What have you heard BEST of the BEST Systems do that GOOD/ VERY GOOD Systems Don't?

BlueFox

Member Sponsor
Nov 8, 2013
1,158
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48
Silicon Valley
#21
Very simply the best systems make you stop thinking about the room and the equipment and immerse you in the music.
Yes. I feel that sometimes we over think this hobby.
 

Tango

VIP/Donor
Mar 12, 2017
2,559
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113
Bangkok
#22
Beside wonderful comments written prior, I have another indicator and it can be proven. Best of the best system is when the system allows listener to listen to any format whether tape, digital or vinyl and find some musical pieces (i am talking software) are best with digital, some are best with vinyls and some are best with tapes. The system is no longer determining the best sound but the software dictates instead. Also the ease of use and life style finally become a determining factor influencing what format you want to listen to more. (MikeL comes to mind :rolleyes:) This is the best of the best imo.

Kind regards,
Tang
 
Last edited:
Oct 2, 2016
92
8
8
#23
I would love to have people list out the best systems they have listened to in term of specifics: speakers, components, power, room treatment, grounding rather than description. The other day VS guys post a short clip of VSA VR-111 playing a short piêc and it would fit most of your description.
 

thomask

Active Member
Dec 9, 2018
220
177
43
59
Washington State, US
#24
"Kingrex" who listened to " I am so lonesome tonight" by Elvis in my listening room today mentioned as follows.

It was best voice of "Elvis" with nuanced details and spooky presence.

My system combining SET amplifier and plasma tweeter is the best for vocal music.
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
10,590
887
113
London
#25
- The best of the best play all sorts of music - big orchestra, small chamber, vocals, blues, rock, jazz, electronica - all stellar.
- They work equally well with analog and digital
- They have the best tone
- They have the best dynamic range
- They have the best nuances
- They have the best scale
- They are compression free - whether in dynamics, scaling up, room acoustics, etc
- They create a You are there at the recording venue as you change recordings
- You focus on the whole picture yet if you put on your audiophile hat you could break it down to reviewer type attributes as above (bass, stage, etc) they would still come out great
- You can go to a live concert and come back to this system and enjoy both instead of lamenting how live is better
- They overcome the audio itch to swap of compulsive swappers to focus on software
 

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
10,590
887
113
London
#26
Yes. I feel that sometimes we over think this hobby.
But that's why this is a hobby?

Would a sports enthusiast just follow the overall score and the result without endlessly debating strike rates and averages and technique?
 

the sound of Tao

Well-Known Member
Jul 18, 2014
991
421
63
#28
SET=limbic
 
Jul 12, 2018
17
0
1
#29
I've got a good system, but i'm humble enough to say i've heard better systems/rooms. To me, the very best systems/rooms are able to approach the scale, dynamics, impact, sound stage, imaging, tone & timbre of live music in a convincing way which sounds natural to your ears and senses, not reproduced. I agree with Number9's comment that room acoustics are critical to achieving good sound, though i'd maybe argue about the percentages. To me the loudspeakers have the biggest influence on the sound of a system, followed by room acoustics. To underscore that, I would name a chance audition at a Dealer's showoom back in 1991 as the best sounding system i've ever heard. That system comprised Infinity IRS-V's, massive Class A mono blocks & a reference vinyl rig. The IRS speakers simply blew me away with their thunderous bass, huge sound stage, awesome dynamics & ethereal "reach out and touch it" imaging. My jaw hit the ground and I had tingles going down my spine. Not to mention the beautiful massive 7.5ft tall lacquered rosewood cabinets. That's it in a nutshell. The best sounding systems should blow you away, transport you to the music venue & inspire awe.
Maybe this belongs in another thread or a private conversation; but I'm sure others will find it interesting. I am intrigued by your tweaks. Which one(s) made the biggest improvement? Is the R-777 worth the hefty price? Does it work as a sleep aid as well as a room treatment?
 

