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Neutral audio gear, how?

post #1 of 58
Thread Starter 
I would like to set up an audio system that is as neutral as possible (neutral as in exact reproduction of the recording), but how do I conclude that a given component is in fact neutral? Is it even possible? Can neutral in an audio context ever be objective, or is it all a matter of subjective perception?
Every opinion and idea is most welcome!
post #2 of 58
Here's Bob Dylan bemoaning that even the recording aspect sucks ^^. I bold the part.

Quote:
But getting the band of his dreams into the studio was only half the battle. "The records I used to listen to and still love, you can't make a record that sounds that way," he explains. It is as if having taken his new material down to the crossroads of the recording studio Dylan isn't wholly sure the deal struck with the devil there was worth it. "Brian Wilson, he made all his records with four tracks, but you couldn't make his records if you had a hundred tracks today. We all like records that are played on record players, but let's face it, those days are gon-n-n-e. You do the best you can, you fight that technology in all kinds of ways, but I don't know anybody who's made a record that sounds decent in the past twenty years, really. You listen to these modern records, they're atrocious, they have sound all over them. There's no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like -- static. Even these songs probably sounded ten times better in the studio when we recorded 'em. CDs are small. There's no stature to it. I remember when that Napster guy came up across, it was like, 'Everybody's gettin' music for free.' I was like, 'Well, why not? It ain't worth nothing anyway.' ". . .
So short answer is no, game over. You can send me your worthless audio system and I'll dispose of it properly.
post #3 of 58
My opinion I would start with a Lavry DA10 dac. Then get an amp from Headamp considering like a GS-1 or GS-X. The headphone would be what I would use for color or no color. I don't really know of a headphone that does not have some color. The nearest thing in the dynamic world would be either a DT-880 or a AKG 702 but both of these sound different from each other and that difference itself is a type of color.

You could go into the Stax world with a Headamp KGSS and an Omega with the Lavry DA10 as a source. Even the Omega's have a sound of their own that could be considered providing some color.

Music does not exist in a vacuum. An arena or soundstage is going to color the instruments. So a completely neutral system is not real, in my opinion.

My primary setups are

Lavry DA10 --> KGSS---> Stax SR-007MKII
Lavry DA10--> Yamamoto HA-02 (provides it's own color) --> Ultrasone Edition 9 which has a special synergy with the Yamamoto to me.

I can also place my ESW10JPN with the Yamamoto to get a different and very pleasing sound that is nearly as good as the other two. With all three setups having very different sound presentations.

All are great setups I think and both sound very different.
post #4 of 58
Yeah, I have pretty much ditched my quest to have a "neutral" system. Once you reach a certain level of expense most systems sound awesome anyway so just choose the sound you like the most.

I have pretty much settled on tube source --> tube preamp --> ss amp as the speaker setup once I get that going. Nowhere near "neutral" but I enjoy the sound.
post #5 of 58
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your feedback!
The reason I want a non-colouring system is that I listen to so many genres and I think a neutral system should suit all kinds of music.
The recording aspect is as it is, but I want the recorded sound to come out of my hp/speakers as it was recorded. That should be possible, but I guess the quest for such a system would go on forever, as long as there is no truly objective way to compare the true sound of the recording to the sound coming out of the system. Hmm...
post #6 of 58
I've come up with a theory. I think that the power of music to affect the human mind is dependent on our memory and imagination just as much as on sound reproduction quality. The reason why sounds have so much emotional content (other than those deriving from instincts) is because we have associated them with all our other senses. When we hear our mom's voice we think of other aspects of our mom not just her voice. No matter how good a sound system is, it will never teach you the sensation associations you get from hearing things in real life with their visual and olfactory and tactile associations (instinctive responses excepted). A parallel would be a painting of an apple when you have never tasted, smelled, or felt an apple before. The instinctive responses will be there when you see the painting, but you will miss so much emotional content. But someone who has experienced an apple will be able to breathe life into the painting by aide of his memory and imagination. In conclusion, sound reproduction is just as fake as a painting, its enjoyment is dependent on our past experiences and power of imagination as much as it is dependent on not having the sound quality of a $5 tapeplayer at the drugstore.
post #7 of 58
Thread Starter 
Real interesting thoughts you've got going there. Seems spot on to me!

