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I guess few here would argue with the thoughts below but I would be interested on further comment as there are still many in audio clubs who treat this concept with scorn adopting the "If you cannot measure it - it doesn't exist" attitude.
Theoretically it should be possible to mate any reasonable quality component with another to achieve a satisfying result. Maybe this is so for average mid-fi components (maybe because they are so mediocre) but has not been what many of us have experienced.
The term commonly used to describe this is “synergy”, a black magic meaningless term to those happy to rely on instrumental measurements and not their ears. And, IMO herein lies the trap – those instrumental measurements are obviously incomplete and do a poor job of correlating with the sound as described in the link below.
Taken a step further this synergy between components is sometimes altered by different interconnects. This can be scoffed off by attributing it to a placebo affect, and this might well apply in some cases, but it is being closed minded to say it is ALWAYS the case.
I have experienced disappointment in a number of cases where a well respected component has just not sounded as good as has been touted by others, and have also been pleased NOT to observe the negatives others have ascribed to a component.
Obviously there is more going on than the specifications of a component indicate so that the best possible handshaking between component A and component B is never guaranteed. They may be simple electrons involved, but it appears they encounter some unexpected hurdles in their action while in the process of reproducing quality sound from recordings. With the vast number of condensers, resistors, ICs etc involved this should not be surprising. Maybe a component can be designed so that the action of the electrons within that component are consistent -> a good result, but that does not appear to guarantee a good interface with another component.
So yes, IMO, there is a certain amount of illogical “black magic” associated with all this.
No cure possible or is solicited for this audio, video and classical music obsession. I love it!
Measure away, but I'll gladly trust my own ears over what anyone tells me is "accurate" (most of the time). Do the measurements lie, or do I prefer a lie? Who knows for sure?
That which is easy to measure often is not what really matters, and vice versa. The way the human hearing mechanism reacts to distortion is often very different from what our intuition would lead us to believe.
It's not that measurements are in and of themselves unreliable; it's that what really matters is in some cases still being discovered, and much of what has already been discovered in this area has not gained widespread acceptance because it's much more complicated to communicate than a simple THD measurement or frequency response specification. And let's not forget that often it's not in the best interest from a marketing standpoint to communicate clearly.
An understanding of what to measure (and how to analyze it) based not on how our measuring devices work, but on how our ear/brain system perceives, is what we are looking for. If we know how the ears perceive, we can better work towards recreating a convincing perception. To quote the researcher whose work you linked to:
"If there is a signal that I want to reproduce, regardless of the source or type, then the ideal is to exactly reproduce the waveform of that signal at the ears of the listener or failing that TO REPRODUCE THE SAME PERCEPTION OF THAT SIGNAL AS WOULD HAVE OCCURRED AT THE ORIGINAL EVENT. If this is done, then the goal of reproduction has been fulfilled..." - Earl Geddes, emphasis Duke's.
I agree with you entirely about needing to understand what we should measure and how we relate measurements of one component to another.
I start to have problems with your quote from Earl Geddes. Reproducing the wave form at the ear and reproducing the perception are quite different concepts and I'm not certain that either is what will satisfy us.
To deal with reproducing the wave form first. I think we're all familiar with how mood affects our response to a recording. On a bad day our favourite recording can seem dull and uninvolving and on a good day quite the opposite yet we're listening to the same recording on the same gear in the same room while sitting in the same chair in both cases and the waveform reaching our ears is as identical as we can hope for in both cases, yet our experience is wildly different. Our experience at a live concert only depends in part on what falls on our ears—the emotional aspects of being present and the sense of interaction with a live artist in real time all influence our experience as well. Just reproducing the waveform won't reproduce the experience and may leave us very unsatisfied—after all we can enjoy a live concert quite a lot even when the sound quality has noticeable problems, but the same sound quality without the 'extras' of actual presence may be quite a deal less enjoyable or even unenjoyable.
Don't get me wrong. I think it would be a great advance to be able to reproduce the waveform perfectly and I think it would help a lot, but I don't think that on its own is enough to guarantee satisfaction.
Reproducing the perception is even more problematic. Are we talking about the raw sensory data perception before it is mediated by other psychological factors such as those present at a live performance, or are we talking about perception after those other factors have their influence? The second choice there amounts to reproduction of our experience rather simply of our sensory perception yet I think that is the meaning that most of us would prefer, and we have no real way of measuring or quantifying that experience. That means that we have to rely on our own judgement of when accurate reproduction has occurred and I don't think that sits well with Earl's strongly avowed rejection of subjective judgement as a reliable tool.
Still, any talk about reproducing the perception/experience seems to assume that listening to live music vs a recording provides a similar experience and I don't think it does. We never have the opportunity to listen to the same live performance twice. At best we can only listen to different performances of the same music by the same artist and there will be innumerable small differences because no-one ever performs anything exactly the same way as they did in a previous performance but that is precisely what recordings allow us to do. We do listen to exactly the same performance over and over again, and we listen slighlty differently each time and notice different things each time, and our perceptions of the music and the performance change over time and repeated listening. We even look forward to the ability to do that with new recordings that impress us. When we listen to a recording a second or third or whatever time, we very often aren't hoping to have the same experience again, but rather to deepen and extend our experience. Reproduction of an earlier experience isn't going to satisfy.
Finally, imperfect as they are, many systems do satisfy their owners. Why is that the case if the goal is either reproduction of the waveform or reproduction of the perception/experience? I think the answer is that we are satisfied because none of those things are our real goal. After all, they aren't our goal for movie playback. We don't want to reproduce what happened on the set and lose the illusion of reality, and we don't want to experience what is being portrayed, especially if it includes pain and suffering. We know the movie presents an illusion, and we know that a recording also presents an illusion, as does a novel or short story. I think we want to suspend disbelief and enter into the illusion, and to take something from the illusion. I don't think we want to replicate the original reality as an absolute, though replication of some aspects of that reality does help.
And I think there are going to be individual differences to what kind of illusion we want to create and what we want to take from it. That's why I think there is a level of 'art' in assembling a satisfying system. We need to pay attention and learn what aspects of reproduced sound are important to us, whether those aspects are realistic or not, and assemble a system with it's strengths in those areas. The enjoyment and satisfaction we experience when we are moved by listening to a recording are subjective, and it is a matter of satisfying our tastes and preferences. Plus accuracy is a variable—what row seat provides 'accurate' sound in your favourite concert hall, and is it even the same seat if one concert is a small trio playing quiet music and the next is a symphony orchestra and chorus performing a blockbuster?
I do think getting a more accurate reproduction of the waveform reaching the ear is a desirable goal but I think the real goal is satisfying whatever is required to float our personal preferred illusion while recognising that listening to records is a different experience to listening to a live performance, and it's those differences that really do count when it comes to achieving satisfaction. I'm not certain that we're ever going to be able to come up with a recipe that satisfies everyone, just as I don't think accurate reproduction of the waveform will suffice. I think we're stuck with a level of art in the process and I also think that's just great considering this is a hobby with personal enjoyment as the end goal.
