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Old 9th May 2013, 02:18 AM   #8881
fas42 is offline fas42  Australia
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Well, well, well ...

Have just found this: Just How "Absolute" Is Recorded Sound? | Stereophile.com. This tells me a lot, and much of it has little to do with the intention of the presentation. Listened on normal PC speakers, on the HD setting - I'll be interested in what other people think ...
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Old 9th May 2013, 07:20 AM   #8882
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While nicely thought out, no news in what JA says, at least to me. Audio is an illusion, always has been, no matter how enjoyable it is - and it is!

Our proverbial quest for the absolute sound is nonsensical in absolute terms, the best we can hope for is a life-LIKE sound, something fairly close to the absolute.
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Old 9th May 2013, 09:23 PM   #8883
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Originally Posted by fas42 View Post
I'll be interested in what other people think ...
The existence of an original reference isn't dependent on imperfect elements in the record/playback chain. JA expresses simple audio defeatism. I stopped reading those magazines when his perspective became dominant. Pearson wasn't the post card picture of stability but at least he pursued an ideal.

'They're all professional, high quality mics'. High comedy. I have that recording. The RE20 and SM58 are designed with colourations as a feature. They're brushes, not cameras.
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Old 9th May 2013, 10:28 PM   #8884
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Thanks for the thoughts ... what struck me was the poor quality of the playback of the system used for the demonstration - all the symptoms of defective audio playback were so obvious in this, came through loud and clear even though "only" a YouTube clip. Considering who the demonstrator was, the supposed quality of the equipment being used, and the efforts made to tweak the sound in the usual audiophile way - note the supports under the laptop! - it still stunk of all the "badnesses" of conventional audio ...

First the cowbell: the real thing sounded real, the copy was badly stunted, the dynamics of the strike were severely compressed.

The voice playback was riddled with silibance, and chestiness, depending on the mic; the demos of enhanced airiness through manipulation all sounded as bad as each other, none worth listening to unless one was paid to, the repeated drum sound in the large acoustic was scarily bad, it was all uniformly dreadful ...

The one piece at the end, showing good signs of quality at low volumes, collapsed as soon as any real dynamics were called for, compressed and blurred badly ...

If this is the best that people in the business use for showing the "subtleties" of sound reproduction, in 2013, heaven help us ...
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Old 10th May 2013, 07:44 AM   #8885
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...

If this is the best that people in the business use for showing the "subtleties" of sound reproduction, in 2013, heaven help us ...
Exactly what I have been saying for about two decades now.

While I understand and accept that any replay chain, no matter how good it is, is no more than an illusion of the live sound, I have heard a few in my day which were truly excellent. The one on the clip, even takinh into account the inevitable losses from the clip itself, is below par, to my ears. The humbler version of my system will outshine it easily ("humbler" meaning a much more down to earth priced amp rather than the very costly Karan).

While I do have respect for JA, that particular setup wasn't much to speak of, and I don't give a damn how much it cost, or what exalted components might have been used. My ears don't take into account brand names and/or prices.

This is consistent with my own comperatively humble experience of the last 20 years or so. I find that only CD players have made some progress, while overall, I feel the audio as a field is actually declining in quality. I appreciate the problems of selling one's products in a field which is, at best, No.3 on many top lists, computers and video (DVD and BD) take the first two places, and the third is shared between stereo and HT and that classic stereo is very possibly heading towards place No.4 - but I feel a declining sound quality is the wrong response.

I realize some concessions to the new times must be made, such as adding a remote control, but I cannot shake the feeling that classic stereo gear is generally overpriced.

On the other hand, the overall quality of stereo buff has also changed, and for the much worse. Today, people will believe anything they read on the Internet. In our days, we had to wait a month for the next issue of whatever, so we had a moth to digest and mull over the info supplied. Above all, to talk it over with friends. No Internet also meant incomparably more persoanl contact with other audiophiles, more visiting, more listening to other people's systems and consequently much more personal experience.

My point is, the changing social circumstances have also changed the users, and both together have made it possible to slowly reduce the quality of audio gear and shift it much more into percieved quality waters.

This in turn caused the vast majority of what were once medium priced companies to either lower their prices (very few), or to make a move towards higher price tiers (the vast majority), with inevitable casulaties along the way dropping out altogether (Sansui, Akai, JVC, Technics, etc). Those who survived responded by having at least two product lines, one for the masses, and another for the rich (e.g. Marantz).

Frank, it's a very complex topic.
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Old 10th May 2013, 09:36 AM   #8886
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High levels of distortion are apparently inaudible or tolerable for most people, but what if the character of the distortion changes with signal e.g. as it gets louder? I presume that in many systems, it's the speakers that perhaps 'give the game away' as the cones break up or reach their displacement limits. I guess that full range and two-way are worse offenders than three. Passive worse than active.

