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Best of sound

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 

Hey! How do you get the best of your music? Do you download or just listen to from youtube? Any certain audio file?

post #2 of 2

Good music starts with well recorded and mastered music.  Take many of today's mp3 files that are only available on mp3.  They are manipulated and compressed making it hard to extract much more than the compression will allow.  Now if you start with any number of good recordings like 12x5 by the Rolling Stones, Senti Toy's album How Many Stories Do You Read On My Face, Ani DiFranco's Canon ( Essential Collection ), Michael Jackson's The Essential Michael Jackson, and Ry Cooder & Ali Farka Toure's Talking Timbuktu just to name a few.  Without starting with a good recording the audio train is going to have a hard time keeping it the level of quality of the music due to the introduction of noise, distortion, frequency limitations, and especially impedance.


If you want the absolute best out of your music, having good recordings from CD or better quality in hand, you must have gear that is as transparent to the original recordings as possible.  This means having a very wide frequency response range of at least 20 Hz to 20 kHz, low harmonic distortion ( .005% or lower ), impedance matching between gear, and low output impedance on the output side of the amp in use.  Having solid and well made interconnects helps as well because if the gear in use is amazing, but the cables are of poor quality the sound will suffer.  Think of the sound signal as the flow of water in a series of pipes.  The water at the beginning needs to be really high quality to have a chance of reaching its final destination 5 miles away and remain of high quality.  If the plumbing is dirty, leaks, or causing the water to get trapped or even flow the other direction then the tap water 5 miles away is not going to taste nearly as clean as it would have at the source.  The water in the case of audio is the signal transmitted by the oscillation of electrons.  These oscillations and their motion can be called current.  Just like the current of the water through the pipes in our example the audio signal must remain as pure as possible throughout the entire audio train if we are to have a chance in keeping the signal pure.


That said purity and what your ear find pleasant can often be two different things.  This is where I think the term "audiofile" has blurred.  There is pure and there is what sounds good.  They can often be two completely different things.  So when people such as yourself use the term "best" is poses a very difficult question.  Do any of us know what you mean by best?  Nope and how could we.  Now if you said "How do you get the purest and most neutral sound from your sound system?" many of us would have supplied direct answers.  There is taste and there is the purist approach.  Blending the two generates a kind of hybrid thought process making it quite tough to satisfy.


Inferring that you mean keeping the signal as close to the original signal that was heard in the original recording then my advice above will help.  If you want to hear the super low bass that was not there to begin with then you are talking about taste.  That, my friend, is entirely up to you.


I do a ton of audio listening.  Probably on the order of 4 hours a day or more.  I listen to my iPod at work through my IEMs and through my myriad headphones at home.  I stopped listening to individual CDs for a couple of reasons.  The first is that you always either have to skip to the tracks you like or you are constantly changing CDs.  I am often working when I am at home and I do not want to have to stop, find another CD, and begin listening again. I want the most continuous, high quality, and enjoyable music experience I can find with the gear I have available.  This means at home using music that is ripped down to 256kbps MP3 for file size and ease of file transferring, using a Grace m903 DAC/Amp to convert those pesky ones and zeroes to a clean analog signal my headphones can use.  I end up listening to a pair of Denon AH-D2000 headphones more often than not because they are comfortable, sound pretty neutral for a sealed headphone, and sound the most pleasant with 80% of my music.  A pair of LCD-2, HE-500, or even Senneheiser HD-800s will not do most of my music justice.  I want to have an enjoyable experience when I listen to music.  I do not want extra bass added to the track, nor mid range, and no more treble than was originally intended.  I like a balance.  This is why I have a slightly bass heavy headphone attached to a very neutral sounding amp.  The combination is well balanced.


I suggest discovering and discretely learning what your tastes are and try many different types of music and audio gear.  Only with this method will you find what you enjoy.  How else will you know what you are missing without experiencing it?  You can always get educated guesses by looking at charts, reading reviews, and reading up on the latest specs.  All of that really helps on understanding the physics behind the gear, but in the end your ears and tastes are going to decide what you like.  This would be especially true if you had access to all of the gear and music out there and were told to just choose one setup.  We would all be hard pressed to find just one setup that would win out, but in the end we would settle with one.  That is what I try to do when I define what is "best" to me.  I hope you do the same. 


Get out there and experience the audio world.  Be sure to make a hypothesis before listening to something be it gear or music.  Then test it.  Finally make a conclusion on what you just heard / experienced.  If you liked it figure out why.  If you disliked it list some reason why.  Was the bass to loud and sloppy?  Was the mid range too up-front and fatiguing?  Did the treble bite your eardums too much leaving your ears ringing?  Was the music noisy?  Was it too loud?  I could go on, but you get the idea.


If you see some reviews of something and they are more than generally positive and you test the gear and you do not think it is all that great you should first ask yourself how did the reviewer(s) hear it?  Was their gear different than yours?  Did they use uncompressed music?  Did they use the same recording?  At the very least you should be able to replicate how they heard it and then you know the ears are the only thing different and not the gear.  This is a skill I learned with headphones especially.  If many respectable and honest people review a headphone and I do a review of the same headphone and find my conclusion is in direct contrast to theirs I often ask why.  I try again to make the audio train the same as theirs.  Even after a second or third test I may still wonder why I just cannot hear what they hear.  Take the LCD-3 for example.  I have yet to hear one that has wowed me.  I have heard 2 pairs now and neither had a wide soundstage and both sounded darker than a pair of LCD-2 I had around.


Take audio as a problem to be solved and go tackle it!

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