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Audibly transparent

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Overdose

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Feb 8, 2008
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SpursGator said:
As I spend more time on this forum I am learning. There are two camps.
That should not come as a suprise in any discussion surely? Two to Tango?

We wouldn't have much to talk about if we all agreed, now would we?

To quote someones signature that caught my eye the other day, "If I agreed with you, then we'd both be wrong". ;) :p
 

drummerman

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Jan 18, 2008
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CnoEvil said:
AlmaataKZ said:
CnoEvil said:
I prefer the quote from Nelson Pass - "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgement. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers are for those who do not."

These two quotes nicely highlight the two diverging opinions, as to what is most important when buying a hifi system.....and there is no right or wrong, only what brings maximum joy to the owner.
that quote is so wrong imo! It is completely upside down and mixed up! Imo.
......and that is precisely why the two camps will never agree, or manage to change the mind of those with a different perspective.

There is no sense in buying a system just because it's (supposed to be) "accurate", if you hate the way it sounds, because it won't be listened to.....so logically, pleasure from the music is all that matters and the driving force behind any choice.

If that happens to be a system that (you believe) is as neutral, accurate and transparent as possible - great.....but even that is likely to have a subjective element to it.
Good point too.

regards
 

manicm

Well-known member
May 1, 2008
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Some people here are trying to reduce hifi to pure science - it can't be done, and some manufacturers admitted this. B&W are one of them - in their fresh blurb about the 685's 4/5 years ago I remember them stating they tried some capacitors with all the exact specifications, tolerances etc, yet some sounded better than others. So science does play a part, but at a certain point they use their ears.

Gasp! I thought ears were fallible and not to be trusted, so hifi engineers are human? Who'd have ever thought! And I agree many of us have different interpretations of what transparency is, and we may not be necessarily wrong. To me it means when audio is lacking in image depth, when the instruments all seem to be playing at the same distance, this may also imply a lack of ultimate clarity. And trust me, I've come across some components which I did not like as such, without changing my amp or speakers. In fact it was the very first Pioneeer DVD player I bought 11 years ago, and promptly exchanged it for a more expensive model.

So I'm neither here nor there on these arguments, regardless of what the frequence range our ears can operate on. But I'll hesitate to call people like B&W fools.

So some may rightly call WHF's reviews purely subjective, which certainly has its merits, but hifi is like a partner - one person's ugly is another person's beautiful.

And by my criteria, an active system may not do it for me, but maybe a true class A amp will.
 

drummerman

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SpursGator said:
lindsayt said:
I have a couple of problems with Ethan Winer's definition of transparent.
WinterRacer, jitter has nothing to do with data errors and cannot cause a data error. Some of the most jitter-prone CD players are computer CD rom drives, which are 100% perfect as data devices, usually at many x the speed of CD playback.
There is little doubt that jitter occurs and that it has the potential to cause effects which are audible. Plenty of papers written about it and measurements to back it up. In very simple terms, these are timing variations.

How much is needed to be audible is perhaps not an exact and whether it is perceived a negative or positive is subjective.

regards
 

drummerman

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Overdose said:
SpursGator said:
As I spend more time on this forum I am learning. There are two camps.
That should not come as a suprise in any discussion surely? Two to Tango?

We wouldn't have much to talk about if we all agreed, now would we?

To quote someones signature that caught my eye the other day, "If I agreed with you, then we'd both be wrong". ;) :p
There is only one thing camp on here ... and I swing which ever way the wind blows.

regards
 

WinterRacer

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Jan 14, 2009
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CnoEvil said:
There is no sense in buying a system just because it's (supposed to be) "accurate", if you hate the way it sounds, because it won't be listened to.....so logically, pleasure from the music is all that matters and the driving force behind any choice.