And the continued presence of that level of art in the equation just happens to guarantee me a lot more happy times listening to systems other than mine, systems that do things differently to mine and produce different experiences of the music and insights into it. I really think it would be boring if we could satisfy Earl's goal because if we all had systems that did that, no-one's system would produce a different experience and that would result in a loss of enjoyment to me.
Thanks for putting together such a thoughtful and in-depth reply. I always enjoy your posts, the disagree as well as the agree parts.
To quote Led Zep, "...sometimes words have two meanings", so perhaps "emotional perception" should have been differentiated from "auditory perception" in my post. A stereo image is an example of an auditory perception, while goosebumps are an emotional perception. I'm focusing on auditory perception as the first step; the goosebumps may or may not happen depending to a significant extent on the individual listener's state of mind.
I will concede that individual preference varies quite a bit, and even speculate that individual tolerance for imperfections may vary more than individual delight with things done right. For instance, vinyl surface noise bugs the heck out of some people, but others listen right past it as if it wasn't there.
Conceding that perfect waveform replication isn't presently possible, why would recreation (as closely as possible) of the auditory perception that the performers and/or engineers intended be an unworthy goal? It's actually a fascinating goal to pursue, because it requires delving into not only acoustics but also psychoacoustics. For exmple, one would go to great lengths to minimize distortions that matter, and not worry so much about those that matter little or not at all. Establishing which is which is the subject of much of the research documented in the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society.
I can't argue against your appreciation of the differing presentations offered by different sound systems, because I must confess to the same fascination! But even if we were in danger of the entire audio world adopting Earl Geddes' paradigm and all systems converging towards accurately recreating the acoustic perception the artists intended, there's enough variation from one recording to another that it would probably take a while before we all turned away in boredom. And I know the Earl quote I used referred to "the original event" instead of to "the perception that the artist intended", but in many cases "the original event" never happened the way it was intended to be perceived - just like the shooting of a movie.
I don't think Earl is at all averse to blind subjective evaluations, as I've seen some of his research techniques up close. In fact he let me take one of his distortion perception tests via headphones, but since I knew what the test was testing he discarded my results even though I had no idea what types or levels of distortion were being presented. On the other hand, Earl does not trust non-blind listening tests, not even on himself.
How about I finish off with another Earl quote:
"When I paint, I am an artist. When I listen to music on a sound system, I am a passive listener, one who is not involved in the production of the art. Therefore, I want to hear what the "artists" intended for me to hear - good or bad. I am free to judge this art, but to reinterpret it is not my role."
We may well not be as far apart as you think.
> "Conceding that perfect waveform replication isn't presently possible, why would recreation (as closely as possible) of the auditory perception that the performers and/or engineers intended be an unworthy goal? " <
I don't think it's an unworthy goal and I think getting as close as possible is important. I just don't think it's enough to satisfy me as a listener (I might find I'm wrong about that if we ever get perfect reproduction in my life time but I won't hold my breath waiting or I really would guarantee that I won't hear it in my lifetime) but if I was an equipment designer I think it would be enough of a goal, even more than enough of a goal, for me as a designer. Some people are both listener and designer and I don't see any problem with them having separate goals for each role. In the absence of the perfect component, I think there's room for both goals to co-exist quite happily if we pay attention to what we hear.
> "When I paint, I am an artist. When I listen to music on a sound system, I am a passive listener, one who is not involved in the production of the art. Therefore, I want to hear what the "artists" intended for me to hear - good or bad. I am free to judge this art, but to reinterpret it is not my role." <
I have vague memories of a poster many years ago which said something like:
"I know that you believe you understand what you think I said but I am not sure you realise that what you heard was not what I meant." I'm perverse enough to think there's a lot of truth in that.
I actually agree with your quote to a big degree, but we normally don't have the artists tell us what they intended us to hear and I think one of the wonderful things about great art is that not only can it tell each of us many things, but it tells different people different things as well. I think artists are often surprised by what people find in their work, and I think great art often says more to people than the artist consciously had in mind. People can and do create things that surprise them, and often do better than they thought they could. I thinkthe really great artists do it much more often than they know. I'm not sure that the artist is always capable of telling us everything that they achieved in a performance, and what they intended need not be all of what they actually achieved. Sometimes, their intentions are sadly a fair bit more than what they achieved. Ultimately the performance, or the recording, stands on it's own and each of us in the audience finds what we find in it.
I think the prescription against reinterpretation is good but the artist's intent is tricky, especially when they achieve something special which exceeds their intention in some way. Sometimes the artist's intentions would sell the performance short.
What I would like to do is to hear things as accurately as possible because I think that is essential, but not every aspect of what we hear is equally essential to each of us and some aspects are more important to us than others. We can't help editorialising, choosing our systems in ways that favour what is most important to us, but I think we should avoid things that do amount to reinterpretation, which often seem to amount to making things prettier than they actually are/were. There is a fine line there and we don't always get it right, but we can continue listening and trying to get it better.
I enjoy our exchanges on this sort of thing too. I think you're very open minded and clear about what your preferences are and what you think is essential, and that makes our discussions very enjoyable for me. Perhaps that's why some of my responses to your posts are too long :-)
"but we normally don't have the artists tell us what they intended us to hear"
But we do have the artists art in the form that they agreed was what they wanted to express to us (CD's, DVD's). Do we not owe it to the artist NOT to reinterprete their art by manipulating it simply because we find it personally more satisfying. That's like recoloring Picasso's Blue Period, because we don't like blue.
To me this whole discussion gets lost the moment one implies "preference" or the like. Thats because there is no and can never be an answer to "preference" in "reproduction". There can only be "preference" when responding to the art, and reproduction is not the art. It may be an art in achiveing it, but it, in and of itself, is not the art or even part of it.
I am very careful in all my work NOT to imply "preference" in our testing, only "perception". We can perceive reproduction differences without ever implying or judging a preference. When there is no "perceptable" difference between the reproduction and the art, then, as an audio designer, my job is done, and the "preference" judgement can be made solely where it belongs - of the art and not the playback system.
If this is "boring" to you, then you and I are seeking different things.
I know that many will take strong exception to this point of view, but believe me, it was not arrived at lightely. I am a passionate listener who over the 45+ years of listening and designing has come to recognize what the importance aspects are. I attempt to describe them here and through my work.
Well, I never said that it was right to reinterpret. I actually said it was wrong to do so. Go back and read that point, and please refrain from trying to accuse me of saying things I most definitely did not.
I did raise issues with knowing the artist's intentions and there are issues. Performances don't always work out as intended, surprises happen, and sometimes the surprises are what makes the performance. Should you reproduce such surprises accurately when the artist tells you they were unintended? Should you try to deliver what the artist intended or what they achieved? I do side with reproducing what was achieved.
