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Audibly transparent

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WinterRacer

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Jan 14, 2009
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CnoEvil said:
I have tried a fair amount of amps in my time, and the "so called" neutral amps would make at least 25% of my music collection un-enjoyable....for my taste.
Given your experience, my guess is that despite the marketeers describing their amps as neutral, they probably weren't particularly.

CnoEvil said:
Are you saying that you should buy a system that's as "accurate" as possible to the recording, even if you don't like the way it sounds?.....or are you saying that you cannot understand people who go for a "life-like" presentation, in preference to this?
I think accurate equals life-like, what else could it mean? I also find it unlikely than anything other than accuracy will result in any kind of consistent satisfaction with a system. I wouldn't suggest anyone should buy something they don't like.

CnoEvil said:
My outlook is one of "Live and let live"......if people find what I have to say is helpful, that's great; but I don't have an over-riding urge to to push my views on anyone who thinks I'm deluded. I try to respect all opinions, and not to deride people who have an opposing POV.
Definitely a good outlook and agree wholeheartedly. I hope this hasn't come across as me trying to push my views on anyone, just hoping to have a mildly interesting debate.
 

CnoEvil

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Aug 21, 2009
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@ WinterRacer

As it stands, you have been nothing but polite, and far from pushy.

I generally don't like Class D and many of the amps that are the usual recomendations as being neutral....in fact there are only a handful of AB amps that I've heard and liked. If you want to hear a Tube amp that sounds (to me) musical, dramatic and neutral....have a listen to VTL.

You gave the two possible descriptions of "accurate"......and "accurate to the recording" may be the ideal for many, but can be a mile away from life-like.

I had a Moon i7 on home dem for a few days and hated it for classical music. Is it a bad amp?...no, but I didn't like it. I preferred the Coda CSi and MF M6i, but the AMS 35i was in another league imo.
 

oldric_naubhoff

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Mar 11, 2011
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CnoEvil said:
Here are fairly comprehensive measurements of my amp, which has very low distortion, yet still doesn't make bad recordings worse: http://www.avhub.com.au/images/stories/australian-hifi/reviews/2011-03/Musical_Fidelity_AMS_35i_Amplifier_Review/musical_fidelity_ams35i_amplifier_review_lores.pdf
thanks CNO for the link. I must say this Australian Hi-Fi mag provides the most comprehensive reviews I've seen so far! (well, maybe with exception from Audio Critic. but they have very narrow line of reviewed products).

BTW I'm totally on your side on this one accuracy thing. an accurate system has no other choice but to sound stunning with a well engineered recording. you could even use term " life-like". the remaining 5%-95% of recordings in ones collection, depending mainly on musical tastes, will sound awfully mainly because they were engineered awfully. not because the system was not accurate enough or some other similar BS.

one more thing. I value measurements a lot. but even more I value design philosophy. measurements can be easily manipulated to look well in the spec sheet. but if you start with solid foundations you can't go wrong. that's why I'd rather call "more accurate" a pentode valve amp which THD never exceedes inaudible 0.5% in every case than a class D SS amp which may measure to vanishingly low 0.0001% THD (or something like that) @ 1kHz @ max output. but when you take a closer look at THD spectrum you'll see 2% THD into <1W power or into >16kHz....
 

lindsayt

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Apr 8, 2011
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CnoEvil said:
Hi WR

All my posts come from "my perspective", which is personal, and which I try not to impose on anybody else, as "fact".

Here are fairly comprehensive measurements of my amp, which has very low distortion, yet still doesn't make bad recordings worse: http://www.avhub.com.au/images/stories/australian-hifi/reviews/2011-03/Musical_Fidelity_AMS_35i_Amplifier_Review/musical_fidelity_ams35i_amplifier_review_lores.pdf ...

EDIT. The link isn't working, but if interested, does work from post 6 here: http://www.whathifi.com/forum/hi-fi/driving-proac-d38s?page=2
I've had a look at their review of MF AMS35i amp. Yes, they do indeed include more measurements than most reviews.

