What Sound Qualities are important to you?


Gold Member
Username: Arande2

Rattle your ... Missouri

Post Number: 3064
Registered: Dec-06
This is fairly open-ended. Simply specify your personal priorities for sound reproduction. Explain where appropriate.

I'll start...
I don't have a specific preference for a production style or recording process.

Qualities I prioritize, order of importance:
1. Stimulating/Involving - This is very subjective. My top priority is that a system's playback of a recording GRIPS and creates maximum emotional impact.
2. Not fatiguing - After 10 hours, I expect the experience to be just as enjoyable.
3. Detail/Instruments/Notes - Hear all that's there and with proper balance.
4. Spatial Info

I'm probably missing things. Things like frequency response and phase response contribute to the above factors, but I don't specifically prioritize a neutral response.

It depends, of course, on the material played, whether or not one system will satisfy all of these. I'm confident that a single system could cover all bases with all material, although I haven't heard it.

Hmm... your turn.

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 17285
Registered: May-04

Transparency is key. I am not looking for any component which tends to have "character" if that character is always presented in a similar fashion through each recording. Too many "accurate" systems I've heard tend to sound "accruate" at all times, which I find distracting as it generally replaces the sense of live music occurring with the sense of how well the components and speakers can do what they do. Therefore, I'll take transparent over accurate any day that I have experienced to this date.

Since my listening material contains a wide range of historical periods, I'm not intersted in a component which cannot present what is on the recorded disc with anything less than honesty. Events can be protrayed as being exceptionally honest without being extremely accurate IMO.

Since my listening material is compromised of the above mentioned historic period recordings along with many lesser known recordings, it is imperative my system as a whole should be capable of finding the music in any recording, good or not so good in quality. I'm not the least concerned about weak bass or thin mids if I can understand the intentions of the performer(s). While overly distorted music - intentionally driven into distortion or not - can be tedious on most systems, I listen for a system which is not swayed to overemphasize the distortion while loosing site of the music signal which creates it. Music is a creative function which at times is characterized by distortion of the signal. That is not to say I listen to distorted music, but rather to say I am listening for the musical event which exists beyond the distortion.

Many, many years ago I was introduced to what at the time was the mantra of the British audio world, first, get the midrange right and everything else must follow. I can't say that forty years on I find any disagreement with that advice. It is the hallmark of my main audio system and the bane of my video system that the mids be presented as if the performer were in the room with me. As much as 80% of music lives within the midrange and the achievement of a presentational style with realistic vocals and instruments which fall into that region does, IMO, indicate all other qualities of reproduction have been largely accounted for.

I will sacrifice bass extension for bass quality. Long ago I learned what I prefer in music reproduction is not the same as what most of my clients preferred in music reproduction. That was fine, I was building a system which only had to please myself and the one other listener in the house. Additionally, I found few of my clients actually listened to live music and even fewer to unamplified live music. I base my system choices on what I hear from a real world musician performing within a real world space and not some vague idea of what an audio system should sound like.

That last sentence then entails many of the other qualities which I find desireable and even non-negotiable in a component or speaker. Speakers, amps, CD players, etc. should not draw attention to their exstence within the playback chain. I do not insist upon speakers or components with "soundstaging" or "imaging" prowess, most especially those values which create "3-D" images which exist outside the physical limitis of my speakers' placement. I do not insist upon it but, when all things are correct in my system, it occurs naturally as a consequence of the system not imposing its values onto the music.

Getting back to the historcal recordings in my collection, many are good mono recordings. While many "audiophiles" are snobbish about mono - either rejecting it out of hand for not showing off their system or for embracing it too much for reasons which still tend toward showing off their system - a well recorded mono performance has many layers of information within it. When that recording is well portrayed by the system, the soundstage presented is full and not at all a distraction from the performance. The music is simply not created in a stereo fashion. The same goes for many early stereo recordings which tend toward pulling the performers to either side and making the most of stereo's separation ability. If I am not distracted by the unnatural staging of these recordings, then the system is cooking as planned.

Size and scope are of great importance to me. I've heard many systems which are quite well done in audiophile terms of staging, imaging and dynamics which fall far short of being anything other than far short. If a performer always sounds as if they are compressed into a four foot tall stage, nothing else matters to me. That is not accurate reproduction and the system is a falilure. If the dynamics of the performance do not flow easily from softest to greatest and with an obvious sense of tension and release in the music, then the system has, IMO, missed the mark.

Music is often described as a language which musicians speak to one another and to the audience. I'm not at all intereted in counting the number of ice cubes in the glasses on the front row tables of a live performance in order to tell me the system can display "detail". Detail, as it is normally purcahsed by those who do not listen to live unamplified music, involves a very slight trick played by the designer to emphasize the presence region of the component/speakers' frequency response. This sort of trickery is fatiguing to me as it violates the first rule of transparency - do not impose a system sound upon the music. What I am seeking is a clear understanding of how the musicians and other performers/technicians relate to one another in a manner which is unspoken other than through the language of music itself. Quite often this can be reduced to "timing" though, once again, what I tend to prefer in timing and pacing of the performance is far from what I hear others desrcibe as "PRaT". To describe that difference is too time consuming for this post. What is comes down to in the simplest terms is the musicians are being presented in a manner which suggests they were all present and accounted for and actively listening to one another while the recording was made.

While I will gladly sacrifice the deepest bass for higher quality bass, bass extension is one quality which tends to provide exceptional transparency to the recorded event. When the system is capable of displaying those very low level, low frequency ambient cues which exist in any room, the sense of the musicians being present is increased by leaps and bounds. Poor control of or irregular frequency response in the deepest bass regions, however, is not going to accomplish this result. When I have a prefernce, I will always strive more for the "I am there" school of thought rather than to the "they are here" idiom.

There are many other vlaues which I feel are of either primary or secondary importance in the system I have assembled which do not necessarily equate to what I am aware of in other systems. I do not expect my values to be the same as other's values and, therefore, I am not overly concerned about what someone else's system might be capable of reproducing. My system is my system and I'm also not overly concerned about whether anyone else might like what my system accomplishes. I find too many systems which are cookie cutter types of music presentation all giving the effect of a politician taking polls to find out which way to vote on any position. What I have come to value over my near fifty years of listening to audio systems and live music along with twenty five years of selling high end audio has created a system which I own that has few of the values I read about in the audio press. At the same time it possesses and displays many of those things which should be discussed about music if the magaiznes weren't so d*mned concerned about the BS of what the system does.

In other words, within the confines of my system's capacity - it does not play at levels which will bring the police to my house at 3AM, the music I put through it comes out sounding more like live music than do most of the systems I hear. So take whatever values you find interesing in live music, throw out the audiophile BS you read about in most reviews and you can settle in front of my system to listen simply to music and not to the system. That is my highest prority.


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