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 Tuning and Musical Adventures

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Sonic.beaver



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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Sun Dec 03, 2017 8:10 am

Recommended reading

Zonees who like classical orchestral works should read this wonderful book.  



Two Japanese luminaries in conversation about music -- author Haruki Murakami and conductor Seiji Ozawa. That’s worth the price of the book!

They talk about life in orchestras, conductors like Leonard Bernstein, Karl Bohm and others, studying scores, interpreting the classical repertoire, performing Mahler and record collecting. Even the art of recording (from Page 177):

Ozawa:…..recording techniques have also changed. In the old days , the dominant tendency was to record the overall sound. Things like the orchestra’s overall resonance were important. They tried to capture the whole rather than the details. Most of the recordings made in the sixties and the seventies were rather like that.

Murakami:  With digitalization, those tendencies have changed. Mahler is not that interesting to listen to anymore unless you can hear each of the individual instruments.

Ozawa: You’re absolutely right about that. Digital recording made it possible to hear every detail clearly, and that may have caused performances themselves to change. In the old days, we used to pay attention to things like how many seconds the reverberation lasted, but now nobody talks about that anymore. Now, people aren’t satisfied unless they can hear the details.

But wait!

This book is not about audio. There are few references to recording and audio so don’t rush out to buy this thinking this is a book for audio fans.  It is a book about music and the orchestra.  

For Sonic, I learnt so much and finished the book in under a week, reading mostly as I listened to music. Now Sonic wants to go get a copy of Brahms’ First Symphony and give it a spin! Errk…a big 19th century German orchestral work….very unlike Sonic…..this one of the best books Sonic has read this year.  

Here is Murakami’s audio system. Lovely!



Sonic

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Sonic.beaver



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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Thu Dec 07, 2017 8:41 am


Cable Ground Report

Sonic has extended my use of Michael’s Cable Grounds.

This is the situation: Sonic finds Cable Grounds essential under loudspeaker cables and music signal carrying cabling both analog and digital.  For these cables, no Cable Grounds means less good music. I have not tried competing products to lift cables so it is Cable Grounds or the floor.  

In every case, wires suspended on Cable Grounds without any part of their length touching the floor or carpet means more whole images, a more balanced sound and the removal of an audible “sourness” especially when cables rest on fabric.

There is a bit of a mystery here too.

In my system, till now the Cable Grounds did not work under the mains carrying wires. The use of Cable Grounds under mains cables usually caused an upward shift in tone. Their use under cables carrying low voltage DC (after a power supply wall wart) was however neutral.

Till now, when I suspend all my wires, Sonic does it with all the same “class of functionality” (in this case mains/power carrying cables) in one go. I have not done the Cable lifting by individual cable one at a time.

This time, Sonic spent time to test Cable Grounds under each mains cable one at a time.  This is what I found:

Four Cable Grounds lifting the long cable from the wall to the mains strip improved the sound in terms of smooth and bass weight. Magnificent weight when playing LPs of orchestral works. Remarkable!

Two Cable Grounds lifting the cable from the mains strip to the AUNE x1s power supply and then the cable carrying low voltage AC to the DAC worked nicely too, slightly warmer in the midbass. Not a large effect though beneficial.

However, placing three or four Cable Grounds under the cable from the wall to the Parasound A21 went badly.  

It made the midrange too prominent and caused an upward shift. At last Sonic has found which cable and Cable Ground combination was causing this unbalanced sound.

Michael, what are your views why the Cable Grounds are not working under this one cable?  

Sonic has tried Michael's recommended tunes of adjusting the tightness of the Cable Ground screws and angling the Brazilian Pine bar.  All produced no breakout, a similar upward shifted sound under the Parasound A21 mains cable. Sonic has to emphasise that the sound of the Parasound A21 is excellent.  Buying this amp was the turning point in my system and Tune journey.  It solved the problem of thinness and other nastiness which was eventually found to be due to an underpowered amp (the Rega Maia) unable to drive the current-hungry Magneplanar MG1.5QRs.

To Sonic the Parasound A21 is a champion amplifier!

Very happy with this result and sound  Very Happy

Sonic

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Michael Green
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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Fri Dec 08, 2017 9:00 am

Hi Sonic

Send me pictures of the cable run to the Parasound.

study

I have had floors that are cable and wire friendly, and others that sounded horrible. I use a wide variety of wood blocks and grounds and slivers to give me the voicing I want. Sometimes this is a per recording situation and other times an overall flavor adjustment. My guess in your case is, based on your description, the cable being used wants a different flavor. One that shifts from the upper mids down to the lower tones.

I'll know more though as I look at the pics and your descriptions.

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Sonic.beaver



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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Sat Dec 09, 2017 7:33 am


Hi Michael

That’s an insight from you – something that “shifts from the upper mids down to the lower tone”. Right now Sonic has got my sound in what I think is a good place, with a good deep bass that rumbles nicely so I am not inclined to touch things in the main system path for a while.

Sonic has been taking time to tune the 78 rpm playback part of the system these few days. I’ll post the pictures of the Parasound A21 cable run when I want to get into tuning that.

Sonic


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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Sat Dec 09, 2017 8:53 am

Groovy Very Happy

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Sonic.beaver



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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Sun Dec 10, 2017 7:04 am

Fascinating Things and Music This Weekend

A picture of a mono system:



Hideo Matsushita, founder of Audio Technica:



Some music this weekend:



Sonic is again surprised how well these old records have survived decades of being played on turntables with styli of unknown condition. One thing I can be adequately certain is the cartridges (whatever they were) were not aligned in their arms to Baerwald geometry nor their styli cleaned before every play, plus the records themselves were not washed in modern chemicals with vacuum cleaning machines.

On these records (except the CSN where Sonic can tell that one owner liked Side 1 more than Side 2), the transients are clean, no noise after being vacuum machine cleaned, and the tracking is clear and undistorted all the way to the innermost grooves.

Sonic

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Sonic.beaver



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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Thu Dec 14, 2017 8:36 am




Types Of Analog Tape Anomalies I Did Not Know Existed

In terms sources, audiophiles would put analog magnetic tape at the top in terms of quality. After all that is medium where the recording was first imprinted and LPs taken from there. Today analog tape is undergoing a revival though not to the extent of vinyl records and their mass appeal among a young generation of fans, of course. The costs of refurbishing tape machines and the cost of high quality pre-recorded tapes restrict the revival to wealthy fans.

However, Sonic reads from this Stereophile interview with Keith O Johnson that tape is not that perfect a medium at all. There are issues. Find out more in this August 1984 article. Tunees should however remember these are views from more than 30 years and some of the issues pointed out by Johnson especially those related to digital might be solved problems in 2017.

Keith O. Johnson: Reference Recordings

Interview by J. Gordon Holt First Published: Aug 1, 1984

For pictures, go to the source: https://www.stereophile.com/content/keith-o-johnson-reference-recordings#JTvTg2Lcpd31P0sQ.99

Keith Johnson is the man responsible for the records issued by Reference Recordings, from Professor Johnson's Astounding Sound Show through Tafelmusik—not to mention upcoming releases of Your Friendly Neighborhood Big Band and Respighi's Church Windows. As is frequently the case, Johnson's astounding recordings result from his intimate (molecular-level) knowledge of the process with which he deals and his ingenious adaptations to squeeze the most out of available (and not so available) technology. He is also one of the few critics of digital recording who has actually used a digital recorder, who has run tests to specifically identify digital's problems, and who would welcome a digital format that works as perfectly as the claims would have us believe the current system works.—Larry Archibald

A Note from JGH: After a couple of scheduling foul-ups, I managed to corner Reference Recordings' Keith O. Johnson at the 1984 Winter CES in Las Vegas for an interview. Trying to find a location in the Riviera Hotel that was quiet enough for a tape-recorded interview proved to be a problem until Keith suggested a vacant automobile parked next to the Acoustic Research room. (That's right: Both the room and the car were in a vast hall.) The car was part of AR's exhibit (it contained an AR auto-sound system) so we got permission from one of AR's people to use it for the interview.

Three-quarters of the way through the interview, a group of men approached the car and peered rudely in through the window. I irritably explained that an interview was under way and instructed them to get lost, at which they all backed off, looking perplexed. Then it dawned on us: It was their car. We graciously vacated so they could lock it up for the night.

The opinions expressed here are those of the interviewee, and do not necessarily reflect those of Stereophile.—J. Gordon Holt

J. Gordon Holt: How did you get started in recording?

Keith O. Johnson: I guess it was back in the early 1950s when I started messing with a couple of Pentron recorders. That was about the time 3M came out with their first red-oxide recording tape.

