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A question of timing

 

Bronze Member
Username: Varney

BirminghamEngland, UK

Post Number: 32
Registered: Sep-04
I've heard a lot of amplifiers reviewed and critisized on their 'timing'.

Although not an expert, I'm fully aware this cannot mean 'pitch'. No amp is going to 'speed up' or 'slow down' a recording in real time, so common sense tells me it's something to do with the pace of the high and low feguencies in a particular snippet of sound - keeping up with each other to produce an acurate sound for each note?

More info needed. Anyone care to define?

Cheera,

V
 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest


In the late 70's and early 80's Linn was making inroads into the American market. Certain stores were known as "Linn stores". This was a time of expansion in American audio and the CD was trying to take the market from the LP. Linn was a turntable manufacturer who was dogged in their disdain for the new format. As Linn sought to establish what the "Linn sound" was about, they introduced several concepts that had not occurred in American or Japanese audio as "qualities". One of these was timing or, as Linn and Naim put it, toe tapping.
The way I used to explain it to my customers (and I never sold Linn so this may not be the official line) was to think of a band that is playing a piece of music for the first time. If they are good enough to get all the notes right the first time they are still not always in sync with each other the way they will be by the time the piece is finished for performance. Each rehearsal will get them closer and closer to playing together as opposed to playing their part with other people.
In the end the quality that matters the most in the sense of timing is do they sound like they are playing together? If so the progression of the music, the bass line pacing the music and the rhythm line moving it forward will replicate the live event and you will naturally want to tap your toe along with the timing of music.
Lots of high end audio can do all the other things well; soundstage, imaging, bass and volume but they can't get timing right. And once you have heard what a difference it makes in the music you will always hear when it is not present.



 

Bronze Member
Username: Varney

BirminghamEngland, UK

Post Number: 35
Registered: Sep-04
Excellent - yes, I see what you mean. In theory, at least. I still don't see how audio electronics can influence this quality (perhaps then 'timing' is an audio myth?).

What I mean to say is, if good audio gear is presenting the original recording in the best possible way - clear soundstage and seperation between instruments - then it can only be presenting this recording as close as possible to the way it was meant to be heard. The players are not inside the box - they (or at least their sounds)have been locked into the media. Surely, if they are playing well together, then they did or didn't do that when they made the recording. I don't see how a stereo system can add or take away from the timing set down by musicians during a recording. You just might not hear certain sounds through a rubbish set up, which would give the impression that not all of the sounds are present at the end of one note, where another picks up.

Am I making any sense?

V
 

Bronze Member
Username: Varney

BirminghamEngland, UK

Post Number: 36
Registered: Sep-04
Sorry, I am working on something at the moment, so don't always have the time to edit my posts into clear and fluent english.

regards,

V
 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest

Your assumption is one that many audiophiles and manufacturers made and still continue to make. That is the reason for the comments you have read. There are several explanations that deal with what makes a piece of equipment have "timing". The most probable to me is, in electronics, an ability to get all the information intact in regard to phase and time coherence. It would seem odd that a component could get imaging correct but not phase but that seems to be the case. Unusually the British pieces that emphasize timing are often not as good at soundstaging as the American pieces that are mediocre at timing. My experience with electronics going back over the last 40 years has been that even though the concept didn't exist, those classic pieces of audio have always done timing well. A McIntosh or Marantz tube amp can do this in spades. Some argue that as electronics have gone away from simple circuits the ability of the electronics to have timing has gone away also. The return to, and popularity of,
SET tube amps is a result of that thinking.

Timing cues are often most evident in speakers. The X-over has the ability to rip apart phase and time coherence. I have heard many speakers that sounded as though they had flat frequency response but were as tuneful as mud. I have several recordings that can, for me, tell me what I need to know about a speaker in a few minutes. Cables also seem to have the ability to mess with timing on a large scale.






 

Steve764
Unregistered guest
"Timing cues are often most evident in speakers. ... Cables also seem to have the ability to mess with timing on a large scale."

