contradictory communication


some components have been described as warm and transparent. this is not possible. warm means subtractiion in the treble frequency range. transparency implies a balanced frequency response.

it is inconsistent to say warm and transparent.

it is inconsistent to say warm and detailed, because there is some loss of detail in the treble region when a component is described as warm.

i believe that as soon as you describe a component as warm ,there is some loss and one should be careful about any other adjectives used with the word warm.
mrtennis
So here's something else to ponder. While warm indicates loss of information in the higher frequencies, hot means bright. Why is that?
Transparency and neutrality to me are like describing Gwyneth Paltrow. She's got a cute face, but the rest of her is featureless. Sure you can see everything, but so what! Warmth to me is curvy and fiery like Sophia Loren. Gwyneth may have more detail in her skin, hair and eyelashes, but Sophia's curves and saucyness are the kind of detail I prefer. She may kick my ass and break my shifter off, but I'll enjoy dying in her warmth.

By the way, is this based on your experience or only what you've read.
I do not agree with the above. You do not have to have HF roll off to have a warm sounding piece of equipment. My idea of warm is more "Full bodied." Most of the time, that warmth is coming from the upper mids and not the high frequency driver.
A good example is compare an Ayre V5xe amp to a McCormack DNA 125. The Ayre is warmer but delivers a cleaner, smoother, more holographic picture. The Ayre is more tube like without any subtractions what so ever. The McCormack is leaner giving one the impression it is more transparent.
Maybe sonic richness is a better word.
At any rate, that roll off cannot be measured in the components frequency testing. It has to be in another area that is not defined.
Another example, the Vandersteen 3a Sigs have been said to be warm. However, they are flat out to over 22kHZ.
Therefore, it has to be another parameter that one is hearing.
Also, warm compared to what? Sure, if you have a lean sounding speaker, then another may sound warm in comparison. The question is, which do YOU deem correct?
Warmth is a product of the lower midrange to upper midrange/lower treble balance. If the latter is elevated compared to the former the sound will lack warmth. It's more likely for audiophile targeted products to suffer from this lack of warmth which can be mistaken for increased transparency.

I've never associated transparency will a balanced frequency response. That's more like neutrality. Transparency has more to do with low distortion and quick transient response.
MrTennis - Unfortunately, the term 'warm' to describe playback is inconsitent among audiophiles. To you, clearly it means "loss of detail in the treble region."

To BigTee, 'warm' means midrange body, and may be irrelevent to the upper register.

To me, it may mean something else.

I think a point of confusion is that you can have two different playbacks, both measuring ruler flat, and one can sound "warmer" than the other. This is because there are many other attributes of audio that play a role in what we hear other than the freq. response.

Take 2 speaker drivers, one made out of aluminum, the other paper, and the third plastic composite. They all measure ruler flat, but they will all have different sonic characters, perceived "warmth" being one of them.
Another example, the Vandersteen 3a Sigs have been said to be warm. However, they are flat out to over 22kHZ.
Therefore, it has to be another parameter that one is hearing.

I truly doubt there are more than two or three people on this forum who can hear anything over 16kHZ so I'd wonder whether or not it's pancake flat over that frequency if that would make any difference at all. I wonder if most folk's definition of "warmth", when it comes to audio reproduction, has more to do with certain distortions, and the 'rounding off' of the reproduction of frequencies. I say this because "warmth" seems to always go hand in hand with tube audio, which is cinnominonomous, uh, sinnonomoose...damn...synomonous....cinnobonous (hey, I'm hungry)...where's that spell check....... with distortion.

Marco
if the definition of warm were changed to mean correctness of timbre, e.g., listening to an acoustic guitar, one hears the nylon character of the string and the wood body, there would be no need to use the word transparent or any other word.

i think the problem lies in the use of audio terms which are not terms used to describe music.

i personally prefer a description to an adjective.

one could say an absence of bass or lower midrange, using an instrument as a reference instead of lean.

sometimes when using 2 adjectives, the result is ambiguous.

as a reviewer, i try not to be aware of conotations of words so i do not confuse my readers.

anyone who is interested can go to audiophilia.com and read a review or a feature article. you will need to search the archives for feature articles and some of my reviews.

i welcome any comments that would be helpful to me in the future.

my name is roy harris. my email address is: rouyash04@yahoo.com .

thanks.
Since what you hear is a combination of factors I would suggest that you cannot totally separate anything.....warm and transparency are different as Onhwy61 correctly points out but my guess is they are also related in the way the overall sound is perceived.

