Playing "The Game"

ClipdatClipdat Posts: 7,586
edited June 2018 in 2 Channel Audio
A gentlemen on another forum that I'm on made an interesting post in the Audio/HT thread there a while back, figured I'd share it here:

"This is going to come off snarky, but I TRULY do not mean it to be; it's just something I've been wondering about for a very long time, as a professional classical and jazz musician (primarily violin/viola in the classical realm and piano in the jazz realm, with admitted crossovers and some time on many other instruments), amateur and occasional professional recording engineer, and long time audio hobbyist (building Dynacos and Haflers back when they were a thing, and designing and building speakers from scratch through many decades.

The music I play, listen to, record, and assemble audio systems for is all acoustic. Because my goal is to recreate the experience of listening to a grand piano, a jazz quartet, a string quartet, a symphonic orchestra, a chorus.. whatever.. I have an actual, real-life event to shoot for when placing microphones, mixing, choosing components in playback systems, etc.

To those of you who spend thousands and thousands of dollars on audio equipment (and I'm not putting that hobby down; the gear in my house is worth a lot more than my house), but listen to rock/pop/electronica etc.. here's the question..

The music you listen to has no origination acoustically; it has no "real" reference sound. Sure, the string on an electric guitar vibrates, and that induces an electrical signal in the pickup, but that is then transferred to a pre/amp combo, usually with the pre overdriven for that beautiful real or simulated "tube" "rich in harmonics" distortion... yet we strive for the finest audio gear with low measurable distortion...

Then, dozens and dozens of tracks are manipulated, once digitized and having passed through yards and yards and yards of cables, then passed on to some ProTools/Samplitude workstation, and most likely a bunch of computer/midi-generated sampled tracks are added on top.. the producer/engineer is as much a part of the music creation process as are the folks on the other side of the microphone, if not more... singers voices are compressed, processed, doubled, pitch-corrected and/or shifted... then, after thousands of manipulations, when everyone involved is happy with the result, the product is released.

Next.. the audiophile consumer plays this product back on his/her kilobuck Krell/Muse/Wilson Watt-Puppy system and debates whether or not a Silma or Wondercap sounds better in the preamp signal path..

HOW DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT THE ORIGINAL was supposed to sound like in the first place? If it's all subjective and just a matter of finding the sound you enjoy the most, and I can definitely buy that argument, then there's no point in discussion things like "accurate frequency response" or shooting for the holy grail in "realistic" sound reproduction because, by definition, we aren't reproducing anything that was real in the first place.

Do you get my dilemma? Seriously.. I'm not judging. Just very, very confused and curious as to why folks OTHER than acoustic musicians and those who listen to primarily acoustic instruments and voices have any interest at all in "high end" audio.

I love this stuff, and yes, I'm on a budget and build as much as I can and buy used what I can't. There's lots of stuff I'd have if I could afford it, and I begrudge no one the ability to own and enjoy the best gear available. Just curious as to why it matters if the music you listen to has no real reference in the real world."

I thought he made a well written post, with a good take home point. It was especially poignant for me, as I love to listen to electronic music and it's my go-to genre of choice.

So what do you guys think? Agree/disagree with his post? If nothing else, it's a bit of a reference point for some of us here on the forum that have gone "way down the rabbit hole" of playing "The Game". It's important to regain your perspective from time to time, right? :)
"Electronic music is human sound adapting to indulge technology, and for some, it feels like the signature sound of energy. New and abstract sounds over hypnotic rhythms can conjure vast soundscapes for escape, pleasure, and transcendence."
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Comments

  • nooshinjohnnooshinjohn Posts: 21,992
    edited June 2018
    His comments may very well appear be true for listening to Electronica, and a good chunk of the music that came about post-Devo, but the vast majority of the rock music I listen to was done at a time when real performers held real instruments and played them, sung and actually performed music that was written rather than sampled.

    Computers had zero to do with music and mastering until the techno-pop stuff that came about in the 1980's. Therefore his argument has no merit when he is saying that audiophile level playback components are wasted on pop and rock. Even some "electronica" is very well done and worthy of high performance playback.


    Bottom line is the guy comes across as an elitist snob.
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  • F1nutF1nut Posts: 43,635
    He seems to assume that classical and jazz recordings are not subjected to the whims of whomever is doing the mastering. Of course, he is wrong. Heck, even the microphones used affect the recorded sound. Therefore, his thoughts that only classical and jazz are worth listening to are poppycock.
    Political Correctness'.........defined

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  • ClipdatClipdat Posts: 7,586
    He does touch on microphones, and how the producer/engineer has a large part in the end result of the recording/release.

