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January, 2007

Audio Reproduction System Flavors II

Wednesday, January 31st, 2007 by Mike

In part one we proposed that there are other valid goals for high-end audio systems besides that of reproducing ‘exactly’ what is on the source material (i.e. 100% Real), and that these other valid goals can be thought of as being similar to the goals of artists who, say, paint a landscape.

The argument I usually hear against this kind of anarchy :-) is that the muscians intended for their music to sound a certain way [maybe but it rarely makes it to the source material this way, given sound engineers and limited budgets], how dare we muck with their composition? They are the musicans, we but the audience. Then are we to tell painters to stop painting impressionistic landscapes, because Nature or God intended it to look a certain way?

So, this means all but one or two of us can stop beating ourselves up because we like systems that sound ‘better than real’, or communicate ‘better than real’, or are more engaging than real [this ‘better tha real’ stuff is more possible for Jazz, Pop and Rock&Roll than it is for Classical. Give me the capability for reproducing Real Carnegie Hall, THEN we can start working on better than real Carnegie Hall]

Whew! Hopefully we can all feel more confident in ourselves and the work that we are doing. I know it can be hard when we run into lots of obnoxious layabouts who give us a hard time on the forums, they have not educated themselves about how to appreciate good sounding music and its impact on the listener. We are going against the ‘common wisdom’. Why?

Because… Carrying this analogy further, many of the people reading this blog are high-end home audio system ‘artists’.

Artists, and their admirers, are never understood by lay people - and especially artists of our rather new and certainly unheralded art form.

How many times have you heard someone ridicule art with somthing like: ‘Honey, how come that guy can’t paint a face that looks like a face?’. ‘Why would anyone want more than loud bass and something that can play each of the notes from 20 -20K Hz?’. ‘What can you see in a Jackson Pollock painting that you can’t see in a bowl of spaghetti ?’

OK, I made that last one up :-)


There are several different kinds of work habits associated with artists:

1) Most of us think of somethng they want to build, build it, then refine it, polish it up. Then start on a new system variation. Just like a painter who pulls out a new canvas, paints something, spends some time touching it up, making it as good as they feel they can without going crazy [which is never good enough] and then going on to start the next painting. Unlike painters, we cannot keep our systems around in stacks against the wall unless we are VERY rich and have a LOT of room.

But we can photograph them, like painters do, so that they have sometihng to remind them of the piece after they sell it to pay for food. See? Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

2) Some of us tinker with the same old darn painting, I mean system, for years and years, trying to get it …. just….. right. In general, systems do kind of evolve into one another as opposed to repalce one another.

3) Some of us are more radical, tearing up a lot of canvases before the paint is even dry, the canvas still white in places, so unsatisfied we are with how the system is shaping up.

4) Some of us commision systems from artists [aka good dealers].

5) And the vast majority of people buy posters that kind of look like art, and equipment that kinds of looks like systems, from wall-mart, and circuit city.


Carrying the analogy further [I know a lot for one post, maybe this will get split out…] we can see the future of high-end audio…

As posters and serigraphs and glicees and laser printing gets closer and closer to being able to look like the real thing, so will high-end audio systems found in, say, circuit city.

What will be left?

Posters are availabe for only a relatively few masters, and circuit city systems will eventually sound good, but have only a few different sounds. For those that want something that uniquely speaks to them, something special, that has a pride of ownership associated with it, these people will always have to shop somewhere else, at a boutique, or learn to build systems themselves.

In a sense this is what we do now, unstatisfied with the ‘commonality’ of the sound found in the ‘common’ store fronts. Yes, their sound quality also currently sucks - but if it didn’t? How many of us could go back to a generic sound when we know how ‘our sound’ can make us feel? Not most of us, I think.

Anyway, just some thoughts….

Public Enemy Number One

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007 by Mike

Socks Rap Sheet

Yes. That’s right. Your socks.

This Winter seems to be worse, for some reason known only to the Sock High Command.

Maybe they have been pushed too far, in and out of shoes with which they are at odds, each accusing the other of theatening to break the latest Stink Armistance.

I don’t know.

But I can report that they are on another serial killing spree that may extend into our listening rooms, so be on the lookout!

Socks Rap Photo

They come in all sizes and colors and smell quotients.

Do not be fooled by softness and humorous anecdotes on their exteriors!

When they strike it can be both painfull and costly.

