Flat earth approach to hifi
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TimSchirmer

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I was doing some research on naim amps the other day, and came across this site...

I read about what "flat earth" was, and it nearly brought me to tears. These people have the EXACT same philosophy as me when it comes to audio.

http://freespace.virgin.net/tony.lonorgan/flatearth/



"Far too much audio equipment sounds unnaturally pretty: Hi-fi systems that produce 'smooth' or ‘liquid’ hi-hats and cymbals are inherently wrong. Hi-fi systems that produce 'soft' snares are equally wrong. A cymbal is in effect a bit of sheet metal formed into a slightly conical profile that is repeatedly hit with a wooden stick... sweet, smooth, delicate... yeah right. A snare drum is a metal or wood cylinder with a taut tuned skin on the two flat ends, with a series of tensioned metal springs on the underside, picture this construction in your mind, now hit it hard with a wooden stick. Did you get a soft sound? Audio systems with great gobs of bass may at first seem impressive, but try following the actual tune the bassist is playing, or hearing how the bass line grooves in with the drums. Slow fat bass is wrong bass."

They put it into words that I couldn't
 
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grinch

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Quote:

Originally posted by TimSchirmer

"Far too much audio equipment sounds unnaturally pretty: Hi-fi systems that produce 'smooth' or ‘liquid’ hi-hats and cymbals are inherently wrong. Hi-fi systems that produce 'soft' snares are equally wrong. A cymbal is in effect a bit of sheet metal formed into a slightly conical profile that is repeatedly hit with a wooden stick... sweet, smooth, delicate... yeah right. A snare drum is a metal or wood cylinder with a taut tuned skin on the two flat ends, with a series of tensioned metal springs on the underside, picture this construction in your mind, now hit it hard with a wooden stick. Did you get a soft sound? Audio systems with great gobs of bass may at first seem impressive, but try following the actual tune the bassist is playing, or hearing how the bass line grooves in with the drums. Slow fat bass is wrong bass."


i can understand what they're saying about cymbals.. but i've had quite a few friends in bands, with drumsets and i've stood about five feet from them while playing at full volume. it sucks. i don't know why anyone would want to do this. it is horrible, the sound is almost excruciating. i know what a real cymbal sounds like and i don't like it. i don't want cymbals to sound real in the music i listen to because, i want to enjoy the music i listen to. i understand that they want some slam.. but personally, i can't take anything like that for a long period of time. just me.

the bass thing is more understandable, i do not enjoy sloppy washed-out bass. well, maybe once in a while..
 
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kelly

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I don't particularly like sitting five feet from the cymbals, myself. I know a lot of you guys do. You tend to buy SR-325s and try to convince me it's flat with the right amp (the RA-1 of course).

However, I'd venture to say I don't like cymbals *at all* on some equipment. At one time in my life I actually said, "I wish rock music didn't have cymbals in it at all." Can you imagine? I really believed that -- in the least, I blamed the low quality of the rock recordings. I guess I'd forgotten that at one time I actually liked what Bonham had to say at the end of "Rock & Roll" but that wasn't on my cheap stereo, it was on someone's killer turntable, funky lookin' speakers and ungodly overpriced tube amps.

What brought me around on the issue wasn't that over-smoothing effect on cymbals. I've heard that, too; I agree and I don't like it either. But to say a cymbal is never sweet or smooth? Hmmm.

Have you ever actually seen a jazz band live with a good drummer? Ok, sure, I'm still not wanting to stand five feet from the kit. But let's say you're... I dunno, sitting in the audience, for example. Do you really think those brushed cymbals are abrasive and harsh?

I like cymbals a lot now. In fact, I rather love the whole drum kit. I'd almost say that if you gave me any given piece of equipment and the only two things I could evaluate on it were a saxaphone and a drum kit, I'd have enough of the bases covered that I could make a fairly confident decision.

You see, the drum kit has a great deal of variety in it. Those drums don't all sound the same even if they are just tightened stretches of skin and pieces of metal. (If we're going to go that route, let's say that a trumpet is only a piece of molded metal and therefore should be quite easy to reproduce. It is, isn't it? If you say so.) What's more -- even a small drum kit can be massaged to produce a much greater number of sounds by a good drummer. A good drummer can hit, hold, tug, brush, slam and pop a drum so many ways as to make a single littler snare sound like an assortment of drums.

