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  • Sources and Reality

    I assume all of us have some sort of volume control that we can use to control the volume of our systems. Some members of the digital generation eschew old-fashioned preamps/line stages and go for the “straight-in” approach meaning they plug the output of their digital source straight into their amplifier(s) and bypass all of those nasty colorations added by an additional gain stage. However, the purpose of this thread isn’t to debate the merits of using a preamp or going “straight-in,” I’m just saying that we all have some method of adjusting the volume of our systems.

    I think we have come to the realization that all recorded music has a playback level that makes that makes each recording sound the most realistic in our systems within the confines of our systems and rooms. The more you turn up the volume, the sound typically gets better up to the point where your system/room hits the wall. darTZeel’s volume control is actually labeled as a “Pleasure Control” with the clockwise arc labeled “more.” In the old days, I used to think that systems that fell apart as the volume control was rotated to the right were what separated the men from the boys. I now realize that is just one indicator of a good system.

    In reality-or at least my reality, there is third dimension to the sound we hear and that is the amount of realism we can portray/extract from our recordings. So imagine that if in addition to your volume control, you had another knob to turn and that knob was labeled “Realism.” And now this is where things are going to get a little dicey…

    If you have the capability to play back multiple sources, you already have an invisible realism knob. If you are married to the digital world and have no other sources you can or will play back in your system, your realism knob is stuck and can’t be adjusted until further improvements in digital playback hit the market. However, if all you listen to is digital and you spend your time arguing back and forth on forums whether PCM sounds better than DSD and you have a statue of Nyquist on an alter in the corner, it doesn’t matter to you. In your subconscious, you may already think your realism knob is pegged to the right.

    For those of us who enjoy having multiple sources, we have a different experience with regards to realism. When I switch from digital to playing LPs, even though the volume knob hasn’t been touched, the realism knob is definitely cranked to the right and we are just on a different level now. Insert tape into the system and hit the play button, and the realism knob is now fully cranked and we are experiencing sound on another level entirely.

    I find all of those different levels of realism exciting in their own way. I can certainly understand why people who strictly play back digital in their systems love the sound they are achieving. I certainly enjoy listening to my DSD files. I prepare for every listening session by turning on my system and letting it play for two hours with JRiver on “Play All” mode. I would be lying if I said there weren’t times when I entered my room that the DSD sound was so captivating that I just sat down and let the music pour forth.

    If you don’t have different sources to compare in your system (for whatever reason), you will have a fixed version of realism and it will only be altered based on the quality of recordings you are playing back within the source you have chosen. I enjoy traversing the different levels of realism contained within different sources. What say you?
    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.

  • #2
    Hi Mark ol' buddy. I don't like getting technical because it bores me to death and most other people but it seems I can't explain myself without having to go there in this case. Sometimes it just bugs me when I keep on reading "impedance matching" ad hurlum. When it comes to going direct many people fail to take into account gain structure and staging. This is something the TT people have to deal with every time we look at cartridges but even we forget that this is still important down the chain. Direct isn't always best. It is only an assumption that it is better but the provisor is that the output of the sending stage and the input sensitivity of the receiving stage is such that both are operating at their respective optimal ranges. Just like a phono stage, who would want a preamp running out of gas trying to get an amp to get to it's rated peak power? Yet we see some people say it's best to go direct when voltage on a DAC variable output is 2V but the amp's input sensitivity is closer to 3V. I love the net but the regurgitation bugs me sometimes.

    As far as realism goes, well as far as I'm concerned, if I want real it had better be played at levels that fit with my life's experience for real regarding at least that type of music. Not that I'm advocating habitual real life levels, it's just not healthy. Rather, If I realism is my goal, that's a huge part of it. We have to remember that music is written with the venues in mind. That's been the case since before notation. Opera singers developed vocal formant techniques to be able to be heard over the orchestra un-amplified. Composers knew that you needed 8 or 9 more violins to double the loudness level long before electricity much less the microphone was invented. So maybe at this point this is sounding like some weird rationalization for going big. It's not. I think it's one of those forks in the road where we need to make a choice. Sounds great or sounds real? The former is easy, the latter is not and can be physically harmful to boot. Listener discretion advised!