Bodhi

Active Member
Apr 20, 2014
578
144
43
Melbourne, Australia
#30

Folsom

VIP/Donor
Oct 26, 2015
3,223
187
63
Eastern WA
#31
I think that some things are low bars.

Dynamics in the macro sense is one. Having headroom isn't as big of a deal to me. While I don't like when a stereo runs out of gas, at normal listening levels this doesn't happen hardly ever in a good stereo. You can be clipping pretty decently on some transients, while listening loud enough, and never know it. But if you crank it to rock concert levels those clips might become significant. What REALLY matters is what the clipping sounds like. Sometimes it's a benefit to be clipping because somethings are just too loud. But my point is that out of all the things that I believe make music good, the height of volume isn't one as long as it's sufficient.

Soundstage is another one, as it has very little to do with whether the music actually sounds good or not. It comes and goes with different recordings. Trying to get it from using grounding boxes and such to me is a deal with the devil. Don't get me wrong, it has an entertainment value but it does nothing to actually make me sit in front of a stereo so my desire to try and exaggerate it into something high significant just isn't interesting to me. I think a lot of 3D, and airiness all fit in with this... "Airiness" is an undesirable quality to me because it means low resolution colored/low-timbre music with any stereo I've heard, unless the air is from the recording itself.

Those are the two things that it seems like everyone is going for, because it's possible, and it woos people on first listen.

Sadly what's really hard is describing what "good" sounds like, it's easier to point out when a stereo lacks things to me.

The most important thing for me to actually sit and listen is lack of fatigue. There is nothing in the world that could make me keep a stereo that is fatiguing. I find an incredible amounts of them are... Sometimes it's just the cables being used, sometimes it's electronics, and almost always it's bad power. But there are some speakers... Anyways, in front of a good stereo I could nod off at higher volumes, or at least go into a meditative state. It takes A LOT of volume for them to actually hurt.

After that it must just sound good... to me the bar here is always largely tied to timbre. Basically, can it sound real? Sometimes it sounds real with reflections in the recording, sounds like a real instrument in a real studio, etc. Often the mastering/mixing process can make it sound less real. For example I acquired several 1/3S RCA mono records recently, and while they're very pleasant, no one would ever think "real" when listening to them (they're still treasures). But in general nothing sounds very real at all unless there are real timbral differences.

The stereo also needs to not be riddled with resonation problems (electrical, unrelated to physical). And there are certain things that also fight good sound like the binding posts not being able to electrically see each other when passing through the enclosure. Fixing these things allows you not to be alerted of "detail" (which I don't like, the alerted sense) but just hear the natural sound of what's being played. This is complicated because it would be easy to describe it as having "micro dynamics" but that's a stretch because when you clearly are acutely aware of "micro dynamics" then it's not a natural sound, your attention is directed. However it's really obvious when they aren't there on many stereos, when listening to something I know well.

But hearing nuance should be clear. Nuance is a nice word for a natural sound of fully homogenized music with its micro-dynamics and great resolution.

If you're already doing good with ^ that stuff, then bass will be very articulate, it'll sound less like bass and more like music. I do find numerous stereos sound like the bass is it's own thing, instead of sounding, say, like a standup bass.

Also tone seems to come with what I've already been talking about, real tone, not a bunch of second harmonic stuff. Many tube stereos have the resolution sound of timbre, but no real timbre to speak of, yet they have tone... it's kinda obvious where it comes from. To me it's a low bar.





I don't have stereos to report that qualify for what the high bar I have. Mine is the closest, and I know the changes I need to make to get more out of it (we're talking about actual engineered things, by Folsom, not little stuff like some footers or TT cart change). There are different stereos I've heard that do some things real well, but none go anywhere near all-the-way. I run into a lot of purposeful choices for things that deviate from the "nirvana" I seek, on purpose. Sometimes I think declined hearing might be the reason for them... (or never having it)
 
Likes: Lagonda

Lagonda

VIP/Donor
Feb 4, 2014
506
233
43
Denmark
#32
I think that some things are low bars.

