Is revealing always good?


I recently bought a very revealing and transparent CD player (and AVM player). Because I listen to redbook CD's and 705 of the CD's I listen to are jazz recordings from ca. 1955-1963 the recordings often have bad "digititus." The piano's ring, clarinet is harsh, transients are blurred --- just the nature of the recordings. With a revealing CD player, all this was palpably evident so much so that at least 1/2 those CD's were rendered unlistenable. Now, with a cheaper, more colored CD player (a new Creek) --- not nearly as revealing --- one that "rounds off" some of this digititus, these CD's are again listenable.

So... is revealing a particularly good thing for redbook CD playback? I think not. is "colored" always a bad thing? I'd say no. At least for CD playback. Thoughts?
robsker
Its always good to be revealing. What actually gets revealed may not always be to ones liking.
Spending large sums of money to make significant parts of your music collection "unlistenable"? I can't imagine why anyone would endorse such a strategy.

If you described your system/room you might garner some practical suggestions.
Strictly a matter of taste and somewhat dependent on what kind of music you listen to.
I would imagine being a musician might have some bearing as well.
I listen to many 50's & 60's Ruby Van Gelder era Redbook CDs --- some 130 or so of them in rotation because i love that era of jazz. many of these CD's have rather tizzy, grating piano and clarinet --- much digititus. When using a 4K revealing CD player in a 20K system about 1/2 these CDs were too grating to enjoy --- and many of the rest were modestly irritating. On a Creek 1.5K CD player in the same system this darker (presumably colored) CD player rounded off the vast majority of the digititus and the CDs that were unlistenable on the revealing CD player were enjoyable on this more colored, darker player. Admittedly, with reference-level recordings the revealing player was much better. But for lesser recording --- especially redbook CDs with digititus --- a colored, less revealing CD player is much preferable.

My point, counter to Mapman is that revealing is by no means always better --- not if what is revealed is poorly recorded (albeit outstanding) music. Also, sometimes coloration --- if it masks the problems --- is a good thing.

I do not want to give up listening to great music just because of modest to poor recording quality. Revealing bad sonics is not a good thing and masking (at least some of the bad attributes) is better.
I tend to agree with Onhwy61.

Your problem is one often solved by simply getting a second CD player, frequently a tubed one in which you can change the tone by a simple tube substitution. You have to be very careful though because most CD players are not made to dumb down old CD's with inherent sonic limitations.

I used to have your problem and I solved it to a limited degree by having multiple players, however I really never solved my problem until I attacked my basic components, speaker selection, and ultimately room placement. Those old CD's don't have to sound as bad as they can.
Newbee:

What do think of perhaps using an external tube output stage after the CD player but before the preamp?
Just curious what speakers are currently in OP system...switching CD players is kind of band aid approach...the resolution/revealing nature of the speakers will determine the tolerance of the listener. Fwiw, creek has a great reputation...not surprising the player in as well liked.
my speakers are PBN Montana EPS2's. My pre-amp is a tubed AVA unit and my amp is a SS AVA amp.
Is the more expensive CD player more neutral and revealing or highlighting and exaggerating flaws? And... is it doing with (some of) the recordings and/or with the balance of your system as a whole?
While it might not matter as it stands now, it might matter going forward.
Is revealing always a good thing? No.
Is "colored" always a bad thing? No.

There are no absolutes in this hobby, no right or wrong, only what is right or wrong for each individual listener. I have been down the road of ultra resolution, been there, done that. I have found that balance is the key, for me, and probably most others too.

Yes, we all want resolution, but we also have to be able to listen for hours at a time too. If you are running out of the room with your ears bleeding, tone it down a notch. Some gear accentuates the bass, some gear accentuates the high's, some gear is neutral. Make your system sound enjoyable to you. Don't believe all the crap that you read.

It sounds like it's time to dump that CDP for something musical.
lots of variables . To blame sound on one piece of equipment is not accurate . To blame recording quality because it does not sound pleasant to your ears through your system is narrow minded . Open your mind to your surroundings and go from there. Room size treatments and synergy between gear is not gelling if it is unlistenable .It can be fixed . You need the right advice . Lots of bad info on these forums .
ahh... Maplegrove, only one variable was manipulated. The system, the room and the CD's remained constant and the only variable modified was changing the CD players one for another. And yes, when the sonic signature changes when only one variable is modified the change is due to that variable.

