When I think of "live" sound, I think of sound that's a bit forward through the midrange. More laid-back sounds less "live" to me although I wouldn't say it's a bad thing.
As far as having better sound at lower levels goes, this may be because the sound is more dynamically compressed, which brings the volume of the loudest and softest sounds closer together. This would actually be the opposite of how "live" uncompressed music would sound. You'd lose the contrast between loud and soft sounds so that when you turned the volume up to realistic "live" levels everything would sound relatively loud, which is not how it should be.
The more dynamic and uncompressed the sound is, the lower the apparent average level will be. Conversely, the more compressed and least dynamic sound seems to have a louder average level.
Compressed sound is very definitely more laid back... For example, most Home Theater receivers offer a dynamic range control circuit to compress the sound for late night listening. This is so the loud sounds like explosions and such are reduced in level and the soft sounds are made comparitively louder... so as not to knock you off the sofa or disturb the rest of the family. This also helps raise the intelligibility of low-level dialogue when listening at lower levels.
That's a great description, Plato. I would have not been able to articulate it that well, but I'd have to agree that the idea of separation and (natural) contrast comes strongly into play for me. Nothing will ruin the illusion quicker than congestion and compression. I don't know that I would have ascribed the quality of a more forward or laid back sound to contributing to "live" sounding speakers, but I've always preferred a more forward sounding presentation. My friend used to have a pair of Harbeth's which I found to be one of the most laid back speakers I've heard. Though the sound was wonderful - liquid smooth with extension at both ends and plenty of separation with good soundstaging - I found that they were easy for me to get up and walk away from (one of my criteria for assessing how well I like a system). I think this is just a personal preference though - I just like something that reaches out and pulls me in like a siren singing from the rocks.
That is a very sad comment on where the world has come that home entertainment components are being designed so that you can enjoy explosions while the rest of your family sleep peacefully.
Jax2, it sounds like your listening preferences are akin to my own. I likewise prefer a more forward, dynamic, and uncongested presentation. There's nothing more spellbinding than a sweet siren singing... Being lured into the rocks is somewhat of a downside, but nothing compared to the risk of being a golf pro these days. :)
BTW, when I used the word "explosions," it was only to illustrate a point that others might relate to. It seemed to fit better than saying "very loud sounds." But your point is well taken. There's just so much gratuitous violence in movies these days... I view it as a kind of filler so that the poor screen writers don't have to think too hard about writing a story that could possibly stand on its own merits.
Sorry to stray off topic.
I agree with what plato said. But I am not certain what is it about my present configuration that I like so much. I notice that the sound isn't really less dynamic at low levels, and still sounds live as though I am sitting further back in the concert hall. There seems to be so much more presense.
When using the sim audio p-5, the preamp seemed more accurate and also live sounding but a bit artificial, very quiet and dynamic. This tube preamp isn't quiet.
I took a quick peak at your system and it's difficult to tell what you are using (what is your "present configuration" that you are enjoying?). You have three preamps, including the Woo, and two amps...a couple of CD players and vinyl. It's difficult to know which combination of gear you are commenting on. It is a nice achievement for a system to still sound live when played at lower levels. That certainly speaks well to whatever combination you are enjoying.
Turntable: VPI Tnt heavily modified
Tonearm: Graham 2.2
Phono stage: jlti-awesome
Preamp: Audio Experience a2se
Amp: Conrad Johnson Premier 4
Pedrillo, I feel your pain. It's sometimes tough to decide what type of presentation you prefer and of course that preference can vary even during the course of a listening session.
In my small-room system I had the VTL ST-85 tube amp playing into my Magnepans. It produces a very lively and dynamic sound. Recently, I hooked up a pair of the new Monarchy SE-200 MK2 solid-state amps and it's an interesting contrast. The VTL is more in-yer-face and just balls-to-the-wall dynamic, but the Monarchy's are a little more laid back, and very detailed. They throw a very nice layered soundstage.
Then, there is the complication that I can cause the VTL to sound more laid back depending on what cables I use. If I experiment, perhaps I can get the Monarchys to sound more dynamic. I may try different speaker wires.
Presently the Monarchy's are very easy on the ears and it's sometimes difficult for me to not doze off while listening to them. They are soothing and seductive. Yet now and then I want a bit more dynamic kick and outright slam.
Difficult not to fall asleep? IMHO that is a very good thing!
I feel that if one's system is very good with the right music getting induced to sleep is actuaaly a good sign.
There were times I was at the concert hall and the music was just heavenly, then I woke up and had to return the next night. It was worth it both the concert and the sleep.
I bet that is one untapped market- sleeping centers that really got it right!
Pedrillo, you may have something there. After all, the word "music" inspires reverie. Back in the day with the Dynaco ST-400 amp, the Technics Turntable with Shure V15 series cartridge and AR-3A speakers so beguiling was the music that I would often doze off while listening. It's actually a very good way to relieve day-to-day stress.
listening psoition determines perspective. sit near the instruments and.....you know what to expect. sit further away and the perspective is different. its still live. so, both laid back and forward represent the live sound. it is a matter of choice.
Yes I totally agree, stress relief is so important, in fact I am so happy with my system that I think I will stop looking for upgrades and start brewing beer. How's that for a secondary hobby and stress releif.
I brewed 15 years ago, and now that I found a great woman to acompany myself in the kitchen we just brewed our first batch last weekend, I wish all my audiophile friends lived closer for the homemade brew and great
Have you done any room acoustical analysis?Maybe there are some first reflection points causing problems as well as behind speakers and corners if in the listening field.
Good cd recording? how about your source? Speakers? I tried a bunch only to discover one that would give up the sound. How about cabling? the Vdh speaker cables I tried really muddled the sound compared to the supra 1.6Not much difference with the other high end speaker cable I tried I found that by putting the speakers, on tops, off the carpet man did the bass come alive. I read of an inexpensive solution for vibration control. tried it. cant say for sure,but after rocking the speaker so hard that the ban.speaker plug vibrated out i got to thinking probably a good ideal to isolate components.Then anynite of the week I can put on allman bros @ fillmore east and i,m there Front and center Every instrument very clear a stage presence for sure.Ill say that at the proper volume almost all cds I play are as if your in the room. very satisfying.Imaging in the middle. separation of instruments.the leading in and ending the notes sharp quick.Have it from friend that wall plug is a big improvement also. Good Luck