    Comment


    • #3
      Good comments Jack and I agree with all of your points.
      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


      • #4
        Well I've never heard what I would call "realism" in any system, ever (and I've heard a s___load of good to great systems in homes and at shows over about 40 years). And I have the ability to pretty easily listen to a lot of different sources, if I wanted to. So call me an anti-audiophile,,but really I prefer just listening to music that sounds good to me without having to make a fuss about it. Sometimes, though, I do find myself changing whatever I'm listening to just because the sound quality bugs me (at least at that moment), so I guess I'm not completely an anti-audiophile.
        Modwright Oppo 205 full tube mod
        Pass Labs INT60
        Daedalus Audio Apollo 11’s
        REL S3
        Daedalus/Wywires and Acoustic Zen cables
        Torus IS5

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        • #5
          No reproduced performance is "real". The equipment involved in the recording chain, the decisions made by the recordist, the equipment in the mastering chain, the decisions made by the mastering person (some of whom do NOT qualify for the title of engineer), the quality of manufacture of the physical medium or digital package, the quality of the home "decoding" system. All contribute to colorization and alteration. Just considering the comlpexities of an electromechanical device (a speaker) and how it interacts with the amplifier is daunting.

          If you have heard an artist give an exceptional live performance, no recording will ever truly approach it. A recording is a facsimile of the performance. What a recording should do is invoke the feeling of that performance.

          I have felt music as fully through a cheap boom box, in times and places where that was what was available, as through a large and accurate system. Maybe more fully in some cases. The experience of hearing some things for the first time is indelible and that level of connection may never again be as fully realized. A place and time forever marked. The discovery of something new.

          Some anthropologists now believe that the concept of music existed in proto-humans before the advent of speech. Vocal but not verbal communication. I am agreeable towards the notion. Music should convey emotion, emotion is felt. Words are analytic, try to describe accurately the feeling of sorrow and grief in words.

          Yes, it's a worthy goal to pursue accuracy in reproduction, but all of that merely serves the music.

          Comment


          • #6
            Rob and Rust-I think you possibly misunderstood what I meant by realism. I don't mean absolute realism in the sense the sound is identical to the sound of being at a live performance. We all know that is not possible in the here and now. However, the better your system and room become, the more believable the music sounds and you continue to hear new information which adds to the total picture and increases the amount of realism you hear in your system. At times I am awestruck at how real certain recordings sound. The better the system, the more ease and naturalness you will hear with a sense of power that you always hear when listening to live music. Lesser systems never let you forget you are listening to a recording while better systems can sometimes help suspend disbelief.
            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


            • #7
              Originally posted by mep View Post
              Rob and Rust-I think you possibly misunderstood what I meant by realism. I don't mean absolute realism in the sense the sound is identical to the sound of being at a live performance. We all know that is not possible in the here and now. However, the better your system and room become, the more believable the music sounds and you continue to hear new information which adds to the total picture and increases the amount of realism you hear in your system. At times I am awestruck at how real certain recordings sound. The better the system, the more ease and naturalness you will hear with a sense of power that you always hear when listening to live music. Lesser systems never let you forget you are listening to a recording while better systems can sometimes help suspend disbelief.

              I think it was J. Gordon Holt who once talked about having that aha moment when one could suspend disbelief.

              Tape gives me more of those moments.
              Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
              Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
              ________________________________________

              -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
              -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
              -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
              -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
              -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
              -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
              -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
              -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
              -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
              -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

              Comment


              • #8
                That's why I ranked tape at the top of the musical food chain Myles. It's another degree of realism.
                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


                • #9
                  I don't have anything against tape (as I do against LP's), but the few instances where I've heard it well set up recently (Rick Brown's room and Philip O'Hanlon's room at THE Show, Steve Williams' system, Nick Doshi's rooms at RAMF, multiple Greg Beron / UHA rooms, Bruce Brown's rooms) it has not "wowed" to me to the extent that it obviously has you guys; what else can I say? It's very very good, but in no cases was it dramatically or even substantially better than good LP or digital file playback. In fact in Rick Brown's room (Sonorus deck), he and the visitors were repeatedly going back to digital files for preferred listening. When I was at Steve's, no one else but me wanted to listen to tape (I think he only had classical music easily available, which may have had something to do with it). Only in Philip's room was it the preferred medium. So maybe it's just me, or maybe it's also all those others who could have been listening to tape but for whatever reason preferred not to?
                  Modwright Oppo 205 full tube mod
                  Pass Labs INT60
                  Daedalus Audio Apollo 11’s
                  REL S3
                  Daedalus/Wywires and Acoustic Zen cables
                  Torus IS5

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Rob-It's hard to get wowed by anything at a show and if you do, you should take special note of what was in the system. Sometimes you have to live with something to understand it. I have never been to Steve's house and heard his system so I have no idea what tape sounds like at his house. I thought the system at RMAF where Bruce Brown provided one of his Studer A-80 decks and tapes that Nick Doshi was playing in Larry's room sounded really good. That was probably my favorite room at RMAF that year. I was also impressed with the table and the Koetsu Azule cartridge they were using.

