Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Sound Science › How does fidelity relate to musical enjoyment?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

How does fidelity relate to musical enjoyment? - Page 3

post #31 of 68

Tru Dat!

post #32 of 68

As Noam Chomsky would have put it:

 

Quote:
All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.

 

What can be said about Hi-Fi can also be applied to computers, who does actually need a quad-core laptop?

 

I'm still holding on to my IBM ThinkPad X60s, added a SSD and with Linux Mint Fluxbox it's flying. Same with my Philips DAC that I'm going to upgrade with discrete op-amps, good for another couple of years at least. Nowadays the fad is 3DTVs, the pattern is quite obvious and Chomsky do have a point that a sucker is born every minute.

post #33 of 68

I think the explanation is in demographics. The majority of the USA highest-spending consumers are aging baby boomers now. They are gradually losing sensitivity to the higher frequency bands. In order to hear music the way it sounded to them when they were young, they need  gear with quite different FRC now.

 

Either equalization, or controlled distortion, are required to subjectively boost treble. The "wire with gain" system is bound to sound boring and lifeless to older folks. Witness the highest subjective ratings of Ultrasone Edition 8 on headphone.com - it was objectively measured as a very "smiley" device.

 

As another example, what's the most significant measured difference between HD650 and HD800? The FRC bump in the highs! Anecdotally, some 20-year olds find its highs piercing, while 40+ year olds love it. This can also explain the popularity of Skull Candy among the young - they go in the opposite direction by accentuating lows and rolling off highs. 
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by LFF View Post

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 #34 of 68

That would imply that aging baby boomers don't go to concerts anymore, as their age increase so does their income (usually) ang going to live concerts is no longer limited by financial means,
They could easily have new references as far as FR curves, the reference would not be what they heard in their youth, but what they hear "live" with their current ears.

 

PS: I'm not saying your hypothesis is wrong, I'm just offering another possibility.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Krav View Post

I think the explanation is in demographics. The majority of the USA highest-spending consumers are aging baby boomers now. They are gradually losing sensitivity to the higher frequency bands. In order to hear music the way it sounded to them when they were young, they need  gear with quite different FRC now.

 

Either equalization, or controlled distortion, are required to subjectively boost treble. The "wire with gain" system is bound to sound boring and lifeless to older folks. Witness the highest subjective ratings of Ultrasone Edition 8 on headphone.com - it was objectively measured as a very "smiley" device.

 

As another example, what's the most significant measured difference between HD650 and HD800? The FRC bump in the highs! Anecdotally, some 20-year olds find its highs piercing, while 40+ year olds love it. This can also explain the popularity of Skull Candy among the young - they go in the opposite direction by accentuating lows and rolling off highs.

post #35 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by Albedo View Post

As Noam Chomsky would have put it:

 

 

What can be said about Hi-Fi can also be applied to computers, who does actually need a quad-core laptop?

 


Perhaps someone who needs CADD or Video/Photo Editing.  I'm enjoying my 4 year old T61p as well.

post #36 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by haloxt View Post


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.

 

Arg, that makes sense mate, and it's also true. Since I upgraded my gear, I no longer can listen to those 128kbs mp3 that I once loved... (or those modern, pop music)

But I want to point out one thing from my experience, that is: hearing and listening to music...

Hearing - or simple listening, or ...(whatever you name it) is just listening for fun, or relaxing (like you have a good system, with a nice room - you read while listening or ...turning on the music while washing dishes)

And truly listening - arg, that's harsh mate, for my current level, I can only do that with one songs at most (# 8 minutes), for do the active listening, fully enjoying the music, knowing every notes ... => only ONE SONG/day is ENOUGH ...

 

 


Edited by Anaksulnamun - 9/11/10 at 1:42pm
post #37 of 68

at the risk of muddying the waters here (and I speak as someone who used to perform music daily, although I haven't made money that way in over a decade), fidelity is not the end-all. the reason I say this is because a lot of music (all electronica, plus a lot of rock, pop, rap, etc) cannot possibly be judged by the yardstick of how faithful a recording is to a performance - the final edited recording is the performance, everything else is a partial contribution, not the finished piece of music. - once we accept that, we see that it does not do away with differences in sound, but we can say goodbye to the old-fashioned aura of live performance (often not so great anyway, depending on acoustics and your spot and so forth). instead, let's forget fidelity (except in comparing better or worse renditions of a situation that is known to sound good enough to reproduce) and focus on sound quality.


