Not worrying about neutrality

Gregadd

WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
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#61
The "source "is real music. There are recordings and equipment that will take you there. Most of you already know that. So don't settle.
 

Gregadd

WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
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#62
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.
Oh my Gosh! Consistently good sound is bad???
 

tima

Industry Expert
Mar 4, 2014
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#63
Sure, I get this notion that a neutral system or component does not embue records with any particular characteristic that derives from the system or component itself. And for the sake of discussion I'll accept that similar systems composed of different components can each be labeled 'neutral' yet sound different from one another.

My problem with 'neutral' (calling it fruitless) is that it's not particularly useful for describing audio gear or what we hear listening to audio gear. It's an unhelpfu buzzword.

First, the word has different conotations to different people, so using it to make a specific description is tenuous. But okay, let's suppose we dismiss that to act like we're establishing the proper usage/definition.

To say "System A is neutral" doesn't go very far in telling us how System A sounds. I'd ask for an example and someone will say what it means is System A brings no characteristic of its own to all the records played through it. Yeah, but what does that tell us about how System A sounds? What are the characteristics (warmth?, transparency?, dynamic contrast?) that a system could consistently bring to music that System A does not? Huh? Telling me what you don't hear is interesting but how far does that take us to understanding what you do?

Well, how 'bout using it for comparisons: Component A sounds more neutral than Component B. Okay.... In order to understand how System A sounds we need to describe what System B is doing that A is not. Specific descriptions of specific characteristics of B at least tells us how B sounds. And A does not sound like that. Well, what does A sound like? What is needed here are specific descriptions of what we hear from A - great - that's exactly right. Much more informative than saying System A is neutral or more neutral.

If A is neutral, we still need some tangible account of A's tonality, timing and dynamics to understand how A sounds. But are we faced with a dilemma of the general and the specific? What characteristics are allowed to come to a general statement of description? Or is the best we can do is describe N individual records we heard and say that's how A sounds on those records and leave it at that? Neutral didn't get us very far, did it?

I probably need to do something about this disturbing nominalist trend to my thinking. More Hegel, Schopenhauer?
 
Feb 1, 2019
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#64
I would say that the term ‘neutral’ has only little utility when used to describe how a system sounds, is more useful in describing how it doesn’t sound (as in warm, euphonic, romantic, coloured etc) and is exceptionally useful when it comes to a descriptor used in system matching.

The term itself is also neutral. If i say a system in neutral it basically means that it takes on the character of the music in the recording and the inference is that its very transparent to the recording. If i say a system is lacking character, that implies that the system is boring or uninteresting, grey, bland......whereas what i really mean is that it imposes nothing on the music. When a dull or boring system is described as being neutral, i would raise the question of whether the term has been used appropriately, as in this thread (somewhere way back at the beginning)
 

morricab

Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2014
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#65
What "ear/brains pattern" is being mimicked? Do you really mean personal bias?
No, I mean based on psychoacoustic research. The ear mechanism makes its own distortion pattern that is SPL dependent. This pattern is masked by the brain...in other words you don't hear the distortion made by your own ear. If the distortion pattern mimics this pattern then it is effectively "hiding" in this masking and will sound pure. Deviate from the pattern and it will standout...particularly high order harmonics. There are papers published on this subject from Cheever, Geddes and others. Crowhurst also talks about this issues with high order harmonics and their negative impact on perception and noise floor modulation, which can destroy low level resolution and perception of depth, etc.
 

morricab

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Apr 25, 2014
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#66
I agree, but I do think the systems we perceive as the most natural, clear and real sounding enhance decay and add some distortion.
I think they have a different pattern of distortion and the mechanisms of disortion are not the same (feedback, no feedback, zero-crossing distortion etc.). I do not think you can enhance decay of a sound but you can for sure truncate it and most systems do exactly this either through noise or distortion...or both.
 
May 30, 2010
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Portugal
#67
This is all one can do, afaik.

Yes, I have some measurement equipment and I rely on John Atkinson's measurements (in addition the works of some others). I have a number of recordings where I was present at the recording sessions or at other performances at the site proximate to the recording. The sound of these have become very familiar to me but, of course, audible assessments are fraught with potential for human error. I do many assessments and try to correlate what I hear with the measurements and the comments of a few trusted friends.
Fidelity to the recorded source mainly addresses measurements and I I would love to know how you we correlate Stereophile measurements of electronics with "neutrality" - IMHO they are too limited for this purpose, except for the very few cases that clearly deviate from flat, low distortion response. For example, Stereophile and Soundstage have large libraries of measurements of very differently sounding great solid state amplifiers - no one could correlate their sound differences with the measurements. This does not say that measurements are useless - IMHO they should be presented, and consumers have the right to know how their equipment measures, manufacturers should provide us with complete technical details and measurements.

