Do you have a "Dream Sound" in mind?

marmota

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Hey, happy holidays to everyone reading!

We all know that reproducing sound that is exactly the same as live music is a laudable but impossible goal, because the sound goes through our audio systems, those fascinating audio reproduction devices, all of them with their own sonic signatures...be it a DAC, a speaker, a turntable...everything has it's own sonic footprint, some more obvious than others.

Knowing this...in which camp are you and what do you want your audio system to do when playing your favorite music?
Do you select your gear to play "as close to live as possible", with a compound of very subtle and consistent colorations that are very hard to detect at first listening (the kind of equipment described as "chameleonic" sounding)?
Do you seek very "particular sounding" equipment because you have a very specific sound in your mind that you would enjoy even more than a live performance?

Speaking about me, when I'm hearing an audio system, more than comparing it vs other system or doing A/B comparisons between components, I have a very specific "dream sound" that I would love to hear, materialized in front of me one day, so when I'm hearing a piece of equipment, I usually judge it vs the "ideal sound" in my imagination. Of course, A/B comparing gear serves as an experience and a very valuable data point, and some gear even manages to reset my expectactions regarding what's possible to reproduce with a sound system...but, I still have that "dream sound" in mind.

Using google, I could find that some very respected designers also have this "ideal sound" themselves as a goal, such as, for example, Susumu Sakuma (RIP):
"His amplifier design was not intended to reproduce the original sound from the recording. He wanted to create what he imagined in his heart "
If you are not familiar with Sakuma san's tube amplifiers, he was a pioneer and famous for using the same driver tube as the output tube (ie: 211 tube drives a 211 tube). I have not heard one of his amps (I hope this will change one day!), but his work is fascinating.

I think this is a fascinating topic to discuss, and a chance to meet ourselves and our goals better, and even a chance to achieve our "dream sounds" learning from each other. I also know that, usually, one good answer leads to at least five more questions, and those answers may only be valid for the individual that reached the conclusion, and not so valid for others...but wouldn't be wonderful to share the experience?

I would like this to be an open minded discussion, something that can help us to advance our understanding of preferences and goals. Any post along the lines of "all amps/DAC/speakers/etc sound the same because measurements say that" or trolling attempts will be reported..."who warns first is not a traitor", please keep this present before hitting that post button with anger :)

Thanks for reading, and would be fair to say...welcome to WBF's "Dream Sound Club" :cool:
 
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spiritofmusic

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Agustín, I guess I chanced on the one change that put me onto the road for the sound that I want. Up until 2005, I was rock solid on the typical high wattage SS/multi driver low efficiency box spkrs solution. Then in late 2005 I auditioned the tubed Hovland HP200 preamp, loved it, bought it, and my trajectory changed to considering tubes, and a more introspective presentation. This then led directly to me buying spkrs that enabled SETs to work in my 350 cub m room, thence to the SETs themselves. The last 5 years has been about optimising that sound.

For me, I'm 100% glad I chose the sound I wanted, a full tone dense, saturated, and "inner glow" presentation, that I'd never have achieved had I stayed w my pre 2005 choices.
 
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marmota

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Agustín, I guess I chanced on the one change that put me onto the road for the sound that I want. Up until 2005, I was rock solid on the typical high wattage SS/multi driver low efficiency box spkrs solution. Then in late 2005 I auditioned the tubed Hovland HP200 preamp, loved it, bought it, and my trajectory changed to considering tubes, and a more introspective presentation. This then led directly to me buying spkrs that enabled SETs to work in my 350 cub m room, thence to the SETs themselves. The last 5 years has been about optimising that sound.

For me, I'm 100% glad I chose the sound I wanted, a full tone dense, saturated, and "inner glow" presentation, that I'd never have achieved had I stayed w my pre 2005 choices.

Marc, that's great to know!
I would like to ask you:
Before hearing the Hovland preamp, when you had the solid state/low sensitivity speakers setup...did you have that dense, beautiful sound in your imagination? Or something similar to it?
Or was the audition of the wonderful Hovland preamp what ignited the search and "shaped" your ideal sound?

It's awesome that you are now enjoying the sound that you really wanted, I wish to get there and achieve my ideal sound one day!
 

spiritofmusic

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Ah...well, I didn't actually know it up to then. But I knew elements when I heard the Hovland, and it was enough to change my trajectory.

I was about to hit a heavy bank loan to fund likely ML Prodigies on MF KW monos, or Rockport Antares on Boulder. Talon Firebirds were also a possibility.

And then I "heard" tubes, and something irreversible changed in what I wanted from my sound. Maybe if I'd then gone on to hear something like AG Duos, horns would have been my destination. I didn't, but went on to read Sjraen's stellar review of super tube friendly Zus...
 
