The language of Reproduction and the language of Music.

Ron Resnick

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i have to agree.

sometimes you do break through the clouds and mist. it's only a personal sense, and you have to be careful not to call it fact. but you know where you are.

i've had a few of those personal transcendent music reproduction/hifi experiences like that; starting 6 years ago with my room tuning my system. i knew i was done. here i am. and since then, i have been. then the 468 dart monos. ok.....check. the CS Port linear tracker/Etsuro Gold/LFD phono cable. can't get enough of it.....always fresh and embracing. like i'm hearing it for the first time. and now the Wadax Ref dac/server combo. a new level and all the way to where it ought to be. and i'm still working through getting the best from the Wadax.

years of pushing on all these areas, and then a sense that you got leverage on the law of diminishing returns.....it switched your way. you do need time for the reality of it to settle in. and the humility to realize it might not really be going on. but with time it proves out. it's still not fact.....it's just a sense.

but i can certainly relate to Roy's way of thinking.

I love the music-motivating enthusiasm and hobby-istic romance of the geometric or quantum leap in sound quality concept. I am just skeptical that upon careful, introspective and sober analysis the sonic improvement is not actually linear.

I would like to be wrong, and you to be correct!
 

Elliot G.

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Isn't it possible for someone to hearing/experiencing something that YOU have not? Perhaps the nature of their system is beyond yours? we as humans tend to have preconceived thoughts and idea about what we have no experience with or to protect our opinions that we have already made. I see this all the time in audio and sometimes it just funny. when you are a manufacturer/distributor or even a dealer you have to deal with this on a constant basis.
Let me use a non audio example. I remember vividly my friend wanting to take me to a new restaurant when I still lived in NY that served raw fish. I had never eaten sushi at the time and from my personal background this was something I never considered eating. I wanted to be grossed out and I wanted to dislike it even before I stepped into the place. We had gotten stoned on the way over to the restaurant which was par for our course in those days and after a few Saki's somehow my opinion completely flipped.
I see much of audio the same way. People are certainly entitled to their own opinion's and feelings but sometimes they are really the position that they have taken before. Let me try to explain. I do audio shows to display our products. The reactions we get to the sound at these shows is all over the board.
Its bright/ its dull
its engaging/its not engaging
it has great bass/ it has lousy bass
I loved it/ it sucks
etc. You get the point. How can it be all of those things?
Maybe the real point here is that you need an open mind to experience things and just because you own or like something does not mean it is the "truth" or the only opinion. If you want to learn and improve your listening experience try opening your mind as well as your ears and go beyond hearing and try listening hopefully without preconceived bias.
 

Mike Lavigne

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I love the music-motivating enthusiasm and hobby-istic romance of the geometric or quantum leap in sound quality concept. I am just skeptical that upon careful, introspective and sober analysis the sonic improvement is not actually linear.
Ron,

finding the tipping point where the next order of magnitude occurs is maybe not predictable in the enjoyment of art. it might be a tiny objective difference (or a group of super tiny differences) that causes a world of perceptive change. it's a sensory thing. like whether an orange is organic or not. it either is or is not.....and there is no faking it.....yet experientially it is an undefinable difference. but you know it's true for you.
 
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morricab

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Isn't it possible for someone to hearing/experiencing something that YOU have not? Perhaps the nature of their system is beyond yours? we as humans tend to have preconceived thoughts and idea about what we have no experience with or to protect our opinions that we have already made. I see this all the time in audio and sometimes it just funny. when you are a manufacturer/distributor or even a dealer you have to deal with this on a constant basis.
Let me use a non audio example. I remember vividly my friend wanting to take me to a new restaurant when I still lived in NY that served raw fish. I had never eaten sushi at the time and from my personal background this was something I never considered eating. I wanted to be grossed out and I wanted to dislike it even before I stepped into the place. We had gotten stoned on the way over to the restaurant which was par for our course in those days and after a few Saki's somehow my opinion completely flipped.
I see much of audio the same way. People are certainly entitled to their own opinion's and feelings but sometimes they are really the position that they have taken before. Let me try to explain. I do audio shows to display our products. The reactions we get to the sound at these shows is all over the board.
Its bright/ its dull
its engaging/its not engaging
it has great bass/ it has lousy bass
I loved it/ it sucks
etc. You get the point. How can it be all of those things?
Maybe the real point here is that you need an open mind to experience things and just because you own or like something does not mean it is the "truth" or the only opinion. If you want to learn and improve your listening experience try opening your mind as well as your ears and go beyond hearing and try listening hopefully without preconceived bias.
When you are very familiar with live Unamplified music (Just saw Denis Matsuev playing Beethoven, Schubert and Rachmaninov at Tonhalle Zurich) then you will never hear a stereo do something you have never heard before. You might get closer to that paradigm than you have heard before and that can be an ear opener to possibilities but won’t surpass a good live concert.
 

