Not worrying about neutrality

Dec 20, 2014
232
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#1
Dear all

I had an epiphany today visit a very good dealer called Analogue Seduction in the UK.

I was testing 3 speakers with which I used my own amp:
Spendors
Harbeth 30.1
Dynaudio 40th anniversary standmounts

Now I must say I found the Spendors utterly dull with my amp.
The Harbeths added a real touch of warmth and tone likewise the Dynaudio - that we're perhaps a tad warmer and more musical.

Now the Harbeths, although very good were ever so 'matters of fact' to my mind very 'correct'
I knew in my heart that the Dynaudios were not entirely neutral (although wee are not talking gushing lush warmth).

But what I found out, perhaps a tad embarrassingly so, is my appreciation of some warmth, body and colour. In other words I preferred a sound away from 'the Absolute Sound' - the aspiration to neutrality that as an audiophile I have always claimed to aspire to.

Now do you think this is at all odd? moreover, it is anything for me to feel a tad embarrassed about? Or is it a case of me simply 'growing up' and thinking 'c'est la vie' and just enjoying it?

It then poses the question - perhaps related to Rons thread about neutrality - what is our reference? My question is how important is this against connecting our souls to the music?

In my defence I will say that when I have heard live music un-amplified it surprises me how much warm and full of body it is than 'precise image placement hi fi'.

I'd love to hear your thoughts

thanks
 
Feb 1, 2019
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#2
I think you may be confusing dull, lifeless and boring with neutral. Real music is none of those things...with the right recordings obviously its vibrant, colourful, rich, warm, full, exciting, joyful, sad, moving, spine tingling, shimmering, suspenseful, rhythmical, involving, soulful, fun etc. Its full of warmth, rich reverberation, instrumental detail, recording venue acoustics.....
If the music is failing to move you, that’s not neutral. Neutral is when every recording sounds utterly different, with no underlying ‘character’ shared by everything you play. If the tonality is different with each album, the soundstage, the recording acoustic, the rhythmic drive,.....if all qualities of the music change and there’s no common, underlying theme or characteristic then you could describe the system as neutral. But if the system robs the music of the above qualities its anything but neutral. Its subtractive
 
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spiritofmusic

Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
8,086
722
113
E. England
#3
Loheswaran, Analogue Seduction are only 20 miles from me, great guys.

I kinda had your epiphany a decade ago. I was worshipping at the altar of detail retrieval, pin point sounds, etc.

I wasn't really bothered at all about tone, tonal density, timbre, natural warmth, texture. Whenever I'd heard tubes that favoured these, the sound was wooly and imprecise.

So, the exposure to Zu was so eye/ear opening. On Atmasphere OTL, I immediately fell under the spell of tone, timbre, texture, warmth, but no hint of wooliness or imprecision.

Indeed Zu gave me immersion and introspection, it's limited failings subtractive rather additive.

And within minutes I lost the urge for favouring in sound what I did before.

Maybe you're having an experience a little like I did.
 

thedudeabides

Well-Known Member
Jan 16, 2011
1,269
36
48
Alto, NM
#4
Neutrality is in the ears of the beholder. Every live music venue has a different sound so there is the no such thing as "The Absolute (live unamplified music) Sound".
 
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Kal Rubinson

Well-Known Member
May 5, 2010
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#5
I think you may be confusing dull, lifeless and boring with neutral. Real music is none of those things...with the right recordings obviously its vibrant, colourful, rich, warm, full, exciting, joyful, sad, moving, spine tingling, shimmering, suspenseful, rhythmical, involving, soulful, fun etc. Its full of warmth, rich reverberation, instrumental detail, recording venue acoustics.....
If the music is failing to move you, that’s not neutral. Neutral is when every recording sounds utterly different, with no underlying ‘character’ shared by everything you play. If the tonality is different with each album, the soundstage, the recording acoustic, the rhythmic drive,.....if all qualities of the music change and there’s no common, underlying theme or characteristic then you could describe the system as neutral. But if the system robs the music of the above qualities its anything but neutral. Its subtractive
I was preparing my reply when I read yours and agree completely. Consistently, "vibrant, colourful, rich, warm, full, exciting, joyful, sad, moving, spine tingling, shimmering, suspenseful, rhythmical, involving, soulful, fun etc. Its full of warmth, rich reverberation, instrumental detail, recording venue acoustics....." can only be achieved if the system is imposing this on any and all recordings. This is a consistent character and is, in fact a distorted view but it will please the people who believe that all music should sound this way. Of course, not all music should sound this way and many will notice this and be disturbed by such a system.
 

