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$2,000 Tube Integrated Amps

 

Silver Member
Username: Kbear

Canada

Post Number: 929
Registered: Dec-06
Looking for some suggestions on a $2,000 or under tube integrated. I plan to buy one, late this year at the earliest (that is optimistic), perhaps in a few years, I'm not sure yet. I'm just very casually looking at what's out there now.

I was initially planning on hearing some other ss amps (LFD, Naim, Sugden), and I probably still will because, well, one never knows. But I think the difference going from ss to tubes will be much greater than going from one ss amp to another.

I would prefer to buy North American/European. Amps that can drive a speaker rated at 87dB sensitivity and higher, with 8 ohm nominal impedance ratings (but that probably dip to 4 or 5). Is there such an amp?

Audio Research, Unison Research, and Manley have all caught my eye, but are a little too pricey I think. The best option I've found so far seems to be the Rogue Audio Cronus at $1,800 brand new, and probably around $1,400 used.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4335
Registered: May-05
Manley Stingrays can go for under $2k used. Sometimes around $1200. Depends on age/version. I've said it several times - if I could live with tubes and without a remote, the Stingray may have been what I bought when I bought my B60. I'm too OCD for tubes and too lazy to not have at least volume control from my chair.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4336
Registered: May-05
Keep in mind that the whole "tube sound" thing isn't really what people think it is, especially when you get up there in price. Audio Research and Manley don't have that "tube sound" that everyone thinks is some mystical and magical thing. They're excellent sounding, but they're not the whole lush, rich, overly sweet sound that people think of when they think tubes.

I haven't heard Rogue, but I think they probably fit this description too.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15816
Registered: May-04
.

"But I think the difference going from ss to tubes will be much greater than going from one ss amp to another."


What makes you think this would be true? What are you expecting from tubes that you can't find in a solid state amp? Are you familiar with FET's?




.
 

Silver Member
Username: Kbear

Canada

Post Number: 930
Registered: Dec-06
Stu, I think it was in a review of the Audio Research VSI60 where the reviewer said the same thing that you did about the sound. Rogue is somewhat similar I think as well.

I'm not really thinking about that "tube sound" you always hear people talk about. Well, maybe a little. But I just get the sense that music usually sounds more open and flows better than with ss.

Jan, no, I'm not familiar with FETs. I've heard of SETs, if that's what you meant. My impression of tubes being so different I admit has to do with a lot of what I've read online. I'm very interested in hearing amps that have little to no negative feeedback, and amps that run in class A all the time. I'm not sure whether tube amps as a rule are like this. I've read about the ills of negative feedback and class AB, though I know there are probably many examples of fantastic amps that use both. I'm sure it's all in the implementation, but then again there are probably inherent advantages and disadvantages to each approach.

I really like my current amp and have little desire to get rid of it, but the desire to hear different products is always there. I think it's time to listen to a system that takes a different approach. Whether it be a tube amp, or a pure class A Sugden, or one of these feeding high sensitivity speakers (like Zu). Actually, there is a dealer here who now carries Zu speakers, and hearing those fed by a tube amp would be something to look forward to. The dealer I usually go to carries PrimaLuna and Reference 3a, another possible combination to hear, though I am not as enthused by PrimaLuna amps, and 3a isn't super sensitive like Zu is.

I would ideally find a Rogue Audio dealer in my area where I can listen before buying. However, Rogue does seem to have good reseale value, so buying new if I have to doesn't scare me. I plan to give the guys a Rogue a call and chat about this and what might be good matches for their amps. I'll watch out for used amps from Manley, Rogue, and Audio Research too, but like I said I'm not close to buying yet. By the way, I'm not sure I could live without a remote either, perhaps that would rule out a Manley amp.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 13874
Registered: Feb-05
Look for a gently used MasterSound or Unison Research.

I'm like you Stu, too damn OCD for tubes. Maybe someday I'll relax...probably not.
 

Silver Member
Username: Kbear

Canada

Post Number: 931
Registered: Dec-06
Thanks Art. The Unison S6 or MasterSound Due Venti I believe, would be what I would consider.

I'm a little OCD with this stuff as well. Just the amount of gear I've owned over the last couple of years, and I'm always wanting to hear something else.

I would hope if I really love a tube amp's sound that tube rolling wouldn't become a huge priority. Rogue for instance, says that they believe they've chosen the best tubes for their gear. One would think all tube amp makers would. But of course, it's not about the best or worst, but tailoring the sound to how you like it.

That's a nice feature of the tube amp. It might limit the desire to try different components, because you can simply roll tubes. Especially if the kinds of tubes the amp uses aren't expensive. A few hundred bucks every few years perhaps, would be quite reasonable.

A lot of people seem to like using tube preamps with ss power amps. Or a hybrid integrated, like Art's old Unico.

I'm very interested in hearing amps that have little to no negative feeedback, and amps that run in class A all the time. I'm not sure whether tube amps as a rule are like this.

Some reading suggests the answer is, no. Especially with a relatively higher powered amp like the Cronus.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15820
Registered: May-04
.

" I'm sure it's all in the implementation, but then again there are probably inherent advantages and disadvantages to each approach."


FET's and SET's aren't the same animal. "SET" generally refers to "single ended triode" though any amp that isn't operating in a push pull configuration will by default be a single ended configuration. "Single ended triode" is normally one triode output tube per channel though you can also have paralleled triodes for higher power output and the amp will still be "single ended" with more than one output tube. Two output tubes per channel does not mean the tubes are paralleled any more than paralleled tubes means the amp is not single ended. Due to the high output impedance of a vacum tube, most tubed power amplifiers will require an output transformer per channel to step down the final output impedance of the amp. There are also OTL (output transformerLess) tube amps which have no output transformer (obviously) but do have lots of paralleled output tubes but these aren't single ended paralleled amplifiers. In a transformer coupled amplifier, the quality of the transformers is what makes for the pirmary sound quality of the amplifier. Despite the inherently low output impedance of transistors a few solid state amplifiers still use transformers/autoformers for coupling to the speaker load. When using a transformer/autoformer on the output of an amplifier, you must be careful of the impedance load of the speaker due to Ohm's Law. A solid state direct coupled amplifier (transformerless output) requires no consideration of speaker load to frequency response while a direct coupled OTL tubed amplifier will. A transformer/autoformer allows the amplifier to drive most low or high impedance loads without issue while most direct coupled amplifiers cannot easily drive a load beneath 8 Ohms. The power supply is the heart of any amplifier as any amplifier is nothing more than a modulated power supply. A "single ended" amplifier is not the same as a "single ended" interconnect. Most pre amps operate in class A and any tubed pre amp probably uses dual triodes and several of them. A pentode based power amplifier is very likely to also have triodes in its circuitry. Any SE amp will by default be operating in class A at all times while most consumer class AB amps operate in quasi-class A at low wattages but a push pull amp will eventually have to operate in AB to achieve its power output. There are different versions of class A operation. You can build a single ended amp using triodes, pentodes, beam power, bipolar or FET output devices. You can disconnect sections of a beam power or pentode vacuum tube to make it operate as a triode. You cannot connect more sections of a triode to make it operate as a pentode. Triodes, beam power and pentode tubes all have a generic sound to their type yet all tubes sound like the circuit they are in. The same tube will sound different in a different circuit. Triodes can operate with zero to minimal NFB as they have a self contained feedback system while other output devices will require some degree of feedback - usually local is better than global - and bipolars will pretty much perform self immolation if there is not a sufficient amount of NFB to keep them safe. NFB is overrated as a boogieman in audio. Push pull amps have a consistent cancelling of second order harmonics while bipolar transistors tend towards higher levels of upper harmonic, odd order harmonics than do vacuum tubes or FET's. There is also a positive feedforward system in use in several amplifiers sold by Nelson Pass. Pass also designs amplifiers which are current sources while the vast majority of consumer amplifiers are voltage sources. Triodes, pentodes and beam power tubes are the most common types used in consumer audio while most people are using bipolar transistors when they refer to "solid state" even though FET's are another name for "Field Effect Transistor" and are therefore also "solid state". While both FET's and bipolar transistors are "solid state" they tend not sound at all alike. FET's and bipolars are devices which use a weak voltage to control a strong current flow while tubes are using a strong current to control their voltage output. FET's have the sonic reputation of being more akin to vacuum tubes than to bipolar transistors.

etc., etc., etc.


"... I'm always wanting to hear something else."

... it's not about the best or worst, but tailoring the sound to how you like it.

That's a nice feature of the tube amp. It might limit the desire to try different components, because you can simply roll tubes.



And down the rabbit hole you go, Dan. One pill makes you smaller and one sip makes you larger.


"Especially if the kinds of tubes the amp uses aren't expensive."


NOS tubes are sold like crack coca!ne. Once you've had the regular stuff, all that will get you where you want to go is the expensive stuff.


"My impression of tubes being so different I admit has to do with a lot of what I've read online."


Stop reading that crap, Dan, they're just enabling the pushers.


"I'm sure it's all in the implementation ... "


Stop thinking about what's in the amp and concentrate on what's in the room and what part of it is getting inside your head. Dan, you once had a far more reasoned approach to all of this BS. Now, look at you! you've gone and got yourself some kind of fancy education!


They're lying to you, Dan. Stop reading that crap.




.
 

Silver Member
Username: Kbear

Canada

Post Number: 932
Registered: Dec-06
I once had a far more reasoned approach? Could you please remind me what that was?!!

I wish I had a fancy education. More like I probably know just enough to get me into trouble. I think your second last paragraph is excellent. Listen to what I have and what about the sound I like and don't like. Make priorities - I know you've said this a hundred times on this forum. Consider any changes based on these, rather than trying to hear everything under the sun. The problem is that sometimes it's hard to know what you like without hearing how different things sound, but I accept that one needs some sort of reference point first, and a methodical approach to making changes, and to realize that there isn't one approach that is better than all the rest.
 

Silver Member
Username: Kbear

Canada

Post Number: 937
Registered: Dec-06
Jan, I've been thinking about making priorities and I'm finding it tougher than it should be. Here is what I want when I listen to music, it is just one priority: quite simply, I want to be moved. I want goosebumps and a chill running up my spine.

I don't think that's what you have in mind when you suggest people make priorities, but at the end of the day I think that's what we all want when we listen to music. Perhaps making priorities is to identify three or four things a system needs to deliver on in order for this to be the result, not only initially but ongoing over the course of ownership.

I don't know if I am just listening too intently right now, but for me it just isn't happening as often as it should. Guess I could try relaxing with a nice glass of whiskey while listening, as I know some people suggest, just to relax the mind.

The funny thing is that everything sounds great when I view it with a critical eye. Clarity, detail, imaging, pace and timing; deep, weighty bass that is still nicely defined; extended and unveiled highs; a very pure sounding midrange; and natural tone. I'd have a tough time picking something that I think is wrong or that I'd want to change. Yet clearly something is missing. As I said, it might simply be in how I'm listening.

Anyways, I've amassed three different speakers and two different sources, so from all of that I'm hoping to identify the few things that are key for me personally. I already have some idea, but hopefully one of the combinations will hit the sweet spot for me and it'll be that much easier.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15828
Registered: May-04
.

Hmmmm! Where to start?

First, I think J.Gordon Holt (founder of Stereophile) would like your general assessment of music's purpose. Way back in the dark ages of the 1960's he began his magazine and the process of "subjective" reviewing after leaving his job at High Fidelity magazine where he had dutifully repeated that each component coming into the lab for tests had "exceptional performance" for its price range and based upon those measurements each represented good audio value. Yet when he listened to music reproduced through each component - a part of the reviewing process that was generally left on the cutting room floor in the objectivist magazines of the day - he noticed audible differences between components which were neither reflected in the vague subjective comments included in the review or in the actual lab measurements.

When he first began the process of creating his own magazine based upon subjective opinions as the final arbitter of good or bad audio one of his "priorities" became goosebumps. The music had to be of a quality that connected emotionally and mentally with Holt before he gave his highest praise. This was a difficult rope to walk for Holt, a classical music lover, for several reasons. First, non-classical music was fast becoming a popular audition material for many newcomers to high end audio. I think to the time of his final essay Holt had a very strong resistance to using anything other than primarily classical music and nothing other than acoustic instruments as the only viable source material acceptable in high end audio reviews. Secondly, Holt lived through a time of great upheaval in audio. He came through not only the transition from tubes to solid state and back to tubes but also the general acceptance of the superiority of the first transistors based solely upon their technical measurements and then also through the period where it became more widely accepted that early solid state, while measuring better than vacuum tubes in conventional tests thought to be relavant at the time, still lacked much of the musical fidelity they had promised. It became evident that a higher degree of accuracy in measurements did not guarantee good - let alone great - musical reproduction.

At about the same time speaker designers were shifting from the old fashioned horn loaded systems with cut and try vented bass cabinets to the era of sealed enclosures with significantly lower electrical efficiencies overall. Where the best horns could raise those goosebumps through sheer dynamic power (refer to my descrition in another thread of the comparison between the power hungry IMF monitors and the pants leg shaking K'horns) the acoustic suspension speakers proved capable of more even frequency response with much greater measured bass, perceived in room response and a suprisingly higher electrical efficiency beneath 50Hz. (As an aside, this was one of the great "AHA!" moments of Richard Heyser's career as he also grappled with measurements vs audibility.) As horns disappeared from the audio landscape other than in "rock" speakers like the Altecs, JBL's and the Klipschorns, Holt had to adjust his "goosebump" factor to suit the times and while a pair of double Advents did the trick a single Advent was just not there largely due to the lower efficiency of the total system when paired with early transistors. But no one considered the Altecs, JBL's, Klipsch and Bozaks as anything other than loud boom boxes not truly worthy of high end attention. Today there exists a certain cult status to the best of the vintage horns along with direct heated, low powered triode tube amplifiers due primarily to what they did right with the music.

I think you'll probably remember me saying that when there was no such thing as "imaging", "depth" and "soundstage" for a speaker or amplifier designer to concern themself with, when all the "hifi" aspects of the system were still to be discovered and written about and promoted as essential to a "good" system, before all that came about, the only thing the designer had to concern themself with was the music itself. If the system didn't remind the listener - particularly the one who preferred classical music - of the live listening experience, it often became no more than a footnote in the history of audio.

Go back and read Dak's thread about his new amp and speakers. He and I have had this same discussion over the years. It's not that audio has not made advances which were simply unobtainable in previous generations but that at times audio has sold what the customer thought they wanted - or what the magazines told them they wanted - even when what the customer thought they wanted wasn't what best served the music. Audiophiles tend towards being crows and they like the next bright, shiny thing more than they prefer to have what is good for them.


Two things now, first, I seem to be giving you guys quite a bit of reading material of late. I'm going to give you more here; http://www.stereophile.com/asweseeit/111/index.html

These essays are now almost twenty years old but still worth the time. They were written by Atkinson and Holt as a joint venture as JA was taking over the editting process of the magazine and Holt was phasing out his particpation. Stereophile was twenty years old at that time and had grown from JGH's original publication which had shown up in mailboxes only on a helter skelter, sporadic schedule into a real money making publication which had a very significant influence on high end audio whose growth had tracked that of the subjective magazines. IMO Stereophile has changed quite a bit from Holt's original intent and has become less useful in the industry than in previous years but one thing the magazine has continued to do that makes it worth the time on ocassion is that it still has a few writers with the capacity to make the willing reader think about issues which affect how they hear music. In the above link I would suggest you first go to part four - the "goosebump" section - and then work your way through as much of the material as you think useful.





Next, I would take this statement to heart; "I don't know if I am just listening too intently right now ... "


Well, yes, you probably are listening with too much intent right now but you're also probably listening with the wrong purpose. I get the feeling you are sitting in front of your system and you are trying to take it apart with great intensity for what priorities you should establish. Consider that you cannot find where you should be if you continue to stand in the same location.

Let's go at this from another perspective; if you take apart a engine, what are you likely to find? Probably only the parts that make up an engine now laid out on the table. You won't find horsepower or torque. If you assign the camshaft to be the equivalent to "soundstaging", you won't find soundstaging by staring at the cam. If you assign "depth" to the pistons and "imaging" to the valves, you won't find those qualities in the parts alone as you stare with intent at the pieces laid out on the table. The same thing applies to an audio system, you can't find out anything about your musical priorities by tearing apart your current music system and looking at the parts. Doing so only leaves you with those parts of the system that are good or less than good relative to other parts from other motors. None of those are priorities, they are just parts disassembled from the whole.

The two most common pieces of advice I used to give to prospective clients was to; first, go listen to some live music and, second, buy a music system rather than a hifi. IMO you're at a point where you need the same advice. You can't develop your music priorites by judging your hifi. You can only hear what the hifi is doing and, if you think the hifi should be doing imaging, depth and soundstaging, then those will be your prioities for another system. And the bad thing here is you will easily be able to find another component or another system that can better your present system's abilities in each area just as you could find a camshaft with different specs. That's what audio has done over the generations, they've sold you stuff that does what you think you want a hifi system to do. The next bad this about this approach is even if you buy what is better at imaging this week, when you go listening for imaging next week, you'll hear yet another component that can outdo what your system can manage. No matter what hifi quality you want to listen for, there will be something that can better what you already own.


"They're lying to you, Dan. Stop reading that crap."


This is unfortunately, IMO, what the current audio press is good at doing, they are excellent at making you want something you don't already have or wanting more of what they told you you should have. Here's one of my long time frustrations with the audio industry and particularly the audio press; this is how most component/speaker reveiews are written, "I compared the PSB Image B6 ($495) with the Epos ELS3 ($295), the Epos M5 ($695), and the Nola Mini ($600) ... The Epos ELS3 shared with the PSB its silky, neutral, and detailed midrange, but I found the Epos's highs to be more delicate and refined. However, the ELS3's bass was much less extended, and the PSB was far better at high-level dynamic bloom in loud passages ... The Nola Mini shared its midrange characteristics with the two speakers mentioned above, but its bass seemed the deepest of the three, with much more effortless gut-slamming of high-level dynamics. However, compared with both the PSB and the Epos ELS3, the Nola had some high-frequency roughness in upper-register passages ...
The Epos M5 shared the positive midrange attributes of the other three speakers, but with a bit more resolution of detail--the M5 made it much easier to follow individual voicings in solo-piano recordings, for example. The M5's highs were as refined as the Epos ELS3's, and therefore a bit more natural than the PSB Image B6's. Finally, I found the Epos M5's midbass to be cleaner than the PSB's but the Nola Mini was the best of the lot in terms of effortless, high-level dynamic bloom."