If that happens to be a system that (you believe) is as neutral, accurate and transparent as possible - great.....but even that is likely to have a subjective element to it.
I agree there's no point in buying something you hate the sound of. However, if it is an accurate system, then all you'd be saying is "I hate that recording" or "I hate the sound of a guitar". If you hate the sound of a system, all I'd suggest is that it's got a particular distortion characteristic you find objectionable.

There are some good arguments here, but I've yet to read anything that explains to me why accuracy has got such a bad reputation and subjectivism such a strong hold.

btw - someone said jitter is not a data error, or something like that. Jitter is a temporal distortion, if it's bad enough you'll get a data error, if not, they'll be no data error, but really I don't want to derail the thread with picking on individual insignificant bits (pun intended).
 

drummerman

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WinterRacer said:
There are some good arguments here, but I've yet to read anything that explains to me why accuracy has got such a bad reputation and subjectivism such a strong hold.
I am at pains to say that the co-owner of AVI has a lot to answer for here and I do think he is a thorougly nice guy in person.

regards
 

manicm

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May 1, 2008
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WinterRacer said:
There are some good arguments here, but I've yet to read anything that explains to me why accuracy has got such a bad reputation and subjectivism such a strong hold.
That's a pretty big accusation to level at the forum. In any event a Mclaren MP4-12C may be technically superior to a Ferrari 458, yet why would some choose the latter?
 

WinterRacer

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Jan 14, 2009
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manicm said:
WinterRacer said:
There are some good arguments here, but I've yet to read anything that explains to me why accuracy has got such a bad reputation and subjectivism such a strong hold.
That's a pretty big accusation to level at the forum. In any event a Mclaren MP4-12C may be technically superior to a Ferrari 458, yet why would some choose the latter?
Sorry, I should have been more specific. I didn't mean a hold over this forum or any people on it. I meant subjectivism has, to me, a surprisingly strong hold over the hi-fi industry.
 

paradiziac

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Jan 8, 2011
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Question:

Imagine your favourite active speaker brand brings out a new version that sounds better than its predecessor, would that speaker be more transparent?
 

chebby

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Jun 2, 2008
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WinterRacer said:
manicm said:
WinterRacer said:
There are some good arguments here, but I've yet to read anything that explains to me why accuracy has got such a bad reputation and subjectivism such a strong hold.
That's a pretty big accusation to level at the forum. In any event a Mclaren MP4-12C may be technically superior to a Ferrari 458, yet why would some choose the latter?
Sorry, I should have been more specific. I didn't mean a hold over this forum or any people on it. I meant subjectivism has, to me, a surprisingly strong hold over the hi-fi industry.
One is at a hi-fi shop with three amps, three sources and three sets of speakers to audition. Not an unreasonable or abnormal number of choices. (They are the ones you can afford and that have all the necessary connectivity/functionality you need.) The shop has no lab of it's own to independently measure all the equipment scientifically and you don't have time to double blind test all of the permutations of source/amp/speaker. (Twenty seven possible combinations? Correct me if that's wrong.) You don't even have time to listen to all the combinations in the normal ('sighted') manner, let alone under controlled scientific conditions.

You decide that - for the sake of aesthetics maybe - to group sources and amps from the same manufacturer together. That's 'only' nine possible combinations now. That's still a long day even if you only are only choosing subjectively ('sighted' with all that entails).

Then (even if the dealer were to let you out of the shop with three complete systems not yet paid for) you have to demo them all again at home.

You might decide to visit another hi-fi shop because they have a further number of compatible options you can afford from different brands than the first dealer stocked..

Now the possible permutations have 'exploded' and "gone all exponential on yo a##". (And we are still only talking about modest numbers of sources, amps and speakers.)

This is part of the reason that all sorts of personal, subjective and even somewhat irrational criteria (including guidance from hi-fi mags and dealer suggestions) will come into play. There simply isn't enough time in the world to (scientifically or otherwise) compare every possible combination even with relatively modest numbers of components.
 

Phileas

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May 5, 2012
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lindsayt said:
I have a couple of problems with Ethan Winer's definition of transparent.

