popol_vuh

What is your long-term idea of the system you're trying to build?

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I watched Steve Guttenberg's recent video about audiophile terms and an idea came to my mind that I've been aware of for quite some time now. And that is the question: do I have an idea of what I want with my system? It'd be easy to say: I want it all, I want maximum fidelity in all fields. But it seems to me that we as audiophiles do prioritize certain aspects of sound when building our systems. It's very difficult to make a choice when buying any component - whether it's amp, turntable, speakers etc. - and not having to prioritize something.

So, if we do have to prioritize, are we really aware of where we're going? Do we make conscious choices long-term, in the system-building sense? If my assumptions are correct, then I believe it's important to make conscious decisions in this sense.

When I ask myself the above, I'd have to say that I do prioritize certain aspects of sound and that's:

- tonality/resolution/transparency: I desire as much resolution as I can get, so I can get as close to what's recorded on the medium. That's an absolute must for me. I don't view this as system being "analytical". Analytical for me means artifice - intentional blowing-up of details to unrealistic hyper-reality. If that's not happening, the system is not analytical, just transparent.

- presence/"soundstage"/imaging: sound projection out of the speaker and into the room. Sound not being boxed-in, not being confined to boundary of the speaker, but being "present" in space. I have to say that I find the word "soundstage" a bit too old-world, because it doesn't really apply to more modern music (like electronica). So I use it in the sense of appropriate projection of sound into space, according to how it's recorded. imaging in the sense of correct positions and proportions within the soundstage space.

These are the most important things to me. But when i ask myself - "why are these the most important to me?", I come to the conclusion that it follows from how i view music and what i listen to. Since I listen to a lot of "artificial sounds", "soundscapes", minimal compositions, avant-garde stuff, electronics - I absolutely need the highest amount of resolution I can get because minimal compositions often utterly depend on a character of some tone, or on some tiny sound, or on position of some sound. So exactly according to that - I don't really care about "exciting" sound, inaccurate but enjoyable sound, I don't really care about "PRaT" etc.

Edited by popol_vuh
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Hmmm, good question...

In a way I am not new to the world of hi-fi. I have had my Gyrodec for nearly 30 years and Definitive got their arms around me early and I went down the valve, higher efficiency speaker route. Having children altered the priorities for quite a bit but then I stumbled across this forum about 3 years ago and it motivated me to set up the TT again and see where it would take me.

I think I realise two things.  Firstly, whilst I like reading about pieces of equipment and sometimes even working myself up into a 'must have' mini frenzy, I don't want to be a continual box swapper.  I like to have equipment that appeals to both the head and heart and stick with it.  That doesn't mean that I haven't upgraded - god knows, being a regular reader and contributor on here has been directly responsible for a radical change in most of the components in the system - but I am now buying what I hope will be 'end game' pieces as I think that just suits my personality.

Secondly, whilst I could claim to be into hi-fi for 30 years, I still feel that my experience is quite narrow.  I have never visited a trade show, haven't been into a dealer for as long as I remember and, until recently, had few friends that had systems that could remotely be called high fidelity.  Again this forum has helped change this - I've been to the last Kegworth show, attended a couple of bake offs and now have friends locally through the forum and otherwise that share the same passion and have distinctive set-ups in their own right.  I am understanding better the possibilities and different approaches to reproducing recorded music.  I am starting to know what I want and what to expect but I really want to hear more and that has been one of the biggest frustrations around the virus this year.

So a bit of a long winded way of saying I am trying to put the pieces in place to create a long term system, it has a sound that seems to be working for me, but I would love to have a bit more experience of other systems just to make sure that I have not missed an approach that connects in a way musically that makes me question the path I am taking.       

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I think it's easy to get carried away with "transparency" in this hobby. Hearing a Hi-fi system pull apart a recording that you have listened too thousands of times, allowing you to hear something you never noticed before is quite revelatory, but over time you start to realise that this isn't always a good thing if the recording isn't up to snuff and have to reign it in a bit. It's a balancing act.

