What does “REAL” mean to you when you listen to music on your Audiophile home system?
We may have a few definitions of what real means to us personally and as the DS gets delivered it might be fun to express some of them in preparation for it.
Here’s mine to start it off…
If we were blindfolded and asked to listen to various live instruments as well as the recordings of those live instruments, would we be able to identify which were which?
I think that in most cases we could do this quite accurately, especially if we have the opportunity to enjoy “live” music on a regular basis. Unfortunately this is not always the case.
If the Analog playback system for the recorded instruments were “state of the art” compared to a Bose radio, would it be more difficult to identify the differences?
I think not.
Obviously the SOTA system could sound better and the amplified delivery of the recorded material would be better in the ways we would expect but it can only amplify “what it is given”.
Bits Are Bits makes sense on paper but bits are abbreviations without 23456789.
Do these possibly rounded or truncated numbers hold any info we are not getting?
On paper, perhaps not.
Does our front end system [transport, Dac, cables, connections etc extract and deliver ALL that is in the bits that we do get?
If the compiling of firmware affects SQ in renderers, then does the compiling of the computer, transport, input/output firmware also affect it.
So, back to real.
If, in any of the above scenarios, the guitar, piano, cello, etc and voices sound MORE “real” then I suggest that REAL has much less to do with the Analog part of our systems.
As was suggested by Paul in the earlier days of the DS announcements, the DS seems to get more info from our old red book CDs. For argument sake, let’s say it does a better job at decoding what is in the bits and delivering them to our analog sections for amplification.
In this case “more is more”.
So, a guitar, piano or singer could sound MORE “real” even through the Bose radio if more instrument characteristics on the disk are recovered?.
They are Here, We are There, or that the recording equipment was of a quality that picked up every last nuance of the instrument may be less critical.
The same as We would recognize the sound of a loved one’s voice over a bad telephone connection, there is/are certain characteristics to “real” that go beyond the superlatives we traditionally use to describe the qualities or “reproduced” sound.
I believe that the DirectStream will encourage us to now more intensely evaluate our Analog sections to better adapt to our increased realness.
Will our tweaks like power, isolation, room acoustics, cables etc still be as important?
Of course they will.
BUT, our evaluation criteria will include, more than ever, How They Handle and Affect The REALNESS.
OK, your turn
What does “REAL” mean to you when you listen to music on your Audiophile home system?
Which affects “The REALNESS” the most: room, speakers, amplifier, or source?
Here’s a puzzler. We know that room characteristics affect the perception of “real” as related to stereos. The same system will sound more real in one room than another. The same goes for the same room treated versus untreated acoustically. A live instrument or voice, though, will sound unmistakably live in both rooms or situations. It may sound somewhat different in different rooms but you would not likely mistake it for recorded. I would venture to say that you would comment that the ROOM sounded different rather than the instrument under those conditions.
I take a slightly different view. There’s what we hear and there’s what the equipment does in producing the sound. For the latter, “REAL” should mean the source material is transferred through the entire audio chain with as little perturbation as possible. We’re a long way (IMO) from knowing just what all the things are that need to be measured to understand WHY something sounds different, so it’s not as simple as saying REAL means you measure at the output what you expect. However (again IMO), the most REAL something can sound in a system will be driven by a system that has the least impact on the source signal. That’s as real as you’re going to get. If the source doesn’t have the ability to sound real in that context then anything you do to make that sound “more REAL” is altering the signal. We do that all the time when we decide what pieces of equipment, cables etc we put into our systems - including how the system is set up in a room. I’d rather have each piece of equipment do its best to operate in as “pure” a manner as possible. What we do with it after that point will determine how WE want to alter the sound in order for it to sound REAL to us.
Honestly that’s part of what’s bothering me about the DS discussions to date. I grant that it’s doing something that is being received as great by all who listen. It’s being described as “more real”. In my mind it’s doing that by either tailoring the sound (a bad thing) or by processing the data from the source in a way that produces a purer net output than has been previously possible. That to me would be a good thing, and what I have to believe is happening.
Here are some of the things that come to mind when I think of someone playing an instrument 20 ft in front of me and then what it might sound like played back on a fine system. As regards the playback,
1) The apparant size of the instrument must be appropriate for the distance.
2) The volume of the instrument must be appropriate for the distance.
3) The power, slam, acoustic impact must be the same. Even the best systems (recordings?) fall short in this department. A loud trombone has an impact on the body that can be felt. If you plug your ears in front of most systems you likely won’t feel this in the same way.
4) The instrument (voices, especially!) must not be disembodied. I think of test records where an announcer stands at different distances and announces his presence. It just never sounds like it is coming from a real human being. This is not to say that you could not point your finger at the location of the person speaking. The voice is thinner, more dispersed in some way. At the same time one might describe the same voice as having a “pinpoint location” when their system is dialed in well.
These things come to mind first for me and they have to happen at the same time. I am sure that we will think of others. It’s like describing fresh squeezed orange juice. Nothing else tastes like it. Not pasturized, from concentrate, orange candy, orange soda… so how do yo describe it?
One thing I do notice on live music vs. recorded is that when a sax is live you can feel the air move. It’s weird. But it’s almost like I can actually feel the pressure gradients of the sound as they pass by. Sure, an amped sax gives you the right tones, but the right sound pressure isn’t there.
@SSW: Yes. We experience more of the sound than just what is picked up by our eardrums. It is easiest to detect this with loud recorded drums. We’ve all heard systems that have enough slam to let us feel the drums but not always with other instruments. I wouldn’t doubt though that there may be some psychological component to this type of experience. Perhaps a mild synesthesia at some level or something else that plays tricks on us.