And it is worth noting that not all recordings do meet with the artist's approval. Discs have been released that the artists objected most strongly to. You simply can't assume that the recording documents the artist's intentions.
I spoke strongly in favour of accuracy as an equipment design goal and I meant that. I also have yet to find any component that does that. I said I was uncertain that delivering such a goal would satisfy the listener, though I also said I was prepared to find that I was wrong on that point if we ever really reproduced the wave form. It's impossible to say how I would react to hearing something no one has ever heard, but as I said, I think listening to recordings is a different experience to listening to a live performance. We can and do attend in different ways, so why shouldn't we find that what would genuinely satisfy us when listening to recordings is something different to what satisfies us when we listen to live music. And as I said, I've listened to both live and recorded and I've played publicly as an amateur artist. I do have a bit of experience as a performer as well as a listener.
As far as accurately reproducing the waveform goes, which waveform do you want to reproduce for a live recording? The 5th row or the 10th row? Is it re-interpretation to arrange your reproduction so that what you hear is very close to what you heard at the actual concert, even though the mics were located elsewhere?
What I am certain of is that I do think that there are issues about accuracy and faithfulness to intentions which aren't necessarily as clear cut as you try to make them seem; and also that trying to achieve a goal that our equipment currently does not support and always falling short does not seem like a recipe for contented listening to me.
"Well, I never said that it was right to reinterpret. I actually said it was wrong to do so. Go back and read that point, and please refrain from trying to accuse me of saying things I most definitely did not."
Don't be so touchy, I was not accusing you of anything - simply asking the question. I was responding as much to the general list of comments as to yours specifically. You have to choose one to respond to and yours was the most sensible. So don't take offense.
"As far as accurately reproducing the waveform goes, which waveform do you want to reproduce for a live recording? The 5th row or the 10th row? Is it re-interpretation to arrange your reproduction so that what you hear is very close to what you heard at the actual concert, even though the mics were located elsewhere?"
I am not a waveform accurate advocate because its not perceptually important. I advocate playback accuracy of the recording as mixed by the engineers, which is two channel. (And I know the argument about the monitor loudspeakers and their problems. Once all loudspeakers are accurate then this won't be a problem anymore. ) If the release does not "meet with the artist's approval" then I am sorry for the artist who will release inferior work - I can't help that. Your last question is only applicable to a rather unique circumstance - its hardly ever applicable (since classical music accounts for such a small % of sales), but its still what was mixed and approved that counts.
I will say this, I have a good friend who has released many CD's. He asks me what I think of them and I point out all the flaws. He never even heard these flaws. All he knows is the performance (which was perfect) not the recording (which was not). But he is the last word on the release. He now has me listen to everything that he releases on my system before he releases them. So no, the situation is not perfect, but modifying the playback will, at best, improve one situation and at worst screw up everything. So I don't see how we at the playback end can ever hope to correct problems at the recording end.
"What I am certain of is that I do think that there are issues about accuracy and faithfulness to intentions which aren't necessarily as clear cut as you try to make them seem; "
I think that you are oversimplifying what I am saying as I am hardly saying that the task is easy to impliment, only that the goal seems pretty clear to me. Yes one can make it cloudy with a lot of specific examples, but when one looks at the big picture I think that the direction is still pretty clear and I think that you would agree with that direction.
"and also that trying to achieve a goal that our equipment currently does not support and always falling short does not seem like a recipe for contented listening to me."
What goal does our equipment currently not support? I find that I am very contented with my listening and I find that people like Duke, who I believe shares my point of view, are also quite contented with thier listening. I'm unclear on why you think that my goal leads to discontent.
At any rate, don't take offense, I think that we are mostly on the same page with perhaps a few disagreements on what the goal is. I think that you will find that while the issues you raise make the situation less clear, that striving for accuracy in reproduction independent of preference still ends up being the best choice overall.
I do think fidelity to the recording as it was mixed is a much more workable goal, but there are still issues.
Most studios work with a nearfield setup for mastering and most listeners seem to prefer far field. Both produce quite different experiences but I don't regard one as being intrinsically more right than the other. Some people are definitely more partisan than I.
And I'm quite content with my listening too, if that means something.
But I'm content with something less than total accuracy, as are you. None of us knows what total accuracy sounds like because it's currently unachievable, and small differences in reproductive quality can cause significant changes in our perceptions. I suspect that we all try to achieve accuracy by ensuring that our system's strengths lie in the areas that are most important to us while minimising weaknesses and ensuring that none of them are significant enough to cause us problems. Different people do like different presentations—I have a set of low sensitivity mini-monitors in a near field setup and one of my friends has high sensitivity vintage Altec Lansings in a far field setup. We both listen to live as well as recorded music and both find our respective systems accurate. My feeling is that we each get off on different characteristics of musical sound and we optimise playback for our respective preferences. In other words, we're selective about what we're accurate to.
I see no reason for believing that achieving total accuracy is going to change that. Total accuracy can be determined by measurement, but it may not reflect the 'mix' I hear when I listen to either live or recorded music.
And yes, I may be "making things cloudy" in your view but I do feel a need to withold judgement on how satisfying such a result would be. I totally agree that equipment should be accurate but people do derive pleasure from using things in differrent ways, and the goal of this hobby is pleasure. I'm prepared to bet that delivering totally accurate equipment would not result in all that much of a reduction in the range of equipment manufactured and sold, and some of today's gear is more accurate than others and there are people who buy at both ends of that range. I can't see that changing and I'm not sure that I would necessarily approve if everybody settled on the same thing, no matter how accurate it was. Contrast can be instructive and enjoyable also.
I can hardly disagree with you, but I also have some further points.
"Most studios work with a nearfield setup for mastering and most listeners seem to prefer far field. Both produce quite different experiences but I don't regard one as being intrinsically more right than the other. "
I posted this same topic as a question here some months ago but did not get much response. This is a critical point, one that I have not wholly resolved in my own mind and one that does have a strong effect on what we perceive.
Which leads me into the area that you are uncomfortable with and the one that I am most comfortable with. You seem to be unsure that true accuracy will achieve what you are seeking - fair enough, perhaps you haven't experienced it, perhaps it can never really be achieved, whatever. But what I have found (personal subjective opinion here) is that I am more satisfied with the sound the more accurate it is when judged by an absolutely objective criteria. This could be coincidence, or wishful thinking, but I ask you, does that seem likely. Doesn't it just seem intuitively like it should happen this way. What else in our universe works in any other way? How could it be that the key to good sound is locked away from us never to reveal itself through science? Maybe its the scientist in me, but this just doesn't seem logical. Most professional believe that measurements are absolutely reliable predictors of mean opinions of quality.