Holt: What sort of stuff did you tape back then?

Johnson: Whatever was available. Mostly school things. You know, rallies, the school band, that kind of thing.

Holt: How long did you record just for the fun of it?

Johnson: Oh, for many years. I liked to make my own tapes because I could get much better sound than anything I could get from records. And I found early on that I could get even better sound from my own recordings by modifying the equipment or rebuilding it. But I didn't think of issuing any of my recordings until just a few years ago. And it wasn't really my idea even then. Some people who heard my tapes urged me to have pressings made of some of them.

Holt: What kind of music do you most enjoy recording?

Johnson: Any kind that has an exciting sound. And you can find that kind of sound from almost any kind of music. It doesn't have to be loud and have impact to be exciting, although that seems to be the kind of recording that sells best.

Holt: That's always been the case. One of the things that has always distinguished a good system from a mediocre one is its ability to reproduce high-powered program material. And some of your recordings have been as bombastic as any ever made, although certainly more natural than most. But I'm told that you aren't averse to multimiking, which is something audio purists hold in ultimate scorn. Is that true?

Johnson: Yes. But I don't do it the way the major record companies do, nor for the same reasons.

The smoothest, widest-range microphones are omnidirectional ones, and to get proper stereo separation they have to be placed some distance apart. When they are far enough apart for proper stereo separation, you find that the right and left instruments sound clustered around the loudspeakers, while instruments in the middle sound farther away, so I put a third microphone between them to even out the stage presentation.

Holt: That's the same technique Telarc uses, and that certainly isn't what audiophiles think of as multimiking. I'm talking about separate microphones covering separate groups of instruments. Do you ever do that?

Johnson: Not really. The only reason I can see for doing that is to compensate for the lack of detail in a poor playback system. I don't make recordings to be played on poor systems.

Holt: Then you never use more than three microphones?

Johnson: I use as many as I need to get the sound I want. I sometimes use other microphones spaced different distances from the source to produce multiple delays in the sound, to heighten the illusion of depth.

Holt: Doesn't this cause smearing due to multiple arrival times?

Johnson: Not if it's done properly.

Holt: If you're using more than two mikes, then you have to be using a mixer, and that's another no-no among audiophiles. What kind do you use, to get that clean a sound?

Johnson: It's one I built myself.

Holt: Does it have tube electronics?

Johnson: Oh no, it has no active circuitry at all. It's a passive device. All it has are pots and resistors.

Holt: You mix at microphone level? How come you don't run into hiss problems?

Johnson: The microphones have much higher output than the usual condensers. Since I'm only making them for my own use, they don't...

Holt: Now wait a minute. You built your own microphones? From scratch?

Johnson: Well, not from scratch. I used Schoeps and other capsules. I put lighter diaphragms in, and changed the interfacing circuitry. And because my own mikes don't have to conform to any industry standard for output, I made that as high as was practical without having to worry about standard line levels, phantom power requirements, and other standardized microphone parameters.

Holt: You mean they're about halfway between a typical mike and a typical line source?

Johnson: They're about ¼ volt out on the average, and up to 30 volts when things are really loud.

Holt: Then they must be FM-type microphones, like the old Stevens condenser mikes from the '50s.

Johnson: They are in many ways very similar.

Holt: Ah, so with that much signal output, you don't need preamp stages, and you're able to use passive mixing without running into noise problems.

Johnson: Exactly. And that gets rid of two sources of distortion in most mixers: the microphone preamplifers and the overall mixer electronics.

Holt: A lot of serious tape recordists will be eager to learn something about the ways in which you modified your famous tape recorder. How much can you tell us about this?

Johnson: Unfortunately, not too much. Except that my recorder isn't a modified machine. It was built from the ground up, including the heads and the transport.

Holt: Can you tell us what you've done to get such a high level of performance from it?

Johnson: There isn't much I can say about that because most of it is proprietary. But it is well known that analog tape has a lot of things the matter with it. Time smearing, for one, takes the edges off transients and gives the tape a soft, subdued high end.

Holt: You mean the smearing due to the frequency-dependent length of the magnetic gap? (footnote 1)

Johnson: Fortunately, that behavior is fixed in time and can be electronically compensated. More serious, though, is "presence-edge smear," which is literally a particle-to-particle creeping or print-through of steep-transient information. Another problem is the way a playback head distorts a steep wavefront by anticipating its arrival at the gap.

Holt: Would you explain that?

Johnson: Well, suppose you record a steep wavefront on the tape and then play it back. Because the head's pole faces are extremely long in comparison with the gap width, that steep wavefront will start inducing magnetism into the head a fraction of a second before the wavefront actually passes across the gap. A complex phase shift occurs because the short and long wavelengths are reproduced at slightly different times.

Holt: That would only affect high-frequency transients though, wouldn't it?

Johnson: Mainly, yes.

Holt: Doesn't increasing tape speed improve matters?

Johnson: Not really, because the lower the frequency, the longer the recorded wavelength on the tape. And as you increase the tape speed, the low-frequency wavelengths get even longer, and the problem with low frequencies gets worse and worse.

Holt: Have you found a way of getting around this?

Johnson: Yes. As I said, I can't discuss details. But that problem can be addressed. Electronic and mechanical time-phase correction can make the low-frequency characteristics very, very good indeed. The second problem, which contributes even more to analog tape's soft, washed-out sound, is the presence-edge smear I mentioned a while back. That problem is a result of our industry standards and practices, which require that we make tapes on today's machines which conform to playback standards established 30 years ago.

The early Ampexes, for instance, were workhorses. There are still thousands of them in radio stations and recording studios. Back in the '50s, Ampex was the leading tape-recorder manufacturer, and they established the standards for tape recording and playback equalization. Other tape recorder manufacturers had to conform to those standards in order to break into the market. Professional equipment stays around a lot longer than audiophile stuff, and a lot of that professional equipment, which is still in use, is geared to the early tapes that had low bias-current requirements. So recording tapes are still being made to be compatible with recorder designs from the '50s.

It's possible to make magnetic coatings that have greatly different characteristics—superior characteristics in many ways. But these tapes wouldn't be usable on most machines. Yet recorders can be built which could take advantage of the superior properties of those tapes.

Holt: Is anyone making these supertapes?

Johnson: That is starting to happen in Europe. They're making some of what they call high-MOL tapes, which...

Holt: MOL standing for maximum-output-level.

Johnson: Right. They're very high-energy tapes.

See, we fell into a trap here in the States, of thinking that the best way to reduce tape noise was to make the oxide particles finer. Each oxide particle holds a certain amount of energy, even when there is no recorded signal. This magnetism is random in distribution, and for the lowest noise, the randomness should always be canceling out to zero. But the fewer particles you have passing the head at any instant, the less averaging of this randomness takes place and the more tape hiss you get.

So the first thing you think of is, let's grind the particles up more and make them smaller, and we'll have less noise. And with more particles in a given space, we'll get more signal output because there is more total potential magnetic energy. But the problem with this is that, when you scrunch all these things closer to each other, their opposing magnetic fields are so close together they tend to erase each other. So to get around that problem you do other things, like doping the oxide with cobalt for instance.

Holt: What does the doping actually do?

Johnson: I'm not sure what it does on a chemical basis. What it does to the magnetic properties is tend to square off the hysteresis loop (footnote 2) or retentivity characteristic of the tape, so the magnetism recorded on the tape more closely tracks the audio signal fed to the record head.

Because of hysteresis you have to use more than a 50% magnetic-field change to change the tape's magnetism by 50%. When you plot the relationship between the strength of the applied field and the actual magnetic state of the iron oxide particles, you don't get a neat, straight line. You get sort of a loop. It's sometimes called a box-shaped curve.

Holt: And cobalt doping reduces this disparity?

Johnson: It makes the tape's magnetic properties more energetic and the hysteresis loop more rectangular, more linear. But unfortunately, some of those magnetic domains are not terrifically stable. In time, or as a result of elevated room temperatures, you have something that might be called longitudinal print-through.

If we take the same pulse we were talking about earlier...

Holt: The steep wavefront.

Johnson: Yes. If you start with that, and then bend the tape around a sharp curve or expose it to high temperature, or otherwise shake up the molecules of the coating, and then play back the pulse, you'll find it's wider.

Now try the same thing with a high-frequency tone on the tape and you'll find there's been very little change. The tone is hardly affected, yet the pulse is. That's because the tone is symmetrical. The magnetic forces that tend to change adjacent domains are tending to cancel each other out, and what tries to migrate in one direction gets pushed in the other direction. So everything stays pretty much as it was, but only with tones—not steep-wavefront transients.

