High Performance Audio - The End?


Steve Guttenberg recently posted on his audiophiliac channel what might be an iconoclastic video.

Steve attempts to crystallise the somewhat nebulous feeling that climbing the ladder to the high-end might be a counter productive endeavour. 

This will be seen in many high- end quarters as heretical talk, possibly even blasphemous.
Steve might even risk bring excommunicated. However, there can be no denying that the vast quantity of popular music that we listen to is not particularly well recorded.

Steve's point, and it's one I've seen mentioned many times previously at shows and demos, is that better more revealing systems will often only serve to make most recordings sound worse. 

There is no doubt that this does happen, but the exact point will depend upon the listeners preference. Let's say for example that it might happen a lot earlier for fans of punk, rap, techno and pop.

Does this call into question almost everything we are trying to ultimately attain?

Could this be audio's equivalent of Martin Luther's 1517 posting of The Ninety-Five theses at Wittenberg?

-----

Can your Audio System be too Transparent?

Steve Guttenberg 19.08.20

https://youtu.be/6-V5Z6vHEbA

cd318

Showing 27 responses by mahgister

Ok i get your point better cd318...

I must admit that all my files ,the worst like the good(classical or jazz or acoustic) sound better than they sounded when played on my past not so good audio systems...

But there is difference between a bad recordings with a microphone for example and a bad mixings....

You mamas and papas it is more a bad mixing and then your point is right, a bad mixing is particularly unlistenable on a too good system...

A bad recording of a Scriabin sonata is another matter, and more listenable on a good audio system....

my best to you....
There is no "real" in sound stereo reproduction...

But myself i am glad when i reach the feeling that this is "real" : accuracy of tonal timbre first and imaging in 3-d second, and a soundstage detached from the speakers in third.... Nothing of that is "real", but my feeling  that this is right is real....

:)

« Why dont you listen stero? i hate microscope» -Groucho Marx
Thanks well made observations...

Music is not sound.....Music is a whole not a sum of details....

Microscope resolve, musical instrument reveal...Resolving power must always be at the service of the revealing power...

Sound cause harm, music and silence heal.....


All right....BUT....

Except embeddings are necessary dimensions linked to the  3 fields where the gear is interconnected : vibration /resonance, general noise floor, and acoustic.....

These necessary dimensions are not " tweaks".....

A bunch of tweaks is not and never will be  a method of listenings experiments to improve the controls over these 3 dimensions where any gear is immersed or embedded....


"tweaks" is a word for ready made brand costly device that are sold like secondary means to help the audio system....

It is not necessary to buy any tweaks.... It is necessary to listen and use ours ears....

:)
On a rightfully embed system everything sound better, badly recorded or not...

Resolving power is only one attribute of a good audio system and by itself in no way define Superior S.Q.

The idea that we must pay 100, 000 dollars or even 10,000, to enjoy hi-fi is a myth at best and a lie at worst...Especially if we buy used or vintage mythical good components and takes controls of their embeddings dimensions......

For most audio system between, 1000 bucks and 10,000 dollars the quality controls of the triple embeddings of the system define his working capability to deliver a musical great experience....It is even true for high priced one but less evident.... Upgrading an element before embedding rightfully the audio system is the way to the money pit linked to the without end upgrading pit by endless frustration....

When you cannot change without listening it till it ends most of your cd because they are so beautiful and musical now, you are there...

There will be no end to audio, because the good vinyl, or files or cd are there already, and many people will want to listen to them at their optimal S. Q. without the same gear than today but who gives a dam about the gear if the music is sublime ?

It stands to reason that poorly recorded or produced music may be more enjoyable on systems with less resolving power.
it is the reverse, if you like this bad recording very much... You want to "extract" all his wine juice with the bad vinegar.... A very good system will give you the 2....But you will always think Alas! it is a bad recording of a so beautiful music....

