Hi Nnyc - I am a professional musician, I play the French horn in a major symphony orchestra. My system is posted here. I have always found that horn speakers driven by tube amplification result in the most life-like recreation of live music, particularly for large scale orchestral and operatic works, but also for piano or chamber music or pretty much any type or size of ensemble. I do not claim that the system I have right now is the best that one can have, but it is what I have started with. Many of my fellow musicians who have heard horns driven by tubes agree, even those who had previously heard electrostats, which are the only other speaker type that I have ever heard come close. However, I am definitely in the very high efficiency/low powered amplification camp rather than the other way around, for various reasons. Your set up sounds like it would be great for near-field listening, especially for something like classical guitar. I personally would add a turntable to it, and get yourself alot of guitar LP's - there are many great ones out there. I think you would find that analog playback will resolve the timbre of the guitar (or any instrument, for that matter) much better than the digital set up. But if you want to stick to digital, the set-up you have looks pretty good to me - you certainly have some good equipment there.
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I play tuba and in most ensembles/bands/orchestras I am seated in the back. In some venues it's difficult if sometimes impossible to get the correct balance between instruments. Since I usually sit behind or near trumpets or next to bass drum or tympani, I know the brightness or "glare" of a trumpet and the decay of the percussion. Those features of sound reproduction approach reality for me and is why I use ribbon speakers and solid state gear. I want to hear the impact and speed of each note and I want accuracy in timbre. Also, if the system can give me the darkness and depth a tuba projects, even from the back row, I'll start to smile. The smile will continue if I get the airiness of an oboe, the shrillness of a piccolo and the full body sound of a cello.
I am a classical pianist.
My amplification is a Cary SLI-80F1 with Focal Be1007 speakers and a modded Sony SCD-1 front end.
I listen primarily for inner detail and timbre (air). Sound stage width and depth are also important to me.
I prefer chamber music or chamber orchestral works and piano and violin solo works. A little bit of female vocals (jazz) on occasion.
I am a drummer and so is my son and nephew. I have yet to find a system (that I can afford) that reproduces drums with the visceral impact of the real thing. Being a B&W fan, though, I am told B&W CT800 series comes closest.
However, my current system is still quite satisfying when listening to Neil Peart or even my sons' own recordings of his and his cousins solos.
Would love to hear more recommendations from drummers.
I play violin in a semi-professional orchestra. My axe is a 1927 Luigi Mozzani. I've never heard a music reproduction system capable of producing the actual timbre, depth, power and lush sound of a violin. Or, even close, for that matter. I suspect this has more to do with the recording quality than the reproduction system. For example, most high-end systems have no problem whatsoever reproducing extremely realistic acoustic guitar. My comment is from the perspective of the instrument under my ear, not positioned in the audience. Classical music seems to be the only genre that bears little resemblance to the actual sound of the instruments. Rock, jazz blues and vocals seem effortlessly convincing. I've been addicted to this hobby for 35 years and have attended RMAF every year since it began so my experience is extensive.
With the exception of a Loricraft PR-3 my current system is posted here.
My 2 channel goal is to be a part of the performance. What I refer to as in the music. I want to experience the event as if Im on stage. Ah, where is that grail?
Thanks for the responses (except for more obvious useless threadcrap from schipo).
I'm actually kind of surprised at the popularity of ribbons and electrostatics so far. There are certainly a good variety of excellent systems. I'm getting a dangerous urge to try some tubes and vinyl in my setup :).
Rballdude, I'm guessing if it were more common to mic individual instruments in an orchestra, you may be able to get what you're after. Do you find violin solo or concerto recordings lacking as well?
Hopefully more will chime in. Keep 'em coming.
Eric - have you ever heard a horn system do percussion - stunning realism - percussion on my Klipsch Cornwall's sound better than on any other speaker I have yet heard, except for even bigger horns. At least a couple of percussionists I know would agree.