Holt: I thought tape smearing occurred because the magnetic field around the record head's pole pieces has a different length at different frequencies.

Johnson: Yes, that it does. But this one's really insidious because it gets worse with time. That initial pulse could have been so narrow that you would have hardly heard it, because all the spectral sidebands would be those of high frequencies and would be spread out, But once the base-line of that pulse becomes wider, then those sidebands start moving closer together and become more audible. So what happens is, you make a recording in which sideband distortions are inaudible, and then in time they do become audible. Magnetic tape's reputation for stability of the recorded signal isn't entirely justified.

That is the predominant reason why analog recordings will tend to sound soft and washed out, particularly so with time. And it's a virtual crime as far as I'm concerned, because people will spend tremendous amounts of money and time making a superb tape, and then two years later much of its original aliveness may be gone. In some cases the deterioration is so bad that when you go back and play the record that was mastered from it, the record will have more life to it than the master tape.

Again, there's a simple solution to this: Use a tape that requires large amounts of magnetism to change its magnetic state. Then the adjacent particles won't be able to demagnetize each other so easily. But then that tape won't be usable on most machines; the record head's pole-piece tips would saturate from bias and record-amplifier current before they could pass enough current to change the tape's magnetic state.

Holt: You said that some high-performance tapes are available in Europe. Are any such made in the US?

Johnson: Not to my knowledge. A lot of nudging from Doug Sax, myself, and others has started at least one domestic tape manufacturer investigating the problem. But most of them are aware of the problem and won't do anything about it, while the others deny that there's anything wrong with what they're producing now. I've mentioned the same thing to the Japanese and they're far more responsive and interested in pursuing research along these lines. But the Europeans, in making low-speed reel-to-reel machines, are already doing something about it, and I find it just makes the most sense to get my tapes there. Some of those tapes have very fine signal/noise ratios too.

Holt: Are those special tapes readily available in Europe? They're brand names, that people can walk into a store and buy? Or are they more or less experimental tapes available only to industry insiders?

Johnson: Oh, they're brand names. People can buy them, and they'll actually work quite well on many machines. But it does take a special machine to get the best out of them. When you get rid of head saturation, for example, some of these tapes are absolutely superlative. We get very little smearing problem, the recordings are highly articulated, and they seem to stay that way.

Holt: Obviously, one of the attributes of your own recorder is that its record head will take a lot of current through it.

Johnson: That's one thing, yes.

Another problem that analog has is the usual hiss. That's where the beamed-radio-frequency bias technique comes in. A lot of hiss can be eliminated by cleaning up the bias signal.

Holt: Getting rid of distortion products which introduce asymmetry to the bias?

Johnson: Yes. When the bias is clean and the electronics are quiet, most of the hiss you hear in a good system is the noise of the tape itself.

The magnetic states are randomly oriented, and noise increases slightly when gap biasing reduces some of that randomness. When you have bias, the bias itself tries to erase the recording. If you can make the bias field a very narrow beam, and then make the bias collapse in the presence of a signal field, then some of the losses due to the bias are eliminated, and the high-frequency capability of the system becomes much greater.

Holt: You mean you're actually cutting off the recording bias in the presence of the signal?

Johnson: Yes—well, not really cutting it off. The narrow bias beam at the head gap is what does it.

In a conventional head, tape passing over the gap "sees" essentially the same length of magnetic field for the bias signal and for high frequencies. As long as the magnetic field is strong enough to record the high frequencies, any more magnetic field at the higher bias frequency is going to erase some of those highs as they leave the field. With focus gap head design, the biasing field is narrower than the signal field, so the last thing the moving tape "sees" when it leaves the gap is the signal field alone. By then, the bias field has become too weak to erase the signal.

Holt: Is the focus gap head unique to your tape recorder?

Johnson: Oh no, it's nothing new. The first implementations of the technique were done in the late '60s for cassette duplication. Its virtue, for duplicators, is not so much that it makes a better recording, but that you don't have to adjust the bias appreciably when you change from one tape coating to another. You see, what makes bias current so very critical at low tape speeds is its tendency to erase highs.
Reducing that tendency allows you to bias for lower overall distortion without losing highs. And it makes the recording system much less susceptible to the effect of small differences from one batch of coating material to another.

Holt: Changing the subject: Something I've been curious about is, Do you ever listen to music just for the enjoyment of it?

Johnson: Oh yes, quite a bit.

Holt: How many hours a week do you spend just listening to music?

Johnson: It's variable. Like right now I've been working very hard and haven't had much chance to listen for enjoyment.

Otherwise, though, I'd say close to 8 or 10 hours a week, maybe more.

Holt: That's more than a lot of audiophiles!

Johnson: That's one of my things. I play keyboard instruments, so that becomes part of the experience too.

Holt: What kind of music do you usually choose to listen to?

Johnson: Actually, the music I like a great deal is by some of the French impressionists: Debussy, Ravel, Fauré.

Holt: Are you able to enjoy listening to less-than-excellent recordings, or does bad sound make it impossible for you to enjoy the music?

Johnson: I kind of block that out. I enjoy music a lot, so I just hear the music and if the recording isn't very good I just don't pay any attention to the sound. I've built a number of devices that can expand the spatial image on these recordings, but it involves some tradeoffs.
The fullness and sense of a real performance improves but everything else comes out slightly damaged.

Holt: Aside from your own recordings, which brands do you tend to single out for listening? Say you were going out to buy a recording of La Mer and didn't know anything about the specific recordings of it in the store, which brand of record would you gravitate towards?

Johnson: I don't really know. But that's a terribly, terribly frustrating experience. Somebody will mention to me a performance that's very good, of a piece of music I like very much, but when I find the record and look at the label I say, Omigosh, I know how they've done it, and I'm back to the same frustration of occasionally finding a very good performance that is dreadfully recorded. Or else it's the other way around: a questionable performance with absolutely wonderful sound that really does work within the limits of what the producer had to work with. I really hate to mention any labels but there are some that are just multi-miked mediocritv if there ever was.

Holt: You've just cited Holt's First Rule of Recording: "The better the recording, the worse the performance, and vice versa."

Johnson: What's so frustrating to me is that most of my favorite recordings are older ones, and the newer ones are becoming increasingly harsh and grainy and unlistenable.

Holt: You must feel that way, and even more so, about Compact Discs, which are by and large awful.

Johnson: That's again a frustrating one. We use the Sony system at Reference Recordings for backup in our sessions, and it's a remarkably good piece of equipment considering all the things that are against it. But once you're dealing with a really good analog recording system like what we have, and use good microphones and the bare minimum of electronic processing, then the shortcomings of the Sony system become very apparent. At least from the standpoint of very serious recording.

If I were an audiophile or someone buying a system, and had a choice between a reel-to-reel machine and the Sony PCM—and I'm talking about the reel-to-reel machines generally available to serious hobbyists—and I was going to use it for recording from records, the decision would be in favor of the digital. But once you start dealing with a real microphone feed, and the microphone setup is working right for you, and you have a live group in a very good hall, at that point it's a different ball game. Then there are things that are wrong with the digital.

And the problems that I've encountered are very similar to what other people have heard and described. I've looked into the causes of these distortions and in most cases they're things that are readily measurable and are something you can put your hands on. It's not mythology.

Holt: But then why would they show up only when you feed them from microphones? How can the PCM make such almost-perfect copies of analog tapes?

Johnson: Actually it doesn't. Most analog tapes brought to me for mastering are second-or third-generation copies, made on good but not great equipment; a cassette machine will make almost perfect copies of these. But there are a lot of things I can hear the matter with PCM copies of my own tapes.

Holt: But your tapes are hardly typical of other master tapes.

Johnson: No, they aren't, but we're trying to make a product for release, not just something to listen to for our own enjoyment. And one of the biggest frustrations is, here we have master tape that has been recorded to the highest standards we can achieve, and then we go to the phonograph records with all the ticks and pops and the mechanical sounds of the record cutter and the playback system arm resonances, not to mention the wear that occurs later on—all of which degrades the signal so much that we sometimes wonder if it's worth all the effort.

Holt: So virtually no consumers are hearing anything like the sound of your master tapes.

Johnson: Oh no, they aren't. This is a major problem with all record reproduction.

Holt: In that respect, then, digital can do a better job, as a conveyance between the master tape and the average consumer.

Johnson: Not necessarily. Maybe average consumers, but not on a good audiophile system.

