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Welshsox
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Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

Hi

Id just like to get some thoughts on the idea that hifi seems to be getting less and less musical as it develops.

It just seems as if manufacturers are after a smooth mellow sound that doesnt cause offence. Im finding it very hard to find equipment particularly speakers that keep the dynamics of the music in place. The new equipment is well made and definetly sounds mellow but somehow it just doesnt seem to sound like live music in the room.

Does anyone share my thought ?

Alan

dcstep
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?


Quote:
Hi

Id just like to get some thoughts on the idea that hifi seems to be getting less and less musical as it develops.

It just seems as if manufacturers are after a smooth mellow sound that doesnt cause offence. Im finding it very hard to find equipment particularly speakers that keep the dynamics of the music in place. The new equipment is well made and definetly sounds mellow but somehow it just doesnt seem to sound like live music in the room.

Does anyone share my thought ?

I bet some share your thought, but I don't.

All my system is composed of current components (Pro-ject, Conrad Johnson, Sumiko, Woo Audio, Vienna Acoustics, Analysis Plus and Pioneer Elite) and this system is more musical and dynamic than my system constructed in the 1980s (Bryston, Celestion, Luxman, PS Audio, Grado). I'm not saying those brands are bad, but any 25-years things have gotten better, much better.

The difference between my Pro-ject RM10 turntable and the old Luxman is startling. It's several orders of excellence better at the same price point (I paid about $600 for the Luxman in the late 1970 and $2880 last summer for the Pro-ject AND the Sumiko Blackbird cartridge, so they're very close in constant dollars. My Mazda RX7 was $7300 at the time).

The speakers are more dynamic and musical. DVD-A and SACDs and even CDs are better than the CDs of the late 1980s. I recently listened to Flim and the BBs from the 80s recently. Yes, it's still dynamic, but the digital hash ruins it for me. My average jazz CDs today are clearer, cleaner and more musical than 20 years ago.

What are you listening through? If you're using horns (very dynamic) they're still available today from a small group of makers.

Dave

gkc
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

Alan, I agree with Dave, although I see your point. All high-end manufacturers compete against each other, and, given the rather harsh nature of much software (that, too, is gradually being corrected, in my opinion), many manufacturers are trying to build "smooth" into the playback, to compensate. Still, many are not. Try some of the French gear (as everybody knows, I am partial to Triangle, but Focal and some of the other folks across the sea still favor "life" over "mellow," damn the software).

A lot of American gear goes for the "mega-watt" approach -- buy speakers that are not sensitive or effecient, then match up with mega-watts, because "watts is cheap." I disagree, and Sam Tellig has been ranting about this longer and more effectively than I have on precisely this topic. To get life, you have to have speakers that jump, that get the sound out of the boxes on cue. Usually, this means high sensitivity and efficiency. You may be auditioning a lot of gear that goes for the "high amplifier/insensitive speaker" equation. Try the 90+ db sensitivity models that pass speed and dynamics from the boxes into your room.

As an old fart, I can guarantee you that Dave is right about things having gotten better -- right now, you have genuine choices. Sometimes, though, you have to hunt around...

Good luck. To paraphrase Ella, "...if it ain't got that jump, you'll sit like a lump." Or some such shit. Live music rocks; dead music just peters out into silence, and sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between some of this polite sound and silence. But, there IS a lot of great stuff out there, if you look and listen carefully enough.

Buddha
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

I wonder if you may be comenting on all the compression present in modern recordings.

Do you get the same bad impression of newer gear on old familiar recordings that you recall as being dynamic?

Welshsox
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

Hi

Theres a couple of good points brought up here.

1 - There is absolutely a problem with the software, you can have certain discs that are great and some that are just garbage. It seems as if certain genres of music pay more attention to the quality, the more specialized the music the better the quality. Classical especially is well recorded. is the opinion that its compression on the recording to make it sound better on ipods etc that is the problem or is the opinion that they are just bad recordings ?

2 - Its interesting that horn speakers and efficiency have been brought up. Theres no doubt that any of the Klipsch heritage line have excellent dynamics, they are extremely efficient. The issue with horns is that seem to be to extreme the other way, they are very dynamic but lose track of the music somehow ( i know im contradicting myself !! ) It brings up the point that is the way to get dynamics to use very efficient speakers with a smaller amp or a very high power amp with inefficient speakers to get more jump out of a very smooth pair of speakers. Does anyone have experience of trying a very high power amp with smooth speakers to see if you get improved dynamics ?

Thanks

Alan

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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

"Does anyone have experience of trying a very high power amp with smooth speakers to see if you get improved dynamics ?"

This is the case with speakers as diverse as Dynaudio and Magnepan.

My 30-year-old (reconditioned) Dahlquist DQ-10s have some of the smoothest, most natural midrange I've ever heard. But they are inefficient, low-impedance power HOGS. 100wpc with good current reserves seems to be the minimum requirement, but they can take a lot more, and need it to really jump alive.

dcstep
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?