Dynamics in the macro sense is one. Having headroom isn't as big of a deal to me. While I don't like when a stereo runs out of gas, at normal listening levels this doesn't happen hardly ever in a good stereo. You can be clipping pretty decently on some transients, while listening loud enough, and never know it. But if you crank it to rock concert levels those clips might become significant. What REALLY matters is what the clipping sounds like. Sometimes it's a benefit to be clipping because somethings are just too loud. But my point is that out of all the things that I believe make music good, the height of volume isn't one as long as it's sufficient.

Soundstage is another one, as it has very little to do with whether the music actually sounds good or not. It comes and goes with different recordings. Trying to get it from using grounding boxes and such to me is a deal with the devil. Don't get me wrong, it has an entertainment value but it does nothing to actually make me sit in front of a stereo so my desire to try and exaggerate it into something high significant just isn't interesting to me. I think a lot of 3D, and airiness all fit in with this... "Airiness" is an undesirable quality to me because it means low resolution colored/low-timbre music with any stereo I've heard, unless the air is from the recording itself.

Those are the two things that it seems like everyone is going for, because it's possible, and it woos people on first listen.

Sadly what's really hard is describing what "good" sounds like, it's easier to point out when a stereo lacks things to me.

The most important thing for me to actually sit and listen is lack of fatigue. There is nothing in the world that could make me keep a stereo that is fatiguing. I find an incredible amounts of them are... Sometimes it's just the cables being used, sometimes it's electronics, and almost always it's bad power. But there are some speakers... Anyways, in front of a good stereo I could nod off at higher volumes, or at least go into a meditative state. It takes A LOT of volume for them to actually hurt.

After that it must just sound good... to me the bar here is always largely tied to timbre. Basically, can it sound real? Sometimes it sounds real with reflections in the recording, sounds like a real instrument in a real studio, etc. Often the mastering/mixing process can make it sound less real. For example I acquired several 1/3S RCA mono records recently, and while they're very pleasant, no one would ever think "real" when listening to them (they're still treasures). But in general nothing sounds very real at all unless there are real timbral differences.

The stereo also needs to not be riddled with resonation problems (electrical, unrelated to physical). And there are certain things that also fight good sound like the binding posts not being able to electrically see each other when passing through the enclosure. Fixing these things allows you not to be alerted of "detail" (which I don't like, the alerted sense) but just hear the natural sound of what's being played. This is complicated because it would be easy to describe it as having "micro dynamics" but that's a stretch because when you clearly are acutely aware of "micro dynamics" then it's not a natural sound, your attention is directed. However it's really obvious when they aren't there on many stereos, when listening to something I know well.

But hearing nuance should be clear. Nuance is a nice word for a natural sound of fully homogenized music with its micro-dynamics and great resolution.

If you're already doing good with ^ that stuff, then bass will be very articulate, it'll sound less like bass and more like music. I do find numerous stereos sound like the bass is it's own thing, instead of sounding, say, like a standup bass.

Also tone seems to come with what I've already been talking about, real tone, not a bunch of second harmonic stuff. Many tube stereos have the resolution sound of timbre, but no real timbre to speak of, yet they have tone... it's kinda obvious where it comes from. To me it's a low bar.





I don't have stereos to report that qualify for what the high bar I have. Mine is the closest, and I know the changes I need to make to get more out of it (we're talking about actual engineered things, by Folsom, not little stuff like some footers or TT cart change). There are different stereos I've heard that do some things real well, but none go anywhere near all-the-way. I run into a lot of purposeful choices for things that deviate from the "nirvana" I seek, on purpose. Sometimes I think declined hearing might be the reason for them... (or never having it)
What equipment are you using Folsom ?
 
May 12, 2017
177
18
18
Texas
#33
I agree with almost all of these wonderful comments. (For me “emotionally engaging” can be achieved by modest systems. The big systems add an easier suspension of disbelief.)