Holt: You mean on a helluva good audiophile system.

Johnson: A very good one. What we lose in the digital copy is very interesting. The inner detail is gone, and when things get complex, like in the Symphonie Fantastique, even though the string section is subdued and distant, in the master you can pick out a number of the individual violins that are playing in there. It is not a "massed string sound" like you hear in commercial recordings. But once you've gone through the digital process you start losing the discrete-instrument sense, particularly in complex sustained-sound programs. Tightly mixed studio recordings of popular music more easily survive digital. One can achieve heightened imaging by contrasting tiny pinpoint-type sounds with diffuse random-phase information. The contrast between the two (analog and digital) increases the sense of both space and articulation, even though the recording has less of each. If either the inner detail is lost because of complex nonharmonic distortions, or space is lost from running out of digital bits at low levels, the overall contrast diminishes.

The other thing that is very perplexing and bothersome with the digital is that it draws attention to the loudspeakers. The Symphonie Fantastique (footnote 3) and the latest recordings that we're working on have been recorded in Medina Temple, which has a wonderful sense of acoustical space.

I work very hard to put the instruments in that acoustical space in the recordings, and to make the playback loudspeakers seem to disappear. Digital recording destroys this.

Digital has certain distortions which are not related either harmonically or by phase to the input signal, so the distortion products appearing in each channel are entirely different. Together they produce no virtual stereo image at all, so there is no spread or apparent depth to their sound. They appear right at each speaker, and the speakers can no longer seem to disappear. The whole sense of that lovely acoustic space just collapses. Not only that, but this distortion—as subtle as it may be—acts as a diffusing filter over the sound, like a veil that obscures much of its detail. Hence, we degrade the space/articulation contrast, and a dull spacelessness occurs.

Holt: Do you feel, then, that these problems are inherent in Sony's PCM system rather than related to the quality of, say, the analog circuitry in the Sony PCM-F1?

Johnson: I don't think the analog circuitry is where most of the problem lies. One of the tests I did on the digital system, just to see what was going on here, used what I called a tone cluster. The signal source consisted of many different frequencies, which is what you find in music.

In this case, just to be as nasty as possible about it, I chose the cluster frequencies to be harmonically related to the digital bit flow and sampling rate. Then in playback I notched out the original frequencies, and what was left was something you wouldn't want to hear—some particularly nasty-sounding stuff. In terms of measurements it is a very small percentage of the original signals, but it is a terrible-sounding distortion and it is not masked by the signal because much of it is so far removed from the frequencies of the original signal—even though it might be 30 or 40dB below the signal.

Holt: Well what does it sound like? Is it a sort of shattery quality or what?

Johnson: It sounds like a swarm of nasty little buzzes and harmonics and grating sounds. It's a very ugly sound.

Holt: You feel, then, that the problem is with the digital system itself.

Johnson: Absolutely. With these particular system standards and design ground rules that the industry has adopted.

Holt: Well, back to analog. If you were to record the Fantastique over again, what would you do differently?

Johnson: I'd move the outside mike pair a little closer together to put the center-stage instruments closer to the listener, and I'd get the left mike a little closer in to the first violins.

Holt: Why not just bring up the level of the center mike?

Johnson: Because phase interference calling attention to the center mikes would reduce the sense of depth.

Holt: But don't you just use a symmetrical placement of your left and right mikes?

Johnson: Not necessarily. As I told you earlier, I place the microphones for the kind of sound I am trying to get, and if they don't end up being symmetrical it doesn't matter. The sound of the recording is more important than any theoretical considerations that, to my mind, make the recording less good.

Holt: On your recording of Däfos, what kind of instrument produced those awesome bass thuds?

Johnson: Well, it isn't entirely one instrument, but a big, circular grouping of percussion instruments that was used for Grateful Dead concerts. They call it "The Beast." A lot of drums are hung from a big circular pipe, and Mickey Hart stands inside the circle to play them. But a bass drum wasn't really what was making those bass thuds. A lot of that bass was from reverberation in the hall. Then during the setup of the The Beast, Mickey Hart lifted the entire structure and let it drop to the stage, which made a terrible noise. He was fooling around, really, but when we heard the result on the tape we decided it had to go onto the record. This particular passage caused great grief to Doug Sax (who mastered Däfos), forcing him to dig into his bag of tricks to keep the cutting stylus on the lacquer.

Holt: What are your plans for Reference Recordings?

Johnson: That's some question! We have a lot of plans for the future.

Holt: Well, what about for the immediate future?

Johnson: I suppose the biggest change is that we will be recording a lot more large performing groups.

Holt: Like symphony orchestras?

Johnson: Yes. Did you hear our new Respighi content/recording-december-1985-respighi-ichurch-windowsi">Church Windows?

Holt: I heard part of your two-track tape. It was incredible! That was done with the Pacific Symphony, wasn't it?

Johnson: Yes. They're very good. You know, we did that in the Santa Ana High School auditorium.

Holt: You're kidding! It sounds like Boston Symphony Hall. You didn't use artificial reverb on that, did you?

Johnson: No. Remember, I mentioned using extra microphones to extend the apparent acoustical space? That's how I made that auditorium sound like a big hall, by locating several delay microphones to build on the delays between the wavefronts reaching those microphones. The placements set up delay-phase interference from ear to ear to simulate rear-hall sound.

Holt: I still don't really understand that, but let it pass. One final question, though. Where do you think the audio field is going right now?

Johnson: You mean forward or backward?

Holt: No. Where do you think it's headed? Do you think, for example, that we'll all be listening to Compact Discs in five years?

Johnson: I think we'll all be listening to a digital source of some kind but I am not sure it will be the Compact Disc. And I hope it won't. The CD seems to have even more wrong with it than the Sony PCM-F1 system, and I am not convinced it is the fault of the software, as a lot of people are claiming. But I don't think we have heard yet how good the CD medium can be, either. The latest discs coming out aren't as bad as the first ones, and some people are taking another look at what could be causing audible problems in the CD circuitry, at both ends of the chain. I think the industry will spend several years trying to improve CD before we realize that it does have real limitations and start thinking in terms of a better system. And during that time there will be a lot more recordings that take advantage of CD's strong points and try to gloss over its weaknesses.

That's happened before. First we had Edison and the military bands that played for each cylinder, then we had Caruso and the horn, then we had the big bands and the open-backed bass-booming radio, then rock-'n'-roll and the transistor, and now it's the bass drum and the digits. In other words, each time there's a technological breakthrough, you find program material that really works for it. Once the novelty wears off and we try to use that medium to do everything—that's when we come up against its inherent weaknesses and start looking to other technological breakthroughs and improvements. That's where I feel digital is right now. Various problems are surfacing, and I don't think some of them can ever be solved given the limitations of the CD industry standards.

If we were working with something like the 12" laser videodisc, with its 4 trillion bits of available storage, we wouldn't be so information-cramped. There wouldn't be so much pressure on sampling rates and filter designs. Remember, it wasn't economy that dictated the 44.1kHz sampling rate as much as the storage limit. CD's promoters insisted that the disc be small enough to fit into a standard car-radio cutout, and the CD already carries as much data as we know how to get onto a disc that size. But it's barely enough.

Holt: You feel, then, that a digital-disc format resembling the 12" laserdisc could provide satisfactory performance?

Johnson: That medium could overcome the disadvantages of both analog tape and today's digital. There we're talking about sound reproduction that would be quite revolutionary, and we could really start all over again—perhaps with something that really is close to being perfect, as today's digital is claimed to be.
________________________________________

Footnote 1: JGH gives a good explanation of some of the problems with analog tape in Volume 6, Number 1.—Ed.

Footnote 2: "Hysteresis loop distortion" refers to the lag between a changing magnetizing force and the magnetic state of the ferrous material to be magnetized. If hysteresis did not exist, a graph of this relationship would be a straight diagonal line, indicating that magnetization changes in exact correspondence with the applied magnetic field. Because of hysteresis the graph appears as two S-shaped curves whose coordinates describe a rectangular box.—J. Gordon Holt

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Thu Dec 14, 2017 2:32 pm

Hi Sonic

I enjoyed this read, but maybe not in the way some would think.

If someone is doing the empirical follow through of this interview there is much that can be read in between the lines. First thing that stuck out to me, was how the playback mode was not referred to specific enough. The judgements (assumptions) being made were not based on a playback system able to reproduce a real size/real space stage. Because of this, short cut explanations were used that don't actually exist in the real space playback.