1. 20hz to 20khz +/- 0.1dB seems ridiculously strict
It's a definition of transparency. Obviously speakers and rooms ensure that audio reproduction will probably never be transparent, but transports/streamers/DACs and amplifiers can be.
 

Phileas

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May 5, 2012
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paradiziac said:
Question:

Imagine your favourite active speaker brand brings out a new version that sounds better than its predecessor, would that speaker be more transparent?
It is surely obvious that 'speakers are not, and almost certainly will never be, transparent in the way required by Winer's criteria?
 

CnoEvil

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Aug 21, 2009
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Overdose said:
Some questions that stand out in the noise, are that, if as suggested the most imortant thing about hifi is the enjoyment of music and that the best equipment is that which you enjoy the sound of the most, ie it's all subjective (and that is certainly the view of some) then does that not render ALL subjective reviews irrelevent except to the reviewer?
The problem I have with this statement is that it reduces things to black and white. For example, it is quite possible for an experienced reviiewer to give a reasonably accurate description of what he is hearing......certainly enough to give a strong flavor of what to expect. You may not agree with the conclusion as to what is good (I often don't), which is why WHF stress that a 4* product may suit you more than a 5* one.....but as long as the decription isn't a mile out, you will know if it's worth shortlisting. I have yet to see WHF describe Cyrus as warm and cuddley, or a UR valve amp as cold and analytical.

Overdose said:
Another question, is that if the measurements are simply a guide and no more, why is it that 'upgrades' always tend towards the higher end (more expensive)?
To improve the performance / sound requires more attention to detail, more expensive parts, power supply, better isolation of components etc etc all of which costs......I'm not sure if that answered your question

Overdose said:
Also, What references are used to quantify the audible superiority of equipment in a higher price bracket over cheaper alternatives?
IMO You use a mixture of experience (of having listened to a very wide variety of kit), an assessment of its all round quality, and preferably measurements as well. With all the testing that goes on across all mags / sites, certain products tend to stand out time and again.

Overdose said:
I think that it is perfectly fine to have the view that if you like something then that's all that you need to know, but your opinion is based on the sound of something that can be measured and quantified, it has at the end of the day been designed to sound this way and its sound is very much measurable and repeatable. It has to be this way or every piece of this equipment would sound different. It's a manufacturing principle called quality.
IMO To fully understand the full impact of ALL measurements (damping factor, slew rates, channel separation, different distortion figures etc), and how they interact with each other, requires a degree in electronic engineering.....otherwise it's very easy to see things far too simplistically and get the wrong end of the stick.

I think it is impossible to be "absolutist" about hifi and put things in neat little boxes, where this is right, and that is wrong.
 

CnoEvil

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Aug 21, 2009
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WinterRacer said:
I agree there's no point in buying something you hate the sound of. However, if it is an accurate system, then all you'd be saying is "I hate that recording" or "I hate the sound of a guitar". If you hate the sound of a system, all I'd suggest is that it's got a particular distortion characteristic you find objectionable.

There are some good arguments here, but I've yet to read anything that explains to me why accuracy has got such a bad reputation and subjectivism such a strong hold.

btw - someone said jitter is not a data error, or something like that. Jitter is a temporal distortion, if it's bad enough you'll get a data error, if not, they'll be no data error, but really I don't want to derail the thread with picking on individual insignificant bits (pun intended).
In order to understand my argument, you have to understand where I'm coming from (which doesn't mean agreeing with me).

When I listen to a system, I am not worrying about whether it is absolutely true to what was mastered (as that is impossible to know), but whether it sounds natural. Does a piano / violin / soprano etc sound real. I am looking into whether i believe the intention of the musicians is being properly relayed, and for that, the emotion has to be there.

My amp sounds stunning, and almost never makes things unlistenable......which I believe is down to the removal of crossover distortion. Don't get me wrong, a bad recording is easily recognisable, but it doesn't compound the problem and make it worse.