However they only include measurements for THD at 1 watt and 35 watts. That equates to 103 dbs and 117dbs through my speakers and about 88dbs and 102dbs through typical coned and domed speakers. Whilst I might hit these sort of levels on transient peaks when I've got my system, they're not the sort of volumes I do most of my listening at - which would be 30 to 80dbs.

Where are the THD+N measurements for microwatt to milliwatt power levels?

On the basis of these measurements I have no way of knowing how transparent this amplifier would sound in my system at my usual listening levels.
 

CnoEvil

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Aug 21, 2009
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oldric_naubhoff said:
thanks CNO for the link. I must say this Australian Hi-Fi mag provides the most comprehensive reviews I've seen so far! (well, maybe with exception from Audio Critic. but they have very narrow line of reviewed products).

BTW I'm totally on your side on this one accuracy thing. an accurate system has no other choice but to sound stunning with a well engineered recording. you could even use term " life-like". the remaining 5%-95% of recordings in ones collection, depending mainly on musical tastes, will sound awfully mainly because they were engineered awfully. not because the system was not accurate enough or some other similar BS.

one more thing. I value measurements a lot. but even more I value design philosophy. measurements can be easily manipulated to look well in the spec sheet. but if you start with solid foundations you can't go wrong. that's why I'd rather call "more accurate" a pentode valve amp which THD never exceedes inaudible 0.5% in every case than a class D SS amp which may measure to vanishingly low 0.0001% THD (or something like that) @ 1kHz @ max output. but when you take a closer look at THD spectrum you'll see 2% THD into <1W power or into >16kHz....
I believe this is a case where measurements and listening experience truly coincide, and make a convincing case for the sonic superiority of true Class A. :shifty:
 

lindsayt

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Apr 8, 2011
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WinterRacer said:
Distortion: At least 100 dB (0.001%) below the music while others consider 80 dB (0.01%) to be sufficient and Ethan’s own tests confirm that. -

Noise: At least 100 dB below the music - .
Distortion and noise at 100db below the music?

What volume does he listen at?

130dbs?

Is he DEAF?

If you have a really quiet listening room, background noise will be about 20dbs. Many rooms will have 30dbs of background noise.

If I listen really loud and hit 110db peaks then -90 dbs for noise and distortion would be more than good enough for me. Chances are -70 to -80dbs would be fine too. Hey, even -50dbs would be fine for my usual listening levels.
 

CnoEvil

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Aug 21, 2009
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lindsayt said:
On the basis of these measurements I have no way of knowing how transparent this amplifier would sound in my system at my usual listening levels.
On the basis of my assessment, you would find this amp very transparent! ;)

(It was HFW's best integrated amp a couple of years ago, and a Stereophile "A list" product.......not that any of this is likely to impress you! ) :shifty:
 

lindsayt

New member
Apr 8, 2011
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It may well be a relatively transparent amp. Your listening assessment counts for far more to me than the measurements given in that review.
 

SpursGator

Well-known member
Jan 12, 2012
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WinterRacer said:
CnoEvil said:
FWIW. It wasn't me who described Jitter as a data error.
Hi Cno, I know it wasn't you who described jitter that way, I was just too lazy to find the right post to quote and thought I could kill two birds with one stone - sorry. :)
Just to be clear, it was WinterRacer who said that jitter could cause data errors. Once on Friday...

WinterRacer said:
Below a certain level it doesn't result in data errors and can be considered completely inaudible. Above that, errors can be detected and corrected.
And then again on Saturday...

WinterRacer said:
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).
Jitter CANNOT cause data errors. From a data perspective, inaccuracies in timing are irrelevant. Either the bits arrive, or they don't. Timing is only relevant when you are converting the stream of data words to music. If there is inconsistency in the timing of that stream, the reconstructed music (the ANALOGUE signal) can be smeared.

Now, yes, it sounds like I am bit-picking, but I think it illustrates our disagreement over DACs. You see them as some kind of digital black box, data devices mostly, that as long as they don't do anything to muck up the signal, do their job and that's it. I see DACs as sources, an analogue source (at least to the 'eyes' of the amplifier) each of which reproduces the music (and interacts with an amp) slightly differently.