Nnyc, as for your latest question, in my experience the digital recording of large ensembles where there are many more microphones (even sometimes one on every instrument, believe it or not) are usually terrible sounding. I would agree with Rballdude that this is normally the fault of the recording itself, not the system playing it back. As I have said here before, if I had a dollar for every audiophile who has heard a bad recording job but thinks that something must be wrong with his system.....
IMO the best, as far as most realistic sounding, orchestral recordings were made back in the 50's and 60's when they just stuck a couple of mikes out in the hall (or perhaps far above the orchestra as Mercury was fond of), and there was as little mixing as possible. Part of the reason for this is because then you get a much better sense of the original recording space, and it's ambient noise, and of how the music filled it. More mikes are not usually better, they usually greatly diminish this sense of space, which is very important to the realism.
I have yet to find a system (that I can afford) that reproduces drums with the visceral impact of the real thing
That is quite normal with consumer speakers. You really need to look into pro main monitors. The kind of speakers you see built into walls in this site AAA Group Ltd.. And as Learsfool mentions - you'll see horns as well as other designs but you'll most often see at least one if not two 15" woofers per channel. If you look at the client list you will see some familiar names.
These systems do not simply play louder - they are able to convey the dynamics of real instruments - something most systems cannot do.
My axe is a 1927 Luigi Mozzani. I've never heard a music reproduction system capable of producing the actual timbre, depth, power and lush sound of a violin.
There is a good explantion about this problem from Dr. Floyd Toole in his recent book about loudspeakers. Violin is devilishly directional as a function of frequency - different sounds go different directions....this instrument is a tough one to record - perhaps near impossible!!
All the musicians I've known had relatively "average" systems and couldn't care less about sound quality. In fact, they thought it strange that anyone would care that much about sound quality to assemble a "nice" system.
Now admittedly these were all rock musicians so maybe their hearing was impaired. Some still say "huh?" a lot while sadly, some are no longer with us.
Student of music since the age of 7, which, is about 50 years ago. Played Alto Sax, Tenor, Bari, some clarinet, in Bands, orchestras etc.
Played professionally from the age of 13, funny story. Earned money for dating all though high school. Loved it.
Did not make a profession of it though at 12 I read Satchmo, and wanted to live in New Orleans like Louie Armstrong...
I think that many musicians may have poor quality systems, though I am not sure it speaks to any point other than a possible lack of awareness that they may have about high end audio, unfortunately similar to that of the general public.
I'm curious to know how many of the audiophiles out there are actual musicians, or have formally studied music?
I studied the Accordian for 5 years, Mom was a Lawrence Welk fan.
If so, what is your primary instrument or vocation?
I don't currently play any musical instrument other than the Piano for pleasure. I currently work as a Mechanical Supervisor for J&J.
What equipment do you use and, in an audiophile sense, what do you look for in the sound of your components?
I have a Basis turntable/arm, ZYX cartridge, Marantz SA-11S1 (modified), VAC Avatar Super integrated amp and Verity Audio Parsifal Encore speakers.
I look for components that can reproduce the 'resin on the bow' with strings, having grown up with a couple of sisters that played the violin. I also had two sister's play the clarinet, and I listen for the 'palpable' reed sound. Finally, I listen for gear that can replicate the harmonic 'pluck of the string' that I've heard for many years with my Mother's mandolin.
I have been a professional musician for over thirty years. I started playing a musical instrument (accordion) at age five; the clarinet, saxophone and flute followed. I went to music conservatory while working weekends in local bar bands. I later moved to NYC, and have been working in just about every facet of the the music scene there for twenty five years; primarily Lincoln Center orchestras and Broadway. I have been an audiophile since the first time I heard a junior high school friend's grandmother's mono, tube based Philco console, and realized there was something else out there besides the usual screechy solid state stuff of the time. It wasn't until years later that I could afford decent equipment.
