Do you have a "Dream Sound" in mind?

Blackmorec

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Interesting post! When we listen to live music we are generally in the audience, while the microphones that record the music are usually much closer to the musicians and directional, so what they hear is very different to what we hear.
Then there’s the recording and mastering engineers, who take what they’ve recorded and mix it to obtain their desired sound. Recordings are like finger prints....each one is different,
so there is literally no ‘standard’ for what music should sound like. There is not even one single ‘live’ sound....there are many. The version you heard live was heavy on audience contribution, lighter of musicians, whereas microphones are set up to capture more of the musicians and less of the audience.
So its actually pretty pointless analysing music to see how it compares to the live event as you have no real clue what the live event sounded like. For studio work, there maybe wasn’t even a live event.
I used to go to quite a few live concerts and gigs, with some great orchestras and some great artists. Some had wonderful sound, others not so much. So for me at least, live music is not my standard.
What I depend on is MY reaction to the music. Really great live music is exciting, emotional, and beautiful and it stirs some very basic human responses, making me feel different moment by moment. I can feel sad, happy, joyful....I can get goosebumps and shivers down my spine....I can be moved to tears (The Vienna Phil. playing Mendelssohn).

What I want from my system is to feel those exact same responses....some recordings are too poor but a great many do hit the spot. The only reason to make improvements to my system is so these reactions become more available, stronger and more intense. Its about how my system makes me feel.
In over 45 years of chasing the hi-fi dream, I’ve owned some really serious SS (for example a fully active Naim system with 6 power amps), all-tube systems including the CDP, large horns (AG Trios) with SETs and various cone-based designs (SF Extrema, Guarneri Homage, Magicos etc).
One of the biggest barriers to reaching my personal sonic nirvana is when there’s a character to the music that doesn’t belong there....Room nodes, digital glare and harshness, any frequency anomalies etc so my first goal is always to rid my system of anything that to my ears sounds out of place or unnatural. Then there’s presentation. The whole basis of stereo hi-fi is to trick the mind into believing that it’s hearing multiple single sound sources (musicians) when in fact what it‘s actually hearing are 2 discreet sound sources. Imaging isn’t built in the room, its built in your head. Your brain treats every sound as if it has a single discreet source, by combining the sound from both ears into a single source with direction. The better, more pristine and accurate the signals reaching your ears, the more convincing, accurate and detailed the illusion. The more detailed and accurate the illusion, the greater the intensity of our reactions.
Finally I would say that of all the elements that make up the stereo illusion, the most Important in order to sound convincing are micro dynamics. If your system can‘t respond fast enough to the sudden impact of plucked string, strike of a drum, hammer on a string etc. Its not going to sound convincingly real, no matter what else it does well.....
 

tima

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So its actually pretty pointless analysing music to see how it compares to the live event as you have no real clue what the live event sounded like.

Perhaps not pointless for all. I think it depends on one's basis of preference. Sure, reproduction is not the real thing, but knowing what the real thing is let's us, if we choose, assess the characteristics of the reproduction in those terms. I don't need to experience the live event of the music I play to know how instruments and live music sound.

If live music is one's reference it should not get in the way of an emotional connection with music from your stereo. Whether live or reproduced, we use our ear-brain hearing system and our body to enjoy both.

If you give emotive reaction primacy as your basis of preference, that's what works for you!
 

marmota

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I've thought further on this topic and our dialog earlier.

Earlier I noted that I was not able to imagine the sound of a piece of equipment from reading a description of its sound. You responded that 'the point of this thread' is not about predicting the sound of an equipment from looking at it.

My comment about my imagination was not about predicting, but more of an observation on the relationship between words and imagining sound and what it means to imagine a sound, ideal or otherwise.

Reading a description of a piece of equipment's sound can tell me about it in audiophile terms (common or otherwise) such as how for a given piece of music, it delivers the leading edge of transients, whether the frequency balance is realistic, how well the listener can discriminate the harmonic character of different instruments, etc. In my case, reading such words helps me with an analytic perspective on the equipment, however it does not cause me to imagine the sound described.

Imagining is to form a mental image of something not present. Granted we and our vocabulary are strongly visual in orientation. In the case of sound however, visual images are not its medium. I don't know if we can talk in terms of 'sonic images' or sound images, but if we did, what would those be? Would they be sounds in our head, in our faculty of imagination as it were? What is it to imagine sound? What is it to imagine an ideal sound? Can I have a sonic image of an ideal sound (something that may not exist) in my imagination? Or must I fall back on describing such in words?