But it is more relaxing in a bad system....But who want a more relaxing but bad audio system sound no questions asked?
It is like saying i like prostitutes, no love, no real emotions, only thing done.... :)

Myself i prefer to be in love with a way less beautiful girl than with the beautiful prostitute....His heart is my sound audio system....

In my car like with a prostitute i dont give a dam yes.... Then you are right on this count.... :)

You say " it stands to reason" but the world experience dont stand to reason at all..... :)
Recordings are the unfortunate bottleneck after a certain performance point, not the equipment, and climbing the sonic ladder further will only serve to make that more obvious.
An audio system cannot be evaluated without a source recording, vinyl, cd or files playing.... There is many good one and many bad one....

But you seems to say that the more we improve the system less cd or files you have to listen to because they are too bad sounding...

I get your point...

But it is illogical to say that the best audio system in the world is charaterized by his " resolving" power, and on it at the end no cd or no files sound good...

You catch the absurdity?

The reason is that the best audio system in the world cannot be and is not charcterized by his "resolving" power like a microscope, but by his musical flexibility....

This musical rendering flexibility is reach not by the virtue of money cost invested in but first and foremost by a rightfull embedding of the mechanical, electrical, and acoustical dimensions where it seat...

In my audio system there is bad recordings and good one, but all sound better than ever....All is more musical.... I dont listen to recorded engineering sources only, i listen through my system house electrical grid and room acoustic the more musical rendition of some " bad recordings" by virtue of a system which is not only resolving but mainly musical because rightfully embed....

:)
Ok i understand , you are very clear...

Each ocean own his fishes species....

I promise not to wrote a novel in response next time...

My regards  to your gracious answers...

My best also....
No my English syntax and vocabulary are a catastroph of Shakespearian proportions.... French is my natural tongue...

i read english all my life, never speaking in english really with no one, and reading only philosophy or sciences and these 2 fields dont have the reputation to be very litterate at all...

Except George Santayana for example, whose prose are marvellous....I read it without even thinking about his ideas for the pleasure to read english....

:)
because I want that piece of the chain to be brutally accurate. If I decide that I want to soften some hard edges after the fact, I’d rather do that with speakers or room treatments.



dougeyjones

I am not sure to understand your point about the dac brutal accuracy measurements...

But the dac was for me the most difficult thing to buy....It is easy to buy very good used vintage amplifier and speakers for peanuts with some patience.... I had....But dacs are relatively contemporary device with great variable qualities and relatively not as well known like other piece of gear....And the scale of price is stunning for a good one....I was lucky to spot one with a total minimalistic design, a NOS one, tda 1543, Starting Point systems, with an internal battery, powered externally with an Ifipower... I paid it peanuts luckily new on Ebay...I would not and could not pay anyway for the engineering continuous research linked to 10,000 dollars dac.....

Many dac has a sound of their own....Generally their sound is dry or harsh for my ears, or clean and accurate for some.... But i prefer a dac that gives to each instrument his tonal timbre, not details, but his natural color....A cello is a cello....I dont want to hear details of cello first, but tonal accuracy of the timbre of the cello first.... For sure details and tonal accuracy are linked but it is not the same thing at all....When details are flowing in waving unity it is tonal accuracy no more details....

I own this S.P.S. dac and his characteristic is that he goes on with any changes in my system without revealing any limitations to me at all....It seems my dac does not exist at all...

The best characteristic for a dac is not existing by itself....i will never upgrade it....Why? i never lack details on any recording at all each times my audio system noise level is decreased, if my audio system is not too much vibrating and resonant, each times my increasing controls of the room gives to my audio system the space where details can be listen to, my dac goes on without showing ANY limitations....My room is not tweaked to compensate for my dac at all like you seems to want to....The many controls in my room are not use to correct my dac...They are use to reveal the potential of my audio system ....

( By the way the first time i listened to this dac i think he was good but lacking in  details. But truly it was my audio system eclectrical and acoustical embeddings that was hiding the details....) :)

Then my dac really does not exist, i dont sense it at all by all means.... :)

I forget it totally....