Edited by melomaniac - 9/11/10 at 1:52pm
post #38 of 68

Went to a classical music concert today. No amplification. Still, I believe the sound level was reaching 90 db at times at my seating position. So the equivalent Fletcher-Munson curve was pretty flat. The music sounded very natural to me, right from the outset.

 

I don't listen to headphones at that level. My usual setting is much lower. Perhaps at 65 db to ensure I keep my hearing for a long time. The equivalent Fletcher-Munson curve is rather steep. Maintaining the right tonal balace requires some serious equalization.

 

The brain is a very good equalizer. Subjective burn-in is the brain equalizer self-tuning. Still, if there is too much too equalize, it can't do it at all or can't do it quickly. I think that with age, the "too much" situation happens more often as the sensitivity to higher frequencies diminish.

 

I've been experimenting with Cubase equalization. Very easy to switch between drastically different FRC curves with one click. Learned that the brain can adjust to remarkably dissimilar FRCs, differing up to 30 db in some bands, but the farther away the FRC is from the optimal one, the longer the adjustment time is.

 

The optimal one for me is the one obtained by careful calibration against the 3,150 Hz frequency, which I'm the most sensitive to, at my preferred listening level. The subjectively flat FRC obtained that way is remarkable in that it takes my brain only about 6-10 seconds to adjust to it. With some others, the adjustment might take up to 20 minutes, and with yet some others the adjustment time seriously exceeds my attention span.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by khaos974 View Post

That would imply that aging baby boomers don't go to concerts anymore, as their age increase so does their income (usually) ang going to live concerts is no longer limited by financial means,
They could easily have new references as far as FR curves, the reference would not be what they heard in their youth, but what they hear "live" with their current ears.

 

PS: I'm not saying your hypothesis is wrong, I'm just offering another possibility.
 



 
post #39 of 68

Since all recordings are made by different engineers, different microphones and the musical intent behind them is quite likely to be different, it's a delusion to think that a rig can be faithful to all the live performances of what you are playing with it. So the best we can do is to stay faithful to what is on the disc, flac file, vinyl...

post #40 of 68

Well, that was a thought provoking read. One that I quite enjoyed reading. Thanks for your effort. It's contributions like this that makes head-fi one of my favorite places to browse; learn. 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pio2001 View Post

The fidelity to the original performance it totally out of reach of current technology. This is brillantly demonstrated in Floyd Tool's book "Sound Reproduction", figure 3.3 page 36, with the directionality of a violin at different frequencies.

 

From 200 to 400 Hz, a violin is omnidirectional. You hear the direct sound, plus the sounds reflected on the lateral walls, the wall behind the performer, the floor and the ceiling. At 425 Hz, however, the violin doesn't emit in the back-down direction. Reflection on the back wall is lower, and the secondary reflection that bounces on the floor, back wall, then ceiling is severely attenuated. At 500 Hz, however, that's the dominant direction of emission.

And the directionality changes drastically many times given the frequency range. No speaker can reproduce the same soundfield with the same directions of emission for each frequency.

And that's for violin only. Other instruments are completely different, and emit different amounts of energy towards the walls, floor and ceiling.

 

A practical consequence : violins used to be recorded with microphones situated aboveand a bit in front of the orchestra. In this direction, violins emit a lot of energy in the 2500 - 5000 Hz range, that is not at all emitted in direction of the audience. Therefore the recorded sound was very different from the sound emitted in the direction of the audience. Recording engineers knew that in such recordings, it was better to attenuate treble. It could be thought to be a modification of the original sound, but it was not. On the contrary, this helped to artificially remake a violin sound that sounds like the one that is percieved from the audience.