For me it's vinyl, tubes and electrostats that do it. I have two different high end systems. One is Meitner ss driving Paragon Regents, but it's the Manley tubes driving Stax F-81's that have the magic. In both cases it is a VPI TNT/ET2/Vandenhul setup or Ah!Tjoeb 4000 as source. IMO, the most important element in a system is it's sense of aliveness; wether it can do a good job of delineating micro dynamics. If it can't differentiate between ppp and pp, and do it in a continuous (analog) way, without it sounding choppy or jerky, then no amount of clarity, or frequency extension will make up for that. Musical expression is noty about ultimate frequency extension or "accuracy" (whatever that is).The second most important trait in a good system for me is tonal density. A lot of systems present what, to me, sound like fairly accurate OUTLINES of musical instruments and voices without nearly enough of the incredible complexity of tonal color that live instruments and voices have in real life. Not enough of the meat. It is tonal density that gives music it's palpabilty. For me a good vinyl setup does this, along with far more realistic rendering of dynamics (micro).
I would like to offer a different perspective on the issue of musicians and their stereo systems. I often read comments about how musicians have "inferior" systems. Unfortunately, the comments are sometimes not a simple statement of an observation (however mistaken), but are accompanied by a somewhat judgmental attitude. Here are some hopefully more instructive observations:
-I have many colleagues with high-end sound systems. The musicians' community is a very small one, but as a percentage of that community, the number with high-end systems is far, far greater than the percentage of people with high end systmes in the general population. So can we please put that myth to rest once and for all?
-A big part of being an audiophile is the tweakyness of it all. There are certain personality types (I include myself), that enjoy the quest for perfection in a certain endeavor. The finetuning, the setup, or simply the satisfaction of knowing that we are discriminating or astute in a certain way. Nothing wrong with that; we all choose our poison. It takes an incredible amount of time and dedication to finetune, setup, and to "be astute" as a musician. It is very easy for non-musicians to romanticize what it means to be a successful musician, while forgetting that a lot of it is dedication to the routine of practice, repetition, and necessary obsession with equipment. There are only so many hours in the day. Sometimes one can't do both.
-This observation is not meant to come accross as judgmental in any way: No sound system can convey the satisfaction and thrill of playing in a great orchestra, or a smoking jazz or rock band. It can do it to varying degrees, but to a musician, a sound system will always fall woefully short. That's not to say that it can't sound great, and provide much more satisfaction than an inferior system, but the "fix" will never be as satisfying. Musicians get their fix at work all the time.
Best to all.
Frogman, I agree just about 100% with everything you have said. I too, tire of the myths surrounding musicians, audio and otherwise. Thanks very much for your fantastic post. As far as the speakers go, I know several musicians who like electrostats as well - for me, the horn speakers have all the advantages you speak of, plus have the advantage of a much bigger "sweet spot" - they are much less finicky in placement, as well. They can also be driven with just about any type of amp, as they are not nearly as power-hungry as the stats. But I do agree that the stats are the only other speaker type that comes close to approximating what live music sounds like. Looks like you have a couple of great set-ups, there. Enjoy, and thanks for the great post!
Learsfool, thanks for the kind words. I too like horns driven by tubes. The sense of immediacy is amazing. The way that the music jumps out of the speakers is very satisfying. I have always struggled with the incredibly low efficiency of my Stax F-81's, and put up with it only because of their fantastic midrange tonal density (very natural), and ability to let the music move the way it should. They don't play very loud at all, however, and there are times when healthy volume is needed. That's where the Paragons come in.
Perhaps this is a subject for another thread, but do you find it frustrating, as I do, how infrequently references to the sound of live music is part of the commentary on audio equipment?
In most instances where I hear live music (jazz clubs, arenas, stadiums), the sound of the live event is often worse than the sound from my stereo.
I listen primarily to rock, and jazz. Very little classical.
If the baseline for live/stereo comparison must be chamber music in a private home, or orchestral music from the 22nd row of a world class concert hall, then it's an unrealistic expectation for me.
One needs to put these things in perspective. One size does not fit all in this hobby.