Quote:

1 - There is absolutely a problem with the software, you can have certain discs that are great and some that are just garbage. It seems as if certain genres of music pay more attention to the quality, the more specialized the music the better the quality. Classical especially is well recorded. is the opinion that its compression on the recording to make it sound better on ipods etc that is the problem or is the opinion that they are just bad recordings ?

Another response from the old fart contingent:
Software has always been variable. I had reel-to-reel in the 1960s, seeking better quality than vinyl. With vinyl I had to avoid certain labels.

Yesterday I just listened to new vinyl purchases by Radiohead and Brian Adams and both were very good. The Radiohead was stunning. Over on Audiogon people are complaining about the compression on Radiohead's digital releases. So, as always, the quality varies and you have to be aware of that as you buy.

I've bought about 20 jazz SACDs and DVD-As and I've been totally pleased with every one. One is a duplicate of a Diana Krall CD with a major improvement in resolution and lack of filtering glare, right there with the vinyl.

So, I think things are certainly no worse than they've always been. Some producers are just dumbasses and push out crap, even when the artist is excellent. We've always need to be aware of that. Today there are more choices than ever for hi rez, highly musical productions.

Dave

gkc
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

There is no doubt, Buddha, that compression is an evil we all have to live with. I just don't know how to quantify it, in terms of the percentage of recordings out there. Whether you listen to pop, country, jazz, or classical further complicates things. I haven't gone through my entire collection (5,000, CD's, LP's, and SACD's) with this specific criterion in mind, but, my memory tells me that LP's and SACD's are the LEAST likely to sound compressed.

A couple of points, here. First, dynamic, high-sensitivity speakers (in my experience) DO help restore some subjective semblance of "life" to dynamically-compressed software. The worst possible combination is a compressed program source and a system that needs 200 watts just to bully the sound out of the boxes. And, in this area, cables DO make a tremendous difference. Some cables (AQ, in my experience, at ALL price levels) just seem to let more music "out," compressed or not.

Second, older recordings (I don't know how to scientifically conjure up a cut-off date), seem to be dynamically more lively than many contemporary releases. I think CD's took such a reaming in the 1980's and 1990's for sounding flat (in terms of soundstage depth), screechy, and smeared (i.e., glassy), that many producers went too far the other way, trying to ameliorate the pain by making recordings more polite.

JA would certainly have a more definitive opinion about this, but it is what I notice as I spin hundreds of discs a month -- the older ones have more "jump." Some of the contemporary productions, however, DO achieve sonic nirvana -- smoothness AND incredible dynamics. Unfortunately, many of the older recordings (LP's and CD's) have an over-hyped upper midrange/lower treble that renders the dynamic superiorities useles -- you have to turn it down, or be aurally raped by the resultant hash.

Oy. Why can't we just have it all?

Still, on balance, you get more and better choices with dynamic, high-efficiency speakers.

That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it.

linden518
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

Many great points here, a fun thread. But before I add to the complaint, I must say I just thought of the image of Beethoven in his late period, completely deaf, the legs of his Broadwood piano sawed off, him laying prostate before it so he can feel the vibration of the piano through the floorboard. He himself would have killed to have been able to listen to what he was playing, let alone hi-fi, but there's no doubt what he felt, even, was music. I know the example is a bit excessive, but a lot of music critics, etc. will use a similar line of argument to reductively dismiss audiophiles, that "it's all crappy reproduction anyway, compared to the real music." To which we can reply that everything is crappy reproduction, even a live performance, compared to what the composer must have thought of in conception, the pure music, so why don't we all just give up?

But it's nice to think about, to keep everything in proportion. Just the fact that we are discussing this only means that we live in an age of embarrassment of riches. Although I can't testify to whether the hi-fi gear was better in the past or not, I'd take dcstep's opinion to heart, because it seems that way. There are SO MANY options out there. Some of them bad, but most of them - unbelievably - pretty damn good! The choice seems to belong to the consumer. You can get that dynamism from your gear, or warmth. I'd say we're in pretty good shape.

rabpaul
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?


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Im finding it very hard to find equipment particularly speakers that keep the dynamics of the music in place.


I have never associated dynamics with speakers. It has to be in the music (i.e the studio people have not messed it up in the first place by boosting the overall volume so loud that you can't hear the difference). Instead I associate the ability to resolve dynamics with how low the noise floor of the system is.

gkc
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

Rab (or is it Paul?), my experience agrees and disagrees with yours. First, all other things roughly equal, dynamics and "musicality" (the latter term, I firmly believe, is reserved for those who regularly hear live acoustic music and are seeking to get as close as possible to memories of it in their own listening rooms), are almost always greatly enhanced by the low noise floor ("low" is relative here, obviously -- as low as you can get it) of the system feeding the speakers. No matter what speakers you have, the lower the noise floor the better the illusion.

