What determines the character of sound?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by RobertSchaez, Aug 18, 2002.

  1. RobertSchaez

    RobertSchaez Stunt Coordinator

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    I've read quite a few posts on this and other forums about going the halfway route regarding separates, i.e. buying a decent 5 channel amp and pairing it with a cheaper AV receiver to do all the processing (as opposed to a more expensive Pre/Pro). My question is, what determines the quality and character of the sound (besides the speakers, of course)? Is it the Amp, as I've read many people state? Or is it the Preamp with all its processors and so forth? Is it both equally? When somebody describes the particular character of a mid to high level receiver (warm, bright, cold, dull, etc) are they most likely describing the sound of apm stage or preamp?
     
  2. Paul Clarke

    Paul Clarke Supporting Actor

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    Robert,

    Excellent question. I'm sure this one will draw lots of attention and opinions.

    To me everything starts with the signal, which is the pre/amp. Any particular amp may contribute something in the way of characteristics such as dryness, warmth, etc. but to my mind this is all color of presentation. The initial processed signal is the prime determinant of sound quality in terms of accuracy, detail, etc., in fact any descriptive of what is essentially prime content. Everything after this stage in the chain of delivery either maintains a neutrality of signal presentation or doesn't. Which is another way of saying that it requires an extremely neutral system in total to evaluate the signal in the first place. As most people do not have/want such a neutral character in their system for a multitude of reasons, the initial signal then becomes colored by the downstream elements. To my mind signal accuracy is therefore most affected by the pre/amp and then by speaker capability. Any added coloration is a matter of personal taste in presentation.

    Just my $.02

    P.S. I'm not addressing anything towards the source components, of course.
     
  3. AndyHangartner

    AndyHangartner Stunt Coordinator

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    Robert
    I ask these questions alot recently and didn't get many good responses. But if you slam Denon you get flamed. Here goes. I had a 4802 that I wasn't happy with. Movies were decent but the center always seemed to be muffled and voices were sort of veiled. The movies never seemed to be dynamic. I could go loud, 110db, but they never seemed to grab you and hold you.I had posted here about differences in the pre sections and comparisons to boutique units, but unless you wanted to drop big coin you weren't going to get the latest formats.(look at anthem avm20,still no dlp2).I tried bigger amps, an adcom 7500, two Citation 7.1's (over 800 watts a channel at 4ohm) an Aragon 8008x5 (which is 400 per channel at 4 ohm and now collecting dust, $4k new for this) and nothing made it better just louder. I also had a Hsu vtf-3 that wasn't great so I traded it off and got 2 (two) vtf-2's. Mistake I thought. So disgruntled I bought the Sony Da4es for under $600. I now use the Sony, one Vtf-2,no external amp (Aragon is a 104lb paper weight)and couldn't be happier. The movies are absolutely amazing. U571 depth charge just kicks butt. Just finished LOTR, the musical score in the surround is simply awesome. The overall bass quality and blending is far superior, the voices are clean and distinguished, surround effects are much more detailed, I can't believe the difference.I recommend to anyone to audition this unit for H/T. You can ALWAYS do better in two channel no matter WHAT you have. NO pre/pro will match a good two channel system. I listened to a Cary setup on Avantgarde speakers that exceeded $24k that was fabulous, and you could do better.But now that I have a GREAT processor for H/T that does not need external amplification for under $600, I can get a Cary CD player and tube amp with the "leftover" money. I just need a switcher to use to separate amps on the same speakers. (My next post),
    GOOD LUCK
    andy
     
  4. Bob Marker

    Bob Marker Stunt Coordinator

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    Robert:
    As Paul said, this is a good question that will elicit a variety of responses.
    Other than the source material, in my opinion the speakers and how they are placed within your room are the primary factors in determining the overall sound of a system. On the other hand, I've not been able to detect any sonic differences among the various amps I've owned even though they vary widely in price ($100 to $2,500).

    Bob
     
  5. Geoff S

    Geoff S Stunt Coordinator

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    IMO it's in a little bit of everything, source, amps, processors, speakers. Different components will produce different types of sounds, brighter, warmer are just two descriptions of the type of sound certain components produce.

    As I said I feel it's all your components working together as one unit, and the weakest link in that system will bring down everything else so it's important to have a balanced system rather than having really good components, and rather bad ones and think the good ones will bring up the bad ones, it's the other way around.

