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Neutral audio gear, how? - Page 4

post #46 of 58
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by gregorio View Post
In answer to the question, yes, it is possible to get pretty damn close but not with cans and not easily.

Obviously with cans, you are to an extent filtering out room acoustics. The commercial quality album was almost certainly not mixed on or designed for cans. It was mixed in a control room which has reverb, albeit highly controlled reverb in the best studios. What you need is a good pair of studio monitors (I prefer Genelecs), which are flush mounted (correctly). To be honest the exact make or model of equipment is largely irrelevant provided you are getting good studio grade gear. DA10 is certainly good enough for example. What is more important is the listening environment. Freq response of the room needs to be flat, probably requiring the use of acoustic panels, bass traps and other types of absorbers. Reverb needs to be controlled but not eliminated! RT60 of about 0.4 is a good figure to aim for. One or more diffusers are likely to be required to randomise the reverb.

Baring in mind all studios sound slightly different, nevertheless it is possible to create a pretty nuetral listening system. Although it won't be cheap, you certainly do not need to spend $30,000 a speaker. It will require some construction work though! There are quite a few websites out there detailing the construction of recording studios and except for the labour, the materials are not generally exhorbative.

G
Thanks for your input!

I realize that listening through hp alters the conditions and also relize the importance of room acoustics when listening through speakers, or to live music for that matter. My current issue is that I live in a rented apartment with a pretty small room for listening (12-15m2). Acoustically, the whole apartment sucks. Would I be wrong in thinking that listening through hp:s instead of speakers in such an environment would offer better possibilities of decently neutral sound? I'm not staying here forever though, so eventually I'll go down the route of acoustic treatment. Just a simple matter of finding a good job and a house
post #47 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nightmare View Post
In evaluating for neutrality and accuracy, "best" doesn't figure into it. "Best" figures into evaluating for colorations. If someone listens to two recordings of solo violin, and headphone #1 makes them both sound like the same instrument while headphone #2 makes them each sound unique, there's nothing subjective about that (same/different, not better/worse). Even if someone else hears the opposite, the differing conclusions are based on the listeners' hearing abilities and evaluation skills, not bias or personal preference.

Although I do see what you're getting at: listener enjoyment should indeed be the final arbiter when deciding what kind of system to stick with. Some people feel great satisfaction in knowing that they're listening to as faithful a reproduction (this is what high fidelity means, after all) of recorded media as they can, even though it may sound clinical or analytical. OP didn't ask how to evaluate for enjoyment, he asked how to evaluate for neutrality. Whether or not he'll enjoy the neutrality is a completely separate issue.
you don't see what I'm getting at, thats my point
read my signature for a bit of a philosophical explanation

now lets reference the matrix:

when they're eating their "protein suppliment" food in one scene, the character Mouse comes in "you know what this reminds me of? Tasty Wheat!", to which another character responds "you've never had Tasty Wheat", to which Mouse responds "see thats what makes it so great, what if the machines screwed up, and what I think tastes like Tasty Wheat, actually tastes like something else? and they couldn't figure out what to make Chicken taste like, so thats why it tastes like everything!"

in other words, you can't use the "method" you've proposed, because everyone's human experience is different, you hear a violin track and think its spot on through your system, just as the violinist should be sitting there, I hear it and say "no this is wrong because of this, this, and that", or it could be reversed, even if to your ears its a "perfectly neutral top of the world system"

it isn't about listener enjoyment, its about scientific method, you're changing at least THREE independent variables with your "experiment", you're only allowed one...

in other words, you're saying:
lets change complete systems, or even pieces of a system, change the source going into them, and then change the testing equipment, for each test, you can't do that, because it doesn't allow any true change to be shown empircally, it just allows a subjective opinion to be formed

in other words, your testing methodology is whack

there was another member a while ago who talked about the emotional impact of sound, we hear sounds and remember things, for example your mother's voice, you remember your mother, and experiences with her, not just the tones her voice makes, now look at performed music, I hear a violin or a cello and think of live performances I've seen, which are going to be different than other people's experiences (even if its the same performer with the same instrument, as you're changing a number of variables between venues, the biggest being acoustics, but theres also humidity and climate affects upon the instrument, strings or other pieces may be changed, the performer's mood and awareness, how involved they are, if their ensemble changes, the equipment it was recorded with, age of the recording, etc)

there is no objective way to compare equipment to a baseline, nor is there an objective way to declare something as a legitimate neutral reference, without measurement equipment and lots of money and time

in other words, like I said a few pages back, the OP is very misguided, and the arguement over if neutral exists simply muffles his head up more, its my opinion that this guy needs to stop reading on the internet and get himself out and about, and listen to some high end audio equipment with his source music, let him form his own opinions and experiences, and if this view is wrong, why do we have different equipment?
post #48 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post
you don't see what I'm getting at, thats my point
I see exactly what you're getting at, cup, and I completely agree with your central premise. The problem is that you're arguing against a strawman of the comparison by contrast method, not the method as it's actually designed. I think if you read the article, you'd find that you agree with most, if not all, of what the authors are saying. Read it a few times. I was resistant to it myself, at first, but the more I thought and re-read, the more sense it made.

Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post
in other words, you can't use the "method" you've proposed, because everyone's human experience is different, you hear a violin track and think its spot on through your system, just as the violinist should be sitting there
Comparison by contrast is not about looking for what sounds spot on. It's entirely based on the listener having no need to even know what "spot on" sounds like.

Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post
in other words, you're saying:
lets change complete systems, or even pieces of a system, change the source going into them, and then change the testing equipment, for each test, you can't do that, because it doesn't allow any true change to be shown empircally, it just allows a subjective opinion to be formed
That certainly doesn't reflect any sort of testing method I've endorsed. Perhaps you were confused by me talking about "comparing systems." I fully agree, one should never change more than one component when testing. But change one component, and you've got a different system. That's all I meant.

Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post
now look at performed music, I hear a violin or a cello and think of live performances I've seen, which are going to be different than other people's experiences (even if its the same performer with the same instrument, as you're changing a number of variables between venues, the biggest being acoustics, but theres also humidity and climate affects upon the instrument, strings or other pieces may be changed, the performer's mood and awareness, how involved they are, if their ensemble changes, the equipment it was recorded with, age of the recording, etc)
Yes, this is exactly my point. Neutral and accurate equipment should reveal the differences between the two very similar performances you've described. It's not at all about how "real" they sound, because as you say, each person's perception of "real sound" differs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post
there is no objective way to compare equipment to a baseline, nor is there an objective way to declare something as a legitimate neutral reference
Yes, exactly! There's no such thing as a baseline when it comes to recorded music. I've been saying this all along. The comparison by contrast method was developed because there is no way to declare a reference. The method does away with the need for any reference at all, including (in fact, especially) the listener's ideas of what music should sound like.
post #49 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!
Why? Would it not be more enjoyable to set up a system that just sounds good to you? Even if that is "neutral".
post #50 of 58
i agree with blueyez in his response to bjojojojojojoj, doubt bjojojojojojoj will listen though

to nightmare, both methods outlined in that sound awfully painful, maybe I've just never really let myself get into any "audiophile standards", but whenever I've gone to test or listen to components for comparison, I'll throw as much content though it as possible (gone upwards of 200 tracks before), whichever one sounds better or what have you (basically whatever I like), is what I pick, I kind of believe in the "if it sounds good to you, it is" philosophy
post #51 of 58
"my question to you is, why do B&W 800's show up in so many studios then? (they seem second most common among recognizable "non-studio" brands after JBL (which I realize *is* a studio brand, but you get my point, yes?))

I'm not discounting what you're saying, and agree that room acoustics are a huge factor, but I'm just curious why half of the engineering side says, lets use Genelec or JBL or Yamaha or Mackie and the other half says lets go with those really expensive JBL or B&W HT speakers ?"

There are some real cr*p speaker that show up in studios, the real classic is the Yamaha NS10s, complete and utter rubbish, yet the number of studios which has them is phenominal. You have to ask yourself what type of music is being recorded there, who is using the equipment and what is the layout/design of the studio. Studios aren't all equal, they're about as equal as cars! Studio monitors are designed to fill a certain room volume, sticking dirty great monitors in a small control room is a complete waste of money, no matter how much you spend on acoustic treament. Spending $60,000 on a pair of studio monitors is only going to be worthwhile in a very carefully designed acoustic space, otherwise you'll probably not notice much difference between them and $5,000 monitors. I would say that when we start talking about budget-mid quality monitors (say $1,000+ish) this is the point at which the acoustics start being as, if not more, important than the speakers themselves. When we start talking about several thousand or several tens of thousand the acoustics of the listening environment are paramount. Otherwise it's like fitting a Ferrari engine in a Mini, the suspension, handling, braking, etc., of the Mini is going to make it completely impossible to realise the potential of the Ferrari engine.