IMHO our direct memories of recording sessions or performances we assisted are too personnel and circumstantial to be used for general evaluation. The complex process of stereo reproduction is too involving and our memories become contaminated by our successive listening of different views of the sound type aimed by different designers. And even more dangerous, our notion of "neutral" will be mainly due to how well the particular recording techniques match the equipment being listened. These memories can be very useful to support our choices as they clearly contain our preferences, but can be irrelevant to others. Surely IMHO and YMMV.
 

morricab

Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2014
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#68
Whatof tis neutral and acrrate recording device/methodology of which you speak? How do we verify it as such? Fidelity to the recorded source? gidelity to the real music before it was initially transformed to something that could be stored?
Fidelity to psychoacoustic, IMO is the best way to proceed. Pure measurement data is meaningless without correlation to how it impacts the listener.
 
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Gregadd

WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
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#69
No one should feel guilty because their system produces sound something like real music. After all that is the intended goal.Anything else is merely an intellectual endeavor.
 
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DaveC

Industry Expert
Nov 16, 2014
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#70
I think they have a different pattern of distortion and the mechanisms of disortion are not the same (feedback, no feedback, zero-crossing distortion etc.). I do not think you can enhance decay of a sound but you can for sure truncate it and most systems do exactly this either through noise or distortion...or both.
You can enhance decay through feedback mechanisms. I've experienced ones that make the music sound clearer and much more natural, because it matches what the ear expects to hear more closely than without the feedback mechanism.

We have lots of these mechanisms built-into all of our systems so you're getting some enhancement like it or not. ;)
 

Gregadd

WBF Founding Member
Apr 20, 2010
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#71
I will say it again. If your system does not sound like music there is nothing wrong witth you. Bias or otherwise. There is something wrong with your equipment no matter how well it measures.
 
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Kal Rubinson

Well-Known Member
May 5, 2010
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#72
Fidelity to the recorded source mainly addresses measurements and I I would love to know how you we correlate Stereophile measurements of electronics with "neutrality" - IMHO they are too limited for this purpose, except for the very few cases that clearly deviate from flat, low distortion response. For example, Stereophile and Soundstage have large libraries of measurements of very differently sounding great solid state amplifiers - no one could correlate their sound differences with the measurements. This does not say that measurements are useless - IMHO they should be presented, and consumers have the right to know how their equipment measures, manufacturers should provide us with complete technical details and measurements.

IMHO our direct memories of recording sessions or performances we assisted are too personnel and circumstantial to be used for general evaluation. The complex process of stereo reproduction is too involving and our memories become contaminated by our successive listening of different views of the sound type aimed by different designers. And even more dangerous, our notion of "neutral" will be mainly due to how well the particular recording techniques match the equipment being listened. These memories can be very useful to support our choices as they clearly contain our preferences, but can be irrelevant to others. Surely IMHO and YMMV.
I take all your comments as valid as there are no hard-and-fast correlations. All these contribute to the subjective assessment (post hoc, of course) with personal criteria that emphasize the ability to recreate a credible illusion of the musical event. I strive for the impression of being present at the performance rather than trying to bring the performance into my room.
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
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#74
There is nothing wrong with engaging in some intellectually-oriented wordsmithing. :D
 
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tima

Industry Expert
Mar 4, 2014
644
257
63
#75
I would say that the term ‘neutral’ has only little utility when used to describe how a system sounds, is more useful in describing how it doesn’t sound (as in warm, euphonic, romantic, coloured etc) and is exceptionally useful when it comes to a descriptor used in system matching.
Nice to know we are close wrt your first case. The word neutral has little value when used to describe how a system sounds?

In your second case, using the word neutral to describe how a system does not sound, you say that is more useful. More useful than what? More useful than using the word neutral to describe how it does sound?

Are there any sonic characteristic words that you would exclude from those you say are not ascribable to a neutral system? Can you give examples of few?

I do not understand your third case, ie., the word neutral is exceptionally(?) useful in describing system matching. What is 'system matching'?
 
Jul 5, 2014
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#76
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
Good to hear you ceased worrying about neutrality because nothing you've heard from a playback system could possibly be even remotely close to entirely neutral. For various reasons.

But what's funny is that while you found an appreciation for warmth, body, and color, by straying away from "the absolute sound" you go on to share how much you appreciate the warmth and full-body of an unamplified live performance aka the absolute sound which is entirely neutral.

FWIW, much of the so-called warmth, body, and color the many experience via a playback system is coming from the electronics rather than the recording. Though you'd never know it, much of the warmth, body, and color of the live performance is indeed embedded in the recording. Even with many so-called inferior recordings. But it's just not audible due to a given playback system's numerous distortions. Hence, the electronics-induced warmth, body, and color that you mention actually act more as a band-aid to help mask or cover a given playback system's various shortcomings. Those who endorse this strategy will tell you it's more musical when in reality the playback system's level of musicality is simply a bit more tolerable and less fatiguing.
 

morricab

Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2014
3,008
303
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Switzerland
#77
Good to hear you ceased worrying about neutrality because nothing you've heard from a playback system could possibly be even remotely close to entirely neutral. For various reasons.

But what's funny is that while you found an appreciation for warmth, body, and color, by straying away from "the absolute sound" you go on to share how much you appreciate the warmth and full-body of an unamplified live performance aka the absolute sound which is entirely neutral.