But. There is NO way you can jump-start speakers that simply CANNOT respond, due to limitations in their designs (usually, complex crossover networks directing traffic to multiple drivers). I have tried. My poster boy for this point is the Mirage M1-si pair I owned for about 8 years. I loved the tonal balance of those speakers, and they projected as realistic a sound stage as I have ever heard. And, they could hump down to 28 Hz, flat (in room), tight as a virgin's ass. But you just could not wake 'em up. I bought the original Triangle Celius model, which tended to emphasize the upper midrange a tad, and cut off at around 40 Hz, simply because I wanted to play with tubes. Overall, they weren't half the speaker the Mirages were. But, over the course of about 6 months, I realized I was no longer listening to the Mirage pair. The Triangles (at less than 1/3 the price) were more fun, more lively, AND gave me a better recollection of the live event. I tried 600-watt Krells on the Mirage clunks. They sang sweetly, but you couldn't get 'em to take off the wet T-shirt. It was like listening to a live concert from across the street, no matter HOW loud you cranked up the juice. And, make no mistake, I fed 'em with the best sources material, power conditioners, and the like.

You CANNOT wake up a dead speaker. You can just play it louder, and it ain't the same. I have had similar experiences with other speakers, during auditions -- well-regarded, EXPENSIVE speakers. You ask the salesman, "Can't you do anything to wake these suckahs up"? And he looks at you like you are crazy, obviously never having been inside a concert hall in his life.

A low noise floor always helps. But only Jesus can bring a dead body back to life, and, from all historical accounts, he wasn't into Hi-Fi. Forget about resuscitating laid-back speakers. They were designed that way. Buy effecient ones. They are out there. And they are just as high-res and tonally balanced as the duds.

The software? You're stuck with it.

rabpaul
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

Why I even brought this up is because I have decent speakers (Thiel 2.4s) but did not get proper dynamics until I actually put some more effort into getting the noise floor down. Granted all speakers are not built alike but you also can't always blame them for not doing what they are supposed to do when the rest of the system won't allow them to.

Rabin

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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?


Quote:
My 30-year-old (reconditioned) Dahlquist DQ-10s have some of the smoothest, most natural midrange I've ever heard.


Did Regnar do the work? Mine need to have the woofers reconditioned.

I agree with Dave, in general the newer the equipment the more alive it is. In the past a good amount of equipment was designed to be mellow, speakers in particular (think BBC monitors).

While compression can be a bad thing, it is not new. At a minimum analog tape naturally compresses, as do the LP production process. Analog compressors have been used for decades, both for practical reasons and as an effect.

There are many grand sounding recordings, both old and new, with limited dynamic range.

BillB
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

Naturally there are huge variations between recordings, regardless of format - but in my experience, LP's have the LEAST inherent dynamic range. I'm not knocking LP's at all, 'cause I'm a fan and spin my turntable regularly. But one of the things that struck me when CD's came out was their clearly greater dynamic range. And isn't that mostly a function of how LP's are made? E.g., specialty 12" 45rpm records have been made so that greater dyn. range can be accommodated than on 33rpm?

dcstep
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?


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Naturally there are huge variations between recordings, regardless of format - but in my experience, LP's have the LEAST inherent dynamic range. I'm not knocking LP's at all, 'cause I'm a fan and spin my turntable regularly. But one of the things that struck me when CD's came out was their clearly greater dynamic range. And isn't that mostly a function of how LP's are made? E.g., specialty 12" 45rpm records have been made so that greater dyn. range can be accommodated than on 33rpm?

Yes, 45 rpm can deliver higher dynamic range than 33 1/3 rpm; however, it's subject to the limitation of the arm/cartridge to track.

One thing many people often miss about LP dynamic range is that you can hear the signal below the noise floor. LPs easily deliver 40 dB of dynamic range. Yes, the occasional canon shot will literally blow the cartridge off the record, but for general music listening LP is very good.

CDs have very hard limits on dynamic range; however, digital does not. My little Korg MR1000 hard drive digital recorder delivers and astounding 130dB of range. It's a recordist's dream, particularly if you playing in the group recording. You can set the level and never fear the recorder's ability to cover the dynamics without clipping. The worry becomes you mics' ability to handle the peaks.

Some CDs and most mp3 are compressed to fit within the dynamic medium. This happens with LPs also, but the best LPs will tend to have greater range.

I'd rank dynamic ranges as follows"

    mp3 - Least
    CD - A big step up
    LP - Another step up
    SACD/DVD-A - Very, very good
    1-bit DSD at 5.6mHz -- Astounding

Dave

Elk
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

I have trouble accepting that LP has a greater dynamic range than CD. A CD's dynamic range is over 96dB. LP's can't begin to touch this.

I also doubt that the typical LP is mastered and cut to have a dynamic range greater than the same music on CD. In fact, often the CD reissues of older recordings have greater dynamic range than the LP as CDs do not have the same physical limitations as the LP has.