For many types of pop music, engineers and producers often work on what we call "near field monitors", which are relatively small and cheap. Reasons for this vary from "it's what I'm used to" to "well if I can get it to sound good on these, it'll sound good on anything"! A good quality commercial studio will have "near fields" for some mixing but big expensive main monitors for critical listening.

also, whats your take on Genelec's "multiple listening positions" system? (where it can be tuned to a specific focus point, and save that in memory, and it can store 2 or 3 of these focus points) I always thought it was kind of cool, but I doubt its "neutral" when you start playing with psychoacoustics so heavily.

Sorry, I haven't heard those Genelec models. The professional range are designed to be installed in an acoustic environment where there is a precisely defined focal point (monitoring position).

G
post #52 of 58
yeah, the genelecs i'm talking about are semi-pro (they aren't targetted to home users, they're found at like guitar center or similar), I didn't really like them, but was curious if you'd used them and had an opinion

I know genelec's higher end speakers are great sounding, as you've said, if setup correctly

I've heard the NS-10 personally, awful frequency response and like you said, utter rubbish, but I don't like any of Yamaha's other active monitors either (yet their HT speakers are a great value and their PA speakers aren't "bad")

so basically the summary to my Q is: its all preferential based on the room and engineering reqs and other factors, just like building a home setup, quite curious indeed (That engineers don't tend to follow any "standard" for monitoring, and instead do whatever they like, I would think that you'd want one pair of speakers that everyone has (evne if it was NS10's) and one pair of speakers that you like, and compare between the two (so theres a "neutral reference" in the sense of everyone using the same monitors at some level))
post #53 of 58
Obobskivich - The story of the NS10 is an interesting one. Producers were going from studio to studio, each one sounding a little different. This is a problem for a Producer as you need to be certain that what you're hearing is what you're mixing and not just the control room sound. So Yamaha brought out these little speakers (NS10s) which they marketed as studio monitors. In general, Producers never used to know much about the equipment (that what a mix engineer was for) so they were taken in by the idea of a set of studio monitors they could stick in their car and take to every studio they worked in. The producers realised that the NS10s weren't very good but that didn't matter. With experience you can work around the weakness of monitors providing there is consistency. So as time went on more and more producers started carrying around a set of NS10s. The main studios noticed this and purchased their own NS10s and used it as a selling point that the producers didn't need to carry their monitors around with them all the time. Everyone one at this point knew they were rubbish but they provided consitency. The whole situation then got really silly in the '90s as more and more people started to build project studios. They saw pictures of all the top studios having NS10s and thought, if NS10s are good for this famous studio they will be good enough for my project studio. Within a few years NS10 were everywhere, the experienced pros knew they were rubbish but just there to please producers and the semi-pros knew no better and thought they were good!

I'm with you though, I have never heard Yamaha studio monitors I woud use professionally but some of their live kit is pretty good.

Remember, most engineers and producers only understand acoustics as it affects their recording. When it comes to actually construct an acoustic space for a recording studio, the top studios all employ specialist studio designers. But the sonic qualities of studios do vary enormously. Also bare in mind that the majority of studios these days are really project studios as opposed to top class commercial studios. Dubbing theatres (to mix sound for TV) are a little more standardized than most music studios. Dubbing theatres for film are quite highly standardised. This makes sense if you think about it. Music studios create products for a huge range of situations, from a shopping mall to an iPhone and from a kitchen to an audiophile environment. TV, is a little bit more standardized and film (for cinema) is designed for a quite highly controlled and standardised sound system and acoustic environment.

G
post #54 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by gregorio View Post
Obobskivich - The story of the NS10 is an interesting one. Producers were going from studio to studio, each one sounding a little different. This is a problem for a Producer as you need to be certain that what you're hearing is what you're mixing and not just the control room sound. So Yamaha brought out these little speakers (NS10s) which they marketed as studio monitors. In general, Producers never used to know much about the equipment (that what a mix engineer was for) so they were taken in by the idea of a set of studio monitors they could stick in their car and take to every studio they worked in. The producers realised that the NS10s weren't very good but that didn't matter. With experience you can work around the weakness of monitors providing there is consistency. So as time went on more and more producers started carrying around a set of NS10s. The main studios noticed this and purchased their own NS10s and used it as a selling point that the producers didn't need to carry their monitors around with them all the time. Everyone one at this point knew they were rubbish but they provided consitency. The whole situation then got really silly in the '90s as more and more people started to build project studios. They saw pictures of all the top studios having NS10s and thought, if NS10s are good for this famous studio they will be good enough for my project studio. Within a few years NS10 were everywhere, the experienced pros knew they were rubbish but just there to please producers and the semi-pros knew no better and thought they were good!

I'm with you though, I have never heard Yamaha studio monitors I woud use professionally but some of their live kit is pretty good.

