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How good can the sound get?

Posted 12th April 2014 at 02:40 AM by fas42

This will be a collection of ideas developed and experiences encountered in my personal foray into the world of audio. In part, this is to counter much of the negativity and beliefs out there about the limitations of bog-standard, vin ordinaire, reproduced sound from conventional recordings, heard via a normal pair of speakers.

First of all, the sound can get very, very, very good. Far beyond normal hifi, better than "live" much of the time ... so how can that be so? Because, typically for the recording session the positioning of the microphones, and acoustics, are optimised and tweaked by the sound engineers to pick up a "quality" well beyond what you as an ordinary audience member, concert goer, would experience.

So, how good? Well, for a start you can get "invisible" speakers, meaning that they can't be perceived as being the source of the sound; even if you go up to them and stare at them very closely, and move from side to side your mind won't realise, refuses to accept that the music you hear is coming from them. This is in contrast to most speakers in systems that have front facing tweeters, transducers for the treble frequencies - which usually are quite confronting, they generate an "in your face" sound when you get up close.

... hmmm, this has been sitting in the draft bin for ages waiting for me to expand on things a bit, might as well get the ball rolling and put it out there, hopefully inspire me to add a bit more ...
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  1. Old Comment
    fas42's Avatar
    Obviously, I am a little bit inspired, ...

    I was just doing a bit of forum surfing, and found references to the dartZeel 458 power amplifier, which is viciously expensive for the levels of THD it produces, the latter can easily be beaten by a cheap chip amp in PC speakers, . However, it does pump out a lot of power, which helps things .

    Anyway, the Stereophile review of the unit mentions the playing of an LP of Paul Simon's Graceland, which reminded me of what I heard years ago when I was fiddling, and used this album on CD quite a bit for assessment:

    Quote:
    In "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes," Ladysmith Black Mambazo's opening chant, split between the channels, attained a hair-raising level of transparency and three-dimensionality, while the drum thwack that introduces the melody exploded from the left channel with alarming power and textural suppleness. As the "ta-na-nas" faded out at the end, everyone who sat and listened, from manufacturers to friends to John Atkinson, and without exception, exclaimed, "Wow!"
    Now, that is a good description of how that track should come across - and if it doesn't, then the system is not up to scratch. The recorded content is there, in the recording to produce the subjective experiences described ... it's up to the playback system to do its job properly, to reveal all that is in the recording.
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    Posted 12th April 2014 at 05:18 AM by fas42 fas42 is offline
  2. Old Comment
    fas42's Avatar
    As part of the picture, during the cycle of extracting the maximum from recordings there can be an awkward stage when it becomes easy to pick when pieces are spliced as a separate take; not because of the normal sort of reasons, but because the recording electronics hadn't been brought to the same stage of warm-up each time - this is my guesstimate. This is most obvious on classical recordings, when say, the violin tone suddenly drops in tonal quality for a section, and then just as suddenly picks up again - some of the most recent classical efforts are quite atrocious in this regard. Quite disconcerting to listen to, even if you know what's going on ...

    What to do about it? My suggestion is to push the quality of the replay system to even higher levels, so that subjectively these events don't register as distinctly as they otherwise do; the ear/brain "rolls over" the divide, takes it in with less awareness being consciously triggered that there was a 'glitch'.
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    Posted 24th April 2014 at 01:27 AM by fas42 fas42 is offline
  3. Old Comment
    fas42's Avatar
    I was just reminded of a point worth repeating, which is an excellent marker for convincing, or 'correct' sound, as I call it - that there no optimum volume for the playback of a recording. In one sense there obviously is, being a level which would match live replay - an obvious example is solo piano, that it would correspond to a real instrument being played in your listening area. But there are many situations where you're not in the mood for that intensity of sound, or it's not socially acceptable to others in your home, at that particular moment, .

    So, if the volume has to be way down low, what then for quality? Is the best solution at that time headphones? Well, as one who has no appetite at all for the latter, luckily there is no limiting issue - the sound can be dropped to the point where it is literally a single click from being muted, and the quality can still remain! Remarkably, if everything is in place, working as it should, then the sound emerging from the speakers is fully intact, no detail is lost - even with one's ear held as closely to the speaker driver surface as possible, the sense of the musical event remains consistent with that of its reproduction, heard at a distance, at more normal gain levels. Which means, that the speakers still remain "invisible", even at very, very soft sound levels.
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    Posted 17th July 2014 at 12:28 AM by fas42 fas42 is offline
    Updated 17th July 2014 at 12:31 AM by fas42
 
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