Good question. Here's my two cents.
What's important - that I'm listening to good music.
Where won't I compromise - I won't listen to bad music.
Live music is basically irrelevant. Most of the music I listen to does not have a direct live equivalent. It's multitrack studio product. The best I can hope to reproduce is the control room mix. A reproduction of a reproduction.
System voicing - I use digital EQ for both room correction and tonal shaping.
Science vs. My Own Ears - I would hope that the designers of the equipment I've purchased have solid engineering backgrounds and are capable of making reliable and cost effective electronic products. I trust my own ears to assemble and setup these components.
After 20 years in this hobby I've come to the conclusion that audiophile minutae shouldn't get in the way of the enjoyment of good music. However, if pressed, I'll admit that dynamics and an even tonal balance are important.
My listening bias? A case of Becks and Ketel Vodka, what else?
With regard to #1 (do I seek soundstage, tone, transparency or dynamics): I seek them all and attain none. Sometimes I do not know what it even means. For example, with regard to soundstage, I recently spent a good part of one night discussing how wide a quartet should sound. It really depends on where you sit (does a quartet have one soundstage?). If you are more than 30 rows back the soundstage of a quartet can be narrow or wide indeed (depending on the venue). If you take a chair in perfect position, well, the live soundstage is quite different. I have heard imaging reproduced on my system consistently that is almost unobtainable in a live setting. I guess it is possible if you sit right in the middle of the quartet. I was told that is because of the placing of the microphones and the intelligence of the producer. On the other hand, I have never heard a system reproduce the tone or dynamics of a quartet live. I believe it's impossible and almost futile to pursue. On the other hand, maybe the batteries are just low in my boombox.
If you listen to electric music the quality of tone can be reproduced and even improved. After all the music is electric to begin with.
Question 2 (where do I compromise): I comprimise everywhere or would be hopelessly neurotic.
Question 3: (mnestic value of live music?? - first epigone and now mnestic - I'm wearing out my dictionary!):Well, I listened to John Hiatt live recently with Sonny Landreth backing up on slide and John sounds better on my system at home with regard to imaging and tone. The dynamics of the live concert are better and I think we owe that to those lovely compressed cds. I think this is common with electric music unless you have a very special venue and live production. On the other hand, I heard Michael Brecker do a live set recently, much of it solo sax in a nice venue, and its impossible to reproduce it in any way - same with your fiddles and oboes Detlof - but we have to keep trying.
Question 4 ( how far will I go to reach my goals?): The room I listen in has its own limitations and I have spent about as much as I am going to. I almost feel guilty/stupid spending more. It is impossible to recreate live non-electric music (IMHO) and in our lifetime we may as well get use to it and just enjoy the music and not obsess on sound.
Question 5 (trust science or your ears): Trust neither and Use both. My ears have tricked me many times. I've listened to many systems unable to tell, at first, if the room was poor, or if the speakers were misplaced, or the amp or speaker had old or inadequate caps ... ect ect ect. Had to use my head and a little science/math/reading to find out. People who rely on ONLY their ears will never understand what they are listening to and what is creating the sound. They are likely to spend vast amounts on the wrong thing and the latest gimmick (which will go unnamed). Folks who use only science and formulas will never have a very good sound system. I like to make speakers and all the people I admire and immulate (George Short, Lynn Olson) know all the formulas and science and end up doing the final tweaking by ear. Modern science has rested on the idea of testing theory with experiments and results for several centuries now. I think the whole either/or debate is unproductive.
Sincerely, I remain
I find much to agree with in the above responses, but I do have my own biases:
1. I want what I judge to be accurate vocal timbre maybe first and foremost, and that pretty much provides for correct tonal balance. If music quality/character is to deviate from accurate, I prefer it to err on the side of slightly rich and slightly warm as opposed to cool, lean, or analytical.
2.I like such stereo artifacts as soundstaging, but I will give it up for a strong, coherent, stereo image, and I'm absolutely not willing to sacrifice PRaT-- I gotta have good rhythm for the music that I really like. I'm also not willing to compromise on accurate vocal timbre. As my HF hearing is somewhat "compromised", I really enjoy good (but not exaggerated) bass. I have low tolerance for poor quality bass, ie soft, slow, loose, sloppy, and I was willing to pay the price in my choice of speakers to get what I perceive as excellent bass.
3. No clue as to what mnestic is-- it's not in my WNW dictionary-- please define-- thanks.
4. I now realize that I'm willing to go "quite a way" in system voicing to get what I want, eg, I just listened to a friends system in a large room with vaulted ceiling and 3.6 Mag. speakers (good front end w/SACD & CD). He listens to classical, opera, choral, and some jazz, and his system has almost no bass. Then I listened to some of my "low brow" music on his system-- Blues & Soul, R&R, and some favorite bass heavy New Age. Well, IMO his system sounded terrible with my music, and I'd rather not listen than use it. I think we agreed to agree that he likes his system with his music, and I like my system with my music-- they are dramatically different.
5. Next to the actual recording, the speaker/room interface is the most important part of any given stereo system IMO (assuming decent quality components and matching). I rely on the integrity of high end designers to keep their products near neutral. Steve McCormack being a good example of this. And as I know very little about electronics, I relied totally on my hearing in putting my system together. And I feel I've been very successful in doing this-- at least I really enjoy music played through it. I have no control over the recordings except to only buy/keep those that I like. Thanks for the difficult and thought provoking thread. Cheers. Craig
As a follow up: I agree with Garfish on vocals and well the whole 300-6khz range. I love bass and highs and you need it all but they always say the human ear is most sensitive to the vocal frequencies due to evolution or something. I agree. But I get stuck on PRaT. I associate that with the music and especially the performance more than the equipment. I had a turntable that I used in college as a combination pizza holder and it had some pace, rhythm & timing problems. Other than that I'm not certain I get it.