LP is a wonderful medium however and dynamic range is not all there is to good sound reproduction. Plus, LPs have plenty of good dynamic range for great sound reproduction.

As a practical matter, once one gets beyond 60-70dB or so the theoretical dynamic range does not matter. After taking into account the cumulative noise of all of the equipment in the recording chain, as well as the inherent noise of even the quietest venue, it is very unlikely that one will see less than approximately -70-dBFS - well within the limits of a CD.

The big advantage of wide dynamic range for recording is that the engineer need not make the recording as hot as possible as was the best practice with analog tape. The noise floor is now low enough that he can afford to leave a healthy bit of headroom. Thus, every peak will be accurately captured and the quietest sound captured will still be above the quiescent noise floor.

Don't worry about the microphones. As an example, the Shure KSM44 (a large diaphragm condenser microphone) can handle a sound pressure level of 132dB . Engage its built in 15dB pad and it can handle over 147dB. Your hearing will go long before the mic is stressed.

KBK
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

Analog has no jitter, so it is inherently better from that one point alone. The human hearing system is incredibly sensitive to timing issues, as that is how it derives spaciality, harmonics, relative volumes (mixed signals/tonality/emphasis/etc) and position.

Thus..analog shows digital to be crap.

That's about all there is to it.

The rest of the 'animated discussion' (AKA argument), revolves around people not knowing or 'getting' the above said point.

dcstep
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?


Quote:

Don't worry about the microphones. As an example, the Shure KSM44 (a large diaphragm condenser microphone) can handle a sound pressure level of 132dB . Engage its built in 15dB pad and it can handle over 147dB. Your hearing will go long before the mic is stressed.

I actually had my tongue in cheek when I said that. My AKGs offer 130dB with no pad, so I'm not worried about anything musical. I don't see myself recording canons anytime soon.

A guy can't get away with anything around here...

Dave

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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?


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...Thus..analog shows digital to be crap.

That's about all there is to it.

The rest of the 'animated discussion' (AKA argument), revolves around people not knowing or 'getting' the above said point.

Wow, the discussion is over! Cool. 'Course, that means I must be one of the people who don't 'get' it. I'll continue to naively believe that analog and digital each have their pros and cons. See you at the gym. Hope that portable turntable balances OK on the stairmaster!

Elk
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?


Quote:
I actually had my tongue in cheek when I said that. My AKGs offer 130dB with no pad, so I'm not worried about anything musical. I don't see myself recording canons anytime soon.

A guy can't get away with anything around here...


Sorry, I didn't notice the bulging cheek.

A lot of people actually worry about damaging their microphones with sound. Silly. Oddly enough, they are made to be in the presence of sound.

It's pretty hard to hurt one unless it is a ribbon mic. They can be quite fragile.

Elk
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?


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Analog has no jitter, so it is inherently better from that one point alone.


Perhaps this is why analog can sound so appealing.

Digital does some things better than analog, less distortion, greater frequency range, greater dynamic range, less inherent noise, etc.

Both are great.

BTW, when the jitter is really slow (a/k/ wow and flutter) is it still jitter?

KBK
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

I'd hazard that it is still.. uhm.. 'conceptually' jitter. After all, look what it does to the signal when we speed it up. Much the same thing as clock jitter.

Of course, as the frequency of the wow/flutter increases, or it becomes temporally non-syncopated (or both) it becomes far easier to hear. Like the ear brain compensating for the effect of blood pressure and heartbeat on the hearing system. Or when we move our head in the micro-sense. as the frequency goes up (movement or wow/flutter), we loose the ability to cancel out. Busy, busy, busy.

Kinda reminds me of the uselessness of A and C weighting when it comes to audio systems. Wot a joke.

Very important: never rely on a given acoustical and noise control company's record to 'check' on them, go to real rooms they have done before committing to their services.

In Audio, A and C weighting are almost 100% invalid. Those are industrial specifications designed around the idea that the theory of acoustics is left grabbing it's ass at low frequencies. So they are left out of the equation, as they simply have no idea how to fix them or deal with them. Yet..in audio..this is where the vast majority of the given problems lie.

Elk: If you are a recording engineer, or similar, send me a microphone (phantom, local amplifier inside), and I'll send back the best damn thing you've ever heard in your life. I'm 100% serious on that.

gkc
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

Dave, you got it right, tongue or no tongue. We always seem to migrate back to the same junction, no matter how "...way leads on to way..."

It all boils down to what you hear against what gets measured.

As I have said too many times, I attend many live concerts. The measurable S/N number at these events would probably be unacceptable in any lab measuring high-end equipment -- people snorting, farting, coughing, whispering, shuffling pages, and creaking in their seats; air conditioning, creaking furniture, and the musicians and conductors stomping feet and turning pages. Yet, somehow, the perception is clarity. The ultimate clarity.

