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Have We Thrown the Baby Out With the Bathwater?

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  • Have We Thrown the Baby Out With the Bathwater?

    I've been wondering lately whether we've lost a little of that olde midrange magic in our quest for increased neutrality and decreased colorations? God knows audiophiles suffered through that decade of the '90s of hyper resolution where so many components were etched, cold and mechanical sounding. Yes, we've moved past that period but still every so often there's that product (s) that come through the system--in this case the Kondo amps, the Charisma cartridges or Transparent Audio cables--that remind my ears that neutrality is a careful balancing act. These products just have that little extra midrange palpability and presence like one hears live.
    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
    Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
    ________________________________________

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  • #2
    In many ways yes, I think that because of spec'manship in general the onus has been put on the end user to find ways to bring that life back for lesser recordings. I for one would simply give up on this hobby if all I could enjoy were exceptionally well done recordings. Finding the balance between transparency and forgivingness is always the hardest part of system integration for me. It's such a fine line to try to walk. When I do get it I get so paranoid I don't even want the maid to sweep! LOL! Nah not really. The thought of changing anything does give me pause though. Rebalancing can take anywhere from a few minutes to a month.

    Just the other night I had some totally non-audiophile friends over and the comments were very interesting. One buddy's girlfriend (their both in their twenties) asked me out of the blue why she could hear everything so clearly even if we weren't playing the music loudly. Another friend had the opposite take, he said it is loud (he was right we were at about 70dB) but we can still talk without raising our voices. The third guy said it was like being at a concert. He said he could feel the "sipa" (that would be the "kick") and the "ugong" (long reverb trails) and that it sounded "buo" (Full or complete) even at the level played. I said that if I tried to answer I'd probably bore them to death so offered another round instead

    Comment


    • JackD201
      JackD201 commented
      Editing a comment
      Pretty common here in Asia. Don't worry they're paid well and have full benefits

    • Rust
      Rust commented
      Editing a comment
      And here I thought you were fabulously wealthy.

    • JackD201
      JackD201 commented
      Editing a comment
      We can all wish.

  • #3
    Myles - I know exactly what you are talking about and encountered it all too often in the three year search for replacement speakers. In one case I thought the owner of one store would expire in a fit of apoplexy when I dismissed a rather expensive brand name speaker as unmusical. Too often there is a lack of richness to the mids and down into the upper bass that does not sound like real instruments, and the trailing decay is truncated.

    I think in the quest for a flat frequency response, the complex crossovers and lack of efficiency rob a recording of dynamic detail in exactly that area. Probably why so much effort is being expended in new midrange drivers.

    Comment


    • #4
      Myles, It is a good question and like a lot of things in life we have to be careful not to let the pendulum swing too far in one direction of the other. For example in the 80s and 90s nothing was more important then soundstaging outside the speakers and way behind them. There was a time when people liked lots of bass and a rich warm midrange. Then came the time when it was all about fast, tight bass with detailed, transparent midrange. Some of my favorite audio writers seem to have really swung back toward that warmer sound. I think some of this is still people compensating for digital sound. I have found it very hard to find the transparency I love and still have the midrange magic and realistic, powerful bass. I thought it had to come from a really expensive SET, but now know you can also have it from SS done right. I have also found the A.R.T. Room Tuning Cones to be a big help in finding this balance.

      Comment


      • #5
        You guys want it all, huh? Full bandwidth, deep bass, coherence and midrange openness? I think Rust is on to something with complexity and crossovers, but I'm not up to speed on the latest multi-driver dynamic speakers. I know that if you still have an old pair of Quads, you haven't given up anything in the midrange, but you don't have bandwidth, deep bass or the ability to blend them easily with other drivers, let alone the ability to crank them up to live music levels. I have glorious midrange on the horns, no X-over between the mid and SET amp, but I give up deep bass and/or coherence. It's all trade-offs, no? And a little bit of sleight of hand (ear).
        I'm reluctant to give you any kind of definitive answer since I haven't listened to a lot of the latest gear- but "big system" and midrange verisimilitude are in my experience, tough to get in one package. Let alone at a price. I'd love to be wrong.

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        • #6
          This is a hobby where you have to give to get. Everything is a compromise regardless of the amount spent because at the end of the day, no system or component is "perfect."
          Micro Seiki SX-8000 table with flywheel, SME 3012R arm, SME 312S arm, Lyra Etna SL and Dynavector XV-1S cartridges, ARC Ref 3 phono stage, Otari MX-55 tape deck, Ampex 350 repros, Roon Nucleus Plus server, PS Audio DSJ DAC, ARC Ref 6 pre, ARC Ref 75 amp, JBL 4345 speakers, and Def Tech Ref subs.

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          • #7
            I defo think we have done just that.i hear so much talk on forums.they say things like oh speakers.should be very neutral like studio monitors.to neutral is almost to sterile for me.
            digitalphile here yay

            Comment


            • #8
              Originally posted by pharoah View Post
              I defo think we have done just that.i hear so much talk on forums.they say things like oh speakers.should be very neutral like studio monitors.to neutral is almost to sterile for me.
              Two things come to mind re studio monitors that may not mean much but live music, particularly rock is REALLY LOUD. And my experience in studios, which is dated, is that you have some big-assed super efficient speakers, pretty much near field, that are literally whacking you w/ dbs. I know at mix down time, some engineers used to mess with consumer style gear to get a sound more closely approximating what the average home listener might hear, but man, in the days when I used to go to studios, it was thumping loud. I didn't bring my phone with a db meter to a club I visited the other night for a show- the guitarist, a guy I love, Johnny A, was patched through two mid-sized Marshall stacks. In a room that seats 100. Even with good ear plugs, it was LOUD!