Of course, you can't hear that in your car stereo. You probably can't hear it in your walkman either. You can take the very best drummers and dumb them down to a "beat" if you're not careful.

But what does this have to do with cymbals? Cymbals are just like drums only they're made of a different material and they're open on bottom. They operate in the high frequencies, where it's even more difficult (or at least, certainly less common) to reproduce sounds correctly -- and you may not always hear all those distinct little sounds that cymbals can make, but on the right equipment, I promise, you can hear it.

The cymbal can tell you a lot about an amplifier's attack. It can tell you about the quickness of the transients of the transducer. It can tell you about the high frequency extension of the system. They'll tell you when your digital source is introducing anomolies and artifacts. Sometimes they'll tell you whether the amp is smearing the details. And they'll almost always tell you an awful lot about the decay.

But you know, you don't have to take my word for it. Visit a live performance of someone who really knows how to handle a drum kit in a good venue where you can hear it without sitting five feet from it. Listen and then decide for yourself if only a harsh sounding cymbal is a real cymbal. I for one don't buy it and I'm not sure I'd buy a component from someone who does.
 
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[size=xx-small] Quote:

Originally posted by kelly
....But to say a cymbal is never sweet or smooth? Hmmm.

Have you ever actually seen a jazz band live with a good drummer?....Do you really think those brushed cymbals are abrasive and harsh?....

What's more -- even a small drum kit can be massaged to produce a much greater number of sounds by a good drummer. A good drummer can hit, hold, tug, brush, slam and pop a drum so many ways as to make a single littler snare sound like an assortment of drums....

....Visit a live performance of someone who really knows how to handle a drum kit in a good venue where you can hear it without sitting five feet from it. Listen and then decide for yourself if only a harsh sounding cymbal is a real cymbal. I for one don't buy it and I'm not sure I'd buy a component from someone who does.


[/size]

Exactly, Kelly. For those who haven't taken the opportunity to hear good jazz live, I strongly suggest you do. Cymbals can sound very sweet live. Though I mostly listen to jazz and classical, I also love classic rock, some heavy metal, and some pop -- the last few being music types in which it's not very common to hear cymbals being played sweetly. And despite the fact that it's "a metal or wood cylinder with a taut tuned skin on the two flat ends, with a series of tensioned metal springs on the underside,", a snare drum can be caressed any number of ways to elicit hushed, soothing sounds -- listen to Dave Brubeck Quartet's "Three to Get Ready" for one well known example.
 
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I agree cymbols can sound very sweet....and also they can sound
sound cheap and trashy.
If you look at a catalogue from a manufacturer there will be listed
an amazing variety,some advertising a trashy sound and others
a sweet bell like sound.
So for me if you do not like the cymbol sound you hear do not
necessarily blame the recording quality...It may be spot on,but
instead it may be the drummers cymbol choice that grates.


Incidently cymbols sound great on my Stax,Arcam cd23 combo[thanks in part to the Siltech ICs]




Setmenu
 
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Tomcat

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Actually, the initially derogative term “flat-earth” has more to do with the lack of perceived soundstage-depth in complete Linn and especially Naim systems (something I can definitely confirm). Their philosophies are more concerned with “pace, rhythm and timing” or “PRAT” and – and this is essential – a musically satisfying reproduction. The antinomical ideas here are “dynamics” vs. “soundstage” or “musical” vs. “accurate” and not “harsh” vs. “pretty”. How the supposedly harsh reproduction of a cymbal can be the cornerstone of the “PRAT” or “flat-earth” approach is beyond me. And to me, the PRAT or foot-tapping factor is about timing cohesion throughout the frequency range, and about dynamics, not about tonal colour or timbral accuracy. Cymbals are definitely not what the Linn or Naim sound is all about. It’s not about individual instruments or individual aspects of the reproduction, it’s about musicality, it’s about singing along and tapping one’s feet. As the Naim marketing division has put this, oblivious to the British tradition of understatement: “No Naim, no music”.

