My Theory of Sonic Cues to Explain Different Sounding Systems

Atmasphere

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Do you think with technological advances that there is a convergence of experiences when listening to what Mike Lavigne calls top-tier systems? Or do you think there is a divergence?
Convergence. The more accurate it becomes, the more it will sound like the source.

Its very difficult to put a value on how a system sounds without including the room! Quite often we are stuck with the room we have available, even if it is one that was custom built for the job. We then struggle to get the system to work right in that room. Its easily 50% of the system sound...
 
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Ron Resnick

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The more accurate it becomes, the more it will sound like the source.

Hi Ralph,

May I deduce from your reference to "accurate" that your personal objective for high-end audio is: "reproduce exactly what is on the tape, vinyl or digital source being played" (Objective 2)?
 

Atmasphere

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Hi Ralph,

May I deduce from your reference to "accurate" that your personal objective for high-end audio is: "reproduce exactly what is on the tape, vinyl or digital source being played" (Objective 2)?
Not exactly.

This is because as a designer I'm pragmatic that distortion can be reduced but not eliminated. Since that is so, the next best thing to do is to make what distortion there is be as innocuous as possible. You keep it down so it produces the least coloration (the ear perceives harmonics generated by distortion the same way it perceives tone colors generated by the harmonics of musical instruments), and since distortion obscures detail.

If you can keep the distortion down and what there is of it innocuous, then you can have a good handle on transparency and be as accurate as you can.

So, if we are talking about how the human ear perceives things, then the answer to your question is 'yes'. If we are talking about getting the least amount of distortion, such that the speaker is playing the most 'neutral' signal, 'maybe not' might be my answer, since what looks like the 'most accurate' on paper might sound really annoying to the ear. Annoying presentation tends to come from higher ordered harmonics, which quite often are not high in amplitude so on paper they don't look like much. But the ear treats them very differently and this fact is never stressed enough! Its a pity too that this fact has been known for many decades, long before WW2 but routinely gets ignored.
 

Ron Resnick

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Not exactly.

This is because as a designer I'm pragmatic that distortion can be reduced but not eliminated. Since that is so, the next best thing to do is to make what distortion there is be as innocuous as possible. You keep it down so it produces the least coloration (the ear perceives harmonics generated by distortion the same way it perceives tone colors generated by the harmonics of musical instruments), and since distortion obscures detail.

If you can keep the distortion down and what there is of it innocuous, then you can have a good handle on transparency and be as accurate as you can.

So, if we are talking about how the human ear perceives things, then the answer to your question is 'yes'. If we are talking about getting the least amount of distortion, such that the speaker is playing the most 'neutral' signal, 'maybe not' might be my answer, since what looks like the 'most accurate' on paper might sound really annoying to the ear.

Thank you.
Annoying presentation tends to come from higher ordered harmonics, which quite often are not high in amplitude so on paper they don't look like much. But the ear treats them very differently and this fact is never stressed enough!

This makes sense to me!
 

NekoAudio

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To Ralph's point about distortion characteristics, I've personally found I like equipment that, when measured, does not have a rise in distortion as the frequency increases (at higher power outputs too). Even though that same gear is otherwise specified as having very low distortion that should be inaudible.
 

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This thread was temporarily closed, so the moderating team could enjoy their holiday with loved ones. Please allow me to remind you to stay on topic and do not discuss or attack another member of this forum.

There were two people that kept going at each other (they both know who they were) and this was the reason the thread was temporarily closed. Each and every member of this forum must abide by the TOS, or they do risk administrative action taken against them, up to and including no longer being a member of this forum. If you are unfamiliar with the TOS of this forum, here is a link - https://www.whatsbestforum.com/help/terms/

Being a member on the WBF is a privilege and not a right. Please keep that in mind when responding or posting on this board.

The thread has been cleaned up for the second time. Now, lets please resume the discussion and stay on topic.

Tom
Thanks for reopening this thread. It is an endless source of amusement.

Audiophiles going at each other is the way it has always been. Good luck stopping that.
 
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treitz3

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It won't ever stop. Same bat channel, same diatribe, different day/year/decade. It is what it is.

Tom
 
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Wavetouch

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I am late to this discussion. I read 1st and last 5 pages. Please kindly point out if my post is off the topic.
Convergence. The more accurate it becomes, the more it will sound like the source.