FWIW, much of the so-called warmth, body, and color the many experience via a playback system is coming from the electronics rather than the recording. Though you'd never know it, much of the warmth, body, and color of the live performance is indeed embedded in the recording. Even with many so-called inferior recordings. But it's just not audible due to a given playback system's numerous distortions. Hence, the electronics-induced warmth, body, and color that you mention actually act more as a band-aid to help mask or cover a given playback system's various shortcomings. Those who endorse this strategy will tell you it's more musical when in reality the playback system's level of musicality is simply a bit more tolerable and less fatiguing.
Again more non-sensical contradictions:

"by straying away from "the absolute sound" you go on to share how much you appreciate the warmth and full-body of an unamplified live performance aka the absolute sound which is entirely neutral."

"Though you'd never know it, much of the warmth, body, and color of the live performance is indeed embedded in the recording. Even with many so-called inferior recordings"

" Hence, the electronics-induced warmth, body, and color that you mention actually act more as a band-aid to help mask or cover a given playback system's various shortcomings."

First you say that having warmth and full-body of an unamplified live performance is being had by straying away from "neutral"

Then you say that ACTUALLY much of the warmth etc. is embedded in the recording afterall

THEN you say that this is from electronics distortions that mask shortcomings and make everything sound pretty.

So which is it? Is it in the recording or is it distortion from the electronics? And IF it is embedded in the recordings and a system expresses this in the playback is it simply that system digging out or uncovering the "real" information in that recording or is it smearing lipstick on the pig? How would you know the difference because you state even somewhat inferior recordings are actually better than we think...so the determination by difference (as proposed by Audio Note) would not work so well if now many recordings are expressing warmth etc.

Now, I am perfectly able to say that both could be possible but determining which gear is truly uncovering the reality on the recording and which gear is "prettfying" the situation is far from trivial to discern...but one thing then would be clear is that gear that makes the sound overly analytical and tonally grey would indicate primarily the gear in your world, no?
 
Feb 1, 2019
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#78
Nice to know we are close wrt your first case. The word neutral has little value when used to describe how a system sounds?

In your second case, using the word neutral to describe how a system does not sound, you say that is more useful. More useful than what? More useful than using the word neutral to describe how it does sound?

Are there any sonic characteristic words that you would exclude from those you say are not ascribable to a neutral system? Can you give examples of few?

I do not understand your third case, ie., the word neutral is exceptionally(?) useful in describing system matching. What is 'system matching'?
Yes, more useful than using the word neutral in the context of describing sound.

Yes; Transparent, detailed, musical, natural, insightful, rhythmical , extended etc. A neutral system can be (must be?) any or all of those without sounding less neutral.

System matching is the bringing together of various diverse components in a harmonious, synergistic, musically rewarding way, the opposite of which would be, for example, matching warm sounding speakers with a euphonic sounding valve amplifier or an amplifier that tends towards the analytical with speakers that offer a ‘dry’, ‘forward’ presentation. In principle, a neutral sounding component can be matched with pretty much anything without tipping the balance too far any one direction.
 
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Jul 5, 2014
656
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Salem, OR
#79
Again more non-sensical contradictions:

"by straying away from "the absolute sound" you go on to share how much you appreciate the warmth and full-body of an unamplified live performance aka the absolute sound which is entirely neutral."

"Though you'd never know it, much of the warmth, body, and color of the live performance is indeed embedded in the recording. Even with many so-called inferior recordings"

" Hence, the electronics-induced warmth, body, and color that you mention actually act more as a band-aid to help mask or cover a given playback system's various shortcomings."

First you say that having warmth and full-body of an unamplified live performance is being had by straying away from "neutral"

Then you say that ACTUALLY much of the warmth etc. is embedded in the recording afterall

THEN you say that this is from electronics distortions that mask shortcomings and make everything sound pretty.

So which is it? Is it in the recording or is it distortion from the electronics? And IF it is embedded in the recordings and a system expresses this in the playback is it simply that system digging out or uncovering the "real" information in that recording or is it smearing lipstick on the pig? How would you know the difference because you state even somewhat inferior recordings are actually better than we think...so the determination by difference (as proposed by Audio Note) would not work so well if now many recordings are expressing warmth etc.

Now, I am perfectly able to say that both could be possible but determining which gear is truly uncovering the reality on the recording and which gear is "prettfying" the situation is far from trivial to discern...but one thing then would be clear is that gear that makes the sound overly analytical and tonally grey would indicate primarily the gear in your world, no?
I'm sorry but I didn't write the above post with you as my intended audience.

BTW, aren't you the science expert with so many audio experiments under your belt who gets spooked whenever you hear your own recorrded voice? I'm pretty sure Thomas Edison, like you, was also spooked when he heard his own voice on his phonograph? Tee hee.
 

morricab

Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2014
3,008
303
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#80
I'm sorry but I didn't write the above post with you as my intended audience.

BTW, aren't you the science expert with so many audio experiments under your belt who gets spooked whenever you hear your own recorrded voice? I'm pretty sure Thomas Edison, like you, was also spooked when he heard his own voice on his phonograph? Tee hee.
Doesn't matter who you addressed it to...it's an open forum not a private conversation. I notice though you don't care to address your own contradictions...
 

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