PeterA

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Peter,

i personally agree with Gregory’s diminishing returns idea on both a conceptual and experiential basis in my system.

The sequential addition in my system of the Taiko Extreme server, the upgrade of the totaldac d1-12 mk2 to the mk3, the upgrade of the Sablon USB cable from the 2020 to the EVO, and the addition of the CS2M footers under the Taiko Extreme, has provided a perceptible order of magnitude (greater than linear) improvement in the emotional engagement of the system with each cumulative addition.

In fact, the most recent addition, the upgrade of the d1-12 mk2 to the mk3, provided the greatest increment in musical engagement: an effortless and unwavering right brain engagement in the music.

I believe this latest level of engagement is possible because as based on Stirling Trayle’s comments in the HiFI+ review, the noise floor has been lowered to the point where artifacts created during the musical reproduction, no longer grab the left brain’s analytical attention; which allows the emotional right brain to dominate perception effortlessly.

cmarin, yes, I understand what you are saying. I was reacting to what on its face is a fairly radical comment, especially in a review, about defeating the law of diminishing returns. I was startled and did not comment further at the time. Having thought about it a bit more, I can share some thoughts.

I used to think of the notion of diminishing returns as a common experience most people have when they are on the merry go round always upgrading to the next best thing and accepting small incremental improvements in overall sound quality and experience. This is one aspect that drives the industry: the promise for incremental improvement through changes and upgrades. It comes with major purchases like new SOTA speakers, sources, or monster amps. It also comes from new cable looms, a power cord, sets of footers, racks, power conditioners, and cartridges. I remember reading poetry about tonearm wiring and headshell interfaces. Everything made a difference, and the more developed the system, the more easily these differences could be heard. Great stuff for forum threads, especially with nice photos.

I experienced something similar but from doing the opposite. Rather than continuing to buy new stuff, I experimented with set up and learned by listening to the effect of small changes. I began removing things from the system and room and hearing improvements. I replaced supports, cords, and outlets with common, industrial alternatives. The more I removed, the greater the improvements became. Simplification became an approach as I focused on set up for the biggest gains. Of course, what I heard was predicated in large part on the major components I kept. In one sense, this would be even more radical to read in a review because it goes against the conventional wisdom. Then having gone as far as I thought I could, I stopped. I then changed direction completely.

Reading this comment from Mr. Gregory was refreshing. He is talking about a very expensive amplifier. He goes on to recommend two of them in mono mode. I am glad he thinks that such a purchase would shatter the conventional notion of small incremental improvements. I would hope that such a change should bring about a monumental shift in the appreciation of one's system.

I am now hearing changes with cartridge selections and tonearm fine tuning that were inaudible before. These are so simple and so gratifying that I am no longer considering big purchases. I now only think about new things I will discover from listening to music. A diminishing return is the last thing I want from a big purchase. It should be something much more. I think Mr. Gregory hits on something very important. It is a kind of shift in how to think about what you get out of a purchase, a new way of looking at things. I think of Jeff Day's wonderful essay about the Expanding Listing Window in a similar way.
 

Ron Resnick

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Isn't it possible for someone to hearing/experiencing something that YOU have not?


Perhaps the nature of their system is beyond yours?


we as humans tend to have preconceived thoughts and idea about what we have no experience with or to protect our opinions that we have already made.

