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



Showing 7 responses by prof



It would help communication  if you weren’t writing in riddles. :)


mahgister, you seem teetering on the type of declarations I was talking about.

You’ve just told of the "necessity" for audiophiles to put attention to "embedding controls" (yeesh!).

Says who?

What "embeddings" must I employ?

There’s a lot of nutty ideas among audiophiles in regards to "vibration control" and "resonances" and "lowering noise floor," so I have no idea what you are advocating. Do I need to start trying cable risers, weights on components? Any in the long list of you-know-who’s system?No thanks. I really don’t need to pay attention to a bunch of that stuff.

But if you are speaking for yourself...fine.


When he says few know this transformative truth, he's talking about me, who knows it. You, it seems, do not

^^^ Right on cue: that's a wonderful example of the poo-poo I was referencing .
As anyone here would have noticed by now, millercarbon isn't one to  miss a chance to lord it over other audiophiles.

Any audiophile who claims they can explain “the problem” for other audiophiles and tell you how to do it is being a goofball.

He is projecting his own experience, not diagnosing.

All this “you shouldn’t use coloured speakers because...” and “you shouldn’t use systems that are too resolving/accurate” and “X speaker is no good for Y music...”

It’s personal taste talking, not necessarily the reality for others.

Take any type of speaker, from the esl 57s to horns to dynamics, omnies, dipoles, bookshelf, full range, subs/no subs, coloured to accurate and you will find people happily living with those speakers for the majority of their audiophile life.

Some people change speakers or other gear a lot as is their want, others settle down for a long time with all sorts of different gear. The speaker or component that got “you” off the merrygoround likely isn’t the one for many other people and visa versa.

I have some gear that I know certain others used briefly in their system that I’ve loved in mine for 22 years. I’ve listened to speakers that others have settled down with very happily that I couldn’t live with for a day. And so it goes.

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.


Indeed, all we who are at the bottom of the mountain of enlightenment can do is look up with envy to those atop the mountain.   To us, their enlightenment sounds like riddles...:-)


Ok, through your obscure method of writing, I can infer you were talking about tweaks.  (Yes, all that resonance noise floor acoustic stuff are tweaks). 

That's fine of course.  If you re-read my post you'll see that it isn't a rant against tweaking or sharing experience.  Far from it.  I'm in audio forums because I do very much think we can share our experiences.   I may share the taste of someone else, so what I like may work for someone else.  And some "tweak" or (real) information about how to alter an audio system can certainly be useful information.  

I was referencing the broader stance one often sees, which is a sort of know-it-all, or self-derived "wisdom" that makes assumptions about other audiophiles, like "audiophiles are continually upgrading because of X and I've diagnosed why and what the cure is."  And "X speakers will not satisfy on Y music" etc.  

Do you see the difference I mean to make between imperious pronouncements of that sort, vs sharing our experience and knowledge with our system building? 

So an example might be:

I tried X tweak and it expanded the soundstage in my system.

Cool.  I might want to try that too.  Or not.


"I've used X tweaks and found benefits, so it's my position "audiophiles OUGHT to use those tweaks" or "audiophiles are really missing out if they haven't tweaked out their system in these methods" or "audiophiles are going to keep chasing their tails unless they do what I'm doing.  The equipment and tweaks I use solve audiophile problems."

Any instance of that kind of stuff is poo-ppo, IMO.  :-)


As for those ultra high resolution systems that can somehow still remain forgiving with poor recordings, well, I’m still looking.

Obviously it’s going to be your own personal call should you find such a system. We can’t know just what you may deem "ultra high resolution" and what you personally will find "forgiving."

But that said, when I think of high resolution and forgiving in the sense of most tracks and genre tends to sound great, I think of the Joseph Audio speakers, which have just that reputation among many listeners, myself included. They manage to combine both a modern "wow" level of clarity and detail, but delivered with such grain-free purity in the highs that it allows the ears to relax. And they combine that clarity with a richness, warmth and low end punch that makes them really satisfying across all sorts of musical genres. IMO.

I use the JA Perspectives but also some other speakers (including Thiel 2.7s). I personally find my system allows almost all tracks to sound satisfying. Of course the character of the different recordings varies quite a lot, but I almost never feel disappointed. The system manages to extract a sense of liveliness and beauty out of most recordings. (And I listen to tons of modern music too, including modern pop, EDM, electronica, the occasional country, whatever...)

It sounds, though, like you are mostly satisfied with your Tannoys?

Recently, after years of prejudice, I’ve taken to have another think about metal drivers and particularly their capabilities in the midrange.

I can understand the trepidation and prejudice. I’ve experienced it in the past too. My overriding first criteria is that my system sound "organic" - wood like wood, flesh like flesh - rather than cold, sterile and having an electronic or metallic quality.

I’ve long had Spendor S3/5s and an even older pair of Thiel 02 speakers, which were a plain box speaker Thiel sold before going all time/phase coherent. It uses paper drivers/soft dome. Both those speakers just exemplify the "organic" sound quality I love.

For me it was the Hales Transcendence speakers back in the late 90’s that blew some of my expectations out of the water regarding metal drivers. I ended up with the Hales Transcendence 5 speakers and they were so rich, timbrally colorful, and relaxed. I still actually use Hales speakers for my home theater for that very quality.

What was interesting for me was upon listening to the Joseph speakers, instantly recognizing a similar quality to the Hales - a richness of timbral color with a particularly smooth, grain-free sound. Both use the similar looking Seas midrange/woofer drivers, so it’s hard for me not to intuit there is something about the quality of those drivers bringing something to the party.

Any lingering prejudiced against metal drivers was removed when I got the Thiel 3.7 and currently 2.7 speakers in my system, using Thiels final in-house designed aluminum drivers. When driven my by CJ amps the sound is lush and organic. There isn’t a hint of metal anywhere I can detect in the sound.