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In Reply to: RE: Noise levels and dynamic range posted by layman on June 10, 2012 at 12:40:52
****This thread reminds me that my listening room background noise level goes up dramatically during the summer due to the hum of the air-conditioning unit in my room.****
I understand completely. Air conditioning is not required and is a rarity in my area. But I do have the same type of issue. In the winter when the forced air furnace fan sometimes becomes far too audible for some classical music. (Regrettably, I did not anticipate that when I took out the ancient gravity furnace). I have adjusted my music listening in the winter so that I listen to more jazz, R&B, and music with less ultra-quite passages and more classical music the rest of the year.
With respect to Respighi’s "Trilogy", I find the recording to be more than adequate but not "outstanding" and not just because it has one of the wimpiest sounding pipe organs in recent memory. Is that a real pipe organ in the dirge movement of the "Pines"? Come on.
With respect to "dynamic range", BIS recordings don't seem to have more of this coveted characteristic than any other quality recordings. The BIS recordings I own tend to be more of the spectacular "war horse" variety and these compositions, as a group, tend to emphasize dynamic contrasts more than others in the general classical music repertoire. (This does not at all suggest that the BIS inventory leans toward "spectacular war horses").
While on the whole I find my modest collection of BIS recordings to be fine I far more enjoy the sound of Pentatone, Channel Classics, Telarc and others to be audibly and consistently better.
Robert C. Lang
Until the Respighi and Bruch discs came my way, I would say that I have overall been disappointed in the sound quality of the BIS SACD recordings in my collection (Beethoven's Symphonies with Vanska, Freddy Kempff's Pictures at an Exhibition, a volume of Mozart Concerti with Brautigaum and a few others).
Robert - I think I agree with you in general about BIS recordings. I find them to be one of the better teams, but I would not give their sound the very highest ratings. Agreed that, once again in general, the results achieved by teams/labels such as Channel, Pentatone, Polyhymnia, Sound Mirror and a number of others are usually superior and remain my favorites sonically. Overall, I would give BIS at least a solid B, though, with some examples better than that. I have no hesitation about buying them.
Having said that, the recent Sibelius/Vanska/Minnesota disk on BIS is part of their new direction in recording at 96/24. I find that disk to be superior to the other BIS recordings I have and, in fact, one of the best orchestral recordings I own. Possibly, that is just the increase in sampling frequency, but I am sure BIS made a number of other engineering changes in the process, which may or may not have been even more significant. In any case, the volume still needs to be turned up to appreciate it, as with all BIS's I am familiar with.
I think an exchange we had a year ago about the BIS "The Sounds of Sibelius" over at SA-CD.net is especially on point in this thread:
Post by Oakland March 29, 2011 (303 of 460)
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After a bad stumble out of the starting blocks I now most thoroughly enjoy this disc. For the first work, “Karelia Suite”, which I am very familiar, a substantial underpinning of rhythmic bass is an absolute requisite. But upon first listen I was completely under whelmed by the presentation. I was thinking “where’s the beef”, more specifically where’s the bass?!
I initially thought that this was a 5.1 mix and that perhaps the bass was being redirected to a subwoofer that I don’t have in my 5.0 system. I switched to two channel but the bass was still anemic. And the program notes confirmed that this was, indeed, a 5.0 mix.
As it turns out the fix was utterly simple. Boost the volume!, which I figured out by the second composition, “The Wood-Nymph”; not by much mind you, but just enough for the music to fill in. I had lazily retained the volume level of the previous disc from a previous listening session and had not bothered to make adjustments. The initial volume level “seemed” adequate but wasn’t. I don’t want to give the impression that I had to play “Sound of Sibelius” excessively loud for optimal play back. *Not at all*; the volume required was just moderately loud as with most any Romantic type orchestral composition. It’s only that this disc was probably recorded at a slightly lower level than the previous disc I had listened to. Turning the volume up 3-6 db (my guess) really snapped the music into focus
The frequency range of this disc, top to bottom, is as well balanced as can be asked and the bass is magnificent, neither understated nor overstated. The dynamic range, too, really hits the bulls eye.