Hi Frogman - yes, there are many out there do not use live music as a reference. I think there are many reasons - some audiophiles become so obsessed with their equipment that they haven't even been to a live concert of any kind for years, and have truly forgotten what live music sounds like. I am constantly amazed at those who place the equipment above the music in their priorities. Or those who won't listen to a recording if they don't think it was recorded well, or is not on the right label. Others simply don't want their music to sound live. I have seen that comment many times here. Then there are those who say they don't want any "colorations," usually the same people who are after "complete neutrality" in a component. Yes, I do understand what they think they mean, but to me, and I would guess the vast majority of working musicians, this is a truly ridiculous concept (as if anyone really wants to listen to colorless and neutral music??!), and in my experience, these folks have systems that don't sound anything like live music - they want every recording they own to sound exactly the same, and very sterile sounding, though they usually call it "analytic."
On the other hand, I bet Tvad is right when he claims his system sounds better than many concerts he hears in arenas and stadiums, assuming it is electronic and/or amplified music he is speaking of, which the vast majority of it would be if he listens mainly to rock and jazz. Especially in the rock world, the music is so grossly amplified at pretty much all live venues nowadays. So many people have grown used to this electronic sound that they think that that is what all music sounds like, and they develop very unrealistic expectations of bass in particular (Subwoofers are among the most misused pieces of equipment, in my opinion. Not that they can't sound good, but to my ears I have yet to hear a system including them that sounded like real, live, acoustic music). Even concerts in a great hall can be ruined by over-amplification, as my orchestra's pops concerts often are. Far too many people think that louder is always better, as you must know well, playing in Broadway pits.
So there are a whole host of different reasons, of which I have just scratched the surface, and it can indeed be frustrating. I try to either ignore it or laugh about it, but it's hard sometimes. As Tvad said, one size does not fit all, and there are many different perspectives in this hobby. Sometimes the most important one to us musicians gets completely lost in the process. I guess that's true of alot of different hobbies. I used to homebrew with a friend who got obsessed with the equipment instead of the taste of the beer. Eventually we compromised - we used his equipment to make my recipes, and got some very good results that way. But I've gone on more than long enough, so I'll shut up now. Enjoy the music!
Tvad, I could not agree with you more. It is true that "one size does not fit all in this hobby". Hobby being the operative word. No point begrudging someone who wants his system to sound a certain way, even if that means it will have little resemblance to live music. After all, anyone who can't enjoy a great performance on a table radio, is missing the point, IMO.
Having said that, I think there is a great deal to be gained from applying certain standards to this hobby. Two in particular: that the end result should strive to sound as close as possible to live music, or that the end result should sound as close as possible to what the producer heard in the control room. The only time that I have a problem is when hobbyists start saying things like "component X is more accurate than component Z", or "component A blows away component B". I have to ask: compared to what?. And how did you arrive at this conclusion? Often times it becomes pretty obvious that there is no basis for those proclamations.
It has been said countless times that because every hall, or club, or studio, sounds different; and that because it is usually impossible to know with certainty what the producer or engineer had in mind when a recording was made, that comparisons to live music are irrelevant. I disagree. I think most hobbyists focus on tonal issues. These are the easiest to hear and pin point as problems. I contend that there are qualities to the sound of a live performance, even when amplified excessively or simply poorly, that come through "loud and clear", and familiarity with these can be very useful in evaluating a hi-fi component. These qualities usually have to do with the area of dynamics. The sound has a sense of directness, of speed, of connection to the performer that is immediately recognizable. It doesn't matter wether it's unamplified acoustic music, or electronic rock or jazz. Even if the sound has been distorted tonally by processing or too much amplification, that speed will be there to a greater degree than what one hears come out of our systems after all the amplification, eq, conversion, mixing, etc. that the sound suffers in the process of getting from the microphone to when it comes out of our speakers.
Another great post, Frogman! Agree completely with your comments which, as you say, apply no matter what type of venue the music was recorded in. Whether or not a system can give this sense of sound traveling from/in a real space is very important. The best recordings/systems will give you a sense of the original acoustic, including the ambient noise, and how the sound travels in and fills it.
