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  • Natural

    Anyone want to tackle the reference of gear being natural with respect to sound? That is, what is natural?
    Dave Clark
    Editor and Publisher, Positive Feedback
    www.positive-feedback.com

  • #2
    Sounds real, rather than hi-fi
    Magnepan 1.6 QR Loudspeakers, Amherst A-2000 MOSFET 150 WPC Amp, Conrad Johnson PV-10A Modded Tube Line & Phono Stage, Electrocompaniet MC II Class A Head Amp, Audio Technica AT-OC9XML Cart (Stereo) , Graham Engineering 2.2 Tonearm (Stereo) , VPI Aries-1 Turntable (Stereo) , VPI Clamp, Denon DL-102 Cart, (Mono) , Luxman Tonearm (Mono) , Kenwood KD-500 Turntable (Mono) , Michell Clamp, Marantz 20B Analog FM Tuner, Pioneer SACD, Onkyo DX-6800 CD Transport, DIY 24B/192K DAC, Sennheiser HD-650 Headphones, Headroom Max Balanced Headphone Amp, DIY Silver Interconnects

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    • #3
      I'll bite. The two things I am familiar with in real life are vocal performances and stringed instruments. I view a pure soprano as difficult to record and reproduce. A superlative soprano can sing without strain and on pitch. If a system can reproduce this without the distortions that harshen the voice, it is natural.

      Stringed instruments in real life, especially a dreadnaught 12 string or cello have a sonority of the overtones of the wood body, a shuddering effect. If that sonority is not realistically reproduced with full weight then it is not natural, Small two ways are not usually capable of producing the full weight. Violin tone likewise reveals flaws in the upper registers. Years back I used to listen to a rather talented violinist with a good instrument practice. If the performance is not intentionally harsh or strident, the reproduction should not be either,

      I've found sins of omission to be more natural than sins of addition.

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      • #4
        Seemingly* free of artifacts.

        ______
        *The qualification is necessary because it may take a lot of manipulation, knob twirling, mixing, processing and post-production work to create something that seems "natural."

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        • #5
          Another word for " As close to live as possible"

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          • #6
            But, would you all agree that then this is not an absolute for everyone? Meaning it is how or what you perceive as being natural? And while I agree with all that you are saying, let me be the devil's advocate here... which live event, where are you sitting, when did it occur (times, etc.)... am thinking one man's natural could be another man's artificial since this is all subjective?
            Dave Clark
            Editor and Publisher, Positive Feedback
            www.positive-feedback.com

            Comment


            • Rob
              Rob commented
              Editing a comment
              that's a great point. I think about this sitting in Disney Hall (or wherever) and wondering how much direct sound I'm hearing vice what's emanating out of the sound reinforcement (PA) no matter the venue, you have some sort of sound reinforcement. My point is, what may seem like a "natural" unamplified acoustic is not actually that.

          • #7
            When we first started building our amps we had to face the issue of what was real, how could we tell (beyond bench measurement) that we were making not just a change but an improvement.

            To that end we experimented with live microphone feeds. That way we could listen to the live performance and compare to what we were hearing through the system. Lots of variables... but eventually we got better at what to listen for.

            'Natural' now means that you are convinced beyond any doubt that there is actually someone there making that sound and its not a recording, which is kinda spooky ('Who is that?? Why are they in my house singing along with my stereo?? Yikes!) when you experience that for the first time. Only looking in the direction of the sound informs you that in fact it was the stereo just doing its job correctly.

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            • timztunz
              timztunz commented
              Editing a comment
              That is stated perfectly IMHO. That head turning moment is surreal.

            • Dave Clark
              Dave Clark commented
              Editing a comment
              While I agree that that is obviously the goal, and since you were able to do that with the live feed, you knew what the feed should sound like compared to what was happening in the other room - along with all the variables as you noted being more or less "in the way." But then since we really never know what any recording 'should sound like'.... I guess either we have the illusion of real at times and at times not (based on the recording)? And even then. it is still your perception or interpretation of what you heard? Not being argumentative, but as a reviewer we are called out for what we hear, or don't hear... and yet all we can do is share our experiences the best we can.