Here's how most reviewers write about a live music performance, "'Caprice' is all runs and riffs and fitful chords. In the slow middle piece, 'Aubade', melodic fragments are woven into strings of thick yet lucid chords with hints of Berg, Messiaen and Bill Evans. 'Arabesque' is an exercise in quick repeated notes and skittish spurts. Mr. Biss played this brilliant 13-minute group of pieces with nimble technique and myriad colorings ... Somehow the Janacek and Rands set the mood for Mr. Biss's murky, moody account of Beethoven's 'Appassionata'. Mr. Biss writes that as an enthralled 13-year-old he loved this music for its 'desperate intensity', and his performance here was alive with youthful, impetuous energy ... Schumann wrote his Fantasy, an epic, idiosyncratic 30-minute piece in three movements, in homage to Beethoven. But Mr. Biss admitted in the interview to having chosen the Schumann for this occasion because it was 'probably the piece that I feel most strongly about in the world.' Except for a few tangled moments in the daunting second-movement march, he played a poetic and surging performance. The reflective finale ended in rapt repose."


Here's how one musician talks about another musician, "I copied Johnson's words down on scraps of paper so I could more closely examine the lyrics and patterns, the construction of his old-style lines and the free association that he used, the sparkling allegories, big-@ss truths wrapped in the hard shell of nonsensical abstraction--themes that flew through the air with the greatest of ease. I didn't have any of these dreams or thoughts but I was going to acquire them. I thought about Johnson a lot, wondered who his audience could have been. It's hard to imagine sharecroppers or plantation field hands at hop joints, relating to songs like these. You have to wonder if Johnson was playing for an audience that only he could see, one off in the future." -- Bob Dylan

Or in a more technical vein, http://www.bluesforpeace.com/bbking.htm


Going back to another thread you might remember a mention of engineers and audiophiles discussing the same thing - sound - but not speaking each other's lagnuage. In the end they talk past one another because neither is interested in the other's words. Each of the above quotes are about the same thing - music - but they are not speaking each other's language. The audiophile enters the hobby most often out of a desire to hear the music they enjoy and quickly finds themself searching for "high-frequency roughness", "a bit more resolution of detail" and, of course, soundstage, depth and imaging. It's what we do in this modern society. A musician is likely to think buying another guitar, amp, pedal, strings or even a certain pick will make them a better player. A hobbyist in photography will often need to fill their bag with lenses, new camera bodies, diopters and extenders. Someone learning to cook will buy pots and pans and knifes and cutting boards. None of those things will necessarily make anyone better at what they are pursuing. The ability is not in the pick or the pot or the camera, the ability is either in the person or it is not.

So, here's the final pieces of advice for this post. Buy a music system and not a hifi system. When I send out the Emma Demo CD I can usually guess which tracks are going to be the most popular with the listener, usually the B. Hermann soundtrack to the battle with the skeletons and the Canned Heat Boogie because they make your system perfom nice tricks of soundstaging and depth and so forth. But I also always include a mono track which is meant to take away all those things that are related only to what the hifi can do with sound. Pay attention to that track.

" ... when there was no such thing as "imaging", "depth" and "soundstage" for a speaker or amplifier designer to concern themself with, when all the "hifi" aspects of the system were still to be discovered and written about and promoted as essential to a "good" system, before all that came about, the only thing the designer had to concern themself with was the music itself."


I know we say it all the time but sometimes it gets lost in the hifi, the gear isn't why you bought the system. If you buy a "hifi", there will always be another "hifi" that does what your's does only it does it better than yours. If you buy a music system, the music never changes and your system will always be in step with the music. Music is the same now as it was fifty years ago or two hundred years ago; same notes, same time signatures, same chords, same essential structure overall.

Think about what music you prefer. Guns'N'Roses perhaps. Are you listening for how well placed Slash's guitar is in the soundstage? What if instead you listened for how well Slash bends to a minor third or how he combines major and minor chord tones? Maybe you don't know the technical terms for what he is doing, but what he is doing is making interesting music that is peculiarly his own, his own "style", what he intends to say with his music. What's a core component of Slash's sound? I would say a complete confidence in his talent and skills. Rather than listening for whether the guitar is far enough left or right, how about you listen instead for whether you can react to the broad swagger of Slash's playing? Forget listening with intent to your system and go back to those times when you were first atracted to the music itself. Listen as if you had to write a music review and not a review of your CD player. Listen as if you had to write a review of how Slash played and what his style is about and not how your system displayed an "organic" sound. Listen for what's the most likely thing to give you those goosebumps time after time. That's what Holt meant when he wanted a system that could raise goosebumps. He was not referring to the technical aspects of the system, at the time soundstaging and imaging were still a few years off in the future of audio. He loved classical music and he wanted the music he had in his room to be as exciting as what he heard in the symphony hall. Too often audiophiles need to be reminded why they wanted a higher quality system in the first place.

Go out and refresh your memory of live music. Go so far as to not listen to your sytem for awhile. Hear what real music sounds like and don't sit in the audience comparing the sound of the band to the sound of your system. Go to the symphony - particularly if you're not usually going to the symphony - and don't listen for whether the symphony players have a good enough depth of stage or whether the soundstage is as broad as your system can manage. Go hear some blues and some jazz, good and bad. Knowing the difference between what makes for good playing and what does not is one of the primary functions of learning about what your system needs to show you. Most of all, go listen to all the music you can for a few weeks or months. Reconnect with music and not with hifi.



Make sense?



Tell me, Dan, do you now or have you ever played an instrument? Do you know anyone who plays in a band?


.
 

Silver Member
Username: Kbear

Canada

Post Number: 939
Registered: Dec-06
Thanks for the reply, Jan. I'll read over the Stereophile link tomorrow, starting with section 4 as you suggest.

I just wanted to thank you as well for the huge amount of info you provided in the time and phase alignment thread. It was certainly not my intent for the thread to get that big, but hopefully you and the few others posting in it have enjoyed it. For the record, I am about 1/3 of the way through it, and intend to read it all, just because I'm curious about the subject matter. But you have more than addressed the topic I brought forth in the OP. Unfortunately, I just don't have a lot of time on weekdays to read a thread like that, and whether I can read it in the evening or on weekends will depend on my mood and whatever else I've got to do.

Your example of how audiophiles discuss their systems was hilarious next to the musician and live show reviewer. But of course it's the truth and I am as guilty of it as anyone else. On the one hand it is understandable, as all these folks are doing is trying to evaluate a component, so they need to focus on the things it's doing in isolation. But it's isolation to the extreme, and loses sight of the whole.

When I listen I don't usually try to place things in the soundstage. I try to just relax and listen, but I admit I tend to concentrate too much. What I usually do is focus, focus so that I can hear the details. The little details like the strumming of a rhythm guitar underneath the other parts (vocals, drum, bass guitar, lead guitar). But that is there, isn't it? I know my system can reveal it, and I should let it come to me without trying to find it.

Your comment about horns being able to raise goosebumps through sheer dynamic power has me thinking, what part of this issue is related to listening too intently or for the wrong things, and what part is related to the gear, and what part to the room? I think my room is pretty good, well damped but not overly so, and music as a whole comes across as nicely balanced, clear, and detailed. I'm sure there are things that can be fixed in the room, but overall I think it's likely quite good, and I did enjoy music immensely here before.

As far as the gear goes, the last speaker I truly enjoyed most of the time was my old Tannoy F2. They were relatively large speakers with relatively large drivers, and perhaps they did the whole dynamic swing thing better than what I've had since. Actually, I also enjoyed to a large degree the Monitor Audio RS5, and that's a small floorstander (also larger than the other speakers I've had since). Could it be that simple, especially considering the kind of music I usually enjoy? Well, this is one reason I bought the Castle floorstanders recently, so I guess I will see how I like them.

But as I said above, I know I'm not listening the way I should be. That much needs to be altered for sure and I've noted your suggestion to see more live shows. I'm familiar with live music, I tend to go a couple times a year, but maybe I'll make a point to see a few shows over the coming months.

As for your last question. I have played the guitar, if you want to call it playing (I know all of two chords!). I'm learning, though I doubt I've got the time or discipline to get really good at it. But I'm giving it a shot. I actually have had a bit of a breakthrough in changing from one chord to another, after watching a You Tube video that provided some tips. I'm still lousy at it, but confident that will change if I stick with it. It's an acoustic guitar, in case you were curious.

One fellow at my work is a drummer, and while we often chat about music that's about it. Can't say I know anyone else who is in a band.
 

Gold Member
Username: Hawkbilly

Nova Scotia Canada

Post Number: 1208
Registered: Jul-07
Jan, very well made points above. It is so easy to overlook the communicative aspect of the music we listen to. It speaks, soars, weeps, celebrates....and it is so easy to analyze it instead of experiencing it. I can fully relate to Dan's struggle with priorities, and identifying what it is that makes reproduced music provide the same enjoyment and engagement as a live performance. It took me a while, and I still think about it from time to time when a smile creeps across my face during a song because of a "goosebump" moment.

Absolutely right about the nature of most audio reviews as well. There are a few who talk about the musical experience, but most just give you the blow by blows of the frequency spectrum and cable matching challenges. Not useless information, but doesn't answer the question at hand. How well does it make music ?
 

Silver Member
Username: Kbear

Canada

Post Number: 940
Registered: Dec-06
When I think back to how I used to listen not very long ago, I would really follow only the main part of a song at that specific time...usually the vocal melody or an instrumental melody if say there was a guitar or piano solo or what have you. All the other background stuff would be there and it would support the main theme in the song at that particular time, but I wouldn't focus on it. I'm going to try to get back to listening in this way. When you think about it, listening closely for detail buried deep within the mix is pretty silly.
 

Gold Member
Username: Stu_pitt

Stamford, Connecticut USA

Post Number: 4343
Registered: May-05
"When you think about it, listening closely for detail buried deep within the mix is pretty silly."

There's a reason why it's buried deep. Its because it's supposed to enhance and/or reinforce what's in the forefront. If that wasn't the intent, it would be in the forefront.

It seems like too many people (not any I can think of here, actually) are most interested in hearing a bunch of sounds reproduced rather than music being played.

I liken to it my father and my cousin - both are avid photgraphy hobbists. They're constantly comparing cameras, lenses, lighting, etc. One day they had a few pictures out and were comparing details, clarity, and a bunch of other stuff. I said "You realize there's a kid in that picture, right?" Not sure they got it. They were more focused on the quality of the picture than the event itself.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15833
Registered: May-04
.

" I said "You realize there's a kid in that picture, right?" Not sure they got it. They were more focused on the quality of the picture than the event itself."


I had a similar experience with a nephew not that long ago. He had come down to visit a few years back and asked if I could help him buy a camera and teach him a few things about taking good photographs. I took him to my favorite shop where he bought a basic set up and that evening we went out to a couple of spots where I thought he'd have ample opportunities finding interesting material to shoot. Like most newbie photogs his shots often had a flagpole sticking up behind the subject looking like they had a pole growing out of the top of their head or their left shoulder. Maybe a dog lifting his leg in the background of the photo of the duck on the pond. Too many things included that simply detracted from the photo's value.


Now a few years have passed and he's coming for another visit. We talk and he has purchased a better camera and a few lenses but he's interested in a fairly pricey fisheye lens to get effects. "Well, show me your photos and let's talk about where you could have done something different." A few nice photos but mostly the equivalent of snapshots when he was trying to take photographs. Too many shots taken with an "infinity" lens stop, too many with lighting that didn't show off the subject, too many which were simply too much like someone trying to take an "interesting" picture. "Instead of buying a new lens, learn to make what you have work more effectively. Make your photos tell some sort of story, get the viewer interested in what might be happening in the photo and beyond the photo - what might have happened just prior to the shot or what might happen right after the shot. Otherwise it's just a shot of Uncle Joe at the wedding and we're not all that interested in spending time with that photo." One shot was of a double handrail leading up a flight of stairs to a set of double doors, rather typical of someone who just doesn't quite get the idea of patterns in photography. "Nice shot, by stripping away all the clutter there's more to keep me interested, but look here. If you take the top of the handrail and focus in on the handles and latches to the two doors, you have the pattern of a "face" being formed. Step back and look at the doors and windows themself and you see another "face" pattern being formed. Those would have been a more interesting shot than the two ascending handrails are." "Oh, yeah, I never saw that!"

I hoped the idea of the new lens was put off for at least the moment. Learning how to see for a photographer is often as difficult as is learning how to listen for an audiophile. Understanding what is there to focus on and what should and should not be in your viewfinder is both a skill and a talent. For the audiophile learning how to see what might be happening in the next instant or what has just ocurred in the music - understanding the musical story being told - is very difficult when they get distracted by what a new fisheye lens might give them. My MFA was in design and I see patterns rather easily. My nephew's degree was in nursing and I can't do what he does. But he wants to be a photographer at least as a hobby and he's going to have to learn where to focus his attention, how to see what's there that's interesting and ignore the things that aren't, if he's going to get the most out of his equipment without thinking the next shot will be better if only he has "X" piece of equipment. He'll also have to learn to set up his equipment to allow it to provide the best results, he has a tripod but doesn't usually use it because it gets in his way of shooting fast. "How about you take your time to select one really good photograph rather than a dozen mediocre ones? If the tripod doesn't work for one outing, like shooting a parade, try a monopole. Know what's effective for what setting you're in and what isn't going to work in that setting. It's not about how much you own, it's about owning those things that actually make for better, more consistent results."


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Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15836
Registered: May-04
.

"For the audiophile learning how to see what might be happening in the next instant or what has just ocurred in the music - understanding the musical story being told - is very difficult ... "


Let's talk a little bit about listening to music. Now, I'm not going to suggest you know a lot about music or that you decide you have analyze everything that is happening in the music. But knowing a bit about what the performers are doing should make the music more interesting to you and make it easier to focus on the various aspects of the music and not just on what the hifi is doing. If you care to learn more about how to listen, any library will have several books on the topic aimed at various levels of understanding. Aaron Copeland wrote a very good book titled "What to listen for in Music"; http://www.amazon.com/What-Listen-Music-Aaron-Copland/dp/0451528670 Any search engine can also provide information that will make you a more informed listener.


For this post let's start with the basics of blues, rock, jazz, etc.; the 12 bar blues. This is the most common form popular music has taken in the last 100 years with innumerable songs written to this basic format. There are multiple variations to the 12 bar format but understanding the basics will give you a start on all the rest. "12 bar" refers to twelve measures of music each with a specifc number of beats to each measure. 4/4 time is the most common but other time signatures will influence the feel of the players performance. In a 12 bar each verse or section of the song is divided into 12 bars and those 12 bars will be preceded by an "intro" and finalized by an "outro". The most common way to play a 12 bar is with three chords in the progression, each chord is based on its position in the key signature. Commonly, you'll hear the format as a "I-IV-V" progression which refers to the first, fourth and fifth chord of the key. If you're playing in the key of A, the chords will be the root A(I), D(IV) and E(V). Start with the root note or the I of the key which in this case is A and count up towards the next root from one to seven; A,B,C,D,E,F,G and the next note will be the next root (A) which will be the first octave of the key signature. All Western musci has no more than these eight notes (and half step sharps or flats between notes) to work with no matter the type of music being played. With only a handful of notes to work with any good artist must know how to make each one count.

Music is a language and how the letters, words, phrases and sentences are structured is what playing music is about. For the most part it would be fairly boring to always listen to a conversation that has no inflection and no direction, no beginning and no end. To add interest music is structured to create tension and then the release of that tension. So a series of nothing but a single I chord would be very boring (though John Lee Hooker has played with no more than a single chord running throughout, which is another topic all together). In the basic 12 bar blues progression from the I to the IV to the V chord each new chord establishes the required tension and moving from the V chord back to the I chord releases the tension. If you have an available instrument, play just the note A a few times. Then play A followed by D then back to A. Now play the progression A-D-E and then back to A. You should notice the higher level of tension/release perceived when going from the I-IV-V to the I than when you simply played the I-IV-I progression. (If you play guitar, this I-IV-V progression can be found using the fifth and sixth strings and forming an upside down "L" with the IV chord's name being one string over and on the same fret as the I note and the V chord's name being two frets up from the IV chord notehttp://www.guitaralliance.com/guitar_lessons/getting_started/fretboard_diagram.h tm) Therefore, the basic 12 bar format is made up of three chords played for a total of 12 measures where the chord progression begins with the first four bars playing a I chord (in the key of A it would typically be the A major, A minor or A7 chord). The next four bars are made up of two bars of the IV(D) chord and then two more bars of the I chord. The verse/stanza finishes with four bars, one bar each playing the V, the IV, the I and the V leading us back to the I chord for the next verse/stanza or ending the song. At the front of the song there will be an "intro" and at the end of the song there will be an "outro" and at the end of each verse there will be a "turnaround" which will lead the listener back to the front of the chord progession to begin the next verse or stanza; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkTaEd6mF7U and http://www.justinguitar.com/en/BL-020-IntroEnding.php

The most common way to play a 12 bar is in a "A-A-B" phrasing with a call and response as in the lyrics to "Sweet Home Chicago"; http://www.bluesforpeace.com/lyrics/sweet-home-chicago.htm At the end of each phrase there will typically be a short "lick" of a few notes played by one of the musicians which represents the "response" to the "call" of the phrase. Listen to BB King to get the idea of the "intro", the 12 bar verse with call and response licks, the turnarounds and finally the outro; http://progressivemusician.com/93.html

Until the mid 1960's popular music was primarily meant to be played to a dance audience. Listening to Robert Johnson and Charlie Patton play music meant for dancing is quite different than listening to B.B. King play to a sit down audience; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yd60nI4sa9A

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyIquE0izAg&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Ny5ajCn0xw

With the popularity and musical flexibility of the LP and finally the supergroups such as Cream, The Who and the Beatles in their final years who took advantage of the LP format extended solos came into vogue. In the case of Cream the extended solo was a matter of the three musicians involved not having very much common material at first and so they stretched what they had by way of long solos. Whether the player is performing simple licks and riffs or extended solos, they are forming their phrases using the language of music to influence the tension/release within the listener. B.B. King's vibrato, his two and three step string bends, his hammer ons and pull offs along with his slides are the same tools available to each guiratist. King actually plays in a somewhat restricted portion of the guitar neck commonly known as "B.B.'s box"; http://www.dolphinstreet.com/guitar_video_lessons/lesson-77.php It is this sound that has made King one of the most recognizable musicians in the world. If you remember from another thread, Roger Waters claims to have based most of his playing style on trying to sound as "B.B. King-ish" as possible. Listen to both and see what you can determine.

How a musician speaks is that musician's style. How King bends a note is not the same as how Clapton or Slash will bend a note; http://www.justinguitar.com/en/BL-014-BluesBends.php
How a player accomplishes vibrato is their own technique; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_b_6IV9aNsw&feature=related

No matter the technique, what you are listening to is what the player wants to communicate and how they want to say it. Most players have learned to "speak" in phrases that are similar to singing. Numerous players will speak as though they were playing a wind instrument, they play in short bursts of words and phrases and then pause briefly to intake a breath. Here's how Clapton does it; http://www.premierguitar.com/Magazine/Issue/2009/Mar/The_Style_of_Eric_Clapton.a spx King and Slash have a slightly different style to accomplish much the same thing. Try a search engine to hear it explained and then listen for it in their playing.