The relative balance between 1K and 8K frequency response can produce warmth.....basically a peak at 4K will sound more sound harsh (brighter brass) and a dip at around 4 K will sound warmer (less harsh).

However, there is another dimension to warm sound; more harmonics from some equipment like tube amps create more warmth to the sound by increasing the harmonic content....vinyl does much the same when compared to digital. Since harmonics are entirely natural to sound and crucial to the way you percieve them and the timbre...these added harmonics are often pleasing.

I guess I am suggesting that it is very hard to separate terms in audio as everything is interelated.
As should be obvious from this thread, none of these words mean anything.
We tend to use analogies from the other senses to describe the sound of audio systems. They are imprecise, but are generally more meaningful and useful to me than other approaches I have seen, except for those few reviewers who are able to communicate the overall character of a component, for which they also invoke analogies: red wine vs. white wine, Carnegie Hall, yin and yang. These are the most useful for me. This is a personal thing, however. No one approach will work for everyone.
Let's see, was Mrtennis using green power bait or nightcrawlers?
Pabelson, Of course these words mean 'something', its just that one has to work hard to ferret out the meaning being applied by each user. No difference between how people apply modifiers to audio or anything else.

Some folks overvalue consistency I think - reminds me of an old saying about consistency being the bug-a-boo of the ...........(self-sensored so as not to offend). :-)
The thing is, anything can add or subtract from the musical content of a recording making it sound warm or lean(components, cables, speakers and even some power conditioning.) My idea is for instruments to sound like instruments provided the recording is not so hosed up as to relegate all this to a moot point.
I think warm is a valid term. It just doesn't register the same way with everybody.
As was mentioned above and I totally agree with, harmonic richness can be considered warm if it is over done.
We all sit around and respond to these posts and the more you read the less anything matters in the overall concept. Everyone likes what they like.
You could have the perfect system by every imaginable specification possible and it could stink.
Your room has SO much to do with the ultimate sound. Warmth, leaness, transparency, holographic imaging, etc, etc really mean little until you reference them to some standard. Therein lies the problem, they're no standards.
I have actually heard a few people say Vandersteen speakers sounded lean in their system. Hmmm! Everything is a SYSTEM. It has to be taken as a whole. It to me would be hard to review anything without having some sort of reference system [you] believe in. You can take an amp and throw it into 5 different system and get 5 different opinions because of the way it interfaces with a particular system.
I think it's time to lay semantics to rest and listen to some more music!
Of course these words mean 'something', its just that one has to work hard to ferret out the meaning being applied by each user. No difference between how people apply modifiers to audio or anything else.

There's a big difference. If I put my hand on top of an amp and say, "this amp is warm," you know something--you know its temperature exceeds room temperature, but is not so hot as to be untouchable. But if I describe the sound of that amp as "warm," you really can't be sure at all what I mean. In that case, "warm" isn't anchored to any scale that you can use to narrow down my meaning.

An interesting experiment would be to ask listeners to compare two components (blind, so they aren't influenced by prior information) and decide which one sounds warmer. Then see whether most people agree. Until somebody does that (and no one has, to my knowledge), there's no real evidence that "warm" means anything like the same thing to people.
I believe you have neutrality and transparency confused. I think Onhwy61's definition of transparency is more correct. I've heard good tube gears that obviously rolloff the frequency extremes, but sound more transparent, and thus I "see" the real instruments much better than cheap solidstate gears. And those solidstate gears are probably more neutral as measured from DC-to-daylight.