Justice Wizzard White: "I can't define PRaT, but I know it when I hear it."
Sincerely, I remain
Clueless: I believe Byron White, in his pre-judicial football days, was nicknamed The Whizzer. And wasn't it Potter Stewart who said he couldn't define pornography, but he knew it when he saw it?
Bomarc: Hey, I was improvising.
I think Justice Earl "Ears" Warren (His friends called him "Ears") also referred to this issue as Cadence, Rhythm And Pace (CRaP) but I can't remember the case for sure...maybe it was Potter Stewart. Anyway, I can't figure it all out.
Clueless-- you're assessment of PRaT fits for me too, ie I know what it is when I hear it, but don't know if I could define it. It certainly is an emotional component of much of the music I listen too, and when it's "there", it makes me want to get up and dance-- slow or fast. You're right too in that it has to be an inherent part of the music (recording). Occasionally as I've attempted up-grades, I've temporarily "lost it" and of course panicked. It's a characteristic of some music that I value highly, and so have become very sensitive about it. Cheers. Craig
PRaT is something you FEEL.
1. tonal balance
2. clean / undistorted / no edginess or nasties
3. dynamics & PRaT
4. stage & image (my initial attribute where compromise becomes acceptable)
5. All this from a subjective viewpoint
Clueless, do you sit on the case of Becks beer while listening and is the foundation of the music better, when the bottles in it are full or vice versa? Do you take the Vodka from the ice, or use shredded Bose speakers to get the right temp?
In another vein: You are so right in what you tell us about the reproduced dynamics in string quartets and also sadly enough, in the lack of bloom compared to what you can hear in concert, the same goes of course for solo violin, or solo cello. All the same, I'm content, when I get drawn into the music when listening at home. As for spacing, I find practically every recording handles space in a different fashion and I only know of one recording, which seems to get it more or less right in the fashion, one is used to from concerts and that is the Juillard rendering of the Debussy/Ravel Quartets on RCA SD. But then Emi does not do too bad a job generally with the Alban Berg people, where even most CD renderings are listenable. Last night however a Hyperion CD of Shostakovitch's 5. and 6th Stringquartet seemed unnaturally bloated with an edgy first violin and if you shaped that away, the sparkle in the cello went as well.
Basically, sadly and sad for the fact, not because I could not put it as well as you did, I have to agree with ALL you said in your excellent post. I find every thought exactly to the point, only I would exchange Becks for Radeberger or Pilsner Urquell. Sorry about my sometimes clumsy use of the lingo. I'm neither Yank nor Brits and out of colloquial practice. Cheers,
Garfish, my apologies and thanks for your great response! I thought "mnestic" could be used in English, obviously not. What I had in mind, was sort of the imprint of the sum of our experiecnces of live musical events in our "aural" memory. I for myself, seem to work very much that way, trying to shape and voice my stereo, according to what I feel is how instruments or voices should sound. Besides that, I know very well what PRAT is, everytime it is not there. If it is present however, I have no inclincation to think of it, nor of the daily frustration of ye olde system, 'cause I'm drawn into the music and just plain happy! Come to think of it, why are so many so called audiophile recordings so damned boring and have no PRAT ? I suppose, it is not only the sum of the system and the software used, it is also the performance itself, which either captivates you or it doesn't!Cheers,
Great topic, excellent replies everyone....Timbre and pacing start it for me but all of the above is important and I agree, live is live and all we can do is reprduce what is on the record....the end result can be pretty amazing and darn satisfying....Well, time to shovel more snow....cheers everyone
Nice thread Detlof. I wish we would talk about music more.
Garfish and Detlof agreed. Imperfect as reproduction is: if your "drawn into" it as Detlof says, or if the reproduction makes you want to "get up and dance", as Garfish says, well, I think you have succeeded. It doesn't much matter what we call it or how we label it at that point.
"Talking about jazz is like dancing about potatoes"
Who said that?
I am having a brain cramp. But isn't it true in a way? Charles Mingus? or was it Potter Stewart?
Sincerely, I remain
When I listen to the music I first pay attention on the musician's performance and/or it has to be the music I love and listen to every day. That's where I can compromise to the recording quality. Genesis(P.Gabriel) is the clear example to it. There are almost no album that is recorded descent, but I love that music.
Then I really appreciate it more if it's well recorded and reproduced.
From my system I expect no fatigue during the long-time listening.
I do first the scientific research before building or upgrading. I am interested in what parts have been used in the component that I want to get.
Hi Marakanetz, I think I know exactly what you mean. I have a similar example taken from classical music: Claudio Abado just recently did a musically seminal recording of all of the Beethoven symphonies with the excellent Berlin Philharmonics on Deutsche Grammophon who did an attrocious and outrageous multimiked hatchet job on it, which first got me livid with rage until I became more and more fascinated by Abado's rendering of the 5th, which made the audiophile shut up and the music lover (thank you Sean) come forth. These, I suppose are those moments of truth, were you can find out for yourself, in which camp you are basically at home!
And yes, Clueless, I also wish we could talk more, on music and all the rest. Besides, I like your selfirony and your fine and sometimes wonderfully caustic wit! Cheers,
Detlof, Mich atzend?
"A guy who wants to play a tune and only knows one note is going to blow hard sometimes." John Coltrane (or was it Potter Stewart?)