Now I am not saying that objective measurements tell all - hardly. Many objective measurements that I see done are pointless to useless, and they definately don't tell the whole story. To measure axial frequency response, for example, is, to me, a wholly unsatisfactory measurement. Its one measurement in a field of many and not even the most important one. And yet so many think that this is accuracy - hardly.
"I see no reason for believing that achieving total accuracy is going to change that. Total accuracy can be determined by measurement, but it may not reflect the 'mix' I hear when I listen to either live or recorded music."
And this, of course, is where we disagree, because in my experince the better something measures - when done right - the better it sounds. Your experience may be different, but I feel bad for you if it does. Because I have a clear path to follow and metrics by which to measure my progress which are both meaningfull and accurate. This allows me to move forward unambiguously without the trial and error so often associated with audio progress. I have designed an untold number of audio systems and if it weren't for the ability to accurately quantify their performance I would not be able to move forward with any speed or certainty.
The "trial and error so often associated with audio progress" that I spoke of above, is, of course, what many people are in this hobby for. I don't criticize them for that, but I do object to being criticized for seeking an objective way to proceed, since, as a professional, my livelihood depends on it. I understand, perhaps better than most, that this puts me at odds with many here, but still, some seem to appreciate what I can offer in the way of an objective point of view, so I am willing to offer them my expertise.
Nice talking with you.
"Which leads me into the area that you are uncomfortable with and the one that I am most comfortable with. You seem to be unsure that true accuracy will achieve what you are seeking - fair enough, perhaps you haven't experienced it, perhaps it can never really be achieved, whatever. But what I have found (personal subjective opinion here) is that I am more satisfied with the sound the more accurate it is when judged by an absolutely objective criteria. This could be coincidence, or wishful thinking, but I ask you, does that seem likely. Doesn't it just seem intuitively like it should happen this way. What else in our universe works in any other way? How could it be that the key to good sound is locked away from us never to reveal itself through science? Maybe its the scientist in me, but this just doesn't seem logical. Most professional believe that measurements are absolutely reliable predictors of mean opinions of quality."
So far improved accuracy has seemed to work for me too, however I remain hesitant about total accuracy.
Part of my reason for that is that I think there's a question about accuracy to what. I know people with wildly different systems and they all claim to be seeking accuracy, but different aspects of the "sound of music" appeal to them and their systems do sound different and individual. Do I assume many of us are fooling ourselves about what is accurate, including people who do listen to a reasonable amount of live music? More importantly, are they choosing the sound they get because of personal preference or because aspects of that sound strike them as more accurate in relation to what they focus on when they listen to live music? That's not a trivial question and I'm unaware of any research to try and answer that question.
The 2 of us can drive separately from A to B in identical cars along the same route. Weather conditions and time of day are the same. Do we perceive the same scenery and do we have the same driving experience? We'll probably attend to some different aspects of the scenery and give a different description of some aspects of the route so I think it's fair to say that our perceptions are different. Our driving styles will definitely mediate our driving experience. Whose report of the trip is going to be more accurate, assuming both of us report honestly? It's a meaningless question. We've both answered accurately but the trip was different in some ways for each of us.
Our perceptions are complex and they do differ from person to person. What we perceive when we listen to music isn't simply the product of the acoustic waveform in the room. There are other contributors to our perception and they are personal. Does everyone's perception correlate to the same degree with their raw sensation? I doubt it, but I also don't know how we could go about establishing it.
And, if one person's "accuracy" now is another's "re-interpretation", why should that change when we have the ability to reproduce things with 100% accuracy to the source when we don't all perceive the source in the same way?
It's possible that having total accuracy would satisfy many of us, and it may make it easier for many of us to focus on those aspects of the music that most interest us, even though there is some variation from person to person there, but I'm uncertain that it will satisfy all of us. It probably would satisfy those of us who fall within 1 standard deviation of the mean for what we respond to, however that is measured, but I wonder whether it's less likely to satisfy those at the extreme ends of the bell curve for this. There's a wide range of variation in musical tastes (classical vs pop vs jazz vs…) and many of those forms have very different sonic traits. I would expect there to be similar variations in what we all perceive as accurate, irrespective of measurements.
I always remain cautious about views that leave no room for individual differences. They tend not to work for everyone though some views do seem to work for more people than do others. There is less variation among us on some things than on others. Until we can achieve total accuracy and see how a wide range of people respond, I will choose to remain cautious.
No system will ever please everyone - lets face it. And your argument assumes that someone can define "accuracy" in a subjective manner, which I disagree with.
"I know people with wildly different systems and they all claim to be seeking accuracy"
Yes, of course, but lets face it, most people do view "accuracy" as "preference". I find that people say they want accuracy, but thats not what they buy nor what they prefer. No, to me accuracy can only be measured through objective means and then this leaves little doubt as to the reality of the situation.
"And, if one person's "accuracy" now is another's "re-interpretation", why should that change when we have the ability to reproduce things with 100% accuracy to the source when we don't all perceive the source in the same way?"
Because this question can only be meaningful if "accuracy" is ambiguous, which it is if it is defined subjectively. But when defined objectively then the above example is not possible. It either is accurate or its not, no ambiguity.
"It's possible that having total accuracy would satisfy many of us, and it may make it easier for many of us to focus on those aspects of the music that most interest us, even though there is some variation from person to person there, but I'm uncertain that it will satisfy all of us."
Of course it won't because you are talking about "preference" not "accuracy". Its very possible, and has in fact happened to me, that an accurate sound system makes a recording sound worse. That truely has to be possible right? So why should we believe that accuracy would always lead to preference? I don't believe that, not for a moment.
But lets just be clear on our terminology. If one is seeking preference then they cannot claim that it is necessarily high fidelity or accuracy. They are not and never can be the same thing. If someone wants to seek preference then go for it, but lets just be clear that what they seek is a personal thing not to be confused with high fidelity. Thats the root of most of my arguments; that people want to define accuracy as preference and this simply is not the case.
I can say unambiguously that I seek "accuracy", that this is also my personal "preference" is a seperate issue. And I am completely comfortable with someone saying that "accuracy" is not what they "prefer". But I am uncomfortable with someone saying that they prefer accuracy while the objective measurements clearly show otherwise. This is a misuse of the term.
I think our problem is that you're defining accuracy in terms of the sound produced, which is great when it comes to assessing components.
People judge accuracy on the basis of their sensations which is a different thing.
I'm unwilling to jump to the conclusion that "most people do view "accuracy" as "preference"" and I'd be very interested if you know of any studies to support that. I tend to believe most people are honest and if they say that something sounds life-like or accurate to them, that's what they mean. They're not confusing what they like with what they think is accurate. I know people who, if asked, can tell you where they think their system departs from accuracy and where they erred in favour of a preference for something rather than a different deviation. They are aware of the difference between accuracy and preference but, if they can't get accuracy they do rely on preference when choosing their unavoidable inaccuracy. I could be wrong but these are intelligent people who are honest in other areas so I'm reluctant to distrust them over this.