However he must exist because i hear music.....

It is the best ever for me....

You dont want and you cannot upgrade something that is no more there..... :)
Yes.... Thanks for understanding....


Wait when you will know how to modify them and link them to a grid of resonators.... :)

The Schumann generators not the cat....
Most hobbyists will not be in the class of systems to enable all genres and recordings to sound wonderful. No judgment of anyone’s efforts, just experience with gear from budget to close to SOTA.
You seems to be serious?

I had an audio system that cost me 500 dollars including dac, amp, and speakers, and it is the best sound i ever listen to.... Why because it is not the price of the gear that impact most but the way it is embed in electrical, mechanical, and acoustical dimension...All genre sound marvellous here even metal or acoustic....

And beside that one of the best amplifier in the world in 1978 does not becomes automatically scrap today...

If your job is selling gear it is ok, but it is a bit snobbery to allegue price to be judge of the way a system sound without being even conscious of the acoustic extraordinary impact.... I dont even mention mechanical and electrical embedding, i doubt you even know what it is....

Sorry to be rude....Awake to reality ans spend less on electronics.. Spend more on thinking... :)

Audiophile experience is not reserved to 100, 000 dollars system....
mine is so good upgrading seems ridiculous....There is better yes, but by a small margin at very, very, high price...

Embeddings: the multiple ways a piece of electronic components is connected and immersed in system gear, house, and room....

To your discharge most audio system dont sound at all with their potential S.Q. it is true... Because like you, most people ignore the method to embed their gear....They think that all is ok ready out of the box....And manufacturer dont have interest to enlighten them when they pay for the "best" and dont want, in addition to paying big money, any hard work to reach the high level their gear is able to reach....ANY gear need to be embed never mind the price.....

My best to you....
Steve Guttenberg is a good guy i like him ...Great human being for me....

But his own audio room reveal to me that reviewing different gear all the time he does not takes the care to embed them rightfully, like many reviewers did, and how to review speakers in a non treated, non controlled room ? In a non controlled electrical grid? And sometimes with no controls of vibrations....

All music sound better on a good embedded audio system...

Any system non embedded has no relation with itself embedded rightfully in S.Q.... No relation at all...It is in no way the same system...

ANY audio system sound way less better in non controlled house embeddings and like heaven in the controlled house embeddings...But the owner has no means to know it, because he dont have a comparison point...Frustrated by his system he will upgrade parts at great cost without ever listening to what his actual system potential can do....

How do we know our system?

Not by paying a big price in money for good enginneering, no, not at all... By embedding it only, and it will sound good whatever the price most of the times...

Why?

Because Generic electronic design engineering is one part of the equation, the 3 others specific parts weigh more, most of the times, especially if your audio system was well chosen in the first place...

These 3 parts are: the mechanical (vibrations/resonance) dimension, the electrical grid of the house with his noise floor, the acoustic of a room....The acoustic of the room is so powerful that NOTHING compare to its transformative power....
Speakers of 1000 dollars can sound better in their controlled room than 20,000 dollars one in a non controlled room....You dont trust me? Consult a serious acoustician, not a seller....I learn it by hard work myself...

There is 4 parts who plays a role in audio installation and choices, the most important are not the electronic design component but their embeddings...

The reason is simple most good electronical design component can be exhanged for another different but well designed one with no absolute lost in S.Q. at worst a relatively minus one....

The choice of an electronic component is never free it is linked to the money available... And for sure a 100,000 amplifier is most of the times better than a 10,000... The decision to embed an audio system is low cost if you make it yourself and it takes time but not money....

But "no embeddings" at all will gives a hellish audio system or one under his own potential, even if you like it as it is ; but embedding it will give you heaven....

In conclusion there is some truth to Guttenberg observation aboutclimbing the ladder of price in audio...It is a waste if you donrt embed your system, whatever the price, it will be a waste...

