By Marc yun at:
I'd put in a link, but I don't know how. BTW, the pix are pretty good.
some people have pointed out that aspects of my show commentary seems questionable. i welcome the criticisms and would like to make a couple comments, not so much in my defense but just to clarify.
i respect Steve's position on not commenting on the sound at shows. the fact that i do comment doesn't mean i think his points aren't valid, they indeed are. room acoustics, setup conditions, etc. etc. can all change the sound of a system dramatically. however, i don't think this should discourage us from describing what we hear. if you don't believe my comments are useful then you can ignore them, in which case my report provides just as much information as the "objective" ones which provide only names and prices. however i think a good number of people are curious as to what others thought of the sound, and that is why i comment on it.
it goes without saying that my impressions are highly subjective, and especially given the show conditions, should be taken with a good grain of salt. but i don't think the fact that a system is part of a show exhibit should be an excuse for poor sound. it's a cop-out to completely avoid passing judgement on sound quality and let exhibitors off the hook. as bad as the conditions may be, they are not impossibly bad and exhibitors should be more than capable of putting together a system that sounds at least decent, particularly when the prices are in the tens, even hundreds of thousands. the fact that some systems DID sound fantastic, and often with very reasonable price tags, is proof of this.
i know a lot of people will take issue with my criticism of tube gear. given that the majority of rooms seemed to be using tubes of some sort, there is no doubt as to their popularity with audiophiles. however, i stand by my assertion that many - not all - but many tube components are colored. take this into account: when walking down a hallway at the show, before even looking into the room or even seeing the name of the exhibitors, i could instantly say "sounds like they're using tubes" just by the sound coming out of the room. and every single time, i was right. i can hear tubes from a mile away. they have a slightly nasal quality, with a higher amount of harmonic distortion that interferes with the timbre and harmonic structure of many acoustic instruments. i was a violinist for many years and had constant exposure to all sorts of different instruments (e.g. hours of orchestra rehearsals every week for several years). i know what an oboe or a clarinet or a trumpet sound like, and to me many tube components interfere with the fundamental tonal quality of the instrument.
again, this is not to say i hate all tubes. in fact, one of my first amps was a Conrad Johnson MV-45, and i loved it. i've listened to a variety of tube equipment and thought many of them sounded excellent. there are definitely aspects of reproduction that tubes excel in, and i appreciate those qualities. my problem is not so much with the tubes themselves as the products using them. too many of them seem to tailor the sound to what people want to hear; many people have referred to this as tube "euphonics." whatever you want to call it, it is not accurate to me, and tends to impart a similar quality to all recordings heard through them - a "coloration." that said, i thought some tube gear sounded very neutral and didn't exhibit these colorations to the same degree - the Kora gear comes to mind. again, it depends on the component, but it seems that a lot of tube gear is tuned to sound colored in this manner. maybe it's what some people want to hear, but not i.
another person wondered how i could make the distinction between the sound of different components in a given system. this is much harder to defend, and i will admit that a great deal of intuition (and maybe even a little foolishness) comes into play when making such a bold assertion as "the amp in this system had flabby bass." this is how i see it though: different types of components have different types of colorations. when i say bass is flabby due to a tube amp, it is because i sense a general warmness and bloom that extends from the lower midrange down to the midbass. this can be due to the speaker, but usually it sounds very different when the speaker is at fault. there is an audible difference between high mechnical Q (speaker) and electrical Q (amp), among other things. the ability to capture transients is also very different between electronics and speakers. in general, mechanical time constants are much longer than electrical ones, so the quality of transient response of an amp and speaker are quite different things. i could go on and on, but it is difficult for me to describe and i'm not sure my argument will be very convincing anyway. i can only say that empirically i've been able to ascertain the different sonic qualities of components in a system fairly accurately. a lot of this simply comes from experimentation over the years.
in any case, i'm babbling far too much now. thanks again for everyone's comments; apart from the slightly snide tone of one of them i appreciate them, negative or positive. your thoughts will help me shape my show report for Bound for Sound into something hopefully informative and entertaining for our readers.
you have to call it like you see it...err, hear it. I have been to one HE show when it was in SF a few years ago. No matter what preconcieved notions or other wise, anyone going to a show like this is going to pass judgement on the sound of a system in a room even if it is just a casual observation, flabby bass, tube coloration, etc. But I guarantee in at least one room the moon and stars will align for said system and or said listener and he will be mightily impressed. My experience at SF that year was that there were 2 or 3 rooms with mid priced gear that just sonicly excelled. The high $'s rooms seemed to universally not sound nearly as good. Keep up the good work. Would have loved to have heard the Tenor's and the Halcro's just to hear what all the buzz is about.
why should we trust them with our own hard-earned money? Beside, all the exhibitors work in the same environment, and a lot of us have small rooms, which make the comment here very valid.
