Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Stereotype audiophiles...

In many years into this hobby - listening music through hi-fidelity system, has taught me a lot in this great journey of audiophile/music lover. Some people are to obsessed as if nothing in this world is more important than..so called being an "audiophile or hifi lover",  but it makes you be at home...wife will like it.

Many audiophiles venture into this hobby are mostly because of good sound reproduction in certain system at the hifi show or perhaps friend's home system. Not many who are really music lover or real enthusiast in music, which means knowledge in music, love music since younger age or can play any musical instrument ( a very brief knowledge/skills is good enough). You can tell this by browsing through their music collections and those who are really love the "sounds" of hifi will have lots of test reference disc or cover version of songs from audiophile artist recorded in "enhanced" resolution. Don't get me wrong, discovering music at later stage is fine. There's a fine line between music lover and hi-fidelity sound lover, but these can be brought together in order to enjoy the music to the utmost.

Definition about music from thefreedictionary.com:

mu·sic (myzk)
1. The art of arranging sounds in time so as to produce a continuous, unified, and evocative composition, as through melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre.
2. Vocal or instrumental sounds possessing a degree of melody, harmony, or rhythm.

So, banging of drums intermittently from loud to the softest passage, to listen to shakers from left to right of the speakers or getting sucked into acres of depth in sound resolution, isn't about music. The blueman show making music from non musical instruments like plastic pipes..is more musical!.

Lack of experience or knowledge in music will make them to find a mentor or guru as to seek guidance and reference to achieve the best sound. Thus, will make their view and sound reproduction a little stereotype because of too dependent on someone's knowledge which is right or wrong is another issue. Not only that, they will try to make their system sounds closest possible from listening session or home visit. This is a very subjective issue on music reproduction and no one can be very right. If recording engineers or an artists produced a reference note on how the music should be heard, that would be a little help but not 100% as our perception, understanding & system response towards music are varies.

For instance, recently there is one journal or magazine about music/hifi in the local scene and it features lots of informative tips. It has few topics and the one that interest me most was the "listen critically" section from one of the most highly regarded hifi guru in Malaysia. ( joseph ki [listen critically] - audiophile guru Jo ki talking about 5 audiophile albums that impress him) .
image from http://desirableaudio.blogspot.com/2009/02/mtx-out-soon.html
In one topic about "first we take Manhattan" by Jennifer Warnes, he mentioned about the singer, Ms. Warnes had cleared her throat "herk" and "hHem"at 15th - 16th seconds into the song and many audiophiles surely will dig out this cd or rush to the store to buy one as to listen and to find whether the system can reveal the "extras". In one review about this guru system, the reviewer couldn't find the "herk" back in his system and that surely a very unwelcome findings!. The guru is using LS3/5a speakers which has midbass (could be upper bass region) boom, hump or bloom in its design as to gives more on clear vocals as being used by BBC sound engineers. It has been used in a van as a mobile studio to monitor recording/transmission such as live telecast. Anything that falls in that spectrum will be prominently audible. (http://www.affordablevalvecompany.com/ls3_5a.htm)

The tale's been told many times: Back in the early 1970s, the British Broadcasting Corporation needed a small nearfield monitor for use in remote-broadcast trucks. A team led by T. Sommerville and D.E. Shorter, both of the BBC's Research Department, developed the two-way, sealed-box LS3/5, based on a small monitor they'd designed for experiments in acoustic scaling. The speaker showed much promise, but problems with the drive-units—a woofer with a doped Bextrene 5" cone and a 1" Mylar-dome tweeter—led to a detailed redesign, the LS3/5a, carried out by Dudley Harwood, also of the Research Department (and later to found Harbeth), and Maurice E. Whatton and R.W. Mills, of the BBC's Designs Department (footnote 1).
The only limitations of the LS3/5a were intended to be those arising from the necessarily small enclosure and the absence, under nearfield monitoring conditions, of the need for a wide dynamic range. Despite its intended use as a nearfield monitor close to a boundary (the studio mixing console), the LS3/5a proved equally effective used as a conventional stand-mounted speaker in free space. Not only did the rise in its upper-bass response give the impression that there was more bass than there actually was, it also provided a degree of baffle-step compensation that resulted in a neutral in-room midrange balance. (The "baffle step" rise in a speaker's on-axis freefield response is due to the size of the speaker's front baffle, which is much smaller than the wavelength of the sound the speaker emits at low frequencies, becoming equal to or less than the wavelength in the midrange. Although the speaker puts out the same energy in the midrange as it does in the bass, the restriction of that energy to a narrower window in the midrange results in a rise in response above the baffle-step frequency.)- Stereophile

