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Good Tone?

Discussion in 'audio' started by George J, Aug 10, 2018.

  1. George J

    George J Herefordshire member

    After over forty years of owning and using replay equipment, I have concluded that the best one can hope for is "good tone" rather than anything that accurately resembles the concert [or gig] experience.

    The least inaccurate replay I have found is the ESL decently driven from a technically competent source.

    The timbres are correct enough, the pitch accuracy can be exemplary, the balances of musical lines can be even finer than in the concert setting, and yet it does not quite resemble the real thing!

    Is the idea of perfect "high fidelity" actually a false horizon?

    Please discuss.

    ATB from George
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2018
    Fretbuzz and GML like this.
  2. notevenclose

    notevenclose pfm Member

    Reminds me of my father's very occasional comments on my hifi systems during the 70s and early 80s.

    He'd played drums in an amateur jazz trio and knew what he liked. And as it turned out, what he didn't.

    'Good tone' comment was afforded, as I recall, to a 1950s Ecko floorstanding radio (restoration project), a Yamaha CA1000 in Class A mode driving Keesonic KRFs and Meridian M1s.

    Only negative comment ever received was with regard to a pair of original Linn Saras. He may have had a point, I only kept them for about 3 months before shipping them out.
  3. stevec67

    stevec67 pfm Member

    He clearly had ears then! Lucky you never owned Kans!
    narabdela likes this.
  4. Minio

    Minio pfm Member

    Stuff I used to buy at Reginalds 2nd Hand Mart was described as having "Good Tone".

    At least, that was according to Reg himself!
  5. Paul R

    Paul R pfm Member

    Realistically (sic) you can only contemplate recreating the concert experience using a binaural recording replayed using decent headphones. Otherwise with mono or stereo recordings you are replaying one acoustic space into another, and basically it works pretty well and gets you the performance.

    Chesky do binaural recordings, might be entertaining to experiment but I'm not sure they have much to your taste, a bit more lush audiophile noodle than bachian austerity from a glance.
  6. Hipper

    Hipper pfm Member

    I say 'yes', it is a false horizon.

    Ever since attempts to record music there were claims that it sounds like live music but it clearly did not.

    The trouble is live music is a unique experience. The whole standing/sitting at a performance with others combines with the actual music to give that experience.

    All we can aim for, but never reach, is that a piano, say, sounds like a piano. We don't just recognise a piano but it sounds like one.

    My speaker manufacturer (Brian Cheney of VMPS, now deceased) attempted to do a live versus recording comparison at some U.S. CES shows. He employed a live band, recorded them, then replayed that recording through his speakers. I wasn't there so I don't know what it was like. Of course those that were there were impressed but was it the same?

    Trying to get the sound of a particular event to be replayed identically in another different location seems an impossible task and it is marvellous how far we have got with the attempts.

    Just because a target is unobtainable doesn't mean we shouldn't aim for it. That is how to make progress.
    Mullardman likes this.
  7. George J

    George J Herefordshire member

    Thanks for the replies. I think that home music replay is quite a strange thing to get right, and by right I do not mean ultra accurate as a first consideration.

    First of all it must be able to make an attractive quality that makes listening to music a pleasure. Then you have a problem, because not all recordings are equally fine. Yet without smoothing things out too much on good modern recordings, I would be loath to part with some very old and slightly fragile sounding recordings from the earlier part of the twentieth century because my replay made too much of the faults. The compromise for me is to be able to have these old recordings played attractively, while the quality on much better recordings is not flattened out.

    This is perhaps where the consideration of "good tone" comes in. Replay that is of itself somewhat euphonic, rather than overtly accurate. Perhaps the quality associated with first class valve amplification compared with transistor amplification of similar quality aspirations as an example.

    I doubt whether any but the most ardent enthusiast for valve amplification would call it technically "more accurate" than similar price point, or quality, solid state amplification.

