Originally Posted by tin ears
You claim to be an electrical engineer with extensive musical training in piano and violin.
Since you continue to do the rope a dope, I am going to attempt to pin you to the ropes and deliver some body blows.
Let's say you go to the finest recording studio in the world, play your violin and piano and record it on the best equipment known to man. Would the system you currently own accurately reproduce the sound of your violin and piano in all its glory? if not, are there better systems available?
As an electrical engineer, if you were to attempt to design a system of audio electronics to reproduce your recording as accurately as possible and you had an unlimited budget, and you had no intentions of selling or marketing this, would it be a one box solution or would it be in multiple boxes?
I don't quite understand what the point of the recording studio question is but I'll try my best. Is my system going to get it 100% accurate? I wouldn't say so. Are there better systems? Probably. But even those systems are not going to get it 100% right. One violinist once said that his recordings were nice, but he lived for live performances. I think he's got the right idea. No system will capture the intensity and emotion of a live performance exactly as if you were actually there when it was recorded (visually or audibly). They can come close to the sound, close enough so most people might say it's the same, but it's not.
What you hear when playing your own violin (or any instrument) can differ drastically from what someone else hears in the audience. What I hear under my ear can be totally different from what I hear listening in the audience to someone else playing the same violin. I've played some violins where under your ear they sound nasal and anemic while 15 feet away in the audience they sound rich and full of character. I've had some violins where they will let you know exactly how you're playing under your ear, but fail to adequately project sound further away into the audience. It's up to the acoustics of your instrument and how it was made (another art).
You also have to take into account the acoustics of your concert hall/room. I've played in some halls where the acoustics were horrible (from a players perspective.) Sometimes you can hear the rest of your section behind you, sometimes you can't. If you totally lose feedback from the rest of your section, you lose some of your ability to lead them. Sometimes it sounds like you're ahead or behind the rest of the orchestra but you know you're not. There are a lot of factors to what you hear. That's why music is an art.
In fact, I'll go as far as saying the sound you record in a studio with a microphone a foot away from your instrument has already failed to capture the glory of my instrument. It's recording something entirely different from what somebody would hear sitting further away in the studio and most definitely further away in a concerthall. You can hear on some cds where you can tell (at least I can) that they placed the microphone right above the violinist. That gets you a clear sound from the violin. It however, is not what you'll hear in the audience sitting in the first row, second row, or even in the last row. Anyway that's getting away from the point of this thread (and possibly whatever you were trying to ask me.)
Responding to your EE question, I mentioned that ideally, I believe a manufacturer should design 100% of a sound system (from source to speaker, and possibly even the room) if they truly believe in the customer hearing what they want they intended them to hear. For example there are ways to get more out of an amp if you match inputs and outputs according to what you want to design, there's no guesswork as to what components may be hooked up, etc. Is this the best way to do things? Probably not. People like switching components and companies don't necessarily have the expertise to handle all of the design. I wouldn't design everything in one box either. There's a reason you don't place preamplifiers or sources directly on top of power amplifiers. You're going to get a lot of induced current/noise due to the power amp and your signal may not be what it should be. As an engineer, I would work to design the system so that the original signal makes it from source to speaker with as little distortion as possible. That's all you can hope to achieve as an engineer. You rarely, if ever, have the right to say whether or not it's true to the original performance. Is the bass anemic? Sounds bad. Is the treble not clear? Sounds bad. But you know what, maybe that's what it actually sounded like. You never know until you've experienced life on the other side of the mic.
If you really want to ask me what my philosophy on audio is, it's that you have to accept that what you're hearing will never be 100% the same as a live performance. Some recordings are mastered so they sound really nice to your ears but that might not be what it sounded like in person. Anything you do or add to 'improve' the sound of a system, be it a tweak, cable, source, or amp is not necessarily what's true to the recording (or even the sound the recording was trying to capture.) Sometimes what sounds good isn't accurate. Some classical recordings might sound good, but depending on how they were recorded, they're not necessarily what the performance actually sounded like.
Ok now I'm, really off topic.
Anyway, the point of the thread is to discuss any changes in sound you've heard from cables AND scientific reasoning as to why it should sound that way.
Now back to balanced cables. Some of you guys laugh at the notion that balanced cables might not sound better in home audio environments. In the spirit of the topic of the thead, please explain why that might be.
The whole reason for going balanced is the fact that with long cables, you're going to run them past amplifiers, other cables, stage lighting, audio mixing equipment, etc. You've got this long antenna picking up noise from one side of the stage to the other. Balanced cables, amps, and sources help alleviate this problem. Balanced cables in a home environment aren't going to pick up any more external noise going 3 feet than your typical unbalanced cable.
Can they help? I suppose they could in theory. Practically? I don't believe that short a run is going to make much of a difference at all.