Yes, I believe that could be the case. Wow, I never thought Propagation Delay (an important factor in high speed LAN and telephone communications) would have an impact in audio transmission.

"In a communications system, propagation delay refers to the time lag between the departure of a signal from the source and the arrival of the signal at the destination."

Some research would probably confirm or deny the importance of Propagation Delay in audio transmission, that is if it is audible to the human ear. Maybe it is.

One could imagine that a poor quality cable with unhomogeneous copper strands (diameter along length, copper purity and additive content, length differences) could affect overall transmission. Of course, speakers would reproduce the signal they receive.

Interesting thoughts.

Now I wonder if electronics used in amplifiers or CD players could also affect "timing".

Again more research could shed more ligth on this discussion.
 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest


You're on the right track as far as the subjective reviewers are concerned. The problem lies in the group who feel wire is wire and all amps sound the same. What is percieved is not important to them. It actually is dismissed as unimportant because it doesn't fit what they want to believe.



 

Bronze Member
Username: Varney

BirminghamEngland, UK

Post Number: 37
Registered: Sep-04
Yet another fascinating and informative debate.

J., I think your comments expand nicely into how timing differs to shape those 'national' sounds we talked about earlier.

Yes - I can now see how timing would occur / be degraded by audio electronics, but I can also see how the concept was missed in the early days and I'm sure you will forgive my immediate sceptisism when first I ventured into the debate.

Come to think of it, I do actually have a slightly differing set of speaker cables. This was originally for reasons of convenience, which has since become unecessary since re-arranging the listening room.

They differ by only a few inches and will cut them to exact size when I get round to it. I suppose it may make little difference at that length, but one has to try to do everything possible.

The mid-lower end gear I currently use (the NADs) did surprise me when upgrading from very mediochre mass-market gear I used to have. My first NAD, a few years ago brought about a sense of 'foot tapping' glee after I'd had it around for a few weeks, I suddenly noticed I was getting drawn into the music and had to stop what I was doing just to listen. Played the same track again, to see if it was just my imagination. Since then, I've stuck with that brand. Finances these days might well be on the up for me, this is why I've been getting so interested in what the 'higher end' gear can actually do.

'Now I wonder if electronics used in amplifiers or CD players could also affect "timing".'

Steve, I'm sure that this is the case with CD players and other sources as well as amps - because I'm sure I've seen it mentioned in reviews of CD players and turntables.

Regards,

V






 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest

I wouldn't be to concerned about a few inches of length in your cables. Ideally you want them the same but, in my experience, materials and construction matter much more than inches. I recently read the Absolute Sound speaker cable review that covered cables from $$$$$ to an extension cord from Home Depot. I needed a longer set of speaker cables on one system after I moved things around and I was willing to try the extension cord. It had been given a review that wasn't glowing but that, put in perspective of price, was more than adequate for what I needed. I first tried a cable I had just purchased from Fry's which was the same gauge and appeared to have all the qualities of the HD cable. It was replacing some mid priced Kimber that was too short by a few feet to be right in this location. The new cable had terrible timing problems. It took the coherence of the Kimber and suddenly everyone sounded like they had recorded their part at a separate time and the recording engineer had done a bad job syncing everything up. I trundled off to HD and bought an $11 extension cord. This was a totaly different sound. Not quite as crisp as the Kimber but this was the home theater and it actually helped the overall balance of the sound. It had the timing correct which I wasn't expecting since, to look at the two cables, there didn't appear to be any difference in their materials or construction. I have to chalk up this difference in sound to those two items though, there is nothing else about this simple cable that I can see as a difference.



 

mauimusicman
Unregistered guest
Varney, do some research on the effects of overall global negative feedback in an amplifier, then tell me an amp can't change the time of music.
 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest


Maui is correct in that amplifiers with large amounts of negative feedback are often the worst offenders in the area of timing. It is typical of the mass market manufacturers who are after the on paper specs that many buyers use as a guide to use more feedback to decrease the T.H.D. It is also an explanation for the appeal of Single Ended Triode amplifiers which are typically free of any amount of global negative feedback.