I worked as a session drummer for years here in Chicago. I played mostly jazz and rock. I also play guitar and bass. With music, I listen for 'tone'. The sound of the instrument. My favorite instrument to listen too is solo piano, solo guitar (acoustic), and small jazz ensembles. Too many listen to their systems and never hear the music. There is nothing like listening to live music and learning what an instrumetn actually sounds like. I also enjoy recording small venues with a half track reel to reel and a couple of Sony mikes. Amazing results. Makes we wonder what their doing in studios these days. My profession now is my other passion... photography.
I was a professional touring rock drummer for several years, and somehow still have intact hearing at age 43 despite having a monitor blasting 110+dB into my left ear for about 150 nights a year.
I don't expect recorded music to approximate live drums, especially in loud rock recordings. It seems like the more instruments are layered into a recording, the more compressed the drums become. I don't worry about it too much either. I really enjoy it, though, when an engineer can make drums sound like live drums in a room, minus the dynamics. Brendan O'Brien does a great job in that respect.
I primarily look for tonal balance so that nothing seems amiss, and especially seek to avoid tonal imbalances that make bad recordings worse.
In my opinion, the two system characterstics that make recorded music more engaging are fast transients and a big, holographic soundstage. The system I have now accomplishes this, and it makes good recordings sound great and bad recordings more than tolerable.
I'm semi pro,with an undergrad minor in piano.
The paycheck comes from refining raw data.
My Marantz front end feeds a pair of Maggie 1.6s. For serious listening, I use Grado headphones.
Soon,I'll have to move and the Maggies will get a good local home with t lines on my short list.
Yes,I'm an imaging nut;I want to be able to follow the counterpoint without the speakers getting in the way.
At the risk of incurring someone's wrath,as happened above,I DO know professional musicians who spend their time practicing real instruments and when they do listen,listen to modest systems----or monitors in recording studios.
Also,remember that some musicians endorse equipment much as basketball players endorse shoes and concert pianists endorse pianos. They endorse the high bidder.
I am a pianist and play the piano only in the weekends during my leisure time. I do not play in public or perform in concerts. My piano is a Kawai US-50 upgraded from a Yamaha upright. I was enrolled in piano classes at the age of 6 and completed the course at 15. In my early twenties I began to develop a passion in music when I set up my first "high-end" system at 19, and that was the time I re-discovered the passion in playing the instrument that I had spent a great deal of time learning.
I have created an almost similar thread about 2 years ago.
I started playing the piano when I was three. Never really took to it until much later- when analog synthesis came along.
I was stunned when I heard native American flute for the first time. Later a friend gave me one and 6 months later I finally recorded my first album (Grandfather's Gift), and a second about a year later (Bow and Arrow).
More recently I've returned to synthesis, see http://www.myspace.com/salubriousinvertebrae
After playing as a one-man show for several years, I got invited to play with a space-rock band (I've always been a fan of Kraut Rock) in town
Our first LP has meet with good reviews, and sold very quickly for a local effort. Its on 180 gr vinyl, mastered from the master analog tapes... here's an example of the sort of reviews we're getting:
I am grateful for being able to have a life that allows me to play both sides of the audio experience- performance and recording on the one side, playback in all it aspects (including being a manufacturer) on the other.
This thread is a great idea! What we always talk about is amps, preamps, sources, cables, etc. But it is also great to know that some of us here play music as well. Not just babble about equipment all the time.
I play clarinet. About a year ago I picked up a 1957 Buffet Crampon Paris "Academy Model" Bb clarinet. Legend says that all R13s of that era that did not pass the "R13 inspection" were labeled as Academy Model. This is almost as good as it gets, at least for me, it's an almost R13.
I use Richard Hawkins Model B clarinet mouthpiece.
