Lawrence001

Why do worse measuring components sound better?

Recommended Posts

Something I've been thinking about for years. At first it was based around amplifiers, notably valve amps, but my knowledge in that area is limited to the standard "even order distortion good, odd order bad" answer. (I'll be honest I don't even know what that means but I just accept it as it's a view held by so many who've been in the game longer than me.)

More recently I've been drawn to the discussions around DACs as I have found that the ones I like get bad reviews on ASR based on their measurements. I don't buy the idea that's it's all in my head, as I've been in the game long enough to tell if a component sounds ok or not to me, and the bad measuring DACs consistently get me staying up late to listen to more and more albums.

I've also said in another thread that I listen to music quietly, so the first question is, does some distortion act like a kind of loudness adjustment (but in distortion or other "bad" measurement terms) that makes quiet music sound more exciting?

The corollary to that is, can I take the measurements of the various DACs that I like and those I don't and derive optimal curves that define the imperfect measurements that I like? If I can do that, then I can choose my DACs purely on measurements, it's just that it's not those that measure best I will buy, but those whose imperfections measure as close to my personal imperfect curves as possible.

If everyone could have their personal curves measured them we could all buy based on measurements. Surely Keith would approve of such an outcome?

Sent from my BKL-L09 using Tapatalk

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Moderator

Sorry. Tech forum.

Will change the answer shortly

Edited by rabski

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Super Dealer

That’s a silly thing to say, if an electrical component measures well it will be audibly transparent, you may not enjoy the transparency of course.

Keith

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Moderator
13 minutes ago, Lawrence001 said:

Something I've been thinking about for years. At first it was based around amplifiers, notably valve amps, but my knowledge in that area is limited to the standard "even order distortion good, odd order bad" answer. (I'll be honest I don't even know what that means but I just accept it as it's a view held by so many who've been in the game longer than me.)

More recently I've been drawn to the discussions around DACs as I have found that the ones I like get bad reviews on ASR based on their measurements. I don't buy the idea that's it's all in my head, as I've been in the game long enough to tell if a component sounds ok or not to me, and the bad measuring DACs consistently get me staying up late to listen to more and more albums.

I've also said in another thread that I listen to music quietly, so the first question is, does some distortion act like a kind of loudness adjustment (but in distortion or other "bad" measurement terms) that makes quiet music sound more exciting?

The corollary to that is, can I take the measurements of the various DACs that I like and those I don't and derive optimal curves that define the imperfect measurements that I like? If I can do that, then I can choose my DACs purely on measurements, it's just that it's not those that measure best I will buy, but those whose imperfections measure as close to my personal imperfect curves as possible.

If everyone could have their personal curves measured them we could all buy based on measurements. Surely Keith would approve of such an outcome?

Sent from my BKL-L09 using Tapatalk

In general, and as mentioned in other threads, the problem is likely to be that a lot of the measurements that will potentially be at play here are not available, or too difficult to measure, let alone display and interpret easily.

I would imagine the biggest difference, which is rarely if ever measured, is the individual harmonic content. In other words, the relative proportions of different harmonics at different fundamental frequencies. It is a myth that valve amplifiers are mostly 2nd harmonic distortion and solid state mostly 3rd harmonic, but some valve amplifiers nevertheless have a higher proportion of even-order harmonics than odd-order ones. It is the even-order harmonics that people generally find a pleasant addition.

The issue is that the proportions do not remain constant with frequency. There are also much greater issues when there is (as there always will be in music) more than one fundamental frequency at the same time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There's a lot of wammers with measurably impressive personal curves 👀

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, rabski said:

In general, and as mentioned in other threads, the problem is likely to be that a lot of the measurements that will potentially be at play here are not available, or too difficult to measure, let alone display and interpret easily.

I would imagine the biggest difference, which is rarely if ever measured, is the individual harmonic content. In other words, the relative proportions of different harmonics at different fundamental frequencies. It is a myth that valve amplifiers are mostly 2nd harmonic distortion and solid state mostly 3rd harmonic, but some valve amplifiers nevertheless have a higher proportion of even-order harmonics than odd-order ones. It is the even-order harmonics that people generally find a pleasant addition.