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marmota

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I would like to add this to the OP:

When "upgrading" a component (ie: changing one amp/TT/speaker/etc for other), and being presented with the new, supposedly improved across the board sound...did you guys had a mental image of that kind of sound (or a different sound from your pre-upgrade sytem) before buying/upgrading?
Even if the new sound is, by all accounts, "right" and better than before, do you question aspects of that sound because you imagine that something better exists, or just wait to experience it before even thinking about it?
 
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spiritofmusic

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Augustín, I don't think it's possible really to fully imagine what an intended change might sound like. For me, I already knew what Boulder/Rockport and Musical Fidelity/Martin Logan sounded like, and had a reasonable expectation for Talon Firebird. I had already at that time become pretty familiar with Tenor/Kharma and Krell/Wilson, so quite a few top SS/cones examples were available as destinations (albeit at a crippling financial stretch I was pondering).
However, I had zero experience by 2005 of tubes, or a tube based system, and only slight familiarity with a small number of horns and ribbons demos, all resolutely poor.
For me, that tube preamp was the conduit to another type of sound, and the next decade was spent refining that objective.
I have no doubt "better" exists, albeit at major extra expense. And having now heard some stellar horns and ribbons, I have some expectation of what that "better" sound would start to sound like here.
Eg Audiophile Bill's horns/Mayer, Emia or Blue58's tubes, or really well-sorted Apogee Duettas or Divas restores/Symphonic Line Kraft SS/top tube pre.
But it took one tube preamp to jar me out of the more typical path I was on, into a direction that I find way more immersive and "inner truthful".
 
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marmota

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Augustín, I don't think it's possible really to fully imagine what an intended change might sound like.

Mmm I'm not sure we are in the same page here.
I don't mean if it is possible to imagine exactly how a component sounds like before hearing it.

What I want to say is: does some people have a certain, personally ideal sound in mind, that they would like to hear before being exposed to new gear. Not "predicting a sound", but "searching for that sound". Even if new gear is "better" but does not fit into that imaginary sonic aesthetic...do they say "impossible, I'm perfectly good here with the new component", or does that scratch the itch and the search continues based on one's expectactions?

Let me put an example:
I really liked the Estelon XB > Vitus RI-101 combo that I heard, and at second hand prices is perfectly reasonable and could live with that perfectly...but, the sound that I imagine in my dreams is very different, and as you say, probably much more expensive to achieve. What happens here is a balancing act of compromises in my part, not a pursuit of that dream sound that may probably require several custom audio gear. But, as I said, that expectaction of realizing that special, unique sound exists despite me being reasonable and accepting a good, but somewhat different sound.
 

spiritofmusic

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I'm really not sure Augustín. I didn't really have any major prediction as to what great horns or ribbons would be like before I heard them. Then to find that of the dozen experiences I've had with both, only 3 demos have been convincing, and convincing at a level beyond the vast majority of cones spkrs, but the rest were so poor, so much so that if these were the only experiences I had of those topologies, I wouldn't have wasted any time thinking a second more about them.
Now I have way better benchmarks in my mind if I go to any non-cones demo.
In terms of a dream sound at an affordable level, I know pretty much what I would go for, but this dream would segue into a bit of a nightmare as it would necessitate wholesale change of amps, and likely moving up a major level in my analog. And I'm convinced this affordable level would seriously compete with spkrs at 3x the price...at least.
 

PeterA

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I would like to add this to the OP:

When "upgrading" a component (ie: changing one amp/TT/speaker/etc for other), and being presented with the new, supposedly improved across the board sound...did you guys had a mental image of that kind of sound (or a different sound from your pre-upgrade sytem) before buying/upgrading?
Even if the new sound is, by all accounts, "right" and better than before, do you question aspects of that sound because you imagine that something better exists, or just wait to experience it before even thinking about it?

Marmota, This is a great topic for a thread. Happy New Year.

Something better always exists. The question is does one recognize it and appreciate it as such. For me, the challenge was really to define my goals. I have now done that and it is easier to make progress as a result. I am now able to identify the shortcomings of my system and specific gear and know what it is that should improve when listening to new gear or making a change to the system/room set up.

I do have a "sound" in mind, but it is not so easy to define. It will vary from recording to recording, but it is basically something that approaches my memory of what I have heard live. For me, that means improved clarity, openness, energy and information presented naturally. I have moved my system toward that goal over the past year or so, mostly with changes to set up and room, but I did upgrade my cables, power cords, preamp and cartridge. The improvement (some might simply call it change) to my sound and listening experience is pretty dramatic. My future gear auditions will be judged with one question only: Does it sound more natural?

This is the challenge for me, but it is made easier knowing my goal.
 