Absolutely correct! I agree with each of these individual points.

My views are confined to, and constrained by, my personal experience. Of course I agree with this. Anyone who considers himself/herself to be intellectually honest would have to agree with this. I also agree with you that many people do not understand this for themselves.

Please keep in mind that I have heard some of the most respected high-end audio systems in the world. And I have enjoyed and observed and verified the incremental improvements I have watched my friends make to their systems. So I am not extrapolating merely from my own system.

People can disagree about how to describe in words and how to quantify the incremental sonic improvements they hear.

All I said is that I am skeptical. I even stated explicitly that I would like to be wrong, and that Mike is correct.
 
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PeterA

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I am a fan of Roy Gregory, but after that review excerpt was posted here I received an urgent alert from the Hyperbole Police!

I don't care how good a component reportedly sounds. A serious declaration that a component has vanquished the law of diminishing returns strikes me as cringey.

Ron, I am of mixed feelings about this now. I actually think it is an interesting topic. Can one major purchase like a pair of CH M10 vanquish the law of diminishing returns? I don't know. Perhaps for one particular listener, or one reviewer. What is more interesting is the whole notion of diminishing returns, so for that Mr. Gregory has made a striking comment. I shared my thoughts on that broader subject in the post above.
 

Ron Resnick

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it might be a tiny objective difference (or a group of super tiny differences) that causes a world of perceptive change.

This is a wonderful and understandable way to explain your point!
 
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andromedaaudio

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Can one major purchase like a pair of CH M10 vanquish the law of diminishing returns?
May be you can ask marty ??

May be one should put a time limit of 5 years on a product before to buy .
5 years should clear it from all hypes and establish its real marketplace value
 

PeterA

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Wil please keep your own opinion , dont let bullies change that
You are exactly right .

Unfortunately horn criticism on WBF these days is met with


Your ears are not good .
You have no expirience .
You have no live music exposure .
...etc etc

If you feel offended or bullied, or read ad hominem attacks, you should report posts to Ron.

A few years ago, there was little to no discussion of horn speakers on WBF, critical or otherwise. There were, however, criticisms of well regarded and mainstream cone/box speakers like Magico and Wilson. I endured much criticism from certain members and was told to get out more and gain exposure. I had Magicos.

There are now threads about horns, videos about horns, and of both vintage and modern horns. The discussion is pretty robust, often critical, but also complimentary. There was just a comment about horns being colored. The only exposure on which this was based was one pair of AG Duos. It goes both ways. There are videos of other types of speakers, though far fewer. I posted many Magico videos and would love to see more of other non horn speakers. There are some nice ones of Soundlabs. The WBF tent seems to be growing, and I think that is a good thing.

Just look at all the different speaker types described and discussed in Rhapsody Listening Rooms. There will always continue to be criticisms of Magico and Wilson too. I don't think those owners feel bullied. I didn't, though I did find it annoying after a while. I think your characterization above is inaccurate. You should cite examples when making such a strong statement. Who has ever written "Your ears are not good", or "You have no experience or live music exposure"? I have not seen such posts here.
 

andromedaaudio

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I never report anything peter i m not in elementary school i can speak for myself
I express my feelings in general thats all peter .
I have the impression a lot in the horn crowd feel themselves exalted above the rest .
Thats probably where the cult thing arised from (which i didnt invent by the way )

Horns are just one way to look at things ( influenced by music genre)
 
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andromedaaudio

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Plus all this horn talk had me motivated to go to an audioshow once again .
I d really wanted to hear the latest JBL s AG FYNE Ls where everybody was raving about .