I also own a vintage 1922 Martin the "Indian Head" tenor sax in excellent shape. This is a gift from my grandfather and I treasure it. Awesome classic instrument that unfortunately I do not get to play that often...just no time. This bad boy needs on overhaul soon. Have few vintage mouthpieces - metal Brilhart and Otto Link(kind of like what Coltrane used to play on). Fine musical instruments, especially vintage, are my weakness.
Love playing music and practice every single opportunity I get.
I am rather embarrassed to say that our piano just got tuned after roughly 8
years. The good news is we have a gem. The guy who came collects pianos and
owns a piano museum and was simply floored - he said our upright sounds like
no other upright he has ever heard or played. He compared it to a Steinway for
goodness sakes. We knew it was good sounding but had no idea. The guy was
so puzzled he took down all the details and is checking it out. It is German, of
course, built around 1910. We got it in Scotland, second hand of course from an
old concert pianist who was too old to play but apparently loved it! (The wife and
I am rather embarrassed to say that our piano just got tuned after roughly 8 years.
A piano tuner once said that some people only call for tuners when the piano key fails to come up by itself when pressed. Gosh! The piano must have not been tuned for more than 20 years to exhibit that sort of problem I guess. Anyway if a person has a good set of ears, he would know when to call for the piano tuner.
Unless you've got financial issues or a tin ear, I can't imagine not getting the piano tuned every 6 months.
Perhaps you play regularly. None of my family does - although the wife and daughter did for a while about 8 years ago. The wife has decided to start back at it with lessons, which is why we got it tuned. Embarrassing to have a piano that a piano collector thinks is amazing in a house of full of philistines...well not completely, as myself and the daughter play drums...
I am a musician as well. I have been playing trombone for
almost 40 years with the last 20 of those years bass trombone in The Skagit Symphony. The symphony has grown over the years and have become a semi professional group
with many of the sectional leaders pro players and independent composers and or music teachers as well.
I just love my Double Bass King Duo Gravis Bb,F,D, made in 1972.One time I meant the band leader of Count Basie back stage and we were talking about tbones and I told him what I played on and he right away gave a big smile and said how he liked that horn alot and then showed me his Holton. It was a real treat indeed and an experience I shall never forget in our small town.
Onto another matter. I need to update my system pofile.
I am putting together a new system Tube SET Integrated that I put together from scratch with parts supplied from Decware. I spent 100 hours on it soldering point to point.
I will be driving this with a high effeciency 2 way speaker with ribbon tweeters.The amp puts out 1.8 watts class A Triode and 5 watts in Pentode Mode.I will be ggetting a moded Tascam with tube output and tube power supply in the near future for my source playback.
While I'm thinking about the other threads above I can understand us musicians being fond of Horn speakers and tubes.You see every Monday when I go the orchestra practice I am so exposed to live very dynamic music.NO Compression, this huge sound even when I'm in the back row near the tuba I can still hear it. The poor Oboe player who is a Doctor by profession always needs to wear ear plugs for protection from high SLP Levels.I know I use to play in a pro Big Band Jazz Band many years ago and my ears would ring for 3 or 4 days after a gig or practice with these screaming trumpets right behind my head. WHAT was that note u played? And U really want me to play louder? I can't even hear myself at times during some of the gigs. Some of the trumpets use to play backup for Simon and Garfunkel and Stan Getz.The arranger use to play behind Frank Sinatra.
Well I had stated to our lead tbone player at practice last week listen how intense loud this symphony of only about 65 musicians is playing.It plays so much louder then any stereo u can even imagine.Not even the Wilson Maxx Series 3's come anywhere close to this. So yes we are so use to this sound and its so transparent live and so easy to play out of tune just ever so slightly on the slide tbone. You pick up on so many musical ques as a musician and hear so much all around you.I suppose thats why we may like ELS Speakers as well. I myself would need a nice SUB.
eventually in my system that would play deep and loud. So a Sunfire SIgnature sub may take care of my bass trombone needs and then some.
Well I ope some of my insights may be helpful to you all.