I am trying to learn to ask questions, so I am asking this.Do high fidelity and accuracy mean the same thing to you, and do how do they really rate in your overall enjoyment of music? To me fidelity used to mean real to life until I realized I didnt really know what that meant. I have not heard that many live instruments or live performers. Then, I do not really know what an engineer or artist intended a recording to sound like either. Most of the time I am pretty happy just to listen to a recording and take it as is. I like or I dont. But this question of fidelity puzzles me. If this is an ignorant question I dont mind saying there is a lot I dont know.

If you just know that "you like it or you don't", stop trying to analyze it and just enjoy.

Trying to "figure out what to listen for and determine if it is good" will make you neurotic! Just ask any audiophile! Why do you think there is so much equipment for sale here?

It's a dangerous path to start down.................

Just "enjoy the music" and be happy.


It's not a stupid question. For it not to be an ignorant question, you would have to know the answer.

I think accuracy and 'high fidelity' is generally the same thing. High fidelity was coined to describe a system that was very close to the original sound, or one that is not 'unfaithful' to what was heard in the studio.

Accuracy is a word used to describe a systems ability to sound like the instrument played. It usually refers to tonal accuracy. Many times a listener determines what instrument is being played by a process of default. The listener knows it's not a trumpet, or tuba, and eventually concludes that it must be a French Horn since they know what it isn't. Tonal accuracy allow the listener to skip this process by reproducing the tone of a French Horn (for instance) accurately enough that it is easily recognized. This is an over simplification of the idea, but I'm trying to be clear.

Nearly no one is really able to determine how accurate their system is since they don't know the sound of each instrument, the make and model of the instrument, and the tonal qualities of the hall or studio in which the recording was made. People might like their systems, but statements beyond that tend to be disingenuous.
It's actually an interesting philosophical question, though in the end Reubent is right, if it brings you enjoyment don't worry about it. Initially, my understanding of the meaning of high fidelity/hi-fi was to mean fidelity to the source, i.e., the master tape, not necessarily the actual musical event being recorded, as the recording engineers and producers would be the ones to determine how close to the actual recorded event the master tape/record/disc came out. An accurate component was one that faithfully amplified what it was fed, or accurately read and transcribed what was on the disc. There were precious few components in the early days of hi-fi that did this. This led to the "spec wars" when transistor equipment first came out, where solid state amps would have vanishing amounts of distortion, especially when compared with tubed designs, in an effort to be more "accurate". They also sounded awful compared to those tubed designs. If you look at the specs of a lot of today's equipment, you'll see that many manufacturers of high end equipment today (see, for example, the Wavac measurements, or any single-ended triode amp's measurements--Sean started an excellent, though controversial, thread on this point) seem to be taking a different view of what high fidelity is supposed to mean. It might be an attempt to sound more like the original musical event, or else to get to the artist's message via your emotions. Perhaps not accurately transcribing or amplifying what was on the tape, but also perhaps getting across the musical message or the sensation of being at the recording venue, trying to make up for what was lost in the recording process. This may not be all that bad, given some recording practices where orchestral recordings spotlight individual instruments in a way you'd never hear in the concert hall, and pop producers use all sorts of devices to create the sound they think will sell, rather than faithfully portray the actual sound of the artist performing. From my standpoint, I prefer a component that makes my recordings sound more real, as if I were at a musical event, than one that shows me every splice of the master tape made by the recording engineer, every creak of a chair, etc.--that's the illusion that I'm asking my system to create. But there is a basic amount of accuracy to the master tape I do expect as well--I don't want boomy one-note bass, I don't want bassoons that sound like saxaphones or clarinets, or violas that sound like cellos or violins. So my definition of "accuracy" may differ from many others' here, and certainly from the original concept of the word as I understand it. But it's really a philosophical discussion, not one that should be thought about too much lest you lose your perspective on why you have your system in the first place.
Hi Tim,

I would generally agree with many points that Uppremidfi has made but make the definition even more concise. "Fidelity" would refer to the ability of the system to faithfully reproduce what has been captured in the recording. We assume (hope, pray?) that the recording team, mastering engineer and pressing plant have done their jobs correctly and the recording does contain an accurate representation of the sound of the instruments in the recording venue. If the playback system has "fidelity" it will show exactly how accurate the recording is. With the best recordings such a system will sound very close to the sound of the original instruments. With a recording of lesser quality a "faithful" system will conversely show the limitations of the recording.