Remember, most engineers and producers only understand acoustics as it affects their recording. When it comes to actually construct an acoustic space for a recording studio, the top studios all employ specialist studio designers. But the sonic qualities of studios do vary enormously. Also bare in mind that the majority of studios these days are really project studios as opposed to top class commercial studios. Dubbing theatres (to mix sound for TV) are a little more standardized than most music studios. Dubbing theatres for film are quite highly standardised. This makes sense if you think about it. Music studios create products for a huge range of situations, from a shopping mall to an iPhone and from a kitchen to an audiophile environment. TV, is a little bit more standardized and film (for cinema) is designed for a quite highly controlled and standardised sound system and acoustic environment.

G
in other words "THX" certified mixing and playback, where some acoustic and equipment specs stand up for something, is a positive thing for the professional side, and its taken entirely out of context for consumers


just like NS10's/Yamaha actives are abused by the consumer music type?

wonderful.

what I really have to ask is, most of these people go and listen to this stuff, and if they're building a project studio, they should have some idea of how things sound, wouldn't they note that Mackie, Genelec, Blue Sky, and even M-Audio produce "flatter" and "better" monitors than the Yams?
post #55 of 58
Nightmare - I read the article that you posted a link to. I have to say that it's full of generalizations and mis-conceptions. It's worth a read and does have a lot of good information but there are also some assertions which make me cringe.

In one sense, it's kind of like the author missed the whole point. There seems to be a mis-conception with the article which I also see on this forum a great deal. Let me ask this question, what do you think you are listening to when you're listening to a CD? The answer varies a little depending on the genre but the basic principle is the same for all recordings. You are not listening to a performance, you are listening to a product. That product has been created by a producer and possibly an entire audio team, it has been designed to be a good product first and foremost and neutrality or accuracy of sound is only a consideration as far as the producer decides it is relevant for a "good product". Remember also that the vast majority of music "products" are not aimed at the audiophile as the audiophile market is niche rather than mainstream and who can afford to make products for a niche market without significantly increasing profit margins to cover the low volume of sales? So, when you are critically listening to a recording, what are you actually listening to? It's easier to answer this if we look at film sound. I remember working on a film where we had to record a lot of cannon fire. Up close to the cannon all you could hear was a very loud crack, recording from half a mile away the crack had disappeared but instead there was now a loud boom. When designing the sound we mixed the crack with the boom to give the familiar sound of a cannon. This sound we created is familiar because we have heard it on so many other films but in reality it doesn't exist. So what we do in film dubbing, as in music production, is to create what we think the audience wants or needs to hear based upon our interpretation of the emotional impact of the sound. Sit two feet from a world class violinist and then listen to a recording of the same violinist, completely different sound. So again I ask, when you listen to a recording, are you listening to sonic accuracy? No, you are listening to the producer's interpretation of the sounds/instruments. With a relatively neutral system and years of experience of music performance and production techniques I can listen and judge the quality of the performance, the recording and of the producer but the vast majority of audiophiles are unable to separate these elements and then spurt all kinds of mis-conceptions about the equipment they are listening to. You also have to bare in mind that since the '90s, recording technology has become so cheap that almost anyone with a PC and a bedroom can set themselves up as a producer. There is a massive difference between a bedroom producer and an experienced world class producer in a world class recording studio. These are extremes but any producer you listen to will either be at these extremes or most likely, somewhere in between. So, a million times more important than whether a 24bit/192kFs/s DAC is better than a 16bit/44.1k DAC is the question of the quality of the recording and of the producer which made the recording. So, why argue about $5,000 DACs when it was originally recorded on a $500 ADC?

I realise that what I have written does not really help the consumer any because it takes years of professional experience to be objective about what you're hearing. What I would advise (for example) is the use of say a Lavry or Prism Sound converter. Both of these makes are highly respected professionally, while I'm not familiar with their consumer products (and there can be a big gap with some companies), these two companies are quite small and survive on thier professional reputation as market leaders. While they are not cheap, they are not stupidly priced either and if they are good enough for top class recording studios they are more than good enough for even audiophile consumers.

Another good example is SACD. SACD uses DSD technolgy rather than the PCM technology on CDs. DSD technolgy is still quite expensive for studios, so generally only the best studios are capable of making SACDs. Most audiophiles would probably feel that SACD sounds better than CD. They justify this by quoting various specifications and theoretical advantages. In actual fact, the debate is still ongoing with professionals about whether SACD actually provides any noticable benefits over CD and in some ways SACD is actually theoretically weaker than CD. So how have the audiophile community got it so wrong? Here's the answer:- I agree that SACDs generally sound better than CD but I disagree with the why. DSD technology is still quite expensive so it's generally only implemented in top class studios and only available for those consumers with a fair bit of money. So SACDs are created in top class studios with top class personel as a product for the more decerning listener. This is why SACD tends to sound better, not because SACD is inherently better than CD. As DSD technology is getting cheaper so it will be implemented in poorer quality studios and we'll start to see more SACDs of comprable quality to most CDs. Either that or the SACD market will become so niche that fewer and fewer products are released for it and the format gradually withers away.