    I don't think he states that only classical and jazz are "worth listening to" though. I didn't get that from reading his post.
    F1nut wrote: »
    He seems to assume that classical and jazz recordings are not subjected to the whims of whomever is doing the mastering. Of course, he is wrong. Heck, even the microphones used affect the recorded sound. Therefore, his thoughts that only classical and jazz are worth listening to are poppycock.

    "Electronic music is human sound adapting to indulge technology, and for some, it feels like the signature sound of energy. New and abstract sounds over hypnotic rhythms can conjure vast soundscapes for escape, pleasure, and transcendence."
  • nooshinjohnnooshinjohn Posts: 21,992
    Do you share his opinion Clip.... What is your take on the subject?
    The Gear... Carver "Statement" Mono-blocks, TriangleArt Reference SE with Pass Labs Xono Phono Preamp, Walker Precision Motor Drive, ClearAudio Goldfinger Diamond v2 cartridge and Origin Conquerer Mk3c tonearm, Polk Audio "Signature" Reference Series 1.2TL with complete mods, Pass Labs X0.2 three chassis preamp, PS Audio PerfectWave DAC MkII, Krell Evolution 505 SACD Player, Pioneer Elite SC-LX701, Oppo UDP-205 4K Blu-ray player, Sony XBR70x850B 4k, Polk audio AB800 "in-wall" surrounds.

    Saying that it's "too hard" to pursue your dreams is no different than admitting to yourself that you are too lazy to achieve them.

    “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
  • CoolJazzCoolJazz Posts: 536
    Every minute you live, your ears and brain are working, listening. You do develop certain expectations and assumptions, but they are a learned over your entire lifetime.

    So you don't have to know exactly what the first microphone picked up to know that something sounds like an electronic reproduction of the original event rather than attaining some level of realism. And you can judge based on that lifetime of learning if it fits "real" better when you change that single cap in the entire system...if it reaches a level of change.

    But the base assumption being stated that the "first half" of the process, or the recording end does matter is correct. But we also can't from the listener end change that. We can only change something in "our half" of the chain.

    But we do have the right to buy what we want that is better sounding. Or at least we do now before the system changes to all "renting" the audio. IE...streaming. There is a monster difference in material out there. The most natural is what was picked up by a mic pair and routed without an pan pots (or other more extreme manipulation as mentioned) into our system. Good, naturally recorded material does exist.

    CJ
    A so called science type proudly says... "I do realize that I would fool myself all the time, about listening conclusions and many other observations, if I did listen before buying. That’s why I don’t, I bought all of my current gear based on technical parameters alone, such as specs and measurements."
  • nooshinjohnnooshinjohn Posts: 21,992
    I think further discussion of the topic is pointless until we know what the OP’s personal opinion is.
    The Gear... Carver "Statement" Mono-blocks, TriangleArt Reference SE with Pass Labs Xono Phono Preamp, Walker Precision Motor Drive, ClearAudio Goldfinger Diamond v2 cartridge and Origin Conquerer Mk3c tonearm, Polk Audio "Signature" Reference Series 1.2TL with complete mods, Pass Labs X0.2 three chassis preamp, PS Audio PerfectWave DAC MkII, Krell Evolution 505 SACD Player, Pioneer Elite SC-LX701, Oppo UDP-205 4K Blu-ray player, Sony XBR70x850B 4k, Polk audio AB800 "in-wall" surrounds.

    Saying that it's "too hard" to pursue your dreams is no different than admitting to yourself that you are too lazy to achieve them.

    “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”
  • ClipdatClipdat Posts: 7,586
    I'm not sure if I share his opinion. I will have to think about it, and reflect again on this topic after I experience some megabuck systems at July's California Audio Show in Oakland that I'll be attending. It'll be my first show and thus opportunity to hear what's out there at the higher end of the spectrum. This will allow me to have some insight in terms of if there's any positive audible changes I can perceive between my own system and some super expensive ones. Will they sound "fun"? Or just clinical and "accurate"?

    In terms of electronic music playback specifically, reading his post did make me think it was pretty silly to be putting the money I have toward "faithful/realistic playback" of it. But then again, I don't really think to myself when I listen to music "Is this being played back faithfully?".