The fact is, jitter, by definition, is something that exists only in an analogue signal, even if it is caused by a digital artifact (imperfect timing). It's a minor error, but it is illustrative of how you seem to forget that one whole 'side' of a DAC is analogue, with all of its associated vagaries - and it's the part that interacts electrically with the amp. I guess if you really believe that all human hearing can be defined by four rough measurements, then this is not significant. I disagree and think that, when you look at the DAC analogue stage -> cable -> amp input stage -> amp output stage -> cable chain (everything in front of the speakers), you have a system sufficiently complex that, not only can you not do a binary transparent-or-not judgment on it, not only can you not reduce it to four measurements, but in fact you would almost need to resort to chaos theory to explain what comes out the other side, given the large number of variables in each link of the chain.
 

WinterRacer

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Jan 14, 2009
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SpursGator said:
The fact is, jitter, by definition, is something that exists only in an analogue signal, even if it is caused by a digital artifact (imperfect timing).
I doubt anyone else is interested in this and I suspect you've already made your mind up how all this works. Just one thing, jitter is, as you point out, imperfect timing in the clock used in the encoding of the digital data. Distortion is what results in the analogue signal.
 

Native_bon

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Nov 26, 2008
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lindsayt said:
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.
Hit the nail on the head!! Been saying this for years.
 

Native_bon

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Nov 26, 2008
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drummerman said:
Rooms also have a nasty habit of messing with accurate. Unless you live in an anechoic/treated one, you're unlikely to benefit from the full extend some manufacturers go to to achieve near as perfect on paper results. Some form of room equalization would come in handy. AV receivers do it as do some of the more specialist hifi/pro audio manufacturers. Pure Hifi, high or lo end, are mostly still burrying their heads in the sand though. Simple tone controls are widely sniffed at and whilst not ideal technically, they at least offer a modicum of adjustability. On occasions, surely better than nothing.

regards
Well said drummerman
 

SpursGator

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Jan 12, 2012
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WinterRacer said:
SpursGator said:
The fact is, jitter, by definition, is something that exists only in an analogue signal, even if it is caused by a digital artifact (imperfect timing).
I doubt anyone else is interested in this and I suspect you've already made your mind up how all this works. Just one thing, jitter is, as you point out, imperfect timing in the clock used in the encoding of the digital data. Distortion is what results in the analogue signal.
Okay point granted if you want to phrase it that way - but my point was that jitter matters only on the analogue side (yes, it results in a particular form of distortion). But it cannot cause data errors and is thus mostly irrelevant on the digital side of the chain.

Maybe nobody else is interested anymore who knows...I think you've argued your side extremely well. But if you are right about transparency et al then you should be buying pro gear not audiophile stuff. That's what it's built for. Probably the only useful point I made the whole time and nobody picked up the bait.
 

Phileas

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May 5, 2012
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CnoEvil said:
I grew up with a mother who was a classically trained singer
Snap

CnoEvil said:
and a father who was an amateur conductor
My dad used to sing in choirs.

CnoEvil said:
Are you saying that you should buy a system that's as "accurate" as possible to the recording, even if you don't like the way it sounds?.....or are you saying that you cannot understand people who go for a "life-like" presentation?
I'm with WR here.

I listen almost exclusively to classical music at home. I can't claim to listen much live music, in fact I listen to practically none.

I've read comments from others, including at least one professional recording engineer, that the best test for an audio replay system is the spoken voice. Since everyone knows what real voices sound like, everyone should be pretty good at recognising a life-like reproduction.

I like to think I can tell a life-like recreation of a real instrument even if I'm not familiar with that instrument played live.

Classical recordings vary quite a bit. Generally they're very good (at least compared to typical pop recordings). To me, most of the bad ones have either poor clarity or too unnatural a spatial balance or strange venue acoustics or a combination of these. I find it difficult to see what kind of distortion would improve any of these problems.
 

CnoEvil

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Phileas said:
I'm with WR here.
At this stage, I can't remember who is saying what! :rofl:

ie. Do you mean you go for Neutral (accurate to the recording), or Natural (accurate to the un-miked real thing)......if it's the latter, then my philosophy on this has struck a chord ( :oops: ).
 