In fact, I can quickly think of a simple reason for someone's perceptions disagreeing with objective measurement of the sound. Let's say we have a music lover—someone whose assessments of accuracy you previously have been happy with—who has recently started to develop noise related hearing loss and neither of you are aware of this. As you are no doubt aware, this loss starts as a loss of sensitivity in the mid-range. They haven't yet developed it badly enough to bother them sufficiently to get their hearing tested, but their hearing sensitivity is measurably down in that region. They report that a system with a slight boost in that area is accurate whereas you, without the damage, hear the boost and claim it isn't. Both of you happen to be right in this case.
This isn't a "one size fits all" world, and anyone who deviates from what you regard as the right assessment of accuracy is not necessarily wrong or falsely reporting a preference.
To me accuracy cannot be a subjective judgement - we disagree here, Ok.
Your example is false for two reasons. By far the most common hearing loss is in the high frequency, not the mid frequency, but never mind that. This person still has a hearing loss when they go to a concert and so they will still find the acurate system accurate on comparison. What your saying is that they may want the sound system to correct their hearing loss. Then its no longer accurate, and they should buy a hearing aid instead, so they don't screw up the sound for everybody else.
I specified noise induced hearing loss. It tends to show up first in the vocal range frequencies, not the higher frequencies. I used to work in occupational health and safety and was required to study noise problems. I suggest you read up a little on it yourself.
It's a rude shift on your part to ignore the condition I referred to and try and imply that my example was wrong because other conditions don't manifest in the same way.
Yes, a person with a hearing loss can compare things to a live performance but, as you are well aware, live performances can sound noticeably different depending on where you sit. We build an "image" of what sounds accurate over time and, if our hearing deteriorates, that image will change also but it will change sometime later than the hearing deterioration. It will not occur along with it. That's why people get their hearing tested because "things don't sound right". If there has been a loss, their standard for what sounds right hasn't yet changed or they wouldn't think things didn't sound right. We adjust over time, and adjustment occurs only after an interval. There are periods where the adjustment has not started to be made, or is incomplete, but during which the deterioration does affect a person's hearing and their judgements about their perceptions are influenced by their former hearing experience rather than their current experience.
You say " it seems to be dwindling down to some very specific exceptions to the rules" and attempt to dismiss my points but you were the one to state "the rules" in such a categorical way as to imply there were no exceptions, and to keep arguing against any suggestion that there were. In this particular case there happen to be exceptions and your categorical statement simply isn't true for everyone as I pointed out.
You could at least have the courtesy to admit, when making some of your frequent categorical statements, that there are exceptions to them from time to time.
Enjoy your trip to Brazil.
"If you cannot measure it - it doesn't exist" - this holds absolutely true.
But many forget that your ear is the most important measuring tool.
Some people have weak hearing, and they decide based on numbers only that machines have produced. But in these cases, it doesn't matter if they have a Bose wave radio or a refined setup. Most people who can burn money already have very poor hearing. (No pun, just an honest observation.)
Measurements are important to troubleshoot. I have a scope, and I use it to visualize what's wrong or what needs to be improved, but depend on my ear alone for determination of sonic quality.
This is a process that every audiophile has to go through: if you can't trust your ears, seek someone with good hearing out, and learn. Hearing can, and does improve by training, even at old age. However, if you listen to ear-killer systems, it will deteriorate.
Happy music listening!
That is, don't counter the effects of one with the other, get 'em all going the same direction. If synergy means anything in audio it means that. Nothing sounds worse than a system at war in the name of balance.
I so often see in these forums suggestions on balancing a too bright component with another that rolls off the top, etc. I have personally rarely encountered where this approach really works. Rather, systems work where the assembler has a clear view of what he is seeking and finds components that also match that kind of sound. One can't have it all, and finding components that are good at different things and hoping that the good qualities will win out in the system is usually futile.
I've heard and liked complete one manufacturer systems. The two I have in mind are completely different in sound, but they both work on their own terms. I am referring to an all Naim system and an all Audionote system.
I guess the key thing I learned is that you have to like the sound of your source components. The last think you want to be doing, IMHO, is trying to soften an edgy source with something downstream, because you're pretty much inevitably going to be giving up detail.
Amp-speaker is harder because as the discussion below rightly notes it's a matter of a good marriage -- it's hard to specify an ideal amp without thinking of what speaker it will be asked to drive, and vice versa. But the point remains, yes, that if you find yourself trying to fix the problems of component A by finding a component B with opposite flaws, in the long run you're better off selling component A.
In the old days, it was true of Meridian and Linn too, don't know now, haven't heard them in too long. It's always easier to do it with one designer/manufacturer, but it can be done with several if you're willing to spend the time. Blue Circle hybrids and Brystons seem to be going the same way as Harbeths, though Gilbert Yeung would quarrel with that! Manley and Reynaud works, Blue Circle and Reynaud works, Audiomat and Reynaud works. And there was a time when Krell and B&W worked, though that was in B&W Matrix days, don't know about now. What kind of marriage do we prefer? One where the two parties fight to a passionate standstill or one where they agree from the start? Your call. I think it's harder when a speaker, like Spendors, sound wonderful but need something to help them along. What do you do? Kick 'em? Love 'em up? Dunno. Best results I've heard with Spendors have been good push-pulls but not the kind with those nasty 6550's. I'd love to have the time and funds to find a good husband for SP 1/2's. Never could do it here.
"nasty 6550's" I too have never liked amps with that tube; they sound so harsh and harmonically bleached. My current amp, Audionote (uk) Kageki's are, compared to my pushpull 45 amps, on the lean side, but they are not bleached and unpleasant sounding.
Are you talking about Vu's (Deja Vu Audio) push/pull 45 amps? If so, I used to own them and agree that were on the rich/lush side of the fence. Bass was on the loose and tubby side too. I'm very interested in the Audionote Kageki's. How do the two amps differ?
Yes, it is a Deja Vu pushpull 45. It is quite a remarkable amp -- well balanced, rich and reasonably detailed. One feels at ease when listening to this amp (meaning it sounds natural and non-mechanical, not that it is languid and dead sounding).
The Kageki is a bit leaner and dynamic sounding (sort of commands attention a bit more). It has a much more airy and dimensional top end that is quite thrilling to hear. It's hard to describe, but SETs just seem to be more intimate and able to connect the listener more directly with the music. Of course, there is that slight difference in cost.
The Deja Vu 45 amps that I owned had the upgraded Audionote slver foil capacitors in them. I also owned Vu's preamp as well with upgraded Black Gate capacitors. The combination was very very lush and musical but a little bit too much for my taste. Serves me right for allowing to be talked into upgrading parts without first hearing what they sound like. It certainly sounds like the Kageki's are a step up in performance. Take care!