When I sit and listen to LP's, they (on balance -- nothing works every time) sound more dynamic. I couldn't give a shit less about what the S/N decibels are. I know what I hear. I love music, and I listen a lot. And, I don't really care about the abstract measurements. I have learned (after many mistakes) that you have to listen to what you buy.

Somebody (on some thread discussing cables) mentioned having a $50,000 system, as if that were proof of something. Well, I have a $130,000 system, and a $20,000 system. And both perform equally well, each within its own environment (obviously, the latter inhabits a smaller rectangle...). I wouldn't even nightmare about doing without either one of them. And analog sounds better AND more dynamic in both systems. And I do not need scientifically valid tests to verify the obvious. And I do not need abstract S/N measurements to confirm what I am hearing, at home or at the concert hall.

If you have a chronic urge to keep turning up the volume while playing your favorite music, either the software or the hardware (or some combination of both) is not dynamic enough to satisfy your particular lust. If you just lie back and say, "Ahhhhhh," you did it right.

Digital CAN sound louder. But not more dynamic. Digital gets flatter and glassier as it gets louder, in its futile attempts to get more dynamic. I am onto this ruse. Analog gets deeper, wider, and more revealing of its inner parts, as it gets louder. And more dynamic. I have no idea why. Frankly, my dears, I don't give a shit. I spent the first 20 years of my listening life trying to analyze such things, and I came up empty (not only in the listening room, but in the wallet). During the next 20 years, I turned off the noise and turned up the music. Ah, bliss. Now, if you want to enjoy your tunes, just LISTEN, as you run around from store to store, and as you calculate your way through lab after lab. I swear. Just listen, and, eventually you will get it right.

LP's sound better. And, yes, they sound more dynamic. Why? I don't really give a shit -- just give me the good aural bath. And, yes, good cables sound better than bad ones. And, yes, you have to decide.

Happy tunes.

tom collins
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

cliff: i love your stuff, you make your points with gusto.
in my other hobby - motorcycles, there are 2 types of riders, journey and destination. kind of analogous to digital v. analog and tests v. just listen. there are many riders who swear it is the getting there that is the most important part and just as many that swear its the being there. they manage to coexist and i ride with both types but will go my own way when my philosophy shifts from one priority to the other. just as there are many hifi people who love the journey aka they love to trade gear, love to audition new stuff, love to peruse spec sheets and love the gear for its own sake, what comes out is important too, but not the entire picture. and, there are those who just want to sit and listen and enjoy what comes out. i think that there is also a 3rd group in the middle, just as i am with the bikes. that group enjoys both aspects.
cliff, you are firmly in the "destintation" camp. i would only say that in the riding world, it is just as hard to convince a journey guy that the destination is more important as it is to convince an analog guy that digital is better in the stereo world. but there are a lot of people in between, such as myself. i love great looking speakers and cool flat wire. a turntable can be the coolest looking piece of gear on the rack and electronic gear that you can turn the indicators off on is very cool, brushed aluminum billet is cool, a rack of tubes is warm and inviting. also, a kick drum that sounds like a kick drum, female vocals, eric clapton's guitar, the hearbeat on dark side of the moon, grab your attention completely and is very cool to hear.
it makes it interesting when the discussion is kept civil as it has been in this forum. glad we have it.
just my 2 cents.

tom

Elk
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?


Quote:
Digital CAN sound louder. But not more dynamic. Digital gets flatter and glassier as it gets louder, in its futile attempts to get more dynamic. I am onto this ruse. Analog gets deeper, wider, and more revealing of its inner parts, as it gets louder. And more dynamic. I have no idea why.


This is a great example of how we need to be careful to define our terms.

This sort of "dynamic" is not simply greater dynamic range in terms of dBs.

As I understand Clifton's point, LP's are better at revealing the inner workings of the music. This is not the result of LPs possessing a greater difference between the softest and loudest possible sounds.

In my experience what he describes is one of the characteristics of a better system. Some get this better than others, both digital or analog based. Some systems just get louder.

Elk
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?


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Elk: If you are a recording engineer, or similar, send me a microphone (phantom, local amplifier inside), and I'll send back the best damn thing you've ever heard in your life. I'm 100% serious on that.


Tempting.
What would you do?

gkc
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

Elk, you understood me in the literal sense and its implications. I want to hear the entire marching band as it rounds the corner and gets closer, all the inner workings of the unit getting "louder" together. "Dynamics" may be the toughest term in the audio-nut lexicon to define, because the software varies so greatly. No system can play music until the radio, phono, CD player, server, or (for some) tape player comes on. Most chronic system-changers seem to always get stuck on bad software, and they end up blaming the messenger. This can cost you hundreds of thousands, to no avail, over a lifetime.

Tom, you are absolutely right. This is a great analogy. I need to have the destination always in mind, even when I am stuck on a side road, 500 miles from a shower, drink, and a soft bed. At the end of the road, I just want the music in my listening space. This is probably what happens after a lifetime of fooling around. Now, I would be the LAST person to advise against fooling around...but, when it comes to music AND cootch, you gotta know where home is...

