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  • Perception of Good vs. Bad Sound: Does It Change?

    Bill Hart posted this in another thread and really felt it deserved its own space because this is a very profound statement and applies to life in general!

    "I wonder if our perceptions of what is "good" change over time, with experience and exposure as well as a sort of "fatigue" that sets in over time from "hi-fi spectacular." I'm not saying this to get down on the particular equipment discussed, but I wonder- rhetorically anyway- if one heard what David now listens to back in the '80s or '90s- the reaction might be--where's the bass? where's that punch of music being "pushed" at you in sparkly, technicolor way? I dunno. I guess my point is, it isn't just the equipment, it's our priorities that change."
    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
    Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
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  • #2
    Originally posted by MylesBAstor View Post

    I think David we have to differentiate between good components and putting them in a position to fail. We've both been in this business long enough to see many situations where people do a terrible job of installing or putting good, expensive equipment in horrible rooms (or according to the interior designer) with predictable horrific results. In fact, you could argue that you can get worse results with more expensive speaker more easily than smaller, less expensive transducers. I've seen a few doozies over the years that would have people rolling on the floor.

    Years ago, I remember either Stereo Review (or Audio?) featuring this custom designed audio system where the Magnepan MG3 speakers were actually put in a closet in the listening room. You just opened the door to hear the speakers and closed it to hide them. WTF?
    I agree 100%, setup, Setup, SETUP! I was talking about actual expensive crappy products not poorly setup systems. Thinking of my hall of shame system from 90's when I wrote that. Every expense stupidly spent; Apogee Grands, 3 pairs of Krell KAS, Krell KRC-HR, Well Tempered Reference tt and $40k of MIT Shotgun cable for good measure in case the rest of the system wasn't shitty enough to begging with! There was not a single component in this system had anything to do with music, every piece was a giant TURD in its own right! WTF was I thinking?

    david
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    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by david k View Post

      I agree 100%, setup, Setup, SETUP! I was talking about actual expensive crappy products not poorly setup systems. Thinking of my hall of shame system from 90's when I wrote that. Every expense stupidly spent; Apogee Grands, 3 pairs of Krell KAS, Krell KRC-HR, Well Tempered Reference tt and $40k of MIT Shotgun cable for good measure in case the rest of the system wasn't shitty enough to begging with! There was not a single component in this system had anything to do with music, every piece was a giant TURD in its own right! WTF was I thinking?

      david
      David, it couldn't have been that bad, I very much recall what was hot in high-end during the early '90s. I had a mini version of your system (Duetta Sig, krell KSA-250 KBL/KPA, Versa Dynamics 1.0). We've all moved on since then but I can say every system I owned brought something to the table or I did't own it,

      Comment


      • david k
        david k commented
        Editing a comment
        Trust me Rob, it was disgusting, your system consisted the same brand but the same. I owned a pair of Divas for 10 years and love it, that's why I went for the Grand without hearing it. It was the most disjointed speaker I've ever heard and even with try-amping it still didn't come to life. As bad as the Divas were in the efficiency department, these were much worse. I never cared much for Krell since their early KSA models and that were real Class A, after that they came out with their BS of Krell Class A which was nonsense. The KAS was a horrible product and that Sustained Plateau Bias was like a switching power supply. You'd hear the sound change when it kicked in, and it was breaking down every other week! As far as tts go Well Tempered is in its own class of crap with ridiculous tonearm, your Versa was in a very different league. Don't forget the cost of this horror show. I can't even describe how bad it was, if using music as reference, this system was hifi galore. No tone, timbre and anything in common with music only a big sound. Forget about your Apogee experience the Grand wasn't it. I still get angry myself remembering it but you're right we've all moved on.

        david

      • Rob
        Rob commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks for bringing some levity, albeit at your expense I heard the Grand's once and the Divas many times and always lusted for a pair (still do!). The KAS was king of the jungle at hat time, I heard them on Martin Logan Statements, ironically at the same show, the speaker impressed me. The Well tempered is an enigma, it can sound so good in certain applications (mounted on a LInn LP12) but overall it can sound dead in direct comparisons to many other set-ups. ( I owned three WTT but not the Ref).

      • MylesBAstor
        MylesBAstor commented
        Editing a comment
        The Grand was a speaker in search of an amplifier. That was the speaker I referred to when this audiobuddy then only found the EC amp could drive that 0.25 ohm load. Not even the Krells could. Even with the EC, they were still bad IMO. There are of course some feel that Krell made a bad decision after the KSA 250.