The more accomplished the artist, the more they can express through their instrument. As we've discussed elsewhere, most major artists have had significant influences on their own styles and you can hear how B.B. King influenced Clapton and how Clapton combines B.B. King with Robert Johnson's techniques along with those of Freddie King and Albert King; http://www.5min.com/Video/How-to-Play-an-Eric-Clapton-Lick-202743518

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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fm7EUbCvgMc

Albert King was a mentor to SRV; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVlsMLOejH0



Before you read another review of another piece of audio gear you're being told you shold own rather than what you already have, try reading about your favorite player and their style. Learn a little about how they play and why they play that way. Then rather than listening for how much depth your system projects or how wide the soundtage is, listen for those pieces of the player's vocabularly that define their style. Listen for the string bends and the vibrato and listen for the way they accomplish a simple turnaround in a basic 12 bar blues shuffle; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5YE6Ur2_2Q&feature=related

That's really, really basic stuff you can pay attention to that will give you an idea how well your system can accomplish the nuance of a player's technique. If the system has superior tansparency and not just a fake sense of detail, you should be able to hear more music and less of the hifi. As you focus more on the music and deeper into the music, you'll find the system actually draws less attention to its presence. Don't forget to listen to the entire song, don't get so intent on hearing these techniques that you forget to pay attention to all the music, how the rhythm players set the beat and how the individual players stand out and yet blend together to form a "sound" of your favorite group. Once you've become more adept at hearing what is being played you'll find yourself able to listen to how it is being played and your "intent" when listening will be to focus on the music and less on the hifi.

Give it a try and see what you think.


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Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15837
Registered: May-04
.

One of the audio system's qualities that gets mentioned a lot on this forum is "PRaT". Would anyone care to talk about what that means to them and how they listen to determine whether the system displays good degrees of "PRaT"? What are you listening for? Is "PRaT" all one thing or do "P", "R" and "T" all mean different things which are represented by distinct qualities?

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Silver Member
Username: Kbear

Canada

Post Number: 942
Registered: Dec-06
Jan, I read your second last post, but will have to work through it again (including the links). Didn't get to the Stereophile article today either. Some days are a lot busier than others. I'm just working through this thread and the other long one on my own time, at my own pace.

I'll take a stab at PRaT though, with a very brief overview for each part:

Pace - when a system has pace the music sounds quick. It has energy, it bounces along, it's exciting.

Rhythm - the foundation of a song that accompanies the vocal and instrumental melodies. Bass guitar, drums, piano, etc. It comes through and provides drive to propel the song forward and proper accompaniment to what is above it.

Timing - timing between drivers (as discussed in the time and phase thread), but also timing between the various instrumental parts to a song. The various musicians need to sound in step with each other.

If PRaT is present, you should get goosebumps. Taken together, it's simply the proper conveying of music, with less emphasis placed on the hi fi aspect. I'm thinking it might be a bit of an overused term, if only because I'm not sure there is much consensus over what PRaT actually is. It's also not the easiest thing to grasp. When listening to a system, you can't point to PRaT. It's partly in one's own mind. It may also be on the recording, or not. Surely a system can't add PRaT if it's not there to begin with.
 

Gold Member
Username: Hawkbilly

Nova Scotia Canada

Post Number: 1212
Registered: Jul-07
"Surely a system can't add PRaT if it's not there to begin with."

That would be my take. A system doesn't HAVE PRaT, it protects it. Your system shouldn't be injecting anything that isn't on the disk. Timing of music is everything. If anyone has ever been in a symphony, concert, jazz, ensemble, quartet, or any other group.....maintaining the beat of the song is something that is driven into you early and often. I'm sure many of us have experienced the glare of a conductor or music teacher if you've become too involved in playing the right notes and forgotten to play WITH the rest of the orchestra. Percussionists biggest responsibility is maintaining the beat. That's the timing part to me. Pace is selecting the right timing, and ensuring the music is propelled in the maner the composer intended. Of course, within a song (especially classical music) the pace and timing of a song change many times. To me the rhythm is more the pattern of the notes (and rests) being played. These can be very simple, or very complex.

So what does my system have to do well to "protect" the PRaT of the music on the disk ? I think there are a number of things that are important. Leading and trailing edges of notes need to be rendered accurately or the Pace part gets blurred for me. The change of timing and subtle rhythmic changes required good micro dynamics, and excellent transparency. Using a reed instrument as an example, a lot rhythm and timing cues are made with the tongue against the vibrating reed. If you've played a saxophone, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, etc you know what I mean. It's how you make the music breath as you play it....along with breath control and other things. It takes a pretty evolved system to capture that, as any blurring will deteriorate the sense of ebb and flow, and as JV describes, the tension and release of the music can be marginalized.

Exposing the subtleties of music without throwing them at you is a neat trick.
 

Silver Member
Username: Kbear

Canada

Post Number: 943
Registered: Dec-06
Nice explanation, Chris. Makes sense!
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15838
Registered: May-04
.

Good ideas there from both of you. The question I have is, do you think about this suff when you're listening to music played through your system or do you simply think, "Yeah, my system has good PRaT"? In other words, are you placing the value on the music or on the system?


"Surely a system can't add PRaT if it's not there to begin with."


Yes and no. There are limitations to what the system can do but the preception of what exists is largely in the mind of the listener. Here I normally use the example of a popular tube amplifier vs a popular transistor amplifier. Technically, the tube amp's higher output impedance will result in a lower damping factor which means less physical control over the woofer. The larger value DF of the solid state amp will typically result in a "drier" sounding bass response as there is less overhang and overshoot of the driver. Add to that the effect of the power supply in providing the proper rise time to the signal and you'll find lesser systems exhibiting "slower" bass response while "better systems" tighten up the response time to give us that ever popular "tight bass" sound. The question to ask yourself in this situation is not, do you want dry, tight bass? The question I would prefer you ask yourself is, what is the intent of the performer and how transparent is the amplifier to following that intent?

The old classic tube amp, the Dyna ST70 is an excellent example of a tube amp with low damping factor that also has a fairly unregulated power supply. It also uses a classic arrangement of a tube rectifier rather than the now more common solid state rectifier. Don't read anything particular into that information as you will begin to think you need "X" in your system to get the sound you want. The intent here is not to get you thinking your priorities should be in the technical aspects of the components. Because while the ST 70 is the single best amplifier I know for demonstrating PRaT to a listener, if I had to, I could easily come up with very good examples of solid state amps with excellent PRaT just as most of you probably could do. But the ST70 simply "swung" any music played through it. At times it exagerated the amount of swing in the music and at times it was appropriate to what was on the disc but no matter what you put through the ST70, you couldn't help but hear the flow of the music.

The ST70 was the most popular amplifier ever sold for decades and decades with thousands of units out there and in the hands of listeners. As the most popular amp in existence it also became one of the most popular amps for modifiers to attack. One of the first mods to any ST70 was almost always to change the power supply which usually meant to make the amp sound more like a solid state amp. So while the amp measured better in its rise time and "sounded better" to many listeners, it also tended to loose much of the magic of the amp that had you tapping your foot to the music. Was the amp "better" after the mods? Well, that was up to the listener to decide but obviously I would take the amp that is less "accurate" but had more soul. YMMV.


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Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15839
Registered: May-04
.

Find the beat.

The beat or the groove or whatever you want to call it is the driving force behind popluar and classical Western music. The performer may be hitting strict beats or possibly working against the beat to gain a musical advantage or effect. But no matter how the beat is being used, the musicians must be aware of the beat before they can change it. Unfortunately, that's not the case with an audio system which can loose the beat due to several simple issues of design or due merely to the designer not placing their priority on maintaining the beat. I can't tell you where your priorities should be placed but I would suggest you pay attenton to the beat and decide whether it has as much significance for you as it does for the musicians. IMO if the system or component misses the beat, it is automatically disqualified from my consideration. You don't have to buy Naim gear, but you should understand what Naim gear is all about in this regard.


First, let's go through the basics of "the beat". This might be very rudimentary stuff for many of you but you might also find out how a musician thinks about the beat and its importance. Whether you play an instrument or not, you can in most cases perform the exercises by simply tapping out a beat if you care to try your hand at getting the feel of keeping a strict beat. For many musicians keeping the beat is one of the most difficult tasks they have to accomplish in order to play with other musicians. There are legendary tales of the most famous musicians who had their own feel for the beat and whoever played with them was expected to keep the beat the star set up and have the ability to follow the changes as the star felt them.

Listening to the audio examples will also give you and idea of how pace and rhythm are tied together. I'm going to allow Justin to do most of the explaining and you can take the material at your leisure rather than having to read through a lot of stuff from me.

http://www.justinguitar.com/en/TB-010-Rhythms.php

http://www.justinguitar.com/en/BC-116-Basic44time.php

http://www.justinguitar.com/en/BC-126-FootTapping.php

http://www.justinguitar.com/en/BC-136-RhythmBasics1.php

http://www.justinguitar.com/en/BC-146-RhythmBasics2.php

You get the idea, go through the lesson index and find those courses which deal with playing rhythm. As you'll hear, the rhythm drives the pace but the pace of the music determines the rhythmic style of the music. The idea is not to get you to become a guitarist but to get you thinking and understanding how a musician might approach playing. As above, rather than picking up or clicking on an equipment review, find an article on how a drummer approaches his task, then a pianist or a saxophonist. Get the basic ideas of how and what the players are performing. While you're at it, you'll also be getting a better idea of how an instrument sounds when it is not being manipulated in a recording mix. We talk about "timbre" and how important that is to our "priorities" but unless you actually know what a trumpet sounds like, how much space it occupies in its point of origin and within a room, then "timbre" is largely something you manufacture to suit your own desires. This will require you to go hear some live music too.


Understand the difference between playing a 4/4 rhythm vs a 3/4 rhythm and why the two feel different. Then explore other rhythmic signatures. Why is a ballad played slowly? Listen to the feel of hitting the beat with all downstrokes vs playing up and down strokes. Then, as you evaluate the music you're hearing, you can shift your attention between how the lead is playing a bent note or a hammer on and how the rhythm players are keeping a solid, steady beat for the lead to follow. Once you hear it it's much easier to file that sound away in your memory as "how 'X' is playing". As you evaluate your system's performance, paying atention to the ability of the system to portray the intent of the musicians becomes second nature and you spend more time with the music than with the hifi. Realize you are training your ears and brain to respond to certain musical values and this won't come easily at first. You don't need to become a music instructor judging how well the performers are playing, you just need to have a handle on what is being shown to you and how the musicians are using their language skills and talents to lead you to the "tension/release" of the music.

I would suggest you spend some time with the power chord videos as they form the basis of most rhythm guitar player's vocabulary in rock and most blues/jazz/funk/hip hop/country, etc. Most importantly I would suggest you spend a bit of time with the Masterclasses as these will get you into the mind of the players. Do you need to know how to play a G13b9? No, but knowing how the player got to the point they understood the unique sound of that chord and how to use that chord might enhance what you are hearing as you listen. Will your system change a G13b9 chord into something else? No, but it can change the feel of the music and the flow from one chord to the next which will alter the textural content of the music. How the performer plays that chord is what they are trying to express to you. If your system doesn't allow that level of communication, then maybe you need to determine how you can change things to achieve that level. Buying new equipment is not always the answer.

For a moment let's go back to how a musician listens to another musician; http://www.downbeat.com/default.asp?sect=stories&subsect=story_detail&sid=869

No need to be entirely consumed by the "how" or the "what" but looking at the music as the source of inspriration is quite different than constantly judging the hifi.




"'It's so funny, this,' Clapton says. 'I've always had that held up as like, 'This is one of the great landmarks of guitar playing.' But most of that solo is on the wrong beat. Instead of playing on the two and the four, I'm playing on the one and the three and thinking, 'That's the off beat.' No wonder people think it's so good--because it's f*cking wrong.' [laughs]

Perhaps one reason for Clapton's difficulty finding the downbeat was that the concert at which the song was recorded ... "


Good music is good music. But finding the downbeat or the upbeat or playing in front or behind the beat - and knowing the difference between those values - is a fairly simple concept. Use a search engine to learn about the styles of playing and then listen to your favorite players. Is it clear what the performers' are doing with the beat? This is an area many systems alter. If you can't find the beat yourself, you can't determine whether the system is doing its job or not.

As I once suggested to Mike Wodek, if you're having trouble determining the beat and how the performer's are relating to it, get up and dance to the music. If you can't dance, invite your wife to do so to the music. Watch her hips. This might eventually lead to you taking a longer time to understand the beat but you should have some fun none the less.



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Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15841
Registered: May-04
.

Have you had the experience of sitting in your car tapping your fingers on the steeringwheel to the beat of a favorite song? From a not all that great car system? AM radio? Why's it so much easier to find the beat in that situation than it sometimes is to find the beat in your home system?


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Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15842
Registered: May-04
.

"Exposing the subtleties of music without throwing them at you is a neat trick."

And one where many systems fail. Horns can provide that goosebump jump factor but they can also inject that same sense of jump into everything sent through them. Like the ST70 example, this may be a priority you find necessary for your enjoyment of the music and accuracy isn't always the guiding factor. On the other hand, many systems have a false sense of detail which will lead an inexperienced listener to pick that component or system for its "immediacy". All too often that system will tend to lend a sameness to every song and the intent of the performer is subsumed by the character of a single component.


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Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15845
Registered: May-04
.

"Timing of music is everything. If anyone has ever been in a symphony, concert, jazz, ensemble, quartet, or any other group.....maintaining the beat of the song is something that is driven into you early and often. I'm sure many of us have experienced the glare of a conductor or music teacher if you've become too involved in playing the right notes and forgotten to play WITH the rest of the orchestra."


Rhythm players are responsible for establishing the beat, the beat will set the pace and the rhythm of the performance. A basic history of the last century says blues are the basis for all modern popular music. As Muddy Waters said, "The blues had a child and they named it rock and roll." Play a 12 bar blues at 90 beats per minute and you have BB King, play a 12 bar at 180 beats per minute and you have rock and roll.

A "rhythm section" normally comprises the drums, the bass, the piano and the rhythm guitar. Playing rhythm was the only role for guitar in a band setting until it became electrified and could stand on its own as a solo instrument; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhythm_section Charlie Christian is generally regarded as the first electric guitar player of importance who brought early electrics to the front of the orchestra for solo work; http://classicjazzguitar.com/artists/artists_page.jsp?artist=9

As a side note, one of the aspects of his playing that earned him the "Clapton is God" moniker was his work in the Bluesbreakers and The Cream where he was responsible for both rhythm and lead work. Robby Krieger (http://www.guitarplayer.com/article/robby-krieger/December-2010/123657 in The Doors also played both rhythm and lead. His training was in classical flamenco guitar and, unlike many of the rock players at the time, he played fingerstyle rather than using a pick. The Doors lacked a specific bass player and the role was split between Krieger playing rhythm and lead along with some bass lines shared with Ray Manzerick on organ. Fingerstyle playing has a softer attack to each note when compared to a pick style of playing. At the opposite end of rock guitar work were groups such as The Allman Brothers who had two very competent lead guitarists. Compare the sound of the various groups to hear the differences between how each approaches a song.


Hopefully, you'll have worked your way through the "beat" section of links and you'll have some idea how the two are interlaced with the rhythm driving the pace and the pace of the music determining the rhythmic style of the music. You should have some idea how a rhythm guitarist's work affects the pace and the "feel" of the performance by the use of downtrokes and upstrokes. Listening to the first link in the post on finding the beat you should be able to understand how the drum establishes the performance style and the overall "feel" of the performance.

As Chris suggests holding a steady beat is drilled into every music student. However, once the student has the ability to play with a steady beat, they can the begin to manipulate the beat. Jazz players do this all the time. Those of you with a copy of the Emma Demo CD will hear an "implied beat" on the Elvis performance of "Fever" as the vocal plays against the bass line. Players such as John Lee Hooker and Chuck Berry have their own internal beat and anyone playing with them is expected to follow what they play rather than a strict 1-2-3-4. The bands of Duke Ellington and Count Basie are the epitome of knowing where the beat is at all times and more importantly how to play it. In 4/4 time, the most common for popular music, whether the emphasis is on the downbeat of the 1-3 or the upbeat of the 2-4 makes for a different feel to the performance as Clapton points out in his quote regarding "Crossroads". Taking the starting point of a lick or a solo from any one of the 1-2-3-4 beats of a measure and beginning on a different beat will alter the effect of the performance, particularly when the solo is played over the same chord progression or the same beat pattern.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H186qFcrGFg&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaoiP7fQJI4&NR=1


If you've found the beat, and the recording has actually preserved the correct beat and timing, you can turn your attention to the "T" of PRaT and try to follow the timing of the performance.



"I'm sure many of us have experienced the glare of a conductor or music teacher if you've become too involved in playing the right notes and forgotten to play WITH the rest of the orchestra."


When I was selling audio, two of my questions to the client often were whether they actually listened to live music on a regular schedule and whether they had ever played an instrument. Typically, I got a, "No", to both questions. No problem with the latter, you don't have to understand music to have a good audio system - but IMO understanding some of what goes into making music will help you avoid the trap of just listening to the system perform.

If you're at the beginning point of playing an instrument or remember when you were at an earlier time, you should recognize the struggle to simply play the notes or the chords as they exist on the sheet music. All your effort is going into playing each single note correctly without muffing the fingerwork and striking too many notes or not hitting a note at all. Coordinating both hands is the challenge for many players. Coordinating both hands and both feet is the challenge given to drummers. As you become more adept at playing, the ability to hit the right note becomes more a function of motor memory controlled by hand to eye coordination. At that point an instructor is likely to insist you begin playing to a metronome to set "the beat" in your muscle memory. Start with any new music by setting the metronome to 60 bpm and as you become proficient at playing through the piece to that beat you can gradually increase the metronome setting about five beats per minute until you've reached the correct tempo of the song.

Now try to do the same with another player. For most people the ability to play at the fastest speed they could accomplish on their own has been diminished and the two players must start at a lower tempo in order to play together; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempo With each successive addition of players the process begins again. If you've played in a band, you recognize what Chris was referring to when any one player gets so focussed on what they alone are playing that they loose the timing of the band. So, those who have been in bands will likely remember that struggle to get everyone on the same page with the timing of the performance.

