neutrality & transparency: what's the difference ?


neutral and transparency are often considered the same by some hobbyists.

in fact they are not.

neutrality implies no alteration of the signal, whatsoever.
i have used the term "virtually" neutral to imply no audible coloration. of course this is a subjective term.

transparency is a subset of neutrality. it implies a perfectly clear window on the recording.

let me illustrate. suppose an amplifier has a slight deficiency in bass reproduction, e.g., it cannot reproduce any frequencies below 40 hz. that amplifier would not be considered a neutral component.

if said amp reproduced all "information" on a recroding within its range, i.e., above 40 to whatever, without covering up any detail, it would be a transparent device.

thus transparent includes the pssibility of an error, but also implies the passing of all information within the range or capability of the component.

transparency is a subjective term. often when used it means "virtual" transparency because it is possible a component may be hiding information that one is not aware of, but yet one perceives that no information is missing.

any thoughts ?
mrtennis

IMHO

neutrality implies no alteration of the signal, whatsoever.
i have used the term "virtually" neutral to imply no audible coloration. of course this is a subjective term.

transparency is a subset of neutrality. it implies a perfectly clear window on the recording.

The two terms are independent. (no subset implied)

let me illustrate. suppose an amplifier has a slight deficiency in bass reproduction, e.g., it cannot reproduce any frequencies below 40 hz. that amplifier would not be considered a neutral component.

Actually it means it has an abbreviated frequency range. It can still be considered neutral.

if said amp reproduced all "information" on a recroding within its range, i.e., above 40 to whatever, without covering up any detail, it would be a transparent device.

thus transparent includes the pssibility of an error, but also implies the passing of all information within the range or capability of the component.

If a component is truly transparent, there will be no errors. That is why subjective terms such as "slightly veiled" "slightest ringing" etc. etc. are used to describe the transparancy. I know of no component that is transparent.

A component can be warm,neutral or cool and have a range of subjective transparency.

IMHO
The way I use both terms seems to coincide with your statement about neutrality meaning no coloration and transparency implying a clear window, but I don't quite think your analogies work for me. But later on you say that transparency includes the possibility of error and I agree with that.

To me neutrality is the absence of perceived warmth or coldness in a presentation. Whereas I think transparency can exist to a degree in a warm, cold or neutral sounding system. Depending on the system, the coloration of the tonal balance won't impede its transparency
While your at it, why don't you also include a definition of 'resolution' and how it differs from 'transparency'.
This is kinda like trying to explain to someone the difference between horsepower and torque. You think you know, but can't quite explain it.
In audio, if WPC is horsepower, then what is torque?

Is this question neutral or transparent?

Bueller?...Bueller?...
Current?

"My best friend's sister's boyfriend's cousin said she saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors..."
neutral and transparency are often considered the same by some hobbyists.

in fact they are not.

I have not found many people who believe that. In fact as Jamscience mentioned, one is not event he subset of the other. From the Stereophile Glossary:


neutral - Free from coloration.

transparency, transparent - 1) A quality of sound reproduction that gives the impression of listening through the system to the original sounds, rather than to a pair of loudspeakers. 2) Freedom from veiling, texturing, or any other quality, which tends to obscure the signal. A quality of crystalline clarity.

In my opinion and somewhat based on the above definition, "neutral" is a term that mainly applies to the frequency response of a component, i.e. there are no colorations over the proposed range of the component. Bass extension does not play a role in my opinion though, e.g. many Monitor speakers are considered neutral in their respective range.

"Transparent" on the other hand does not necessarily only make a statement about frequency response, but also affects attributes like timing, rise times, ringing, and most importantly in agreement with part 1) of the Stereophile definition, spatial clues and information.

At the end of the day, it would be nice to have an agreed on Glossary. The main problem here is though semantics: Using subjective, metaphorical terms to gain an objective description is bound to fail.

My 2c,

Rene
by neutrality, i mean accurate or the truth. if the input doesn't equal the output, there is inaccuracy, error hence not accurate not neutral.

transparency is a window on the music, if a component(s) is restricted in frequency response, and a source is also restricted in frequency response , i.e., within the range of the equipment, the result is transparency. you hear what is on the recording.

if there is some veiling, but very slight, you may still hear everything on the recording. however, in this case the result is less clear the the recording, hence not the truth, not neutrality, not accurate, but possibly transparent enough to be assigned the term

since perfection does not exist, there is no absolute transparency there is inaccuracy.

however, for listening purposes, audibility, one acknowledges imperfection and still uses the term transparency.

i still maintain that if a stereo system/compent is virtually neutral, transparency is implied.

if a stereo system is virtually transparent, virtual neutrality may or may not exist.

the attribute of virtual neutrality is more rigorous in its requirements than that of virtual transparency
I would argue the other way. Use photography as an analogy. If you enlarge a photo and the color balance of the enlargement is identical, then the process is neutral. That is, no colors are highlighted or muted (a stereo system is basically a signal enlarger). If the enlargement is blurred or distorted, then the process is not transparent - the lens could be low quality, defective or dirty. But it still may be neutral, and you may not discern it because of the distortion. Transparency is needed to see neutrality, IMO.
Gs5556, good analogy. I guess the definition of "Neutral" in photography with respect to the color spectrum seems to agree with the definition in audio for frequency response. To my knowledge this is the usual meaning and the definition of neutral in general.

Mrtennis, you interpretation of the term "Neutral" does in my opinion not agree with the generally accepted definition, and is rather based on your own subjective interpretation of the word. If you can find a good reference that defines the term Neutral in your way, please let me know: To MY knowledge the term Neutral is a very precise term and refers to the flatness of the frequency response only. The term you like to introduce would be more "Accuracy" to the source/truth etc. "Neutral" could be defined as a subset of "Accurat".

Again from the Stereophile Glossary:

accuracy - The degree to which the output signal from a component or system is perceived as replicating the sonic qualities of its input signal. An accurate device reproduces what is on the recording, which may or may not be an accurate representation of the original sound.

Maybe this helps to clarify the use of terms.

Best wishes,

Rene
For the automobile engine analogy, Watts = HP, Volts is analogous to Torque and the amps are analogous to the rpm of the engine. HP=C x Torque x RPM. The analogy is not quite accurate, since HP is actually a rate of work done in electricity the term Watts is the amount of work done and not the rate. At any rate, the analogy doesn't serve any usefull purpose, since not manny people understand the distinction between Torque and HPower and thus only confuses the issue!.
Bob P.,
"At any rate, the analogy doesn't serve any usefull purpose, since not manny people understand the distinction between Torque and HPower and thus only confuses the issue!."

YUp.
The distinction is actually one of some subtlety requiring experience to discern. Neutrality is a lack of tonal coloration, transparency the absence of distortion that would interfere with the clarity and detail of music. Neutrality is a quality often associated with audio components made in Switzerland and other nonaligned countries, transparency a quality often associated with audio components having parts fabricated from glass. Thorens turntables are neutral; Rega turntables are transparent. Or something like that...