• If you ever spot Spam (either in the forums, or received via forum direct message) please use the Report button at the bottom of each post to make sure a Moderator can handle it quickly. Thanks for your help in keeping things running smoothly!

Accuracy / fidelity vs musicality

MajorFubar

New member
Mar 3, 2010
690
3
0
Inspired partly by BigFish's 'more cassette time' thread, I've spent the last few hours of this evening listening to some of my favourite musicassettes on my Nakamichi DR-1 + HD650's.

Now let's get something out there as a given: must musicassettes were pretty shambolic. But some were not, and Polydor cassettes were always a pretty safe bet. One of the tapes I listened to is my hardy favourite, the Themes album by Vangelis (POL 581 / VGTVC 1) from 1989. I own it on cassette, CD and LP. My favourite format of the three is by a country mile the cassette. It's truly a case of rolling out all the usual subjective unquantifiable and unmeasurable vaguaries beloved of hifi mag reviews: more emotion, feel closer to the music, less artificial, more engrossing. And the rest.

In summary, listening to the cassette version on a deck as good as or better than my DR-1 is an experience. A performance, even. The CD however, just isn't, be that the actual CD or my lossless rip. It lacks that certain something which makes the music sound real and enjoyable. I just sounds artificial. Maybe it's a limitation of the ADC's they used back then (but it shouldn't be, by 1989). Whatever the reason, it's not a patch on the cassette in terms of enjoyment factor / grin factor.

Is the cassette as detailed and as accurate to the master tape as the CD? Probably not. Does it have the ultra silent background, better s/n and totally flat 20-20 frequency response? No. But what it lacks in clinical accuracy it makes up in droves in musicality. Somehow you can't bottle that. The CD version of this album would be measurably more accurate, but it's nowhere near as enjoyable to listen to as the cassette.

Sadly the LP version ranks a poor distant third. The album is quite a long compilation (over an hour) and the SQ suffers accordingly. The bass is noticeably rolled off on some tracks to keep the grooves narrow. On top if that it's a comparatively-quiet cut which raises the perceived volume of vinyl roar and any clicks/pops (but at least minimizes sibilance and inner groove distortion). The tape on the other hand seems to have been made from the same master they used to cut the CD, and as a result it hasn't been sonically compromised.
 

abacus

Well-known member
Sep 24, 2008
466
190
19,070
If you want accuracy as the producer intended, then provided it is mastered correctly (And they haven’t skimped on the DAC & components in the CD player) the CD will blow both vinyl & cassette out of the water, however if the mastering is poor than the sheer accuracy of the CD will show any flaws, whereas cassette and vinyl could mask them.

Which you go for is up to the individual (Accuracy or a nice sound) which only you can decide.

My preference is accuracy, as it is easy to process the final sound to get it as you want (Assuming you don’t like the original) whereas to get something that sounds nice (Usually with particular types of music) to sound accurate is way more difficult.

Bill
 

CnoEvil

New member
Aug 21, 2009
556
8
0
I think your observation is all part of the "Natural vs Neutral" debate.....and goes to the heart of understanding what exactly gives each of us pleasure, when listening to music.

Taking your thoughts a stage further ie. What groups of people prefer one over the other...and why. My take on it would be:

Older Enthusiasts, who grew up on the less forward, less detail oriented sound of yesteryear, often prefer "Natural". This is probably because they had a diet of Valves, Vinyl, Cassette Tapes and softer sounding speakers.

Musicians (especially acoustic or classical ones), generally prefer "Natural", as they want instruments to sound real

Technical Enthusiasts often seem to chase Neutrality, through a measurement driven approach.

Younger Audiophiles can see the smoother "Pipe and Slippers" presentation as sleep inducing, so go for a livelier, detailed, possibly more neutral sound.

Personally, I find the Midrange must be properly "fleshed out" and the Treble Sweet and Refined....or I find the sound Insipid and Fatiguing.
 

insider9

Well-known member
Sep 20, 2016
823
375
5,270
Some great observations here. For me there's no music without musicality. And the musicality is about anything and everything to do with rhythm. And rhythm is the thing that engages me. I wouldn't necessarily put things like frequency response in the same basket.

But having grew up with cassettes as the only medium, didn't do vinyl and CDs were somehow cleaner and at the same time less engaging. Only had a few and nothing that I truly liked. I can absolutely see where you're coming from.

Detail is great, precise 3D imaging with huge soundstage, sure why not. These things certainly add to the experience. But the minute you achieved correct timbre of instruments and have very musical system that carries rhythm and makes you engaged. The minute it makes you want to listen to more and more there's no actual need to go any further. As fidelity is concerned you need a certain level of it to achieve the above.

May I also add I've had natural and not musical components before. Primare A30.1 was that for me. Great timbre and no much rhythm.
 

Electro

Well-known member
Mar 30, 2011
43
3
18,545
insider9 said:
Some great observations here. For me there's no music without musicality. And the musicality is about anything and everything to do with rhythm. And rhythm is the thing that engages me. I wouldn't necessarily put things like frequency response in the same basket.