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Super Wammer

I found that chasing resolution led to more difficulty in getting all components to work well together. In my high end t/t quest I found that the upper echelons of t/t or CD/digital really didn’t do it for me. 

Same with amp and speakers etc. I I am in the middle ground where expectations are lower and am happy. 

My sole focus when demoing new kit is so I enjoy the music more? If there is no more enjoyment then it’s wrong. 

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2 hours ago, DomT said:

I found that chasing resolution led to more difficulty in getting all components to work well together. In my high end t/t quest I found that the upper echelons of t/t or CD/digital really didn’t do it for me. 

Same with amp and speakers etc. I I am in the middle ground where expectations are lower and am happy. 

My sole focus when demoing new kit is so I enjoy the music more? If there is no more enjoyment then it’s wrong. 

Well said. Too easy to get into a spiral of increasing expectations only to realise that it brings frustration and not joy.

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Iam very happy and fully satisfied with the sound I presently have. So won't be swapping boxes till something breaks down irreparably. Iam now going to work on the better cables, vibration isolation, and room treatment.

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As said above, it's about enjoyment of the music above all, I can be very OCD, and there are times I think my system could sound better, but then my system is a mish-mash of new and used.

The most expensive are the SCM11 Mk1 speakers (pre-loved) the almost unused CD player was about £400 back in the 90s, the MF X-a200r amp cost me £200 from a work colleague at least 10 years ago.
However statistically the cheapest over its lifetime, but relatively most expensive at time of purchase is the Micro Seiki DD40 deck, bought in a sale at 50%off for £180 I think in 1978 (seemed a lot of money then, but now works out at less than £4.50p.a. and still diminishing) and it still sounds excellent.

I know it probably could be more revealing, more detailed, more musical, etc. but give it a great recording and some volume, and it sings...

Yes, being on here does make me think about experimenting. But since the mid seventies, I've only ever had 2 decks, 4 amps and 3 set of speakers as far as I can remember. I still have the Cyrus 2 and Rogers LS3/5a's - I'm not a natural box swapper...

I occasionally think the amp or whatever could do better, but the choice is bewildering, space is tight and life is too short...

I'm actually quite happy as things are.


Sent from my CLT-L09 using Tapatalk

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hard to put into words, but I think I am more into presentation style than anything covered by terms such as transparency, resolution, detail retrieval etc. What I have finished up with is something I can sit and enjoy all day. It is not the most transparent system I have heard, nor is it the most detailed, it does not have the widest soundstage, or deepest, the speakers don't quite disappear, and you dont feel the bass in your chest. I am rather pleased that none of those descriptions apply, as I have heard systems that individually do all those things better than mine, the trouble is that with most of them after 20-30 minutes I find myself wandering out of the room having lost interest in the music. I want to listen to music that holds my attention , makes it possible for me to spend a lazy day more interested in what I want to enjoy next rather than some filigree detail. I realise that this thinking probably goes against the grain on a hi-fi forum but hey, we are all different.  Add to that a few changes to lifestyle over recent weeks have reinforced my views considerably.  

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I don't think I'm after a particular sound, I like to change electronics quite frequently to get different perspectives on the music. 

In my audio world different can be just as interesting and enjoyable as better. 

I find that my musical tastes change as well.

I'm not sure if one always leads the other or which comes first; if the equipment changes lead to different music being appreciated, or different music leading to different equipment choices. Probably sometimes one, sometimes the other. 

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really good question

For me, a hifi should create a completely realistic and holographic representation of whatever is being played. I HATE any colouration because it ruins the illusion.

The other is instrument separation. Really important for me, and it helps create that illusion of being as a live concert.

I've learnt to listen to piano tracks in particular when deciding if a new component meets my criteria. Any hardness or digital gloss that many DACs and poor preamps introduce get immediate thrown out. Same for sibilance in vocals. How can a voice sound real if even a tiny amount is being heard!

This has been the driving force behind my recent hifi purchases and my Magnepans are exceptionally low in colouration and high in realistic instrument recreation. No box and cones speaker will ever grace my hifi.