          • #8
            Originally posted by Dave Clark View Post
            Anyone want to tackle the reference of gear being natural with respect to sound? That is, what is natural?
            "Natural" is when the system is no longer a translator or conduit of the music and your experience goes beyond purely aural to include the physical, when your body also believes your ears, relaxes and accepts the experience as live.

            Originally posted by Dave Clark View Post
            But, would you all agree that then this is not an absolute for everyone? Meaning it is how or what you perceive as being natural? And while I agree with all that you are saying, let me be the devil's advocate here... which live event, where are you sitting, when did it occur (times, etc.)... am thinking one man's natural could be another man's artificial since this is all subjective?
            There are no absolutes in anything in life and a term like "Natural" can mean different things to different people probably the same or close to the word "Real" when describing sound.

            david
            Manufacturer: American Sound Turntables and The Nothing Rack
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            • #9
              Originally posted by Bill Hart View Post
              Seemingly* free of artifacts.

              ______
              *The qualification is necessary because it may take a lot of manipulation, knob twirling, mixing, processing and post-production work to create something that seems "natural."
              Nope... Artifacts are extraordinarly rare. They are something that should not exist. The only regular form of them is ticks and pops from vinyl. While digital has them, you don't hear them. Digital artifacts come across the same way as what you're probably trying to describe, as aberrations. An aberration in music is for example when something is "smeared" or any other sort of clearly wrong representation of the music. It's still the same source material but it sounds wrong. Where as an artifact is something that is not the source material at all.



              NATURAL. Good question. For me it does carry the connotation of believability. My stereo is sadly and happily the best I have heard for that. I wish I heard it all over because I prefer it. But the thing about being natural is it has the limitation of the characteristic sound of the studio if your system is clearly representing the source material. It's like a 'flavor' to your music. And just as often the mastering/mixing can belittle instruments into sounding astringent, detailed perhaps, but without the real life body. For any stereo the defining factor in ability to sound as best as possible is in fact the source material itself. It is the most limiting and the most rewarding. But I like stuff that doesn't sound natural too if it's good music, but it's not as good as it could have been. The easiest test to conduct for natural sound is to walk into another room, do any of the instruments sound like they're being played in the music room? There you go. (Don't forget to try several recordings, sometimes the most bland vinyl copies of something like lap guitar or banjo will be best, no MoFi will ever qualify, and almost no modern pressing)

              Now are you trying to ask how to get there or what makes it sound natural, boy, that's another topic all together...

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              • #10
                Originally posted by Folsom View Post

                Nope... Artifacts are extraordinarly rare. They are something that should not exist. The only regular form of them is ticks and pops from vinyl. While digital has them, you don't hear them. Digital artifacts come across the same way as what you're probably trying to describe, as aberrations. An aberration in music is for example when something is "smeared" or any other sort of clearly wrong representation of the music. It's still the same source material but it sounds wrong. Where as an artifact is something that is not the source material at all.



                NATURAL. Good question. For me it does carry the connotation of believability. My stereo is sadly and happily the best I have heard for that. I wish I heard it all over because I prefer it. But the thing about being natural is it has the limitation of the characteristic sound of the studio if your system is clearly representing the source material. It's like a 'flavor' to your music. And just as often the mastering/mixing can belittle instruments into sounding astringent, detailed perhaps, but without the real life body. For any stereo the defining factor in ability to sound as best as possible is in fact the source material itself. It is the most limiting and the most rewarding. But I like stuff that doesn't sound natural too if it's good music, but it's not as good as it could have been. The easiest test to conduct for natural sound is to walk into another room, do any of the instruments sound like they're being played in the music room? There you go. (Don't forget to try several recordings, sometimes the most bland vinyl copies of something like lap guitar or banjo will be best, no MoFi will ever qualify, and almost no modern pressing)

                Now are you trying to ask how to get there or what makes it sound natural, boy, that's another topic all together...
                I think you missed my point- the opposite of natural is unnatural. What is unnatural? Something that is artificial, i.e, natural is something that appears to be free of the artificial.
                "Nope?"