 

Bronze Member
Username: Varney

BirminghamEngland, UK

Post Number: 43
Registered: Sep-04
mauimus,

I'll have a look and see what I can learn about that. Thanks.

I have torn down the bi-amped configuration I had going on with the two NADs and reverted back to a single integrated amp and two bi-wired speakers. The reason? The music was simply not as 'involving' as when I simply use one amp on it's own. I don't know what it was - but maybe it was a timing issue.... Ever so slight, but just not quite 'there'. As if there was a slight distance between me and the beat.

Maybe it was my imagination, but this is how I learn - by trying things out and reading.

Cheers,

V
 

Silver Member
Username: Frank_abela

Berkshire UK

Post Number: 149
Registered: Sep-04
Timing - so many things seem to completely ruin timing. For example, in your last post, the simpler system seems to work better timing-wise (though I'll bet you've lost some separation, tonality, and dynamics). In this case it could be due to having separate earth points, slight differences in the cables - even just a few inches difference can cause phase problems.

The involvement factor certainly seems to come down to timing and this is down to the subtle interplay between musicians, expressions of nuance, almost like they're playing off each other at the time.

Another factor is the cabling. A lot of cables have gone the way of silver coated copper. Now it's nknown that treble frequencies travel along the surface of cables while bass frequencies travel through the core of the cable. In most cables, but not all, using solid silver frees up the treble frequencies but slows down the bass frequencies, so it sounds a bit like the bass guitar is following the band instead of driving it along. If you use a silver coated copper cable, the bass tightens up, but silver conducts slightly faster so the treble still arrives first most of the time, giving a sense of air and space that isn't on the disc. A pure copper cable should be best in theory but often it lends itself to a more closed in sound. These issues are often referred to as phase linearity. If a system produces all the frequencies at exactly the same moment, then it's phase linear and the timing will be spot on. I haven't heard a single completely phase linear system, but some are close and impart great involvement.

And the crazy thing? Change the IEC cable from one make to another, and you will most likely also perceive changes of this sort. So what on earth is going on there?!

Regards,
Frank.
 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest


Frank - I'm someone who believes in cables and the differences they can impart to a system. I have always heard silver is the best conductor as far as metalurgy is considered; but, I have never seen the claim that a signal will travel at a faster speed through silver. On the surface this would seem an impossibility. Electrons travel at a given speed through a good conductor is what I've always been taught. Unless there are imperfections that cause the signal to be disrupted (long crystals argument) there should be no reason I can think of for one type conductor material to change the speed of transmission. Can you direct me to where I can find out more about this varying speed of elctron flow?







 

Bronze Member
Username: Varney

BirminghamEngland, UK

Post Number: 44
Registered: Sep-04
Fascinating.

What exactly is an IEC cable?

V
 

Bronze Member
Username: Varney

BirminghamEngland, UK

Post Number: 45
Registered: Sep-04
If I'm right in thinking that is a power cable you're talking about, then I doubt very much you would hear changes in anything!

Interconnects, yes. Perhaps a lesser grade cable might cause some resistance. That is just my opinion. I'm sorry, but I don't see how changing the make of the power cord can make any difference to the SOUND!

I have, however, noticed that these cables differ from make to make in thickness and quality. That is because I chop them up for the wire and salvage the plugs. I believe it is wise to keep the cord which came with the equipment and not change it for another one. Gear somehow gets used to feeding through it's own cable. Maybe I'm superstitious, but it's a rule I employ with everything I own.

Regards,

V
 

Bronze Member
Username: Varney

BirminghamEngland, UK

Post Number: 46
Registered: Sep-04
"Timing - so many things seem to completely ruin timing. For example, in your last post, the simpler system seems to work better timing-wise (though I'll bet you've lost some separation, tonality, and dynamics). In this case it could be due to having separate earth points, slight differences in the cables - even just a few inches difference can cause phase problems."