Just like blaming the results at a Olympic competition on the stadium...
I have worked at a number of shows over many years. We were always able to achieve very good sound and without room treatments.
Never the less, I still think it is invalid to draw conclusions from the sound at a show. If you hear good sound, that's a good sign. Will it sound like that in your home? It should sound much better if you know how to set up a system.
What about when it sounds bad? Unfortunately then you just don't know. Why did it sound bad? Was it becuase there were 20 other rooms with high power amps all sucking the line voltage down to 100 volts? That's a 20% drop in voltage and can definitely cause problems such as regulators no longer able to maintain their voltages. At this show, I heard problem in the Tenor/Pipedreams room with woofers on Thursday. Was it the Plinius amp driving woofers? No...it turned out that with the 2 ohm load of the double woofers and the line voltage dropping, The Plinius couldn't maintain regulation at moderately high levels or higher. They fixed the problem but was it because the Plinius is a bas amplifier? No...it was actually because it is a good amplifier but the power provided to it is crappy.
Also, in these hotels, the walls are far more flimsy than in your home. I have stood in rooms and touched the wall and it buzzed like crazy. I remember one time at the Chicago CES the car audio demo across the highway at the convention center was so loud the windows buzzed loudly.
So...I must disagree. The purpose of these shows is to let you see some of what these manufacturers have been working on. The CES esecially is place for manufacturers to connect with dealers who are their customers. The dealers are looking for equipment that they feel will fit the needs of their customers.
from those of us who could not attend. By the way the hoses and vacuum cleaners are the infamous Transparent Opus speaker cables but you probably already new that.
As may be obvious, I like reviewers to describe completely what they hear at shows. The picture/price-only approach of the 'professional' magazines are just another form of advertising. Useful, but not enjoyable - for me anyway.
Attributing a particular defect in the sound to a particular component may entail some (perhaps large :-) amount of guess work - but less and less as the reviewer hears the individual components more and more often in more and more systems. Why senior reviwers refuse to comment on the sound at shows has to do more with how they will suffer slings and arrows than a lack of insight into what and why a room sounds good or awful, IMHO.
I liked how he stated up-front his perference for solid-state and how he described the Pipedream/Tenor system: "speakers could have used a little more "edge" and attack to their sound". This helps reveal what kind of sound he prefers as opposed to keeping it a secret like other reviewers sometimes do - as if they could be completely impartial in their judgements.
Marty, thank you for your report and your pictures. It is professionally done. Congratulations.
I wish I could take credit for the pix, but can't. It was all done by Marc Yun, a new BFS contributor. Relatively new anyway. He did our HE2001 show last year, and he has a review of a Sony DVP-NS500V SACD player in the current issue. Marc is a very knowledgeable person with a degree in electrical engineering from Princeton, as well as being a classically trained violinist. But best of all, he is a very nice young man.
More great coverage. Well done, Sir.
Truly excellent snaps. What sort of camera was used?
On a given system he talks how about the electronics sound and how the speakers sound. How can you separate out the components when listening to a system you are not familiar with and only for a short period of time? How can you know which component contributes to which aspect of the sound?
Like everyone else I appreciate the time and effort to post the picks but how are we supposed to take the commentary seriously?
Maybe I am missing something.
> > Maybe I am missing something. < <
Just the opposite, old man. It's the author who's missing something. Any semblance of common sense, for starters. All you did was point it out.
Maybe the room acoustics were not ideal? Hard to believe so many nice systems sounded less than ideal. That being said, I heard a ~$70,000 system at a dealer once that sounded masked in a way. No air, lack of HF's, bass muddiness. but the room was not treated well, either. Makes you wonder why they even bother??
I agree about the commentary and did you notice that he is a man who is obviously biased against tube electronics? All he could say about any of the tube setups was that they were "colored". Oh well, I love the photos!
In addition to the other reply, if the Swifts sound pretty good, it's a pretty good bet nothing in that system sounds awful. (I realize this is not a truism, as there could be cancelling errors, but that's not too likely....)