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spiritofmusic

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Peter, likely something very specific prompted you. And the rest has built on that. Q is, was that an accidental find ie serendipitous, or a change you worked out from first principles should work, did work, and thus you can now confidently plan the rest?

For me, the beyond dramatic effects of the new room both opened up opportunities, and provided real hurdles. I had to be way more choosy on methods of optimising, was compelled to finally sort a proper analog install. The latter is something I admit I've left very late in the day, but the room was the final compelling factor (plus Audiophile Bill's friendly but incessant nagging to SORT IT OUT! Lol).

And recent changes have fast tracked me to closing in on that finish line. For me to be planning a good 200-300 classical/jazz LPs per year, and really look fwds to hearing them, is totally new territory for me, and would not have been a plan even 3 months ago.

Having heard Bill's 100% stellar horns, I know that this is the only route fwds that would genuinely take me onto a whole other level, seeing that I won't ditch medium power SETs for SS to accommodate Apogees or top stats/cones. Both a massive compliment to Bill, since I've heard a lot of the horns competition like Trios, Liszts, Animas, Symphonias, and none come close across the board.
 

marmota

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Marmota, This is a great topic for a thread. Happy New Year.

Something better always exists. The question is does one recognize it and appreciate it as such. For me, the challenge was really to define my goals. I have now done that and it is easier to make progress as a result. I am now able to identify the shortcomings of my system and specific gear and know what it is that should improve when listening to new gear or making a change to the system/room set up.

I do have a "sound" in mind, but it is not so easy to define. It will vary from recording to recording, but it is basically something that approaches my memory of what I have heard live. For me, that means improved clarity, openness, energy and information presented naturally. I have moved my system toward that goal over the past year or so, mostly with changes to set up and room, but I did upgrade my cables, power cords, preamp and cartridge. The improvement (some might simply call it change) to my sound and listening experience is pretty dramatic. My future gear auditions will be judged with one question only: Does it sound more natural?

This is the challenge for me, but it is made easier knowing my goal.

I'm glad you like the thread!
I do agree with you 100% about "the challenge was really to define my goals", in fact, this is where the "dream sound" came from. A series of questions inside of me: if (big if!) I have more than enough knowledge, resources and time to learn, can I create/assemble a system that makes this exact sound, one that is really hard to pinpoint yet very "special", and that I've not heard before anywhere? Not a grossly overcolored canvas, but a team of subtle "micro colorations" that hypnotize me while presenting absurd amounts of information? The mantra is: every system is going to have colorations, what if someone can make them play in such harmony and discretion that the system transcends conventional synergy?
What I'm seeing when I'm thinking about it is a series of questions that lead to answers that lead to even more questions, which may take a lifetime to answer and those answers may even be absurd and useless to a different individual...
And yes, exposure to live music and large amounts of gear help a lot to achive the ideal sound, experience is a well covered subject. But I don't see anything regarding expectations, that's why I opened this thread.

I do also follow your system's thread, and is always nice to read your journey, @PeterA, definitely not a "me too" setup and a very open minded search. I'm sure you are happy and close to your ideal sound, hard work and dedication always pay off!
 
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spiritofmusic

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Oh, you mean liking a sound, despite itself Lol.
 
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marmota

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Oh, you mean liking a sound, despite itself Lol.

Haha!
Quite a bit more complex than that LOL
See, for example, you heard some specific gear that gave you that ideal sound, (the hovland preamp, zu speakers, your TT setup, etc) and build your system according that sonic aesthetic. Perfectly valid approach, because you ended with something that you really like and makes you happy.

But...what if someone hears something, and says: "I can't complain, it's the best I've heard, but I want different" (without having experienced "different")...also a perfectly valid a approach, because the objective is the same: achieving a sound that makes one just happy.
 

spiritofmusic

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Augustín, there was no "ideal" about anything. The intro into the world of tubes gave me a taste of a totally different take on music reproduction, that then informed my choice of Zus...few spkrs other than Zu were gonna work w sub 30W SETs in a 300 cub m room...and I was still blissfully unaware of horns.

Up until that point, I was enamoured w that big brash Krell/Wilson Watt Puppy sound, and also drawn to a more imaging-heavy Musical Fidelity/Martin Logan Prodigy presentation. For sure, it was a big SS and a big spkrs sound that was my future.

The enlightening effect of living with a tube preamp reconfigured where I wanted to go.

I'm right now in the right place to go horns on the basis of what I've lived with for 12-15 years, and what I've been hugely impressed with over last 5 years, and in last 6 months especially. But the financial planets aren't aligning on this move.
 

marmota

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Augustín, there was no "ideal" about anything. The intro into the world of tubes gave me a taste of a totally different take on music reproduction, that then informed my choice of Zus...few spkrs other than Zu were gonna work w sub 30W SETs in a 300 cub m room...and I was still blissfully unaware of horns.