It's like when someone listens to a tuned recording for the first time and runs out of the room screaming "distortion" because they can't deal with how much is really on a recording. I say "distortion" because this is the very word J.G.Holt used in my room when he said he heard a recording for the first time in a righteous setting. By that time though JGH was already in is "down with high end audio" mode. JGH was so different from JA and LA and it was interesting seeing this difference during my yearly visits with Justin, in the 90's, and reading him in the prime of his push.

Saying this, these articles are most important for us historically because they give us insight to how far their personal listening had gone as compared to someone who made it a little further in the soundstage playback mode. Justin's reference to distortion was implying that the average audiophile would not be able to get out of the frontal "boxed in" soundstage the hobby was built on. What's interesting to me is that Harry Pearson (TAS) was coming to this conclusion at the same time JGH was and knew the parameters were going to need to change from what they had created.

My thought is, if Johnson and Holt would have listened in more of a real size/real space world, how would they have judged the different formats.

article quote

"Well, not from scratch. I used Schoeps and other capsules. I put lighter diaphragms in, and changed the interfacing circuitry. And because my own mikes don't have to conform to any industry standard for output, I made that as high as was practical without having to worry about standard line levels, phantom power requirements, and other standardized microphone parameters."

mg

Another interesting note I thought. Schoeps was a very cool cult recording club, which I happened to belong to as well. Ovie Sparks (TBS, Turner Broadcasting) was the one who got me into the Schoeps tweaking more seriously. Ovie, Dick White and some of the other TV guys that Ted had were way ahead of the curve. Picture this. In Touch, TBS, Fox Theatre and the Atlanta Symphony and MG Audio (the list is much bigger) were all in the same basic area. Testing recorded code spacing was as easy as walking from the actual halls to the studios I tuned in, and then later on in the night at my own reference room at MG Audio. I mention this because my work there was at the same time this article was written, 1984.

Johnson

"Digital has certain distortions which are not related either harmonically or by phase to the input signal, so the distortion products appearing in each channel are entirely different. Together they produce no virtual stereo image at all, so there is no spread or apparent depth to their sound. They appear right at each speaker, and the speakers can no longer seem to disappear. The whole sense of that lovely acoustic space just collapses. Not only that, but this distortion—as subtle as it may be—acts as a diffusing filter over the sound, like a veil that obscures much of its detail. Hence, we degrade the space/articulation contrast, and a dull spacelessness occurs."

mg

This tells me where Johnson was at in his own journey. I'm not trying to pick on Johnson but read back through this again. "Digital has certain distortions which are not related either harmonically or by phase to the input signal, so the distortion products appearing in each channel are entirely different. Together they produce no virtual stereo image at all, so there is no spread or apparent depth to their sound. They appear right at each speaker, and the speakers can no longer seem to disappear. The whole sense of that lovely acoustic space just collapses. Not only that, but this distortion—as subtle as it may be—acts as a diffusing filter over the sound, like a veil that obscures much of its detail. Hence, we degrade the space/articulation contrast, and a dull spacelessness occurs."

This simply doesn't exist in recordings, yet because he was hearing this with his playback system Johnson created a theory to rationalize what he was hearing or seeing on test equipment.

important read

This is why it is so important to realize that many times, you as tunees, discover things in the recorded code playback that goes further than the audiophile and pro "experts". When you start to see these types of statements in audio articles and then proof read them through what you can actually experience as being different with your own listening, these statements start jumping off the page at you. The AES is probably 90% in this category, as well as the audio magazines.

BUT

These historical reads should continue to be posted so hobbyist can understand the human factor played out and how it shaped the hobby's belief systems.
____________________________________________________________________________________

back to the article

Holt: Changing the subject: Something I've been curious about is, Do you ever listen to music just for the enjoyment of it?

Johnson: Oh yes, quite a bit.

Holt: How many hours a week do you spend just listening to music?

Johnson: It's variable. Like right now I've been working very hard and haven't had much chance to listen for enjoyment.

Otherwise, though, I'd say close to 8 or 10 hours a week, maybe more.

Holt: That's more than a lot of audiophiles!
______________________________________________________________________________________

scratch

"8 or 10 hours a week"

mg

I am almost in panic mode if I don't get in 8 to 10 hours a day. I can dig it if audiophiles don't listen that much, but for a music pro to not have a continual diet of listening is insane. When I'm not listening for myself, I'm listening for someone else. As a hobby cool, but I find that many in the business aren't even listeners. High end audio false theory building and industry myths are a result of one thing, a lack of listening, and a lack of exploring the audio chain outside of stock componentry.

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Sun Dec 17, 2017 7:36 am

The Western Electric 16A and 15A Horns

This is one of the great Western Electric horns – the mighty and visually imposing WE16A.



Here is a page from a Japanese magazine giving the frequency responses of the WE16A and the 15A (assuming they used the correct WE compression field coil reproducers).



These frequency plots work out to something +5/-10db from 60hz – 8khz for the 16A.  The 15A is quite flat between 500 – 5khz but when you expand the window to 100hz and 8khz it becomes something like +0/-20db.

Yet Sonic is told these horns with the proper reproducers are able to give a very special midrange with an ease you get with no other form of driver system. It goes to say I must note that both these venerable devices need augmentation in the bass and treble to sound “full range” and thereby opens the door to innumerable complexities in carrying out the matching and connection.

Western Electric is back (?)

And yes, Western Electric is back, in a way – a company has obtained the rights to the name and product trademarks and is manufacturing a new line of products including a CD player, Phonostage and 80W monoblock amps.

Have a look at
www.westernelectric.com





These products look elegant and solidly made.  The prices are not for the weak-kneed: the CD player costs about $6,000, the phono stage is in the mid $7,000s and the monoblock costs $50,000 (for one or two?).

I think this development will doubtless bring out debates – does a company obtaining right to own a venerable trademark and manufacture new products under that name mean that the brand has come back?  Especially if the new products are not connected to the original product line up? Like the WE 203-C CD player.

So is WE back? Let's wait and see.

In another sense, any company with iconic products would be right to cautious to strike a balance between mining the “aura” behind a brand and bringing back specific historical product and thereby risk people making comparisons, fair or otherwise.

Example 1: by today’s standards, very few of the old pantheon of products will cut it today. A hard truth indeed.  Try listening to the AR3a or AR LST, or the old Altecs, or the EVs – State of the Art in their time – yet today if you read nostalgia-driven reviews, the underlying message conveyed is that “certain adjustments of a listener’s expectation and priorities must be made before these products can be appreciated”…you know what the reviewer is saying politely, right?  However, Sonic recently heard the Shure M44-7 in an SME 3012 on a Garrard 401 table and I was very impressed by how good this cartridge sounded.  
   
Example 2:  Magneplanar recently introduced their 30.7 top of the line multi-panel system.  They avoided calling it the Tympani.  That in Sonic’s opinion is smart.  

Sonic


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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Sun Dec 17, 2017 5:50 pm

Hi Sonic

I wanted to clear this up

"It's like when someone listens to a tuned recording for the first time and runs out of the room screaming "distortion" because they can't deal with how much is really on a recording. I say "distortion" because this is the very word J.G.Holt used in my room when he said he heard a recording for the first time in a righteous setting. By that time though JGH was already in is "down with high end audio" mode. JGH was so different from JA and LA and it was interesting seeing this difference during my yearly visits with Justin, in the 90's, and reading him in the prime of his push."

JGH obviously never went running out of my rooms. What I was saying is JGH was saying, audiophiles wouldn't believe their ears if they heard what we were hearing when we listened together. My rooms at the shows were always used as the listening getaways for the cool gang.

Cool

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Sun Dec 17, 2017 11:44 pm



Greetings Michael

That is clearer for certain  Exclamation  

My follow-on question would then be: “why would an high-end audiophile run out of your room shouting ‘Distortion’? What is it in the sound of a tuned recording and how your system presents it that will evoke this response and not a  Shocked  then a bursting in tears and cries of 'For 10 years, THIS is what I was looking for.  Gurus led me by the nose, stores took my money……and I have now found the SOUND I dreamt of at last!'?"….followed by prostrations before Mr Green…why shout Distortion  Question

Sonic


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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Tue Dec 19, 2017 11:48 pm

Sonic said in an email

You busy?

mg

Yes, a very busy Christmas season thanks!

Sonic

Please comment on the questions i asked on my thread about why a hardboiled audiophile would shout 'Distortion' when first hearing a tuned recording and tuned system?  

mg

A lot of this comes down to the lack of training about what stereo is. For example no one cared to explain that all recordings have unique recorded codes. Audiophiles were falsely led to believe that one system setting is suppose to play all recordings and that just isn't true or practical. There are many of these myths baked into the high end part of this hobby. We've all talked about this many times over on TuneLand.