A system that exhibits colorations or individual components that possess a particular "personality" by virtue of their design or by accessories that have been used inappropriately will not be able to have "fidelity" to the recording and will add those colorations to EVERY recording that is played through that system. That will take us further away from the ultimate goal of perfect audio reproduction.

Best Regards,

Barry Kohan

A lot of us "golden eared freaks" can tell the difference between different brands/version of instuments on recordings. In addition, we are able to hear the recording venue. Some of the extreme "golden eared freaks" can even tell you mike type and positioning from a recording.

I go small clubs, classical concerts, quartets, etc to hear what live instruments sound like.

The holy grail of hi-fi is to recreate the performace in your living room.

Let me rephrase that...

The holy grail of hi-fi is to recreate the recording engineers interpretation of the performance in your living room as acurate as possible.
Thank you. I appreciate your answers.Reubent: I like your advice. I do enjoy myself. My connection to music has always been emotional and so I do not make much headway with any analysis of my system.However, I do find audio related subjects really interesting, even if my understanding is a bit limited.Bright star audio: This is where I always get hung up! I do like my system the way it sounds now but I know it adds its own sound to the recording. Warmth, mostly. I think often that my ears are too easily appeased- a little lazy.
Hi Tim,

I'm sure many of us neurotic audiophiles here (myself included) are envious of you that you can just sit back and enjoy the music that comes out of your system without dwelling too much on what the system does do versus what it doesn't do.

As a manufacturer in the high end sector (vibration control products and loudspeakers) I see it as my duty to push the envelope of what an audio system is able to achieve and my comments on audio forums reflect a sensibility that an uncompromising attitude is required to do so.

Tim said:
"I do like my system the way it sounds now but I know it adds its own sound to the recording."

At the present state of the art ALL audio components (and therefore systems) either take away or add to the signal captured in the recording (and probably some of both). I believe that we can only move steadily forward toward perfect audio reproduction by ensuring that our systems (the individual components, accessories we use and set up procedures) do not alter the signal captured in the recording. It is sometimes a difficult doctrine for many people to apply because the effects of coloration are beguiling and seductive.

I do believe that we should enjoy the music that comes out of our systems (otherwise what is the point?) but I also believe that same type of emotional fulfillment we experience when listening to live music can only be consistently replicated in the home when the system is not making its own contribution the signal it is reproducing.

Best Regards,

Barry Kohan
Just to reiterate a stance that I've personally had for years, as I've been around high end audio as long, is that high fidelity is most challenged in the home environment in the area of "dynamic transparancy". Otherwise, "high fidelity", at least refering to musical accuracy and refinement regarding detail, coloration(or lack there of), soundstage, purity, musicality and such, is stops with DYNAMICS!!!
To me, this is where most audiophile systems fall short, i not the entire home audio market mostly!
I take that back, speakers like some of the better active audiphile offerings out there (excluding Meridian IMO), Avantgarde horns, and similar come much much closer to realism, accuracy, and dynamic REALITY than most!...with the likes of Wilson WATT Puppies a close trailing..
I am imagining how the words high fidelity were first used to describe a genre of audiophilia...

In 1928, group of golden earred audiophiles listening to a bunch of stereos, a lot of A/B/A/B/C/B/A comparisons going on...

And, one system seemed to be heads and shoulders above all the rest... and people started making comments like, "the parts and build quality is built with integrety, and the resulting sound is honest and faithful to the original..."

Well, you get the emotive use of words that are synonomous to "fidelity" thus the rampant use of hi-fi...