Shows are fun events to look at mass quantities of the stuff, hear new music, people watch and socialize, so I agree they're not to be taken that seriously. However, it is revealing of a presenter's or company's nature to see how they organize and handle the demo of their products. And you might get to see Thom Holman putting a competitve product in an unflattering (or very revealing) demo situation....
For example, the Pipedreams room looked like a really big college dorm room: backpacks leaning against the side wall and a very groggy employee splayed on the couch (who could blame him - just go to the real hotel room for a nap) and a general feeling of clutter, which was not helped by what I considered the ungainly appearance of the speakers themselves.
Would you ever see something like that in the Wilson room? I'd be surprised.
Now, maybe this should have no bearing on how I perceived the actual sound quality, but I'm quite a subjective creature...I can't swear it didn't affect my enjoyment of the sound at Pipedreams.
- This signature is monophonic -
I think there is a big difference between saying something like "The bass was a little flabby" and "The bass was a little flappy due to the amp".
If the writer thinks the bass was flabby he is surely entitled to that experience.
The problem lies in presenting the cause of the flabbiness. We all know how important the room is and how difficult show conditions can be. My comment was directed at making a diagnosis.
> > > ...The problem lies in presenting the cause of the flabbiness. We all know how important the room is and how difficult show conditions can be. My comment was directed at making a diagnosis. < < <
100% agreed, though who is to REALLY know why said bass was "flabby". Maybe the CD player, maybe the cables, maybe a bad room, etc etc etc. As i stated in my show "Final Feelings" at http://www.enjoythemusic.com/hifi2002/ it is, IMHO, incorrect to comment on the sound at shows as a professional reviewer. If this was my first or fifth show, maybe i would be allowed to make such an immature mistake, though after attending 35+ shows there are things that are painfully obvious. Have heard great gear sound lousy more than i care to mention. Was it the room? The cables? The amplifier? The tubes used in the unit being defective? !?????????! Your guess is as good as mine. Of course great praise from sound at a show makes for wonderful tag lines in a manufacture's advertisement. Thanks, but no thanks.
Enjoy the Music,
Steven R. Rochlin
Look at your coverage still on your site. Years ago you used to give more than regurgitated specs, you gained your Web rep as being more than just another outlet of manufacturer advert. Now you not only don't live up to your rep, but now claim/brag about how more experienced you are and would never give an impression of one sounding better than another.
Pretty pictures do feed our interest, but be brave and give some audiophile/music lover evaluation. Dick Oshler (via your site) seems to be able to do a balanace between "show conditions" and "fine sound" explinations very nicely.
And anybody with any experience in refined audio, does not need to go to a show to understand in the "whole is the sum of the parts". So we can take input with a vast grain of salt.
But I can understand that running a business influences one to become more neutral than a commited hobbiest. Just don't brag when someone else has a web page that has pretty picturers and opinions, comes off like you are trying to deny your roots and engage in info monopoly.
--according to pic 15 'in the mirror' blowup --looks more like an IXUS or similar.
I have a D30 and D60 in house at present.
Clean presentation-- looks like done on a Mac also--poor fellow --maybe should have kept shutter open,and mouth closed!--there seems to be a 'no-win" mentality creeping into the nature of the recent posts.
Praise from me anyway on the Pics.
... when it comes to web/graphics work, i definitely prefer Macs. :)
in general, i am cross-platform these days - PCs for the utilitarian stuff, Mac for web/graphics, Solaris/Linux for system-related stuff. unfortunately at home i don't have a Mac, only 3 PCs... i have my old Mac clone from way back when but it is out of commission at the moment. new Macs are lovely but simply too expensive. i do use a G4 in addition to my PC at the office though.
i've come to terms with being stuck with PCs only at home, i calibrated my monitor to be more accurate, i.e. more like a Mac... =P that may be why the gamma of my pics is a little darkish as if i edited on a Mac. i just wish i had BBEdit on my PC... *sigh*
i was actually not that happy with how they came out, but oh well. i'm a relative novice at photography and there is only so much you can do with a point-and-shoot, although i must say that among point-and-shoots the Canon S30/S40 are king. incidentally, i had an S40 before but returned it and got the cheaper S30, i felt the pictures looked better and required far less post-editing despite the lower res.
steve, i was looking at the pics on enjoythemusic.com. they are excellent, very professional. did you take them? i wish i had a D60. or at least a way to control an external flash conveniently - the S30's built-in flash is pretty poor.
..much crisper than some of the other digital pics posted here. Neatness counts. ;-)
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