I'm getting close to my "final" system, and I'm really enjoying and listening to a lot of live recordings because the illusion of being there, via my system, is so beguiling.

To conclude, my goal is realistic instrument and vocal recreation.

Edited by Psilonaught
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As far as I can see, there's people practicing audiophilia for a multitude of reasons: some like vintage equipment, others crave for the latest gear, some are tweakers and DIY'ers while others are brand addicts, some like rock, some electronic, others jazz or classical, some like analog others prefer digital, tubes or transistors, some are tech savvy and more rational in their approach while a few more will go at it in a mostly subjective manner, some are well-off while many suffer from budget constraints... Audiophiles are hybrid beings in the way they build their system and the vast majority will probably shift their objectives back and forth throughout their lives, as will their taste in music.
I am also aware that the whole system (from recording to playback) is imperfect and that for some people it may require a certain degree of customization in order to enhance the listening experience.

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The construction of an audio (or recorded music playback) system is a personal journey, guided by one's objectives, motivations and tastes (both musical and sonic).

My path has combined the possible experimentation with some research on technical documentation and reading accounts of a few individual experiences.
The development of my system has been growing towards an approach that is driven by two major concepts: "transparency" (faithfulness to the recorded signal) and "naturalness" or "perceived realism".

First it is essential to mention that the music genre which I appreciate the most is Classical, with a special emphasis on symphonic music from the Romantic period, piano (solo or in concert), cello (accompanied by piano or the orchestra) and also some music with vocal content (choral). I also enjoy listening to jazz from the mid 40s to the mid 60s, and I still play a bit of rock but mostly as background music.

From an audiophile point of view, the advantage of using this type (Classical) of acoustic music (played in spaces with natural reverberation) is that it can be used as a sonic reference in the evaluation of equipment, systems and recordings; Classical usually benefits from careful recording and mastering, unlike most the studio recordings that only "exist" as they exit the mixing desk or in the amplified concerts where the sound heard by the audience is a "reproduction" of what was captured by the microphones or the table, amplified and transduced by PA systems that do not have fidelity as their main objective but loudness, and are often poorly mastered.
Moreover, the sonic and musical complexity, the wide frequency band, the wide dynamic range, the variety of sounds / sound sources and the acoustic cues in Classical music recordings provide a particularly demanding challenge both in its recording and subsequent reproduction in a domestic environment.

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Having "natural" playback of Classical music as a goal, I expect my system to reproduce recordings with the highest possible fidelity and to achieve this it is necessary to choose equipment topologies that offer the greatest potential and to seek the maximum technical excellence in each of them (within my budget, of course).

Ideally this would mean a frequency response covering the whole range of human hearing (20-20,000Hz), a dynamic range limited only by the recording and the listening room background noise, with negligible amounts of the various distortions, in such a way as to allow the levels of "clarity" and transient response required to produce sounds as "naturally" as possible.
In my experience more "transparent" or accurate (signal integrity) gear produces a more "realistic" illusion when reproducing Classical music recordings.

My biggest challenge, besides budget constraints, is that I find the task of comparing equipment and accessories extremelly boring and have a profound dislike for it. I also feel somewhat uncomfortable auditioning equipment at dealers that I don not intend to buy, and find that it audio show audiotions aren't really meaningful. I prefer to buy used equipment and perform long-term assessment in my room with my system.

Regarding sources I am of the opinion that this equipment should be as "transparent" as possible in order to extract the maximum amount of information from the support whilst contaminating the signal as little as possible with any type of distortion. This means that a single recording reproduced from CD or vinyl should only be distinguished by the "colourations" or distortions inherent in each of the systems (media and reading equipment) as well as by any differences in mastering.

The amplification should follow the same principle of "transparency" in its function of increasing the amplitude of the signal coming from the source, being able to power the speakers to which it is connected (which implies sufficient headroom to respond to transients and low impedance of output in order to prevent any influence from the load produced by the speakers, which varies according to frequency) and the power supply must be adequately sized and effective in filtering the "impurities" of the electric current (the power amplification modulates the intensity of the electric current of in accordance with the audio signal).