Sonic

What is it that prevents them from instead (put aside the dramatisations I wrote for the fun of the Forum) selling their $200k rigs, retaining you to fix/tune their rooms and then using a magnavox, audiolici, your cables and speakers and end their journey?

mg

Honestly, I think most of the guys who have tunable systems have no need for the high end audio part of the hobby and have moved on. This Christmas for example I have received many hellos from Tunees that never come up here (or haven't for a while) or on any other sites because their hobby of listening to a variable system is completed. They are listening more than they ever have, brag on the tune to their friends, but also have no desire to get back into the mess of High End Audiophile-ism. I also wouldn't include Audolici on the list above. I know a lot of Tunees that use the Sherwood and other amplifiers. I love my Audolici Preamps and amps, but I don't push them as a must have tuning tool. The Magnavox Player is a different ball game. Because of it's tunability I see the Maggie CDP as a must have for the CD listener. I appreciate that others may choose something else but it's surprising the amount of Tunees that end up coming back to the Magnavox for their broad range CD listening.

Sonic

What was it that you said abut Harry Pearson realising or not realising?

mg

Don't remember. I would need to see it in context again. This time of the year I'm getting thrown more things to comment on than I can keep up with. I'm sure I was making a point that made sense to me at the time. What was it in reference to?

Sonic

Remember I ask this because that unlike Heind1, Bill333, tjbhuler and  Drewster etc I only see the Tune as a successful acoustic, vibration treatment and products that do what big buck stuff do not. Your gear has tamed my room and created great music out of my gear.

mg

The Late Great Jim Bookhard would say "what are you waiting on"

Sonic

However what Hiend1 and co experience of the Tune that I have no idea.  What they heard I have no mental framework to latch onto. I only have their and your written accounts to go by.

mg

I'm not sure what you said above makes sense to the Tunee that has gone all the way and practices tuning. Let me answer you this way. You play your guitar correct? You drive your car correct?

Both of these activities you have had to learn beyond reading articles about them. Like these, Tuning is about trusting yourself enough to be practical. What we do isn't magical, in fact it's very empirically responsible. You hear me get on High End Audio, but ask yourself why? The answer is, because High End Audio isn't very practical. The audio recording, audio signal and audio chain simply isn't as difficult as it is made out to be. High End Audio in reality is mostly made up of mythical stories by talented writers who then made deals with manufactures to market and sell these interesting concepts.

Sonic

I hope the Tune is what I imagine it to be and not another one of the many deflating experiences I have encountered -- to finally get to hear a certified Altec A5 system, with WE tubes, Garrard etc etc only to think "yeah...it is OK....is that all?"

mg

To say that about the Tune is to not understand what the Tune is. The Tune is about being able to go anywhere study The Tune is about gaining the understanding of what audio is and then being able to practice it. If you find that audio is a fixed quantity, value or quality all of us need to jump on board with that Very Happy I'll be the first cheers But the truth about listening at a more accurate and personal level, is not really what High End Audio is selling.

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Wed Dec 20, 2017 12:24 am

Sonic said

"Greetings Michael

That is clearer for certain   Exclamation  

My follow-on question would then be: “why would an high-end audiophile run out of your room shouting ‘Distortion’?

mg

Money

Sonic

What is it in the sound of a tuned recording and how your system presents it that will evoke this response and not a   Shocked   then a bursting in tears and cries of 'For 10 years, THIS is what I was looking for.  

mg

This actually is their response after they tune in their sound.

Sonic

Gurus led me by the nose, stores took my money……and I have now found the SOUND I dreamt of at last!'?"….followed by prostrations before Mr Green…why shout Distortion   Question "

mg

I'm not sure you should try to read more into JGH's comments. I know that the word "distortion" is setting off some kind of bell for you but I think you are bending over backward to try to find some type of meaning that isn't there. Sonic, what JGH was saying and what Harry has tried to say before is "audiophiles are stuck". Earlier in their magazine careers both of these founders created something that never existed before. However as time went on both JGH and HP knew that the High End Audio revolving door was just that "a marketing revolving door". In the 70's and 80's there were some real discoveries, but there's no way these discoveries were happening every month. The High End Audio hobby changed dramatically when both of these magazines turned commercial, along with their counterparts around the world. What started off as Hobbyist talking about their hobby turned into a money making market, that lost it's goal of reproducing playback consistently.

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Wed Dec 20, 2017 1:11 am

Hi Sonic

I think it's important to ask some of these questions so don't think I'm getting in your face, cause I'm not. However I have some questions for you.

Do you think High End Audiophiles are the majority of audiophiles?

Do you think HEAs know what a recorded code is?

Do you think they know what an audio code is?

Do you think they think, the more you spend the better the sound, is a method of improving their sound?

Do you believe audio is a vibration?

Do you believe we are in constant motion?

Do you believe in what reviewers tell you? follow up Why?

Do you believe amplifiers are built with their parts bolted down for sound reasons?

and

What is it that prevents them from instead (put aside the dramatisations I wrote for the fun of the Forum) selling their $200k rigs, retaining MGA to fix/tune their rooms and then using a magnavox, audolici, MGA cables and speakers and end their journey?

I have a bunch more but lets start here, thanks!

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Wed Dec 20, 2017 1:36 am

more with Sonic

"These products look elegant and solidly made. The prices are not for the weak-kneed: the CD player costs about $6,000, the phono stage is in the mid $7,000s and the monoblock costs $50,000 (for one or two?).

I think this development will doubtless bring out debates – does a company obtaining right to own a venerable trademark and manufacture new products under that name mean that the brand has come back? Especially if the new products are not connected to the original product line up? Like the WE 203-C CD player.

So is WE back? Let's wait and see."

mg

As I said, I'm glad we're having this talk and hope folks understand.

As some now are telling their friends and readerships, High End Audio needs to apply their brakes before moving any further. This is paraphrased from what Jeff of TUNEAudio is saying to readers. It's also what I have been saying since the mid 90's. I have talked with way too many new designers and reps this last couple of years that are far removed from sound. Designers saying they don't listen at home and reps saying they don't even own audio systems.

I believe audiophiles are alive and well. What I don't believe is, High End Audio represents the audiophile any more.

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Thu Dec 21, 2017 10:00 am



Greetings Zonees

Here are answers to Michael’s questions. Sounds like “an interview with Sonic” doesn't it? I am honoured Very Happy

MG: Do you think High End Audiophiles are the majority of audiophiles?

Sonic: In a normal distribution of ownership for any class of product (cars, audio, bicycles) the bulk of owners will not sit at the end where costs are highest.

If you look at the 2009 Stereophile readership survey, 51% of respondents’ had systems which cost between $2,500 to $7,499. And those with gear costing >$25,000 was about 5.6%. Then of this 5.6% if we think about how many own systems whose single components might exceed $25,000 – we are talking of an even smaller percentage.

Now remember that this is the profile of the readers of a High End magazine, so if you expand the field to the universe of audio gear owners outside the High-End circles to include those who just love music, those who own audio gear and who do not read magazines like Stereophile or Abso!ute Sound, then the High-End as defined by these magazines make for a minuscule proportion of the world of audio gear owners.

In Sonic’s exploration of audio, I have found so much more types of audiofans with much more interesting personal tastes and stories once I abandoned High End Audio and the major audio magazines. For me I have stopped buying audio magazines with any regularity for more than a decade. I don’t subscribe to these or read them online either.

The only time I pick up something is when some interesting vintage gear is profiled or there is some unusual system described. And only if someone in my audio circle tips me off. The rest of the time I just don’t bother with these publications who are pushing gear that gets pricier with every issue and sound that is not getting any better.

MG: Do you think HEAs know what a recorded code is? Do you think they know what an audio code is?

Sonic: OK, let us refer to this group as HEA rather than “audiophiles”. There are two ways I could answer this: first “recorded code” and “audio code” are terms that Tunees use and is not in the HEA lexicon so I would say “No”. However given the optimist I am, Sonic hopes that for those HEA’s who do listen, they might instinctively suspect there is a lot more in the grooves of their records that can be unlocked, so they arrive at some concept of the “recorded and audio codes” without knowing what labels to put on them.

That might be a start of a journey towards realising that the dissatisfaction or shortcomings in their systems are not going to answered simply buying the next hyper-priced brushed aluminium box that launches in the next month. And they realised that there is more to system optimisation than playing Rules of Thirds, Cardas ratios for speaker placement and damping the life out of their rooms with Sonex.