 

So what if we record directly from the listener's position ? This way, we capture exactly what should be heard by the listener. The problem is that the original acoustic adds up with the acoustic of the reproduction room in a way that is completely unbearable.

 

Therefore, recording music is an art of recreating a soundstage, given an average listening room with an average two-channel setup, that is necessarily very far from the original, but still enjoyable. For example, the reflections on the wall that is behind you can't be recorded and reproduced with a two-channels system. They are replaced by new reflections created in the listening room. Which means that it's better eliminating the original ones so that they won't add up with the ones in your own room, coming from the front.

 

Try to record your own hifi with a stereo microphone from your favorite listening position, and play the recording back in the hifi. No, the microphone is not crappy, that's your room that sounds that way ! Make another recording with the left and right microphones just in front of the speakers to check. This experiment was one of the biggest surprises of my audiophile life : I had the microphone in hand, closed headphones on the head, and was moving the microphone from the speaker to the listening position back and forth, and I didn't understand what was happening : why did the sound change so drastically from the microphone point of view, while it didn't if I did the same thing with my own ears ?

The answer was that the brain is extremely good at eliminating the tonal balance of the room from the listening experience.

 

All these things make us reconsider the original question about fidelity to the original performance. Most of this fidelity is actually in the hands of the recording and mixing engineers, that have no other choice than to recreate an artificial soundstage and an artificial tonal balance that simulates a good listeneing experience, given that it is going to be used on a two-channels system in an average room.

 

So we are left with fidelity to the recording instead of fidelity to the live performance. If we can define fidelity for a speaker, it is not possible for a room. In low frequencies, rooms have very strong resonances that amplify some frequencies and not others. Even anechoic rooms are not very anechoic in low frequencies. And anyway, stereo recordings, as made in studio, are not suited at all for listening in anechoic rooms. They have not enough reverberation. Making a room that is neutral in low frequencies in very difficult. Some advise the use of as many subwofers as possible, scattered in strategic positions, so that they don't act on the same resonant frequencies in the room.

 

For speakers, the basics of good quality are quite undertood : they must have a flat frequency response in the axis, and a smooth frequency response outside the axis. How must attenuation must they have outside the axis ? I am not sure that there is any standard about this.

Also, in France, a story goes about Cabasse loudspeakers. Some models were claimed to have an excellent frequency response, but were not appreciated by audiophiles. The reason was that they were only good at realistic listening levels. But since home listening is usually performed at lower levels, these speakers seemed to lack bass and treble, because the human ear has not the same frequency response at different levels. This is easy to see on Fletcher-Mundson curves. Thus, a coloured speaker allows a listening experience that is closer to the original than a transparent speaker at domestic listening levels.

 

All these parameters makes the question of fidelity a very complex one.

post #41 of 68

I agree with your first statement. As a matter of fact, the only record in my collection that I consider truly faithful to live performance on my speakers rig is Living Stereo SACD of Beethoven sonatas played by Rubinstein. This is a three-channel SACD of a grand piano performance recorded by highly accurate microphones on high-speed analog tape, transferred to SACD with virtually zero postprocessing. It so happens that the spacing of my speakers appears to be pretty close to the spacing of the microphones. Not only the sound, but the size of the grand piano is reproduced faithfully - it is quite unnerving actually, with closed eyes it literally feels that Rubinstein is playing the actual instrument right in the living room.

 

I disagree with your second statement. The are multiple layers between the disc/flac/file/vinyl and the neurons in my brain that ultimately create the sensation if sound. Transport, pick-up/DAC, amp, transducers, ears etc. - all of these elements have their transfer functions, at times drastically uneven in relation to frequencies. There were multiple layers between the live sound and the recording, and there were multiple layers between the recording and the neurons in the brain of the sound engineer. What exactly those layers were is generally unknown to me. Still, I can guess and tweak the aggregate transfer function of my equipment so that my enjoyment of music is maximized. This is the key, as the only assumption I can go by is that the engineer's intent was indeed the same - to maximize the enjoyment. Otherwise, what was the purpose of all his or her hard work?