Which comes back around to my observation of my imagination that I made in my original post, noting that from a description, I am not caused to have a 'sound image' in my imagination. Even if a 'sound image' is a faint replicant of actual sound, words or descriptions do not cause me to have such.

I can however have melodies and themes play in my head but it is very difficult, extremely difficult, to have those with particular sonic characteristics. "Okay, for Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody, make it with better transparency, let me hear the resonance of the piano strings off the piano's lid." Can you do that in your imagination? I can't. I can say the words "increased clarity, natural resonance" and have some idea what they mean but I cannot inject' them into a an imagined sound image. I can react to listening to an amplifier and wish it had greater transparency, but I cannot imagine what it would sound like if it did.

Some may say: "I'll know it when I hear it." But can we have an ideal sound that we can call upon to gauge if what you're hearing matches it? Is one's ideal sound limited to a set of descriptions? What does it mean to say, per the thread title: "I have a dream sound in mind?"


... have you ever wanted to be a Steinway? :-o

Sorry for misunderstanding your post earlier, now I get what you say.
I know that, imagining a sound is not the most common or easiest task, specially because we tend to imagine visual events to form a mental image above all and not sounds.
In my particular case, when I hear an audio system, I can judge it with the usual terms, like more or less transparent, microdynamic gradations, etc. When I do that, I'm focusing on small or particular aspects of sound, and with such method, is not posssible to imagine something completely different, at least for me.
To pull it off, what I do is stop to judge individual aspects of sound in the typical sense, and focus on the complete sonic reproduction, without breaking it down into attributes. I "freeze" that sonic tapestry in my mind, and then I can "modify it" to my tastes in any way possible to my imagination, not too different from painting a canvas or looking at your sex partner and imagining she is Sofia Vergara, same type of mental process. It simply requires a different type of thinking and not the usual method. As anything in life, it takes practice. In this particular method, is easier to associate sound with colors, and the more advanced you get, you can even imagine different shades of the same color (to put an example, more "red" into a voice, but gradually transitioning to orange when it reaches it's highest registers, or instead of "black" background between sounds, imagine it in the same very, very dark blue of a night in a town where pollution is extremely low).

That's how it works for me, I know it is unorthodox but to me is fun and a good mental exercise :)

Edit: for context, the mental image for my dream sound is being attacked (yes, attacked) by an oasis of naturalness. In audio terms, probably a huge speaker with paper cones and alnico/permendur magnets, but 100db and 16 ohms and some +100 pounds per channel 8-10 watts SET amplifier, top level micro and macro dynamics but with a super continuous, subjectively natural tonality.
 
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tima

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To pull it off, what I do is stop to judge individual aspects of sound in the typical sense, and focus on the complete sonic reproduction, without breaking it down into attributes. I "freeze" that sonic tapestry in my mind, and then I can "modify it" to my tastes in any way possible to my imagination, not too different from painting a canvas or looking at your sex partner and imagining she is Sofia Vergara, same type of mental process. It simply requires a different type of thinking and not the usual method. As anything in life, it takes practice. In this particular method, is easier to associate sound with colors, and the more advanced you get, you can even imagine different shades of the same color (to put an example, more "red" into a voice, but gradually transitioning to orange when it reaches it's highest registers, or instead of "black" background between sounds, imagine it in the same very, very dark blue of a night in a town where pollution is extremely low).

That's interesting and thanks for taking the time to express what you did. Who among those responding to this thread that say they have a 'dream sound in mind' do something similar? I am not one to have that experience.

How do composers work in creating music? Most composers understand and use music theory which, imo, is a realm that audiophiles do not talk typically understand or make use of its terminology. Of course that is a/the language of music not the language of sound (sonics). Would it be that the language or vocabulary of sound was as adept at describing sound as music theory is at describing music.

And it is interesting that your examples are in visual terms. It is easier for me to understand and imagine red turning to orange or black to dark blue than to imagine clear turning to greater clarity or articulation to improved articulation. I understand the words, but not what it would be like to make a change to a 'sonic image' in my head as you describe.