    However it seems like a lot of people who review gear professionally online, as well as respected publications like Stereophile, tend to mention "realism" in their reviews. Or being "transported" to the venue/concert where the recording took place.

    So, for electronic music which has no place in "reality", perhaps a nice set of powered studio monitors (and maybe/probably a powered sub as well), would do it the most "justice". It would allow it to be "faithfully" represented in terms of having the technical ability to do so.

    That being said, wouldn't some of my favorite electronic music sound "better" on a MastersounD BoX pushing some Rosso Fiorentino towers? I'm fairly certain the answer to that is yes.

    Anyway, one thing that I really liked about his post regardless if my opinion differs from his, is that it gets you thinking about what you're really "chasing". Maybe if you go so far down the HiFi journey, you might forget which way is up and which way is down. Taking a step back and "simplifying" (literally or figuratively) your setup might be a way to regain perspective on what your ultimate goal is.
    Do you share his opinion Clip.... What is your take on the subject?

    "Electronic music is human sound adapting to indulge technology, and for some, it feels like the signature sound of energy. New and abstract sounds over hypnotic rhythms can conjure vast soundscapes for escape, pleasure, and transcendence."
  • mrbironmrbiron Posts: 5,213
    If he is looking for unmolested music, he can probably rent mariachi bands, on the cheap, to sit in his house and reproduce anything he wants with a Spanish flare...

    It’s posts like that, that make me feel like i’m going about this all wrong. I just want to listen to music any-which-way. If i want the real thing, i’ll go to a show.
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  • bikezappabikezappa Posts: 2,507
    He brings up a good point for discussion. He is not trying to put anyone down. Don't take it personally, it's a fair question to ask.


    HOW DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT THE ORIGINAL was supposed to sound like in the first place? If it's all subjective and just a matter of finding the sound you enjoy the most, and I can definitely buy that argument, then there's no point in discussion things like "accurate frequency response" or shooting for the holy grail in "realistic" sound reproduction because, by definition, we aren't reproducing anything that was real in the first place.

    Do you get my dilemma? Seriously.. I'm not judging. Just very, very confused and curious as to why folks OTHER than acoustic musicians and those who listen to primarily acoustic instruments and voices have any interest at all in "high end" audio.
  • bikezappabikezappa Posts: 2,507
    Is it real or Memorex?
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 31,810
    F1nut wrote: »
    He seems to assume that classical and jazz recordings are not subjected to the whims of whomever is doing the mastering. Of course, he is wrong. Heck, even the microphones used affect the recorded sound. Therefore, his thoughts that only classical and jazz are worth listening to are poppycock.

    Bingo.

    Plus his take on recorded music.....has anyone ever heard live music, that sucked too ? You betcha.
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  • bikezappabikezappa Posts: 2,507
    Therefore, his thoughts that only classical and jazz are worth listening to are poppycock.
    The OP never said that.
  • bikezappabikezappa Posts: 2,507
    I think he is saying that the sound engineer has much more control of the recordings sound of electronic music compared to acoustic music. Of course the microphones and placement and room all affect the recording sound.
  • F1nutF1nut Posts: 43,635
    bikezappa wrote: »
    Therefore, his thoughts that only classical and jazz are worth listening to are poppycock.
    The OP never said that.

    Yeah, he did.
    Seriously.. I'm not judging. Just very, very confused and curious as to why folks OTHER than acoustic musicians and those who listen to primarily acoustic instruments and voices have any interest at all in "high end" audio.
    Political Correctness'.........defined

    "A doctrine fostered by a delusional, illogical minority and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a t-u-r-d by the clean end."


    President of Club Polk

  • msgmsg Posts: 5,268
    edited June 2018
    Interesting question, I suppose. Maybe this is going to sound dumb, but realistic music reproduction is not really something I've ever pursued in this hobby. At least not consciously, anyway. I've just never really considered that the studio recordings I listen to can sound as though the artist is playing in front of me. What would that even sound like, really?

    I also can't think of a concert I've been to that had me thinking, Wow, the sound quality in this venue is great. Most kind of suck compared to the quality and detail I experience in home systems or headphones with studio recordings.

