My philosophy on audio reproduction

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After 30 some years of listening to, building, selling, and buying audio, my overall philosophy on audio reproduction is this:

No configuration of paper cones, wooden boxes and electronic parts can ever totally accurately reproduce 100 finely crafted musical instruments or replicate the sound from a concert hall or well designed room.

The best one could ever hope for is a close approximation of same that creates the illusion of reality.

So whether you're into the latest high tech ($$) amps, or vintage tube amps (like myself), esoteric speaker designs or conventional bookshelfs, if it creates an illusion of audio reality, it's as good as any other system.

Too many people end up listening to their equipment instead of their music.

That's why specs are only a part of the story. I've heard tube amps referred to as "signal processors" by those who claim they impart their "own sound" to the music. I ask you, what system doesn't??

The fun is in creating the illusion.....

Hi Lee,
"if it creates an illusion of audio reality, it's as good as any other system."

Imo, it does not have to go even that far in many situations.
The radio alarm clock in the bedroom, the radio cassette in the bathroom, the little speaker in the kitchen tv, the sound of the AV system, the spill from the hifi into the dining room etc have to be decent and non irritating and pleasant, but not nessesarily hifi.
Ime, the main hifi system is good if it can be detailed, but not overly so, and always pleasant.
Nowadays I can be satisfied with a slightly laid back sound, as opposed to an overly forward sound.
Another good yardstick I find is the ability to converse despite the loudness of the replay system.
A bad sounding system trashes spoken intelligibility real quick I find.
And yes, it can be a trap to listen to the equipment rather than the music.

Counter intuitively perhaps, the cleaner the system, the more apparent the individually equipment sounds can become.
And the cleaner and nicer sounding the better the listening of course.
I can't say that I am totally sold on tube gear.
I find that tube gear can be a little overly dirty and that this can be both relaxing and fatigueing at the same time.
A pleasant SS amp can give better cleanliness and detail to my ear.
I like to hear well defined clean and realistic highs, and the distortion of tube amps, although not nasty, clouds the issue to my liking.
I reckon a pleasant SS amp beats a pleasant tube amp.

Regards, Eric.

Ps - a pleasant sounding radio alarm clock is mandatory - hmmm a tube radio alarm .......? :)

"Too many people end up listening to their equipment instead of their music."

It is a fact that I spend so much time worrying about amps, speakers, cables, players, positioning etc. that there is almost no free time left to enjoy music. The only time I listen to music is in the morning when I am running around getting ready. You cannot really enjoy music then, can you?

i make it a point to just sit down, not doing anything else, and just listen to music for at least 1 hour a day. sometimes its only 30 minutes, but sometimes on the weekend, i get 4 hours solid of listening in.

the beauty of it is i cant afford to constantly upgrade my stuff. right now, my budget for building the alephs isnt even there yet, so i cant buy jack for my system. so, i am almost forced to just sit back and enjoy how it is now.

and i do exactly that. sometimes one needs to just take a step back, and appreciate something for what it is, not what it will become, or what it was. but what it is NOW.
I think everyone here's onto a good point now...

I too find many people (even myself) try to listen to their equipment rather than the sound and don't get to appreciate the music. Like cowanrg, I listen to over and hour of music every day if possible, however, I also do up to 3 hours of piano practise a day so I really have to appreciate the music and not just the equipment when I'm trying to enjoy the music. :)

A lot of people spend a lot of time setting up the system, discussing on the internet :) for few hours of listening. BUT, do they go listening real music instrument (unplugged). It is impossible to compare music and systems without listening the real thing. <i>It create the illusion of a perfect system...</i>
ive had that arguement with people before François.

my thought is that not always is a listneing arena great acoustics. for instance, rock concerts suck. its better heard on a nice system. some classical (if in a good hall) is better heard live. it reall depends. much of the music i listen to, is best listened to from a cd, or from the studio it was recorded from. because unless i had a private showing, it would sound better coming from my system.
Hi radio Lee,

My theory behind this is, everybody wants the best system, not just a good one. This would explain why there are alot more men than women interested in hifi. Wich doesnt make any sense because women have better hearing than men.

I have tryed to get a few of my freinds interested in this hobby, succeding only once. Most of them are overjoyed when they get the new Labtec system with 200 watts. Whenever i tell them that a cable can make a difference, allbeit a very minor one, they think i'm crazy. This doesnt really matter because i'm sure the new britney spears single sounds just as bad on those speakers as they would on something costing more than a car.

When did artists stop writing there own music? It seems the recording industry is more interested in getting money than actually producing something worth listening to. I'm not saying all music is bad, I havent listened to the radio in almost a year now.