G
post #56 of 58
Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post
in other words "THX" certified mixing and playback, where some acoustic and equipment specs stand up for something, is a positive thing for the professional side, and its taken entirely out of context for consumers
You are absolutely spot on with that observation! In fact it's even worse than you think! THX was purely about the construction of cinemas, the distance between speakers, the baffling material used bewteen speakers for better isolation, etc, etc. This specification of construction could then be implemented by dubbing theatres so that what the dubbing mixer heard during final dubbing could be accurately reproduced by the acoustics of the cinema. Lucas Films then decided that they could make a lot of money from licencing the THX logo to manufacturers of consumer equipment. So, if you've got really cheap and nasty speakers you probably won't be able to get THX certified but the best speaker manufacturers don't bother with THX certification either, because why spend the money when you've already got the reputation? So what we end up with is a specification for consumers which basically informs us that the speaker (for example) is mediocre!!? When you see the THX logo on a DVD, it's not going to make a blind bit of difference to what you experience unless you also own a THX certified cinema!! If you do own a THX cinema though, you can be reasonably sure that what you are hearing is what the dubbing mixer intended but for home owners it's completely irrelevant. As Dire Straits once sang, "Money for nothing and your drinks for free"!

"what I really have to ask is, most of these people go and listen to this stuff, and if they're building a project studio, they should have some idea of how things sound, wouldn't they note that Mackie, Genelec, Blue Sky, and even M-Audio produce "flatter" and "better" monitors than the Yams?"

Depends on the environment that you put them in. Project studio owners rarely have the money for proper acoustic construction or treatment, so depending on the environment poor quality speaker can sound better than or at least equal to more expensive ones. Also, it's rare to find near field monitors being used properly in project studios (and even top class ones sometimes). You've probably seen pictures of near fields sitting on the meter bridge of some fancy looking mixing desk? They are idiots, the meter bridge of a mixing console is about the last place you should ever consider putting near fields as you often get horrendous reflections from the console itself. But the near fields look good there and project owners have seen thousands of pics of them there, so that's where they too often go! Now, set those near fields up properly and suddenly the real quality ones shine through. Again it comes down to position in the market place, I got used to being in a position where studio equipment manufacturers would come to my studio to allow me to make judgements of their equipment in my own monitoring environment. For most project studio owners the only time they get to hear their potential equipment is at a trade show or somewhere like a guitar shop, hardly condusive environments for critical listening!! So, they can't hear much difference and buy the NS10s because although they didn't sound that great in the shop they must be pretty good if world class studio X uses them.

Also bare in mind that many project studio owners are enthusiastic amateurs or the newly graduated from some audio course. Just because they have a project studio does not suddenly make them experts, although conversely of course, they could be experts. So how are we to tell the expert from the beginner? Ah, that's the $64,000 question. If you are an expert then it's not so difficult but for the consumer...? But there again, we face qualitative judgements which we are too inexperienced to answer almost everyday. As an old girlfriend once said to me, what do you call a medical student who passes their final exam with the lowest grade in their year group? .... Answer = Doctor!!

G
post #57 of 58
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by olblueyez View Post
Why? Would it not be more enjoyable to set up a system that just sounds good to you? Even if that is "neutral".
Well, perhaps it is so, but in my experience what is found enjoyable after a limited period of listening may very well prove not to be so enjoyable in the longer perspective (same with music in itself). Since money doesn't grow on any trees I've seen yet, I would like to avoid the once-a-year upgrade path and try my best to put together a system meant to last. I may be fooling myself completely, but I imagine the "neutral" route to be able to meet my longterm "needs".
post #58 of 58
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post
i agree with blueyez in his response to bjojojojojojoj, doubt bjojojojojojoj will listen though
I am indeed truly sorry if I have provoked or offended you by trying to make up my own mind on what approach to use when evaluating gear. Completely unintentional I guess you don't really like my username either? Again I'm sorry

Anyway, I've allways found discussions, opinions and ideas interesting to follow, so I am grateful for your opinions and theories, but please leave the actual choices up to me. I welcome every piece of advice and I definitely listen to it, but try not to be offended if I choose not to follow them just now.

Respect
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