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              • #9
                Lots of instruments heard live and up close are really loud. Stand next to a guy blowing on a trumpet and it will damn near blow out your eardrums. Stand next to a drummer even on a small kit and enter a new world of sound intensity.

                Speaking of trumpets, even the 12" single version of Lionel Richie's "All Night Long" has a trumpet part in it that is so powerful I have seen it shut amps down.
                Micro Seiki SX-8000 table with flywheel, SME 3012R arm, SME 312S arm, Lyra Etna SL and Dynavector XV-1S cartridges, ARC Ref 3 phono stage, Otari MX-55 tape deck, Ampex 350 repros, Roon Nucleus Plus server, PS Audio DSJ DAC, ARC Ref 6 pre, ARC Ref 75 amp, JBL 4345 speakers, and Def Tech Ref subs.

                Comment


                • #10
                  loud and neutral are completely separate.you can have very loud sound.that isn't neutral,and vice versa.
                  digitalphile here yay

                  Comment


                  • Bill Hart
                    Bill Hart commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Agreed, and I didn't intend to conflate them, but riffing off your comment about the studio 'monitor' as a 'standard,' in the context of the larger question of midrange flow and whether it has gotten lost in 'big home systems'- I don't try to reproduce at live music levels in my home. I cheat, partly by getting the jump factor of horns and partly through that midrange magic that comes from the horn/SET combo. But, it is a compromise.

                  • pharoah
                    pharoah commented
                    Editing a comment
                    haha i believe i was thinking backward.when i read your earlier post.

                • #11
                  There are sins of omission and there are sins of commission. What seems to go hand in hand with a lack of richness in midrange tonality and timbre is an overly bright top end which really sounds sterile to me. Some speakers have a hot top end, that is there is an extra dB or two of response built in to give a sense of detail or "air", whatever you want to call it. While it might sound good on select recordings, on the whole I am quite sensitive to it and I really don't like it at all. It takes the wood right out of a violin. And that is just wrong.

                  Comment


                  • #12
                    Originally posted by mep View Post
                    Lots of instruments heard live and up close are really loud. Stand next to a guy blowing on a trumpet and it will damn near blow out your eardrums. Stand next to a drummer even on a small kit and enter a new world of sound intensity.

                    Speaking of trumpets, even the 12" single version of Lionel Richie's "All Night Long" has a trumpet part in it that is so powerful I have seen it shut amps down.
                    Amen. Even a kick drum, as you say, moves air live that is not easy to duplicate without subs and upper bass speakers that can not only deliver db, but do the 'jump' thing.

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                    • #13
                      Originally posted by MylesBAstor View Post
                      I've been wondering lately whether we've lost a little of that olde midrange magic in our quest for increased neutrality and decreased colorations? God knows audiophiles suffered through that decade of the '90s of hyper resolution where so many components were etched, cold and mechanical sounding. Yes, we've moved past that period but still every so often there's that product (s) that come through the system--in this case the Kondo amps, the Charisma cartridges or Transparent Audio cables--that remind my ears that neutrality is a careful balancing act. These products just have that little extra midrange palpability and presence like one hears live.
                      I'm curious what others think: Besides the brands that Myles listed above, which other brands would you consider had that little dollop of midrange richness but still maintained an overall neutral tonality?

                      Having owned Revel Salons for a brief period, I would add them to the list. And outside of Magico's newest tweeters, one of the best tweeters to my ears. Would also nominate Trinity gear in that category as well (wish I could hear the DAC!).


                      Anyone others?
                      Kronos Sparta -> Trinity Phono -> Trinity Pre -> CH Precision A1 -> Magico S7s

                      Comment


                      • #14
                        Ever since my first experience with large horns I can say that listening to a home stereo hasn't been the same. I prefer what I am calling the ease and naturalness of the horns to the accuracy of modern box speakers. I understand the lure of the modern designs but for me nothing beats the large scale horn loudspeaker. I also hold a place for speakers like the Quad 57s and the large panel Soundlabs. That being said I recently had an excellent (and too short) listening session that used the Kronos TT, Audionet electronics and YG Hailey speakers. Haven't heard much better with modern equipment.

                        My motto is simple is usually better!
                        Tannoy Glenair, April Sound SET 50 monoblocks and LR phono, EMIA silver remote attenuator and Strain Gauge, Mono TT - AE 208 TT, Abis 1.2BCS arm Miyajima Premium BE, Stereo TT - Fairchild 750 Schroder Custom BA, Miyajima Kansui, Mac Mini w/ Roon, Bel Canto RefLink, Dac 3.5VB, Wadia 860x.

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                        • #15
                          Originally posted by MylesBAstor View Post
                          I've been wondering lately whether we've lost a little of that olde midrange magic in our quest for increased neutrality and decreased colorations? (...)
                          Yes, Myles we are again loosing a lot lately. IMHO many systems become too perfect and loose the magic - in some sense they all sound very similar, with a hint of mechanical perfection, but do not invite you to go on listening. Designers are obsessed with transparency to the recording and forget how beautiful the reproduction of sound can be.
                          My opinions rely on listening mainly to acoustical, non amplified music. I do not care about electronic music or listening to rock at stadium levels, but I enjoy Mahler and Shostakovitch.

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