I have no problem with accuracy - for some that means striving to get as close as possible to what is on the record. For others (like me) it means getting as close as possible to the sound of the real thing (which is why I listen to music in the first place). This is a subtle but fundamental difference in the two approaches. The person with the absolutely "neutral" system may relish in the fact that (say) a quarter of their music collection sounds pretty dreadful, citing how accurate their system is; personally I revel in the fact of how good it all sounds.

FWIW. It wasn't me who described Jitter as a data error.
 

lindsayt

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Apr 8, 2011
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paradiziac said:
Question:

Imagine your favourite active speaker brand brings out a new version that sounds better than its predecessor, would that speaker be more transparent?
If it sounds better across a range of recordings then it is more transparent. Maybe that would be reflected in the measured performance. Maybe it wouldn't because the laboratory equipment is not available to measure the areas where it has less distortion. Maybe the new speaker would even measure worse, but with that being more than compensated in areas that can not be measured by laboratory equipment.
 

paradiziac

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Jan 8, 2011
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Phileas said:
paradiziac said:
Question:

Imagine your favourite active speaker brand brings out a new version that sounds better than its predecessor, would that speaker be more transparent?
It is surely obvious that 'speakers are not, and almost certainly will never be, transparent in the way required by Winer's criteria?
That was my point really, no system is "transparent". Different systems will come close in different ways, but which one is closest to "transparency" comes down to individual taste.

Enjoy THE MUSIC on whatever system you've got is what I say, no matter if it's £100 or £10000. There's no need for scientific proof that your system is better than another one that anyway you can't afford...
 

altruistic.lemon

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Jul 25, 2011
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CnoEvil said:
...My amp sounds stunning, and almost never makes things unlistenable......which I believe is down to the removal of crossover distortion. Don't get me wrong, a bad recording is easily recognisable, but it doesn't compound the problem and make it worse.
Problem is you'd have difficulty picking it against my cheapy in a level-matched, blind tests, mate. I'd not be able to pick mine, either, and neither, I expect, could most, which could explain why every audiophile ran away from the Harbeth challenge!
 

paradiziac

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Jan 8, 2011
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altruistic.lemon said:
CnoEvil said:
...My amp sounds stunning, and almost never makes things unlistenable......which I believe is down to the removal of crossover distortion. Don't get me wrong, a bad recording is easily recognisable, but it doesn't compound the problem and make it worse.
Problem is you'd have difficulty picking it against my cheapy in a level-matched, blind tests, mate. I'd not be able to pick mine, either, and neither, I expect, could most, which could explain why every audiophile ran away from the Harbeth challenge!
That's because all amps sound the same when connected to Harbeth speakers ;)
 

Covenanter

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Jul 20, 2012
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WinterRacer said:
manicm said:
WinterRacer said:
There are some good arguments here, but I've yet to read anything that explains to me why accuracy has got such a bad reputation and subjectivism such a strong hold.
That's a pretty big accusation to level at the forum. In any event a Mclaren MP4-12C may be technically superior to a Ferrari 458, yet why would some choose the latter?
Sorry, I should have been more specific. I didn't mean a hold over this forum or any people on it. I meant subjectivism has, to me, a surprisingly strong hold over the hi-fi industry.
Because it helps them to sell kit?

Chris
 

CnoEvil

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Aug 21, 2009
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altruistic.lemon said:
Problem is you'd have difficulty picking it against my cheapy in a level-matched, blind tests, mate. I'd not be able to pick mine, either, and neither, I expect, could most, which could explain why every audiophile ran away from the Harbeth challenge!
Is that because you are using your own DIY speakers :p

http://www.whathifi.com/forum/hi-fi/save-money-build-your-own-speakers

What happened there.....how about some pics?
 

Covenanter

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Jul 20, 2012
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CnoEvil said:
When I listen to a system, I am not worrying about whether it is absolutely true to what was mastered (as that is impossible to know), but whether it sounds natural. Does a piano / violin / soprano etc sound real.
I don't always agree with CNO but this is surely 100% correct.