    What I have noticed is that it is quite often is the case that fairly modest [and obviously less accurate] solid state replay often is more inviting than much more expensive solid state systems, even though the more expensive items produced an impressive sense of dynamic and detail in comparison. Yet somehow these high cost and quality replay systems seemed to me - to use a visual analogy - to have too much vividness to the image, rather like almost overblown "technicolor" film.

    After more than thirty five years of having my own home music replay, I have gradually arrived at a rather simple valve amplified mono arrangement that though clearly not as dynamic as similar costing systems conventional stereo systems employing more modern technologies, yet manages to bring out the music and its nuances beautifully and tends to draw me into the music from the very start. It does not go very loud, but that is good. It is domesticated [neighbour friendly] music that is presented, rather than actually pretending that the music making is within my four walls. If anything - with eyes shut - I can get a reverie that is similar to being at a concert. This is far from suggesting that the effect is remotely the same as being at a concert itself. But rather that I can forget the inadequacies of the replay for the duration.

    I have found all too often that some expensive replay, while being obviously very good, does still lack this ability to make me forget the artificiality of the resulting replay.

    That is a paradox, which I do not understand ...

  8. Sloop John B

    Sloop John B pfm Member

    The magic’s in the music. Sometimes if one trys too hard to capture the magic you end up just taming it.

  9. MVJ

    MVJ madvinyljunkie,Professional Plonker & PFM Member

    I get a bit puzzled by the 'reproduce the music like live or even the studio intended' For me I just have to enjoy what I'm listening too & forget your not in the concert hall or at a gig.

    It's not possible to convincingly reproduce music as it was recorded & none of us can judge it unless there when it was recorded and even then it's a tough call. I suffer from Tinnitus these days & sometimes just having music playing can bring relief from what can be a very wearing condition, I love the imaging in my music & have gone to great lenths to achieve it so this is a large part of my pleasure and something quite often lacking in live music unless your sitting in the right place that is.

    Sloop John B pretty much hit it on the head too:)
    Mullardman and radamel like this.
  10. tuga

    tuga pfm Member

    There's only high fidelity to the recorded signal. Live is live.
    Mullardman likes this.
  11. hockman

    hockman pfm Member

    Music is a much more complex phenomenon than pure sound and the hifi attributes that people chose to focus on. Tonal qualities are important of course but In judging hifi, I believe in looking more at musical attributes such as melody, sense of dynamics, pacing, etc. In other words, does the music move me emotionally, does it make me want to dance or play air guitar, for example.

    IMO high end hifi has over time concentrated more and more on things such as pure accuracy, imaging, soundstaging, fine detail, etc. The gurus and hifi press and reviewers have 'educated' punters that this what they need to look for, and TBH many designers and manufacturers have just responded accordingly. Some of them have gone to the extreme in focusing on these attributes. I've heard many expensive components that are simply amusical even though there is plenty of detail, bass, fine highs and 3D imaging. And conversely modestly priced set ups that convey the feel and emotion of the music while obviously limited in many hifi attributes.
    MVJ likes this.
  12. mega lord

    mega lord Centre tapped

    Simplicity is the key i find. Designs using as few components as possible (in a clever way of course) with an ephasis on altering phase as little as possible.

    Thats what gets me closer to the music buy ymmv.
    MVJ likes this.
  13. adamdea

    adamdea pfm Member

    Yes. But not for the reason most people state. Unless you are blind and have no sense of touch and smell, the experience of live music comes in part from other senses. A surprisingly large amount of what one experiences as hearing actually comes from other inputs.
    If you could exactly reproduce the sound field in a concert it would still not “sound” the same.
    Apart from that the I agree that binaural recording with headphones is probably the most promising approach, especially once they crack head-tracking.
    The bbc proms binaural (or “headphone”) mixes are now fairly plentiful. But for now I tend to prefer speakers for long term listening.
    I’m lucky enough though to go to live performances about as often as I like. I tend to regard recordings as a practice or a postcard these days and try not to get to worked up about finely calibrating the verisimilitude.
    tuga likes this.
  14. George J

    George J Herefordshire member

    Dear adamdea,

    Live concerts tend to be rare and highly prized events for me living in rural Herefordshire!