Now with mp3 out there, you got something that was marketed as "cd quality" and the recording industry is putting up more of a fuss to make money off that then they are with sacd or dvd-a. If artists were interested in changing the world, shouldnt they distrubte there songs freely, how many political conventions or rallys do you see that charge admission? I'm not saying it's bad to make money off music, just don't freak out when someone downloads one of your songs, who knows, maybe they'll like it and go buy the cd.

Another thought, the reason cable manufactures can charge outrageous prices, when they arrange the wires in a special way is because reviewers out there say stuff like "i have experienced music in a way like i never have before" wich is probably exagerated a little bit. Thus people are sold on the fact that a $4,000 a meter cable is worth anything, after all arent diamonds just a bunch of carbon, and people seem to pay outrageous prices for those?

oh well,
this is all just my opinion, sorry if it was a bit long winded, i have just been bundling up these feelings for a very long time


:) Try sitting back, relaxing and enjoy the music, focus on what's great about it, not whats wrong. Some of my best memories of listening is when my parents are out of town and i listen to music around 1 or 2 in the moring with all the lites off and socks covering up the displays, and pretending that i'm there, funny thing though, i'm laying on my bed when i do this, not in the "sweet spot". ( although very close to it.)

well said! i think you hit on a major point there. i think the whole MP3 sensation is a little over-rated. i personally use mp3's for ALL my music, beucase i really cant afford a decent cd player. (i only buy what i want, and i buy the best. if i cant afford the best, i dont settle for second place...)

and to tell you the truth, most artists are SO lazy nowadays, they dont write their own stuff, most of it is synthesized, etc.... i dont want to spend the $$ to buy a cd just to find out its recorded horribly (9 times out of 10), and to find out that the other 9 songs sound the exact same. i want to shop before i buy :)

if it's worth getting, ill buy it, and record it at 224kbps using lame encoder, and i have a copy of it legit. but i admit, its rare. too many bands have one good song, and the cd inst worth a coaster.

secondly, i have only been able to get 1 person into this hobby, my father. everyone else i know thinks sony and bose are the best you can buy. they dont even WANT to listen to better. i invited a friend of mine to listen to a pair of meridian dsp8000's. he declined, saying it was a waste of time, becuase he wouldnt be able to tell the difference!

some people just arent into it. and likewise, some people are, but for the wrong reason. ive seen people buy something becauase its rare, or because its just expensive. this is unfortunately a VERY expensive hobby. and some people like the status of that.
Joined 2001
Paid Member
cowanrg said:
well said! i think you hit on a major point there. i think the whole MP3 sensation is a little over-rated. i personally use mp3's for ALL my music, beucase i really cant afford a decent cd player. (i only buy what i want, and i buy the best. if i cant afford the best, i dont settle for second place...)

really decent CD players are not cheap ... but cheap CD players are plentiful (i have 5 or 6 that cost $40 CAD total*)... but even a really decent CD player has trouble doing what even a modest vinyl rig can do. And MP3s, i find are just not worth the bother.

*and at those prices, excellent raw material for a DIY project -- who cares if a few break in the process :^)

ive seen people buy something becauase its rare, or because its just expensive. this is unfortunately a VERY expensive hobby. and some people like the status of that.

Building a hifi system with unlimited funds is much less of a challenge than assembling a really enjoyable one for very low dollars. I was given the title Frugal-phile(tm) after demonstrating some of the stuff i had done to meet this challenge.

i think we should start audiophiles anoymonus (AA). With the goal of curing every audiophile out there, more involved with the system than the music, After all, we got started in the hobby because of the love of music, not the love of all things over priced and heavy.

Step 1.
Cancel your subscription to STEREOPHILE. When purchasing equipment, or making your own, go to your local dealer and talk with them, they are the ones that should be selling you the equipment, not some reviewer

Step 2.
Remove any cables you may have said to contain "snake oil" or magic ferry dust.

Step 3.
Remove all other cables, tweaks, and other things, except for the cd player (or turntable) and other electronics and speakers.

Step 4.
Connect everything with those nasty little cables that came with your vcr, and plug everything into a cheap surge protector.

Step 5.
Invite one of your freinds over to listen, I bet he, or she is enjoying the experience alot more than you are, espically if she's listen to Sony all there life. Begin to put all those little tweaks back into your system, and replace cables with moderetly priced ones, or some you made your own. Have them listen again.

Step 6.
Go to a live show.

Step 7.
Sell off all those 2k dollar cables, and donate the money to some sort of charity, prehaps one that teaches music to kids. This money is put to use alot better that way, and can impact them far more the way that cable impacted you.