Ofcourse, like any emotive use of verbage, it's all relative (the meaning) to the person using it. Definitely a slippery slope if one has to analyze what's going on.
I'll go with Reubant to block, Bob. He said it plain and simple...get out while you still can, ignore these neurotic freaks, and enjoy the music! Be happy. The idea of an objective anything is patently ridiculous. Our senses are as individual as our fingerprints. One man's green is another man's chartreuse, One woman's High-C is another's orange-flavored beverage. What sounds good to you is not necessarily what sounds good to Stereophile...well, I guess most components sound pretty darn good to Stereophile so that statement may be inaccurate. You get the point though. Use your own senses. Trust the force Luke. Or, if you're blessed like at least one of our illustrious audio manufacturers, perhaps God will point out the right gear for you. High fidelity?! What a pile of horse X-cream-mint! True to what? A black and white world? But they can measure it, with scientific accuracy that is unimpeachable...why just look at the sine-waves, and those swell three-dimensional plotted curves like desert sands...and the experts all tell me that I can't get any better without spending ten times the price! Yet there's a whole derriere-burstin' load of "Audiophiles" and Audio-critics, myself among them, who adore the sound of tubes and SET amplification, complete with distortion to write home about that you can measure with a yard-stick. We are charmed and will not be swayed by geeks waving scientific evidence in abundance to discredit our ears and enlighten the rest of the world of the error in our ways. And yet I can also hear the appeal of my good friends craving for the detail and slam of his high-dollar SS rig, which renders so much detail you can hear snow falling on the roof of the recording studio. The more you focus on the specific qualities that the gear has, what it imparts, or does not, the further and further away you will tend to get from the music that moves you enough to pursue such a thing in the first place. Don't let that happen. Run, while you still have your pants. I'm telling you, these guys will take'em and have you wearing cryo'd jock-straps that isolate each of your balls in a cushion of air to eek out that last bit of performance from each of them in the name of truth and accuracy. Meanwhile they'll sell your pants on eBay after they've cleaned out your wallet, and have you begging for more because you can't get it up now unless you have the very latest, greatest, biggest, bestest, badassest device out there that you can brag about right here and enlighten other poor gullible slobs like you once were, convincing them you know what they'll like the best cause you've heard it all and you are enlightened. Oh the horror of it all!

I agree with Marco, if your enjoying the music and it sounds good to you then leave it alone. The most important thing is to enjoy the music. I've been all over the place with my system over the last 20+ years. I'll get it "dailed in" and sounding good then catch a bad case of the upgrade bug and change something. Then I screw up the senergy and end up changing things big time to get it back to where I had it. Over the years I've spent more on my stereo than on my house.Right now I have it sounding good and I find myself making excuses to listen to it. In addition, I've been ignoring my chores around the house. When the system sounds good I spend a lot more time sitting in front of it and reading which is a good thing.


I have an appointment on Wednesday for an ultrasound of my sack to get fitted with my cryoed jockstrap with the teflon and air dialectic. I'll let you know how the system sounds after the upgrade.
"The holy grail of hi-fi is to recreate the recording engineers interpretation of the performance in your living room as acurate as possible."
That's a good definition on hi-fi, but not one I care to follow (anymore). I've done some recording in my live, whether in the studio ot be it life, and found that real hi-fi doesn't exist. Even if equipment gets better over the years, it is not possible to recreate a concert-hall in a small livingroom (IMHO). So I gave up on all that, and now enjoy the music. It save's a lot of worrying, although not on money - what I save on equipment I spend on music!!
Prpixel - Let us all know if your ding-dong makes it to the top floor after
the procedure. If not, you may want to go back to your source and have
them burrow a few extra caveties, insert some carbon-fiber tubes and
you can fill'em with lead shot to keep the nasty resonance down. They
call-em "Raised Pleasure Ribs" I think. The woman will be
stairing with lust, and you'll never get sand kicked in your face again at
the beach whenever you wear that Speedo.