Welshsox
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

Hi

There are some interesting thoughts here.

I definetly agree that dynamics in the way a CD or LP sounds has little to do with the measured dB range of a recording. The thing that is a common thread that is more interesting is the discussion about noise floor, ive never heard this brought up before.

The really interesting comments though relate to speakers, it would seem that everyone is pretty much agreed that you cant wake up an inherently laid back speaker with power. It was mentioned that the source is more important in the chain than the speakers for " live sound " I cannot agree with that comment, the source has a major impact on sound quality, tone, resolution etc but I cant see that its more important than the speakers in terms of dynamics.

So the end result appears to ne that i need a good pair of high sensitivity speakers with a powerful amp. Anyone got any good ideas for speakers ? what about Coincident ? they are very efficient.

Alan

gkc
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

Welsh, I agree with you that Coincident speakers, when you consider the line as a whole, are excellent. They are very easy to drive, and they give your amplifiers a chance to shine.

I have only heard two set-ups in home systems (the "Total Victory," I believe, and the "Victory" -- I am not absolutely sure of the nomenclature, but that is what I remember). In terms of price, both were in the "sweet spot" for excellence, nowadays (alas, STILL too high, but reality is reality) -- $6000-$12000, as I recall. I have seen them on Audiogon for 20% less. Both set-ups were natural in timbre and just outstanding in dynamics and soundstaging.

I prefer my Triangles. But the two lines have more in common than in conflict. Both manufacturers value "jump," and both manufacturers get massed violins right. Obviously, both manufacturers value designs that are easy on the electronics.

The Triangles emphasize "bite" and brass, while the Coincidents emphasize smoothness, with a bit more bass prominence. I could live happily with either brand.

I have not heard the lower priced models in the Coincident line. Still, on the basis of what I have heard at shows, dealers, and in the home, Coincident is a superb high-end loudspeaker designer.

Be sure to listen with your own ears, and (preferably), attend a few live concerts and take notes.

smejias
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?


Quote:
When it comes to music and cootch, you gotta know where home is.

I will adopt this as my personal life motto.

linden518
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?


Quote:

Quote:
When it comes to music and cootch, you gotta know where home is.

I will adopt this as my personal life motto.

I think that quote covers most of Homer's Odyssey.

Elk
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

Coincident speakers are lovely - detailed, very quick, explosive when called upon to be.

They do not need a powerful amp, but need just "enough" power. Think quality power over the amount of power.

Clifton's point is excellent - with some systems turning up the volume provides more music - more detail, more life, greater swings - everything. Even less expensive analog setups tend to do this to at least a degree, but better digital does this as well. However, there may very well be something inherently different about LPs as analog setups do this so easily.

gkc
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

I forgot to mention Dave's speakers -- Vienna Acoustics. I have always admired this brand. They are all easy to drive and have terrific deep bass. This can be a problem in the wrong room (Dave can help me out here), but if the eternal "looks vs. sound" conflict doesn't matter to you, just move 'em further out into the room. Good advice for any speakers, if your roomie can abide the (horrors!) unsightliness of it all.

Horns? My experience has been bad, throughout my entire audio life. I have owned the best Altecs, JBL's, and K'Horns, over the years, and I could never tame the raunch in the 2,000-5,000 Hz range. This, be reminded, refers to their being fed full orchestral music (classical) -- none of these designs could capture the sheen and silk of massed violins. If you enjoy jazz, pop, and rock, horns MAY, however, be just your ticket. One other admission, here. I understand that the new K'Horns are more evenly balanced throughout the sonic spectrum. Sam Tellig made this point in his review of the La Scala a few months ago. Perhaps a new audition is in order. Still, my old K'Horns reamed your cochlea, but good. But, dynamic??? Oh, YEAH! With a capital "D." And the sensitivity is legendary -- you can kill flying insects two blocks down the road with 2 good watts...

Welshsox
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

Clifton

Thanks

In terms of live concerts, thats my problem !! over the last thirty years ive attended hundreds and seen virtually every band i like 5-10 times.

Its my love and familiarity with live music that has created my problem with hifi sounding flat.

Alan

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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

That'll certainly do it, Alan, at least from my experience. There is just nothing like live -- unlimited dynamic freedom.

The good thing about this is you will always have an ingrained measuring rod for bad hi-fi, regardless of price. Your home system(s) will never approach the real thing, but you can come surprisingly close to the emotional impact, with today's best gear. That doesn't necessarily mean "the most expensive," but it sure as hell won't mean "the cheapest," either. Damn.

The biggest expense is filling larger and larger rooms. If you are dealing with modest dimensions, you won't have to spend a fortune to get the "jump" you crave. I have a huge listening area in my mountain place, and it has taken huge dollars to fill it with what I crave. My Los Angeles apartment is 26 X 14 X 8, and I get just as good a sound with about a tenth of the money. Your space defines the outlay, if you are after the impact of live sound. There IS a happy medium -- you can't just throw everything into a closet and hope for great results. And headphones get annoying after a short time -- listener's fatigue with a vengeance, no matter how good the equipment.