    As stated the best way to make virtually any system all it can be is proper speaker placement, and system calibration.
     
  6. AndyHangartner

    AndyHangartner Stunt Coordinator

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    Robert,
    Like I said, vague answers.Exactly what I experienced. Why can't people step up and give you their experiences?
    "The moon when it is full reflects the bass in a different manner and therefore recreates reverberations inconsistent with the sonic waves of time, inducing paranormal reflections of frequencies."
    In other they don't have any idea and only know what they have read or drawn conclusions based on inadequate information. Certain things make notable differences and others only subtle. Don't buy a $500 power cord or $1000 interconnects for a $1000 system. Start at the things that make the most difference. I noticed almost NO change when changing amplifiers, almost none when changing from all Def Tech BP2004tl towers to PSB Stratus i silvers, very little when using the 5.1 output from my Panasonic RP91 cd player into a Sony Tap9000es preamp directly to the amp, (Aragon 8008x5, very highly regarded),little differences from a Hsu vtf-3 to a Hsu vtf-2 and astounding differences from the Denon 4802 to the Sony Da4es. I have listened to the Krell HTS 7.1 and Krell amp with all Martin Logan speakers. FOR H/T the Sony is not far behind. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. During the Nosfest scene of Fast and Furious I hit (averaged)102db at -20 on the Sony with peaks of 110 db during the scenes the cars fly by. Don't let them tell you 'xyz' is better at two channel. If you want two channel, get two channel. For $1500 you can get two channel to beat ANY pre/pro period, and have close to the best of both worlds unless you have unlimited cash. I can get the Krell Showcase pair for $4250 my cost but for H/T, I thought the Sony Cinema Studio B mode was better.
    andy
     
  7. Jason_Me

    Jason_Me Stunt Coordinator

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  8. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Andy, that's some high praise for the 'DA4ES. Very high praise. Glad you found something that you are happy with.
     
  9. Lewis Besze

    Lewis Besze Producer

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    Yes my vote is the speakers and the room they are reside in.
    Since sound is an accoustic energy,it makes sense that that's where most of the attention should be placed.
    While components do make some difference,nowhere as much many people touting it,compare to room treatments,and positioning.
    Of course you need clean power[electricity]and good source and amplification components to start with.
     
  10. Yogi

    Yogi Screenwriter

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    Speakers and room are the number one determinant of the sound character, IMHO. Next come Amp/preamp and then source and then cables and then power cords/line conditioners and then granite stones, nylon feet and ether in that order.

    My 2 cents.
     
  11. Luis C

    Luis C Stunt Coordinator

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    Amen Yogi! [​IMG]
    Now... what did you do with Booboo!! [​IMG]
     
  12. Geno

    Geno Supporting Actor

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    Cmon guys, its all got to do with how much ear wax you have!
     
  13. Lewis Besze

    Lewis Besze Producer

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  14. Mike Huay

    Mike Huay Stunt Coordinator

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    As a former employee of a major Japanese HT manufacturer, I can answer this question.

    The answer as to what determines the character of sound is what cost cuts are demanded by the guy sitting in front and center who only wants to hear "hi" (yes) all day long every day.
     
  15. Keir H

    Keir H Second Unit

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    No more opinions on this one? I am curious too. I used to hear amps make the "sound" since it's how the source is amplified properly in order to hear all the finer details from a recording.. now I hear preamps. I really feel that its the speakers and room above all else. DAC's do have me confused on the preamp end of things.. [​IMG]
     
  16. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    The issue of whether electronic components innately contribute to the "sound" of a system is largely irrelevant once one has gone beyond the basic effects of power, frequency response, and distortion characters.

    All the preciously described sonic "characteristics" applicable to an amplifier or preamplifier you read about in certain magazines and here from certain members simply cannot be verified during rigorous double-blind testing. The most "golden-eared" of audiophiles cannot accurately identify the "sound" of one amplifier from another beyond basic randomness.

    The single, undeniable imparter of sonic attributes in any system is the speakers.

    This, from a reformed "high-end audio" buff who went the whole route (Audio Research tube gear, Magnepans, belt-driven turntables, etc.).
     