 

I'll give you yet another example. While watching HDTV broadcasts from Beijing Olympics in 5.1 surround sound, I was stunned by the very strong presence effect, which I never before experienced with TV or DVD. I learned about half a year later that the monitors used in Beijing broadcast studios were exactly the same that I use at home. This is one of the rare cases when the transfer functions of equipment sets used in the studio and at home are so close that no further tuning/postprocessing/mastering is required. In many other cases, for instance while listening to Beatles early vinyl rips, quite a bit of postprocessing is needed - at the very least, extension of stereo base and bass boost.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by khaos974 View Post

Since all recordings are made by different engineers, different microphones and the musical intent behind them is quite likely to be different, it's a delusion to think that a rig can be faithful to all the live performances of what you are playing with it. So the best we can do is to stay faithful to what is on the disc, flac file, vinyl...

post #42 of 68

I don't exactly understand how you disagree with me, do you disagree with the statement that the aggregate transfer function between to output of the DAC and the waveform of the sound should be a simple gain function?

 

PS: I know that in practice the measurement practice make it near impossible to guarantee the accuracy of the measure due to the microphone response, room response... I'm just talking about the basic idea.

post #43 of 68

let me say it again: whether holt and atkinson agree or not, there is no such thing as fidelity any longer. of course their listening preferences might skew their view towards "fidelity" defined as sounding like a real-life piano, or a real-life violin, but many other people listen to rock, pop, electronica, and so forth - and once you compound amplification, effects, various live and post-production editing, dubbing, and so on and so forth, you have to realize that there is no such thing as "fidelity" in the sense of living up to a live performance. it''s studio music, radio music, car music, club music speakers - not live performance - that these kinds of sounds are geared towards.

 

yes, I do like to hear differences between pablo casals' cello and jean-guihen queyras' cello, but it's not all about timbre in comparing an old mono LP to a new digital recording. it's about the musical expression, about the dynamics, about the interpretation. not everyone can sing a song well, and it's not about sounding just like elvis (or elvis costello or frank sinatra or nick cave or tom waits or the three tenors or whatever) - it's just as much or more so about making it sound compelling, interesting, about eliciting emotions or interest or whatever makes it worthy of attention. 

 

and yes, it's still about rich, lush, detailed, dynamic sound, about timbre and flavor and so forth - but not oriented towards some impossible aura of the original that the copy can never rival. we live in an age where multiple copies are at the origin.

post #44 of 68

If you put the reference point at the content on CD as published then you can more easily talk about accuracy as this is a matter of mathematics. Since the live performance is gone forever and the studio tapes are inaccessible (to most of us) the only point most of us can start at is the pits and bumps on the CD. We can quantify deviation from this point in terms of noise and distortion, jitter (ha ha  if you must) and bit-errors, however unless your kit is utter rubbish overall error will be very low until you hit the speakers, then all bets are off. Of course some manufacturers such as Wadia decide to "tweak" the sound introducing error at the high frequency end but this is rare and tubes can have similarly non flat FR but most competent digital and SS kit has low error and flat FR.

 

So the actual difference between most components is mathematically extremely small, many supposed differences can be attributed to simple volume issues and poor comparison protocols, level matched blind tests support this assertion. So if two components differ so much that the blind level matched difference is still audible then at least one of them is somewhat faulty if we define accuracy as least deviation from source.

post #45 of 68
Thread Starter 

I'm more interested in understanding why people believe the sort of effects some higher end audio gear have on audio as being "higher fidelity". Some of these do not measure good at all on traditional measurements, but they are often considered much "better sounding", in terms of either euphony or neutrality. Something I have wondered is if software DSP can replicate the sort of measured distortions (minus FR inaccuracy) that certain "higher end" gear have on the audio signal, or maybe just record the output of such gear and replay it again on "lower end" gear that measure well on tests. I don't think this will solve the conundrum, but maybe it may turn out that it is indeed these measured distortions that make us like higher end gear, or it might turn out that lower end gear have effects on the music we did not suspect. Or maybe offer an alternative to the tired explanation that we must just be suffering placebo.


Edited by haloxt - 9/13/10 at 7:02am
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Sound Science
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Sound Science › How does fidelity relate to musical enjoyment?