Its very difficult to put a value on how a system sounds without including the room! Quite often we are stuck with the room we have available, even if it is one that was custom built for the job. We then struggle to get the system to work right in that room. Its easily 50% of the system sound...
I agree on "convergence" and the importance of audio room. However, the room doesn't have to be in the equation so much. The room is the blame because the speaker design is bad. I am talking about the angle of woofer cone. The angle of woofer cones send almost all sounds to walls, a ceiling, and a floor rather than to a listener. The sounds listener gets are almost reflected sounds from every directions and getting almost none from speakers directly. Therefore, almost speakers has to be loud to charge the room 1st to create the good SPL for the listener. And mid-range (human voice) of almost all systems is far (far behind speakers) and vague.

Fixing the audio room is hard and expensive and there is no guaranty the sound will be good after the room repair. Changing speaker design is much cheaper, promising, and easy to do. Since sounds on a woofer are crossing from all directions (about 1.5"~7" in front of dust cap, depends on size), place a big round magic marker in the center. That's it. I have a patent on this design but DIYers don't need to worry.

After the center plug is installed, even a glass room is no problem.
angle.jpg
The center plug in action.
 
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jtcfdog

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What about the sound is the trigger -- the procuring cause -- that drops the hammer on that emotional dart?
Often it's the sound of a musician taking a breath,bumping the mic,or obviously turning away for a moment. Tiny mistakes like brushing the guitar strings accidentally and quickly damping,dropping a drum stick.Any time that it's clearly an actual human being is really "there".It's magical to me because suddenly he,she,or they are literally right in front of me.
 

Ron Resnick

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Often it's the sound of a musician taking a breath,bumping the mic,or obviously turning away for a moment. Tiny mistakes like brushing the guitar strings accidentally and quickly damping,dropping a drum stick.Any time that it's clearly an actual human being is really "there".It's magical to me because suddenly he,she,or they are literally right in front of me.
Very interesting! Which loudspeakers do you feel reproduce most clearly and convincingly these kinds of "live action" moments?
 

Atmasphere

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The angle of woofer cones send almost all sounds to walls, a ceiling, and a floor rather than to a listener. The sounds listener gets are almost reflected sounds from every directions and getting almost none from speakers directly. Therefore, almost speakers has to be loud to charge the room 1st to create the good SPL for the listener. And mid-range (human voice) of almost all systems is far (far behind speakers) and vague.

Fixing the audio room is hard and expensive and there is no guaranty the sound will be good after the room repair. Changing speaker design is much cheaper, promising, and easy to do. Since sounds on a woofer are crossing from all directions (about 1.5"~7" in front of dust cap, depends on size), place a big round magic marker in the center. That's it. I have a patent on this design but DIYers don't need to worry.

After the center plug is installed, even the glass room is no problem.
In most room bass below 80Hz is entirely reverberant.

This is because the waveform at 80Hz is 14 feet long. For the ear to know there is a note, the entire waveform has to pass by it. To know what the note actually is takes a few more iterations. By that time the bass has bounced all over the room.

The biggest problem I've run into with rooms is standing waves, caused by the bass note bouncing off the wall behind the listening position and then doing a partial cancellation of the same bass note at the listening position. To correct this I use a Distributed Bass Array, which in my case is two subs placed asymmetrically in the room, since my main speakers are flat to 20Hz. The subs do not produce any output above 80Hz so they do not attract attention to themselves. This breaks up the standing wave and bass is evenly distributed about the room.

Once the bass is right, the room's other issues will be far less profound!
 

jtcfdog

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Apr 22, 2023
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Very interesting! Which loudspeakers do you feel reproduce most clearly and convincingly these kinds of "live action" moments?
I'm not qualified to answer that question. For me personally I'm listening to Zu Omen Defs which are known for their live sound. Believe it or not, my former speakers were Harbeths. Beautiful refined sound but never "alive" to me.
 