Larry will tell you more from firsthand experience, but I love their little brothers, the Neiros, which also have the 2A3 tubes. I have compared them extensively with 300B tube amps and find them leaner in a good way. I find 300 amps (I haven't heard the Shinri's, 300B amps that are comparable to the Neiros) a bit too lush. I have not heard a 45 amp and so will also be interested in what Larry says.
One 300B amp that breaks the lush mold are the Wyetech Sapphire's that I own. Very dynamic with fantastic bass and an absolute bargain ($6,800) in this crazy hobby. However, I'm interested in hearing what an upper-end Audionote ampliifer sounds like in my system.
You can turn anything into project if you want. Just keep it simple, be real selective in you speaker selection and try to get the speaker to room interface as good as you can. The rest can fall into place over time.
........……IMHO I am unaware of any measurements, no matter how extensive, that can tell an individual if he is going to like the audio product being measured or determine, from the measurements, the audio product that best suits his needs based on how various products measure.
IMHO I have always believed that the ONLY way to actually KNOW what you like is to listen and audition any given component.
I have several different amps and sources. To my ears they all sound different and some markedly so. (Not only different but some way better/worse than others)
IMHO “synergy” is the most import factor in assembling a ‘good audio system’. The folks who can simply put together any combination of audio components and be impressed and contented with what they hear are truly blessed and are very fortunate to be able to do so.
Lastly, a fact often forgotten, we all ‘hear’ differently and have different tastes, priorities and objectives with all things audio or music. This is why; IMHO, there is never a universally accepted “best” audio component(s)
with sufficient effort. Effort is the combination of experience, knowledge, and money applied to the problem (labor, brains, and capital in a business context). To a limited extent, these are fungible, so that the kleptocrat with no time to spend studying the subject can buy very expensive components and hire the expert to assemble them, while the poor but diligent student can scrounge and hack together something very cheap that delivers equally satisfactory sound.
The tradeoffs are not linear, though. It is much easier to get good sound with a reasonable balance of these inputs than it is to use one of them alone. I believe this fact explains the rancor behind many of the inmates' judgemental posts. There is a group of ignorami who bitch about the prices of refined components. There is another, overlapping, group of engineer wannabees that thinks every tweak is snake-oil. None of these benighted souls has satisfactory sound, but they seek to blame a corrupt marketplace rather than their own ignorance, and abuse this forum to find mutual support.
> > It is much easier to get good sound with a reasonable balance of
> > these inputs than it is to use one of them alone.
> > I believe this fact explains the rancor behind many of the inmates'
OK maybe not understanding this fact does explain some inmate’s behavior or perceptions but I disagree with how you've incompletely applied it in your follow-up comment.
> > There is a group of ignorami who bitch about the prices of refined
> > components.
Sure but what's this got do with the fact you refer to above - bitching about the high cost of audio is one thing but and even you admit above that knowledge and understanding can go along way towards making up for a lack of money. Having little or no knowledge and simply paying a dealer lots of money for a refined audio system seems even less likely to yield satisfactory results than choosing components by throwing darts at Stereophile recommended components lists.
I do agree in general that the best audio does come with increased spending combined with experience and knowledge. What bothers me as much as those who whine that all expensive audio is useless audio jewelry (IMO much of it is) is those who believe spending money with a minimum of knowledge or experience actually makes them deserving of audiophile credibility.
> > There is another, overlapping, group of engineer wannabees that
> > thinks every tweak is snake-oil. None of these benighted souls has
> > satisfactory sound, but they seek to blame a corrupt marketplace
> > rather than their own ignorance, and abuse this forum to find
> > mutual support.
How would you know that those who think tweaks are snake-oil don't have satisfactory sound? This seems like quite a stretch on your part. Again I kind of agree with your generalization but not completely. But then again, as you did in the first comment, you ignore the second half. How can you explain that every month dozens of components are favorably reviewed in the audio press? Rarely is a comment not good, and maybe 1/2 the time a component is worthy of a recommendations. What does this say about your definition of refinement? Well statistically speaking "refinement", "recommendation" or "highly touted" means absolutely mediocre. And the statistics obviously and completely back up my comment. This is not a charge of corruption, unethical behavior or dishonesty - it's a charge of good business practices along with a charge of a lack of taste and discrimination.
Your comment reveals you to be clearly in one camp and not in the middle. And your Kleptocrat doesn't seem to make sense to me either.
klep•toc•ra•cy ( P ) Pronunciation Key (klp-tkr-s)
n. pl. klep•toc•ra•cies
A government characterized by rampant greed and corruption.
[Greek kleptein, to steal + -cracy.]
klepto•crat (-t-krt) n.
Give me rhythm or give me death!
"Having little or no knowledge and simply paying a dealer lots of money for a refined audio system seems even less likely to yield satisfactory results than choosing components by throwing darts at Stereophile recommended components lists."
This assumes the dealer is a crook or jerk. I know a few dealers. They are neither crooks nor jerks, and try very hard to provide equipment and systems that meet their customers' needs. The recent thread by Srajan shows a large number of similar experiences by other inmates.
> > This assumes the dealer is a crook or jerk.
Baloney! I know many nice, friendly and helpful dealers - in fact I consider some of them my friends.
I've never met a crooked dealer.
But what I know as fact, it is not an assumption, is that few dealers have any clue to what I like. And those that do who are far and few.
> > Perhaps you have not had the good fortune to meet such a dealer.
LOL! Most of the dealers I know are very good people but this has nothing to do with whether or not I would like they system they assembled for me if I heaped a pile of money at their feet.
The real question though is what does it say about audiophiles who think they can dump a bunch of money on a dealers doorstep and believe they can have a worthy and satisfying setup? What it says to me is that these buyers are most likely not discriminating or particular and probably easy to please when it comes to buying an audio system.
Give me rhythm or give me death!
Should have known Don T wouldn't leave a good post unassailed as he rides his usual hobbyhorses off in all directions. :-)
There's no question the audio world is littered with ignorami bitches and benighted engineer wannabees but what's troubling about Al's post is he's willing to give those who spend freely a pass while casting stones at those who do so less willingly.
How on earth did you get that out of my post?
Sure you did by focusing your attention on the hard core objectivists and those who believe spending money doesn't bring rewards. You know your ignorant and benighted comments.
Of course, in general, I was in agreement with your comments. I just felt you didn't give the flip side of the extremes their rightful due.
The benighted and ignorant kleptocrats with fancy audio equipment do not read or post on this forum, so there is no point in discussing their contributions to it.
Yea sure the non-audiophile doctors, lawyers, pro atheletes, etc. who make up a big share of the high end market probably don't read this forum. As if any audiophile should be jealous of the sound many of these top dollar systems are delivering to their non-audiophile owners.
But lo and behold there's a number of audiophiles from the ranks who are willing to argue that jealousy is the main reason why one would criticise an expensive audio system. LOL - as if very expensive poorly matched, setup, selected or just bad sounding systems and equipment don't exist in the homes of the very wealthy.