Still, for the music lover on a budget (given the great and varied choices out there today), modestly-sized digs can be extremely rewarding, in terms of sound quality vs. money. You have to be patient, look hard, and listen to a lot of bullshit to get the right system (rather like trying to find a pair of running shoes that REALLY fit), but the rewards are tremendous.

Good listening.

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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?


Quote:
I forgot to mention Dave's speakers -- Vienna Acoustics. I have always admired this brand. They are all easy to drive and have terrific deep bass. This can be a problem in the wrong room (Dave can help me out here), but if the eternal "looks vs. sound" conflict doesn't matter to you, just move 'em further out into the room. Good advice for any speakers, if your roomie can abide the (horrors!) unsightliness of it all.

Yes, that's right. The smaller VAs have rear facing ports and the larger VAs have rear ports and side firing woofers. This really boosts the bass (like putting a subwoofer in the corner) but they must be very carefully set in relation to the rear wall. You actually want to set them as close as possible without screwing up the midrange and causing any outrageous bass nodes. Fortunately Sumiko has trained most of the VA dealers on how to optimally set up their speakers. The method is called The Sumiko Master Set (see review in the Speakers Forum).

This sensitivity is a plus when handled correctly because it allows a realatively small, funiture finished cabinet to produce very satisfying full-range performance.

Dave

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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

Dynamics are largely a function of the midbass and how well it locks tightly into the room environment. You just have to keep messing with this stuff until you get the room sorted and the gear running open and pure. It takes time.

It is not the gear although there may be too many modern choices that make it NOT happen...that much is possible as there is so much to choose from.

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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?


Quote:
Clifton's point is excellent - with some systems turning up the volume provides more music - more detail, more life, greater swings - everything.

I like the way Clifton gets his points across with great clarity.

Regarding the dynamics, one thing that I have rarely seen tested in speakers is the linearity with respect to output SPL versus input signal. Some speakers compress the sound in the sense that it limits the loudest sounds, sort of analogous to soft amp clipping. This may be one of the causes of the described lack of "jump" when the volume knob gets cranked up. Speakers with excellent linearity in this respect, and can play loud, will reproduce those dynamics better.

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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?


Quote:
Regarding the dynamics, one thing that I have rarely seen tested in speakers is the linearity with respect to output SPL versus input signal. Some speakers compress the sound in the sense that it limits the loudest sounds . . .


Excellent point.

All speakers compress, the issue is how much.

The relative lack of dynamic compression is, I believe, the major appeal of good horns.

Along these lines, it would be interesting to know the extent to which a given speaker dynamically compresses various frequencies differently.

So what else in the reproduction inherently compresses the sound?

Analog tape does, LP cutters and cartridges do (to the extant the signal needs to be limited to allow proper tracking). Amplifiers can if they have insufficient current to drive the speaker load with which they are presented.

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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?


Quote:

Quote:
Regarding the dynamics, one thing that I have rarely seen tested in speakers is the linearity with respect to output SPL versus input signal. Some speakers compress the sound in the sense that it limits the loudest sounds . . .


Excellent point.

All speakers compress, the issue is how much.

The relative lack of dynamic compression is, I believe, the major appeal of good horns.

Along these lines, it would be interesting to know the extent to which a given speaker dynamically compresses various frequencies differently.

So what else in the reproduction inherently compresses the sound?

Analog tape does, LP cutters and cartridges do (to the extant the signal needs to be limited to allow proper tracking). Amplifiers can if they have insufficient current to drive the speaker load with which they are presented.

One of the most interesting topics, ever.

Thanks for bringing it up.

Fascinating topic.

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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

Another issue with compression that I forgot to mention:

When intentional compression is applied to a recording it makes the soft components louder and the loud softer. As the harmonics of an instrument's tone are typically much softer than the fundamental, compression changes the relationship between the fundamental and the harmonics, resulting in a change in timbre. If judiciously applied the difference is slight, but it is still there.

This is one of the reasons that a mastered recording has a certain "gloss" to it that a raw recording does not have.

If a speaker compresses frequencies differently - and/or compresses loud sounds at a different proportion than soft sounds - the speaker will change the timbre of the sound.

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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

A comressor will dynamically change the overall gain based on the overall signal level and is not frequency dependent - all harmonics remain in the same ratios to the fundamental. Of course the attack and decay envelopes can be radically altered.

Elk
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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

Unfortunately no. What you are describing is not compression, but simply gain riding. An example is turning the volume knob on a preamp up and down with the music. This is not what a compressor does.

Dynamic range compression reduces the volume of loud sounds over a threshold level. Soft sounds are not made softer; they are left unchanged. Thus, compression brings the soft and loud closer together.