Tim Link

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The biggest problem I've run into with rooms is standing waves, caused by the bass note bouncing off the wall behind the listening position and then doing a partial cancellation of the same bass note at the listening position.
I've never thought of these immediate add/cancel effects caused by early reflections as standing waves, but now that you've presented it that way, I see that they really are because they're moving in opposite directions of each other causing some degree of phase add or cancel. When I hear "standing waves" my mind immediately goes to reflections between parallel walls that create modes. Those are also standing waves but those kind can become very resonant. Those are often less of a problem than might be suspected because they don't always happen. It takes some time to build those up, so they really only come into play on sustained notes. These early reflection types don't sustain as a resonance, but they screw up the sound immediately. There are other problems with even non-modal frequencies bouncing back and forth between parallel walls. They can definitely result in smeared midbass and lower midrange, which can muck up the perception of the whole audible range.

jtcfdog said:
Often it's the sound of a musician taking a breath,bumping the mic,or obviously turning away for a moment. Tiny mistakes like brushing the guitar strings accidentally and quickly damping,dropping a drum stick.Any time that it's clearly an actual human being is really "there".It's magical to me because suddenly he,she,or they are literally right in front of me.

I can totally relate to that, but I can't say for sure what really makes those "live action" moments come to life. I have spent a lot of time messing with equalization because I have to on my DIY speaker builds. That has taught me that getting the broadband response accurate is a huge piece of it. The best I've gotten it to work has been in situations where I'm sitting pretty close to the speakers and as far away from the room walls as I can get, after spending a lot of time measuring and listening to get the overall response fine tuned. That's when those live action moments can really startle me with a sense of live presence.
The problem is, I haven't found a way to make that work equally well on all recordings, so I've come to see it as a sort of special effect. It can also heavily depend on my auditory state. Still it's a good indicator if it happens at all that a number of factors have been dialed in fairly well. Ultimately I find the setups that do this the best are hard to live with, so I seek a generally pleasing sound, not necessarily the ultimate in realism.
 

InfigoAudio

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In most room bass below 80Hz is entirely reverberant.

This is because the waveform at 80Hz is 14 feet long. For the ear to know there is a note, the entire waveform has to pass by it. To know what the note actually is takes a few more iterations. By that time the bass has bounced all over the room.

The biggest problem I've run into with rooms is standing waves, caused by the bass note bouncing off the wall behind the listening position and then doing a partial cancellation of the same bass note at the listening position. To correct this I use a Distributed Bass Array, which in my case is two subs placed asymmetrically in the room, since my main speakers are flat to 20Hz. The subs do not produce any output above 80Hz so they do not attract attention to themselves. This breaks up the standing wave and bass is evenly distributed about the room.

Once the bass is right, the room's other issues will be far less profound!
I fully agree with this approach!
At Capital Audio Fest 2022 we did a room together with speakers designed by Duke LeJeune and it incorporated a 4 piece asymmetrically placed <80Hz subwoofer array tuned by J.R. Boisclair... the result was a near flat to 20Hz room without any further room treatment needed.
Life is so nice without all the usual valleys and bumps in the stereofield...

Cheers, Hans.
 

Tim Link

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One area of the sound that I've been heavily focused on over the last year is the problem with the phantom center lacking adequate presence. I started to notice this issue while trying to dial in my DIY speakers using vocalists. I could get them to sound good one speaker at a time, but not both at the same time when sitting in the sweet spot. Comb filtering at our ears of center panned sounds typically start around 2 kHz in a typical listening triangle arrangement with 2 speakers. So, I've been experimenting with ways to implement a center channel. I now have rock-solid center vocals that don't suffer from any of that. How important is that really? Hard to say. It was bugging the heck out of me and I became hyper sensitized to it, noticing it on all the systems I heard at the Pacific Audio Fest this year and last year, regardless of cost. I am super pleased with my solution, but it has some drawbacks of it's own, one of the biggest being a complete collapse of stereo effects for people sitting off axis. Now that I have found a solution, the phantom center problem seems like less of an issue to me. Isn't that ironic? I guess I obsess the most over issues I feel I don't have a way to control. That being said, I'm sticking with my center channel. So it seems a very solid center of the soundstage is extremely important to me since I'm willing to put up with complexity, expense, and introduction of some other issues to attain it.

I can't help but to bring up a similar topic over what makes HDR video particularly realistic looking. How important is perfect inky blacks, or sustained brightness over large areas? Should you get an OLED or a mini LED? I think it depends on the content you prefer, but also the visual cues a particular viewer focuses on. I like the brightness thing, and am not much bothered by a lack of perfect blacks, because in real life I rarely ever see them. I also prefer brighter, outdoor scenes more than low light scenes with small, bright, highly saturated highlights. So on my QLED TV I've turned the local dimming to low and softened the gamma, sometimes even turn up the shadow detail because that just looks more realistic to me on a lot of content. The limited native contrast of the LCD is capable of recreating a lot of scenes with excellent realism. Where it suffers in a way that matters to me is in crushing small highlights on darker scenes in an attempt to create those OLED inky blacks with local dimming. Turning the local dimming to low greatly reduces that problem.
 