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                • #11
                  Artifact is not a root word for artificial despite how close they appear. Maybe you meant to type artificial?

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                  • #12
                    Seems like the meaning of "Artifact" also needs to be resolved in this thread!


                    david
                    Manufacturer: American Sound Turntables and The Nothing Rack
                    Distribution: NEODIO

                    Special Sales: van den Hul
                    Industry Representation: Lamm, Kharma OLS Speakers, Ortofon, ZYX, Keith Monks, Audio Desk, Jensen Transformer, Venta Airwasher

                    Unique Items: Vintage Horn Speakers
                    http://www.audionirvana.org/forum/ti...stening-room-1
                    http://www.audionirvana.org/forum/ti...earfield-setup

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                    • Guest's Avatar
                      Guest commented
                      Editing a comment
                      An artifact is something man made. A piece of pottery found at an archeological dig is an artifact, a dinosaur bone is not.

                    • david k
                      david k commented
                      Editing a comment
                      So it's something "unNatural"!

                      david

                    • Folsom
                      Folsom commented
                      Editing a comment
                      I made a post on WBF, no one seems to care? I thought it would have created a little bit of discussion.... http://www.whatsbestforum.com/showth...Is-and-Is-Nots

                      It's not a very subjective thing... artifacts are simply something you hear but is not part of the source music. They are not aberration, which is the source music changed in some way - "smear" "compress" etc.

                  • #13
                    Free of coloration, realistic,
                    Chris
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                    • Dave Clark
                      Dave Clark commented
                      Editing a comment
                      But how does one separate colorations that are not part of what you are listening to? How do you know those colorations are not intended... or natural? I get that you are referring to added colorations, though I would argue that sometimes one wants that - kind of like steak. Salt and pepper or just as it is...

                    • cpp
                      cpp commented
                      Editing a comment
                      I think if one wanted to "color" their music, tubes would be used, or a change of speaker, or even a cable, or cartridge if one is using a TT, or a different DAC.

                      PS:I take my steak med rare, salt and pepper only and I will add some "color" by grilling it over oak wood.

                    • Dave Clark
                      Dave Clark commented
                      Editing a comment
                      I like my steak the same... though putting it in a bag of brown sugar, chili powder, and some olive oil to bind it together, offers a very interesting crust when cooked on a grill. I agree though that tubes, cables and the such can be used to add color to the sound... but my comment was more about there being natural color to the sound. As opposed to say, sound that is color-less (lean and analytical perhaps?).

                  • #14
                    As it would occur in nature as opposed to man made, artificial. Could also say devoid of artifice.

                    For me this points to a level of consistency. One in which distractions are so benign or few and far between that they are no longer a concern. A long time ago doing sound design, it is amazing how limited microphones can be especially with very loud sound events like gun shots. To make a recording of say a NATO 5mm from an M4 sound remotely like the real thing, a whole lot needs to be done in post processing. Now here lies the paradox. Sometimes you have to fake sh!t up to make the real thing sound real. Sounding real is simply coming up with a sound that conforms with what one would expect. The expectations formed by personal experience. I never saw Sinatra live but can tell an impersonator rather easily. No different from Bugs Bunny and his crew after Mel Blanc passed away or the muppets after Henson for that matter. Amazing how the universe works.

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                    • #15
                      Originally posted by cpp View Post
                      Free of coloration, realistic,
                      You do not because you can not. Our audio memory is very short lived, and that is a good thing because if not then all of us would be crazy by now unable to recreate the last time that we sat with a group of musicians who were just jamming in a club, it just doesn't get any more natural than that, just the musicians and their instruments along with the coloration of their amps and the club. Although we sometimes experience the skin crawls and hair raising with our own systems it is certainly not every time that we listen to it, any way not for me. It is a surreal moment in time which leads one to believe that there are other factors at play, like longing for that natural sound that is a vibrant part of our memory.

                      We trick ourselves into believing that what we are hearing is in fact Natural, live, Organic, the sax sounds like a sax etc. etc. etc.

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