The challenge is how will MGA and Mr Green flag that the Tune is an alternative? Again I come back to the group of audiophiles (some HEAs) Sonic met recently, where I mentioned Mr Green. No one had any up to date information on where MGA is today. Most didn’t know Michael though one said “he was big years ago…gone quiet”….another said “ya, those boards and pillows”. When I tried to sketch what MGA is today, they kept asking if the Tune is “like Brand A or Brand B”. Seeing the conversation was going nowhere in the Tune’s favour, I changed topic.

Yet when one of these audiophiles visited my dwelling (I hardly ever play my system for others), the person was amazed “I never thought Magneplanars could sound and image like this….your room acoustics…..how did you this???”. Sonic may report this visit in a subsequent post. It was only then I could say “see these monoliths? Those wood blocks? Michael Green...”

And Sonic doesn’t want to give the impression that my system is that good. But it was an ear-opener for this friend. We are all at different stages of the journey – hence my comment recently that at a higher level, I do not know what a tuned room and system sounds like.

MG: Do you think they think, the more you spend the better the sound, is a method of improving their sound?

Sonic: I doubt if this is an explicitly expressed view. Although this appears to be what seems to happen in practice.

MG: Do you believe audio is a vibration? Do you believe we are in constant motion?

Sonic: I have to credit Michael’s writing and an old interview with him in Positive Feedback in the 1990s by Doug Blackburn that opened my mind to the possibility that there was a different way to comprehend audio engineering and recordings that stays consistent to physics as we know it, yet explains phenomena we experience in audio better. The way of understanding audio as vibration and managing that vibration via the Trilogy is the best approach. Of course all our thinking has matured over the years but I still have that issue of PF as a keepsake and when I lose my way in Tuning, sometimes Sonic goes and reads that article again.

MG: Do you believe in what reviewers tell you? follow up Why?

Sonic: I don’t read the HEA magazines or follow their reviews online. Yes, there was a time I used to devour reviews in the early 2000s and bought a lot of back issues of Abso!ute Sound but I have moved on. The whole "flavour of the month" circus became apparent after a while.

Today my prized magazines which I bought over time, sometimes online or from used sources, are Sound Practices and the Japanese magazines – Tube Kingdom and MJ. From the little I can read there is a fascinating world of audio in Japan with a different world view.

To Zonees, I would say by all means read the magazines but I keep hearing HEAs say “ABC reviewer raved about this speaker” and they assume it must be good. And here we are in this place staring at these 200lbs boxes costing more than a BMW sedan and hearing some of the shrillest sound ever. So I would say “do not surrender your power of evaluation and choice.”

MG: Do you believe amplifiers are built with their parts bolted down for sound reasons?

Sonic: I think commercial products are subjected to a lot of rules that potentially compromise the sound that a DIY/homebrew builder is not forced to abide by. I would definitely put my hand up for safety and stability. There are also rules in place round containing with RFI and other emissions. All this has to be worked into the final product that gets sold.

Of course you don’t want something so loosely mounted that an accidental drop or shock in the hands of a customer leads to warranty claims or a lawsuit from injury.

Looking at so many designs around, I have to ask if all the weight is necessary – ½ inch faceplates, knobs that feel like something from a Bentley limo. What’s the point of all that from a sound design point of view? I also wonder how many designers understand the way layout of components within a chassis can affect the sound.

In my rounds of the stores with friends on Saturday afternoon, I am afraid I hear very little that can be called “great“. All I mostly hear expensive gear that is too bright sounding with bass that is hard and hammering played at too high levels.

MG: What is it that prevents them from instead (put aside the dramatisations I wrote for the fun of the Forum) selling their $200k rigs, retaining MGA to fix/tune their rooms and then using a magnavox, audolici, MGA cables and speakers and end their journey?

Sonic: Michael, I think you answered this very nicely in your reply when I asked you this a couple of days back.


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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Thu Dec 21, 2017 1:49 pm

Hi Sonic

Thanks so much for taking the time to participate Exclamation As I read through your recent posting, the thought came to me that a Q&A could be something useful for those reading only the current posting and not necessarily the long version over many years.

study

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Sun Dec 24, 2017 12:03 pm




Christmas Greetings Michael and Zonees!





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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Mon Dec 25, 2017 7:07 pm

Merry Christmas Sonic santa


santa rendeer rendeer rendeer rendeer rendeer rendeer rendeer rendeer

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Tue Dec 26, 2017 6:24 am



PSVane 12AX7-TII and NOS Mullard/Eico 12AX7s

Just yesterday one of my NOS Mullard/Eico 12AX7s used in the Quicksilver preamp failed.

The tube in question is still playing music but accompanying the music with bursts of white noise and some rather ominous bass/sub-harmonic rumbles every few seconds. This happened for no reason after more than half a year of excellent sound and service from these NOS tubes.

So I went back to the 12AX7s Sonic used in the Quicksilver preamp before buying finding the Mullard/Eicos. These earlier tubes I used are the highly regarded China-made PSVane 12AX7-TIIs. These had been in use for about a year in the Quicksilver Preamp and have been stored away when the Mullard/Eicos were installed.

Sonic knows that tubes take weeks, even months of use to settle in. We listen and let the settling take is course.

Sonic


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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Thu Dec 28, 2017 12:19 am



As the PSVane 12AX7-TIIs Settle In

With 15 hours of settling with music and speech reproduction (not simply idling), the PSVane 12AX7-TIIs are doing OK. An initial brightness and thinness have receded and the warmth and girth are slowly growing with music playback. It is also showing signs of being nicely dimensional.

According to PSVane, which appears to be a misspelling of “Pavane”, the recommended burn-in period for their 12AU7 tubes are 75 to 100 hours.  This presumably applies to their 12AX7s too. So we are at early days in the settling (what they call “burn-in”) cycle. Although Sonic is told that by 20 hours you should get a pretty good idea of sort of sound you are going to get long term.

In my installing of the new tubes in the Quicksilver Preamp, Sonic took effort to bolt down the top cover with similar tightness of the screws as before and to avoid doing other tunes like removing the somewhat heavy milled aluminum faceplate.  Do one thing at time – especially in this case where I am determining if the PSVanes are a competent substitute for NOS tubes which are costly things of uncertain provenance and lifespan. Might they be just items of nostalgia priced accordingly?    

Given how short our auditory memory is, Sonic will refrain from making comparisons with the NOS Mullards beyond a word that comes to mind with the PSVane tubes. It is they do not have a slight “furriness” that the Mullards have. Is this "furriness" higher harmonic distortion or a higher level of thermionic noise?

Sonic


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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Fri Dec 29, 2017 8:10 am

The Beauty of 78rpm Records – 2

As Sonic plays more 78rpm records, I and everyone who hears them with me, says “WOW! I never would believe that old scratchy 78s could sound like this…..there is detail in there…I can hear bass….and that voice is real…a human is there…there is little scratchiness!”

So true it is.  I been playing more 78s and the beautiful tonal realism of voices is fairly incredible. Sonic even went out digging and found a few more 78s to play.



The HMV in this picture has only one completely playable side – that of “I’ll Be Seeing You”.  Its other side has a chip on its lead in groove so to play this side Sonic has to cue the stylus onto the music grooves. The Rossini William Tell Overture is one of my noisier 78s where the crackle and pop intrude into the softer passages as the overture builds up. This record does test the limits of tolerance of the musical signal vs record noise – if I use the JVC SEA-10 EQ to completely suppress the noise, the music is dull.

On other records the rendering of human voices is beautiful and there is an astonishingly wide frequency range in the music reproduction. Not the equal of LPs or even 45 rpm but exceeding any conventional expectation of 78s. Yes, the sound is superbly enjoyable.

Which is why, Sonic now feels uneasy when I see pictures of 78rpm playback like this:



Of course back then, there was no option but to use devices like to play the records. But today we have better ways to play these discs so I wish people will stop using those acoustic reproducers with their steel.

Yes those are needles of steel – and that is why people still occasionally refer to modern styli as “needles”. And you had to throw them away after playing one side – One Side, One Needle is the Rule – or they damaged the record. There were wooden needles but you have to make them yourself.

As we entered the electric playback age, there was lots of ingenuity -- for instance how, when the playback time per side of a record was severely constrained, to play a musical work spanning many records.