I feel that — provided the room is large enough for these characteristics to reveal themselves — the SOTA speakers display a sonic scale and grandeur that smaller speakers only hint at. My personal favorites for this (in alphabetical order):

Cessaro Zeta
Genesis Prime
Gryphon Pendragon
Rockport Arrakis
Von Schweikert Ultra 11
I agree, I've been emotionally engaged since I used a Walkman. Good systems to me allow a little more of the artists emotions to come through and sound natural to me at the same time. I could play certain songs in my car and no one seems to notice, play the same song at home and people start tearing up. I take it as a compliment.

Dave
 
Likes: stereonut8

RogerD

Well-Known Member
May 23, 2010
3,299
28
48
BiggestLittleCity
#34
The best systems reveal everything that is on the recording. The entire room disappears and you are in the music. Mimicking the venue and the position of the players. A level of power,nuance, and clarity that produces a level of emotion that the composer,players or conductor intended.
 
Likes: stereonut8

Folsom

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Oct 26, 2015
3,223
187
63
Eastern WA
#35
What equipment are you using Folsom ?
At this point it's basically all proprietary stuff no one has ever heard. Some, but not all, will become products. Although I do have a good old Bel Canto CD1 if I for some reason can't listen to vinyl, but really want to play some tunes.
 
Likes: Lagonda

Lagonda

VIP/Donor
Feb 4, 2014
506
233
43
Denmark
#36
At this point it's basically all proprietary stuff no one has ever heard. Some, but not all, will become products. Although I do have a good old Bel Canto CD1 if I for some reason can't listen to vinyl, but really want to play some tunes.
Is it solid state or tube gear ? What has been your inspirational gear ?
 

Atmasphere

[Industry Expert]
May 4, 2010
820
17
18
St. Paul, MN
www.atma-sphere.com
#37
I forgot something alluded to earlier.


A system should while being effortless, also be emotionally involving. This is important! The brain interprets music in the limbic centers; if something is weird about the musical presentation (distortion, isn't fast enough, etc.) there is a tipping point where the processing is moved to the cerebral cortex. At this point emotional response is truncated; you really want to avoid that happening!


If the equipment is engineered to deal with how the ear/brain system perceives sounds (rather than to look good on traditional spec sheets which ignore human hearing perceptual rules) then you can make this happen.
 
Likes: RogerD

User211

Well-Known Member
Jul 28, 2014
1,185
77
48
#38
Consider this.

Nothing.

It's all a blend of compromises and nothing else.

Some days I really enjoy my Ultimate Ears Bluetooth speaker more than anything, including the best systems at Munich.

This sounds a cretinous statement to make. But it is true.

How can that be?

Mood? I think so. It's paramount.

I'm not saying I am moody, mind.:)

Technical merit and accuracy are a different thing. And the best systems should excel in it. That won't make them the most enjoyable but it will, technically, make them the best
 
Likes: stereonut8
Jul 5, 2014
648
16
18
Salem, OR
#39
Please be specific
Seems your scale of good, very good, and best skipped excellent (just shy of best). :) Nevertheless, your categories seem fairly nebulous especially since we’re already talking about perhaps the most subjective industry/hobby known to mankind. Of course, there’s also the tremendously varied levels of our ability to discern / interpret what we hear.

Setting aside those potential controversies, perhaps it’s easier just to answer as if the question were reworded to something like, “What does the very best system you’ve heard do that lesser systems cannot do?”