Those who have never played with an instrument or have never played with anyone else can probably relate to the sound of the various bands they've heard. As with most things we learn, the hand/eye coordination of playing requires certain skills that only come to most of us as we grow in age and experience. If you have children who play, you can probably understand the limitiations of getting a group of grade school children to play a passable rendition of most music. It can be rather painful and not just because the players are often playing squeekey notes that are slightly or totally off key but also because of the hestitations and the out of time sound to the music. Take the same piece of music and give it to a high school band and then to a college band and you'll hear the improvement experience and age provide in the area of timing. By the point of most high school bands the music is beginning to have the momentum which drives the listener through the tension/release process of Western music with greater ease and effect. By the time the player has reached the college level they are very likely to be just at the point where they could step into a professional career as a musician and have probably had years of experience playing with other performers. If you haven't experienced a college age symphony performance, I would suggest you go out to hear what is offered at very inexpensive rates compared to the major symphony orchestras in most cities. (The Van Cliburn competitions are comming up soon. If you've never listened to such a competition, give it a try. You'll find it being broadcast on many PBS channels or online. Listen for the performers who have the timing and the note by note accuracy but not the emotional pull of an excellent performance and those who have just the opposite.)




Now take that same music and hand it to a professional orchestra where only the best of dozens of performers have been selected for each position and listen to the difference in timing between the professionals and even the average college age players. Timing is impeccable in the professionals and each player is following the beat. The music has a natural flow and progression that once again takes the listener through the tension/release process of Western music. If you're a classical music listener, you can probably give suggestions for which orchestras have the timing and the emotion (Chicago under Solti) and which have some of either but not always both (any "second teir" symphony such as Dallas under Litton).


If you understand that process of increased attention to the timing between players used to accomplish the emotional "goosebump" connection to the listener, use that as a reference for judging a component, speaker or system. Pay attention to the music and not the system as you listen for how well the players mesh into one solid group and how well the music moves you from one location to another. Often a lesser system will provide a sound more like that of a college age orchestra still not quite "on time".

Select excellent recordings for this audition. Keep in mind many modern recordings are not made with each player in the same room with the other players. At times recordings might be made with several players not even playing in the same location let alone the same room. Digital recording techniques have made simpler the process of sending parts of a recording around the globe for each performer to add their own performance as a song is built up over time. Numerous overdubs and edits are made to most modern recordings which have the potential to place a single performer out of step with the orignal performance. The more processed a recording has been, the more likely timing between individual tracks will suffer. With as many as 164 tracks being used on many modern recordings, the ability to place various performers or parts of a performer's work out of time is becoming more of an issue.

Many listeners avoid "live" recordings due to the oftentimes lower sound quality according to common audiophile standards. Yet most live recordings can be your guide to how you should perceive the timing of any studio recording. It is when the performers are together, listening to each other and responding to the feedback of a live audience, that timing should be at its best.

The resurgence of "direct to disc" recordings starting in the 1970's through the present intends to take the recording process back to those earlier days when there were no mixing boards and mastering was done on the fly. The master led directly to stamping and pressing discs for sale. All the performers are in the same room for such a recording and often arranged as if they were playing to an audience rather than strung out in disparate locations as you often find in many modern studio productions. Overdubs and edits are strictly not allowed in a true D2D recording. You might remember this was also the rule for the early Mercury and RCA recordings using the three mic techniques discussed in another thread. If you're unfamilair with D2D recordings or you feel you need a refresher course in timing between performers, find a few recordings of the Ellington and the Basie bands made before the 1970's. The earlier the better as you will be hearing a recording from, say, the early 1940-50's which will have reasonably good frequency response and dynamics but still adheres to the all at one time/play it through once technique of recording. As I said, Ellington and Basie were masters at timing. Harry James' work for Sheffield is highly recommended; http://www.sheffieldlab.com/sheffield.pl?detail=SL10070

If recorded music is to give you goosebumps, it has to start with a proper performance as accomplished by the artists and the recording engineers and allowed to pass unobstructed by the playback system.




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Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15847
Registered: May-04
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Anyone care to tackle "organic" and provide a meaning to its use in describing an audio system?
 

Gold Member
Username: Hawkbilly

Nova Scotia Canada

Post Number: 1215
Registered: Jul-07
Further to Jan's comments on studio overdubs vs live recordings, or single pass studio recordings. I have a couple of Macs at home, and my daughter and I play with Garageband a fair amount. Tons of fun. It's pretty straightforward to create multi-track songs where you can layer track over track, adding strings, percussion, vocals, etc until you get what you want. You can also "cheat" a lot, as you don't have to play the whole song correctly (when using a real instrument rather than a software instrument) as you can cut and paste clips of the songs. For instance, if you played verse 1 perfectly and botched verse 2, no problem. Split the track and delete verse 2 and copy verse 1 into that slot of the track. Loads of fun for the challenged musician. You can also correct the timing of the percussion tracks, move a beat ahead or back until it's precisely on the beat. You need to do this fairly frequently as I'm not that coordinated play drums on a keyboard.

My point here is this. When edited to perfection, the song misses something. It sounds more mechanical. Although adherance to the overall timing and beat of the song is important, I think it's when you are working around and with the beat that makes the song have expression and flow. The overall tempo remains, but leading early or overhanging the beat are all part of what creates the emotion. That's why I hate drum loops in popular music. I understand the convenience factor, but goodness sake it's monotonous.
 

Gold Member
Username: Hawkbilly

Nova Scotia Canada

Post Number: 1218
Registered: Jul-07
A master of rhythm.

 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15848
Registered: May-04
.

"The Boss Dr. Rhythm DR-880 Rhythm Machine is a rhythm-programming powerhouse loaded with world-class drum, percussion, and bass sounds from Roland's famous SRX library. It also includes a stunning collection of original waveforms. You can get microscopic in programming the DR-880, but you also have the option of taking the simple route with its 3 EZ Compose buttons that allow original patterns to be constructed without note-by-note programming hassles. Patterns can be taken deeper with the Groove Modify feature, where various groove and triplet feels can be applied. Ghost notes and fills can also be added automatically. Guitar and bass players can join the action by plugging directly to the DR-880's Guitar/Bass Input jack, and playing through the built-in COSM Drive/amp models and multi-effects;
http://drums-percussion.musiciansfriend.com/product/Boss-Dr.-Rhythm-DR880-Rhythm -Machine?sku=707054

"The instructional book is a supplement to the first volume of Drum Machine Patterns. With 96 pages and 260 rhythm patterns and breaks, you'll learn to program original drum beats into any drum machine in no time. 260 Drum Machine Patterns contains the rhythms most often used in contemporary music, plus many patterns incorporating flams used on the latest generation of drum machines; http://books-videos-music.musiciansfriend.com/product/Hal-Leonard-260-Drum-Machi ne-Patterns?sku=900550&rec=product_A


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Silver Member
Username: Kbear

Canada

Post Number: 950
Registered: Dec-06
I'm going through some of those videos by Justin now.

Jan, you asked if I focus on PRaT while listening. I'd say yes, to some degree. Do I attribute it to the music or my system? Probably too often to the system. I have usually assumed that it's on the disc (though I know that isn't always necessarily true), and I want to know if my system lets it through.

I think I just need to relax and listen to music. Not think about things like PRaT so much. Just allow the music to take over. Different gear will of course sound different, and I'll have preferences. But I want those to become apparent to me while listening. I shouldn't go in with the attitude that I'm going to find them.

You asked if I can find the beat. I've always thought so. I don't think about it, it's my foot tapping the ground, or my hand tapping my leg...in time with the beat. Some songs it's extremely easy to find, with other more complex pieces it's not as apparent. But I've never felt I had trouble with this.

I think I'm just listening too deeply into the mix. This is the root of the problem and one that I"m hopefully starting to correct.

I read through the Stereophile article. I kind of disagreed with the following part of Holt's point (this is taken from the last page, where he summarized his argument):

2) If that original is to serve as a reference for reproduction accuracy, it must be completely free from the kinds of electrical and mechanical artifacts which we know to be inherent in all of the sound-reproducing equipment whose performance we are trying to judge. That is, the original cannot of itself be the result of amplification and transduction.

As far as I see it, whether the original is artificial or not, the end result is a sound. Just as it is from an acoustic instrument. The sound must be recorded and placed on media that can be read. Right there you are introducing potential distortion. Then the media must be read and played back. If what you get is an accurate reproduction of the original sound, then you have what Holt hopes to hear from an audio system. Sure a guitar pickup and amp is going to impact the sound of the guitar, but so does the venue that music is played in. And it's not like all acoustic instruments sound the same. Different acoustic guitars, with different strings, have very different sounds. The fellow at the guitar shop compared the Yamaha I was buying ($200) with one that cost twice as much. The more expensive model had a much richer sound. How would Holt take that into consideration? By the way, I realize acoustic guitar probably wasn't at the top of his list of acoustic instruments he liked to listen to.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15851
Registered: May-04
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Attack, sustain and decay

J Gordon Holt's audio glossary defines attack thusly;
" attack 1) The buildup of sound when an instrument is bowed, blown, struck, or plucked. 2) The ability of a system to reproduce the attack transients in musical sound. Poor attack makes a system sound slow.

attack transient The initial energy pulse of a percussive sound, such as from a piano string, triangle, or drum head."




The leading edge of a signal is its "attack". Depending on the instrument it can be an audibly sharp rise in energy as in a drum thwack or a more slowly developed building of energy as in a softly blown horn or clarinet. It can have a sharp edge full of energy which transistions into a long, sonorous tone such as you might hear from a bowed cello. No matter which you hear, the leading edge of the signal will show a very sharp, steep rise from 0dB in voltage when viewed on an oscilloscope. What will change will be the peak voltage level of the signal which will relate to how loudly, sharply the transient is being played. As mentioned above a fingerstyle guitarist will have a somewhat softer tone than will a player using a pick. Maintaining their fingernail condition and length is a time consuming task for most classical guitarists as they will alternate between hitting the string with the fleshy part of their fingertip and the actual nail tip. Those instruments which are played by plucking, bowing or strumming the strings have immense variations in the attack which the performer can elicit from the instrument. A pianist can alter the attack of the note by using the side of the finger to strike a key rather than coming down directly on the key. Obviously, percussionsists have a tremendous range of expression in the tools they employ and how they are used. A mallet sounds drastically different than a stick; http://www.vicfirth.com/artists/video/bachman3.html and http://www.vicfirth.com/artists/video/bachman1.html while brushes give yet another feel to the performance; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ku54ReTBgY

Palm muting is a common technique used with both electric and acoustic guitar to achieve variations in dynamics and tonal structure; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUcMTRR9meQ&NR=1&feature=fvwp and http://www.youtube.com/user/deltabluestips#p/search/4/GswLCOA9VV8

Attack is IMO one of the most significant ways to judge the transparency of a system to the source. IMO - and this is a vast simplification, but each of the common output devices; bipolar transistor, vacuum tube and FET each have their own voice when it comes to how "attack" is reproduced. Horn loaded drivers portray attack in a way not exactly similar to dynamic drivers which are unlike panel drivers. Time and phase relationships play a large part in accurately reproducing leading edges. Does your system portray a brushed cymbal as what it is or just as a white noise? Does the "boomchucka" sound of early Johnny Cash and Merle Travis sound like a palm muted guitar? Do metal power chords in metal or in John Lee Hooker have a sufficient percussive "thump" to drive the music forward? What are the players doing with their hands and their feet? How does a vocalist form a note just before releasing it? Are the leading edges of each instrument clealy defined? If not, then you need to make adjustments.


Sustain is, according to any musician, the Holy Grail of everything you want in an instrument. A solid body electric guitar has a different sustain than a semi-hollowbody. A pianist uses the "sustain" pedal to make legato playing more romantic or more emotional as the pedal work becomes another part of the player's technique. A concert grand playing Chopin has a different sustain than an upright used for a hard boogie. Very expensive, rare violins have a powerful attack and sustain that cuts through a symphony hall and reverberates off the walls and bounces around inside your head when your sitting in the second balcony. A horn player's breath control is all about attack and sustain. Foremost a player pays for "sustain" whether by buying a guitar pedal that adds sustain; http://www.guitarcenter.com/New-Gear.gc?internal=1&src=sustain+pedal, buying an amplifier with sustain, buying the very best instrument they can afford or by putting in long hours of practice to achieve the effect they desire. The more an instrument sustains a note with clarity and power, the better the instrument in most cases. Once a player has an instrument with fabulous sustain, they use it in their playing style. They may choose to damp the sustain for effect or they may hit a chord and let it ring. A large portion of a player's style is all about attack and sustain, how they start and how they stop a note and how they move from note to note.

For all the incredible attention paid by performers to "sustain", going through the more than a half dozen audio glossaries I have bookmarked, I can't find one that even mentions "sustain". Obviously you don't want your system to introduce a sustained tone to anything that isn't in the original signal. But, if the performer is so obviously and consciously aware of the sustain they can evoke from their instrument, wouldn't you want your system to accurately reproduce that sustain? Here again the diference between output devices and circuit topology and material selection and system set up makes for an apparent and oftentimes quite obvious difference in how a component or system begins and ends a note if you are listening for that quality. Listen for it, it is an intentional choice for the performer that your system must portray as intended.



Decay in this case refers more specifically to what is occurring away from the instrument; the gestalt of the performer, the instrument and the space they occupy. Holt gives us this; "decay The reverberant fadeout of a musical sound after it has ceased. Compare 'attack'." Gosh, that seems so simple. Why's it so difficult to accomplish?

If a musical note is struck, bowed, plucked, blown, etc., it will have its own sound mixed with the sound of the space in which it exists. If the space is large, small, alive or dead or any combination of those qualities and more, the space will provide its own sound to what is heard in a live performance and through a system. Not all recorded instruments were played in a "space". Some instruments which require amplification can be "direct injected" into the sound board mixer. No sound exists in a room so the sound of two guitars played in a room and direct injected into the board will sound quite different from one another. If a microphone is placed in front of the amp/speaker, a bass guitar will sound very different than a DI bass. An electric bass guitar will have a very different decay in a room than will an upright acoustic bass. How well does your system portray these differences? Can you follow the attack, sustain and decay of both the bass instrument and the bass kick drum? Are you aware of the additional reverberant field of the room if it's present on the recording? Some audiophiles select components which provide a "you are there" feel to the personality of the system while others prefer a "they are here" approach. Mixing the two personalities will result in a mishmosh of sonic signatures in the room.

A system that has excellent deep bass resolution will often have the ability to portray room sounds which would go unnoticed on a lesser system. As with sustain for the musician, ambient room sounds can be a mark of a poorly recorded performance or a vastly more interesting recording. For many years the audiophile press was enamoured with the subway sounds and the noises of the HVAC systems in and around famous and well known music venues. Jazz lovers expected to hear the shape and size of locations such as the Vanguard; http://www.amazon.com/Sunday-Village-Vanguard-Bill-Evans/dp/B000000Y87

http://www.amazon.com/Trinity-Session-Cowboy-Junkies/dp/B000002WCL

Don't go overboard with a search for ambient detail or you'll end up chasing busses that pass outside the club but how an instrument sounds in a space is important to its overall timbre and tone. You should know how a trumpet sounds in a room and how an upright bass sounds, up close and farther away. Attending live performances will inform you of these details and you'll notice when they are missing from the picture your system paints. These are a few of the mosaic bits that make a system superior in many ways. They provide color and texture, life and light to a performance and elevate the listener's response from "same old, same old" into goosebump territory.



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Gold Member
Username: John_a

LondonU.K.

Post Number: 4850
Registered: Dec-03
This is a fascinating thread. Thanks to everyone. In particular, and just to pick out one small point, thanks, Jan, for the link to the Stereophile discussion between J. Gordon Holt and John Atkinson. For what it's worth, I'd side with Holt. Single page summary:

http://www.stereophile.com/content/acoustical-standard-follow-last-word-fidelity

It's interesting how Stereophile has held on to a lot of the Holt approach and philosophy, long after it recruited Atkinson from the HiFi News. HiFi News has now lost the plot completely, in my opinion. There are already signs in that discussion from 1988-89.

Also, I've read about PRaT many times on this forum, and elsewhere. I've never really understood how a system can have it. So thanks to Chris and Dan for:

"Surely a system can't add PRaT if it's not there to begin with."

That would be my take. A system doesn't HAVE PRaT, it protects it. Your system shouldn't be injecting anything that isn't on the disk.


I'd guess J. Gordon Holt's position is one step further - the disk shouldn't be injecting anything that wasn't in the performance. And, yes, there has to be a performance, even if only in a recording studio. Otherwise our reference for speakers is just other speakers.

I doubt this thread has helped you decide on an amp, Dan!

Me, I'd never seriously considered a tube amp before reading "Tube Talk" here.

https://www.ecoustics.com/electronics/forum/home-audio/119397.html

Great quote from Jan, Dec 03, 2004:

There's some typing to do for this post and you guys know when I get to typing it's hard to stop.

Good thing. And thanks!
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15854
Registered: May-04
.

"As far as I see it, whether the original is artificial or not, the end result is a sound. Just as it is from an acoustic instrument. The sound must be recorded and placed on media that can be read. Right there you are introducing potential distortion."


It's not that you're wrong in what you say, Dan, but I think you miss JGH's intent. First, Holt had very strict standards regarding audition material. Poor recording techniques and inferior pressings were simply not allowed. Many of the recordings which Holt (and later Pearson at TAS) held as standards of excellence are still today excellent recordings. Have studio recorders and production equipment had their distortion specs bettered over the last fifty years? Certainly. But, if you accept the notion that only the latest generation of recordings should be considered "authoritative" due to lower THD in a tape machine, then you're missing much of what's to offer in recorded history. I don't think that's what you actually intended to say but I hope you get my point. One of the more fascinating apsects of high end audio is how with each progession we make to a more transparent system, we find so much more actual information and musicality in those original Mercury Living Presence recordings or the mono transfers of Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Louie Armstrong at their pre-war heights.


The alternate opinion to Holt was formed by those who played and listened to electronically processed music. Their points of debate are largely what I've been discussing here; a musician's technique, their skills and their abilities along with their artistry in involving the listener through the implementation of their talents. An acoustic guitar string is bent the same way an electric guitar string is bent though each performer will bend each string in a slightly different way that can become recognizable as "Clapton" or "Beck" and so on. A skilled and talented player moves through a scale or an arpeggio in the same way no matter the instrument. Remember, a string instrument player might be trying to emulate the techniques of a wind, horn or vocal artist and vice versa. It would, IMO, be foolish to say BB King cannot be used as a reference for judging a system's musical capacity just because he plays an electrified instrument. If you are listening to the artistry of the performers and the music they are creating, then that in itself should be sufficient for use as a yardstick against which various components can be held.

Where Holt had serious reservations was in the use of electronic music as a reference for certain aspects of the music which he felt were important to the final assessment of transparency to the source. Obviously, as I'll discuss in another post, timbre and tone are not as strictly defined in an instrument which must pass through electronics as they are in a purely acoustic machine. Even if you are intimately familiar with the sound of BB King's instrument (http://www2.gibson.com/Products/Electric-Guitars/ES/Gibson-Custom/BB-King-Lucill e.aspx and his usual amplifier/speaker, the range of tones available to King are tremendously varied (http://www.blueshawk.info/varitone.htm) and, should the recording engineer decide to use his guitar directly into the mixing board rather than placing a mic in front of the speaker, the concept of King's sound is altered.