As I suggested earlier, perhaps it is a limitation or inadequacy on my part that I can not move from a description in words to a sonic image of ideal or other sound in my head. Then again, I don't feel a need to that as my ideal sound, my reference, is the sound of live acoustic music.
 
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Mike Lavigne

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as far as the exercise of getting your mind in the right spot to determine how close you are to, or if you have reached, your 'dream sound', to me this is not that hard. and as decades long intense music reproduction listeners, we are trained to pick up on musical nuance. we don't need musical theory......it might just cloud our mind. we are not teaching a class or justifying anything, we are identifying what our dream sound is. and agreeing on what that dream sound is.......is ok.....but not essential. maybe being able to show or explain it could be helpful to others.

----for voices it's expressiveness, the sense of a person singing. the head and mouth moving. the feeling of a body mass connected to the voice. i have 69 years and 6 months of training about this. i'm an expert.

---for instruments it's textures, timbre, delicacy, overtones, real-life decay and unvarnished immediacy......and the absence of any etched or falseness of presentation. my mind does not need to process this mostly, it's either degrees of good, or not ok. the other issue is sameness. are multiple recordings showing any characteristic? my dream sound is not like that. if i were a guitar expert and knew how each type sounded, or possessed some such skill, then that might dominate my process. would that be a better tool that what i have? that could cut both ways. my preferences might lead me down a less truthful road? or a road with greater insights? there might be a certain type sound that i might chase that would lead me away from overall optimal performance. OTOH there is nothing wrong with that. it's your dream sound, not mine.

---for flow, micro and macro dynamics it's an all senses type thing where the music pulls you into it's rhythm, gets physical, or not. does your body feel it? and you can have multiple sources that can all have valid rhythm's.

---for ambience it's really how close to capturing true atmosphere authority and foundation and ease can your system get? does it take you there? or bring them here? does the room and signal path get in the way and call attention to itself? does the room (and big music) breathe like real life? is there a feeling of unlimited headroom? does the music gain scale naturally? these are very much a big part of my dream sound.

---the degree of 'life' or 'lively-ness'......the energy projected......can be very significant. and suspension of disbelief is connected to this and my dream sound.

---for me tonality is so situational in life, that while this is a pleasure issue for listening, it's not critical for my dream sound. it can be different for different recordings without a problem.
 
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PeterA

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Nice post Mike. I have a very specific question for you. For your four vinyl source combinations only, which one gets you closest to your impression of ideal sound when it comes to the bass performance?

I understand each of the four combinations gives you something in some area which you really enjoy which is why you have all four, but I’m curious if you could discuss briefly how each performs in terms of bass quality and your dream sound.
 

marmota

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There's something that I can't get out of my mind lately, it is not exactly a 100% dream sound thought, but an experimentation that may lead to very interesting results, and could be very useful to learn and achieve one's self ideal dream sound.

We are talking about resolution, tonality, flow of the music...but I think that time-domain performance can also be of great interest. Let me put an example: imagine we are listening to a piano, and we have an amplifier (or preamp/phono, whatever you fancy to imagine) that "holds" the piano notes for a tiny, very, very small fraction of a second, and then releases them with exemplary delicacy and micro/macrodynamics, creating a "what will happen now?" effect on the listener, a very small manipulation that gives birth to multiple small "suspension of disbelief" moments.
I think that this would be a very interesting moment to experiment and learn about to arrive at educated conclusions towards finding an ideal sound (that may be completely different and absent from such characteristic), and catapults the dream sound questions to different, higher levels.

Of course, it is a very unorthodox and even weird thought, but I'm intrigued about it.
 
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Mike Lavigne

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Nice post Mike. I have a very specific question for you. For your four vinyl source combinations only, which one gets you closest to your impression of ideal sound when it comes to the bass performance?