Hello Frank,

The reason I did this experiment was to see if I could indeed squeeze some more seperation from the system. I did not find this to be the case. It was rather nice, yes but the stereo picture did not benefit from any of this. Tonality seems to have improved using the 3225PE on it's own.

Let's not forget that the left amp, in the vertical config was actually a 3020i, which is potentially an instant mismatch to the 3225PE on the right. Horizontal bi-amping was even less successful. The sound was quite poor and of a less dynamic quality than even the 3020i delivers on it's own. It was one sure fire way to discover the improvements NAD made to these amps over the years. The upgrade in power output makes no difference to the volume. Both channels sounded exactly alike. They sound very much alike tonally but since the PE has an improved transformer, it's cleaned up the sound a bit. It's a whole lot better on it's own though. I wouldn't have tried this with two different amps, if not for the fact they are so very similar in what they put out.

Used apart, these amps will form the basis of two lovely little systems in different rooms.

Regards,

V

 

Silver Member
Username: Frank_abela

Berkshire UK

Post Number: 153
Registered: Sep-04
J. Vigne

I've read this in several places but I must confess I don't remember where! Impurities are also meant to be a serious detractor of quality, but the strange thing is that Italian silver is meant to sound better than Sterling silver. Italian silver is 800/1000 pure silver where sterling silver is 925/1000. This should mean the sterling silver is better, but it's generally accepted that it's not as good. So, perhaps it's the type of impurities that count too.

Varney

Yes an IEC cable is a power cable with an IEC plug on the end and is sometimes also called a kettle cable. If you have any extra cables, you could try different ones to see what the effect is. The more different they are, the more likely you'll get a change. Some of these cables make really quite important changes, others don't.

Regards,
Frank.
 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest


I'm not trying to be cynical, as you can see by my last name I find anything Italian to be better in many ways; but, do the cable manufacturers, having "found" this anomaly in the purity of the silver, charge more for cable employing Italian silver than any other variety?




 

Bronze Member
Username: Varney

BirminghamEngland, UK

Post Number: 47
Registered: Sep-04
Yep - Kettle cables. Power cables we call 'em here.

I can try it out of curiosity, but I would imagine the cable that came with the amp is going to be the optimum type for that piece of equipment. That's the Cambridge Audio, the computers and the kettle though. The NAD amps do not have a cable you can change. It's integral.

Would changing the cable on my kettle make it boil any faster?
:-)

Regards,

V
 

Bronze Member
Username: Varney

BirminghamEngland, UK

Post Number: 48
Registered: Sep-04
But seriously now....

I have a interconnect cable of the 'directional' kind. It's the only one I have, as all my cables get picked up in bargain hunts. This is why I have a mixture, but are in the main made by Acoustic Research, which I believe is a good make.

Can anyone expand on the idea behind having a cable which has an arrow on it, which is labelled 'Signal Path', please? I'm very interested to know why and HOW a cable can have a 'direction' to it. I suspect the answer may be rather complex, but I have to say that this cable offers a more 'controlled' sound to the music.

The most important thing for me to know is:
is this cable going to be of a generally better quality than ordinary ones of it's class? Being directional would suggest it is a more sophisticated bit of wire I have here.

Any comments on this matter, I'd find most helpful.

Thanks,

V
 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest


Directionality, in its simplest terms, refers to a cable that has its ground connector soldered at only one end. This can help reduce system induced noises that creep in with varying ground potentials of the pieces of a system. Individual manufacturers may have more reasons they will apply to directional cables but this is the most common reason. It is an application from professional audio where a mixing board and its attendant pieces and amplifiers may be housed in different locations.



 

Bronze Member
Username: Varney

BirminghamEngland, UK

Post Number: 49
Registered: Sep-04
I see.

Only, there is not an earth connector physically present on the outside.

Does this mean that there is an internal earth wire running the length of the cable on all (most) interconnects?

I can't think where it would earth to inside the equipment.