There's no counting how many times I've been charged with being blinded by envy or jealousy because I claimed a stereo that costed more than mine sounded bad - it's one of the most ridiculus charges ever rendered as if simply because it costs more it should sound better. Such "beliefs" seem almost common on this forum.
It's hardly revelatory to find an expensive audio system that doesn't sound good - in fact it the norm not an exception even in dealer showrooms.
So sure it's fine that you picked on the frugal objectivist and less fortunate - but you did seem to forget those that are or long to be benighted and ignorant kleptocrats with fancy audio equipment.
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in my case, I've selected the technologies that have delivered optimum results for lots of people, in every case, I believe, because of the soundness of the design, and not because of exotic parts or other ephemera. Namely--
Planar speakers, specifically monopole ribbons (Newform Research).
Servo subwoofer (Velodyne ULD 18 II--still the most musical sub I've heard that can deliver 30 Hz and below without doubling).
OTL tube (valve) amplifiers (Transcendent Sound)
Tube preamp (Transcendent Sound Grounded Grid--low cost/high value/high performance)
Analog rig (widely acknowledged superiority of suspended chassis turntable [home-made AR-clone] with low-output moving-coil cartridge)
SACD player (closest thing in digital to vinyl--in my case, Marantz SA8260--top-rated player).
DAC (Curcio CD12V--utilizing Philips TDA-1541 16-bit DAC chip and tube output stage--much less "digital" sounding than 1-bit delta/sigma).
Home-made Canare RCA cables (low cost, superior construction, true 75 ohm impedance).
Yeah, sure, it's what sounds good to me (and it may not necessarily sound good to you), but I think I've made a wise choice in every catagory. I can honestly say that I have much less of a desire to tinker my my system now than I've have in the previous thirty years or so that I've been active in audio.
I spoke with Danny Ritchie last month, and he topld me about a speaker being offered by AV 123. Danny did the design work on it, which is easy to tell from the driver layout. It has a good driver combo, but doesnt have the goodies that a decked out pair of AV1 would have. But then again they cost $199 versus $750. I can't comment on how they sound, but given GR Research's reputation I would have high hopes for them. At that price point, I think you would be hard pressed to find a better sounding speaker.
Believe me, I've wasted a TON of money bouncing from component to component. Relatively recently, I realized why: I didn't know what kind of sound I liked. Once I locked into what kind of presentation I preferred, and was able to order my sonic priorities, everything fell into place. So, I don't think assembling a good-sounding system is a black art at all. Once you know what means "good" to YOU, assembling a rig that matches your priorities should be relatively straightforward.
And there in lies the problem, at least for me.
It's not easy getting to hear enough gear to even know what's available much less make a decision on what you like. I think the biggest detriment to me getting off to a good start in this hobby was lack of dealers selling equipment I liked.
Yea there were plenty of shops around selling "recommended" or highly touted components but really not any shops around selling the kind of gear I would have fallen head over heals to own - and whats really sad is there still isn't. It's too easy to imagine, based on what one has read about something, whether or not one will appreciate the sound of certain components or kinds of systems. But until you've been around long enough you really don't know unless you get real lucky and have the appropriate dealer or an audiophile friend who shares your taste.
Way too much diversity and lack of specialization amongst dealers makes it real hard for audiophiles to find an appropriate niche.
How can anyone tell you what you like? Simple. They cannot. The "black art aspects" have to do with mating your preferences against those offered. Look how long it took you to discover what sound you really like? I have yet to hear a system that was a "must have" perform up to those same expectations without implementing some serious time with placement and room acoustic changes. Luck is when it is much better than expected. You certainly would not automatically know it would be much better by osmosis; until you try and listen.
It is All subjective and this would be something you can place under the black art catagory due to the fact that: I could take your system as is, place it in a room that is nonconducive to the display YOU like and in turn, you would not like it in that setting.
The cumulation of the room, amplifiers, loudspeakers, source material and personal taste simply are so varied to have it ALL work out anytime, anyplace. This is where skill comes to play. Luck does come to play when someone purchases a rig that is very inexpensive and overall, it seems to be a crowd pleaser in multiple rooms, multiple environments. Common sense is the cumulation of aquired skills through experimentation and implementation. In many parts, it is not too common at all.
I do agree that you need to know what you like. Hearing the goals in your head is another description. We can also grow accustomed to a certain sound quality/signature and it can grow old. In this case, another leap of faith is of order. Then, the variation in source quality is to noted. Some songs sound great everywhere and others are picky as to which system/envoronment they sound good at all on. We all have bad productions in collection.
But then I changed my mind after hearing a set of speakers quite by accident. Damn....it was a real learning experience. Now, I take things real slow. I read a lot and every chance I get, I audition new equiupment to see if there isn't something that will upset the applecart again.
It's hit or miss + luck and experience.
We are rarely aware of our sound preferences until we hear something we like better than the sound we are used to. A "new sound revelation" experience can be a painful experience if we have recently maxed out or credit cards to buy equipment that produces our old favourite sound.
This is why going slow, doing a lot of auditioning and being patient about making purchase decisions pays off in the end. My experience is that if you do this, you will go through several "new sound revelation" experiences without buying a thing and you will make better decisions about the most cost-effective way to reach that sound.
Luck plays a big role. Being in the right place at the right time to hear something new that jolts you closer to musical nirvana.
Your "rules" remind me of an old episode of the Andy Griffith show where Buddy Ebsen guest starred as a lazy hobo who's maxim was "Tomorrow is the most wonderful day of them all. There's nothing a man can't do.... tomorrow." To paraphrase to your thinking - "There's no stereo gear a man can't love tomorrow."
On the show Buddy was a terrible influence on Opie and he was eventually told to "hit the pike". I can't see your plan working any better.
I think your idea would be appropriate for people who care more about the gear than they do music, but otherwise I could not agree less. It's like saying "Why marry the girl you love? Keep tasting every new one that comes along..." Well OK, fair enough, that sounds like sailor talk.... but it's never going to make for a happy home.
I agree that initially one needs to try the field. As I said in my post I think speakers are the most important because they are the one thing in the system actually "speaking" to you, they are the things you "marry". Find ones you love and then LIVE with them. If people have an incessant need to keep auditioning gear at that point it clearly means they have a bigger problem, not unlike a man who can't remain faithful to his wife. Sadly they are driven by something else entirely and will never find happiness because "permanency" is something that does not bring them happiness.
So they'll have a fling with the audio flavour of the month and then be completely miserable until the next fling, which will not be far from coming. They become great sources in our hobby to buy used gear from, but I wouldn't want to be one of them. Most who are like this are because they are simply like that, however constantly doubting ones own ears and listening too much to others talk about "the next big thing" can drive a happy man to this ruin.
The first is a joke that us JOs made up in the ward room about our indecisive XO in the 60s. The second is serious and has served me well all my life. It simply means explore all angles and if the problem does not go away on its own then deal with it. So many perceived problems are not problems at all, but the products of our distorted preceptions. Often problems are overtaken by events we can't change that change or solve the problem.