Step 8.
If your an experienced musican, and have a few hours of free time, volunteer to help teach kids how to play music. Pueto Rico has done this on a national level with very good success. There enthuasim towards music is contagious, and will help you get over those awful listening experiences, were the cables sounded to brite.

I guess we're 4 steps short. I apoligize to those who feel this topic is off subject, it might help those who are loosing intrest in this hobby. I do beleive you get a lot more satisfaction out of something you did yourself (and save alot of money to). Thats why i'm trying to make my own stuff.


This is really interesting.

Did you know that the amount of time spent listening to music has declined steadily since the invention of the CD ?

Or so I'm told (!)

What we are all striving for is the gear that makes us WANT to enjoy listening to it more.

I am unusually satisfied with my current system. And you know what, there isn't a single transistor in the thing.

Go figure.

Really interesting to hear from so many places!!

Joined 2002
I've bought, built, or had access to a lot of equipment over the years. Although I hear the equipment, and am at times preoccupied by how a piece of equipment is working (or not working), the goal is the musical experience.

If a piece of music moved me 25 years ago on an appliance store hi-fi system, then that's what I expect from my system today. The trouble is, it takes a different system to envoke the same emotion it did 25 years ago. I have changed. I'm more aware of the sound of the music. I'm more "educated" about what makes it sound the way it does. But the goal is still the same.

When I can put on an album and feel the music without the sound of the equipment distracting from the emotion, I've accomplished my goal. This is absolutely subjective, and that's fine with me.

My system is at that point today, if I never did anything else to change the sound, I could be satisfied with its ability to play music and move me emotionally. But here I am gathering parts for an Aleph to power my horns. When I've built the amp and put it in my system, I will become preoccupied with changing speaker positions, xover components, tweaking knobs and parts. Eventually I will get it to where I am today and it will be a new experience.

Sorry, sometimes I have flashbacks from the 70's.
Rodd Yamas***a

for the record, i have lots of live/unplugged expereince. To me it is a moot point. I listen to musicains of today. Sometimes. Sometimes canned music. Sometimes live.

And i listen to musicians of former days. I listen to them so much that my friends have started to call me "a necrophile". I listen to their music. Canned music. I haven't yet found out how to listen to them live. :)
The definitive truth about audio honest opinion of the black art that we call hi-fi?

It doesn't matter what you have at the end of the day as long as you're pleased with the sound that comes out of it.

A kid might be totaly ecstatic by a £100 ($150) boom-box playing some pop music (or other such poorly produced crap), whereas the techno in all of us might be totaly overjoyed by an amp that has incredible THD and other high specs, or there's the big-shot business man who's pleased with forking out thousands to get a good name on it.

If it rings your bell who is anyone point out the floors?

I'm just getting into DIY audio myself so when I've finished my amp (ESP - P88 & 2xP3A) I'll probably think it's the best thing since time began purely because of the placebo effect.

I recommend ESP to anyone and everyone
Since I was the one who started this topic, I feel I should respond to some of the intriguing queries and insightful comments that have been posted.....

First of all, let me say that my initial comments were directed toward the question of how close can we get to the theoretical goal of duplicating a live performance (and, yes, I know, some recorded music is written just as such with no intention of live performance).

I do realize that some people derive great satisfaction from listening to cheesy music playing apparatus - boomboxes, clock radios, car audio, Bose -

I am not one of them.

I am proud of my system, but not because I've spent the price of a new SUV on it. It's because it disappears beneath the music and allows me to revisit all my old music as well.

On the subject of music........
There is so much incredible music on vinyl, just waiting to be rediscovered. But you know what?....

There's a lot of really bad music from 20 plus years ago as well.

I like a lot of today's music and consider it as good or better than anything we listened to in the '60s.

Before Napster shut down, I downloaded every piece of classical music I knew and burned them onto MP3 CDs which I play on my
89 dollar Apex DVD player whenever I want hours of uninterrupted music.

I think it sounds amazingly good, considering what that poor music has been through!

Just some random thoughts in reply.

It's been interesting hearing your thoughts.

Thank you

Joined 2001
Paid Member
Re: Taste Test

mrfeedback said:
If you have never tried a caviar and salmon sandwich a piece of bread can taste quite fine.
If you can afford caviar and salmon, a piece of bread does not taste quite the same anymore.

Probably a bad analogy -- some bread tastes pretty good, caviar i can easily live without (yuk), and the salmons live just down the street (a good piece of fresh sockeye is awfully good, but i can't be in the same room as smoked salmon).

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