"Sure a guitar pickup and amp is going to impact the sound of the guitar, but so does the venue that music is played in. And it's not like all acoustic instruments sound the same. Different acoustic guitars, with different strings, have very different sounds. The fellow at the guitar shop compared the Yamaha I was buying ($200) with one that cost twice as much. The more expensive model had a much richer sound. How would Holt take that into consideration? By the way, I realize acoustic guitar probably wasn't at the top of his list of acoustic instruments he liked to listen to."


Holt was not adverse to acoustic guitar though I doubt he had a large reference library full of Woody Guthrie recordings. Holt was of an age and a particular mindset that approached classical music as the definitive source of human inspiration. As such the great composers were at the top of his reference material and only those recordings made under the baton of the very best conductors in the most famous venues were allowed into his reference library. Like most people who loved music and were of his age, he also understood and took pleasure in Miles Davis and Charlie Parker. But he disdained the use of an electric bass in jazz. He had no conflict with the musical power and expression of a vocalist such as Joan Baez. However, to Holt "The Night They Drove Ol'Dixie Down" is not worthy of the same attention as even the slightest trifle which came from Bach.


Holt felt a "good listener" was an informed listener. How would Holt have taken into account the difference in timbre and tone of two differnt acoustic guitars? The same way he would have taken into account the difference in timbre and tone between a Guanerius and a Stradiverius violin or cello. Or between the various violins and cellos made by those builders who imbued each creation with a personality of its own and a late 16th century violin would not have sounded identical to a mid 17th century version of the same instrument. Holt felt a wise listener had an acquired knowledge of the difference between a Baldwin, a Steinway and a Bosendorfer and why each performer might choose a specific instrument for a specific performance of a specific musical selection. At the very least the audio component or system that could not thrill him with the bass extension, power and quality of a one hundred year old 97 key Bosendorfer Concert Grand had no opportunity to provide the goosebumps he sought.

http://www.boesendorfer.com/en/viennese-sound-tradition.html

"The Bösendorfer sound is usually described as darker or richer than the more pure but less full-bodied sound of other pianos like the Steinway & Sons or Yamaha"; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%B6sendorfer



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Silver Member
Username: Kbear

Canada

Post Number: 951
Registered: Dec-06
John, I'm sure I'll try out tubes one day. Rogue seems to be good value, so I'd probably lean in that direction, and as suggested by others there are a few other options when it comes time to decide. But for now it's not something I'm going to worry about. For now I'm going to just correct my listening habits, then determine which of the three speakers I have that I like best. Thanks for the thread recommendation though...when the time comes I will be sure to read through it.

And thanks to Jan for the suggestions. It has motivated me to work harder at playing guitar, so as I learn about what guitarists do from videos like Justin's, I will hopefully put those things into practice myself. Very slowly I'm sure, but the key is to practice some every day and keep building what you know and what you can do.
 

Silver Member
Username: Kbear

Canada

Post Number: 952
Registered: Dec-06
Jan, to take differences into account, one has to know the instrument that was played. And possibly details like where it was played, and details about the microphones used, etc. I guess Holt knows these things for the various recordings he uses, and thus can accurately gauge what a system is doing to the sound, and ultimately if it is accurate or not. And that is certainly a fair point.

Most listeners, especially of non-ultra high end gear (unlike what Stereophile usually reviews), will probably not have this degree of knowledge. Music is a hobby for most, in contrast to a way of life for people like Holt.

I relate more to Atkinson's position. I know when I took my Quad speakers out of my system and put my Tannoys in, the sound changed. If one of them was accurate, the other certainly can't be. Likely neither is as accurate as some of the things Stereophile has seen come through their offices. Does it matter? Like in your Dynaco example, I'll sacrifice accuracy if what I'm getting more of is musical involvement. My old entry level system often gave me goosebumps...it was able to convey the music, even though it almost certainly didn't excel at things like ambient detail and accuracy. Would I go back to it? No, I don't think so. I do want something better than that. But it just goes to show that you don't need to spend mega bucks to obtain a musical system. When you do spend more though, hopefully the musicality is preserved along with a now greater insight into the music.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1191
Registered: May-05
Unison Research hybrids FTW Dan.
 

Gold Member
Username: Dakulis

Spokane, Washington United States

Post Number: 1192
Registered: May-05
Just kidding.

I read the entire thread but just wanted to tweak Jan a little, LOL.

Excellent points from Jan and Chris. I haven't played an instrument in 40 years and then badly. But, it is interesting to focus on the music and not all the other things that go on. With the Unico, I notice sound stage, tighter bass, better attack, more real sustain and decay. All greatly improved further with the HT2-TLs but the greatest difference is the sound of real music. Piano strikes sound right, horns beautiful, voices - male and female have come more alive and my feet tap more and my head nods more and I get shivers down my back more. All of that is more important than the new found sound stage, etc.

BTW Jan, those were probably some of the better comparative "reviews" I've heard of competing speakers. Thanks for the laugh.
 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

LondonU.K.

Post Number: 4851
Registered: Dec-03
Brief comment, going back a few posts. I can't speak for J. Gordon Holt, of course, but I think the question of "what is the reference?" goes beyond any preference for any particular type of music. If the sound is amplified and processed electronically (including such things as reverb), then the singer/performer adjusts to this, and the end result is something that depends on the equipment being used. Purely acoustical instruments and natural voice projection are more "in the real world" to start with, so it is easier, in principle, to assess, and talk about, fidelity to the original sound.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15868
Registered: May-04
.

"Jan, to take differences into account, one has to know the instrument that was played. And possibly details like where it was played, and details about the microphones used, etc. I guess Holt knows these things for the various recordings he uses, and thus can accurately gauge what a system is doing to the sound, and ultimately if it is accurate or not. And that is certainly a fair point.

Most listeners, especially of non-ultra high end gear (unlike what Stereophile usually reviews), will probably not have this degree of knowledge. Music is a hobby for most, in contrast to a way of life for people like Holt."





How many times have I heard that argument?!


I don't completely discount your argument, Dan, but I find it too much on the side of, "What?! I have to know something?!!!"

To which I (and Holt) have stated, "No, you don't have to know anything to put together a good music system. But knowing a bit isn't going to hurt your chances of getting something you will enjoy for a reasonable amount of time with the first try you make at all of this. Knowing the basics will probably save you money and time - both of which can then be spent on more music - if you compare it to not knowing anything but 'soundstage' and 'imaging'."

Knowledge cannot hurt you unless you hold too strongly to what you "know" above what others are claiming.

Let's start with your basic premise, " ... to take differences into account, one has to know the instrument that was played. And possibly details like where it was played, and details about the microphones used, etc." Does the average audio hobbyist need to know which instrument was played? No, not necessarily. Would the average audio hobbyist have a greater sense of what they were listening to if they did know the type of instrument being played? Of course, that goes without saying. Did the acoustic folk music scene rock and revolt when Dylan picked up an electric? Is the sound of Clapton playing a Telecaster, a Les Paul, an SG and a Stratocaster a portion of his development as an artist? And does the instrument he prefers at any one time influence the sound he produces and the music he plays? IMO, yes, most certainly. Can you imagine Clapton playing "Coc@ine" on a Martin acoustic guitar? It would be a very different song if that were the case. Here, listen to "Layla" as an acoustic performance; http://www.amazon.com/Unplugged-Eric-Clapton/dp/B000002MFE

Much depends on the type of music you listen to for your reference material. If you are serious about classical music, then you should be familiar with the sound of various instruments which are likely to be chosen by an artist for their expressive capacity. You should be familiar with the sound of a Baldwin, a Steinway and a Bosendorfer. You should also know the basic sonic differences between a Gaurnerius and a Stradiverius string instrument. Quite often the type of instrument and possibly even a bit of its history will be in the liner notes to a classical recording. But you cannot learn the sound of an instrument by only hearing it played through an audio system. So Holt (and I) suggest you attend live performances to familairize yourself with those sounds since you cannot fully learn them just by listening to recordings. Do you need to recognize the character of a specific bassoon? No, there aren't any major compositions for solo bassoon, not any sonatas or concertos for bassoon, xylophone or piccolo that regularly appear in a concert schedule. So you need only learn these few instruments which make up the bulk of a repertoire, probably less than a dozen at the very most. Is that so difficult? You don't need to recognize a late 1600's Strad from a mid 1700's Strad unless that is your desire as a part of your hobbyist curiousity. But, at the very least, you need to be able to make those generalizations that cannot be crossed by recording technique. A Bosendorfer will never sound like a Steinway and a Fender Telecaster will never sound like a Gibson SG unless they have intentionally been distorted in character. You should know that.

For most popular music listeners it would be worth your while to recognize the difference between a Stratocaster, a Telecaster, a Les Paul, a 335 type and, say, a PRS played by Santana. None of those instruments can sound like the others and they all have a distinctive sound which appeals to the artist as a useful tool in portraying their expressive techniques. You should certainly know the difference between an acoustic bass and an electric bass and between a Hammond B3 and all other electric organs. Performers choose these instruments for a reason and the instrument's character then gives the performer a large part of their sound. If you listen to clasic rock, you certainly should be aware of the difference between a 15 watt Vox amp with a Celestion speaker and the sound of a full blown 100 watt Marshall stack playing into four 12" drivers. The musicians are aware of the differences and they are selecting gear which they feel is appropriate to what they want to hear, why should you not be as concerned in this case? If you gave BB King a Stratocaster, would he still sound like BB King? Of course he would, but he wouldn't sound like BB King playing a Lucille which has become his trademark sound. So then, why do you suppose King always plays a Lucille and not a Stratocaster?

Do you need to know where the instrument was played? That depends on where the instrument was played, doesn't it? Do you need to know the sound of a specific recording studio? No, though there are some famous studios and some recordings which are made in famous places. Should you recognize (not necessarily "know") the difference between The Royal Albert Hall and Carnegie Hall? Probably. Between the sound of the Meyerson here in Dallas and the sound of a honky tonk live recording at Billy Bob's in Fort Worth? Wouldn't hurt. This is your hobby and like all other hobbbies you don't need to build every radio controlled plane, helicopter, car, boat, etc. to be interested in radio controlled vechiles. But you should know enough about at least a few of those things.

Do you need to know the difference between a Shure and an Electrovoice micropone? Not so much, a microphone selected for recording might not be the same as the microphone intended to stand up to constant use on stage in performance. (Same for recording, a Martin acoustic can be difficult to record yet terrific on stage. So maybe the recording was made with a Taylor since it records nicely. Wouldn't you think it would be good in many cases to know the performer you saw on stage last night isn't using the same instrument on the recording they made two years ago?) Should you know the characteristics of a cardiod mic and the change in sound it has due to its proximity effect? http://search.yahoo.com/search?ei=utf-8&fr=slv8-hptb5&p=proximity%20effect&type= Yes, IMO this is important because you cannot capture the sound of a human voice without a microphone so you should know what the basic microphone sound of a common microphone type does to the character of a voice. If you don't do the adjustment for (presumed) microphone selection, you'll be judging what you hear against a false standard. I would suggest you have some idea of the difference between a dynamic mic such as the overly popular Shure SM57 and SM58 and, say, a high quality condenser mic popular in jazz and classical recording. For classical listeners, having some idea whether the engineer chose omni mics or chose to create the hall sound after the fact could be useful in the finer details of selecting reference material.

And that's what all of this is about, choosing appropriate reference material to use as audition material. Let's say then you have a dozen discs which you feel are reference grade material and on those dozen discs there are a total of six different instruments being played in five recognizable venues. How difficult is it to actually know something about that amount of material?

What you are missing in your assumption of impossible to achieve omnipotency - which you use against the acquisition of knowledge - is the ability to turn off or to disengage your critical listening skils and to return to simply enjoying music. The suggestion Holt and I share is to have a small group of reference material you can refer to when making critical decisions about the value of a component or system. Not all material is going to be reference grade though, as an example of non-typical audioiphile references, with the Emma Demo I use mono material as a critical reference. Personally I also use material that is not well recorded to indicate whether the system is capable of "finding the music" in a poorly recorded disc. For me that is a priority, if the system cannot get me to the point where I can listen with ease to the skills and talents of the players, to the communication between players, even when they are buried within the murk of a crappy recording, then the system isn't doing what I demand of it. BUt first the recording must be able to show me the msuic in that it cannot be obscured by the recording techniques as we have alreadty described. I have an Alberta Hunt recording which is extrememly poor in recording quality in "audiophile" terms but the music making was superb and the recording succeeds in capturing that energy. That recording is one which I use to inform me quite rapidly of the ability of a system to find the music or not. Because when I'm not using my critical listening skills to judge a component, I want to have the enjoyment of the music during those times when I am simply expecting the music and its performance to transport me to another place and another level. To put it another way, one of my priorities which I hold close to the top of my must have list is the ability to not have the hifi detract from the music by drawing attention to the fact I must use a system to hear the music.

And this is where too many "audiophiles" fail at everything related to using the music to assess the value of a component. Too many times have I beeen made to sit in front of the five hundreth repetition of the clocks sequence in "Dark Side of the Moon" so a client can decide whether they sound sufficiently "hifi" enough to choose this component over that. Too many times have I had to sit listening for soundstage width and depth and imaging and palpability to name just a few. Too many times have I talked to a client whose favorite album was never played on the "B" side because all the songs that made their system sound "hifi" enough were on the first side. If you don't know how to use the music to inform you about the capabilities of the musical performance and its proper reproduction, you can only fall back on letting the music be the means to show you whether your system is doing systemlike things. You should not be listening to music and constantly judging whether your system has sufficient width and depth or whether the 3D imaging of each performer has an adequate amount of "inky blackness" between it and the next performer. That is putting the horse before the cart but it is what too many audiophiles do because that's how they see equipment being reviewed by the popular magazines and web sites. And to learn to do differently is considered too much work and too much learning. Look, you can either earn how to make an excellent marinara sauce which balances the flavor and texture of the al dente pasta and which pairs to the tanins in the wine or you can eat cold SpaghettiO's directly out of the can for your entire, short, sad and pitiful life. You get to decide which is the more fulfilling.




You should have a small handful of "reference discs" which can assist you in making decisions when decisions should be made. You should know a fair amount about those discs, enough that they are useful in assessing the music reproduction capacities of any system or component. You should use them just as you would any other diagnostic tool because that is their intent at that time. Then, once you've made your decisions, you should shut down your "critical listening" and simply enjoy the music. If you've done your part of this task well, the next time you hear a Telecaster on a recording, you'll tend to recognize the sound of a Telecaster and that will be a good thing - possibly a goosebump thing. That may be the spur which begins your education into learning which specific Les Paul Slash is playing on that specific recording. If lightbulb moments are not goosebump moments, then I'm not sure what would be. You do this not to sit and judge whether all your recordings of a Telecaster are what you should expect of a recorded Telecaster but to help you better understand why a musician might have chosen a Telecaster and not a Les Paul as the tool they use to convey their musical intent. Are you with me on this?


Let's carry that over to the next post.



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Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15869
Registered: May-04
.

Tone and timbre

http://search.yahoo.com/search?ei=utf-8&fr=slv8-hptb5&p=define%20tone%20in%20mus ic&type=


I think that page almost says it all.

You don't even have to open any of the links, just read what's on that page and you'll see that "tone" and "timbre" are interlinked and are often used to describe one another. Tone is the frequency of a specific note recognized by its frequency position. A bass tone is not a high frequency tone and a low "C" is not the same as a high "C". (And for those who listen to historically accurate recordings, an "A" tuned to 440Hz is not the same as an "A" tuned to 435 or 415Hz. And, there we run into our first stumbling block.) Tone is also timbre in that tone is the sound of a specific instrument. "Tone" is also an extremely elusive quality that top notch performers seek for decades if not all their playing life. To achieve "your tone" is a heady experience for a musician. To hear another player's tone and want to have a tone just like their's is most common. Is tone in the player? Or, in the instrument, amp, pedals, mics, etc? How would BB king sound playing a Stratocaster?

Should you be able to identify an "A" when you hear one? That's a demanding skill that probably isn't all that important to your understanding of how a musician plays. For now, let's leave that part of tone for another time. Tone quality and tonal color are closely tied to timbre in that they all combine to allow the listener the ability to, first, distinguish between a saxophone and a piano when both are playing identical notes at similar volume levels. More generally, tone and timbre are about allowing you to identify a piano as not being a saxophone no matter which notes are being played. We can all do that small bit of deduction, right? We can all say when a piano is playing and not a saxophone? If we have the ability to manage that bit of learning, how much more will it take to learn when a Steinway piano is playing and not a Baldwin? If we know 6+6=12, how much more does it take to understand 12-6=6? You have the tools already, you just need to learn how to use then properly.




The other day I happened upon a PBS broadcast of "Joe Bonamassa Live at the Royal Albert Hall"; http://search.yahoo.com/search?ei=utf-8&fr=slv8-hptb5&p=joe%20bonamassa%20live%2 0at%20the%20royal%20albert%20hall%20dvd&type= In the course of the show, JB says Clapton was his inspriration and he wouldn't be the player he is today if not for Clapton. Then Clapton walks onstage to play "Further On Down the Road" with Bonamassa. Here are two well known players, one with a Les Paul and the other with a Stratocaster. Each has a different playing style uniquely his own and each is using an instrument which uniquely facilitates that playing style and what the player is trying to get across to the listener through their performance. At one moment in the performance both are playing single note lines simultaneously, one using pentatonic scales and the other chord arpeggios. If you were at that performance, you would have heard the two players and their instruments as two distinct sounds even when they were playing the same patterns and the same notes. If you were only provided the CD - without visuals - and a decent hifi, you would expect what? To be able to distinguish each player based on the sound of their instrument alone? The sound of each player based on their stylistic performance techniques alone? That there were two guitars playing at the same time and striking identical notes and identical volume levels? Ask yourself what you would have used to distinguish between the two players had you been at the live performance and whether your system is displaying a similar fidelity to the source. If you can't tell the difference between players using one quality, can you do so using a different quality? Or, are you just relying on the picture on the front of the CD cover and thinking if the system images Clapton to the right of Bonamassa, then that must be Clapton over on that side? I'll leave it to you to decide which is the higher priority in assessing the performance of your system. But, quite obviously, if Clapton influenced Bonamassa but Bonamassa chooses to play a different instrument than does Clapton, doesn't that indicate each player chose their instrument to suit their own playing styles? That they chose their instrument to achieve what they want as their own "tone"? Doesn't that raise the priority of recognizing the sound of each instrument when the recording is going into your reference material stack?