That was a disappointment ( to say it to politely ) especially those JBL s
If it was only for such ( horn ) transducers i would have never gotten into high end audio.
So yeah everybody experiences ( high end ) audio differently
 
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Cellcbern

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All reviews carry a bias from the literature and contact with the designer/manufacturer. Sometimes we get two independent reviews from different parts of the world using almost the same words to describe the sound of equipment. In fact, part of the review is explaining the equipment it self and the targets of the manufacturer. Bias is part of our subjective hobby and will always exist. At best we can learn how to deal with it.
Each of us brings some amount of bias to every human endeavor and interaction-that is part of the human condition. And this is no less true for posters on the WBF forum than for audio reviewers. Many experienced reviewers and audiophiles are aware of and acknowledge their listening biases in an attempt to be more objective in their assessments of components. Some reviewers acknowledge their biases in their reviews. We also know that different people hear differently and listen for different things, and that music preferences play a role in this, so it is possible that different reviewers in different parts of the world will hear different things from the same component even without manufacturer influenced bias.

I wonder if it would improve the communication on this forum if "Listening Biases" and "Music Preferences" sections were added in the "About" section where posters list the equipment that makes up their systems? Would anyone be interested in that?

Note that Ron Resnick raised this issue back in 2015:

 
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MarkusBarkus

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...when I read a review of any sort, online or print, professional or enthusiast, I am very interested in what "tracks" were used for the review.

These tracks and the (usually) effusive language describing aspects of the sound are very helpful to attempt to understand the reviewer's POV.

In the days of Qobuz, I can almost always find the titles, if I don't have them locally. I listen for the passages and details noted. About half the time (informal estimate) the noted details are, to me, grossly exaggerated.

I recognize I usually have different gear from that which is being reviewed, and of course my room, ears and brain are different. Sometimes very different.

That said, I can still get a sense of how the extraordinary language describing a drum hit, guitar brand, tone, etc. unfolds for me, in my room. I know some of this is just creative writing and making word count.

One can usually recognize hyperbolic, floral descriptions for what they are in the reading, but mapping the language back, is informative, and over time, a picture emerges of a reviewer, or maybe even a component.

Allowing for extraordinary systems and extraordinary ears, I think most sounds, details, tones, etc. probably cluster around recognizable characteristics plus/minus.

The aspect that I find annoying in some reviews is the gross hyperbole and exaggeration of detail.

Backgrounds become so dark, you need night-vision goggles of find your gear. I think: how much more black? None. None more black, to paraphrase Nigel Tufnel.

My room is in the basement, so my noise floor is already subterranean, but it's not truly low until you hit magma, it seems.

And every time a veil is lifted, I think: Yes! Only six more to go!
 

marty

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The comments regarding Mr. Gregory's remarks that the M10s do away with the concept of “diminishing returns” is so naïve and arrogant that it compels commentary. To begin, as many readers know, it goes without saying that such a remark should be prefaced with IMHO in capital letters, although I find it unlikely that any comments by Mr. Gregory can rightfully include the “H”. It is also important to note that I found the M10’s an inferior amplifier to several others for my particular system since I think they are inadequate to bring out the best in bass performance on my Alex V’s, however this is not the basis for my being offended by his remark that the M10 improvement in his system made him reconsider the concept of diminishing returns to the point that such nomenclature is heretofore irrelevant in referencing what good gear is trying to accomplish . Our disagreement on the M10 is certainly legitimate and reasonable as any two audiophiles may agree or disagree on the merits of any piece of gear. That’s not the issue.

Rather, my objection is that by using such grandiose terminology, I would simply ask Mr. Gregory why he would even bother to review any other piece of equipment at all in the future? He just stated that further improvement, as we strive for in trying to get a closer approximation to the real thing, is now basically irrelevant. Could it really be that he feels that no gap exists anymore between the world of reproduction as he hears it with his Series 10 gear, and the real thing? C’mon, Roy take it down a notch. You surely have plenty of things to say I can learn from, but this sort of self-aggrandizing terminology does not serve us well.
 
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Cellcbern

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Each of us brings some amount of bias to every human endeavor and interaction-that is part of the human condition. And this is no less true for posters on the WBF forum than for audio reviewers. Many experienced reviewers and audiophiles are aware of and acknowledge their listening biases in an attempt to be more objective in their assessments of components. Some reviewers acknowledge their biases in their reviews. We also know that different people hear differently and listen for different things, and that music preferences play a role in this, so it is possible that different reviewers in different parts of the world will hear different things from the same component even without manufacturer influenced bias.

