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How does fidelity relate to musical enjoyment? - Page 2

post #16 of 68

I know what you're getting at Haloxt.  I've thought about it and can say that in general (lest there are exceptions that I really can't think of right now), there's music that I'm inclined to listen to and get absorbed with using headphones.   Once there's music that fits that bill for me, then it'll benefit from a system with great fidelity.


OTOH, there's a lot of music that I either never or hardly ever feel like listening to using my rig but which makes for fun listening while on the road or in the company of others where the music isn't the primary focus.  Poor sound production and engineering may have a lot to do with it, yes, but invariably the music is just plain uninteresting, but catchy at a superficial level.  I'm not of the opinion that high fidelity gear makes such music sound worse.  It's just that the ownership and use of high fidelity gear usually has an attitude with a more focused intent, and the music's warts show up big time.  You then realize that the music's worth in a less focused environment simply doesn't carry over. 


I do agree with you however, that a lot of music that sounds very uninteresting in unresolving gear or settings, make for a huge listening experience on excellent gear and where the music is the focal point.

Edited by aimlink - 9/5/10 at 2:54pm
post #17 of 68

I had a listen to my Bose Sounddock today for the first time in a while. It sounds odd, as if the frequency range has various humps in it (which I think it has anyway). But it was also fun to listen to and made the time spent cleaning pass quicker. No fidelity, but still fun musical.

post #18 of 68

Regrettably, I spent many years living the typical audiophile lifestyle, caught in the never-ending cycle of money-draining gear upgrades, trying to achieve the ultimate enjoyment. At some point I came to seriously considering very expensive gear, such as this one: http://www.bowers-wilkins.com/display.aspx?infid=1729&sc=hf.


Going up the price ladder with reputable audiophile vendors does indeed bring wider and more accurate frequency response and less distortion. Most importantly, it results in the absence of notes, emphasis, sound sources movements and glueing that weren't there in the original recording. Thus, complex, multi-layered, nuanced music and vocals can be enjoyed for hours and hours without fatigue, and the right emotional impact is felt much more acutely.


Think about the difference between a smooth clear healthy voice of a young woman and a raspy muffled utterances of an old smoking drug-abusing whore (not that I have much experience with the latter :-) This is akin to a difference between the female vocals reproduced by a high fidelity system vs. a run-of-the-mill home audio system.


So yes, in my case I could hear the difference while going up the exponentially more expensive ladder of sound fidelity. At some point the subjective improvements in sound quality started lagging too seriously behind the cost though.


By lucky turn of events, I realized that the basic approaches used in the ultra-expensive consumer audio gear are fundamentally equivalent to the ones used in less expensive mass-produced pro audio equipment. I also realized that I need to learn to catch my own fish - that is, to be able to do basic duties of mixing/recording engineer in order to personalize the sound to my taste.


If you think about it for a moment, it makes perfect sense - the best way to experience a record is to reproduce it using the same equipment and techniques used by professionals while recording it. Granted, "exactly the same" could be too complicated and expensive for a hobbyist, yet, luckily, the variability of pro audio gear characteristics is lot less than that of the consumer audio equipment, so even a cheaper simpler pro audio hardware and software can usually convey the original music emotions and ideas pretty well.


So, at that stage of my audiophile evolution, I require two things from my equipment: neutrality and tweakability. By neutrality I mean the proverbial "wire with gain" quality - flat frequency response curve, as well as absence of audible distortions and noise. By tweakability I mean ability to finely adjust the frequency response curve and to introduce controlled distortions (there may be a role for controlled noise, but I haven't found it yet).


Originally Posted by haloxt View Post



What is it audiophiles really want out of audio gear (different for everyone)? How should they go about achieving it? In what ways do higher fidelity, detail, and/or resolution correlate to greater musical enjoyment?


Some may think this doesn't belong in sound science, but I am interested in psychoacoustics explanations here. For example, I think the way low fidelity gear do pianos can be quite pleasing, and some people may not actually like a very high fidelity reproduction of certain piano music.

post #19 of 68

For me, fidelity in musical reproduction relates in the same way as fidelity in literature. Think about it - when you read a novel by a foreign author it is not his/hers words that you are reading. It is someone's interpretation of the author's words. The translation might be close to the original or more open. No matter what, it is not exactly the same book as in the original language.


While I do prefer to read the original version of a novel, I realize that the story is the most important, and that is usually relatively unchanged by translation. So if I want to read one of the Russian classics, I do not learn Russian in order to get a pure and undiluted experience. I go for the story itself.


I have the same approach to experiencing music, which is probably one of the reasons I can never become a true audiophile. While I realize that better equipment can present the music in a more "true" fashion, I see it as pointless to get the exact same reproduction as in the supposed studio where the music was recorded. So I keep to mid-fi stuff and I just enjoy the music. Perhaps I do this because I have not allowed my ears to become used to hi-fi equipment? It does save me a lot of money that I can waste on other hobbies...