The performances are well done. In addition to “Karelia Suite”, I am quite familiar with the “Swan of Tuonela”, “ Valse Trist”, and, of course, “Finlandia”. I enjoyed them all and the “Wood-Nymph” was an eye opener.
Robert C. Lang
Response post by Fitzcaraldo215 March 30, 2011 (307 of 460)
Robert you are entirely correct, and this should have been underscored before. There are no level standards in music recording, though it usually seems labels have a standard house level they use fairly consistently. My limited experience with BIS is that they require at least 3-4 dB higher playback level than, say, Telarcs, Polyhymnias, etc. Other labels go the other way. Pragas seem to require 6 dB of cut relative to those same labels or about 10 dB less than the BIS's I am familiar with. I do not know of other labels that are cut at as low a level as this recording. It's also true of the superb Neschling, Sao Paolo Respighi disk and other BIS's.
It's not a problem, of course, unless you do not make the proper adjustment on playback. And, the most notable impact of this if the level is not set properly is likely to be "anemic" bass, because of the way we hear - Fletcher-Munson, et al. Having a digital volume readout is quite useful in this regard. I now usually know at least where to start searching for the right volume setting before even pushing play as a function of the label.
Robert C. Lang
Surely if you increase the volume at the start of a quiet passage on a BIS disc, the loud bits get too loud and have to be turned down and repeated again again & again, this is why I find BIS discs unacceptable will sell mine and never buy another.Seems the only thing I agree with Fitzcalrado is the superiority of mch high rez over stereo both vinyl & digital.
Try this. As I am sure your Sony AVR has a digital volume readout, play a Channel, Telarc, Pentatone, etc. Note the volume setting. Increase that by 4 dB and play a BIS. Tweak the resulting volume as necessary up or down. It should not take much, less than 1 dB, probably, either way. This should get you to a comfort level much more quickly. Make a mental note of the level you liked for the BIS. Use that as the starting point next time you play a BIS. Get fancy and put a sticky label on the case of the disk with your final volume setting if you wish.
This is not guaranteed to work every time, and might only work for orchestral material. As we know, since time immemorial, small ensemble and chamber music usually is recorded at much higher levels by comparison. So, they often need a lower setting than orchestral music. Hence, my caution to you about Praga. Their string quartets, etc. need to be turned down by 6dB, typically, vs. "normal" orchestral music.
Get to know the tendencies of different disks and labels in terms of playback and remember those tendencies to use as a starting point. Yes, the ear is the final arbiter. But, trying to do everything just by ear alone takes time. Use your digital volume readout to get you in the ballpark of the right level. Then, usually, only minor tweaking will be necessary.
It is not as if this is a new game. I have been doing it since way back with my LP's long before digital readouts by remembering volume control position - 9 o'clock, 8, 10, or whatever as a starting point. So, for me, this has been an almost unconscious process that I do instinctively to get maximum enjoyment out of my music.
Yes you are right my Sony AVR does have a digital readout, that I can not see from my seating position, so I use a pair of binoculars, have to be very carefull when switching from disc to tuner which requires much lower volume. I do not have to write down the setting for each disc ,I can still remember the correct dB nos. for many
discs. Basically I agree 4dB more is required for BIS , however I still find I have to adjust more frequently than with any other label.
Perhaps the solution to your problem is a preamp with remote volume control. If you can read the settings remotely then you can jot down notes as to the best settings for any particular recording and use these to avoid trial and error when playing a disk multiple times. Getting the best playback volume is absolutely critical to getting good sound. Being within 1 dB of the optimum for each recording is probably the most important system tweak that one can do after getting good speaker and listening positions. There have been audiophile orchestral recordings that some reviewers panned and others praised. IMO it came down to taking the trouble of finding the correct playback volume. (I have in mind the Water Lily Acoustics Mahler 5.)
"Diversity is the law of nature; no two entities in this universe are uniform." - P.R. Sarkar
Adjust the volume for the loudest passages, not quiet passages. Do that and you'll be just fine.
Robert C. Lang
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