one makes direct to disk LP recordings any more. Groove Note makes recordings that come as close to that ideal as anyone. They record directly to a two track master using a minimal number of microphones and a passive mixer. Their recordings IMO sound superb. They are an abject lesson that a lot of recording engineers ought to audition. Of course, liking Jazz is a prerequisite for any Groove Note recording. I recommend them highly. There are also several other labels that produce extremely high quality recordings, Maple Shade being one. With any of them you have to like the rather eclectic musical choices they make.

Recordings such as these are probably as accurate (microphone dependent) as your ever going to get.

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