I definitely believe low distortion is the key to transparency.
Who sais that Warmth is the combo of the lower mids to upper mids???
Warmth is the product of an Enthropy and cannot be described in terms of freequency ranges...
Enthropy is Chaos
Chaos has many many other products and combinations of such all at a given moment or interval of the time.
Therefore neutrality, transparency, brightness, dullness, deepness, lowerance can be all just a product of an Enthropy.
MrTennis, thanks for letting us know who you are. I went to audiophilia.com and read your "Accuracy and Musicality" article to get a better feel for where you're coming from.

I dropped syllogistic logic class nearly 30 years ago (seemed like the logical thing to do at the time), so can't say that I followed it all.

Being somewhat simple-minded (though hopefully not overly narrow-minded), I don't go through nearly as thorough an analysis as you do. My philosophy skills are probably at about an eighth grade level.

I start with the premise that at the present level of technology it's either impossible or impractical to recreate at the listener's ears the exact waveforms that would have been experienced at a live performance (or in the case of heavily processed recordings, at the "virtual performance" the artists intended).

My next premise is that not all departures from absolute waveform fidelity are equally objectionable to the ears. Certain measurably small deviations are are quite objectionable, and certain seemingly large ones aren't.

So my goal would be to recreate (as closely as is practical) the same perception as the listener would have experienced at a live performance (or at the "virtual performance" the artists intended). This calls for an exploration of psychoacoustics as well as acoustics when design trade-offs are made.

An example of mis-directed perfectionist zeal would be the pursuit of vanishingly low levels of total harmonic distortion via the liberal application of negative feedback, which in effect replaces large percentages of low-order harmonic distortion with small percentages of high-order harmonic distortion. This looks good on paper, but psychoacoustically is a step in the wrong direction because the ear finds even very small levels of high order distortion fatiguing.

So to sum up, I'm in favor of focusing on recreating the perception of a live performance rather than on recreating the exact waveforms experienced at the ears of the listener at a live performance.

Duke
The term you folks are reaching for here is "analogy" using warm to describe sound is an analogy; using warm to describe relative temperature is not. To be precise in meaning, the reviewer should state what he or she means when they use that sort of analogy, but that may be asking too much.

And Goatwuss: "Take 2 speaker drivers, one made out of aluminum, the other paper, and the third plastic composite." WTF????

Just busting you, Goatboy! Its been a $hitty week.
It's very possible IMO for a component/system to be warm and transparent. I base this on what a live orchestra sounds like -- warm and transparent, like liquid. There is treble extension thru 20,000Hz, and violins and trumpets are smooth. True detail lies not in frequency extension but timbre and harmonics--the sound within the sound.
In a recent thread "minimze ambiguity when describing audio components" by Mrtennis, he suggested that we should avoid ambiguous terms. One of his suggestions was to "have some definitions of commonly used adjectives, and post them where all can see them ". In that thread, I suggested a Stereophile Glossary at Glossary. He responded "zargon has the right idea". So lets do that.

warm = The same as dark, but less tilted. A certain amount of warmth is a normal part of musical sound.

dark = A warm, mellow, excessively rich quality in reproduced sound. The audible effect of a frequency response which is clockwise-tilted across the entire range, so that output diminishes with increasing frequency. Compare "light."

transparency, transparent = 1) A quality of sound reproduction that gives the impression of listening through the system to the original sounds, rather than to a pair of loudspeakers. 2) Freedom from veiling, texturing, or any other quality which tends to obscure the signal. A quality of crystalline clarity.

So, it would seem from these definitions that warm and transparent are used to describe very different qualities of sound reproduction. Are they inconsistent? I leave it to you all to decide.
hi duke, i agree with you, namely that i would like my stereo to recreate as closely as possible the sound of an instrument, meaning its timbre.

it's not easy to do this and, unless one has a collection of well recorder lps and cds, one has to use ones creativity to achieve some semblance of realism.
by the way, you might want to look at some of my other feature articles. hopefully, you will find one of them useful.
hi duke, i agree with you, namely that i would like my stereo to recreate as closely as possible the sound of an instrument, meaning its timbre.

it's not easy to do this and, unless one has a collection of well recorder lps and cds, one has to use ones creativity to achieve some semblance of realism.
by the way, you might want to look at some of my other feature articles. hopefully, you will find one of them useful.
Mrtennis sez:
i would like my stereo to recreate as closely as possible the sound of an instrument, meaning its timbre
Rather than focus on how "music sounds" (i.e. sonic attributes) I would suggest instead, to focus on reproducing the intent/signature of the musicians playing together. The music in this case makes sense. Whether or not the bass is jaw-dropping or the hi-frequency extension is mesmerising, taken individually, is immaterial. What is material is how the cello correlates say with the violin and so on -- AND if the interpretation comes through. Especially with complex music (take a concerto for example).