If you are unable to get away and are cornered by a pair of what seem to be tube-like material made out of cotton or wool, Be Extremely Cautious. Do not interpret their soft and gentle demeaner as being friendly. They are not!

Carefully, every several steps, touch something metal that is NOT connected to anything electrical. This renders their weapons of mass destruction impotent, but only temporarily.

While we have contacted the Defense Department and Homeland Security, as well as both the NRA and anti-NRA people, it is unlikely they will be able to stop their infiltration before they get to YOUR listeningroom.

This is the only warning you will receive. Our feet are freezing and the computer is the only thing left that hasn’t been taken ou

Audio Reproduction System Flavors

Monday, January 29th, 2007 by Mike

OK, been thinking about the ‘Absolute Sound’ and the true ‘Real’ reproduction of what is on the source material. How a number of people focus on this as the ultimate goal of our little hobby here.

Well, I think they are wrong.

Or rather, that this goal is not the only goal.

This idea is best understood by comparing audio reproduction with visual reproduction. In particular the art of painting.

Until about the turn of the last century, as I understand it, the goal for several 1000s of years was for (most) painters to try to reproduce what they saw in a ‘photo-realistic’ fashion.

I remember there being a little renaisannce when someone discovered how to paint ‘perspective’.

It is a historical oddity that they got pretty good at it, often making a good living at portraiture, at about the same time that photography kind of made the whole point moot.

So then they came up with different kinds of reproduction. Impressionistic. Abstract. Super-realistic [not sure this is the official name, but it is when a painting of, say, fruit, looks better and more delicious and more real in the painting than in real life]. Pointalism. Cubism.

Yes, the more mundane art enthusiast still wants their art to look like photographs.

But many, many people enjoy these non-photo-realistic paintings.

And I say it is about time that we acknowledge that audio reproduction is the same.

It is OK to prefer a Sweet sound. A room pressurizing sound. A hyper-detailed sound. Whatever.

Just like it is OK to like the Impressionism of Manet and the abstract works of Picasso. I imagine that when these guys were starting out, they got the some level of flack from the traditionalists.

I think that as we get closer and closer to being able to do Real, we will also get farther as more ‘interpretive’ sound reproduction forms emerge.

It is the point of this post to suggest that these ‘interpretive’ sound reproduction forms are as valid, as enjoyable, and as worthy of a pursuit as the pursuit of the Real.

That it would be cathartic to recognize that this is happening, to embrace it, and, as a collary, to not all of us go racing off in a particular direction when we chould be racing off in all directions. To not abandon a particular art form, like Tube Analog in favor of Solid-State, LP Analog in favor of digital storage mediums, etc. All of these are valid.

Yes, the art world does the same thing, the ‘hot thing’ being Impressonism, through Cubism and Dada to Modernism and who knows what else I do not have the time. But I personally like them all, and would think the person who feels that only one of them is the One True Art Form is loosing out and a little bit of a Herbert.

So…. what do you think?

Neli came up with this one:

Digital = Cubism

my thoughts were that:

Digital = Pointalism.

I doubt if we can come up with a one to one mapping. And some of the reproduction out there is just poor. For example I think:

Bose is not equal to Velvet paintings, as Velvet paintings are clear, enjoyable and humorous, in a shallow sort of way. But not so Bose.

Audioholics ‘Best’ of Show

Sunday, January 28th, 2007 by Mike

We linked to Audioholics this year off of our main CES 2007 show page.

Boy, those guys have a bad attitude. If you read their suggestions for CES - geez. No wonder the Press are in disfavor and rapidly approaching lawyers in likeablility.
Anyway, getting to their Best of Show:

They like Snell and RBH. OK. Fine. They cover the low end of the Impressive speaker market.

They liked the Hansen Emperor speaker room too. Good for them, so did we. Hansen has a professional demeaner, I am good with that - but these guys think they are getting dissed because they only cover the low-end.

Then they described the MBL room as “screechy and fatiguing” and complained about Grace Jones not being ‘music’ enough for them.

Well, in previous show reports we’ve already talked about people, especially press, who only want to hear their kind of music and treat everyone else’s like it is personally offensive.

But as for the MBL’s - I just don’t think MBL *CAN* be ’screechy’ [it can be fatiguing, but not because it is screechy]. I don’t think there is an amp BIG enough to make them screechy. :-)

So what in heck are they referring to that they call ’screechy’?