You used the term "narrow minded" incorrectly and out of context. Further, complete sentences are a nice thing in posts. Finally, I have received much very valuable advise on this board.
Adding a more revealing component to your system will expose what the other components really sound like.
robsker , By no means was i stating the advice given on this post as being bad . In general a lot of well intentioned advice is given in forums that does not help . If you are 100% pleased with your systems sound with a "musical cd player " then kudos . I could throw a $20 - $2000 cd player into my system and still enjoy my entire cd collection . That is what has me wondering why you experienced the unlistenable cd player . More info is always better when asking these questions.
One last question or comment on the subject . If the player you are referring too was to be passed around to ten different systems do you think the same results would be heard as you did ? Are you saying you are done with the quest of detail in your digital playback ? If you want those qualities there are "variables" that can be addressed or changed to achieve that goal .
Some of the small ensemble jazz from that era was close miked...which makes a sax,etc sound "biting" or artificially bright...Blakey 'moanin" probably my fave from golden of riches jazz period...fwiw..
24 bit edition sounds nice
"01-27-15: Maplegrovemusic
lots of variables . To blame sound on one piece of equipment is not accurate ."

That's correct. Even though you changed the CD players back and forth, and left the rest of the system unaltered, other things could be going on. Components don't always match well together. If you put your revealing CD player in 10 different system the sound will vary. Most likely, it will sound very close to what you are hearing now, in some of the systems, but in other setups, it can sound very different. That's why its so important to listen to components before you buy them.
Are you paying attention to vibration control?
What is under your CD player?
Are the original feet still on it?
Have you tried removing them and using something else
instead? What kind of support (shelf) is it resting on?
How are you cleaning or treating a cd before playing it?
Are you using a cd mat?

If you play with these variables you might get more satisfying results...
Since I've never experienced your "too revealing" problem and have had a ton of CD/SACD players -- from $60 Toshibas to my current $3600 Oppo/Modwright -- I have to believe the problem lies elsewhere in your system. Without knowing the components of your system, though, it's impossible even to generalize.

One thing sure, IMO: It is NOT "just the nature of the recordings."
for clarification, the system sounds fantastic with well recorded CDs --- better with the more revealing CD player but still excellent with the less revealing player. With CDs that have typical recording quality again the system approaches sounding excellent with either CD player (slightly better with the more expensive revealing player.. but quite close and still very, very nice sounding) The issue arises when the CD is recorded with digititus, brightness --- typical of a good subset of the CDs i like to listen to. With these CDs the revealing player sounds biting, harsh and "lets through everything." Through the less revealing player, these CDs sound much better. Seemingly, the Creek (the less revealing player) presumably "rounds off" (adds coloration?) makes more smooth the digititus and makes quite listenable these CDs. The more revealing (less colored... more neutral?) CD player renders these CDs as they are... harsh and biting. So... yes it is the nature of these recordings to be harsh. This is largely why so many prefer analog over digital --- because much redbook digital is poorly recorded.

Based on this, I assert that coloration --- a component asserting its own character --- is not always bad and that neutrality is not always the best.

Thus, for digital playback... revealing may not be that desirable.
Robster, I've never tried a tube buffer and it might work. You might post a question about the experience of others. FWIW, the single biggest component change I've made in my system which helped with early digital issues was the introduction of a tubed pre amp into my system (an AR SP-10) and a tubed CDP (Cal Aria). That was a long time ago. :-) My system has changed entirely since that time and, except for my main CDP's it is now all tubes and I have no 'digital' issues. FWIW.
Newbee: Thanks!

I have a tubed pre-amp. Earlier I had a tubed Ayon CD player and the digititus then was not a problem (as much). I got rid of that unit for other reasons. I will ask others about the tube buffer.