Gordon said: If we were blindfolded and asked to listen to various live instruments as well as the recordings of those live instruments, would we be able to identify which were which?
Always. Wholly trivial.
tony22 said: . . . the most REAL something can sound *in a system* will be driven by a system that has the least impact on the source signal. That's as real as you're going to get.
And the phrase "more real" means little. In audiophile terms it merely means "better." Better is, of course, more real. A perfect tautology.
This weekend I was at the Kimmel listening to the Philadelphia Orchestra and guest violinist Janine Jansen. She was the soloist for Britten’s Violin Concerto. Firstly, she is a wonderful musician. She has the ability to play with such energy, yet at the same time have the violin sing so delicately and sweetly that it’s just amazing to watch (and hear). There were points in the performance where I heard literally the combination of a sustained high note floating off the violin and the very slight noise of the bow being pulled against the string (if you’ve heard it you know these are separate sounds). THAT’S real. If someone could actually make a recording that captures that and all the rest of what is aurally experienced in a live performance (I sit in the front half of orchestra center), then I would want a playback system to reproduce THAT - nothing more, nothing less.
This weekend I was at the Kimmel listening to the Philadelphia Orchestra and guest violinist Janine Jansen. She was the soloist for Britten's Violin Concerto. Firstly, she is a wonderful musician. She has the ability to play with such energy, yet at the same time have the violin sing so delicately and sweetly that it's just amazing to watch (and hear). There were points in the performance where I heard literally the combination of a sustained high note floating off the violin and the very slight noise of the bow being pulled against the string (if you've heard it you know these are separate sounds). THAT'S real. If someone could actually make a recording that captures that and all the rest of what is aurally experienced in a live performance (I sit in the front half of orchestra center), then I would want a playback system to reproduce THAT - nothing more, nothing less.
Yup, that's the sound of the rosin on the bow that we've all been missing for so long.
Hopefully DS can reproduce that accurately (well, OK, may have to get the new amp and a pair of IRS's to do that . . . .)
Comparing a playback system to the genuine article is an exercise in frustration, IMO. It bothers me that people tend to fall into categories in describing what makes a system sound real - based I think on their biases going in. Some will wax enthusiastic about how liquid and smooth things sound, some about bass slam, some about high frequency extension. I’ve spent many years listening to live classical and jazz, and what strikes me is that a set of instruments (including voice) can sound from “liquid” to downright screechy depending on how it’s being used. Even during this weekend’s concert there were points where the brass came in (not during the concerto but during the Sea Interludes) and sounded “liquid” and “edgy” at the same time.
Don’t get me started on the years I spent listing to rock and punk at college clubs and dives when I was younger.
tony22 said: . . . the combination of a sustained high note floating off the violin and the very slight noise of the bow being pulled against the string (if you've heard it you know these are separate sounds). THAT'S real.
And the vibrating, live penumbra surrounding a good flautist.
tony22 said: . . . where the brass came in (not during the concerto but during the Sea Interludes) and sounded "liquid" and "edgy" at the same time.
As a brass player, I think you have this description nailed as well. A perfect system should reproduce this as well.
That all sounds great but it first has to be picked up by the mic feed.
Yes, and the mic pre and the ADC.
The good news is recording technology has always been well ahead of playback and is improving rapidly.
I had some humble experience with recording studio when little, I guess I couldn’t compare the live music play with canned music at all.
The live music playing environment is so important (in general its impossible for me to listen to solo instrumental or vocal isolated in recording studio), guess that’s why the legendary classic music are so picky with recording venue and then the mic setting etc. by sound engineers. I believe from now it’s all related to above great forum opinions after the recording/mixing/engineering/hard copy production.
I try my system to reproduce the real good recording engineers’ hard work of the live performance phantom. With non compression, hi res dig file and audio system set up in my small lounge, I’m really happy but is it anywhere real or does it need to be? To me it feels 3D glasses watching Avatar.
In the gym I constantly distracted by the music video on TV and loudspeakers, lucky Gen Z music genre basically can brew in their basement digitally track by track or note by note m/ though I still prefer Minaj or Rihanna on treadmill (well the beat can do the trick already) than Rachmaninoff, which belongs to my lounge only ~O)
Elk said: The good news is recording technology has always been well ahead of playback and is improving rapidly
tony22 said: sounded "liquid" and "edgy" at the same time.
"Ledgy?" :D You make good points and I have been thinking about "technical" descriptors of sound a lot since hearing the DS DAC and being asked to describe the sound. I found that the usual terms that we use to describe subtle differences in systems fell short in this case. Very short, as a matter of fact. It just sounds more "real" and that is about the best that I can do (or "better," to quote Elk). I guess that the audiophile vocabulary is inadequate to describe the difference is a good thing, actually. =D>
jazzbug said: To me it feels 3D glasses watching Avatar.
Great analogy. Looks neat. Not real.
wglenn said: I guess that the audiophile vocabulary is inadequate to describe the difference is a good thing, actually. =D>
Yes, I also feel that DS may open up [as other expensive DACs have done] some fresh criteria for listening evaluation.
Let's not necessarily take "real" as a literal term or confuse it with live.
Certainly we can all understand the benefit of an instrument/voice sounding more REAL.
Have you ever noticed a "Gut Feeling"?
The gut feels too and transmits to the brain for processing.
The big difference is the gut does not have Judgement qualities. So if something JUST FEELS RIGHT, then Maybe IT IS.
This is not cornflakes.
If more data is processed to our analog section for playback then it is indeed possible that that extra data contains cues and clues that are important to our identification of an instrument.
Here is some info on the GUT neurons.