Kal Rubinson

Well-Known Member
May 5, 2010
1,571
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NYC/CT
www.stereophile.com
#6
Neutrality is in the ears of the beholder. Every live music venue has a different sound so there is the no such thing as "The Absolute (live unamplified music) Sound".
I think you are misinterpreting "The Absolute (live unamplified music) Sound." It does not mean that everything sounds the same. It means that the reproduction system reveals that "Every live music venue has a different sound."
 

thedudeabides

Well-Known Member
Jan 16, 2011
1,269
36
48
Alto, NM
#7
I think you are misinterpreting "The Absolute (live unamplified music) Sound." It does not mean that everything sounds the same. It means that the reproduction system reveals that "Every live music venue has a different sound."
Hi Kal,

Respectfullly disagree. No one can possibly know the sound of "every live music venue". Hence the inherent paradox / contradiction of using the well known HP TAS phrase assuming that was the intent of the OP.
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
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#8
Hi Kal,

Respectfullly disagree. No one can possibly know the sound of "every live music venue". Hence the inherent paradox / contradiction of using the well known HP TAS phrase assuming that was the intent of the OP.
If it's neutral it will show the sound of the live venue as recorded by good engineers. In other words, if you pay 10 recordings of different concerts if they all sound similar, it is not neutral. If the venue in them sounds different, it is reflecting the recording, else it will tend to sound similar
 

Kal Rubinson

Well-Known Member
May 5, 2010
1,571
70
48
NYC/CT
www.stereophile.com
#9
Hi Kal,

Respectfullly disagree. No one can possibly know the sound of "every live music venue". Hence the inherent paradox / contradiction of using the well known HP TAS phrase assuming that was the intent of the OP.
Here's a clue: If it is "vibrant, colourful, rich, warm, full, exciting, joyful, sad, moving, spine tingling, shimmering, suspenseful, rhythmical, involving, soulful, fun etc. Its full of warmth, rich reverberation, instrumental detail, recording venue acoustics....." all the time, it cannot be the sound of any live music venue (except for one but we cannot possibly know which).
 
Likes: bonzo75
Feb 1, 2019
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#10
Allow me to summarise. Not only do we not know the sound of every venue, we also don’t actually know what the recording is supposed to sound like, so we have NO absolute reference. What we can discern however is whether every single recording that we play shares the same characteristics, which should not be the case if the system is neutral. If every recording includes the same characteristics, then those elements are coming from the system rather than the recording. If on the other hand every recording sounds different, the chances are that the system is not imposing its own character on the music. All neutral means is that it neither adds nor subtracts anything but we have no reference to test for neutrality
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
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#11
A group here developed in 2016 four alternative, but not mutually exclusive, objectives of high-end audio:

1) recreate the sound of an original musical event,

2) reproduce exactly what is on the tape, vinyl or digital source being played,

3) create a sound subjectively pleasing to the audiophile, and

4) create a sound that seems live.

Trying to answer “what is the absolute sound” actually seems to me to confuse the issue.

I would diagnose your opening post by suggesting that perhaps you have simply changed your high-end audio objective or combined it with another.

“Neutrality” suggests to me the objective 2) “reproduce exactly what is on the tape, vinyl or digital source being played.”

Perhaps you are replacing that objective with, or adding to that objective, 4) “create a sound that seems live.”

Perhaps our sonic preferences, interests or objectives change over time as our experience in the hobby progresses?
 
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Number9

Active Member
Oct 15, 2018
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#12
Does this not then beg to question as to whether a system can be colored and nueteral at the same time?
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
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#13
Does this not then beg to question as to whether a system can be colored and nueteral at the same time?
Interesting question. Neutrality versus coloration is, for me, mainly a tonal balance thing.

I would say that as a general matter, with respect to the overall, composite sound of system, a system cannot overall sound both neutral and colored at the same time.
 
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bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
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#14
A group here developed in 2016 four alternative, but not mutually exclusive, objectives of high-end audio:

1) recreate the sound of an original musical event,

2) reproduce exactly what is on the tape, vinyl or digital source being played,

3) create a sound subjectively pleasing to the audiophile, and

4) create a sound that seems live.

Trying to answer “what is the absolute sound” actually seems to me to confuse the issue.

I would diagnose your opening post by suggesting that perhaps you have simply changed your high-end audio objective or combined it with another.

“Neutrality” suggests to me the objective 2) “reproduce exactly what is on the tape, vinyl or digital source being played.”