A lot of good responses. Supportive, I think, and I appreciate it. Exertfluffer: When you say that a lot of audio systems fall short of fidelity in terms of dynamic realism are you saying they just cannot produce the accurate size and dimensions of the event? the wrong words no doubt, but something like this? I notice with certain recordings I own that some aspects of the performance seem out of balance with eachother. Some instrument seems unnaturally forward in the mix, and then a little larger than you might imagine they would be by comparison to other instruments. Also, with classical I am often amazed that no matter how loud you play some recordings everything seems a bit minaturized. It is, of course, but I have always thought this had to do with the recordings-compression, of a sort.Sometimes when I read here I get the impression that people have picked out an aspect of fidelity they especially value and go with that. Some will say tonality is most or all of it. Others say speed. Is it a case that most system combinations-regardless of price, wont combine to produce the dynamics, tonality and speed necessary to convey the sort of realism people write about here.Are there a lot of recordings out there just waiting to be fully realized but the components available just arent up to the job? Or do we need really really really big rooms to house this realistic sound properly.
Timf, on your last point, I have not heard any system that can reproduce the dynamics of a live performance, there's always some form of compression, particularly a full blown orchestral climax. You'd need many thousands of watts and a speaker capable of transducing them to get close to that. It's not just the recordings, it's the playback systems and, to some extent, our listening rooms as well, which can overload with too much volume in a relatively small space. Maybe the WAMM or the IRS V in a huge room can get close, but nothing I've heard. My view, anyway.
Hi Tim,

The term "dynamics" refers to the DIFFERENCE between the softest and loudest amount of sound the system will produce without overloading. The softest sound discernable will be determined by the resolution of the components and the noise floor. The subjective experience of dynamics also includes the speed with which the system can produce the change required as compared the relatively unlimited dynamic range of live acoustic instruments.


Barry Kohan
I wanted to say I enjoyed your original post.I do approach the question of fidelity with caution. I think it fair for me to say since I have never heard it it would be difficult for me to appreciate it and place it realistically as a value. I love it as an ideal and as a question, but-as is my way, I also try to define it in a way that is too simple. That is why I am asking. I can see that a lot of people share a common understanding of the definition, but that it becomes more complicated from there on. Truthfully-very early on, I thought getting every little detail was very important and a way to fidelity. I do not think so anymore. Details that do not sound natural and seem without purpose is just a feast of details. I dont mind, but it doesnt do anything for me either.
I just browsed through this thread again hoping to learn something new but find something is amiss.

It seems Timf is trying to articulate in a way that can best express his thoughts and queries. However, this thread turned into a "who can best describe fidelity" conundrum.

I think, like any type of communication, just know your audience and adjust your verbage accordingly. If you are uncertain that your definition of fidelity is synonomous with the person receiving your communique, then find a better word like "truer to the original".
Some thoughts

Webster's dictionary indicates that one of the definitions of "fidelity" is:

The degree to which an electronic device (as a record player, radio, or television) accurately reproduces its effect (as sound or picture).

The definition of "high" includes:

1. constituting the .... most fully developed
2 : rich in quality : LUXURIOUS
3 : of greater degree, amount, cost, value, or content than average, usual, or expected

High fidelity, then, seems to be ability to very accurately reproduce music to the highest degree, but it also suggests an element of quality and development.

Both of the lines of thought in this thread seem to be true; that is, high fidelity is accurate reproduction of sound and it has an element of enjoyment as well.

The questions that arise out of this include;

Does more accurate reproduction of music lead to greater enjoyment? (I'll put this question in as another thread)

Would Reubent enjoy music that is "low fidelity"?
"The Original", Viggen, was conceived, performed, mixed and recorded by humans who all have put their own individual signature on it, which will manifest itself in whatever way it will as far as how it is preserved and presented on the media itself for translation via the system. If the system is there ideally as something that reveals only what is there on the media, that illuminates it, so to speak...well, just as any source of light will impart a color cast on the objects that reflect it, so will a system that reproduces sound cast some color to the sound. And, just as I might see the color red as what you may call orange, well, sheeeittt, I'm just done gone and repeated my own redundant statement all over again. Every friggen stage of removal from the original is a filter that alters the original...the room it's played in, the microphone, the mixing, the man/woman at the mixing board, it's all subjective, and it's all acting as yet another filter ad infinitum. What "original' are you seeking to reproduce, and who's version of it. From which seat? To who's ears? It's like the child's game "Telephone" where you get a big group of kids, or adults for that matter, and have one whisper a statement into the other's hear. They pass it along to the next in the group, till it finally reaches the last person who speaks the phrase aloud. It seldom is the same phrase that started it all. The absolute sound is a not absolute at all, it's relative, and, like everything else, it matters as much as you care to make it matter to you, but in the grand scheme, like everthing else, it is as significant as gnat dung. I say go for what gets you most engaged with the music, what gets your toes tapping, the hairs on your neck standing up, and your grin big and wide, and sends your ding-dong to the penthouse. F&*% someone else's version of what they think you should like, or what they think is "Real" "True" or "Original". Make the call got two ears and some grey matter in between'em. What you actually enjoy listening to may not necessarily turn out be some Sterophool approved, Class Triple A with a bullet, sonic-truth-generating, wonder-system. Then again, maybe it will. I just don't think the "truth" has anything to do with it, and pursuit of it is a farse, and so far from the emotional impact that music has at it's heart. Oh, and if your ding-dong don't make it to the penthouse when you play music on your system, don't worry; neither does mine!