I understand each of the four combinations gives you something in some area which you really enjoy which is why you have all four, but I’m curious if you could discuss briefly how each performs in terms of bass quality and your dream sound.
thanks Peter.

as of this moment my answer will be incomplete because the NVS has the advantage in the bass of the Tana active shelf, but is waiting for the second Durand Tosca gimbal tonearm to arrive. this will allow me to swap cartridges and share the new LFD phono cable and even the EMIA SUT/CS Port phono between the Saskia and NVS. i am very excited to hear how this plays out. and this is likely the final move in my end game puzzle. so this is #5 of my choices.

so considering that issue; we have 4 other combos.

the EMT948/Durand Kairos/Miyajima Infinity mono 0.7 mil -> CS Port phono MC input. bass from my mono pressings is remarkable. it's very physical and unexpectedly subterranean. the EMT has great drive and propulsion. i find that modern cutter head mono recordings have a very meaty and robust sound, and that it consistently pulls you into the music. this is bass that makes you smile and relax. yet is exciting and invigorating. lose track of time bass. the best of these recordings (many 45rpm mono jazz reissues) are maybe my favorite all time recordings. it does not hurt that the musicians for these recordings, and the recording process, are likely the best ever.

the NVS/Durand wood arm wand 12" Durand Telos/Miyajima mono 1.0 mil ->dart phono. these early deep groove mono pressings are pure, and the bass is pure. similar comments to the EMT-0.7 mil. maybe more scale and authority from this combo. many of these pressings are so direct and full of overall energy it's amazing. some of these early pressings are on fire. very physical bass, if not as deep extension.

CS Port LFT1 linear tracker/Etsuro Gold/LFD cable -> EMIA SUT-> CS Port phono mm input. majestic bass, very, very deep and extended, without any sort of limits. the most textureal delicate and subtle bass rendition. boggies and can startle with impact. the bass is very located and of a piece with the music. super coherence. plenty of bass energy. the ambience of the recording venue is tape like, you can cut it with a knife. there is a bed of energy the music plays on. it can really pack a 'marco' wallop. can truely exercise the system. super flow and ease. much more than the sum of it's parts. right now i'm listening to a DG box set of Brahms #2 Symphony (Karajan) that is sublime. the bass.....beguiling.

Saskia/Durand Tosca/Etsuro Gold/LFD cable-> EMIA SUT ->CS Port phono mm input. still sorting this out. when this new LFD cable was added to the already astonishing bass performance of the Saskia/Tosca/Etsuro Gold combo it sent things to another planet. i think part of this is the Saskia and it's ability to render tone density. unlike any turntable i have heard. and it's added idler flow. some magical synergy is happening here affecting everything. and that means the bass is indescribable. you can't separate the music textures i'm hearing from the bass performance. they are the same thing. so real. spooky real. more of everything; bloom, decay, impact, articulation, separation, extension, etc. etc. different than the CS Port in ultimate character and feeling......a good thing i think.

still processing this and in no hurry to define it. i will think about this today and try to add to this. i am enjoying owning 4 tt's and 5 arms and the joy of listening it is bringing. i had no idea 2 years ago if this effort would be worth it.
 
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PeterA

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Thank you Mike. I appreciate the reflection and time it took for you to describe the differences. That is very interesting. I’m now curious about how these fit into your notion of “dream“ or ideal sound, the subject of this thread.

I think bass is one of the most difficult things to get right, and to sound natural, from stereo system.
 
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spiritofmusic

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Mike's descriptions suggest there isn't any one dream sound. He's having a different dream depending on the last thing he drank that night Lol.
 

Mike Lavigne

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Mike's descriptions suggest there isn't any one dream sound. He's having a different dream depending on the last thing he drank that night Lol.
i think if you read my dream sound details above, all my turntables fit into it just fine.

OTOH.....

"i love a good beer buzz, early in the morning"

always loved that line. :rolleyes:

btw; my last drink last night was green tea. i love this stuff, typically have a dozen bottle at home and at work all the time.

 
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Mike Lavigne

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Thank you Mike. I appreciate the reflection in time we took for you to describe the differences. That is very interesting. I’m now curious about how these fit into your notion of “dream“ or ideal sound, the subject of this thread.

I think bass is one of the most difficult things to get right, and to sound natural, from stereo system.

been sitting here trying to rank these 4 turntables for my dream sound.

i think the way it lays out right now in my mind; each of these 4 does match what my dream sound is for the music i play on them. this morning i've played 3 complete (side A&B) symphonies on the CS Port. perfect. excites every molecule of the room. the walls dissolve. exactly what i dream about. i am there. no limits to the reproduction system get in the way. not 100% real......but real to me.

and so on......

you get the idea, and not claiming any better, or best, or any of that stuff, just my own dream of how it ought to sound. no critical thoughts (from me) need to intrude from here. just music.
 