Duke sez:
I'm in favor of focusing on recreating the perception of a live performance rather than on recreating the exact waveforms experienced at the ears of the listener at a live performance
If you mean that the musical result is "alive", comprehensible, consistent -- i couldn't agree more. I like the second part of your sentence:)
CHeers
Personally, I don't think it's very important to come to some kind of concensus regarding audio descriptives. Despite the disparate interpretations of audio jargon I've rarely been surprised when buying equipment on Audiogon based on the discussions here. I think the key is to not search using descriptions in the absolute sense, but to use them more in relative terms when comparing components.
gunbei you are very perceptive.

i now realize that i have been using terms in the absolute sense, especially philosphical persepctive of knowledge and other terms.

if one uses terms in the relative sense, one still has to be careful.

for example, all decent stereo systems are "somewhat" transparent. the question is how transparent, since none are absolutely transparent as all stereo systems have flaws, small and unintrusive, yet noticable.

it is reasonable to say that stereo system a seems to be more transparent than stereo system b, without specifying how transparent each one is.

another solution is to try to present a sonic picture of the music as heard through speakers without using too many adjectives. it is proabably sufficient to say " there is a lack of bass" or "an excess of treble energy" and communicate clearly.
Mrtennis, keep talking...you're getting warmer... ;)
Swamp - LOL, the mystery third
My system is "translucent", which under certain conditions is far more appealing, like a beautiful stained glass window! I find translucent glass much more interesting than transparent glass (that is, IF you are interested in the GLASS, per se, as opposed to the object one is looking at THROUGH the glass)...

Likewise, do not the 'colorations' of the components add to the enjoyment? So, why not suggest the following, that the ultimate system is one in which the translucent effects of the components evoke pleasure in the listener as one hears back to the original (or shall we say, the "colored" version of the original?

But, of course, in reality I brought up the term "translucent" to further obfuscate (tee hee hee, get it?) the issue and because I am loquacious. But, then again, aren't we all?
Mrtennis, I like discussion threads where people compare the sonics of say amp A relative to amp B. Not really judging good or bad, but just how they differ sonically keeping in mind what they were matched with at the time. I think we people that read these discussions keep running tabs of the comparisons and form our opinions over the long term.

It's funny, because after participating in a few threads about the subject of sonic descriptive terms in the last month or so, it seems my definitions and understanding of these terms doesn't seem to jibe with the majority. Yet, I still end up with what I expected. Funny and odd.
Mr. Schroeder I like the way you use "translucency" to describe your system. I've definitely colored my system in a way appealing to me. For me, like most things in art and life for that matter, the imperfections are what make things fun and interesting.
Getting a natural warmth with all the detail is possible when you have properly addressed, quiet incoming AC.
My system is getting close, but dealing with different recording mediums add to the dilemma.
In the end, we tune to our preferences.
Mr Ts, When I ( and many others) reads your description and general definition of warm = rolled of freq=less transperent, I tends to agree generally but on a second though would say not necessarily. Perfect contradictory in my own two systems. It is true for (at certain setting, i/c combo) my all solid state system that cost roughly 3 times my upstair system, which is all tube consisting of JOR which defies this general definition and presents warmth and transparancy at the same time in spades. My definition of warmth and transperent is correct representation of instrument timbers , having dullness, bass roundness and bloom, weighty lower mids and presence at higher mids when called for and still without losing first, second, third and so forth harmonics that contributes dynamics (frequency does not roll off until 8-10 K and then roll-off at ~12-14 db to 16 K) and that see thru quality makes this combination possible!!! Did I tell you that My JOR does that?