I wonder if it would improve the communication on this forum if "Listening Biases" and "Music Preferences" sections were added in the "About" section where posters list the equipment that makes up their systems? Would anyone be interested in that?
FYI:

 

wil

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If you feel offended or bullied, or read ad hominem attacks, you should report posts to Ron.

A few years ago, there was little to no discussion of horn speakers on WBF, critical or otherwise. There were, however, criticisms of well regarded and mainstream cone/box speakers like Magico and Wilson. I endured much criticism from certain members and was told to get out more and gain exposure. I had Magicos.

There are now threads about horns, videos about horns, and of both vintage and modern horns. The discussion is pretty robust, often critical, but also complimentary. There was just a comment about horns being colored. The only exposure on which this was based was one pair of AG Duos. It goes both ways. There are videos of other types of speakers, though far fewer. I posted many Magico videos and would love to see more of other non horn speakers. There are some nice ones of Soundlabs. The WBF tent seems to be growing, and I think that is a good thing.

Just look at all the different speaker types described and discussed in Rhapsody Listening Rooms. There will always continue to be criticisms of Magico and Wilson too. I don't think those owners feel bullied. I didn't, though I did find it annoying after a while. I think your characterization above is inaccurate. You should cite examples when making such a strong statement. Who has ever written "Your ears are not good", or "You have no experience or live music exposure"? I have not seen such posts here.
Speaking only for myself, I don't feel offended by Bonzo's statement. He makes a valid point, however his statements while definitive in his own mind, might also be more the result of his own way of hearing, preferences and resulting bias-- like everyone else here.

The point I was trying to make, in the context of the discussion, was that the holy pursuit of achieving a facsimile of live sound in one's basement, parlor, or where-ever is going to involve compromises. Horns (sometimes with compression drivers) seem to be the most obvious approach to achieving the dynamics of live sound. I was pointing out that -- in my experience of 5 years of listening to two AG models, that I heard a compromise in the form of horn coloration. I've also heard, for what it's worth, what sounds like an agressive horn sound in some of the horn speaker videos posted here. I believe I've become very sensitive to that sound.
 
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cmarin

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cmarin, yes, I understand what you are saying. I was reacting to what on its face is a fairly radical comment, especially in a review, about defeating the law of diminishing returns. I was startled and did not comment further at the time. Having thought about it a bit more, I can share some thoughts.

I used to think of the notion of diminishing returns as a common experience most people have when they are on the merry go round always upgrading to the next best thing and accepting small incremental improvements in overall sound quality and experience. This is one aspect that drives the industry: the promise for incremental improvement through changes and upgrades. It comes with major purchases like new SOTA speakers, sources, or monster amps. It also comes from new cable looms, a power cord, sets of footers, racks, power conditioners, and cartridges. I remember reading poetry about tonearm wiring and headshell interfaces. Everything made a difference, and the more developed the system, the more easily these differences could be heard. Great stuff for forum threads, especially with nice photos.

I experienced something similar but from doing the opposite. Rather than continuing to buy new stuff, I experimented with set up and learned by listening to the effect of small changes. I began removing things from the system and room and hearing improvements. I replaced supports, cords, and outlets with common, industrial alternatives. The more I removed, the greater the improvements became. Simplification became an approach as I focused on set up for the biggest gains. Of course, what I heard was predicated in large part on the major components I kept. In one sense, this would be even more radical to read in a review because it goes against the conventional wisdom. Then having gone as far as I thought I could, I stopped. I then changed direction completely.

Reading this comment from Mr. Gregory was refreshing. He is talking about a very expensive amplifier. He goes on to recommend two of them in mono mode. I am glad he thinks that such a purchase would shatter the conventional notion of small incremental improvements. I would hope that such a change should bring about a monumental shift in the appreciation of one's system.