WinterRacer

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Jan 14, 2009
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SpursGator said:
Maybe nobody else is interested anymore who knows...I think you've argued your side extremely well. But if you are right about transparency et al then you should be buying pro gear not audiophile stuff. That's what it's built for. Probably the only useful point I made the whole time and nobody picked up the bait.
Thanks, I think there have been some interesting points on both sides of the argument, and there's probably quite a bit of common ground.

Regarding buying pro gear. Well actually I did buy some Genelec speakers for my study system and I'm very pleased with them. I know AlmataKz bought a pair and likes them too. However, I don't think transparency is purely for studio kit, I believe it applies equally to hi-fi kit too, but that may be where we differ?
 

Overdose

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Feb 8, 2008
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SpursGator said:
Okay point granted if you want to phrase it that way - but my point was that jitter matters only on the analogue side (yes, it results in a particular form of distortion). But it cannot cause data errors and is thus mostly irrelevant on the digital side of the chain.
Jitter is entirely irrelevant if the equipment deals with it sufficiently well enough, ie it'll be audibly transparent. Artifacts caused by jitter should be well below the noise level for transparency, which for some is -100dB and others up to around -80dB

For sure, there is no reason why most equipment couldn't be so and at a reasonable price to boot, except speakers, for which it is currently all but impossible. More important than jitter though (which should really be a non issue anyway) is perhaps THD for amplification, still though it is possible to manufacture amps that are truly transparent, pop on some decent tone controls or add an EQ and everyones a winner. :)

In fact, I'm pretty sure that given the right audio software, a truly transparent system could be given the right amount of distortion to mimmick pretty much any system out there.

Hmmm. :? That's worth looking into.
 

WinterRacer

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Jan 14, 2009
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CnoEvil said:
At this stage, I can't remember who is saying what! :rofl:

ie. Do you mean you go for Neutral (accurate to the recording), or Natural (accurate to the un-miked real thing)......if it's the latter, then my philosophy on this has struck a chord ( :oops: ).
Cno, don't feel you have to answer this, but I wonder what kind of distortion a system can add that consistency makes recordings sound more life-like? Furthermore, what happens if you add this distortion to an already life-like recording?
 

steve_1979

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Jul 14, 2010
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Overdose said:
In fact, I'm pretty sure that given the right audio software, a truly transparent system could be given the right amount of distortion to mimmick pretty much any system out there.

Hmmm. :? That's worth looking into.
Bob Carver can make a mass produced $700 solid state amplifier sound exactly the same as any other amplifier (regardless of cost) simply by mimicking the distortion.

http://www.stereophile.com/content/carver-challenge
 

lindsayt

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Apr 8, 2011
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Spoken voice is good test of a system's transparency. So is piano.

I wouldn't want to rely solely on spoken voice as a test of a system's transparency. What if you've got speakers like the LS3/5a that are superb at spoken voice but not so good for recreating a live rock or pop band or a 32 foot organ pipe?
 

CnoEvil

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Aug 21, 2009
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WinterRacer said:
CnoEvil said:
At this stage, I can't remember who is saying what! :rofl:

ie. Do you mean you go for Neutral (accurate to the recording), or Natural (accurate to the un-miked real thing)......if it's the latter, then my philosophy on this has struck a chord ( :oops: ).
Cno, don't feel you have to answer this, but I wonder what kind of distortion a system can add that consistency makes recordings sound more life-like? Furthermore, what happens if you add this distortion to an already life-like recording?
That's some question!

If you read through the test results of my amp, you would have seen that it has very low distortion, with comments like this...."However, the real coup de grace came at the end, when I saw graph 8, which shows intermodulation distortion, specifically CCIF-IMD. If you ever needed any proof of the superiority of the Class A design you can stop right here, as this is the best result I have ever seem. In fact as results go, it's perfect......because Class A amps do not require any frequency compensation, open loop gain remains steady over the audio band, which results in superior transient response and therefore dramatically reduced Transient Intermodulation Distortion."

So I can only infer from this, that my system sounds so good because of less, rather than more distortion....which is helped by reference level speakers and a decent streamer. :shifty:
 

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