So... a theoretical question for all... do tubes (in a pre-amp or the CD player) color and obscure the digititus that is on the disk and thereby give a smoother more listenable presentation? If so, is this an example of positive coloration? Is it an example of a less "true" yet better presentation of the recording? Finally, are tubes so often preferred because we like the coloration --- the sonic contributions they ADD to the sound? All this goes back to the contention that revealing is not always good and coloration not always bad.
Zd542:

You are spot on --- it is incredibly important to hear a component in your system before you buy. That said, more often than not (by a wide margin) we cannot do so. If, like me, you live over 500 miles from the nearest high-end dealer and cannot get a component "on loan" and because buying used here at Agon rarely accommodates "testing out prior to purchase," and moreover, because most dealers on the internet make you purchase w/o audition and if they do allow return they charge restocking (or give only store credit)... well we are relegated to purchasing and hoping it works out... and selling on Agon if it does not.

But i agree... hearing first is the ideal.
Sgordon1:

Thanks. I do have the original feet on the CD player & have not tried vibration control on the CD player (I do have footers and vibration control on my amp and pre-amp though. The shelf... is a wooden shelf set on carpet and itself has no intrinsic vibration control (though it is designed for audio equipment.. but of the cheap variety).

I am not cleaning the CDs. Do you have some suggestions in this area?

Finally no CD mat (by this you mean on top of the CD as it spins.. right? --- If so, since the Creek is a slot loader, no such mat could be accommodated). Or, are to talking a weight placed upon the CD player to eleviate vibrations.
There are many dimensions so digital sound. Revealing or "focus" is only one of them. Jitter is the biggest issue with most digital. Jitter can make things harsh, even though the mid-frequencies are in sharp focus. Other frequency ranges can be blurred. Jitter has a frequency component, amplitude component and distribution component. You can have any mix of these.

Another thing that can cause the kind of sibilance you are experiencing is HF extension that you have not had before. If you have a sibilant component or cable in your system, once the signal is extended and focused it can cause this sibilant component to "activate". Suddenly you have sibilance where you had none before. This is fairly typical of preamps based on op-amps or poorly fabricated silver interconnects. The way to fix this is to eliminate the sibilant component or cable from the system. You also may have a ground-loop that is getting more noisy with the new transport in the system. Try using cheater plugs to determine this.

If you get better focus, this is usually the right path, so think twice about eliminating the transport. It may be something else.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
In my revealing system some CDs were unbearable but changing speakers solved the problem. Now it is even more revealing but never bright. There might be many reasons for brightness including some metal dome tweeters, amps with deep negative feedback, jitter, electrical noise etc. Covering the problem with overly warm/colored component is not the way to go IMHO.

John Siau, technical director of Benchmark, stated:
We designed the DAC1 for maximum transparency. If you want to add warmth, you can't add it with a DAC1. Personally, I do not like what warm sounding equipment does to the sound of a piano. Warmth is wonderful on vocals, guitars and certain instruments, but it beats against the streched overtones of a piano. The overtones in a piano occur at slightly higher than harmonic ratios, and these create beat notes with the exact integer ratios produced by electronic equipment (and speakers). Too much harmonic distortion will make a piano sound out of tune.
Robsker, if you are using the stock tubes supplied by AVA, try replacing them with something else, e.g., tubes recommended by ARC and sold by your high-end dealer who may represent ARC products. i did this with two older AVA fet valve amps, and the etch and grit came down a lot. Are you in the Twin Cities area?
"So... a theoretical question for all... do tubes (in a pre-amp or the CD player) color and obscure the digititus that is on the disk and thereby give a smoother more listenable presentation?"

No. Any time you buy tube products just because they're tube, in an attempt to fix a problem, you're just asking for trouble. Same thing with cables. Buy components based on how they sound. I know some people will disagree and say buy tubes, and my answer to that is, you can get lucky. Tube products vary in how they sound, every bit as much as SS does. Focus on what the end result needs to be, or you won't get one.

Right now, your situation seems to be OK with the 2 CD players. I do the same thing. I have my nice, high end components with my Wadia CD player set up for the best sound I can get, and for bad recordings I use my Arcam 33. Its not a perfect solution, but it works.