But having grew up with cassettes as the only medium, didn't do vinyl and CDs were somehow cleaner and at the same time less engaging. Only had a few and nothing that I truly liked. I can absolutely see where you're coming from.

Detail is great, precise 3D imaging with huge soundstage, sure why not. These things certainly add to the experience. But the minute you achieved correct timbre of instruments and have very musical system that carries rhythm and makes you engaged. The minute it makes you want to listen to more and more there's no actual need to go any further. As fidelity is concerned you need a certain level of it to achieve the above.

May I also add I've had natural and not musical components before. Primare A30.1 was that for me. Great timbre and no much rhythm.
I had exactly the same experience with the Primare A301 , it was just so slooooow , which was a shame because I really wanted to like it .
 

Sliced Bread

Well-known member
Jul 28, 2010
360
25
18,895
insider9 said:
May I also add I've had natural and not musical components before. Primare A30.1 was that for me. Great timbre and no much rhythm.
Have you always found natural sound and rhythm to be exclusive of each other?

I enjoy a natural sound but I’ve always struggled to find a natural system with good rhythm. Timing is certianly missing in my current setup.
 

insider9

Well-known member
Sep 20, 2016
823
375
5,270
Really liked that amp and it had the sweetness in treble and the fleshed out mids Cno is talking about. Very emotive performer but no get up and go. So close yet so far.
 

insider9

Well-known member
Sep 20, 2016
823
375
5,270
Sliced Bread said:
insider9 said:
May I also add I've had natural and not musical components before. Primare A30.1 was that for me. Great timbre and no much rhythm.
Have you always found natural sound and rhythm to be exclusive of each other?

I enjoy a natural sound but I’ve always struggled to find a natural system with good rhythm.   Timing is certianly missing in my current setup.
No, not at all. But system matching is key and often not that easy to get. My suggestion is to experiment, you'll know what's too much and what's just right for you.

But as a general rule start with fast sounding electronics and see what works in relation to your system.
 

CnoEvil

New member
Aug 21, 2009
556
8
0
insider9 said:
Really liked that amp and it had the sweetness in treble and the fleshed out mids Cno is talking about. Very emotive performer but no get up and go. So close yet so far.
The MF AMS35i does both, which I put down to lightening Transient Response, high Damping Factor and minute levels of distortion.....but with the downside of Power Consumption and heat.
 

insider9

Well-known member
Sep 20, 2016
823
375
5,270
CnoEvil said:
insider9 said:
Really liked that amp and it had the sweetness in treble and the fleshed out mids Cno is talking about. Very emotive performer but no get up and go. So close yet so far.
The MF AMS35i does both, which I put down to lightening Transient Response, high Damping Factor and minute levels of distortion.....but with the downside of Power Consumption and heat.
Great piece of kit. I'd hold on to it if I were you whatever you end up doing speaker wise.
 

CnoEvil

New member
Aug 21, 2009
556
8
0
insider9 said:
CnoEvil said:
insider9 said:
Really liked that amp and it had the sweetness in treble and the fleshed out mids Cno is talking about. Very emotive performer but no get up and go. So close yet so far.
The MF AMS35i does both, which I put down to lightening Transient Response, high Damping Factor and minute levels of distortion.....but with the downside of Power Consumption and heat.
Great piece of kit. I'd hold on to it if I were you whatever you end up doing speaker wise.
if I go with the Harbeths, the 35i will be collateral damage.....but it would allow someone else to enjoy this wonderful amp for a tempting price.
 

Gray

Well-known member
Nov 27, 2015
1,530
956
12,570
Probably the two most unacceptable things to me are rolled-off treble and added warmth.

It's been said before, but if you can accurately reproduce speech, you're off to a good start.

I doubt I'm alone when I say that I don't own any music without percussion. As an old Funker (note the 'n' there), rhythm is everything. A fast, tight, accurate reproduction is what makes my music 'musical'.

Poor recordings mean greater accuracy can result in reduced musicality, but when the two come together, with appropriately elevated volume, that's when I truly appreciate my hi-fi.

(Who else agrees that you can never really acheive full appreciation at below average volume levels?)
 

insider9

Well-known member
Sep 20, 2016
823
375
5,270
Gray said:
Who else agrees that you can never really acheive full appreciation at below average volume levels?

 
Is this because of the fact that so many components sound lacklustre at low volume though? I've only had 2 amps so far that were spellbinding at low volume.

Most recordings average (wild guess) 10dB of dynamic range. So it's not inconceivable to reproduce them at low volume.
 

Gray

Well-known member
Nov 27, 2015
1,530
956
12,570
insider9 said:
Gray said:
Who else agrees that you can never really acheive full appreciation at below average volume levels?
Is this because of the fact that so many components sound lacklustre at low volume though? I've only had 2 amps so far that were spellbinding at low volume.

Most recordings average (wild guess) 10dB of dynamic range. So it's not inconceivable to reproduce them at low volume.
In those cases yes, volume is necessary. In domestic situations those people may never hear the full potential of their gear.