All electronic circuits should be guided by simplicity (k.i.s.s.) and use the components that present the best characteristics / technical performance.

As for transduction, unless I win the lottery I will probably be sticking to boxes with cones and domes. Here's a summary listing of some characteristics that I consider indispensable for a good performance: • the cabinet should have a wide baffle to avoid "discontinuities" in the response at the mid / mid-high level (baffle step) where the ear is most sensitive, a construction that allows control of resonances and standing waves and edges rounded or bevelled to reduce diffraction • waveguided tweeter for smooth directivity • a minimum of 3 ways in order to reduce intermodulation distortion, optimise directivity and make use each of driver within it's optimal passband • frequency response should be flat on-axis and smooth off-axis to ensure a balanced tonal balance in the room • large (or medium-sized pair) of low-frequency drivers in sealed compartment for better transient response
I have been using digital room correction (EQ only) for a few years now and find it very effective. Would love to have a treated room as well but that is currently out of the question.

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Even though I am happy with my current system and could easily live with it to old age, there are aspect of performance that I know can be improved, some are more important than others. The most important one is the room but until we settle somewhere sorting this is not an option (this is our third home in 6 years).
My DAC is the weakest link in my system but the constant home-swapping has had me thinking about replacing the whole system with all-in-one speakers. I am quite happy with my current amplifier, a custom-designed minimalist transistor affair.

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To use a automotive analogy, I see my system as a race car; just like the highest performance car will produce the fastest lap, the highest performance system will achieve the highest level of fidelity or "transparency".
If I were to race on a Grand Touring cup and didn't have budget constraints I'd buy a Ferrari or a McLaren but unfortunatelly I can only afford a Lotus... Which is a good experience too.

Edited by tuga
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54 minutes ago, tuga said:

equipment should be as "transparent" as possible

that's it right there, I'd extend it to say that the recording, mastering and medium should be as well.

That's my goal, get as close to the music as possible. I want my favorite music played by my favorite artist, recorded perfectly at the best session of their life,  mastered amazingly and then delivered to my system which plays it back perfectly as if I were there in the room.

wishful thinking, but I spend a lot of effort trying to get there with each and every point along the chain. I'll spend all I can reasonably afford to make that the best it possibly can be, but ultimately its an experience v value v affordably decision, noting the laws of diminishing returns!

I might upgrade again when I can afford it, I might wait until I start to hear the limitations of the system again, it might be 6 months, or 6 years until I make another big investment - life has a funny way of dictating other things to spend hifi money on!

Edited by Phobic

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What I have learned:

Resolution does not necessarily give enjoyment

Chasing Neutrality does not necessarily lead to enjoyment

Obsessing over measurements does not necessarily lead to enjoyment

Trying to get as close to what has been recorded, does not necessarily lead to enjoyment

Copying what other people do (or tell you to do), does not necessarily lead to enjoyment

Why?

Because the enjoyment of music is individual, personal and subjective. It is enjoyment that drives us to listen to music in the first place. If your system does not give enjoyment, you have wasted your money - no matter how it measures, or what the Cognoscenti say.

I primarily value a subjective assessment of a system, listening for attributes like Authenticity, Realism, Naturalness, Musical Connection. I will keep measurements in mind, to  help understand the subjective assessment - but they are very much secondary. Enjoyment is measured in the pleasure centre of the brain, not by an oscilloscope or a microphone. 

Edited by CnoEvil
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My own system goal is to get the sound in my lounge as close to a live gig as I can.  No one can say a gig venue/ sound desk/ engineer etc doesn’t offer some form of ‘colouration’ etc .....I’m after instrument separation and depth of the soundstage along with general atmosphere etc.

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a/ Real tactile, emotional enjoyment (singing, head nodding, foot tapping, laughing, crying) of the music.

b/ as 'natural' and unforced reproduction/ presentation of the music as I can get.

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