Another thing you may want to consider, depending on how much of your collection is poorly recorded, is to just have a 2nd system set up to be very forgiving.
I'm with Maplegrovemusic 100% on this. :^)
"01-28-15: Dopogue
Since I've never experienced your "too revealing" problem and have had a ton of CD/SACD players -- from $60 Toshibas to my current $3600 Oppo/Modwright -- I have to believe the problem lies elsewhere in your system. Without knowing the components of your system, though, it's impossible even to generalize.

One thing sure, IMO: It is NOT "just the nature of the recordings."

People love to blame the recordings. I used to as well. Its fair enough. People like what they like and vice versa. But my experience has been that if you have reached that conclusion you need to take a step back and look at the things you have control over more thoroughly. The recordings are what they are. Its your system and expectations that you can control. Do that and any music lover should have no problem enjoying most of the recordings that they care about.
Why d'u think women have cosmetic pouch handy? Revealing isn't always good true!
"With these CDs the revealing player sounds biting, harsh and "lets through everything."

From my recent experience, if this happens regularly with many recordings, there is a good chance it is noise and distortion sneaking into your system somewhere upstream that is the problem, not each individual CD. Are you using any power conditioning? I've found both power conditioners and power cords like Pangea 14 series to be effective as designed to reduce noise and distortion that contributes to a subtle edge in the music. Those are good investments that need not cost a lot. Try that first maybe before changing anything else.
Revealing systems have teh most up side.

But they reveal noise and distortion as well as the source material. Do what you can to minimize noise and distortion and only then can one judge the merit of a highly revealing system
Jafreeman:

i am very much open to the notion of a tube change out. I am using the stock tubes. No... I am in boondocks Idaho very near Yellowstone --- wonderful area, beautiful... but remote from ... well everything.

My preamp is an AVA transcendence 9 with 2 6CG7 tubes in the line section. Do you have suggestions for replacement tubes (and a vendor of choice)?
Audioengr:

I doubtless have a ground-loop hum issue. I have tried to resolve this with cheater plugs w/o success. Perhaps i am not using the cheater plugs rightly in the isolation of the hum issue. But I have ground loop issues (or, at least what I think are ground loop issues) that i do not know how to resolve. Any help would be appreciated.

Your contention is that this could be the culprit. I'd love some counsel. Thanks Audioengr (Steve)
Robsker-

I enjoy revealing, as most CDs, are well-recorded. Conversely, hard rock/metal music sounds really bad on an excellent CD player- I live w/ this. Like yourself, my love of Jazz keeps me happy. Some CDs will be hit-and-miss. I also enjoy SACD(s). Get out there and listen, listen, listen to all of the different spinners. Happy Listening!
"01-28-15: Czarivey
Why d'u think women have cosmetic pouch handy?"

They may need to powder their nose. Why else?
There are a couple of issues going on here.

1. The new CD player is demonstrating an effect whereby, the music played shows faults in the recordings. This subject has been discussed before. It may be necessary to hang onto an older cd player in order to listen to the older recordings. Also, with the new player, if the newer recordings are better, through the new player as opposed to the older player, it makes sense to have the new player for better quality cd recordings.

2. Listening to the new piece of equipment in your home system before purchasing. This really is the way to go. I am a firm advocate of taking equipment home to listen before purchasing. My favorite store allows me to do this. Because a) they would have my credit card information and would charge the amount if I failed to return the item and b) they know that I'm not a lookee loo and will purchase the item if I like it.

If the item is fairly expensive, which most high end equipment is, it is really unreasonable for stores to not allow one to do a home demonstration for a few days at the minimum.

to expect me to come out of pocket for large sums without such in-home demonstration is not reasonable to me.

As far as revealing, I have found that better equipment does indeed "reveal" the issues of other equipment to the extent that further upgrading may be necessary.

An example for me was my purchase years ago of the Audio Research REF 3 pre-amp. I took it home for an in-home demonstration (San Diego to Los Angeles), and compared it to my existing retubed AR SP 11 pre-amp. I found that many of my older cd recordings sounded really bad. some like a tweeter was aimed directly at my ear. Bad recordings and bad recording equipment. Not so much through the SP 11. But, the newer recordings through the REF 3 was absolutely wonderful. Don't get me wrong, the newer recordings through the SP 11 also sounded great. Just that the REF 3 "revealed" faults in my older cd recordings that I didn't hear so much with the SP 11.