I like your analogy of the telephone game. I understand that. The more posts I read the more I understand what I am questioning, and the more questions I have! Unfortunately, it also seems I am not very organized and my questions may not be related to each other! basically, Im the conumdrum! So, I will say that I really appreciate it that any of you took the time to approach the confusion. Your posts are all very intelligent and extremely readable and enjoyable. One of the things I most love about this forum is that there so many different points of view, and such articulate and wise voices to convey them. I am glad I asked.
Hi Rcprince,

You said: "Maybe the WAMM or the IRS V in a huge room can get close"

As it happens, I own a set of highly modified Infinity IRS speakers and I am powering them with over 8,000 watts of power (more than double the amount of power intended by the speakers' designers) and even in my 20' x 30' x 14' room they are not able to equal the dynamics heard in a live situation. Even so, they do produce a large wavelaunch (by virtue of the driver compliment) which does give a much more convincing dynamic representation than most speakers are able to achieve.


Barry Kohan
I'd hope that all of us, at one time or other, has had the experience of
pure enjoyment of music, whether from a transistor radio, or a Hi-Fi
which sold for more than a year at Yale. Accurate reproduction of
anything does not necessarily lead to one thing or another. It's really up
to you how much you allow yourself to enjoy anything in particular. If a
person is all hung up on qualifying their enjoyment of some experience
in terms of definitions, mind games, pigeon-holing, and comparisons to
some kind of 'norm' or standards set forth by "experts", or
the greeness of their neighbor's grass...well, it would surprise me if
someone like that could actually enjoy anything at all! They'd likely be
too stuck in their head to experience much outside themselves. And I'm
not just the hair-club president, I'm also a member!!!

I think we can all agree on the semantics: "fidelity" means
"true(r) to the original" (Viggen) or "accurate reproduction (of the original)" (Marco-Jax2). The original being what's on the RECORDED medium -- NOT the actual event that was recorded.

AS this is all about the listening enjoyment, at home, of an actual past event (musical or other) the ASSUMPTION is: the more accurate REPRODUCTION at home is, the better.
Many have already noted that that, ENJOYMENT, rather than ACCURACY or true to the original, is a better goal. Of course we'd like both -- but most systems fall short of this. What many are saying is that, (I'm putting it in other words) 'as long as I can "control/choose & match" the system's distortion (i.e. departure from the original) in a way that the OVERALL result is enjoyable (i.e. makes my ears happy) -- that's what I want/choose'. I "trust my ears", despite the possible compromises.
Quite rightly so: this implies that our ears choose homogeneity/acceptability of the overall sonic result OVER certain details, etc, that may be contained in the recorded medium but are slightly masked OR where the system introduces sounds that are NOT contained in the "original" OR where the systems slightly alters detail. As we have lots of experience with live performances, our ears are led to choose the sound that is more reminiscent of the "real thing ", than otherwise.

As to reproducing the actual event, esp. the dynamics -- FORGET it. To do this we'd need: signal, energy & an electrical-to-acoustic power converter commonly known as "speaker".
Assume we want the speaker to be capable of matching our ears' dynamic range, i.e. what we can hear: 120db SPL, with minimal distortion (I'm dreaming, but, hey, it's an example).