When compared to less than the best, the very best playback system I've heard to date generates, preserves (as opposed to provides) or prevents (not induces) the following attributes like no other system can:
  1. Preserves the audibility at the speaker of what seems almost like an overabundance of music information that otherwise was not known to be already embedded in any given recording whether the recording is superior or inferior. I can stop here if you’re only interested in the short answer. Otherwise, I’ll continue with the effects of #1 above.
  2. Preserves what seems like an overabundance of ambient information even from what many may deem as grossly inferior recordings.
  3. Preserves a 3-D, deep, tall, and wide soundstage that due to the abundance of ambient info reflects the recording hall’s boundaries and acoustics while the room’s boundaries and acoustic anomalies seemingly disappear.
  4. Preserves a music presentation that puts the listener’s ears at least a few rows into the audience with ALL the music at a realistic distance up on the soundstage such that without even closing one’s eyes, they’d swear their listening perspective was somewhere in the recording hall, even if it’s by the restrooms.
  5. Preserves a recording hall’s soundstage-filled sound that starts well behind and beyond the speakers and flows like a continuous wave out into the listening room toward the listener.
  6. Preserves a realistic level of dynamics that routinely surprises and excites but never induces an unnatural/unrealistic jump factor.
  7. Preserves the instruments’ timbral accuracy.
  8. Preserves a level of detail and space limited only by the recording mics’ placement and mastering techniques.
  9. Preserves a warmth and tonality resulting entirely from the music info embedded in the recording itself rather than any part the playback system equipment.
  10. Preserves the music’s tempo with an almost surprisingly quick / fast (natural) rise and fall time of a note’s initial attack.
  11. Preserves a note’s ensuing decay that can seemingly go on for some time.
  12. Preserves a deeper, tighter, faster, and more naturally well-defined bass.
  13. Preserves for a pristine and even delicate sound when instruments require such.
  14. Prevents any perceived negative sibilance. Except for those instances where its already embedded in a recording.
  15. Prevents any perceived glare, hash, breakup, or flattening out especially during complex/dynamic music passages for even the most torturous music like opera and choral or orchestral music like Mahler’s 8th symphony of 1000, or the sharp upper registers of a closely mic’ed piano.
  16. Generates essentially the same superior levels of musicality regardless of music type or genre so there is never a need for a playback system for this type of music and another playback system for another type of music.
  17. Prevents instruments, especially smaller percussive types from sounding larger than life, sometimes multiple times larger.
  18. Prevents a commonly “coveted” black or silent background since during a live music presentation, the music and harmonics and ensuing decays are forever traveling on the move throughout the soundstage and throughout the recording hall while merging and melding with other notes even forming new notes. There is no silence or black background unless the performers have stopped performing for a period of time.
  19. Prevents the listener from thinking that sound is emanating directly from the speakers.
  20. Generates in the listener a sense of engagement and enthusiasm normally reserved only for live performances even if the music is not their preferred genre.
  21. Preserves a tremendous amount of musicality from even those recordings previously deemed to be grossly-inferior. IOW, the vast majority of a listener’s library transforms into very musical and engaging recordings rather than just a very small percentage that in comparison are deemed listenable or preferred.
  22. Generates a level of excitement over and above the usual sense of engagement and enthusiasm due to a sense of disbelief that a counterfeit to the original can sound so dang musical or believable.
And though every lesser system will exhibit some of the above characteristics to some extent, it's almost almost never to the same extent. And where the best playback I've heard excels in perhaps every last category, lesser systems will fall all over themselves in some to many of these same categories.

It’s also important to note that the above attributes and others are experienced from hearing the best were under the following conditions / constraints:
  • At live performance volume levels and to a lesser extent at less than live performance volume levels.
  • There was no need for multi-channel.
  • There were no room acoustic treatments. Hence, I presume regardless of listening room boundaries and room’s acoustic anomalies, (assuming the room is already fairly reasonable rather than unreasonable) as with a best playback system the recording hall’s acoustics / ambient info embedded in a given recording and remaining audible at the speaker will every time completely overshadow the listening room’s boundaries and its potential anomalies.
 
Last edited:
Nov 19, 2015
1,143
94
48
Hutto TX
ibelieveinhifi.com
#40
The Best Systems I have had the pleasure to listen to make you want to keep playing music...non-stop. They do many of the things aforementioned, but keep you from listening to the gear. You listen to music instead of listening to a system
 

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