jtcfdog

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Apr 22, 2023
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I've never thought of these immediate add/cancel effects caused by early reflections as standing waves, but now that you've presented it that way, I see that they really are because they're moving in opposite directions of each other causing some degree of phase add or cancel. When I hear "standing waves" my mind immediately goes to reflections between parallel walls that create modes. Those are also standing waves but those kind can become very resonant. Those are often less of a problem than might be suspected because they don't always happen. It takes some time to build those up, so they really only come into play on sustained notes. These early reflection types don't sustain as a resonance, but they screw up the sound immediately. There are other problems with even non-modal frequencies bouncing back and forth between parallel walls. They can definitely result in smeared midbass and lower midrange, which can muck up the perception of the whole audible range.

jtcfdog said:


I can totally relate to that, but I can't say for sure what really makes those "live action" moments come to life. I have spent a lot of time messing with equalization because I have to on my DIY speaker builds. That has taught me that getting the broadband response accurate is a huge piece of it. The best I've gotten it to work has been in situations where I'm sitting pretty close to the speakers and as far away from the room walls as I can get, after spending a lot of time measuring and listening to get the overall response fine tuned. That's when those live action moments can really startle me with a sense of live presence.
The problem is, I haven't found a way to make that work equally well on all recordings, so I've come to see it as a sort of special effect. It can also heavily depend on my auditory state. Still it's a good indicator if it happens at all that a number of factors have been dialed in fairly well. Ultimately I find the setups that do this the best are hard to live with, so I seek a generally pleasing sound, not necessarily the ultimate in realism.
Makes sense.All of the music I listen to isn't cock full of emotional sonic cues of course. But when they happen it puts me in a "zone".I want my system to be able to allow those moments to happen. An overall pleasing sound is better than a hyper detailed sound for me too.
 

Wavetouch

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In most room bass below 80Hz is entirely reverberant.

This is because the waveform at 80Hz is 14 feet long. For the ear to know there is a note, the entire waveform has to pass by it. To know what the note actually is takes a few more iterations. By that time the bass has bounced all over the room.

The biggest problem I've run into with rooms is standing waves, caused by the bass note bouncing off the wall behind the listening position and then doing a partial cancellation of the same bass note at the listening position. To correct this I use a Distributed Bass Array, which in my case is two subs placed asymmetrically in the room, since my main speakers are flat to 20Hz. The subs do not produce any output above 80Hz so they do not attract attention to themselves. This breaks up the standing wave and bass is evenly distributed about the room.

Once the bass is right, the room's other issues will be far less profound!
I am not talking about below 80hz only. Listen to my video. My room has minimal sound treatment.

If you want to fix the sound effectively, fix from the source (speaker). The WT plug is like a tongue of speaker. All other speakers have only lips. I believe many parrots can mimic human speaking because they have a big tongue.
 

Atmasphere

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I am not talking about below 80hz only. Listen to my video. My room has minimal sound treatment.

If you want to fix the sound effectively, fix from the source (speaker). The WT plug is like a tongue of speaker. All other speakers have only lips. I believe many parrots can mimic human speaking because they have a big tongue.
I don't have any room treatment. I also take advantage of the controlled directivity of the horns in my system to minimize early reflections from the side walls. This points the woofers at the listening position as well. Plenty of center-fill; I've found that the amplifier and preamp can affect center fill a lot.
 

audiopro92

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Some tracks will sound like recordings. You can "hear the microphone" in a sense.
Sometimes, you find a live performance or a track that was recorded so well... it's like you're in the booth with the artist or at the live performance in front row.

Take this for example: The Weeknd - Blinding Lights (Cover by Loi) (youtube.com)

Sounds great... even on my phone. But when I play it back on my system (actual .wav file) I feel like I am present at the recording.

I once made a recording of a Mustang's engine. Played it back on one of my systems (along with other random sounds) and now, I am in a polarized state of mind. Too accurate...too real.

My Dad told me - enjoy natural sounds; not the artificial sounds in your audio system. So that's why I made real-life recordings.

Played: Tears for Fears - everybody wants to rule the world (his favorite song)

And he was glued to the chair listening on headphones and speakers - that song, and a bunch of others for about 3 hours.
I was so proud.

- DMK
 

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