So is one important element of sound quality the ability of the system to maintain the same characteristic regardless of the input i.e. as the signal gets louder, the system maintains constant gain, and distortion stays low? Or should that merely be that the nature of the distortion doesn't change appreciably as the signal gets louder?

Listening to my car stereo last night (Radio 3 - classical), with 70mph background noise and a dodgy FM signal, I was still struck by how good it sounded. It occurred to me that if the listener simply can't or won't use genuinely 'hi fi' speakers, for whatever reason, could there be something to be said for 'pre-distortion' i.e. not the usual meaning, but simply adding a level of background noise and distortion to the signal that masks the inevitable changes in characteristic as the system is pushed harder? Could that person do this subliminally through his choice of source and amplification perhaps?
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Old 10th May 2013, 10:22 AM   #8887
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Interesting thoughts ...

IME, it's the amps that give way, not the speakers. This is counter-intuitive, but I've experienced this over and over again: if I improve the ability of the amplifier to go loud without stress then the speakers are always able to keep up. I've been able to get relatively mediocre speakers to run at subjectively very loud levels without audible problems, or marked deterioration of quality.

Subjectively, the distortion should always remain low, and will not appear to vary either as you up the volume, or the musical signal itself increases in volume. In the aforementioned clip, it's obvious, at least to me, how the quality degrades badly as intensity of the music increases -- this should not happen ...

Simple sources of music can work remarkably well, because they are a unified design. So, yes, a car radio at times can sound very together -- now, imagine that you can push that car radio harder and harder, increase the SPLs without any apparent change of characteristic, to the point of clipping: this is what one should be after in a system. It is achievable, and doesn't require any masking to happen - it's all about engineering a truly cleanly working system.
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Old 10th May 2013, 11:30 AM   #8888
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Originally Posted by fas42 View Post
Interesting thoughts ...

IME, it's the amps that give way, not the speakers. This is counter-intuitive, but I've experienced this over and over again: if I improve the ability of the amplifier to go loud without stress then the speakers are always able to keep up. I've been able to get relatively mediocre speakers to run at subjectively very loud levels without audible problems, or marked deterioration of quality.

Subjectively, the distortion should always remain low, and will not appear to vary either as you up the volume, or the musical signal itself increases in volume. In the aforementioned clip, it's obvious, at least to me, how the quality degrades badly as intensity of the music increases -- this should not happen ...

Simple sources of music can work remarkably well, because they are a unified design. So, yes, a car radio at times can sound very together -- now, imagine that you can push that car radio harder and harder, increase the SPLs without any apparent change of characteristic, to the point of clipping: this is what one should be after in a system. It is achievable, and doesn't require any masking to happen - it's all about engineering a truly cleanly working system.
Yes, it could also be the amps that 'give the game away'. In my passive days I found that some pretty decent Tannoy 2.5-way speakers which I had, sounded good at low volumes, but distinctly different at higher levels which, at the time, I perceived as 'stress' which was not very relaxing to listen to. I perceived the sound being forced out under pressure. I experimentally "activated" them as 3-ways, and they sounded much easier on the ear. Maybe it was going from 2.5 to 3 way, the lack of passive crossovers in the way, steeper DSP filters, or the fact that the (now multiple) amplifiers were working less hard. The upshot being, however, that they didn't exhibit audible 'stress' at higher levels. However, if the source had had higher levels of distortion to begin with, might I have perceived them differently?

The direction I'm heading in, is to suggest that people may subconsciously choose relatively noisy and distorted sources such as vinyl in order to mask the inadequacies of the rest of the system... And that with our tolerance of constant distortion, it sounds absolutely fine. Changing to a less distorted source, however, e.g. digital, the modulating nature of the amp/speaker's distortion, although low, becomes audible and is registered as something decidedly unpleasant, meaning that a person with a passion for valve amps and passive speakers may find digital genuinely atrocious - his "reference system" that sounds great with vinyl tells him so.

Possible?
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Old 10th May 2013, 11:32 AM   #8889
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Frank,

In my experience it is different. Every driver I measured showed a strong correlation between drive level and distortion, often quite drastically so. Not the same with amps.
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Old 10th May 2013, 11:52 AM   #8890
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Frank,

In my experience it is different. Every driver I measured showed a strong correlation between drive level and distortion, often quite drastically so. Not the same with amps.
Yes, I appreciate that distortion levels of the drivers will always increase, because of the mechanical nature of them. And what typically are the distortion characteristics of decent amplifiers. However, what I believe is relevant is the type of distortion that occurs, subjectively this is critical - simply put, it's the old low order vs. high order harmonics thing; all the tests of drivers I've seen show dramatic drop offs of distortion levels beyond the 3rd's - whereas an amplifier can easily generate much higher, and audibly nastier harmonics when they misbehave.
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