    I take your point about all the senses being stimulated at a real concert. I would never expect home replay to even catch the sense of hundreds or even a few thousand people sharing the experience for example. However I find that in my favourite music [and most concerts do have a programme containing music that does not really appeal to me], I tend to close my eyes at the start of the music and listen as far as possible to the music making only, stock still, in a more or less mesmerised state. Indeed I usually taker a bit longer than most to "surface" and join in the applause at the end ...

    So I probably don't listen at concerts like most people do ... For example I never buy a programme note. No time to read it before the music, so no use at all!

    I also especially enjoy sitting near the back or even in the higher seats at the back. The music is quieter but much more evenly balanced than at the front, though the best place is obviously in the posh seats near the middle! Posh and expensive!

    Best wishes from George
    adamdea likes this.
  15. Jono_13

    Jono_13 Duffer

    Especially when you are playing in the band which you should do again....

    Having heard this mono ESL combo in the past it is particularly fine with 1950's mono jazz recordings unsurprisingly.
  16. Paul R

    Paul R pfm Member

    I think stereo may well be one of the blind alleys of tech. It's great if you set a system up and sit and listen to it. But as a means of delivering music in the home, not so sure. It starts to make more sense again when coupled with pictures. Except that my daughter often forgets to turn the left speaker on and doesn't notice.
  17. ryder

    ryder pfm Member

    I'm a little late to respond to this thread. I have experienced the same thing several years ago when I listened to a pair of Magneplanar 1.7 driven by Bryston 4B-SST if my memory does not fail me. The owner was very proud with his newly-assembled system and played several tracks for the group (there were 4 or 5 people who attended the listening session at that time). To me, music surely doesn't sound like the real thing through the 1.7s, certainly not something that I am used to especially coming from the Harbeth SHL5 Plus. I can't succinctly describe it but music sounds processed, fake and artificial through that system as if something has been added onto it. It does not sound natural and the overall sound is thin and lacking the essential ingredient which you have mentioned - good tone. I'm sure there will be others who will disagree but that's what I felt when I listened to that system.
  18. Newboy

    Newboy pfm Member

    IMHO Mono is very underrated. Personally I am bored with sitting in the 'sweet spot' and not being able to move in order to get the stereo effect & I now don't bother but just sit wherever I fancy. Anyway at a concert one is not necessarily in the middle of the auditorium but it doesn't seem to matter; the brain compensates. For this reason, despite loving my speakers (Kef 104/2s) to death, I would love to hear a pair of Shahinians in my system. Re Mono; it is amazing how good 78s can sound when played through good modern equipment & re-equalised etc.
    GML likes this.
  19. Jim Audiomisc

    Jim Audiomisc pfm Member

    I've come to have my doubts about 'binaural'. A while ago I finally got around to getting some modern headphones and a player, and have started listening via headphones more than before. I've compared the Proms 'binaural mix' and 'headphone mix' files with the 'standard' ones... and prefer the standard ones even over the headphones!

    I also find that R3 via ESLs still gives me a better 'image' than headphones. :)

    The problem is perhaps in part that those making a recording have some kind ot 'target' sound in a 'target' environment in mind when balancing. But people have different head transfer functions, and acclimatise to different listening rooms, or simply listen for different things. I remain doubtful that some kind of magic reprocess will let everyone get the result they want from every recording/broadcast. The variations aren't just in the domestic replay kit.
  20. davidjt

    davidjt pfm Member

    I'm one of those patiently (or not) waiting for a Yarra3DX, more from curiosity than anything else. It's either the start of a different approach to home reproduction, or a purely film soundtrack/gaming accessory, or a blind alley. (Or according to some another crowd funding fiasco.)

    Meanwhile. my relatively simple system is reproducing a Schubert piano sonata so well that I've completely forgotten the Prom I was going to listen to this evening.....so maybe I should just stick with what I have.

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