For me i own a 500 dollars system including all and so good that upgrading it seems ridiculous for the price i will need to pay for exceeding its already good S.Q. ( around 15,000 dollars )
My system gives me all: dynamic, imaging, 3-d holography, sound completely free from the speakers and encompassing me or the room in my 2 positions of listenings... I cannot even chose between nearfield and regular position because each is marvellous.... I reach that by embedding what i have, not by paying it....
If you’ve already passed that unfortunate point of too much resolution
There is never too much resolution, except if the different pieces of gear are badly paired, if not, there is a problem in the 3 embeddings particularly the electrical and acoustical one....

"Resolution" and details must be also musically presented and "revealed". If not they hurt the ears and some says this is too resolving...But it is a bad use of word...

The recording is resolved by the system+room, but the system +room reveal his own inner working in resolving the source...

Then there is a difference and a balance between "resolving" and "revealing"....Resolving refer to the original acoustic of the recorded initial musical event, revealing refer to his recreation by the system+room...

The ears/brain distinguished the 2 acoustical spaces, and all audio acoustical science is the art of educating the ears to use these 2 acoustical dimensions in the same moment...

Then "passing this point of too much resolution" is only an indication of a problem in the pairing of the gear or in the embeddings or in the 2... There is no objective point of too much resolution at some high price level on the Hi-Fi equipment scale...

My best to you...

Thanks for your very good post...

My best to you.....
«Silence is all we need when plants speak» -Jagadis Chandra Bose

Most people who own a sophisticated audio system were not bragging, except in some ill spirits minds by the way....

And it is not necessary to pay big money at all to own a top audio system either....

«Be subtle, be out of existence for a moment» -Groucho Marx
Any speakers will sound marvellous in a rightfully treated acoustical room and sound atrocious otherwise.... Be it  my Tannoy  dual gold or the magnepan... I know these 2 in bad acoustical room....This is fact...

Then chose what you want, magnepan are different from Tannoy  dual gold, but the 2 are marvellous in a controlled and treated room....Especially if the three embeddings are controlled and not only the acoustical one which is the most impactful tough...

:)
And, by corollary, a system which does sound good with good and bad recordings is similarly not balanced properly.
All corollaries are not equal.... :)

My system makes sound better, that is to say more listenable, except for sure a few rare atrocious one, the good and the bad files or cd alike...More than that, surprizingly, many cd or files i tought bad one sudddenly reveal itself good one....It takes a balanced system to rightly evaluate good from bad indeed,,,,

My system CANNOT transform a really bad files or cd in a good one....But really very bad files are rare amongst my near 10,000 cd or files....

But all is more listenable.... In this sense only, all files are improved, even the bad one....But more listenable or simply listenable is not synonymus with good recording....

In a word a balanced audio system, or in my words, a rightfully embedded one, makes ALL files more listenable...He does not miraculously transform bad apples in good one....But makes less fresh one taste more good yes....

My best to you....
@douglas_schroeder

“If you’re running a $5-10K rig, then do not expect such music to sound great.”
When reading it i was speechless...

Ignorance? Snobbery? Delusion of new riches? Certainly not informed audio management installation.... What i call the triple embedding....

My system value is 500 dollars, i dont pretend that it will beat costly system, i pretend they will eat their spoon with surprize to make so much with so little on their point of view for sure...

I know better now, and i had learn that audio is the art of engineering when you create a design, but the art of embedding when you have bought it....

Only non reflexive mind or conditioned consumers thinks that audio products are ready to go to their best out of the box....
The fact of the matter is that the bulk of audiophiles’ systems are not that good. Contemporary music sounds bad on these systems because they simply cannot handle it, while superior systems can. It’s foolish to blame the genre of music when the system is poor. If you’re running a $5-10K rig, then do not expect such music to sound great.
First i apologize for being a little rude with you...

Reading your posts i think that you are in a perfect good faith about your sayings and experience...