I'm very happy with the REF 3 and I guess there are some recordings that I can't sit through anymore.

Oh well.

enjoy
Rob, regarding tube equivalents for your 6CG7's, just call one of the many on-line tube stores. I had the convenience of going to my high-end retailer, who gave me a set of Sovtek tubes, supplied by ARC for retail replacements in their gear. In the case of my AVA amps, circa 2000, Russian beat Chinese to a very high degree of improvement, but there a lots of fine tubes that will improve your sound. Also, if you have been under the AVA philosophy of "any cable will do", maybe look into some finer cords and cables, but don't spend too much--save for your next amp upgrade.
I recommend NOS Siemens or Telefunken tubes. At a minimum, military tubes. Nothing in current production is very good. Same with most tubes.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
"Conversely, hard rock/metal music sounds really bad on an excellent CD player- I live w/ this. "

I find hard rock/metal sounds similar on my system to what I hear live in different venues. That for all kinds of music is what I strive for with my home setup. The room end up being the biggest bottleneck in that it is hard to reproduce the sound of a large venue in a smaller room. Other than that, no complaints.
Also, if a better player does not make anything sound better, can it really be a "better player"? Does not make any sense.

Lowering the noise and distortion is the key. That would be inherent in a better player, but alone does not assure success in that noise and distortion can come from many sources and the best gear is not necessarily immune. If you get a handle on noise and distortion, anything will sound the best it can. Of course some recordings include noise and distortion, by design or by oversight as well. A better player will reveal everything and allow one to determine what belongs and what does not.
JaFreeman --- THANK YOU!

I replaced my 6CG7 tubes that came with my AVA preamp (a Transcendence 8+) --- which were new Russian tubes --- with NOS Sov Tec tubes and all the etch and grain went away and the difference is rather amazing! Many CD's I could not enjoy before I can now enjoy. Why does AVA put crap tubes in their gear?

Again... thanks JaFreeman, your counsel helped a great deal.
I've come to the conclusion the only thing I look for is musical-ness, everything else is irrelevant.
A revealing, resolving system is superior, however all it takes is one sibilant component or cable to skew the balance and make it harsh sounding. It is possible to have your cake and eat it too, but not inexpensively.

One can certainly add tubes or cables with roll-off to deal with this, but ultimately you are going down the garden path, not improving the overall system.

The best thing is to identify the offending component or cable and replace it.

Typical offenders are active preamps that are too cheap. I have found that active preamps under the $10K mark, particularly solid-state are usually poor and add the most sibilance and compression to systems. This is why I use either a transformer passive linestage or the volume control in my DAC, which is not like a preamp.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
Not if its revealing noise and/or distortion.

Otherwise yes. It's hard to argue that a cleaner signal is bad somehow.
Revealing systems which are not forward sounding can and do sound very good on poorer recordings.

If one has a bright and forward biased system, watch out, at louder volumes can and will make one run from the room.

But on the otherhand, even this bright and revealing system playing a better recording will sound pretty fine, it's a matter of balance.
03-18-15: Audioengr

"I have found that active preamps under the... $10K... mark, particularly solid-state are usually poor and add the most sibilance and compression to systems."
........................................................

Are you really serious??? That's the most ridiculous statement on audio equipment that I have read in some time. Audioengr,do you mean to tell me that you have actually listened to "every" SS pre/line amp out there? An across the board statement like that has zero valadation...
Active Pre-amps do three things in my estimation

1) control volume
2) Provide inputs and outputs
3) make sources sound a particular way

The first two are required if not provided elsewhere. The third is optional but I find to be most useful when multiple different sounding sources are used in order to bring more uniformity to the sound overall. Whether one likes that sound or not is mostly a subjective judgement I think. I can understand where one might deem most to not add any value in the third regard if bases are covered already otherwise.
I feel revealing is a must but its only 'good' if it reveals a system that sounds good. If there is a flaw in the system, a revealing CD player will make that flaw shine. Most say they dont want that and would rather mask a flaw with another flaw. A good sounding system that satisfies you emotionally should be revealing so you can get as close to the performance as you can.