How well does your system portray the timbre of a bass when it is playing along with a kick drum? Can you follow each line with ease or with difficulty? Or, when the bass is playing in the same range as the lead guitar? What are you hearing? Can you identify two clarinets in the orchestra? How abut the difference between the violins and the violas? Cellos and basses? These are items which account for innumerable instances in music where two or more instruments are playing together yet each should have its own character on display. Hold this against those times whan a group of instruments are playing together and their goal is to play as a unified group or force with no one instrument sounding out from the others. Knowing the violins are typically stage-right (house-left) and the violas are probably towards the center of the stage doesn't count here. Looking at the pictures of the concert won't necessarily tell you where the musicians stood or sat during a recording. Take a look at a video of a studio recording being made and compare it to the artificial imaging and soundstage placement of players across the virtual stage of your sysytem. What should you be hearing in a recording? One hundred individual voices in a massed chior or one homgenous group working together?

http://www.vocalmajority.com/fl/

Should your attention be on how groups of players shift the focus across the stage back and forth, front and back during a performance? How a drum answers the melody line or acts as short lick between verses? Using the "Skeletons" on the Emma Demo again, what's more important? Are you paying attention to the placement of the two entities in battle with each other across the stage? Or, are you listening for how well the hifi places the sounds and not concerned about the meaning of the piece? In Shostakovich's Fifth Sym., are you aware of the impending arrival of the troops and the conflict which ensues? Or, are you listening to how your system places the sounds? Are they wide enough? Deep enough? Well, what would you have heard and been aware of if this were a live performance?

I don't want this to sound like a broken record but how you go about judging music reproduction is not that same as judging how "good" a hifi is. Numerous aspects of music can only be learned through observation of the real thing. It's a little like describing "blue" to someone and actually experiencing the many shades and applications of "blue-ness".


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Silver Member
Username: Kbear

Canada

Post Number: 957
Registered: Dec-06
Haven't read the tone and timbre post yet.

I've got no aversion to learning Jan, but this stuff is a little overwhelming.

But I understand your argument. I was thinking about it from a much more unrealistic angle. I think what you are saying is know the sound and character of some of the most famous pianos and guitars and what not, and use a recording that captures these when doing an evaluation.

I was thinking if my Yamaha sounds so different than the next one up, and Yamaha makes maybe a dozen (or more) guitars, they probably all sound different. How many should I become familiar with? How many different models of Gibson and Fender guitars are there? Does one have to know all or most of them? Even if one only chooses a handful of the most popular instruments, does one have to learn about others so they can put the ones they do elect to know in the proper context? So I might know what a '59 Les Paul sounds like, but do I need to know what other Les Paul models sound like in order to better understand the '59? Do I need to know how different amps affect the sound? Etc. This probably gets back to what Holt and John A. (above) mentioned about using acoustic instruments only for evaluations. It is less complicated. But you are clearly saying one should still learn the differences among different electric guitars...and yes, I can see why. Like you said, a Les Paul should still sound like a Les Paul. There is probably a certain character that it should not be without, that other guitars lack. And vice-versa when talking about a Strat.

I have over time noticed a bit of a difference in sound between the Les Paul and a Strat. To me the Les Paul has a bit of a dingy quality, where the Strat is cleaner. I don't know if you can generalize this observation though.

But here's a serious question. Does it have to be this complicated? Is this a function of becoming a little too interested in audio? I used to enjoy music immensely without having to know all this stuff. I think I still can, and do. Music is and should be universally appreciated, and not only for those who know a Bosendorfer from a Steinway. But I grant you, the more you know, it can only enrich the experience. Like I said, I'm learning how to play, so focusing on much of what you suggest is what I intend to do.
 

Gold Member
Username: Hawkbilly

Nova Scotia Canada

Post Number: 1224
Registered: Jul-07
"Does it have to be this complicated? "

It doesn't need to be complicated, and it is really about what you want to get out of the hobby. But being really into audio without being really into music, is a bit like being really into fine cuisine without being into cooking. You can only appreciate the food at a certain level without some deeper understanding of what it took create it. If all a person is interested in is eating, so be it. If one wants to recreate the dish, appreciate the skill of the chef, or even just understand what they just ate......they need to dig a little deeper. Some people just nibble, some have an insatiable appetite.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15871
Registered: May-04
.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibonH3lA66U&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hq8pwzEmuDQ&feature=related

Explore the available links from there. You might also want to educate yourself reagarding which instruments are favored in which genre of music. You'll often see an electric Telecaster in Country but seldom a Strat or a Les Paul. Yet Telecasters are played by a wide variety of players in all genres. Jazz players will favor an archtop of the 335 style and seldom play a Strat. Yet 335 style instruments are abundant in rock/blues/metal/pop, etc. Whether someone is playing an acoustic Gibson, Martin or Taylor in Country is sometimes determined by whether they are a songwriter (Gibson), a player of other people's music (Martin) or a seventeen year old female whose name happens to be Taylor. Obviously, that's a very broad generalization but being familiar with acoustic instrument is, as John notes, somewhat less of a task than recognizing the many, many variations in amplified instruments. This was at the heart of Holt's point regarding the superiority of classical music as a reference point.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seKTp_mM24g

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4je0bkPmbE&feature=related


"Does it have to be this complicated? Is this a function of becoming a little too interested in audio? I used to enjoy music immensely without having to know all this stuff. I think I still can, and do. Music is and should be universally appreciated, and not only for those who know a Bosendorfer from a Steinway. But I grant you, the more you know, it can only enrich the experience. Like I said, I'm learning how to play, so focusing on much of what you suggest is what I intend to do."



Remember when to turn off your critical listening and just enjoy the music. If you are always being critical, either you're interested in more than just the basic sound of a Les Paul or you are wasting much of your time listening to music while not hearing the actual performance. For example, jazz is too often taken to a level where the "highbrow" reviewer is over intellectualizing the performance or the composition. This doesn't facilitate the less well informed or the causal listener's experimentation into a style which intimidates them before they begin. So know when to just take in the music and when to be more intent on what you are perceiving.


IMO Chris provided a good answer to your questions, Dan. You don't have to know very much to buy something. But go back to your op in this thread and your subsequent statements and where are you? You're thinking maybe you'll try tubes but you'll hear some solid state. Your old and, I assume, far less expensive system used to provide the excitement you favor but now your more expensive system doesn't. You're listening with intent to hear what your system is doing. The way I read that is you've focussed on the gear and you believe or think tubes will add some flavoring to the music that you won't find in solid state. Or class A operation will do something that class AB won't. You're setting priorities which have nothing to do with the actual performance of music while most good and enduring audio designers are basing their product's capabilites on their concept of how music sounds to them. IMO, when anyone pays attention to the gear's performance instead of the player's performance, they are buying the "hifi" I mentioned earlier and they will always be on the lookout for the next hifi that does something better than their present hifi. You're thinking a fish eye lens will give you better pictures. If your hobby is more about the gear than the music or the photographs, that's your decision and I am not going to criticize anyone who goes through a couple of systems a year if they can afford to do so. I made a living off several people who did just that. Where I prefer to reside is at a location where I can walk into any audio store and within a few minutes listening to any piece of music I can make a few basic judgements which tell me I might want to devote more time to this system or that I can walk away. I can listen to a high priced system and a low priced system and determine where the diminishing returns exist. Having sold far more expensive systems than I could ever afford to own, I wanted to be able to listen to music played through a system of the highest pedigree and then still come home to my own music and recognize how it succeeds based on the same priorities as what I had demonstrated and enjoyed just a few hours earlier. As they say, YMMV.

No one ever has to take my advice or even my thoughts as anything more than what they are. I had numerous clients who walked out of the store and probably purchased a system from someone else who had just shown them gear and had told them what they had just heard and that what they had just heard was a better hifi than what they had. I worked with people who sold like that. That was fine, I tried to explain what I was selling in a manner I thought was useful. If the client disagreed, they were free to go elsewhere or to just simply ignore me and buy based on what they heard from the system. I do recognize that my priorities are not necessarilly the priorities of most other listeners I've encountered.

What I am posting here are my thoughts on how to listen to music reproduced through a system. If you have no reference for how to listen for the music and the performance and you want a less complicated experience, you can listen in the way that best suits your desires. My priorities are my own and shouldn't be assumed to be anyone else's. Music, for the most part, should be uncomplicated and should just happen. But, if you're buying a system based on how well the system does those things that a system does, don't be surprised when you get it home and you find it isn't allowing the music to just exist.

Along the lines of Chris' answer, when I go to a new restaurant, I have certain dishes I will try before I venture into their full menu. I know how I would prepare them and I have an idea of what I am expecting based on my other experiences with other good restaurants. A good Italian cook should be able to pull off a satisfying marinara over pasta - the most basic of all Italian dishes. A Mexican meal of guiso should be rich and tender due to the long, low simmering times, tasteful and just a little fatty due to the lower priced cuts of meat being used. If a hamburger isn't served with what I consider to be the right style of French Fry cooked to the right degree of doneness, I won't be back. We all make subjective judgements all day, every day. Read a few of the more articulate comments under those guitar demos I linked to. Not everyone agrees and that allows a wide diversity to what is available. A single Martin doesn't sound like every other Martin and to a player who listens and who has developed their own style to a sufficient degree to care about the details of a guitar each change in how an instrument is built and how it has aged will make subtle differences in its tone and playability for their style of playing. http://search.yahoo.com/search?ei=utf-8&fr=slv8-hptb5&p=guitar%20tonewoods%20sou nd&type= and http://search.yahoo.com/search?ei=utf-8&fr=slv8-hptb5&p=guitar%20neck%20profiles &type= Beware that musicians are also in a search for something elusive and all too often they will become focussed on the gear, buying this and that and exchanging one instrument for another while enver being satisfied. And then there are the players who are like the proverbial music lover who has held onto the same equipment for twenty five years because it makes them happy.

Do you need to listen for all of this vs. just listening for how well a tube amp images when compared to a solid state amp? That's up to you. Me? I pay attention when the time is right to whether I'm being offered an aged Parmessiano Regianno from a block or whether there's a bowl full of "Parmessan" with "cellulose powder" included as an anti-caking ingredient. Don't recognize "cellulose"? Read the section on "tonewoods" again; http://www.answers.com/topic/cellulose

You get to decide what's best for you and how much effort you care to put into any endeavor. If you play your guitar 15 mins a day, in two years time you'll not be as far in your skill development as someone who played one hour per day. If you play for only thirty minutes a day for five days a week but have the intention of learning something every time you pick up the instrument, you'll be further along that someone who plays the same old things they already know for two hours a day. Playing only what you already know is like picking a hifi based only on what is easy to discern about the hifi. Listening to music to learn how BB King bends a string is far different than just listening to music. Recognizing "some high-frequency roughness in upper-register passages" is not the same as understanding "playing off the riffs of the horn section versus blowing over the top. Many of B.B. King's licks come out of nowhere at the end of the horn parts. Other times you can hear B.B. 'comping' simple licks to the groove of the horn section." There's a time when hearing how a string is bent will become more important to you. When that time comes, you'll know it and you'll be able to use the knowledge you've acquired. Until you've learned how to play a few scales and get a grip on how to not make it sound as if you're just playing scale patterns, then you don't need to spend all that much time deciding whether BB King or Eric Clapton has the better vibrato.

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Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15872
Registered: May-04
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Dynamics

http://search.yahoo.com/search?ei=utf-8&fr=slv8-hptb5&p=define%20dynamics%20in%2 0music&type=

http://search.yahoo.com/search?ei=utf-8&fr=slv8-hptb5&p=define%20macro-dynamics% 20in%20music&type=

http://search.yahoo.com/search?ei=utf-8&fr=slv8-hptb5&p=define%20micro-dynamics% 20in%20music&type=

We all know "macro" dynamics but too often ignore the "micro" dynamics of a performance. BB King's "The Thrill is Gone" uses both to great effect. There's a link to a later performance of this song above, compare it to an earlier version played here; http://www.amazon.com/Live-Cook-County-Jail-B-B/dp/B0000062Y5

I don't think there should be much to say about this topic. If you're unsure about the terminology and how it applies to music and its performance, do a bit of reading and listening. It is far more important IMO that a capable music system be able to convey the "why" and the "how" of a performer dropping down to microdynamic levels than playing the loudest notes without strain. That's not to say I am willing to allow the system to clip the amp or to compress the dynamics on loud passages, but that for the vast majority of music I listen to, what occurs at the lower end of the volume scale is far more important than the occasional burst of volume. Yes, I listen to the big Telarc drum thwack at the opening of "Fanfare For a Common Man" on the Emma Demo CD. But I also listen as that drum quiets down as the music begins to flow. To repeat, music is a language and when someone is shouting at me I listen in a different way than when someone leans in to whisper. Punctuation in reading is similar to dymanics in music. The difference between a period and a comma is significant. Whether a sentence ends in an up note or a down note is of value to determining the intent of the speaker.

Without repeating too much of what I've posted above, how a player strikes a string - whether they choose a pick or their fingers; if a pick, with the side of a heavy pick or flat on with a thin pick - there is intent behind their action. How does their intent affect the communication they project for me to respond to? http://search.yahoo.com/search?ei=utf-8&fr=slv8-hptb5&p=flatpicking%20vs%20crosspicking&type=

Suffice it to say nuance, subtlety, intent and communication are on my list of priorities. They are far more important to me than detail retrieval for the sake of detail. When a player is using the tools they've picked up from another musician, it is their phrasing techniques which often get the most attention.
http://search.yahoo.com/search;_ylt=A0oGdUkIl0lN0EIB72hXNyoA?ei=UTF-8&fr=slv8-hp tb5&p=louis+armstrong%2Fphrasing&SpellState=&fr2=sp-top


"Throughout my career, if I have done anything, I have paid attention to every note and every word I sing-if I respect the song. If I cannot project this to a listener, I fail."
-Frank Sinatra
http://search.yahoo.com/search?ei=utf-8&fr=slv8-hptb5&p=frank%20sinatra%2fphrasi ng&type=


Please read and, if you have questions, ask them. IMO either you get this or you do not.


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Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15873
Registered: May-04
.

First, get the midrange right

OK, so what's "right" mean? Well, you get to form your own opinions here but classically certain components - most of all speakers - have been recognized for their midrange capabilites and their ability to convey the structure, texture and nuance of the human voice. As we've noted in another thread, the British speakers which came from the "BBC school" of design were famous for this quality. IMO they lost a bit of that when the major British speaker manufacturers shifted their attention to the more lucrative US market and, for example, KEF's started sounding more like JBL's. This is at the heart of the "national" sound of various components.

None the less, this is the frequency band where the human ear is most sensitive. Babies recognize and respond to their mother's voice more readily and in a different manner than they will to a stranger's voice. Anyone can pick out a familiar voice on the telephone without hearing the name on the other end of the ine. Take away the leading edge of those words and individual sounds and the job is much more difficult.

You should be aware of how a voice sounds in your room. What size is the voice? What texture does it contain? How does the same voice change in another room? Take a pocket radio with a small speaker tuned to a voice only channel and carry it from room to room while listening for what the room is doing to your perception of a voice. Carry it from outside to inside. Change channels to another voice and repeat the sequence. What compensations should you be making and expecting in a recording after doing this experiment? What compensations should you expect from the fact you must use a microphone to capture a voice for playback through an audio system? To obtain the correct midrange qualities you desire, what other compensations might you need to make in your system set up?

"With the aid of a friend who does not mind feeling foolish, place yourself in the target listening position while your assistant speaks in a moderately loud voice at constant level, projecting into the room. Alternatively, use your own voice and walk in similar patterns listen to how your voice interacts with the room. Give it a few tries and listening very hard you will know what it is about. I did it all by myself... ; http://www.tnt-audio.com/casse/waspe.html



Once again, there's no real need for me to go on and on about this, you either get it or you don't or you don't care. If you need more clarification, please ask. This is, however, the starting point for all of the other priorities I use in listening to music.



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Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15874
Registered: May-04
.

I've gone through a half dozen qualities which I feel are important to my enjoyment of music and of a music system. More specifically for the purpose of this thread, these are qualities which allow me to suspend a bit of disbelief in the fact I have to listen through a system to hear music. Take them and use them as you see fit. Learning is not always easy but most of you probably learned to identify "imaging" and "inky blackness" though there had been a time when those words meant nothing to you. Learning to recognize dynamics - large and small - then is no more difficult. Same for all the other qualities I've mentioned. Understanding how and why a musician employs these qualities is a far more valuable asset than knowing how to describe "organic" sound from a system (which by the way, no one even took a stab at). IMO if you are using the music to come to decisions about the value of a component or a system, then you are comparing those things which do not change over time or as a fad of the moment. If, in the meantime, your system displays "palpable presence", that's fine too as long as you have covered the bases with the music beforehand. If your system can convey the language of the perormer without you having to struggle to understand what is being said, then you will have the ability to judge any component or system with any music. When you hear a string bent with precision, you might just get a goosebump or two. Most importantly, IMO you will not be wasting your time and your money trying to find a system that has better "soundstage".


Questions?


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Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15875
Registered: May-04
.

https://www.ecoustics.com/electronics/products/reviews/156699.html

https://www.ecoustics.com/electronics/products/reviews/186180.html

https://www.ecoustics.com/electronics/products/reviews/209464.html


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Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15879
Registered: May-04
.

Art Dudley's 2005 review:

Listening
I used the Exposure in my primary system, replacing the Fi preamplifier and Lamm ML2.1 monoblock amplifiers that usually drive my Quad ESL-989 loudspeakers. When it came time to play LPs on my Linn LP12, I added a Linn Linto phono preamplifier. (Exposure offers a phono preamp card for the 2010S, available in moving-magnet and moving-coil versions, but that $195 option wasn't available for this review. I'll try one as soon as it gets here, with the hope of describing its performance in a future issue.)

The first piece of music I listened to through the Exposure 2010S was Brahms' Clarinet Quintet in B Minor, Op.115, albeit a different version from the one mentioned in this issue's "Listening." This one was recorded by Charles Neidich and the Juilliard String Quartet (CD, Sony S2K 66285). For the first minute or two, through the admittedly un-broken-in Exposure, the music was so unlike my expectations that I didn't know what to think. I had begun with the second movement, the Adagio, because that's what I wanted most to hear at that moment--and the different instrumental voices overlapped one another in a way I wasn't used to hearing, sounding just a bit imprecise in their timing. But my mind floundered: Either this amp was a bit off, or it was exposing the imperfectness, the humanness, of the performance in a way that nothing else I've used recently has managed. I couldn't say what was what.

Not only that, but some of the sounds--especially the clarinet itself--were limned with a light sonic underline that I wasn't used to hearing, although it wasn't at all unpleasant. Again, I'm describing the sound of a brand-new 2010S right out of the box: I decided not to think about it too much, but rather to let the thing warm up.