Perhaps you are replacing that objective with, or adding to that objective, 4) “create a sound that seems live.”

Perhaps our sonic preferences, interests or objectives change over time as our experience in the hobby progresses?
I have recently said this a couple of times on your 4 points. we have to use 2 to create 4 and 1
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
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London
#15
Does this not then beg to question as to whether a system can be colored and nueteral at the same time?
Some also confuse tonal greyness with neutrality. That's not neutrality
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
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#16
I have recently said this a couple of times on your 4 points. we have to use 2 to create 4 and 1
Yeeaaahh, but I don’t get that. The sound of 2) may or may not succeed in achieving 1) or 4).

If we ran the signal coming out of 2) through a black box called a “realisminator” which somehow made the signal/sound achieve the goal of 1) or 4) would we still say that we are using 2) to create 1) and 4)?
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
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#17
Yeeaaahh, but I don’t get that. The sound of 2) may or may not succeed in achieving 1) or 4).

If we ran the signal coming out of 2) through a black box called a “realisminator” which somehow made the signal/sound achieve the goal of 1) or 4) would we still say that we are using 2) to create 1) and 4)?
If your recordings are good it will. And good engineers on good recordings are the closest you will get to having the original venue sound, if you can play it back properly.

On the other hand if you try to create 4, and for each recording you get the same venue sound for 4, the system is colored.
 

tima

Industry Expert
Mar 4, 2014
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#18
Neutral is when every recording sounds utterly different, with no underlying ‘character’ shared by everything you play. If the tonality is different with each album, the soundstage, the recording acoustic, the rhythmic drive,.....if all qualities of the music change and there’s no common, underlying theme or characteristic then you could describe the system as neutral.
If it is possible for two different systems to achieve this, they can still sound different from one another. Can there be a third system that is neutral relative to the other two?

As an audio descriptor, 'neutral' is fruitless. We gain little from its use other than the expediency of imprecision, the ease of not having to find appropriate words to say more informatively what we hear.
 
Feb 1, 2019
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#19
Let’s take 3 different systems....one is built around bookshelf speakers in a small room, another is built around floor standing speakers in a large room, the third is built around panel speakers.
Within their operating bandwidths all 3 systems can be neutral, neither adding to nor subtracting from the tracks they play, but their presentations will be very different
 
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Feb 1, 2019
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#20
If it is possible for two different systems to achieve this, they can still sound different from one another. Can there be a third system that is neutral relative to the other two?

As an audio descriptor, 'neutral' is fruitless. We gain little from its use other than the expediency of imprecision, the ease of not having to find appropriate words to say more informatively what we hear.
Here’s the thing. Let’s say you listen to a system and you decide you hear several ‘characteristics’...for example lean bass, slightly tizziness in the treble etc. Then you play the next recording and the bass is anything but lean, so you cross that off. You move onto the next track and the treble is glorius, smooth, extended, shimmering, so that’s crossed off too. You listen further and pick up a few more characteristics that you think describes the system’s sound but a few more tracks on and you’ve crossed them off too. You continue to listen but eventually it dawns on you. Everything you’re hearing, literally everything is coming from the recordings.....there’s simply no characteristics that are uniformly present in all recordings other than the ability to accurately reveal what’s in the recording. Take soundstage for example. How do you describe a sound stage that’s at once huge and expansive, that extends way beyond room boundaries: deep, narrow and almost tunnel like: left, right and centre: low, wide and shallow: wide and deep; high, wide and deep? How do you describe treble that’s slightly harsh and edgy on one track; extended transparent and shimmering on another? How about pace, rhythm and timing....so-called PRAT? Present in spades on some albums and recordings, almost absent on other.
So how do you succinctly describe a system that adds nothing, subtracts nothings? One word, the best word and the best description i can think of; Neutral. I could also add revealing, detailed, ability to create a huge soundstage, accurate, totally accurate etc. Etc but all those descriptors depend on the actual recording, since many don’t contain those characteristics. So what I write is rather, “the system plays exactly what’s on the recording, without editorialising in any way”. in other words, neutral.
Having said all that, its important to understand what neutral isn’t. Its not grey, bland, boring, uninvolving, colourless, veiled or thin. Essentially its a term that should be applied to a system that truly and honestly reveals the full extent and beauty of the recording without artefact or artifice.
Getting back to the OPs question, he stated he preferred a system with some warmth vs a neutral system, the inference being that neutral systems lack warmth. All I’m stating is that neutral systems should lack nothing and warmth should be present on a neutral system, as long as its present in the recording.
 

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