I want to clarify what I mean by neutral: I want the sound coming out of my hp/speakers to be as true to the information on the source material as possible, since everything that happened before the cd (eg) was finalized is impossible for me to do anything about.
It would be impossible to put together a system that makes a cd sound the way the music sounds live, so that is obviously not my intention. Even with live-records this wouldn't be possible (imho), since the sound is affected by the mics, there placement, limits in the media etc.
post #8 of 58
Maybe you could try demoing sennheiser's orpheus system HowStuffWorks "Consumer Electronics Show 2002"

bring a squirt gun if you think it is neutral enough for ya and you want it.
post #9 of 58
The Grado HP-2 is the only truly neutral headphone ever made, as far as I can tell. If you really want neutral, you'll have to suck it up and get ahold of one. And then you can combine that with a neutral tube amp if you want to add a touch of warmth, or a neutral SS amp if you want more precision.

I do think neutral exists. Because you can hear it when you listen to the HP2's- it is this feeling that the headphones are not adding anything into the music, no salt or pepper or spices, just straight up meat and potatoes!

I think many people mistake neutral for analytical or resolving. But neutral to me has nothing to do with detail, it is about tone, and about sound signature, frequency response. Trumpets must sound like trumpets, everything must be produced evenly throughout the spectrum....
post #10 of 58
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the posts!
I'm currently on a gathering-of-money-quest, which is quite boring, but that bordedom will eventually transform into joyous music-hearing (hopefully). When that quest is finished I will go on another one involving a lot of listening to different HPs and amps and when I've made my choices I'll tell everyone what to get
Keep your posts coming though, I'm still certainly interested in your views and thoughts!
post #11 of 58
If you want neutral stop looking for 'audiophile' rubbish.
The most neutral stuff you can get is Dynaudio, Mackie and Genelec.
If you haven't heard of them then you haven't been in a recording studio. This stuff is professional gear and made for critically evaluating recordings.

The good thing is that not all of it is out of reach of consumers wallet (except maybe Genelec).
post #12 of 58
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slackboy72 View Post
If you want neutral stop looking for 'audiophile' rubbish.
The most neutral stuff you can get is Dynaudio, Mackie and Genelec.
If you haven't heard of them then you haven't been in a recording studio. This stuff is professional gear and made for critically evaluating recordings.

The good thing is that not all of it is out of reach of consumers wallet (except maybe Genelec).
Have heard them/of them and also Adam, but none of them make headamps, sources, dacs, headphones etc. so what's your take on that?

By the way isn't it a pitty that the headphone arena isn't wider when it comes to manufacturers? I mean, if you're out to get a pair of speakers you better bring your machete, chainsaw, what have you, to get through a small part of that jungle. Hmm... perhaps it's a good thing after all
post #13 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slackboy72 View Post
If you want neutral stop looking for 'audiophile' rubbish.
The most neutral stuff you can get is Dynaudio, Mackie and Genelec.
If you haven't heard of them then you haven't been in a recording studio. This stuff is professional gear and made for critically evaluating recordings.

The good thing is that not all of it is out of reach of consumers wallet (except maybe Genelec).
Quote:
Originally Posted by bjojoj View Post
Have heard them/of them and also Adam, but none of them make headamps, sources, dacs, headphones etc. so what's your take on that?

By the way isn't it a pitty that the headphone arena isn't wider when it comes to manufacturers? I mean, if you're out to get a pair of speakers you better bring your machete, chainsaw, what have you, to get through a small part of that jungle. Hmm... perhaps it's a good thing after all
Some professional equipment has headphone jacks. Of the 3 brands listed, 2 only make monitors. Mackie makes a Firewire preamp that has 2 headphone jacks. I believe that a lot of manufacturers make similar equipment. The only one I heard, and that also gets a lot of talk here, is the Presonus Central Station.
post #14 of 58
Thread Starter 
Scompton & Slackboy: Thanks, had not thought of that, but I'll definitely check out the pro equipment then!
post #15 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by bjojoj View Post
I would like to set up an audio system that is as neutral as possible (neutral as in exact reproduction of the recording), but how do I conclude that a given component is in fact neutral? Is it even possible? Can neutral in an audio context ever be objective, or is it all a matter of subjective perception?
Every opinion and idea is most welcome!
invite a friend over to sing and play their acoustic guitar for a while and record it.

ask your friend to play the same music on the guitar while you listen to the recording on your 'rig'

life headphones on and off, if things dont sound very close you need to change something.
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