One has to really understand few aspects of recordings, perfect/typical studio recording, live studio recording or live event recording. These effects (herk, ahem, inhale, exhale) can be "added" into the song as part of emotion of the singer or musician but here we're talking about this specific song by Ms Warnes. At least, we should consider in this recording that Ms. Warnes only came into vocal on 24th seconds of the song.

This affected me as well and my finding is different!. From my observation , it was not "herk" as clearing throat but a muted guitar strings and later follow slide along the frets (wow!..not bad at all to have such revealing system at my amateur level..;). I called my friend to tell him about my finding and without listen to the track he already assumed that the guru is correct and I don't blame him as to put myself in his position, to believe a guru or an amateur audiophile with little knowledge in music like me.

It's hard to argue on this and differ from guru's statement as he is highly respected audiophile, so I better get things right. I decided to get better clarification from the "ultimate" source of info and spot on, I'm dead right.

The quotes:

* "I forwarded your message when I received it.....probably won't hear until tomorrow. She has physically been present for all the re-mastering from original tapes....so I know she wouldn't let a "pin drop" escape...much less an "ahem"....but I may be incorrect. I'll try to get a definitive answer for you...when she has time out of her schedule"

*"Well....thanks for thinking I'm fast...you just happened to catch me at a time when we had some time to do this....sometimes we don't answer people's notes for a few months...
But in your case..here is a rare personal response from Ms. Warnes. This must be only for your use and not to be quoted in anything...even an audiophile blog on the web....anything you intend to put "out there"...you need to get her permission as what she writes is copyrighted automatically. Dee

That’s Stevie absolutely. In musicians’ aesthetic parlance, any sound which happens by accident or on purpose during the physical act of getting the instrument to respond properly, ( finger noise, resin on a bow, feedback from an amp, strings squeaking) prove that playing a musical instrument is really hard work. (Analogy: the breath before a note can’t be separated from the following note, they are one thing.... a plie’ is the first half of a leap. The organic farmer is half of a healthy meal.
In the old days we hid the trickery and the work involved. We slept in our curlers.
Not only the final result is important. Musicians work with resistant material (bodies, bronchitis, guitars with unpliable strings, machines with bad batteries) to create sound.
Reality is in fashion now." international copyright of Jennifer Warnes 2009

The above quotes from Ms Warnes shouldn't be produced in any other forms, it's copyright protected. I've obtained this right personally through emails and I've tagged in red as a reminder.

further quote from Dee "I should clarify yet again....Mr Vaughn's guitar makes many different sounds as he goes about his work in playing the introduction..it is not a human sound of anything in anyone's throat..no choke..no cough."

I'm looking forward to listen to his system - sting


I fell in love with music, then make love through hifi....

update on 30/3/09, I had an audition to Jo Ki's system. At beginning of the session, we had few high resolution cds on ethnic/world music, the system on these particular music is utterly musical and 3D in presentation. The depth and the ambiance are great with pinpointing separation of the instruments are almost palpable. On Dire Straits's private investigation (proper music diet to my liking), all those quality are still there with bags of detail but slightly less musical to my personal preference (just my preference). Whitesnake - Starkers in Tokyo (live acoustic version of Coverdale & Vandenberg), I can really connects to intimate one vocal & one guitar live jamming. It was honest, minimalist & pure performance/recording. We've listen to cds & vinyls and without doubt vinyl still topple cd's sound. On Jennifer Warnes - first we take Manhattan, the verdicts still the same. If your system could revealed the "extras",  It's not herk, herm, choking whatsoever and it should be easily recognized if you know about music/instruments and how they played.