Could be a reason why coloured speakers are preferred by some - the humps in their response giving the loudness effect to those that only ever listen at low levels?

I'm certainly not saying that anti-social volume levels are necessary for me (let's face it, how many of us use even half of our available volume?) But normal conversation can't happen when music's playing!
 

iceman16

Well-known member
Feb 8, 2011
95
14
18,545
insider9 said:
CnoEvil said:
insider9 said:
Really liked that amp and it had the sweetness in treble and the fleshed out mids Cno is talking about. Very emotive performer but no get up and go. So close yet so far.
The MF AMS35i does both, which I put down to lightening Transient Response, high Damping Factor and minute levels of distortion.....but with the downside of Power Consumption and heat.
Great piece of kit. I'd hold on to it if I were you whatever you end up doing speaker wise.
+1

I really don’t mind power consumption and heat as long as it gives me some goosebumps whenever I listen to it.
 

Native_bon

Well-known member
Nov 26, 2008
180
2
18,595
Musicality anyday. This the way I see it. Two people listen to the same system (all things being equal) one says now that's nice and accurate the other says that's a bit too clinical for me. I will not buy a system cause I want to monitor music, I'll buy a system course I want to enjoy music.

Knowing fully well most music these days are not mastered properly why would I want accuracy. Of all the systems I have listened to, accuracy never made me enjoy them more, musicality did. Enjoyment all the way.
Everyone to their own really.

I feel if a system is good at playing a style of music and totally sucks at another then there is a problem.
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Feb 15, 2009
559
337
19,270
Gray said:
insider9 said:
Gray said:
Who else agrees that you can never really acheive full appreciation at below average volume levels?
Is this because of the fact that so many components sound lacklustre at low volume though? I've only had 2 amps so far that were spellbinding at low volume.

Most recordings average (wild guess) 10dB of dynamic range. So it's not inconceivable to reproduce them at low volume.
In those cases yes, volume is necessary. In domestic situations those people may never hear the full potential of their gear.

Could be a reason why coloured speakers are preferred by some - the humps in their response giving the loudness effect to those that only ever listen at low levels?

I'm certainly not saying that anti-social volume levels are necessary for me (let's face it, how many of us use even half of our available volume?) But normal conversation can't happen when music's playing!
I think it’s one reason why a mid range suck out is popular, because as you say it is a bit like a loudness curve. Hence, at low volumes there’s slightly more top and bottom audible - relatively speaking - which appeals to the ear.
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Feb 15, 2009
559
337
19,270
@ MF, I may be teaching you suck eggs, but listening to a cassette via headphones is actually quite a good way to enjoy it. The phones tend to de-emphasise any wow and flutter, a potential downside of cassette replay.

I can’t recall the technical reason, but something about the lack of room reflections seems familiar.
 

MajorFubar

New member
Mar 3, 2010
690
3
0
nopiano said:
@ MF, I may be teaching you suck eggs, but listening to a cassette via headphones is actually quite a good way to enjoy it.  The phones tend to de-emphasise any wow and flutter, a potential downside of cassette replay.  

I can’t recall the technical reason, but something about the lack of room reflections seems familiar. 
Twin capstan drive helps too. The wow and flutter of 0.035RMS was probably close to state of the art for cassette. And compared to LPs you thankfully don't get poorly-pressed cassettes which wow in pitch as the platter rotates. Since I got used to CDs/digital that's my absolute pet hate with records because I notice it way more than I did when they were my main source. Until I started revisiting my record collection recently, I never knew I had so many.
 

spiny norman

New member
Jan 14, 2009
293
0
0
Of course the ideal of 'hi-fi' is absolute fidelity to the recording (the old idea of a straight wire with gain), but that kinda assumes so many recordings don't sound horrid when played on a highly revealing system.
 

Andrewjvt

New member
Jun 18, 2014
99
1
0
Strictly Stereo said:
You can have your cake and eat it. It is possible to put together a system which measures well and sounds great too.
We spend thousands of bucks and waste time with all these boxes just to annoy our senses
 

Andrewjvt

New member
Jun 18, 2014
99
1
0
CnoEvil said:
I was reading an interview that Alan Shaw of Harbeth gave to an Australian HI Mag and feel it's relevant to this discussion.

He basically made the point that over the last decade or two, audiophiles have had less exposure to live sound ie unamplified natural music such as Classical. He said that, in his opinion, Hi-Fidelity is how realistically a speaker recreates such an instrument. Whereas Pop music is a synthetic construct and so can't objectively to grade different speakers.

His goal is to create a blended, smooth and detailed "sonic curtain", that hangs in front of the listener. He doesn't want to create Speakers that "fill the room with intense beams of sound, as a Lighthouse illuminates a coastline." in other words, he wants to create a "being there" experience.
While I agree with the first 2 paragraphs the last seems a little contradiction.
For me being there is no curtain and the speaker should never be a musical instrument.
 

ASK THE COMMUNITY

TRENDING THREADS