By the way, I’d much rather use harmonic instruments with a lot of treble content like a violin or a flute or a soprano saxophone for judging treble accuracy than any percussion instrument. The reason cymbals might not sound “pretty” in many systems is very often to be found in distortion products, e.g. from transient intermodulation distortion. If a system sounds annoying, technical and metallic, then this is certainly no guarantee of accuracy, neither in terms of sound reproduction, nor in terms of music reproduction.
 
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RickG

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Quote:

Originally posted by kelly
You see, the drum kit has a great deal of variety in it. Those drums don't all sound the same even if they are just tightened stretches of skin and pieces of metal. (If we're going to go that route, let's say that a trumpet is only a piece of molded metal and therefore should be quite easy to reproduce. It is, isn't it? If you say so.) What's more -- even a small drum kit can be massaged to produce a much greater number of sounds by a good drummer. A good drummer can hit, hold, tug, brush, slam and pop a drum so many ways as to make a single littler snare sound like an assortment of drums.


That's precisely why, in the studio, it takes longer to get a good drum sound than with other instruments. A drummer's kit, personel style of playing, tuning of the heads, etc., makes achieving this an extremely tedious process. Microphone placement and minute adjustments at both the source and on the mixing console can go on, and on, and on...

I wish I had a nickel for every minute I've done the "hurry up and wait" thing in the studio while the guys struggle to get the "drum sound" they're after. God knows how many cigarettes, cup's of coffee, and <cough>, ermm... other contraband I've consumed over the years with my fellow musicians as a result of this ritual.

 
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Quote:

Originally posted by TimSchirmer
"A cymbal is in effect a bit of sheet metal formed into a slightly conical profile that is repeatedly hit with a wooden stick... sweet, smooth, delicate... yeah right. A snare drum is a metal or wood cylinder with a taut tuned skin on the two flat ends, with a series of tensioned metal springs on the underside, picture this construction in your mind, now hit it hard with a wooden stick. Did you get a soft sound?


But most recordings can't capture the true essence of this, so you will never know whether a system is "accurate" or not.
 
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Anders

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This quote seems to be open for very different interpretations. I agreed when I read it, thinking of overly soft systems contra more accurate systems rather than overly harsh and aggressive ones. I suspect that their reference point is old, English "tubey" sounding systems.
I think Tomcat has got the point about Linn / Naim systems. Another aspect is how this camp praises Linn and Naim products and often makes derogatory comments about all other products, and opens up themselves for ridicule.
Many years ago I bought a Linn CD. I have at least one very good thing to say about the dealer. They had three listening rooms, you said what you wanted to hear and they carried the components to a listening room, connected them and then you were free to listen for yourself as long as you wanted, and then ask for an alternative component. I think this is the Linn show-room policy, and it is very good.
 
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kelly

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The Linn dealer in Dallas was exceptionally rude the last time I visited and I've not since returned. I realize rudeness is not a Linn policy, but I did get that "hey this is a high end boutique" kind of snobbishness impression of them. I went there to hear the Arcam FMJ CD23T, which they decided to no longer carry (stocking only the CD72 as an entry level piece) and instead pushed Linn gear on me. The only Linn I was interested in hearing was the CD12 and for some reason we were never able to get that to happen either.

This dealer also carried some very expensive and large ProAcs that I think I was supposed to be impressed by. The dealers there certainly were. I preferred my humble NHTs to them and they cost me... well, quite a bit less.

I bet... by and large, I wouldn't like the kind of dealers who tend to stock Linn. It's not the equipment, mind you.
 
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Anders

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Kelly,
I don't think the policy I described is implemented globally and not surprised that people can be rude in Dallas. I remember the brothers Cohen film "Blood simple" with the introductory remark "I know one thing for shure, in Texas you are on your own".
Anyway, these guys in Malmö were really nice, too nice maybe for their own best. There were often many persons listening, groups of 2 - 4 young guys and many of them wanted more to listen to something better than they had at home than to buy. The shop was laid down, I don't now if that happened because they were too nice or because of the recession in the 1990's (the interest rate rose very much and many preferred to pay off their house loans, and the young had difficulties to get a job).
It was the best shop listening room I have experienced, in a home-like room with only one pair of properly positioned speakers etc.
 
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