    I'd say this would probably be different for something orchestral, or well done acoustic performance, like Cowboy Junkies' Trinity Revisited, for example?
    Post edited by msg on
    I disabled signatures.
  • txcoastal1txcoastal1 Posts: 10,857
    These discussions is why "you" have to have 5-10 go-to songs for reference. These songs not only have to be well recorded, but hit you emotionally.
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  • jdjohnjdjohn Posts: 1,235
    The music you listen to has no origination acoustically; it has no "real" reference sound.
    HOW DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHAT THE ORIGINAL was supposed to sound like in the first place? If it's all subjective and just a matter of finding the sound you enjoy the most, and I can definitely buy that argument, then there's no point in discussion things like "accurate frequency response" or shooting for the holy grail in "realistic" sound reproduction because, by definition, we aren't reproducing anything that was real in the first place.
    The words naive, sheltered, and uninformed come to mind. That guy makes some huge over-generalizations. I certainly can't defend all pop/rock/electronic music being produced today, but let's consider a few nuances in rock/pop instruments.

    Guitars: maybe I want to hear the difference between a Les Paul and a Stratocaster. And I want to accurately hear the different setups of Chet Atkins, Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton; each has a different sound with pedal effects, choice of amp, distortion, etc. The dude referred to tube harmonic distortion in his comments. Do I want to hear that? Yes, please, and as accurate a reproduction of it as possible! And guess what? A lot of rock/pop includes an acoustic guitar!

    Bass: similarly, maybe I can distinguish between a Fender jazz bass vs a Hofner or a Rickenbacker.

    Keyboard: here we go again. Can I hear the difference between Stevie Wonder on a Clavinet vs Ray Manzarek of The Doors on a Vox? Uh, yeah! Btw, 'regular' pianos are often used in rock/pop.

    Drums: unless it's a drum machine, it IS acoustic!

    Voice/Mic: we all know that reverb can be added, or not, for effect. Yes, I want to hear the difference and intended effect, or lack thereof.

    Let's also not forget about brass (i.e., the horn section) in a lot of rock/pop. Acoustic!

    He is basically assuming that 1) you can't hear the difference between various electronic instruments, so why bother? And 2) there are no acoustic instruments involved in rock/pop music. Both of those assumptions are just stupid and ignorant.
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  • kharp1kharp1 Posts: 3,463
    I don't want to sound ugly, but, there are a lot of inane comments/assumptions/innuendo in the original post as quoted. We may never know exactly what the artist intended in the sound both originally before recording as well as the final recorded product, however, as someone raised on live music that has played several instruments ( as well as played backing instruments on a couple of tracks of a studio recording) I can use my good faculties and surmise what a group of musicians should reasonably sound like on a recording. Even more so if you've seen those same artist live. Also, I can see what instruments they were using and have a pretty good idea what those instruments sound like having likely played them once myself, or, been next to said instrument when it was being played. Armed with even my modest intelligence i can come to the conclusion of how well something is recorded and make a fair judgement of now "natural" or "real" it sounds.

    Taking various recording venues in to account is more problematic, but again, you can usually gather some room artifacts in recordings as well as other issues if you listen closely. Some recordings, no matter how good the musicians, can surpass terrible recording and engineering. Think some Journey, Eagles, Mellencamp, Adele, Natalie Merchant to name just a few.
  • tonybtonyb Posts: 31,810
    Clipdat wrote: »
    So what do you guys think? Agree/disagree with his post? If nothing else, it's a bit of a reference point for some of us here on the forum that have gone "way down the rabbit hole" of playing "The Game". It's important to regain your perspective from time to time, right? :)

    I think.....you should pay less attention to what others think, and just concentrate on what YOU enjoy in audio.

    There is nothing in that post, in my opinion, worth anything to anyone or helpful in any way to a budding audiophile.
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  • mhardy6647mhardy6647 Posts: 24,590
    so -- there's a guy, active at AK and at www.hifihaven.org who records a local (to him) orchestra, and makes his recordings available on those sites.

    There are relatively unmolested recordings out there -- and they can be very
    instructive
    for 'audiophile' ear-calibration... as, of course, is real, live (unamplified, ideally) music.