                    The first year I attended RMAF and JTinn had an ATR tape deck tweaked by Mike Spitz was special. Before the show opened, I was able to sit in JTinn's room with Mike Spitz and listen to a master tape of St. James Infirmary playing at 30 ips and I promise you that was very special.
                    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


                    • #11
                      Mark, agree with your hypothesis. I had good digital, thought it was as analog sounding and 'real' as you can get, but vinyl handily trumped it. No more digital now, so my source knob is kinda stuck on vinyl for now. I do plan on getting back into digital, but with something much more reasonable as I just won't be playing it much (Oppo 105 anyone?)

                      I have heard good tape setups and it is as you say, one step closer to reality. There's an ease and flow to the music with ALL the details but still defies the 'hi-fi sound for the sake of hi-fi'. I look forward to that next big leap.



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

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I've posted enough, I think, others should share their experiences and opinions. Suffice it to say that I started using the best home reel decks avaialble (Revox, Tandberg, Technics) in the mid-70's and have always liked tape, both the user experience and the sound. I've always hated LP's even when they were the only good sounding source for pre-recorded music in the home and I had to buy thousands of them. For my tastes, open reel might sound marginally better than other sources but nowhere near (and I do mean nowhere near) enough better to justify the expense, especially given the limited music available (exactly one album available I would actually be tempted to buy). I know others feel differently, that's one thing that makes the world go around.
                        Modwright Oppo 205 full tube mod
                        Pass Labs INT60
                        Daedalus Audio Apollo 11’s
                        REL S3
                        Daedalus/Wywires and Acoustic Zen cables
                        Torus IS5

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by rbbert View Post
                          I don't have anything against tape (as I do against LP's), but the few instances where I've heard it well set up recently (Rick Brown's room and Philip O'Hanlon's room at THE Show, Steve Williams' system, Nick Doshi's rooms at RAMF, multiple Greg Beron / UHA rooms, Bruce Brown's rooms) it has not "wowed" to me to the extent that it obviously has you guys; what else can I say? It's very very good, but in no cases was it dramatically or even substantially better than good LP or digital file playback. In fact in Rick Brown's room (Sonorus deck), he and the visitors were repeatedly going back to digital files for preferred listening. When I was at Steve's, no one else but me wanted to listen to tape (I think he only had classical music easily available, which may have had something to do with it). Only in Philip's room was it the preferred medium. So maybe it's just me, or maybe it's also all those others who could have been listening to tape but for whatever reason preferred not to?

                          The few times I heard the Sonorus R2R (their room and system with their own design electrostatic speakers) the sound was 'dark' and left me unmoved. If someone had told me that was a sterling example of R2R playback I would have not bothered to consider it as a serious choice. Rick Brown has invited to his home to hear it under ideal conditions and I have yet to make down there.
                          Simon Yorke S10 | My Sonic Lab Eminent GL | AcousticPlan PhonoMaster | Wadia X32 | Innuous ZEN Mini Mk II | Valvet Soulshine2 | Linear Tube Audio ZOTL10 MkII | Avantgarde Uno Fino XD

                          "One of the great challenges of this world: Knowing enough about a subject to think you are right, but not enough about the subject to know you're wrong" - Neil deGrasse Tyson

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by rbbert View Post
                            I've posted enough, I think, others should share their experiences and opinions. Suffice it to say that I started using the best home reel decks avaialble (Revox, Tandberg, Technics) in the mid-70's and have always liked tape, both the user experience and the sound. I've always hated LP's even when they were the only good sounding source for pre-recorded music in the home and I had to buy thousands of them. For my tastes, open reel might sound marginally better than other sources but nowhere near (and I do mean nowhere near) enough better to justify the expense, especially given the limited music available (exactly one album available I would actually be tempted to buy). I know others feel differently, that's one thing that makes the world go around.
                            Rob-When you had your decks at home, were any of them capable of 15 ips 2 track? If so, did you ever have any 15 ips 2 track tapes that were somewhere close to the master tape? Or, was all of your tape experience at home based on commercial 4 track tapes or your own recordings from LPs?
                            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


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Rob View Post


                              The few times I heard the Sonorus R2R (their room and system with their own design electrostatic speakers) the sound was 'dark' and left me unmoved. If someone had told me that was a sterling example of R2R playback I would have not bothered to consider it as a serious choice. Rick Brown has invited to his home to hear it under ideal conditions and I have yet to make down there.
                              It was probably four or five years ago at RMAF and Philip had the Sonorus deck (BTW Bob Attiyeh uses the Sonorus deck for his Yarlung analog recordings) with the Luxman electronics and Vivid speakers (B2?). I brought a rock tape with me and and at the end of the first cut, Philip asked the audience whether they wanted to continue. Everyone raised their hand and we actually listened to the whole first side. Everyone walked out of Philip's room with the listening experience of their life!
                              Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
                              Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
                              ________________________________________

                              -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
                              -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
                              -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
                              -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
                              -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
                              -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
                              -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
                              -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
                              -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
                              -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

                              Comment

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