Was it too loud and they were hearing room anomalies? Perhaps they both listen to music in treated rooms - after all, Home Theater SPLs are right up there with Rock Concert SPLs [at least that is the level I like to play ours at, whenever it is possible :-) ], and mid-fi speakers need all the help they can get at those levels.

And there was no way the MBLs themselves, nor their amps, were overdriven in a room as small as theirs at CES without doing real damage to the walls and ceiling, not to mention ear drums.

MBLs aren’t our favorite speakers, in fact it is their inability to be screechy that we think they are somewhat flawed, lacking the resolutoin and ability to form notes quickly enough.

So, anyway, it was probably just a way to impres their readership by making fun of the high-end. This was the first time I have scoped out their show reportage and I expected … something different I guess.

So, yes I am finally really truly back from CES and the blog gets to go back to Pursuing the Ultimate Music Experiences.

CES 2007 Show Report - Final Installment

Saturday, January 27th, 2007 by Mike

Added another 200 photos or so of the LVCC Central Hall and the most interesting exhibits at the Sands - Expo Halls.

Also added some commentary and a long, hopefully not too confusing, bit on the best of shows this year.

Those that have been followng this report step by step may have to hit ‘refresh’ in their browser in order to see the new stuff on the main report table of contents pages.

Our main CES 2007 page:

CES 2007 Dailies and Reports

The CES 2007 report page where you can choose your favorite photo resolution:

CES 2007 Report - Photos and Editorials


CES 2007 Show Report - Fourth Installment

Thursday, January 25th, 2007 by Mike

OK, this installment has about 300 photos from the Venetian high-end, I mean high performance, audio exhibits located in the meeting rooms on floors 2, 3 and 4.

The report is always at, and will always be at:

High Performance Audio at CES 2007

The next and last installment will be focused on mostly video at CES, located in the Central Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC).

Have fun!


CES 2007 Show Report - Third Installment

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007 by Mike

This installment contains about 400 photos and commentary of THE SHOW at the St. Tropez in Las Vegas running simultaneously with CES.

The report is still here:

High-end Audio at THE SHOW at CES, 2007


Next is the second, third and forth floors at the Venetian, which will conclude the high-end audio portion of our show.

The final installment will be coverage of the Central Hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

CES 2007 Show Report - Second Installment

Saturday, January 20th, 2007 by Mike

The second installment of the CES report includes almost 400 photos from the 3 wings of floor 29 in the Venetian Tower.

This release includes the photos in the 1500 x 1000 pixel (high resolution) and 1000 x 800 pixel (medium resolution) formats.

I think [hope] that, at about 800 photos, we are more than half-way done with this report.


Oh, it is here:

CES 2007 Show Photos and Editorials

CES 2007 Show Report - First Installment

Thursday, January 18th, 2007 by Mike

The first ‘installment’ is up - which includes about 200 photos of high-end audio and 200 of the main conference (mostly home theater , home theater audio, audio, ipod paraphenelia, etc).

At this rate the report will be done by… uh, this was just the first day’s report.

Let’s just say it will get done.

CES 2007 Conference Photos and Commentary

Oh! And for those who prefer smaller, 1000 pixel max width, 800 pixel max height photos - that will be forthcoming…


We’re Baaaaack

Monday, January 15th, 2007 by Mike

We just got back from CES. Took awhile…

Got back Monday night and got to shovel a shovel’s width path through the some 2 foot drifts of this kind of snow-ice mixture that was lots of fun so that we could get up the steps. :-)

Last Friday, whem we were supposed to drive home, our usual travel route was snow packed, with snowing and blowing snow with anticipated very slow going with a topping of lots of white knuckles.

So we took the southern route througb Flagstaff.

Well, that didn’t work out either - we ran right away into blowing snow at 3000 ft, …. and Flagstaff is at 7500 or so.

So we took the REALLY Southern route, through Phoenix, Tucson, up through Albuquerque and Santa Fe. It was cold down there too (40’s during the day) but at least it wasn’t snowing.

We timed it just right, the way being relatively dry all the way home.

Unfortunately, we had to be back by tomorrow, Tuesday, to receive the few things we shipped from CES. Otherwise, we might have been tempted to spend the Winter in the sunshine… and say the heck with this white fluffy stuff. Hrrrumph.

At times it felt like “Argh! Another storm cloud! Farther South, James! South!”

During all this traveling I did get qutie a bit of time to work in the show report - mostly at night- but just the descriptions though, as the laptop is a little slow at image processing on the scale of a full-blown show report.

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