SixMoons.com is usually a safe stop for me - it doesn’t drive me crazy with angst reading their stuff.
I liked the Hong Kong Show Report. Is it just me or do they know how to do high-end like nobody’s business? The new $200K Transroter turntable, the new, what, $140K?, Burmester CD player …
There was also the Jeff Day piece on Musicality at 6moons.
I guess I agree with his general thesis, which we would put as “Don’t overemphasize Realness (transparency, accuracy) and Impressiveness (slam, detail) at the expense of Enjoyability”.
But it was hard to tell if he was going too far, and saying: “Enjoyability versus Realness and Impressiveness are fundamentally incompatible with each other”.
The other point he was implicitly making, and you just know the type of people who will pounce on this, is that not only should products, rather than systems, be chosen on the basis of their Enjoyability (which he calls Musicality) but that cheap products are inherently more musical than expensive ones. For example, car radios, Leben CS600 pre and the Harbeth Super HL5 speakers. [I am not familiar with the Leben, but the $4795 Harbeth ……? How about the Acoustic Zen Adagio, the Quad, the Odyssey Lorali, Sonus Faber Amatuer I, or used Extrema, etc. etc.]
But assuming these do sound good to somebody - they buy them, take them home, plug them in to a system with cables that distort the harmonics and muffle small transients even more, a system with amps that are guaranteed for 20 years exaggerating the attack of every note [not to mention truncating the duration, that most beautiful thing, the ’sigh’ of each note] so now George and Ringo seem like THEY ARE REALLY ANGRY all the time.
Hey, uneven dynamics and a relaxed attitude to the things like, oh, voices and musical instruments don’t bother everybody.
OK, in my stupid opinion, most equipment over-emphasizes something; it is just plain hard to make something perfectly balanced. But hardly any of it is unusable, if care is paid to system matching.
But is a lot more difficult, it seems to me, to correct for something being too comprised in the attempt for musicality. That if that something has too little of a property of sound, it is worse than too much. If something, in trying to archive “musicality” so badly that dynamics or responsiveness or finesse are removed, there is just no way to get that information back. But if something is too detailed, throw a tube at it [crude but effective]. If something has to much transparency? The soundstage is too realistic? Imaging too spot-on?
Sorry, the article would have been more to the point to talk about components with near perfect balance, and ignore the “audiophiles going down the wrong path” lecture. Audiophiles are all over the place. They don’t need to be steered away from transparency, imaging and the like [we KNOW it is not the end all and be all, that it is not the sole criteria for quality, but it is certainly ONE set of criteria], off into low-fi land.
[I know I exaggerate, but this buyers guide approach bores me. People need to know their options at each price point and the performance trade-offs of these options, using some kind of categorization scheme, [NOT 1 thru 5 stars, A thru D, 1 thru 4 notes, etc.] that can handle the bewilderingly large number of characteristics of each product’s performance as it relates to other product’s performance. We try to do that here, with perhaps some success, though our focus is primarily on the ultra tippity tip of the high-end.]
One of our first posts was about climbing the mountain of fewer and fewer compromises to the ultimate system sitting at the top, which we speculated, most people would agree was the best. And how there is path up the mountain along which systems exist that have compromises but mimic the ultimate system that sits at the top of the mountain . But the compromises are things like frequency extension, macro dynamics, bass. Not details. Not transparency. Not imaging. I would argue that those things are part and parcel of music, and stereo reproduction. They leave the midrange alone. They leave most musical instruments and voices alone. Compromise somewhere else.
As for building a balanced Enjoyable (musical) system.
Just buying cheap gear is not the answer. Just buying old gear is not the answer. Just buying expensive gear is not the answer. Just buying the latest upgrade is not the answer. Just buying things that get great reviews in the magazines or on the forums is not the answer.
The answer? Ugh. W-e-l-l-l-l-l-l-l…
The easiest answer is to listen to lots of things, hear a system you like, and get that system lock, stock and barrel. [I apologize to our non-U.S.readership - I have been overflowing with these old-fashioned ways of putting things lately].
Another method is to grow your system: take your best guess as to what to get next, paying close attention to not only what people say it does well “Great bass on kettle drums, man” but what it is weakest in “I have been noticing a lot of musicians play instruments that need to be tuned”.
Then strive for balance as you add / change components: if you already have something that is very detailed in your system - don’t add something else to your system that is extremely detailed if you want a balance, if you want Enjoyability (Musicality), no matter how ‘cool’ it is or how excited the people are who talk about it.
[But if you do want the Most Detailed System Ever - then… go for it. Have fun. Don’t let anybody tell you that your system has to be enjoyable / musical, it is YOUR system. [Just don’t expect your spouse to hang out with you a whole lot when you are playing it ]]
OK. Glad someone is talking a little about music and how humans process it… but this “High-End Audio is All Messed Up Because Of:
[fill in the blank:
1) too much realism, [Jeff Day]
2) too little realism, [J. Gorden Holt]
3) too commercial,
4) too many charlatans,
5) nobody takes it seriously enough
6) missing real dynamics
7) the manufacturers suck, the trade rags sucks, the forums suck
8) the musicians suck
9) the musicians suck after 1750 A.D.
10) kids and their downloads
11) greedy and/ or impressively stupid recording industry
12) things are too expensive
14) the value of the dollar is dropping like a heavy stone right smack on our little toe [us ]
15) the media format (pick one, or pick several: MP3, redbook, SACD, DVD audio, Blu-ray, HDDVD, digital recorders)
16) the media format wars [pick one]
17) home theater
18) too many products
19) shrinking demographics
20) and not the last, but… The Internet
], whiny stuff is for the therapists couch. [Boy, look at how long that extemporaneously written list is… this hobby sure has a lot of whining going on. ]