And this got refined into the age of LPs and record changers.  Over Christmas, Sonic played a mono 3-LP set of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio by …..  and the sic sides of the records are arranged: Side 1/Side 6, Side 2/Side 5, Side 3/Side 4. On changer you stacked them so Side 1 was followed by 2 and 3, then you (or the mechanism flipped the stack over so Slides 4, 5 and 6 will play in sequence). Of course today with our single play turntables, it might get a bit confusing until you work it out.  

Back to playing 78s in Sonic's system….

I got a further improvement in my 78rpm sound by using Low Tone Redwood blocks from Michael under the Audio Technica AT LP120 – and if anything, it makes the records easier to hand-cue. The pieces of wood from Mr Green near the cueing light stalk has been removed because it was for cuing 7” 45rpm records but got in the way when cuing 10” 78rpms and SPs (this TT is used only used to play broad-grooves while the Rega P5 plays LPs and 45 rpm records of 7” and 12” diameters).



Sonic is amazed at how well the 78s have survived the years of play with steel needles – not to miss mentioning the Singer Sewing Machine oil which was used to coat the records before play (though you can imagine how much problems this caused Sonic when trying to clean decades of oil and grit from the grooves of them records)!

We now can again enjoy the surprisingly full frequency range they give….and those voices….

I am contemplating augmenting the Stanton with an Ortofon 2M 78.

Sonic




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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Sun Dec 31, 2017 8:40 am



The Possibility of Audio Satisfaction

It appears that much of High End Audio works on the premise that if you are dissatisfied with the sound you are getting, the solution is to upgrade your equipment or improve your system by buying some tweaks for your gear.

What we have reached is a HEA market characterised by too many products and manufacturers chasing too few audiophile buyers, a case of Supply exceeding Demand.

Is the total pool of HEA buyers and audiophiles is expanding, static or shrinking? Sonic’s guess is it is shrinking both in absolute and relative terms. In absolute terms, do we see young music lovers buying HEA equipment replacing the old High End Audiophiles as they age, go deaf and die away? No we don’t. There are young women and men entering audio but not coming into the HEA part of the hobby. For instance, those young music lovers Sonic knows are happy with inexpensive turntables like an entry level Pro-Ject and an Ortofon 2M Red even if they can afford much more.

On the relative side of things, given the number of new brands/products launched each month in the HEA magazines, the Supply vs Demand imbalance gets worse each day in the direction of oversupply so the relative number of buyers shrinks.

In this atmosphere, the thing the manufacturers and their HEA magazine mouthpieces fear the most must be Satisfaction.

Satisfaction – if a customer is happy with their systems they just play music. A satisfied audiophile feels no need to upgrade and gets off the carousel of:

Dissatisfaction –> Upgrade –> More Dissatisfaction –> More Upgrades

Whenever this occurs, the audiophile truly becomes a music lover and the system is the “dimensional portal” to other worlds of music.

From the standpoint of interests of the HEA industry, their survival is to have their entire marketing machinery with the support of all the HEA magazines stoke dissatisfaction and keep the fires of audio acquisition lust burning.

What might generate Satisfaction?

If audiophiles are able to tune and equalize the sound of their systems and recordings in all directions – get more PRaT, more Tubey, more Focus, Wider Soundstage, more Musicality or maybe a more Analytical sound any time they want from recording to recording – the need to look to upgrading and expensive tweaks as the solution will stop.

Why do you think the magazines reacted the way they did to Bob Carver made his claim that he could tweak the Transfer Function of an amp to sound near indistinguishable from a Conrad Johnson costing multiples more?

If someone from our circles of the Tune says “I have tuned a Sherwood 100W integrated amp so it cannot be told apart from an Audio Note Gaku On costing $265,000 yet provides enough power to deliver that sound to any loudspeaker” imagine the push-back from the HEA industry and the magazines.

In the case of Michael Green, the magazines might have seen the score and backed off from Tuneland’s products in particular the tuneable loudspeakers once they realised what it could lead to if this got to the mainstream. This is because anything tuneable breaks the cycle of dissatisfaction-led upgrading – if I can get the sound I want by just moving the sliders of my EQ or doing something with Michael Green products will Low Tone Redwood then the reason for buying anything has to be far more compelling. And the truth is much of the HEA products on the market particularly the tweaks do not provide any real benefits in performance.

This could also be one reason the industry also attacked and nearly killed off tone controls and EQ – because tone controls and EQ are the building blocks of satisfaction. Of course they did it in the name of “signal purity” and a snobbery that if you needed tone controls and EQ your system is unable to play the signal properly, so the best equipment must therefore come without them. The result was the creation of systems with “fixed sound” where a combination might sound eye-poppingly good on some audiophile CDs but on the owner’s favourite records might produce embarrassingly bad sound.

Of course the owners blame the recordings "my system is so revealing that 99% of CDs sound terrible!" It is actually the other way round but what a humbling thing to have to say "my system is so bad, that 99% of CDs sound terrible on it". The truth is these systems give their owners no means to enjoy the majority of records – where just a bit of boost or cut at the treble and bass would have produced nice music.

On the other hand let’s think about any system that is adjustable – with a good EQ (Sonic wishes for one with 10 frequencies per channel), some acoustic treatment that does not absorb away the life of the music, honest cables like Michael’s T3 — and satisfaction is close.

Happy 2018 and Good Tuning for the New Year!

Sonic

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Sun Dec 31, 2017 10:43 am

Happy New Year and Bingo Exclamation

HEA got a taste of me and tuning back in the 90's. This time around it's much bigger than me, and it's with the internet's ability to spread the news.

Back in the 90's the reviewers were around to keep tuning some what under wraps. But, there's really no way to stop tuning from advancing in todays world. Tuning is as simple to spread as "trying", and without the guilt of up grade compulsive pressure, there's no need for the listener not to give tuning it's fair shake. The old expression "it's a matter of when" is seeping it's way through the hobby. The High End Audio paradigm broke (as Sonic pointed to) when the pricy end of the hobby made it's move away from EQ's. It was such an obvious mistake that HEA was going to back itself into the "Fixed" corner that I knew the end would come sooner or later, so did my friend Jim Bookhard, Andrew Staub and others. However what needed to also happen was the grip that reviewers had over the hobbyist had to be loosened. Reviewers are "not" audio Gods and Audio Magazines are "not" the end word in sound. Magazines, reviewers and ads get things known, but the hobby itself has been divided into a few different camps, with the HEA being the one on the decline. I am perhaps on the edge of that age group that is dying off and can remember when TAS called me the new breed of audio designer. Man did the old school component guys throw a fit when I showed up, but when the shows rolled around or a reviewer needed help with his sound, we were the first one they called. Still HEA had to, and still does, need to go through their own weeding out.

I believe it won't take but a year or two before the big mass products take a huge dive. There aren't enough clients in the market place to support them any more. There's going to be an ok market under 15K and a used market, but the upper end is limited to very few now. The place to look at is going to be the entry level market and all in one units. For audiophiles used CDs are going to make a comeback. But not the big over built CDPs.

Also look for the Audio Magazines to change. I'm not sure Stereophile or TAS will even be around when the new style of Audiophile Cheapskate magazines take over. This doesn't mean the Audiophile dies off, not even close. What it does mean is that the high buck components go from being top of the list to collectables of a time past. Audiophiles are a huge marketplace and hobby, it's just that the whole discrete HEA market failed to deliver what it claimed. Even the richest of big spender gives up on his trophy system after a while, as they play less and less music at acceptable listening parameters. When audio system owners started to adopt excuses, you could pretty much see the writing on the wall.

NOW

Now as far as the listening audiophile, I believe we are on the verge of a new era. The thinking will move from components to systems (already happening). And, when it's about the system it will be about the room hosting the system. When the room and speaker becomes "one" look for a movement among the folks who were just equipment only listeners, to move in the direction of listening sites. What made HEA fail will be realized and the buzz on the listening street will become "getting the sound". Systems in other words will be finally looked at as a whole unit.

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PostSubject: Re: Tuning and Musical Adventures   Mon Jan 01, 2018 8:51 am



Michael said:

"Now as far as the listening audiophile, I believe we are on the verge of a new era. The thinking will move from components to systems (already happening). And, when it's about the system it will be about the room hosting the system. When the room and speaker becomes "one" look for a movement among the folks who were just equipment only listeners, to move in the direction of listening sites."

Sonic thinks one way this might come about might be systems that are built round very high quality headphones systems.  It takes the room out of the equation for many people. An audio world with significant adoption of headphones is ahead and we should be discussing this more on the Tune.

Headphones for high quality music listening is a natural step in how people in future use their spaces, how computers and personal entertainment converge on the road to virtual reality world ahead.

Sonic  



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