When I chose my system I heard some speakers which sounded great until it came to solo piano when suddenly it sounded like a recording of a piano instead of a piano.

Chris
 

lindsayt

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Apr 8, 2011
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Overdose said:
SpursGator said:
I try to stay open minded. But I've also heard two amps that measure almost identically on Winer's criteria sound totally different in the same system. It's a bit reductionist for me.
Either the measurements are incorrect, or the measured differences significant?

Some rational and thought provoking responses on this thread with the usual smattering of emotive and irrelevant ranting and sniping. It's why things are in general, never resolved.

Some questions that stand out in the noise, are that, if as suggested the most imortant thing about hifi is the enjoyment of music and that the best equipment is that which you enjoy the sound of the most, ie it's all subjective (and that is certainly the view of some) then does that not render ALL subjective reviews irrelevent except to the reviewer?

Another question, is that if the measurements are simply a guide and no more, why is it that 'upgrades' always tend towards the higher end (more expensive)?

Also, What references are used to quantify the audible superiority of equipment in a higher price bracket over cheaper alternatives?

I think that it is perfectly fine to have the view that if you like something then that's all that you need to know, but your opinion is based on the sound of something that can be measured and quantified, it has at the end of the day been designed to sound this way and its sound is very much measurable and repeatable. It has to be this way or every piece of this equipment would sound different. It's a manufacturing principle called quality.
Some interesting questions there Overdose.

I've found in bake-offs that the opinions of the listeners can be unanimous - if none of them have a vested psychological interest in any of the equipment being baked-off. IE if they all have a fairly open mind. For example bake-offs where everyone's agreed that power amp A had a more natural and detailed midrange whilst amp B had a tighter bass with a particular set of speakers. What you may then have is disagreement about overall preference - which is fair enough. Or then again, at bake-offs you can get a unanimous overall preference for one particular component because that component is equally good or better in all areas.

With the same track played in succession on 2 different components the ear is very good at hearing the differences. The more enjoyable component is always the one that's best in creating the illusion that the band or orchestra are there playing in the room for you. IE the most transparent - in the true meaning of the word transparent. This is the reference for subjective reviews. More enjoyable because it's more like a live performance, sounds more like the actual instruments or vocalists, more able to hear any production effects in the recording.

Upgrades are not always more expensive. For example Coincidents best sounding power amp is not their more expensive one. It's their cheaper one. The more expensive one gives you less good sound but more power. If a manufacturer were to come up with a better sounding product that cost them less to manufacture they might either drop the old one, or sell the new product at a price that was not directly related to the production costs.

There are also other examples where a much cheaper product will sound better than a more expensive in the right system. For example in a system where you don't need the gain of a linestage in your pre-amp there's a high chance that a simple inexpensive resistor based passive pre-amp will sound better than any active pre-amps at any price. Less is more in hi-fi where you can get away with less.

When you look across different manufacturers, sound quality and price are not directly related when buying new due to different cost structures and different skills, techniques, technologies, priorities.
 

paradiziac

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Jan 8, 2011
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WinterRacer said:
There are some good arguments here, but I've yet to read anything that explains to me why accuracy has got such a bad reputation and subjectivism such a strong hold.
Almost everyone strives for accuracy, but which system is more accurate is subjective.
 

CnoEvil

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Aug 21, 2009
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Covenanter said:
CnoEvil said:
When I listen to a system, I am not worrying about whether it is absolutely true to what was mastered (as that is impossible to know), but whether it sounds natural. Does a piano / violin / soprano etc sound real.
I don't always agree with CNO but this is surely 100% correct.

When I chose my system I heard some speakers which sounded great until it came to solo piano when suddenly it sounded like a recording of a piano instead of a piano.

Chris
Blimey! I think a little lie-down is now in order. :grin:
 

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