How many speakers and cables am i glad that i haven't bought when, in reality, i did not have speaker or cable problem and only became apparent because i did not rush into the solution but did my research.
Do you think that those that constantly switch audio equipment are also less likely to be faithful to their spouses/significant others? Hmmm.
While it is essentially the same condition, obviously being unfaitfhul to a wife is far more severe that cheating on a transistor. I wouldn't be surprised if unfaithful men were also gear swappers, but to assume gear swappers are unfaithful is I think going too far.
Then again, they might be faithful to their tubes and not their wives. :^ )
If you like the sound ........Then it's good! Or even great.
In my office I have a Fisher 500C ($225 and mabye $25 worth of upgrade parts) + some home made bass port boxes with 4 incredibly cheap MCM alum cone drivers. (Plywood cost only, somebody gave me the drivers.) + a Japanese Elekit Tube CD play (kit, maybe $200)
You couldn't take this system away from me if you tried. It easily (to me) sounds better than brand new high dollar stuff.
Like I said, if you enjoy it, then it is great.
I agree with Don on the synergy issue, that trying to cancel out faults is no way to go about it. You want to compound positives, not negate negatives. The former leaves you with something, the latter leaves you at 0. As you saw that's what the word means, everyone rowing in the same direction.....
Tromatic is also correct in that only WE are the final arbiter of what is good. Even if the whole world hates it, if we like it then we have achieved success. Beauty IS in the eye of the beholder.
OTA-ATC (?) said: "I feel anyone who has achived great enjoyment from their system over a prolonged period of time with a wide variation of source material to be either very lucky, highly skilled or some of both."
My first system, put together sometime late 85 early 86 and only slightly changed over time (for the better when done) kept me in great enjoyment for 16 years. When I realized it was time to get new gear I made my mind first then got it all and while it took a little work to get it sounding right, it is so damn good you can lock me in the room and take the key. And anything sounds bitchin with it.
Am I lucky? No, it isn't luck. Opportunists make their own luck. If anyone is waiting for luck to come to them they better make themselves comfortable, they'll be there a while.
Am I highly skilled? In many aspects I probably understand the science behind it all worse than most people here. (I actually consider that a plus, it's useless info that doesn't steer me the wrong way) I counter it by intuition, common sense and what I think is the correct approach.
First off, you MUST know what kind of speaker you like and want. I discovered early on maggies are for me. That reduces it to a simple matter of choosing the correct model. So, like descending a flow chart choose between planars or cabinets. If you choose planars, then maggies, electrostats or ribbon... Stats? Then ML, Sound Lab or Quad... etc, etc... until you finalize type. All speaker models have a sound that is unique, and if you can find the one that plays music the way you like it, half the battle is won. Then buy the model that fits your room best, and DO NOT go too large.
Next is the room. The room must get tailored to the idiosyncrasies of your speaker. Certain truths will hold for all but some require special things done. If you do these two things right you are almost home.
Next is choosing a preamp that best suits your tastes and compliments your speaker choice. Then choose an amp that A: Compliments the Pre and B: can drive the speakers properly.
Then find sources that suit your tastes and the system you just built and add them in.
All that's left is to write note to wife, swallow key to room and enjoy.
I use a similar approach and continue to enjoy my time-proven system.
Certain criteria indeed can be very helpful to the assemblidge of a kit that can provide high enjoyment from the abyss of source material. One must consider that he/she really has no idea what the actual source material "sounds like" unless he/she attended the mastering session or the live recording if no mastering session (recalibration) was performed. This itself is where the black art comes to play.
How can a system "sound good" on a vast array of source material if it is not inducing some distortions of its own to maintain a pleasing if not euphoric experience, most of the time? The answer is, none can "please" on all source material all of the time.
Some sacrifices are of order.
Areas NOT to sacrifice:
Room acoustics, loudspeaker positioning, loudspeaker quality.
(Predictable room acoustics with minimal launch reflections)
(Loudspeaker placed where they perform their best with various sources)
(Loudspeakers that do not call attention to themselves at various volume levels over as wide bandwidth as possible)
Certainly other "tweak" factors can change perception but to state that X brand of loudspeakers with Y brand of amplifier "gurantees" any level of performance without the consideration of room treatment and experimentation with placement is simply a pipe dream of a large order.
Nothing is guranteed to work as expected. I feel anyone who has achived great enjoyment from their system over a prolonged period of time with a wide variation of source material to be either very lucky, highly skilled or some of both.
Good sound can come at very low price points and band sound from very high.
I do not care at all what anyone else thinks of my gear. It sounds good to ME, and that is all that matters.
I'm totally okay with this...
While my system doesn't always appeal to some (but it DOES to most people that have heard it, based on their knowledge of systems, which is usually mid-fi or worse), it does have that magic quality to create a scary real (again, to MY ears) image in front of me, make the side and rear walls of my room dissapear while in the darkened listening room, or give me the air pressure of a cathedral pipe organ's 32' stops rumbling away...
GREAT GEAR DESTROYER!!!
Not really sure what you mean with your use of synergy but I've never heard it used in terms of improving measureable performance.
Normally I hear people say get a speaker with greater highs if your amp is dark, or a more powerful sounding cartridge if you've got a lame sounding system or other equally obvious comments that at best give a medicre outcome.
I always considered synergy the heaping on of strengths, ie. selecting components that all represent the same set of strengths - and selecting these strengths based on a listeners preference or bias. This IMO is the way to get the best outcome.
As far as your comment on highly touted components goes that's easy. Most components touted by most of the pro's or in magazines are nothing more than monthly mucous promotions to grow the industry and ensure the future advertising revenues. Historically I'm rarely surprised how good a recommended or highly touted component is - far more often than not I've very disappointed, and more and more often in fact often I'm surprised by how bad it actually is.
1. The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.
2. Cooperative interaction among groups, especially among the acquired subsidiaries or merged parts of a corporation, that creates an enhanced combined effect.
The dictionary definition supports your idea Don, but it is quite the context of discussion as I put it. My feeling was more that synergy exists if the two components work constructively together so there is no depreciation of the signal rather than it meaning there was an increase in the quality of signal because they are linked.
No cure possible or is solicited for this audio, video and classical music obsession. I love it!
I agree. My opinion is that sonically the signal can only get worse - wisely selecting one's compromises based on objective performance preferences (ie. subjective bias) is the way to get the most system for the money.
On rereading your original post I see it wasn't you that was dismissing the importance of "synergy" - you were doing it for those you call the objectivists.
I don't as easily dismiss the objectivists - not that I agree with them but I certainly consider them far less detrimental to the hobby than the "I'm Ok You're Ok Everything Can Be Fabulous" purely due to economic convenience subjectivists who seem to be controlling the audio media.
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