I am now hearing changes with cartridge selections and tonearm fine tuning that were inaudible before. These are so simple and so gratifying that I am no longer considering big purchases. I now only think about new things I will discover from listening to music. A diminishing return is the last thing I want from a big purchase. It should be something much more. I think Mr. Gregory hits on something very important. It is a kind of shift in how to think about what you get out of a purchase, a new way of looking at things. I think of Jeff Day's wonderful essay about the Expanding Listing Window in a similar way.
I love the music-motivating enthusiasm and hobby-istic romance of the geometric or quantum leap in sound quality concept. I am just skeptical that upon careful, introspective and sober analysis the sonic improvement is not actually linear.

I would like to be wrong, and you to be correct!
Hi Ron, Peter and Mike,

“after sober introspection and sober analysis” - what’s that!? ;)

I think we’ve all experienced changes to our system where it was hard to detect whether it was indeed an improvement or not, and we neeeded additional time to determine if it was in fact real.

And we’re all familiar with the concept of diminishing returns applied to audio where incremental expenditures/effort produce less (not linear) improvement in the quality of the sound reproduction (however you choose to measure it) than the previous equal expenditure/effort.

The increments that I’m talking about are not diminishing or difficult to discern. We can’t really use the word linear or exponential to describe the increment because that assumes a quantifiable scale for musical enjoyment which we don’t have. Perhaps a better term is order of magnitude change or as Mike L put it “a transcendent experience”.

Is the perceived change real? I think it’s as real as any subjective experience can be, given that we can’t agree how to describe it or much less measure it.

But I can tell you the change was not minor. It was an order of magnitude change. It felt real to me in terms of how closer it felt to a live musical event experience than in my room before. And the changes were experienced with similar astonishment by two other persons who are familiar with my system. One of them in particular said vehemently: “do not change anything again, Please!!”

These are the kind of non-diminishing returns that I imagine Mike L mentioned and experienced when listening and deciding to acquire the Wadax.

Will the effect last past the passage of time and sober analysis? And will that make it real?

What little I know is that emotional response to a stimuli will decrease over time as the receptors become sensitized to the stimuli.

Just like falling in love or hearing a fantastic piece of music for the first time, or listening to your system reach a new level of emotional engagement, the shine will fade somewhat over time. Not necessarily because you were fooled by it, but because it’s a natural biological reaction. So will that make the first reaction less real?

In any case, we can can continue to debate these issues, and not necessarily agree in the end.

But what I do know, other than knowing I don’t know anything, is that the returns of investments/effort in audio do not have to be diminishing. They can be linear or greater than linear. Or as Mike L put it: “a tiny objective difference (or a group of super tiny differences) that causes a world of perceptive change”

And whether the CH Precision components will result in incremental improvement or greater than linear improvements, is not the reason I quoted the review.

The reason I quoted the review by Mr. Gregory, was the language used by Stirling and the reviewer, expands on the traditional audiophile jargon that misses the point that the purpose of listening is how it makes you feel, and why it makes you feel that way.

Which brings me to the idea presented by Stirling: our brain focuses on differences, so artifacts in the reproduction of music distract our brain away from the emotional side to the analytical side which disconnects us from the level of suspension of disbelief and enjoyment of the music.

So components that lower the noise/artifact levels sufficiently to new depths, like the Wadax and others, allow the right side of our brains to melt into the music with the emotional side of our brain fully engaged, without interruption by our analytical side.

And it is those kind of components that can create non-diminishing returns.
 
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tima

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The comments regarding Mr. Weaver’s remarks that the M10s do away with the concept of “diminishing returns” is so naïve and arrogant that it compels commentary.

I'm thinking you have the wrong guy Marty; do you mean Mr. Gregory - Roy Gregory?

Be that as it may, I'm genuinely surprised at all the heavy breathing over his comment on diminishing returns. The Hyperbole Police are known for tripping over themselves in their effort to justify their own existence. Rather than thinking a 'seasoned' audio writer is arrogant and naive, could it possibly be a bit of British humor or a comment to make you widen your eyes a bit, or pull your leg or even get people reading and talking about his review?

Someone will be along shortly to let you all out of the net.
 

Tango

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I have seen same people wow then wow then wow. It makes me think his first wow was just as Bonzo likes to say "lack of exposure" or maybe he is a very ticklish person. As for the language of music reproduction in this site the highest degree of wow is set at font #26 I believe.
 
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