Think about this. Take a speaker rated 90db SPL/1W/8ohm (2,84V) offering a pure resistive load (how nice!). The extra 30db, (i.e. 90+30=120) in SPL terms, mean a bit over 30 times LOUDER. As we're talking about SPL (force/are), the relation between intensity (watts/area) & force/area (pascal) is I=Pressure^2/p (air impedance constant) which means when spl doubles, watts quadruple. So, we're talking about a minimum of 900 watts here. Which mean an electrical potential 84V and a current of 10,6 Amps. Not bad. Not to mention the "hi-fi" PS required for such amplification: surely over 2x the output rating, +4x if it's class A (i.e. ~4kW /+45amp trannies).

Now, let's find a midrange capable of sustaining that -- let alone not distorting. In fact, I doubt any driver will have the time to distort: it'll just go poof.
Even we opt for the highly efficient, ~100db/1w, cheapo Lowther / AER / Supravox etc drivers of this world ($1k each); +20db SPL means 10 times more, which means a good 100W... I don't know of any such driver capable of sustaining this power level (despite some manufacturers' claims).

OH, and I forgot: all these SPL's are taken at 1m away from the source! At each doubling of distance, we lose 6db (anechoic) -- but add a few db because of the two near-identical sources + some room help, say we lose 6db spl at 4 metres... so we really need 126db. Whew....

Let's just listen to music:) Cheers
Many have already noted that that, ENJOYMENT,
rather than ACCURACY or true to the original, is a better goal. Of course
we'd like both...

WHY?!?! Why would anyone need anything more than ENJOYMENT?!?!
That's a head-trip...a mind-game. I've been in my head and let me tell
you it ain't a pretty place...I'd rather not be there if I don't have to. If
you've read any of my posts you'll probably understand why. If I have
'enjoyment' I don't give a rodent's rear end about accuracy. Enjoyment is
quite enough for me, thank you very much. As far as either being a
"better" goal; well, hey, I don't know about that, it's entirely
up to the individual to determine for themselves which they prefer and
in what balance. Needless to say, I'll take 'enjoyment' as my priority
every single time. That may in fact lead to someone else's resemblence
to accuracy, but it sure wasn't my motivating factor.

Let's just listen to music:)

Now there's a statement I can get behind. Don't mind if I do!

Needless to say, I'll take 'enjoyment' as my priority
every single time. That may in fact lead to someone else's resemblence
to accuracy, but it sure wasn't my motivating factor.

I felt the need to explain that further as I didn't turn any music on and am still stuck in my head.

I compared three preamps in one of my systems the other day. When I listened for very specific cues as to why each differed from the other, in order to 'analyze' each one more 'critically' I really had no sense of enjoyment of the music at all, nor any sense of how much I was enjoying the preamp under scrutiny. When I let go of all the analytical games was when my toe started tapping and my body started moving...I was becoming more physically and emotionally involved in the music, and loving every second of it. Going from one preamp to another in my system I found that one had me moving, while another, although remarkably airy and dimensional in this case, did not seem to have what it took to engage me nearly as much. I could easily become distracted and disengaged with the music. Perhaps that is what critics call a component that is too "analytical". Regardless, my preference was with the component that got me out of my head and bobbing to the music. I really don't think that "accuracy" necessarily was the primary virtue that leads to that. I'm not sure what is though, and I don't really feel the need to quantify it. If it's there, there's really no mistaking it. Yes, it can certainly be there in one's experience of a "low-fidelity" system too. I think one's expectations may be the enemy to contend with there.

Honestly. I do enjoy my system, and enjoyment of music is the number one priority. I guess I was just confused about the ways accuracy and fidelity bump into eachother on this and other web sites and in magazine reviews. I was interested in these words as used in audio, and then maybe some insights as how they might differ from eachother is this context. They do not seem to be the same animals. words are politcal too, so it does not suprise me I would be interested in their uses here.
My father learned how to cook from the old foggies soldiers who were originally mercenaries from Shang Dong, province in NE China, who are known for their mastery of pasta.

Whenever I go out to eat NE Chinese noodles, I always use my dad's noodles as reference of what is true noodle fidelity.
And so you know, right? What comes closest to this? Nothing exact, perhaps , but when done correctly it meets the criteria of your own experience of what it is?