But temptation got the better of me, and that very evening I tried another disc--not to put the Exposure through its paces, whatever they may be, but because I was in the mood to hear something more: my mono disc of Jascha Heifetz playing the Elgar Violin Concerto in 1949, on Naxos' great archival series (CD, Naxos Historical 8.110939). I didn't even sit right in front of the speakers--just wanted to hear the music, not the sound. But like it or not, I was pulled to the sweet seat within seconds: Even from several feet away, I could hear that this relatively cheap solid-state amp was pulling Heifetz's solo violin away from the rest of the orchestra--endowing it with great emotional meaning, even pulling the sound of the instrument itself forward and away--in a manner that nothing, and I mean nothing else in my experience has. In other words, it was playing this mono recording as if it had two channels: the important one, and the even more important one.

Was this thing broken, or was it actually righter than everything else? I could see no middle ground.

Careening back to the world of stereo, again using that Linn Linto phono preamp to feed one of the Exposure's line input pairs, I tried Jascha Heifetz's recording, with Brooks Smith, of Beethoven's "Kreutzer" sonata (LP, RCA LSC-2577). I was astounded. The famous Heifetz technique and tone leaped off the vinyl, and while the overall sound and presentation were a shade more forward than what I get with my own tubed separates, there was still plenty of dramatic headroom, if you will, for when the music got even more intense. Smith's piano came through with unusual strength and wit, with beautifully realistic purr and die-away at the quiet end of things--something that only a great amp can tease from this usually taciturn record.

That was just the first evening I used the 2010S.

I left the Exposure powered up overnight and got right back to listening the next morning. That light limning of the sound was now gone, although the sound of the amp was still remarkably clear, uncolored, and wide, wide open--and remains so today, weeks later. The mildly forward quality of the 2010S remained, but not unpleasantly so. When it played the human voice, the Exposure thought it was a single-ended tube amp. On Hot Rize's beautiful live version of Hazel Dickens' "Won't You Come and Sing for Me," from So Long of a Journey (CD, Sugar Hill SUG-CD 3943, footnote 2), the three singers sounded every bit as present, whole, and human as through my Lamm megablocks--the musical lines themselves were every bit as involving and emotionally satisfying. Yet throughout the song, Nick Forster's understated electric bass line was quick, surefooted, and, again, believable.

And I had to marvel at the way this affordable little amp revealed elements of Forster's technique--the way he held back and damped the notes during the vocal lines, then played them with more sustain at the ends of each line and during the instrumental breaks. As far as the latter was concerned, the timing of the notes in Charles Sawtelle's cross-picked guitar solo was simply perfect: there was no lack of momentum, and plenty of the right kind of tension in the way the Exposure played the always-unpredictable Sawtelle's last break in the song.

And so it went, disc after disc, for many days straight. I had to make an effort to pick the thing apart, and when I did, I could note only a few relative shortcomings: No, it doesn't sound quite as liquid as a good tube amplifier, and no, it doesn't retrieve all the instrumental textures that a good SET will. Nor did the 75Wpc Exposure really sound as dramatic, as potentially surprising, as my 20Wpc Lamms.

What surprised me was my own reaction: Every time I sat down to listen with the Exposure 2010S in my system, it pulled me in and made me smile; every time I tried to play it while I was doing something else, it made me sit down.

http://www.stereophile.com/integratedamps/1105exposure/


Compare his reviewing style above to another Exposure product reviewed three years later; http://www.stereophile.com/content/exposure-3010s-integrated-amplifier-page-2


You tell me which you think is the more informative and the more interesting review.



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Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15880
Registered: May-04
.

I had a problem with this link in post 15872. If you had similar problems, here it is again in a different form. The comments are IMO worth reading to capture the idea of phrasing;

http://www.jazzsingers.com/FrankSinatra/


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Gold Member
Username: Magfan

USA

Post Number: 2092
Registered: Oct-07
I even love Sinatra movies!
The original 'The Manchurian Candidate' was first class thruout, hitting every note as perfectly as if Sinatra himself had sung it.
 

Silver Member
Username: Kbear

Canada

Post Number: 958
Registered: Dec-06
If you were only provided the CD - without visuals - and a decent hifi, you would expect what? To be able to distinguish each player based on the sound of their instrument alone? The sound of each player based on their stylistic performance techniques alone? That there were two guitars playing at the same time and striking identical notes and identical volume levels? Ask yourself what you would have used to distinguish between the two players had you been at the live performance and whether your system is displaying a similar fidelity to the source. If you can't tell the difference between players using one quality, can you do so using a different quality? Or, are you just relying on the picture on the front of the CD cover and thinking if the system images Clapton to the right of Bonamassa, then that must be Clapton over on that side? I'll leave it to you to decide which is the higher priority in assessing the performance of your system

Imaging has never been a huge deal for me. The Tannoys image like nothing I've ever heard before in my room. I think it's great, and I enjoy it, but it's rarely a goosebump maker. More like, "wow, that was cool", and then moving on. I think what I like about it most is that, in placing things so precisely, the speakers are a lot more revealing of what is happening in the music. I can hear everything clearly, I figure because the speakers are so great at giving each instrument what feels like it's own place on the stage. it's pretty easy to tell two guitars apart when one is coming from the left and the other from the right, or even from the same side but in what sounds like it's own place. Now how an image is cast will depend mostly on the recording, but I figure certain speakers can present that bit of detail better than others.

To answer your question, you tell the two guitarists apart by both their tone and their playing styles. Knowing GN'R as well as I do, I can most often tell who is playing. There have been several guitarists in and out of the band (since Slash left). They each have a certain way they play the instrument, and their own tone. Some are easier to recognize than others. I can relate to this. I think perhaps their sounds are sufficiently different enough that it's not that tough to tell them apart. Perhaps more subtly different players would require a better system and better ear.

How well does your system portray the timbre of a bass when it is playing along with a kick drum? Can you follow each line with ease or with difficulty? Or, when the bass is playing in the same range as the lead guitar? What are you hearing? Can you identify two clarinets in the orchestra? How abut the difference between the violins and the violas? Cellos and basses? These are items which account for innumerable instances in music where two or more instruments are playing together yet each should have its own character on display.

I think the Tannoys are great at this. Again, the overall sound is very balanced and clear. When their are different vocalists singing, or different instruments playing, it's very easy to hear every part. Probably in part because the speakers place everything so precisely.

But the placement in itself isn't what I really care about. I think I'm too focused on hearing details and I'm just in evaluation mode too much. So I'm trying to loosen up a bit while listening.

What I think gets me to react to the music is usually melody, the way the music moves, the changes. To me that is the system being able to convey the momentum in a song. Also dynamics, of course. And tone, namely a richness and warmth to the sound - perhaps ultimately a coloration, and not what much of this thread is about. To me much of what we've discussed is about accuracy, which is the side on which Holt comes down. Atkinson seems to be more about listening pleasure, with accuracy taking a backseat if necessary. But I've a feeling this relates to your midrange priority. Perhaps midrange accuracy brings with it some of the warmth and richness in the mids that many talk about. Could it be that when something like a crossover interferes with the mids, it manifests itself in a more brittle sound? You focused quite a bit on voice...is it just voice though? Much of the music also lies in the midrange.

But what the heck. Some of my favourite GN'R songs are garbage sound quality demos, and I have no problem finding the music with these. For example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48f_-XQ6oKo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi2Kvhy5X-k

To me there should be a powerful message in being able to enjoy immensely such poor quality recordings.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15883
Registered: May-04
.

"To me there should be a powerful message in being able to enjoy immensely such poor quality recordings."



What's the message you think should be there?

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Gold Member
Username: John_a

LondonU.K.

Post Number: 4852
Registered: Dec-03
Comment from aside.

Jan:
Understanding how and why a musician employs these qualities is a far more valuable asset than knowing how to describe "organic" sound from a system (which by the way, no one even took a stab at).

John C. Guenther, letter to Stereophile following the Holt-Atkinson debate :
Music, like all major forms of creative expression, is organic, which is to say it develops, flowers, declines, and dies.
http://www.stereophile.com/content/acoustical-standard-follow-letters-4
 

Silver Member
Username: Kbear

Canada

Post Number: 959
Registered: Dec-06
I'm not sure I had a fully formed thought when I typed that, Jan. I'm sure we've all heard poor recordings that nevertheless managed to hold our interest. These recordings compromise tone and timbre, dynamics, accuracy, balanced sound, soundstanging, detail, and all the rest. And yet, it still works. And we've all, I'm sure, been disappointed with the sound we were getting with our expensive systems at certain points. The hi fi can sometimes get in the way. It may be a set up issue, choice of components, how it makes us listen, or perhaps that we expect perfection and when we don't get it we focus on the bad.

How much of the music gets through in that first demo, as a percentage? I think this is an interesting question. I think it's probably around 90%, if not more. I hear a song. I can understand the vocals. I can follow the melody, I can tap my foot to the beat, etc.
 

Silver Member
Username: Kbear

Canada

Post Number: 960
Registered: Dec-06
It sounds like Guenther was making an analogy, rather than using "organic" as a descriptive word.

If I had to define it, I would say it is something that sounds real. Much of today's music (mostly pop/rock I'm sure) does not sound organic, using things like auto tune and pro tools. There is a very artificial feel to the sound. No matter which system you play this through it will sound like crap! And I believe it will likely sound better on a lesser quality system. The digital glare of some of the earlier CD players is another example. Vinyl can often sound more organic than CD, though that is not to discount well recorded CDs played through high quality CD players. The best CDs I have offer remarkable sound quality.

I think if you get the midrange right, and tone/timbre too, you'll stand a very good chance of having a system that sounds organic most of the time.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15884
Registered: May-04
.

"Imaging has never been a huge deal for me. The Tannoys image like nothing I've ever heard before in my room. I think it's great, and I enjoy it, but it's rarely a goosebump maker."


Who said it should be? Why would you think it might be? For the music you're listening to, it's all made up in the studio anyway. A little pan-pot here and a touch of chorus effect there and a multitrack recording becomes a soundstage with images in it. Any one of the images could have been placed somewhere else on - or even off - that soundstage and your system's just pulling off a trick about as difficult as asking Wolfgang Puck to boil an egg.


"Now how an image is cast will depend mostly on the recording, but I figure certain speakers can present that bit of detail better than others."


That wasn't what I was discussing when I made the example of a Les Paul and a Stratocaster playing together on stage. Or, in a sense, it was. If you're dependent on the system to have the two instruments occupy two locations on stage by way of imaging, then you've just handed the recording engineer a microphone and a mixing channel for each violin in the orchestra. Or for each back up vocalist, or each piece of gear on a drumset. If you take away those extra microphones and channels, can you still identify the individual instruments and vocalists? How?


""Does it have to be this complicated? Is this a function of becoming a little too interested in audio? I used to enjoy music immensely without having to know all this stuff. I think I still can, and do. Music is and should be universally appreciated, and not only for those who know a Bosendorfer from a Steinway."


"To answer your question, you tell the two guitarists apart by both their tone and their playing styles. Knowing GN'R as well as I do, I can most often tell who is playing."


OK, you've applied the technique to one group. Now add another group and another group and then begin to recognize not only individuals within known groups but also the instrument that's being played and how one player's style varies from another player's style. Is this always going to be goosebump inducing stuff? Probably not, but as you learn more and understand even more you often shift from thrill seeking to passion about what it is you enjoy. In other words, you mature. You begin to have photographs and not just snapshots. Familiarity even provides the knowledge of what is about to happen and the anticipation and satisfaction, the tension and release, of the event which is another sort of goosebump all together. You might say you are buying a better audio system not to provide the left/right imaging view of the event but to provide a cleaner, clearer vision and insight into the actions occurring within the event itself.


"I think I'm too focused on hearing details and I'm just in evaluation mode too much. So I'm trying to loosen up a bit while listening."


What do you suppose has put you in a perpetual evaluation mode? Are you constantly comparing the sound you are getting to what you suppose some magazine reviewer is hearing from better or just different gear?

I gave up on audio reviews some time back. They weren't telling me anything I found worth my time. The other day I went to TNT and Positive Feedback looking for a review of a tube amplifier I had come across by chance. It took about four reviews and I'd once again had my fill of audio journalism. "Stop reading that crap, Dan, they're just enabling the pushers." Hooray for the free market, down with those who glorify its excesses with excessive drivel.


"To me much of what we've discussed is about accuracy, which is the side on which Holt comes down. Atkinson seems to be more about listening pleasure, with accuracy taking a backseat if necessary."


To me you've sided with Atkinson because he doesn't insist you listen to classical music.

You're not the first.

IMO JA's reviews are mostly about his perceived accuracy of the event and not so much about emotion. http://www.stereophile.com/floorloudspeakers/208kef/index.html If Holt became less and less of a force within Stereophile it was in part due to his insistence upon the absolutes of music where Atkinson can have philosophical relativism about too many things. Many listeners who, for whatever reason, found classical music not their cup of tea were obviously relieved to find the demands on their skills had been lowered a considerable amount by the coming of Atkinson. http://www.stereophile.com/floorloudspeakers/208kef/index.html and they dearly missed Corey Greenberg when he left for greener pastures;
Corey Greenberg Revisited - And You Think Gordon Holt Was Funny??
Posted: December 16, 2009 - 7:01am
"One of the nice things about being an Audio columnist is that I can not only strongly encourage but also grant full diplomatic immunity to any reader of this magazine who suddently lunges forward and violently karate-kicks the next audiocreep who repeats that age-old hi-fi lie about how only people who regularly attend live music events can accurately judge the sound of audio gear.

"I have been hearing the elitist line ever since I got into this hobby, and it's time to put it to rest once and for all. Because it's just plain wrong. If it weren't, then all the reviewers in the high end who get up on their hind legs about how they regularly 'condition' their ears with live music would be at the top of their game, and the fact of the matter is most of these guys are clowns. Earnest, yes, but a clown can be earnest, too. He's just got to paint a frown on his month instead of a smile and carry a wilted, oversize prop daisy in a cracked pot (at least according to some carnies I run with).

"The fact is, simply exposing yourself to live music on a regular basis does not enhance your listening ability one iota......."

"Front Row" by Corey Greenberg, Audio, August 1999

"As we wind up this millenium,we've come to a point in the half century history of hi-fi where most reviewers are so much dumber than the vast majority of their readers that their opinions are actually taken to mean the opposite of what the're supposed to. So instead of reading hi-fi reviews nowadays,we mostly decode them.

"Like it or not, we're living in the era of the 'Bizarro Reviews'. The term takes its name from the Bizarro World, a time-warp zone in the Superman comic books where everything is bass-ackwards: Bizarro dogs meow while Bizarro cats bark, Bizarro rain falls upward and Roberto Benigni wins the Academy Award for Best Actor. 'Me am so happy!' a sad-faced denizen of the Bizarro World will pout, displaying not only the opposite meaning af many high end reviews these days but also their unique prose style...."

"Auricle" by Corey Greenberg June 1999








Indeed, Holt was not above preaching to his students who had ignored his advice and who had purchased systems based on only those tracks of "pop" music which made any system sound good; http://www.stereophi le.com/floorloudspeakers/416/index.html


"But I've a feeling this relates to your midrange priority. Perhaps midrange accuracy brings with it some of the warmth and richness in the mids that many talk about. Could it be that when something like a crossover interferes with the mids, it manifests itself in a more brittle sound? You focused quite a bit on voice...is it just voice though? Much of the music also lies in the midrange."


"I'm sure it's all in the implementation ... "



"Stop thinking about what's in the amp and concentrate on what's in the room and what part of it is getting inside your head. Dan, you once had a far more reasoned approach to all of this BS. Now, look at you! you've gone and got yourself some kind of fancy education!


They're lying to you, Dan. Stop reading that crap."


And, no, it's not just the voice. "First, get the midrange right." Period!


"But what the heck. Some of my favourite GN'R songs are garbage sound quality demos, and I have no problem finding the music with these. For example:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48f_-XQ6oKo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi2Kvhy5X-k

To me there should be a powerful message in being able to enjoy immensely such poor quality recordings."



First, I'd say those aren't all that poor when it comes to recording quality, just simple and not overly produced. The Grateful Dead bootlegs approach poor sound quality; http://www.archive.org/details/gd1985-03-24.nak300.morris.106780.flac16

Second, if you can enjoy the music when you consider the audio qualities to be lacking, why are you having difficulty ignoring what the system is doing on other recordings? Do you feel you've purchased a system that demands your attention on it and not on the music?

"The hi fi can sometimes get in the way. It may be a set up issue, choice of components, how it makes us listen, or perhaps that we expect perfection and when we don't get it we focus on the bad."


I don't get the idea of how a system "makes" you listen. Listen for what?





http://www.stereophile.com/musicrecordings/907att/





.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15885
Registered: May-04
.

"Much of today's music (mostly pop/rock I'm sure) does not sound organic, using things like auto tune and pro tools. There is a very artificial feel to the sound. No matter which system you play this through it will sound like crap! And I believe it will likely sound better on a lesser quality system."



So, let me get this straight; today's music sounds artificial and not organic? Due mostly to it's reliance on electronic devices? But the music you enjoy does not sound artificial even though it is made with electronic instruments which lack a specific sonic fingerprint when they are run through the various electronic devices employed in their production? Slash using one of his dozen or more Les Pauls through a 10 band eq and a wah pedal is "organic"?

http://search.yahoo.com/search?ei=utf-8&fr=slv8-hptb5&p=slash%27s%20guitar%20set%20up&type=


Compare this to the Stereophile article previously linked to, "There's nothing intrinsically bad about electronically produced music, as long as it doesn't try to imitate acoustical instruments (which it does poorly). On the other hand, it has no relevance to the audio concept of fidelity or accuracy or realism, because it has no existence in non-electronic reality. You cannot hear it except through amplifiers and loudspeakers, and to use the sound of amplifiers and loudspeakers for the evaluation of amplifiers and loudspeakers is ridiculous.

One of the attractions of electronic music is the almost limitless variety of sounds that can be gotten from a single "instrument," through what is called signal processing. But this means there is no longer any such thing as the "correct" sound for any instrument, and without that, there can be no way of judging what a musical sound is supposed to sound like."


How far are you from saying exactly what Holt was saying? Don't both sentiments boil down to, "The music I enjoy is good music, not like today's music"?



.
 

Silver Member
Username: Kbear

Canada

Post Number: 961
Registered: Dec-06
I don't get the idea of how a system "makes" you listen. Listen for what?

It makes us listen too intently. Or perhaps it makes me listen too intently. And probably hundreds of other people too.

I don't think I've sided with JA because it allows me not to listen to classical music. But perhaps subconsciously that is part of it. It seems to me that he is putting the goosebump factor above other things, such as accuracy. His point is that music should be enjoyable, even if it's not accurate. That makes sense to me. We listen to our systems to get caught up in the music. If music is presented accurately, yet for some reason it does not grab our attention, then something is wrong. If it is inaccurate (perhaps like that Dynaco amp you mentioned???) but does grab our attention, then who cares! I'll listen to it. Obviously, having both things would be best, but I could certainly live with the engagement over accuracy, though I'm afraid not the reverse.