  17. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    Speaker type...
    Speaker position...
    Speaker character...
    ...Are the most important determinants of the quality of the overall listening experience after the listener himself/herself. Next would be room characteristics/architecture (flooring, furniture position, walls, etc and so on). I think that receiver/pre-amp/amp is much further down the list, and tend to agree that, in a well-balanced room with good speakers and good speaker position, trading out receivers/pre-amps/amps of equivalent specifications yields (for the most part) equivalent performance. I, too, own the Sony 4ES, and have swapped it out of the system to audition several other pieces while shopping around, and found no order of magnitude of difference between it and 'comparable' units of other make (Denon, H/K, Marantz). In the end, features, connectivity and aesthetics led me to the 4ES.
    But, again, I implicate speakers as the most critical part of the experience, other than the listener and his/her 'receiver'/brain.
    --AM
     
  18. Guy Usher

    Guy Usher Supporting Actor

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    Paul started this thing off right, you do what you have to do to reproduce the source material as it was intended to be reproduced. You do not want your equipment adding or taking away anything. The question is what in the world is this CD, DVD supposed to sound like?? Who has the answer to that? Audio equipment produces a sound that pleases or displeases you, but is it right. Do you need 1000 dollar ft speaker cable? $10K worth of inter connects, $100K speakers?
    Even listening to the source live may not help because after tweaking during the recording session you may be left with something that doesnt even resemble the live event.
    SO what is the answer? How blue is the sky? How deep is the ocean? Do we go on trust? Bose says his is right? Not to me!
    The answer is between your ears, you do what you can using your grey matter along with a little Fairy Dust and you arrive at a point that you think that is what you think this is supposed to sound like.
    But Mr. Jones across just got a new system with "Jumbo Watts" and you think that is what it is supposed to sound like because you don't have "Jumbo Watts" you go get some but it still doesnt sound as good as Mr. Smiths system so. . . .
    Just what is the meaning of life anyway???
     
  19. BruceD

    BruceD Screenwriter

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    To help define what manifests itself as "dramatic" changes and is not simply psychologically induced, one can turn to an acoustic measurement system that actually displays changes in your own speaker/room environment that you can both hear and see on a graph.
    Using a calibrated mic and ETF5 PC Software, sophisticated MLS signals and FFT analysis can provide an abundance of information (Impulse response, Frequency response, Phase response, 3D Waterfall Frequency response, etc.).
    There is a very good demo tutorial on the website:
    ETF website
    This combination easily lets you see what you actually hear when moving speakers, moving furniture, adding acoustic panels,etc.
    For example, it is easy to locate a mid-to-high frequency reflection spike from the side walls on the impulse response graph, and then how the sound gets cleaner when you add an acoustical panel to the wall (and the graph no longer shows the impulse reflection spike).
    It is a very good education in real-world acoustic phenomena.
    There is really no argument, the biggest variables of sound in your home are:
    1) The Speakers
    2) The Room;
    -- room size
    -- room openings
    -- where you place the speakers
    -- your actual listening position
    They dwarf by an at least an order of magnitude anything else.
     
  20. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    Jack and others are absolutely correct. The speaker/room has far, FAR more effect on the sound quality than any of the electronics. The famous Edgar Villchur live vs. recorded demonstrations are excellent proof of this. Villchur and Acoustic Research studied the room /speaker interaction very carefully. Here's an excerpt from a post I made on the subject:

    AR carefully researched the acoustics of
    reverberation and double reverberation, and made recordings outdoors in
    "God's Anechoic Chamber." The recordings eliminated pesky double
    reverberation; level matching and the "switchovers" were carefully
    rehearsed prior to each session. The Fine Arts Quartet live-vs.-
    recorded demonstrations were, by far, the most successful, and were
    performed over 80 times throughout cities such as New York, Boston,
    Washington, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, etc.

    Listeners very often couldn't tell what what was live and what was recorded, even with the live musicians right in front of them. What's fascinating is that NONE of the associated electronics they used for playback was even remotely "high end" according to the much ballyhooed criteria used by High End "experts" and writers for Stereophile and The Absolute Sound. The speaker wire was of the type routinely derided as "zip cord" by those High End "authorities". Instead of the usual folderol about "soundstage width and depth" or "midrange liquidity" or "interspatial silences", combining "ordinary zip cord" etc. with good quality speakers with good dispersion characteristics (AR3s and AR4s) and proper recording and playback venues created an illusion that was audibly perfect.
     

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