    • #4
      Originally posted by Rob View Post

      David, it couldn't have been that bad, I very much recall what was hot in high-end during the early '90s. I had a mini version of your system (Duetta Sig, krell KSA-250 KBL/KPA, Versa Dynamics 1.0). We've all moved on since then but I can say every system I owned brought something to the table or I did't own it,
      I wonder if our perceptions of what is "good" change over time, with experience and exposure as well as a sort of "fatigue" that sets in over time from "hi-fi spectacular." I'm not saying this to get down on the particular equipment discussed, but I wonder- rhetorically anyway- if one heard what David now listens to back in the '80s or '90s- the reaction might be--where's the bass? where's that punch of music being "pushed" at you in sparkly, technicolor way? I dunno. I guess my point is, it isn't just the equipment, it's our priorities that change.

      Comment


      • cpp
        cpp commented
        Editing a comment
        Bill I agree with you. I for instance liked a little more bass back in the late 60's, 70's and as time and my age progressed into my mid 60's, I now enjoy less bass and a richer mid-range and clear highs. Its not my taste in music has changed as I still listen to the same music, but my age and hearing changed, some for the worst and maybe some for the better, I can;t hear those high Freq over 12khz anymore and I just can't stand the sound or pressure of deep bass clean or fast etc.. for a period of time.

      • MylesBAstor
        MylesBAstor commented
        Editing a comment
        I think it is more a reflection of the times in high end audio. Everything save for a few companies was about hyper definition, hyper detail, hyper hyper, etc. Simply unlistenable. That is why I loved my Maggie/cj combo. Just was musical.

        But even cj made a bad move toward that sound with the Motif line. Sid bought the Motif pre in combo with the Curl phono in part because would work with his Spectral or Shinon Red cartridges (of course the cj Prem 3 just didn't have the gain eg. Noise to deal with these cartridges). And the sound would peel the wallpaper off the walls. We begged Sid to get rid of the solid-state stuff and eventually he did.

        The Shinon Red was an interesting exercise as Sid trusted HP implicitly and bought it because of Harry's review. It was dreadful (at that time Sid had it in the Goldmund Studio tableT3 arm) and brighter than hell. For the sake of transparency, I still swear Sam Burstein didn't set the Shinon Red up correctly in the arm. Everyone who saw it swore the the back of the cartridge was up relative to the front.

      • MylesBAstor
        MylesBAstor commented
        Editing a comment
        But I would say it isn't more or less bass, but the quality of the bass and how the drivers blend that's more important. Bad bass mucks up the midrange and too often people have the balance off in speakers where you can adjust that function.

    • #5
      Originally posted by Bill Hart View Post

      I wonder if our perceptions of what is "good" change over time, with experience and exposure as well as a sort of "fatigue" that sets in over time from "hi-fi spectacular." I'm not saying this to get down on the particular equipment discussed, but I wonder- rhetorically anyway- if one heard what David now listens to back in the '80s or '90s- the reaction might be--where's the bass? where's that punch of music being "pushed" at you in sparkly, technicolor way? I dunno. I guess my point is, it isn't just the equipment, it's our priorities that change.
      The only way to tell is to reinsert gear from the good old days back into your system. there are a few raging debates in another forum regarding rebuilt Apogees and that they still hold up to the best available today, and I don't disagree. David K is holding down the fort in another thread about why people that own vintage gear think its better then new gear, again I side with David. It think as time goes on there are fewer and fewer people left in this hobby that remember what the best gear used to be like vis a vis the latest and greatest offerings today.

      Comment


      • #6
        I wonder what will happen when the new, younger generation takes over audiophile manufacturing and companies, those who've grown up in the portable digital era. The golden greats of audio manufacturing, who have a real connection with the 50-70s analog period, are gradually retiring or turning over the business. I think of Harry Weisfeld, Peter Ledermann (who is just slowing down a bit), and many others who've grown up with analog, lived through it, and know how to produce components that will enhance the listening experience. First hand experience is irreplaceable and hope future generations will not lose out.