Thanks for the info,

V
 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest


An unbalanced cable (using just two legs) can run with a single + conductor and a - that is the shield. As cables have evolved, the shield has become a separate item and the cable will contain a separate conductor for + and - with the shield supposedly only doing that function. It is common practice, however, for the shield and - leg both to be soldered to the ground side of the connector. This is particularly true in a RCA connector that offers no options for various connection points. This connection of the shield and - leg together means the signal is not carried by similar conductors for both sides of the connection. In a cable arrangement like this the shield is typically unsoldered at one end, usually the end where the signal terminates.



 

Silver Member
Username: Frank_abela

Berkshire UK

Post Number: 160
Registered: Sep-04
J,

Actually the main proponents for the better performance of italian silver are tube amp manufacturers like Audio Note and Kondo.

regards,
Frank.
 

Silver Member
Username: Frank_abela

Berkshire UK

Post Number: 161
Registered: Sep-04
My understanding differs on the subject of directionality. My understanding is that the directionality is defined by the direction in which the wire is drawn at time of manufacture.

Regards,
Frank.
 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest


Frank - You're correct that many cable companies use the idea of directionality of structure as the reason they mark their cables. MIT was, I believe, the first to market their designs in such a way. Maybe it's because I was never a big fan of MIT that I never saw the value of selling the idea in their very expensive cables. The lower priced cables were sold without a direction marked, and, I always thought the manufacturer should know the direction of construction no matter what price they paid for the cable.
The concept of lifting the shield does come from the professional audio marketplace and can have quite obvious benefits in such a system. (Having worked in both fields, I often regret the cynicism displayed by the one group for the other and the near total disregard for the principles of one group by the other.) It is too easy for a client to turn a cable around, using it against the suggested direction, and say they hear no difference. With that response they were then open to question my verasity on other subjects. I sold with the idea of a solid technical reason being the better explanation rather than an idea that can easily be written off as "voodoo". Only when I had a client who was open to the intricacies of cable design would I go into the idea of drawing the cable. With those clients I was discussing more than just directionality though. Too much of high end audio is written off by those who refuse to listen and then decide. (I'm sure you remember our discussion of "break in".) Giving more ammunition to the concept we are all loons was something I tried to avoid. If you work in a store where you can discuss the more detailed aspects of system performance and your clients merely accept the ideas I applaud you. I found those situations rare.



 

Bronze Member
Username: Varney

BirminghamEngland, UK

Post Number: 50
Registered: Sep-04
Sceptisism is our way of protecting ourselves from the ruinous effects of an over active imagination and from allowing notions of the 'paranormal' to invade and rule our lives. It can also save us from those who ask us to part with hard-earned cash in return for very little benefit.

Cynisism is often accompanied by rudeness and mocking from people who prefer to believe that they are right and everyone else is wrong.

The difference is that a sceptic wants to learn the real truth and a cynic doesn't care, as long as he's had a laugh at someone else's expense.

The point of what I'm saying here, is that I don't think cabling technicalities would be easily passed off onto audio professionals and retailers worth their salt, if those technicalities were completely fictitious. For instance, if this were the case, then high end retailers would be trying to sell us 'graphic equalizers' complete with bellwire to connect our speakers.

I also think that audio retailers should sell ear-wax dispersal formulas too. I will have to visit the chemist soon. I'm all spent out on electronics and have neglected the organic components.

Regards,

V
 

Silver Member
Username: Frank_abela

Berkshire UK

Post Number: 171
Registered: Sep-04
Actually directionality comes up a lot in our shop and many customers insist on a demo of the directionality. It's quite a laugh to see the jaws drop. The oddest one on directionality from my point of view is the Totem distributor here in Europe disagrees with Totem about the directionality of their interconnect! He says there's a definite difference and has been trying to convince Totem for the need to mark the direction, but they disagree, saying it's voodoo and that there's no difference. I've tried the sinew both ways and there was a definite difference. The fact is, it's worth trying the cable both ways just to get the maximum performance out of it. It doesn't cost anything to try it - apart from a little time!