Up until that point, I was enamoured w that big brash Krell/Wilson Watt Puppy sound, and also drawn to a more imaging-heavy Musical Fidelity/Martin Logan Prodigy presentation. For sure, it was big SS and a big spkrs sound that was my future.

The enlightening effect of living with a tube preamp reconfigured where I wanted to go.

Ideal exists...but just for oneself, one person's "ideal" is different from others. I said it before:
"What I'm seeing when I'm thinking about it is a series of questions that lead to answers that lead to even more questions, which may take a lifetime to answer and those answers may even be absurd and useless to a different individual"

The "enlightening effect" of the tube preamp you described just brought you closer to it :)
 

PeterA

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Marmota, Yes I do have a dream or ideal sound in mind. It is a natural sound. That means a sound In which nothing draws attention to itself. It is a well-balanced sound. It is a sound that allows me to listen for hours without fatigue and a sound which I forget about enabling me to focus on the music. The music only.

I have this sound now. But there are degrees of natural sound. My goal is to improve my system in stages so that I get increasingly more of this natural sound. The more I get the more I am reminded of the sound of real live music.

I have some changes in mind for the future and I think I will know quickly whether they move me in the direction of a more natural sound.

That is the goal and it is all that matters to me in this hobby, now that I have figured this out.
 
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tima

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I have a very specific "dream sound" that I would love to hear, materialized in front of me one day, so when I'm hearing a piece of equipment, I usually judge it vs the "ideal sound" in my imagination.

Yes, thank you marmota, this is an interesting topic that I have not thought on in the terms that you present. Perhaps there is more to it than what I am grasping and I'll try thinking on it further.

My tendency is to think more in terms of music than sonics or, put differently, if I reflect on my imagination, I find it more often occupied with themes, melodies and phrases from music I enjoy than a set of sound characteristics. Sometimes I can engage that intentionally but music can appear in my mind without invocation. Sometimes from a favorite performance or simply generically, though the music itself is specific. Often I recognize it but sometime not and rack my brain over 'what is that piece in my head'?

I suppose I don't have a "dream sound" that I am seeking in terms of reproduction, at least in terms of a sound that is independent from what I know experiencing music performed. When I listen to music through my stereo I can think of ways it could be better, but too much of that and I"m not listening to the music.

Perhaps it is an inadequacy that I cannot imagine what a piece of gear will sound like before I hear it, say after reading a description of it. Maybe some expectations are set, but that doesn't translate to sound in my imagination. For the first 10 or so years of being an audiophile I kinda wandered around trying different components - something of a process of discovering what is possible - but my direction has been set for a while and I'm actually fairly satisfied. I've had pretty good luck choosing components to write about. I have a couple upgrades in mind and I expect to be set after those.

It will vary from recording to recording, but it is basically something that approaches my memory of what I have heard live. For me, that means improved clarity, openness, energy and information presented naturally.

This seems about right to me. Maybe I'd add enthusiasm. : - )
 
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marmota

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Thanks for participating, @tima !

There's something that I would like to make clear, because it is of paramount importance for this thread.
You wrote: "Perhaps it is an inadequacy that I cannot imagine what a piece of gear will sound like before I hear it, say after reading a description of it."

That's not the point of this thread, it is not about looking at a piece of gear and trying to predict it's sound.
It's about having a very clear idea of one's self ideal/dream sound, and listening to gear not trying to predict the outcome, but comparing what you are hearing vs your imaginary ideal.

PS: correction apart, you make a very, very interesting point and I think it is deeply connected to this subject. You mention having melodies and phrases of music you enjoy occupying part of your imagination, sometimes recognizing it and sometimes not remembering it, thinking 'what is that piece in my head'?
This, specifically the last part, happens to me too, and with an added twist. 5-6 years ago, I had no idea about english, but of course, listened to lots of music made in english. There are songs that I spontaneusly remember hearing because of the melody, but I don't remember and don't know the lyrics (I only knew how to say "hello, how are you?" at that time, and that's it). Sometimes, one of those songs pops up in mind and I'm left with the question: what was the name of that song? Sometimes I find it, sometimes I don't.
I think this and imagining a dream sound are interconnected, thanks for bringing it to this thread!
 
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tima

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There's something that I would like to make clear, because it is of paramount importance for this thread.
You wrote: "Perhaps it is an inadequacy that I cannot imagine what a piece of gear will sound like before I hear it, say after reading a description of it."

That's not the point of this thread, it is not about looking at a piece of gear and trying to predict it's sound.
It's about having a very clear idea of one's self ideal/dream sound, and listening to gear not trying to predict the outcome, but comparing what you are hearing vs your imaginary ideal.

PS: correction apart, , you make a very, very interesting point and I think it is deeply connected to this subject.

Correction?
 

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