Edited by Danneq - 9/7/10 at 3:02am
post #20 of 68
Thread Starter 

One thing I really like about low-fi gear is that it stimulates the mind differently than high fidelity. For example, in real life unamplified music, and high fidelity gear and recording to a lesser extent, there is usually flawless positioning of instruments, and seldom noises that defy our mental conception of real sounds, and unless you have a bad seat there is little guess work outside of interpreting the musicians. No doubt this is the natural way of enjoying music, but is it intrinsically superior to music distorted by recording and reproduction? In low fidelity gear and recordings with crazy mastering, things can get really interesting, it can be like trying to solve a puzzle, exercising the mind by presenting both music and distortions. The final result can be more fatiguing or less fatiguing, more interesting or less interesting, than high fidelity or real life music.


In summary, high fidelity and real life music may sometimes be boring, and the pleasant droning, or some other sound characteristic, of low-fidelity music may be psychoacoustically preferable in certain situations, possibly even the majority of situations entailing prolonged music listening. This is a hypothesis I make based on my experience of being fatigued by prolonged listening to both high fidelity and real life unamplified music.

Edited by haloxt - 9/7/10 at 6:52am
post #21 of 68
Originally Posted by haloxt View Post

This is a hypothesis I make based on my experience of being fatigued by prolonged listening to both high fidelity and real life unamplified music.


Could it just be your natural wish for some peace and quiet?  


It's fatiguing to have any sensory organ constantly stimulated, unless there's habituation and adaptation involved.  We are able to put up with a lot given the practice.

post #22 of 68
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by aimlink View Post


Could it just be your natural wish for some peace and quiet?  


It's fatiguing to have any sensory organ constantly stimulated, unless there's habituation and adaptation involved.  We are able to put up with a lot given the practice.

Agreed. I have sometimes wondered if some audio electronics manufacturers have been actively seeking a sound signature that was conducive to marathon listening sessions.


But there is a conscious or unconscious belief that the higher end you go, the less fatiguing the music is, whether due to better technical ability or to sound signature, and this belief I think deserves to be reconsidered. What I do find correlates with higher fidelity, is that the the added distinction between instruments and faithfulness to musicians' original intent makes the music harder to ignore. I used a friend's sports bar and everyone in it as guinea pigs using different tiers of gear to try to test this, and curious enough, people appear to feel more distracted by the music the higher end I go. I took care to choose tweaks to make the final sound softer, but by simply being higher fidelity people were being irritated while trying to talk, or listen to the tv, or eat.

Edited by haloxt - 9/7/10 at 10:22am
post #23 of 68

I find the following to be factors that are fatiguing for me:


- the music itself.  Crunch metal vs jazz or some good new age stuff

- the volume that I'm playing the music at

- the quality of the music, whether it be the recording or the gear being used

- the space between myself and the music.  I find the HD800's to be less fatiguing than other cans because of the better sense of space that's consistently provided.

- balance - I find a heavily coloured sound to be fatiguing, for example, the Grado sound or the Denon sound.  Mind you, the Grado's are a mixture of intimacy and forwardness, the latter created by colouration in the sound.

post #24 of 68


Great points. The only thing I can say in response is that you make a wonderful argument for the superiority of binaural headphone recordings vs. even the best traditional recordings.

post #25 of 68

post #26 of 68

John Atkinson: “Do you still feel the high-end audio industry has lost its way in the manner you described 15 years ago?”

J. Gordon Holt: “Not in the same manner; there's no hope now. Audio actually used to have a goal: perfect reproduction of the sound of real music performed in a real space. That was found difficult to achieve, and it was abandoned when most music lovers, who almost never heard anything except amplified music anyway, forgot what "the real thing" had sounded like. Today, "good" sound is whatever one likes. As Art Dudley so succinctly said [in his January 2004 'Listening,' see "Letters," p.9], fidelity is irrelevant to music.
Since the only measure of sound quality is that the listener likes it, that has pretty well put an end to audio advancement, because different people rarely agree about sound quality. Abandoning the acoustical- instrument standard, and the mindless acceptance of voodoo science, were not parts of my original vision.”


post #27 of 68

Left or the right side of the brain, analytic vs. emotional.. but is it that simple and can it be decided by a simple test:

http://media.perthnow.com.au/fatwire/spinner/woman_spin.gif (spinning either clockwise or counterclockwise).


Well, it depends on our perspective, most of us can make it spin both ways, so also I think it is with fidelity. Why does Fang release a MP3 player in the year 2010 with a DAC technology from the eighties, why do some of us swear to this old Philips DAC?


It doesn't measure well, but it's so much more musical as what some claim with tubes, like this polish technician:



I still have a Philips 16-bit DAC, fidelity also means faithful and the biggest sin today is the loudness war.

post #28 of 68
Thread Starter 

LFF, thanks, that was very insightful. The reason I made this thread was because I thought maybe a good percentage of audiophiles buy higher fidelity gear like studio headphones with the belief that this will lead to greater euphony and pleasantness, which may or may not be on the actual recording. Thanks to technological progress and greater manufacturing efficiency etc, audiophilia can be a hobby for many people, and I think when someone does not clearly define his goal in audio gear for either real life reproduction or euphony, he will aimlessly try new gear. And to know which one wants, one must have a good understanding of both real life/high fidelity music and alcohol/low-fidelity induced euphony.

post #29 of 68

So... spending more money doesn't make me happier?



post #30 of 68

Spending less money makes me happier!

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