Second, we misunderstood each other.... I never say that anyone can reach the same level of quality with a system like mine and for example mike lavigne system...

But i said and by my own experience and 2 years listening experiments, that a modest system rightfully embedded outpace itself completely, and can reach another level totally , near high-end, under it but not light years behind sorry, if rightfully embedded...

Words are very important because ,not being clear put people at the end of an illusory and costly process of upgrading before embedding their system, never mind the price....

AT ANY PRICE, even 100,000 dollars system will outpace themselves rightfully embedded, then a modest system cannot reach their level even rifghtfully embedded...But will not be so much far from it than most people think....That is my point....

Is it clear?

But when we listen music, with all S.Q. on all counts very good, even if we are not on the same level that top high -end, we can enjoy ANY files or cd rightfully played....

Name a cd a modest system would not be able to render in an acceptable way?

I want to try it....Please i will wait for your suggestion of a cd that is difficult to listen to on a modest system....Thanks in advance and gives me in a few words why it is difficult to listen to it on a modest system....





Remember that what i call embeddings is not a bunch of costly tweaks please....It is a method of listening experiments that make anybody able to identify the lacks in his system and remedy them by cleaning, and controlling mechanical, and electrical grid, and mainly the very important acoustical setting of a small room...

The impact is so powerful than any upgrade even of speakers upgrade, in most cases, will be less impactful, except if the first speakers are already totally mediocre for sure to begins with...Choice of good components is mandatory, even if not costly one....


Thank you for accepting my apology...

I am sometimes too passionate.... :)

Thanks and my best regards....
... but the dimensions of ’betterness’ comes are many -- fill a big room? image like a real performance? produce natural timbers of real instruments and voices? resolve microdynamics to the n-th degree? sound pure and full at low volumes?
my 500 dollars used audio system with well chosen branded known quality name give me that to a relatively high degree, the days i have finish to embed it rightfully....

BUT a costly system will beat it, if it is also rightfully embedded, no doubt but to what degree? Not world apart sorry.... It comes a time where music is there....Better yes, world apart no....

It is here that diminushing returns money reality enter the stage...

All my rant was about how to embed a system, before upgrading anything if it is not necessary..... Embedding is the way to audiophile experience NOT upgrading, and this is valid for ANY systeM at any price....


douglas_schroeder

You has always been a gentleman by the way..... My best to you...


DACs should have switches (kind of like the equivalent of different RIAA curves) that compensate for different genres of music.
In a room which is sound acoustically and under controls this idea is without appeal at all...

Think room and forget the dac for some time.... Forget even your speakers....Think room....

:)
As much as some of us like to flatter ourselves as Super Experienced, the wisdom we have built over the years tends to be most relevant to ourselves and our tastes (and perhaps for those that share that taste). It’s not discovering The Secret Key Of Satisfaction for others.


You are right speaking of taste and choices of gear....

But there exist simple practical facts which can tranform the experience with any gear....

How to embed a piece of electronic equipment in a relatively controlled mechanical, electrical and acoustical dimensions ?

This is all i learn along my way.... Others will suggest better ways to me that those one i created for myself, but these 3 embeddings are key and NOT secondary problems ....

For any choice of gear you are right....

Nevermind the gear, or forget upgrading before embedding anything right....

This is what i learn and say.... Very few really know this transformative truth and experience and experiments on all forums....They all speak of their last or future upgrades....Without knowing.....
Very clear and clever remarks... Thanks prof.....

My rant is not about "tweaks" but about the necessity to put attention about the embeddings and how to embed the gear before replacing it or upgrade it....

Calling "embeddings controls" : "tweaks", reduce my concept from a listenings and experiments method to  buying secondary artifacts   ready made branded costly partial solutions....

I am more in the homemade low cost solutions .....  :)




Priorities changes with years and centuries....

Music does not change, and like the sky, revolve  around the earth....(And i know who Copernic was for those who had doubts).

:)