        Comment


        • #7
          For a long time I poo-pooed the CD as a matter of principal! Lower resolution, etc. And for a long time, and probably still today many (most?) CD players are not of the highest quality. However, I was shocked to listen to CD's (not all CD's but not audiophile CD's) through two top quality systems. Both used versions of the Pacific Microsonics ADDACs. At Alon Wolf's old Berkeley location he had a PM Model One playing plain old redbook CD's using his Magico Q5's IIRC. Mesmerizing sound. At Tim Marutani's through a PM Model Two, CD's can be fabulous. I hear his system regularly with different speakers, not just Magicos, and with top notch amps, preamps, etc. It made me dig out some of my old CD rips to play through my Model Two. Through revealing systems, it is pretty easy to hear multimiked recordings- the different recording spaces of the different instruments and vocalists are quite apparent, but that has less to do with the medium than the recording.

          Larry
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          Comment


          • astrotoy
            astrotoy commented
            Editing a comment
            Hi Mike, I remember your contributions to TAS from years ago. Tim is still in business, working out of Emeryville. He has a by appointment studio in a warehouse and does a lot of high end sales and custom installation work. [email protected] is his email. I'm sure he would be happy to reconnect.

          • Doxycc
            Doxycc commented
            Editing a comment
            Mike - If I recall correctly, think it was Tim and Tony Woo who ran Fidelis. Just to share, one of my favorite listening experiences ever was at Fidelis and it was a pair of Infinity RS-1Bs with ML electronics and a Keith Johnson recording on his focus gap (?) R2R (Myles, take note).

          • MylesBAstor
            MylesBAstor commented
            Editing a comment
            That oughta been something if Keith brought along his masters. Or even safeties. But somehow suspect master because never heard of KOJ have two focused gap R2R machines. But of course KOJ might have a second to use as a safety machine back when they only did analog recordings.

        • #8
          Originally posted by Rob View Post

          The only way to tell is to reinsert gear from the good old days back into your system. there are a few raging debates in another forum regarding rebuilt Apogees and that they still hold up to the best available today, and I don't disagree. David K is holding down the fort in another thread about why people that own vintage gear think its better then new gear, again I side with David. It think as time goes on there are fewer and fewer people left in this hobby that remember what the best gear used to be like vis a vis the latest and greatest offerings today.
          Yep, I don't really have a holistic view on the new v old gear- some of it is enduring, e.g. your old Quads (with a refurbish, and perhaps some beefing up), other things, like my old SP 3-1-a would probably sound very colored.
          But, at the same time, I think what I am listening for has changed- i'm less interested in spectacular, and more interested in "real" whatever the hell that is. How you get there-- that's why we have these therapy sessions, right?

          Comment


          • Rob
            Rob commented
            Editing a comment
            ARC actually still offers a rebuild of the SP-3, its called an SP-3C and is almost a complete gut job with all new parts and a modern all-new PS. Someone in who's ears I trust loves his, I'm always on the lookout for 2nd hand C model.

          • Bill Hart
            Bill Hart commented
            Editing a comment
            Remember the black and gold faceplate? I went with a silver/black one when they were new, but that other faceplate is very retro looking now. Always loved the oversized volume control.

        • #9
          Generally I find trying to define what constitutes "good sound" as an exercise in futility. So I keep it simple. If I'm not reaching for the volume control to turn it down it ain't bad.

          Comment


          • Bill Hart
            Bill Hart commented
            Editing a comment
            Rust- the emphasis was less on what -good-meant and more on whether, and to what extent, your views on the kind of sound you like have changed over the years- Tima suggested below that it is the result of better equipment, making us realize that we do not have to suffer certain limitations that we didn't realize were possible to transcend. At the same time, I used David (DDK) as an example in my question because he is using vintage equipment for the most part, so one could argue that it wasn't necessarily the inherent limitations of the equipment (recognizing that SET and big horns weren't really very common for most of us, least in the States).

          • Rust
            Rust commented
            Editing a comment
            Bill - I don't think my perception of what constitutes good sound has changed substantially over the last forty plus years. Regardless of the overall frequency range the various iterations of my system(s) over the years, the primary requirement was a smooth sounding system, that is no peaks or valleys in the frequency response. Especially in the upper mid range into the treble as excessive brightness or harshness there is the biggest deal breaker. My reference for accurate reproduction has always been a dreadnaught size twelve string acoustic guitar in drop key open E, the same guitar since 1968. It was a few more years after '68 before I cobbled together my first system.
            Last edited by Rust; 08-10-2016, 10:31 PM.