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matakana

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ashandger

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" ---the degree of 'life' or 'lively-ness'......the energy projected......can be very significant. and suspension of disbelief is connected to this and my dream sound."

Hello Mike, many thanks for sharing your thoughts and impressions. May I ask how does the CS port/Etsuro combo perform in terms of projecting the energy/life/lively-ness of music? Many thanks
 

marmota

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been sitting here trying to rank these 4 turntables for my dream sound.

i think the way it lays out right now in my mind; each of these 4 does match what my dream sound is for the music i play on them. this morning i've played 3 complete (side A&B) symphonies on the CS Port. perfect. excites every molecule of the room. the walls dissolve. exactly what i dream about. i am there. no limits to the reproduction system get in the way. not 100% real......but real to me.

and so on......

you get the idea, and not claiming any better, or best, or any of that stuff, just my own dream of how it ought to sound. no critical thoughts (from me) need to intrude from here. just music.

Is fascinating to know that, as good as each one of those beautiful end game turntables are, each one has it's own personality, and while they can play anything with first rate sound quality, those distinctive, unique personalities come into it's own and elevate the experience when playing specific songs or music genres.
A more extreme example of this is the aforementioned Susuma Sakuma, who went as far as to build amplifiers just to play one specific song with the sound he imagined and dreamed about. 10 different songs? 10 different amplifers! :)
"He often built an amplifier for one purpose, to play one tune from an album"
 
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Mike Lavigne

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" ---the degree of 'life' or 'lively-ness'......the energy projected......can be very significant. and suspension of disbelief is connected to this and my dream sound."

Hello Mike, many thanks for sharing your thoughts and impressions. May I ask how does the CS port/Etsuro combo perform in terms of projecting the energy/life/lively-ness of music? Many thanks

to try and express what is distinctive about the way the CS Port projects energy, i'd say the essence is a matter of envelopment and delicacy. it projects the fine textures and shades of the sweep of the music. it's somewhat understated and elegant, assured, in control. it transforms somewhat confused sonic pictures with ease and decisiveness. yet it also pulls you along. you hear all sorts of undercurrents of bass weight and subtleties.

it does the holographic thing very well and you get really full frequency images with very organic and solid reach out and touch it sort of energy. but i would say the Saskia is more obvious and focused, but the CS Port has a more delicate version of the same. degrees different in presentation sharing the attributes.

the bass is sneaky powerful; this morning i played the Shaded Dog reissue of Solti's 'Venice'; LSC-2313. side 2, Rossini's "Samiramide" took the roof off with a couple of powerful crescendos with lots of very deep bass. i was not expecting it and it was a fun ride. the perfect counterpoint to the rest of the side.

when i play jazz or rock this turntable can boggie with the best. nothing buttoned down about it. but the elegant side is very special and singular.

when trying to contrast different high level turntables it is difficult to talk about attributes without somehow inferring something missing. it's not that way. only speaking for my turntables, all of them do it all. but they do have their special qualities. so hopefully i have not expressed anything different than that.
 
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ashandger

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to try and express what is distinctive about the way the CS Port projects energy, i'd say the essence is a matter of envelopment and delicacy. it projects the fine textures and shades of the sweep of the music. it's somewhat understated and elegant, assured, in control. it transforms somewhat confused sonic pictures with ease and decisiveness. yet it also pulls you along. you hear all sorts of undercurrents of bass weight and subtleties.

it does the holographic thing very well and you get really full frequency images with very organic and solid reach out and touch it sort of energy. but i would say the Saskia is more obvious and focused, but the CS Port has a more delicate version of the same. degrees different in presentation sharing the attributes.

the bass is sneaky powerful; this morning i played the Shaded Dog reissue of Solti's 'Venice'; LSC-2313. side 2, Rossini's "Samiramide" took the roof off with a couple of powerful crescendos with lots of very deep bass. i was not expecting it and it was a fun ride. the perfect counterpoint to the rest of the side.

when i play jazz or rock this turntable can boggie with the best. nothing buttoned down about it. but the elegant side is very special and singular.

when trying to contrast different high level turntables it is difficult to talk about attributes without somehow inferring something missing. it's not that way. only speaking for my turntables, all of them do it all. but they do have their special qualities. so hopefully i have not expressed anything different than that.

Hello Mike, many thanks for taking the time to provide such detailed and helpful feedback...much appreciated. Happy listening.
 

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