    In terms of the usual audiophilia nervosa habits and traits -- much of it comes down to personal taste, and, as it is said:

    de gustibus non est disputandum.

    http://www.hifihaven.org/index.php?threads/a-songcatcher-in-the-wild-natural-aural-imagery.48/
    http://www.hifihaven.org/index.php?search/105646/&q=poway&o=date
    https://archive.org/details/PowaySymphonyOrchestra

    4xrgr7xh3iv8.png


  • mdaudioguymdaudioguy Posts: 5,125
    I like good songs, no matter how they're made.
  • mlistens03mlistens03 Posts: 2,684
    I think that music with all the added sounds and all of the above IS the original recording. I mean, no it’s not what the band recorded, but the band (or band’s producer) edited it to sound that way, meaning that it is what the band’s intention was. Meaning that is what it was intended to sound like getting you as close to the original recording as possible.
    Not Tom or Trey or Jim just Micah
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    I've always thought the goal of high-end audio was not to have your neighbors bang on the wall and say, 'Turn that darn music down' but to have your neighbors bang on the wall and say, 'Tell your friends to go home and you can practice later this week'.
  • mlistens03mlistens03 Posts: 2,684
    erniejade wrote: »
    All of this discussion.... Just turn it up and rip the knob off.

    I did that once, but when I pulled the knob off I accidentally turned it more and it smoked the tweeters in a old pair of Onkyo speakers.
    Not Tom or Trey or Jim just Micah
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    I've always thought the goal of high-end audio was not to have your neighbors bang on the wall and say, 'Turn that darn music down' but to have your neighbors bang on the wall and say, 'Tell your friends to go home and you can practice later this week'.
  • LegenderLegender Posts: 478
    We're all different and look for what appeals to us and makes us happy. That's why we all don't live in the same town, nor drive the same vehicles or want to marry the same woman. Thank goodness for our differences.
    I believe we also tend to gravitate to what we know. I grew up in a church with 4 part harmonies and no instruments. Acappella is music to my ears. That blending of voices to me means more than any guitar chord, but violins do come close to competing.
    I want a system that allows me to feel as if I'm at church listening to hundreds of voices blending together. That's what good is to me.
    That may not be for you and that's fine. You are welcome to your own opinion and to judge and value your audio system the best way you see fit.
    Some of you can tell the difference between different guitars or drum sets. I'd have no clue and that does not matter to me.
    I like my system and it makes me happy... until I decide I want to try and improve it.
  • EndersShadowEndersShadow Posts: 17,035
    edited June 2018
    Better anything reduces noise.... which is a part of any type of music playback.

    So even if I'm listening to Skrillex or Diplo..... higher end gear reduces the noise/jitter in the playback, so its all still there.... or not depending on what you have gear wise.

    Like all things, there is a price to performance ratio we all set for ourselves. If you need to spend 4x more to get 1% gain, its up to you if thats worth it, and if you can afford it.

    If you can buy a better set of speaker cables that cost 2x more than what you have and get about 75% of the sound of 5x cables, maybe you just stop there... (Side note: this is why @Dskip and @F1Nut demos were so important. Try out the cables for the cost of shipping, cant beat it)

    I tend to think that you should spend about 10% of the cost of your components on your cables.

    Whats the point in having a AWESOME AMP or AVR and then radio shack interconnects and speaker wires? If your amp is 1k why not spend 100 on a set of cables? 100 bucks can get you some good Signal Cable/DouglasConnection/BlueJeansCable/Cullen Cable speaker cables.
    "....not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." William Bruce Cameron, Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking (1963)
  • steveinazsteveinaz Posts: 19,177
    edited June 2018
    Let's forget about the engineering for a moment, and/or the type of instruments involved; isn't tonal accuracy what really matters? To me an audio system is like a car. You select engine, transmission, suspension, braking to fulfill a great feel of driving, then you wrap it in a shell that speaks to you emotionally; the mechanics being the components of a system, the "shell" or body being the speakers---the final part that evokes the most emotion--and difference.

    My point, you can futz with the internals all you want, but at the end of the day if the whole doesn't appeal to you emotionally--you're chasing your tail.
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  • afterburntafterburnt Posts: 6,319
    Evidently some of you need lessons on how to listen.

    Lesson 1:
  • mpitogompitogo Posts: 413
    My two cents in an overly simplified version.

    Why buy a Ferrari if the roads you are going to drive on suck, you are better off in a beater SUV.

    I can relate, I also play piano and have played in a band and orchestra. Live music and the dynamics and acoustics of a room or a hall is hard to reproduce but its one of the aspects of what we strive. But if you are only looking to reproduce artificially generated sounds do you really need to buy extremely expensive and purported very accurate gear. I also listen to electronic and have a very varied taste in music and to some extent I do agree.
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  • mhardy6647mhardy6647 Posts: 24,590
    edited June 2018
    seems appropriate:

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