        • #10
          I believe our assessment of what is "good" sound definitely changes over the years as we get long term exposure to better playback gear and recordings.
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          • astrotoy
            astrotoy commented
            Editing a comment
            We do a lot of concerts - almost all classical - an average of about 70 a year. So the music is unamplified and varies between solo piano to full orchestras and opera and ballet. Also different venues, mostly in the SF Bay area, but also many in London. It is also a way to hear new artists and even some new music. You can get a sense of what instruments really sound like and what dynamic range is really like. I've also gone back and play the piano every day. We're lucky to have a big Bosendorfer grand (Model 225), and sitting at the keyboard gives a sense of musical reality and perspective which no system can duplicate.

            Larry

          • Bill Hart
            Bill Hart commented
            Editing a comment
            Bosendorfer is a fabulous piano. How old is yours, Larry? We had one, quite an early one circa the 1860's- it was impossible to keep in tune- I had a pretty serious piano tech here (I'm not going to drop names)- he said,-nice furniture,' buy a Steinway.' But, when that thing was voiced, it was like heaven in the upper registers. Long gone. Had an early Erard, too- beautiful but didn't sing like the Bosendorfer did. A more modern Bosendorfer would be wonderful to have.

          • astrotoy
            astrotoy commented
            Editing a comment
            Bill, we bought our Bosendorfer new in 1985 after picking it out in Vienna from the factory room where they do the final tuning and voicing of the new pianos. Fortunately, the dollar was at its all time peak against the European currencies and we got a really good deal. My wife, who is a very fine amateur pianist (she was one of the winners of the second Van Cliburn amateur piano competition in the late '90's) had her choice of four different 225's in Vienna. We had a real treat when they took us down to Wiener Neustadt, where the main factory is located and we could see the pianos being built.

            Larry

        • #11
          I have no definition for "good"- I think it is impossible to define, has to be in context and is subjective. I also think the "live is the reference" is a bit of a cliche, and is almost impossible to grasp- are you listening to the recording made in the venue at the time it was performed and recorded? What seat? Any additional tweaking done by the engineers? What about non-classical? Most jazz bands are miked live at a minimum, and usually have additional amps for guitars/bass. You are already beyond "natural" at that point. Rock- forget it, even if recorded live. Most studio stuff- tweaked like hell, overdubs,outboard processing, etc.. No natural acoustic. Yes, I get it. I know what a real cello sounds like, piano, flute, sax and other instruments. But my memory of the sound from a performance doesn't translate very well into assessing how much verisimilitude a recording has- I guess if you want to do the live v recorded, you record an instrument like Larry's Bosendorfer or JC's guitar and play it back over a system. No?

          Comment


          • #12
            Originally posted by MylesBAstor View Post
            Bill Hart posted this in another thread and really felt it deserved its own space because this is a very profound statement and applies to life in general!

            "I wonder if our perceptions of what is "good" change over time, with experience and exposure as well as a sort of "fatigue" that sets in over time from "hi-fi spectacular." I'm not saying this to get down on the particular equipment discussed, but I wonder- rhetorically anyway- if one heard what David now listens to back in the '80s or '90s- the reaction might be--where's the bass? where's that punch of music being "pushed" at you in sparkly, technicolor way? I dunno. I guess my point is, it isn't just the equipment, it's our priorities that change."
            I don't think that my perception changed from the 80's, but I lacked experience and couldn't break it down to understand what I liked and disliked. It's not everyday you get to hear a truly special system either to know what you're missing, or even what's possible. I still remember the sound of my friend's system, Ricardo of Absolute Sounds UK back in the early 80's. I thought I knew what high end was until I saw his system and realized that I knew nothing and then heard the magic. I was often at his place listening and that sound remained as my guide for many years before I figured it out. So no it's not perception that changed but the level of my understanding that evolved.

            david
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            Industry Representation: Lamm, Kharma OLS Speakers, Ortofon, ZYX, Keith Monks, Audio Desk, Jensen Transformer, Venta Airwasher

            Unique Items: Vintage Horn Speakers
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            http://www.audionirvana.org/forum/ti...earfield-setup

            Comment


            • Socrates
              Socrates commented
              Editing a comment
              How Interesting yes Ricardo is one of my oldest friend in Audio--we keep in touch--

              I've spent Great listening times in the Wimbledon "mansion" days

              and Durham L of course--I think I mentioned in the Apogee thread the time he/we( Ken Kessler was there also) cooked the Scintilla's with an

              overdose of Krell!. We don't always see eye to eye but mutual respect in ones beliefs.