The issue is that the proportions do not remain constant with frequency. There are also much greater issues when there is (as there always will be in music) more than one fundamental frequency at the same time.

If it's harmonic behaviour that define whether e ultimately like a component or not then why aren't we measuring it?  Is it beyond current technology or because nobody has bothered? 

If it can ultimately allow us all to judge a component based on measurements then isn't it a good outcome for all sides of the debate?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Moderator
2 minutes ago, Lawrence001 said:

If it's harmonic behaviour that define whether e ultimately like a component or not then why aren't we measuring it?  Is it beyond current technology or because nobody has bothered? 

If it can ultimately allow us all to judge a component based on measurements then isn't it a good outcome for all sides of the debate?

I don't know wherther it is or not, that's a guess.

We measure total harmonic distortion and we do measure (or can measure) individual harmonics. I would imagine that splitting out every harmonic at every fundamental frequency would be doable. However, there has to be a near infinite number of combinations of fundamental frequencies at different levels, and thus a near infinite number of resulting harmonics and a near infinite number of resulting interactions.

It's why measuring some things is impractical or needs a broad brush approach. And in my opinion, it may well be one reason why two things that 'measure' identically may sound different.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Only one way to find out if it works...

Anyone want to run some measurements when the lockdown is over?

Basically measure a couple of DACs I like and a couple I don't. Then get some other dacs that measure similarly and see if they are consistent.  Doesn't have to be me doing the listening, anyone can, I'm just interested in whether it works or not.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's because nobody has the combination of time and resources to measure it. Time yes, many of us do, resources yes they're everywhere combine them and it's a professional environment. If it was a subject of professional relevance it would be funded but it is not, and so it is no longer bothered with.
Psychoacoustics is still researched, and many other adjuncts to our hobby, but hearing better quality music than is economically required is not well researched, and unsurprisingly most 'hi-end' hifi companies don't want to invest. After all who wants to pay t doscover that a 20mm thick aluminium faceplate doesn't make airs airier .
One more thing: any wisacre who tells you acoustics was all worked out by 1960 can be safely ignored, they are just living in their myopic comfort zone. That's like saying electronics, social revolution or art was sorted by then.

Sent from my BLA-L09 using Tapatalk

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Super Dealer

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Maybe that could explain my preferences. If it's not too difficult to measure the spectrum it would be quite useful to do it for DACs s well as amps.

Also relevant here is that I have a very "clean" sounding amp at the moment.  I may be compensating for its lack of distortion by using DACs that have more.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Moderator
15 minutes ago, PuritéAudio said:

No. It isn't. It's the various harmonic frequencies based on a single, approximately 1kHz fundamental. Which tells us absolutely nothing, other than the harmonic distortion components that are present with the simplest, single-tone input at one frequency.

Extrapolating the harmonic components at different frequencies would be massively flawed reasoning. Extrapolating them at a combination of frequencies, and thus the complex interralationships would be ridiculous.

You have made my point.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Moderator
5 minutes ago, Lawrence001 said:

Maybe that could explain my preferences. If it's not too difficult to measure the spectrum it would be quite useful to do it for DACs s well as amps.

Also relevant here is that I have a very "clean" sounding amp at the moment.  I may be compensating for its lack of distortion by using DACs that have more.

See above. It falls into the 'way too difficult' category. It would take massive computer processing power, because it is not just one sweep measurement. Far from it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But could we approximate the continuous harmonic surface with some discrete measurements at sample frequencies?

When I was a kid I used to love playing with graphic equalisers. I would invariably end up with a v or u shaped setting. I would get 80% of the sound I liked with 5 bands. Finer tuning just took me a little closer to the ideal and I often found myself unsure over the exact finer settings.

Edited by Lawrence001

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Super Dealer
14 minutes ago, rabski said:

No. It isn't. It's the various harmonic frequencies based on a single, approximately 1kHz fundamental. Which tells us absolutely nothing, other than the harmonic distortion components that are present with the simplest, single-tone input at one frequency.

Extrapolating the harmonic components at different frequencies would be massively flawed reasoning. Extrapolating them at a combination of frequencies, and thus the complex interralationships would be ridiculous.

You have made my point.

You have scrolled down right?

Keith

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.