Harmonics are soft sounds. Thus they become louder in proportion than they were initially. This changes timbre. It is one of the reasons that compression is not transparent to the ear.

As a separate note, there are multi-band compressors that treat different frequencies separately, and there are compressors that are triggered by frequency. Lots of different critters out there!)

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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

Sorry, I was unaware of multiband compressors. In my brief experience in audio production years ago, the compressors I used were full-band operating on the entire spectrum simultaneously. Are multiband compressors the norm these days? Obviously, there would be a lot more art to using such devices as they can definitely alter the timbre of instruments.

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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

Multi-band compressors, while readily available, are not used very often. I should not have brought them up as they do not add anything to our present discussion other than as a bit of separate engineering trivia.

The standard full-spectrum dynamic range compressor is what I am otherwise referring to. They definitely change the relative proportion of soft to loud, thus affecting both musical expression and timbre. Used judiciously they do relatively little damage to either, however the change can still be heard.

I've provided this example before, but it is a great illustration of how dynamic range compression works and its affects dynamic range compression and the loudness wars

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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

There seems to be some smearing regarding the concepts of time domain and frequency domain. In the frequency domain, a musical note, middle C on a piano for example, is comprised of a fundamental with several harmonics. As you have noted, all these harmonics will be at a lower amplitude (softer) than the fundamental. In the time domain, the amplitude of that note at any moment will be the sum of the amplitudes of the that fundamental and all these harmonics. The familiar time domain shape of a square wave occurs because the fundamental and the harmonics are occurring at the same time. The key element of any compressor is an amplfier whose gain is controlled by some function of the amplitude of the incoming signal (e.g. a voltage controlled amplifier - VCA). A full-band compressor operates on the entire spectrum simultaneously. Therefore, the amplitude ratio of the fundamental to its various harmonics (the timbre) at any moment in time is unchanged. This ratio (timbre) can change through the attack and delay envelope of a note, however, and a compressor can change the shape of this envelope thereby changing the perceived timbre of the note as it decays.

(New edit) Thinking about this a bit more, it occurred to me that maybe the culprit is not simple changes in timbre. As I stated above, the gain stage of a compressor changes its gain based on the amplitude level of the incoming signal. This results in amplitude modulation. The attack times for a compressor are on the order of a few tens of milliseconds. This will result in distortion products that are the at the sum and difference frequencies of the fundamental and its harmonics and the 1/attack time. Maybe this is the "gloss" you're referring to.

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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

The Human ear is excruciatingly sensitive to the the leading edge of signal transient or harmonic component, it's level in comparison to others, and it's duration. Plus, it is capable of hearing the harmonic's time signature in totality as it wanders in and out of sync with the fundamental. This component of human hearing easily exceeds the ideal of 'high rez' sampling at 192khz or thereabouts.

Thus the problems with smug faced calculator button pushers steadfastly stating they've solved the issue of digital sampling and jitter vs the human ear. Like Bill Gates presumptuous statement of saying that '640k is enough for anybody' such statements are shown to be repeatedly wrong, as time passes and the knowledge base increases. Science is supposed to march on, but some folks will somehow do their darnedest to miss that essential and irrefutable point.

My point in mentioning this is that 'tens of milliseconds' equates to a huge number to the ear. Elephantine in proportions.

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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?


Quote:
My point in mentioning this is that 'tens of milliseconds' equates to a huge number to the ear. Elephantine in proportions.


Exactly the point I was trying to make in my last posting. An attack time of "a few tens of milliseconds" would correspond to frequencies of a few hundred Hz. These frequencies when used to amplitude modulate the incominig music signal would cause severe, audible distortion products in the resulting waveform. But this distortion is not the same as changes to the amplitude ratios of fundamentals to harmonics described previously. It's probably a lot more obnoxious.

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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

"The standard full-spectrum dynamic range compressor is what I am otherwise referring to. They definitely change the relative proportion of soft to loud, thus affecting both musical expression and timbre. Used judiciously they do relatively little damage to either, however the change can still be heard."

I agree Elk. Expression and fundamental to harmonics are changed. One of the main concerns I have is how poor the recording equipment is, and how it is used. Hence, poor quality recordings become one of the main limiting factors in the entire audio chain, from recording through playback.

Of course, I am commenting on those recordings that aim for accuracy, not those recordings that are purposefully dope for effect.

Cheers.
Steve

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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?

This brings up an interesting point.

In the past ive thought about using expanders to restore the compression. There is a unit called the aural exciter from Aphex that specifically restores the dynamic range without increasee in volume.

These are used in the pro audio world, has anyone ever played with one of these units in hifi ?

Alan

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Re: Hifi playing music or playing hifi ?


Quote:
...There is a unit called the aural exciter from Aphex that specifically restores the dynamic range without increasee in volume. ...

I've heard of that device back about 25-30 years ago. If my memory serves me, that device was applied to some recordings and the sound was reportedly bad to worse. Some people would not allow its use. Have not heard if it was ever used in hifi settings.

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