As to the organic components, generally I advise strongly that you should stick nothing in your ears. You're much too likely to cause more damage than good. That said, there is a solution on the market whose name escapes me right now. My father uses this product and claims it has helped his hearing quite a bit. Looking on the can, it says it's made of seawater!

Whatever, you shouldn't use it too much since earwax is a natural and necessary product required to keep the ear healthy and free from infection.

Regards,
Frank.
 

Bronze Member
Username: Varney

BirminghamEngland, UK

Post Number: 51
Registered: Sep-04
Actually, when I was a small child, one of my earliest memories is of the doctor using a huge stainless steel syringe to flood out my ear canal. A most unpleasant experience, I swear I could feel the water lapping at the back of my eye sockets. This is because I had an abnormal build up of material which affected my hearing then.

I probably shouldn't be discussing this in an audio forum - but then, what would be the use of a stereo if our ears did not work properly?

In later years, I swear I am going ever so slightly deaf. I also have a touch of tinitis from time to time. I love music and want to get on top of the situation without going through the afformentioned experience again (shudder!). I've looked at a product called 'Audi-Clean', which claims to disperse wax safely without the need for intrusive cotton-buds.

If this doesn't work I shall have to venture back to the docs, I suppose.

I might also add that despite this, I can still hear the subtle differences between speakers and their cabling. It's just that my prefered listening volume may be higher than most people's due to this.

Regards,

V

 

J. Vigne
Unregistered guest


I also suffer with tinitus and have found no real solution. Though it can be anywhere from distracting to quite annoying at times there appears to be no masking of sound from outside sources. The problem is primarily in my left ear when my allergies are bothering me. When both ears start to ring I know it's going to be a rough day with my allergies. I've been told medicines such as Sudafed will make the tinitus worse and compounds which raise blood pressure, such as caffiene will create more problems. In general I try to avoid them. I've tried candling and lavaging but have not found a long time solution. The accumulation of ear wax seems to not be related to the ringing.





 

Bronze Member
Username: Varney

BirminghamEngland, UK

Post Number: 52
Registered: Sep-04
Yes, that's right. I heard that tinitus is not related to ear wax. Rather, the crunching sound is. I have also heard there is no known cure, as it is not known exactly what causes it. People talked about it when I was young and I always thought "That's terrible - hope I never get that".... Only to discover the ringing I'd always taken for granted since childhood was in fact, tinitus.

It seems we can ignore it on good days. I used to notice it only late at night and in very silent places. Since I had not heard of it then, I simply assumed that it was natural - 'the sound of silence'.

I did not know it was affected more by caffiene and blood pressure related issues. In that may be a short term answer for me. I thank you for that. Well, it's got to be worth a try.

Regards,

V
 

Bronze Member
Username: Varney

BirminghamEngland, UK

Post Number: 53
Registered: Sep-04
The other short term relief I find is very loud doses of heavy metal music. At least, it gives me a welcome distraction. :-)

V
 

Silver Member
Username: Frank_abela

Berkshire UK

Post Number: 175
Registered: Sep-04
Audi-Clean! That's it. That's what my dad uses (he had major earwax build up and was recommended it by an ear specialist). He finds it helps. The beauty if it is that it's a completely natural substance since it's just seawater.

You're right that nobody knows the cause or effect of tinnitus. There's a lot of research into it at the moment. What is known is that there are extremely fine hairs in the ear canal which move depending on the noise entering the ear. After prolonged times of great noise, such as rock concerts or Discotheques, the hairs keep on vibrating long after the sound waves have stopped hitting them. So many people get temporary tinnitus after the above sorts of events. Permanent tinnitus is the constant vibration of these hairs and nobody knows why they do not stop, nor has it been proven to be a result of prolonged exposure to loud situations, which usually result simply in some deafness. There was a documentary on tinnitus last year and a doctor tried using out of phase sound to reduce the noise the sufferer was experiencing, by letting the sufferer adjust the pitch and volume. The pitch of the sound differs in different people. I believe this was met with some success so there may be a device that can help out there.

regards,
Frank.
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