And what of the fact that out of 20 speakers, they will all sound different. So surely only one can be considered accurate. It's just as easy then to chase accuracy as it is imaging. There is probably always a more accurate speaker out there than the one you have. The same could be said of amps and sources. But like you said Jan, at some point you have to be happy with what you've got. The system should play music...it should sound like it, and it should pull you into it. Once you have that, it's a keeper, and you can certainly audition other gear as part of the system, but to replace a component would have to mean the new component is a real improvement over the old.

In terms of organic sound, point taken. Certainly, playing an acoustic guitar vs. an electric, the acoustic could be viewed as more organic. But this isn't a black and white thing in my mind, it's more a long spectrum with organic on one side and inorganic on the other. I've got nothing against today's music (well, some of it maybe, but that's not important). I listen to a decent amount of new music. If you compare the 2nd GN'R demo I posted to the final version of the song (which I'll link to below) - the demo is much more organic. The final version has, frankly, too much crammed into the mix and there isn't enough room for the song to breathe. Now that's not strictly what I said organic meant in my last post, but the song just sounds overly processed.

I think messing around with vocals by using electronic tools is a lot worse (to my ear at least) than is using an electric guitar or a keyboard. You expect that kind of sound on a guitar or keyboard, it's even pleasant and still manages to sound natural, but when applied to the human voice it does not sound right at all. I do not mind very limited use of these tools, to add effect to a small part of a song, but that's about it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-7XhwncxP8

Thanks for the Grateful Dead link. I often listen to GN'R concert bootlegs, some of which are truly terrible quality like that Grateful Dead show. Of course, I prefer the ones that are directly captured on the soundboard, but it's still interesting to hear an awful recording if you can get a sense of what the show was like.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15886
Registered: May-04
.

"I don't get the idea of how a system "makes" you listen. Listen for what?"

"It makes us listen too intently. Or perhaps it makes me listen too intently. And probably hundreds of other people too."




Ahhhh, the music system made you do it!

What other inanimate objects do you have, Dan, which make you do things?




As I think about that, I'm not sure whether you should have a frank discussion with your system or the other way around.






.
 

Silver Member
Username: Kbear

Canada

Post Number: 962
Registered: Dec-06
You know what I mean! Of course it's my fault and my doing. Kind of like the camera thing though. Buy a cheap camera and you're probably not going to analyze little things like detail and color saturation. Buy an expensive one and there's a chance you'll get caught up in all that, unless you know that stuff is really not what it's about.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15887
Registered: May-04
.

Yes, I've told the stories many times about the symphony conductor I had as a client. He never actually bought anything from me, he couldn't see the point in buying expensive audio gear when he didn't really notice any improvements - even in speakers. He only used me for small items and to do some service on his Pioneer rack system with the two speakers at diagonal corners (in the corners, mind you) of his 25' wide room. Certainly there are other musicians and conductors who own exceptionally fine and well set up systems but he claimed to hear all he needed to know from that system. Trying to explain soundstage to him was like trying to explain fine wine to a drunk. On many occasions I watched him conduct the various orchestras he liked as they played through that system.

I have to take exception with your photography analogy though. Once you learn or understand why you shouldn't have a flagpole growing out of anyone's head, it doesn't matter what camera you use. It's all a matter of knowing where to look and being conscious of what to ignore - what's important and what's not. You might call it being aware of the value of your subject more than the value of your camera and lens.


"I don't think I've sided with JA because it allows me not to listen to classical music. But perhaps subconsciously that is part of it. It seems to me that he is putting the goosebump factor above other things, such as accuracy. His point is that music should be enjoyable, even if it's not accurate. That makes sense to me. We listen to our systems to get caught up in the music. If music is presented accurately, yet for some reason it does not grab our attention, then something is wrong. If it is inaccurate (perhaps like that Dynaco amp you mentioned???) but does grab our attention, then who cares! I'll listen to it. Obviously, having both things would be best, but I could certainly live with the engagement over accuracy, though I'm afraid not the reverse."


IMO you sort of missed the point of the Dynaco story. Why was the ST70 so popular? Lots of reasons - one being it was cheap enough for the average music lover or audiophile to buy and still have money for other components or to not have to explain to his wife why he blew an entire month's pay on an amplifier like he would have had he purchased a $349 Mac tube amp in 1961. But, as far as budget amps go, it had some magic to it, it got the mids pretty much right and it never failed to inject the music with some life. That tradition of a budget "giant killer" has always been a staple of audio, it has never been a reality when you get down to it but it has always been something someone thought they had found. The low powered T amps are good at the same sort of dose of the high end on a beer budget. Not the same sound as the ST70, but the same idea.

If you had the cash back in 1961, would you - should you - have done the Mac or the Marantz instead? Of course! They were far more accurate and still did the music right and then some compared to the Dyna. So, yes, I'll take the music over the hifi and I'll take the music over uber-accuracy but, given the opportunity, I'd rather have both musical capabilities and a good sized chunk of accuracy as I perceive it. Could I live with a pair of Wilson Watts when they can provide sufficient detail to inform the listener of the brand of cigarettes the bass player is smoking? Not for an afternoon, they tend to bore me after the first few minutes. Sort of like the blues band I heard last night, they were a good tight band but they were a band who always settled into the same groove and their sound was mostly just a mash up of loud and louder. After a short while I was wasting my time with them and it ended up being a concert I won't much remember because I was already looking for a break to sneak out when they said, "Goodnight". Accurate hifi can be the same way, always the same face on the music and after you've figured out what it has to give, you loose interest in everything else.

That was a strange concert in that it was a "celebration" of Robert Johnson's 100th birthyear. Hubert Sumlin and James Cotten are on this tour with a much younger band. Sumlin is a blues guitar legend. When Howlin' Wolf went to London for a recording session with some of the young (at that time) British electric blues players, Clapton refused to play on the date unless Sumlin was there. If you know the "Smokestack Lightnin" riff, that's Sumlin; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPCPm0FPNk8 Sumlin is 80 years old and only played on three songs last night. But every time he touched a string it was a completely different sound that came out of the speakers - the man has "tone" oozing out of his fingers! So for an entire concert I'll remember a few dozens bars of music played by a legend.

What happened with the camera is my nephew bought a decent compact camera and learned a few basics. He got a couple of decent photos and thought he deserved a better camera and some lenses without doing the work to learn more about the art and techniques of photography. He never took the time to figure out how to make a photograph interesting. I showed him three of my favorite shots I've taken over the years that are all hanging on my walls, they were all done with a $15 point and shoot without a single adjustment. I'm no great photographer but I took my time to learn a few basics and applied them to what I was looking at. I suspect next year when he comes through he'll have a new lens.

The music has to be the reason for the hifi. If the hifi is making you do things you know you shouldn't do, then something needs to change. You already know that.


"And what of the fact that out of 20 speakers, they will all sound different. So surely only one can be considered accurate. It's just as easy then to chase accuracy as it is imaging."


Again I'd say you're trying to rationalize away some habit you've got yourself into. Accuracy is actually a pretty tough call for a speaker designer. What is accurate? More than likely what's acurate for a rocker is not going to work for a classical music lover and vice versa. A flat frequency response? That's impossible to achieve in the real world. Wide dispersion or narrow dispersion? Each affects the in room response of the speaker which establishes the perceived balance of the speaker. Maybe someone wants to be able to move around the room and still hear good sound. That's a really different speaker than the design meant to lock your head in a vice. First order or fourth order crossover? Where in the bandwidth? All these decisions affect accuracy as heard by each listener. Most of us can agree when a speaker has razor sharp imaging. So, IMO, chasing one is not the same as chasing the other. Trying to find the former requires a set of priorities, finding the latter is just fulfilling one priority.


"... at some point you have to be happy with what you've got. The system should play music...it should sound like it, and it should pull you into it. Once you have that, it's a keeper, and you can certainly audition other gear as part of the system, but to replace a component would have to mean the new comonent is a real improvement over the old."


You'll still have to have those priorities in place or else you will just be chasing what's different and not necessarilly what's better.


"In terms of organic sound, point taken. Certainly, playing an acoustic guitar vs. an electric, the acoustic could be viewed as more organic. But this isn't a black and white thing in my mind, it's more a long spectrum with organic on one side and inorganic on the other."


It's not a black and white with Holt either. He never found the system which came closest to being "accurate" in the sense the entire system fulfilled the requirements which reminded him of the real thing as he imagined it should be. The Quad ESL63 was the most neutral speaker in almost every way but it had its dynamic limitations which kept it from being perfect - as far as Holt was concerned. It was fussy about ampifiers and made too many amps sound like amplifiers. But the speaker was worth persuing in many listeners' viewpoint because of its appeal when playing music. To that end Holt was no less of a curmudgeon when it came to the recordings he had to play, "Quad's view is that a system should be able to reproduce everything of value that is on a recording, while minimizing the irritations of the average (call that "mediocre") recording. Quad's components reflect that philosophy."



Have you asked yourself whether the system you have is just showing you the limitations of the source material? Like you said earlier, "There is a very artificial feel to the sound. No matter which system you play this through it will sound like crap! And I believe it will likely sound better on a lesser quality system." Maybe you're running smack into the tree Holt planted. Your lesser quality system, according to what you've said, provided you with those exciting moments with the same music. This one is making you listen in strange ways.

Just sayin' ...


" If you compare the 2nd GN'R demo I posted to the final version of the song (which I'll link to below) - the demo is much more organic. The final version has, frankly, too much crammed into the mix and there isn't enough room for the song to breathe. Now that's not strictly what I said organic meant in my last post, but the song just sounds overly processed."


I once read a review of a speaker where the reviewer counted to number of tape splices he had detected through the new speakers which had never been so easily heard with his existing reference pair of speakers, it was in the dozens. And he gave the new speakers a good review! To me?

There's a suitable use for such speakers but not in the context of listening to music IMO.


"I think messing around with vocals by using electronic tools is a lot worse (to my ear at least) than is using an electric guitar or a keyboard. You expect that kind of sound on a guitar or keyboard, it's even pleasant and still manages to sound natural, but when applied to the human voice it does not sound right at all. I do not mind very limited use of these tools, to add effect to a small part of a song, but that's about it."


IMO a pedal added to an electric guitar is no different than altering a vocal. That is, if the performer has an intent behind their alteration. If it serves the music's intent, then make use of today's tools. If they are just doing so because they can, then that's no different than someone who plays their system as loud as possible just because they can. As is pointed out in the Quad review, music has a "correct" volume. For classical and most acoustic music, that level is established by where the system and the recording place the listener in the hall and by the performance style. For most pop music which has been direct injected or close mic'd, there is no correct volume because the recording provides no perspective on how loud the music should be played other than, like the band last night, loud and louder.



Maybe you should try some different material to get a different perspective on music.




.
 

Silver Member
Username: Kbear

Canada

Post Number: 964
Registered: Dec-06
I listen to different kinds of music at about the same volume. I don't want to go deaf, but I want to feel the music when I think I should, and I want to fill the room with sound. This is usually 9 o'clock on the volume dial, not very loud at all. I'm finding with this system that it doesn't take a lot. On my older system I think I played it louder to get it to open up more.

Have you asked yourself whether the system you have is just showing you the limitations of the source material?

Limitations as in poorly recorded? Or just not great music to use in an evaluation? That second GN'R track, which I think suffers from too much in the mix and some over processing, I think sounds bad on both my main system and my computer audio system. I think he just ruined the song. It happens. There is plenty of rock and pop that sounds organic and dynamic - but it's true that some music just sounds better on a lesser system, due to it being so poorly recorded. However, the well recorded stuff doesn't provide any guarantees. I've got the Chesky demonstration disc, with songs like Spanish Harlem, Correnteza, and I Love Paris, and on and on. I've listened to it a few times. None of these songs do it for me. I don't mind listening to 10-20% of my records on a lesser system. Really, the only ones that need to are ones that suffer from serious amounts of compression.

I'm still trying different things though. I've got a Miles Davis disc, and a classical album too (Ravel - Bolero). But the most atypical thing I like so far would have to be Leonard Cohen.

IMO a pedal added to an electric guitar is no different than altering a vocal. That is, if the performer has an intent behind their alteration.

But we know what the human voice should sound like. We hear it all the time. Changing it and making it sound unnatural is just kind of jarring to listen to. Like you said, if it serves the music's intent, that's fine. But otherwise, I'd rather hear the real human voice. That is what should be singing most of the time. I don't know how to explain what I feel...but a voice that sounds computerized sounds fake. An electric guitar with a beautiful tone that makes music does not sound fake. It sounds like a great electric guitar. A great voice is a great voice and doesn't need the gimmick to achieve the same thing. But you can't have a certain kind of song without an electric guitar. The guitar needs the amp to sound the way it does. I think many singers who use these tools on their vocals are just pop tarts that cannot sing. What I hate is when one of the vocalists I like, who can sing and who does not need any help, over uses these tools.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15888
Registered: May-04
.

"Limitations as in poorly recorded? Or just not great music to use in an evaluation?"


"Poorly recorded" is IMO subjective. I listen to a good deal of what would be termed "historical" recordings so I have grown more used to the virtues and faults of such recordings. Truncated frequency response is acceptable to me if I can focus on the music and find the information required to make sense of the song. Modern day compression drives me nuts. First, because it's so unnecessary in reality but done to hit hard at lower quality gear and the guys who never listen to commercials in their car - the volume wars victims. Second, with the historical material I have there is no compression other than what the musicians performed. If they needed to play softer, they played softer and, if they needed to play louder, they did so. To hear the musician control the dynamics is far different than hearing the machines control the performance.

Noise is similar to frequency response, you can almost always begin to ignore the steady state noise of older recordings and only the loudest pops and snaps are going to yank you out of your willful suspension of belief. Overly distorted instruments are my bugaboo, I tried again yesterday with some "remastered" Rolling Stones at moderately high volume and just had to shut it down after about the fifth track. Other rock that I care to listen to works fine but this was an issue mostly with the recording. Admittedly, aggressive rock is not the forte of my single driver speakers but that specific music just didn't work no matter the volume. It had no life and that's not a quality of the Stones' playing style. And that's often the rub between rock and high end audio. To get what the high end magazines describe at a reasonable price (whatever that is), you are probably going against the very things that make a lot of aggressive music less successful. So you set your priorities for the majority of the musical styles you listen to and accept that some material isn't going to work as well as others unless you have very deep pockets. How often do you walk into an audio store and hear Jagger - or Slash - at 100dB as the first thing you encounter?

About 95% of what I would listen to is very acceptable on my current system and another 4% is workable and another 1% I listen to on headphones or, as you say, a lesser system where I don't care about the quality as much. That 99% that works is based on whether I connect with the music as it is recorded. I have the Stones on LP's that work fine though they are not being played at ear destroying volume but still at a healthy level for my system and room. In the end I think you just have to accept that your idea of "good sound" isn't what everyone else agrees on and the problem only gets worse once you're allowing your system to make you listen in a certain way.

When I sold I was constantly finding that difference in values. Here in Dallas we were selling Klispchorns so we attracted the buyers who wanted volume. I had just finished installing one system when the guy opened the windows and walked across the street to his buddy's yard to determine whether the system sounded "good" at the levels required to still pound his chest from 50 yards away. He was satisfied and I went home to take something for my headache.



"However, the well recorded stuff doesn't provide any guarantees. I've got the Chesky demonstration disc, with songs like Spanish Harlem, Correnteza, and I Love Paris, and on and on. I've listened to it a few times. None of these songs do it for me."


You're again in step with Holt. This from 1983;
Despite all the improvements in recorded quality that we have witnessed in recent years (with even RCA and CBS getting in on the act), audiophile-quality recordings are still very rare. The variety of fare represented on good recordings is exceedingly small, and the performances themselves range from good to ho-hum. To quote one observer, "Good sound and inspired performance seem mutually exclusive."



I don't know the Chesky disc so I can't comment on the musical values but the source is where it has to start. But, I'm now kind of interested in why you purchased the Chesky CD. To hear what your system could do or to hear good music well recorded? This sounds a bit like coercion to me and not so much like your system is making you do what you think it is.



So, what do you like about Leonard Cohen? He's always been a one trick pony to me.


.
 

Silver Member
Username: Kbear

Canada

Post Number: 965
Registered: Dec-06
Of course, I purchased the CD to hear what my system could do. It was $10 or so on Amazon and I figured, why not? It's a lot of mumbo jumbo, even if I hear my system doing a lot of what they say it should. Much of what you are to listen for is imaging (the placement of sounds), or this or that should sound "there" or "palpably real". The snapping of their fingers should have a flesh and bone quality, like it does in real life. Go ahead, try it! Etc. So I'm sitting there snapping my fingers trying to hear flesh and bone and I must look like an idiot. Good thing no one is there to witness it.

I'm not saying the music is bad...it is certainly well played and very well recorded, however it just doesn't interest me. There is a drum track for testing dynamics, and it all sounds great, but I've never heard that track sound bad or undynamic on any system I've listened to. I suspect as long as you have a good quality amp that isn't a poor match in terms of driving your speakers, and you don't listen at stupid volume levels, it will sound clean and dynamic. I prefer listening for dynamics on one or two of the songs you included on the Emma disc. But listening to a lot of rock music, you don't need to listen to too many discs before you realize whether dynamics are or are not lacking. As long as you avoid albums ruined by the loudness wars. Thankfully, those are in the minority, and I'm hearing new albums that are going against this grain - so the backlash against it must be real.

As for Cohen, I love his lyrics, the way his lyrical phrases start, develop, and end. The man has a way with words, for sure. I love his voice (though he is surely not a technically gifted vocalist, but his voice has character), and the melodies in his music. That's good enough for me!
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 15896
Registered: May-04
.

" The snapping of their fingers should have a flesh and bone quality, like it does in real life. Go ahead, try it! Etc. So I'm sitting there snapping my fingers trying to hear flesh and bone and I must look like an idiot. Good thing no one is there to witness it."



MW sent this around in an email just as the snow was approaching Dallas ...

The Government has issued a travel warning due to the cold weather:


They suggest that anyone traveling in the current icy conditions should
make sure they have the following:

Shovel
Blankets or sleeping bag
Extra clothing including hat and gloves
24 hours worth of food
De-Icer
Rock Salt
Flashlight with spare batteries
Road Flares or Reflective Triangles
Gas Can
First Aid Kit
Booster cables


I looked like an idiot on the bus this morning...




There are times when you just shouldn't take everything you're told as the gospel truth.


.
 

Gold Member
Username: John_a

LondonU.K.

Post Number: 4853
Registered: Dec-03
Smile.

And, if you're driving, make sure you have a car.
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