            • david k
              david k commented
              Editing a comment
              That Wimbledon mansion was something, specially when you consider the UK high end audio scene back in the early 80's. Linn/Naim and nothing else!

            • Bill Hart
              Bill Hart commented
              Editing a comment
              David I think we are saying the same thing to some extent. To me, perception isn't just hearing acuity, but how we judge what we are hearing.

          • #13
            Originally posted by david k View Post

            I don't think that my perception changed from the 80's, but I lacked experience and couldn't break it down to understand what I liked and disliked. It's not everyday you get to hear a truly special system either to know what you're missing, or even what's possible. I still remember the sound of my friend's system, Ricardo of Absolute Sounds UK back in the early 80's. I thought I knew what high end was until I saw his system and realized that I knew nothing and then heard the magic. I was often at his place listening and that sound remained as my guide for many years before I figured it out. So no it's not perception that changed but the level of my understanding that evolved.

            david
            As Billy Joel once wrote :
            "but you cant get the sound from a story in a magazine"
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            Comment


            • #14
              Originally posted by Bill Hart View Post
              I have no definition for "good"- I think it is impossible to define, has to be in context and is subjective. I also think the "live is the reference" is a bit of a cliche, and is almost impossible to grasp- are you listening to the recording made in the venue at the time it was performed and recorded? What seat? Any additional tweaking done by the engineers? What about non-classical? Most jazz bands are miked live at a minimum, and usually have additional amps for guitars/bass. You are already beyond "natural" at that point. Rock- forget it, even if recorded live. Most studio stuff- tweaked like hell, overdubs,outboard processing, etc.. No natural acoustic. Yes, I get it. I know what a real cello sounds like, piano, flute, sax and other instruments. But my memory of the sound from a performance doesn't translate very well into assessing how much verisimilitude a recording has- I guess if you want to do the live v recorded, you record an instrument like Larry's Bosendorfer or JC's guitar and play it back over a system. No?
              Live is my reference though it doesn't work for me the way you describe. For me, using Live as a Reference doesn't require I be at that concert in that seat. Over time and exposure to enough orchestra performances and to enough musical instruments (it helps to have played or at least sat in an orchestra) I know what live orchestral music sounds like. Sure halls and bands are different, and the visual load that comes with a live performance can sometimes get in the way, and we'll never have the perspective of multi-mic'ing but with familiarity gained over time, live remains my reference.

              I suspect my hearing has changed more than my standards. :-) Now, in terms of the potential of reproduction systems, my sense of what is possible has changed as gear and systems improve.

              Comment


              • Bill Hart
                Bill Hart commented
                Editing a comment
                Fair comment, and I'd subscribe to what you describe in your first sentence, since how else would I know what various instruments should' sound like? (I can play a few, but not many). And I guess if you are an avid concert goer of classical, you will have a decent sense of what particular halls sound like, no?
                Don't you think through exposure and experience your standards have changed?

            • #15
              I have read many times of people using live un amped as the reference and for me it makes no sense .
              My son plays pinano in my room before I moved my family
              I have no recording that gets close to the sound quality
              I have had a few acoustic guitars as well as saxophone
              live un amped in my room and it shows me how far off my setup is. And honestly I have yet to hear a setup that can. Be it recording or system. I love ribbons and horns if done right
              as such most of my life about 30 years or more I own the same set of speakers. So for me good is better front end or amps. I love the sound of vinyl but digital is more than good enough for me. Live is something I do not like much
              and a real piano is blurring to me. Where a recording done well to my liking is far better.
              I can say be it my dumb taste or not I know what I like
              when I go to shows or peoples places it's easy to know if I like it. But I for one would not say it's better or not. While some setups it's very obvious it's way wrong , but once you get to a certain level it becomes taste. I think our auditory memory morphs over time so I can tell you if I liked it or not.but I am confident most or all here could not tell that system if they heard it now and blindfolded.
              I do think our taste changes and yes heavey bass from early days has given way to more details.
              Also we have changed ourselves music is a very envolved mood rich hobby. Time of day , mood , food all effect how it's perceived. So unless we have been living Ina cave for 30 years purely listening to live un amped music eating the same foods and so on. I do feel we evolve as indidvuales.
              I remember going somewhere to hear the big appogies and they had two really big transformers used to correct the imp.
              This hobby is complex and the more I stop to look the less I shut up and enjoy it.
              Finding what we like is a tough job but someone telling me it's wrong well thanks for the advice as it's always a learning experience but loving what you like is priceless

              great thread
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