Joe Roberts commented, back a few posts, that “…there is more detail coming out of many speakers than was in the original musical performance…” and that “balance is the key”.
This is a commonly expressed sentiment - and this post is not directed at Joe [ ], but to all of us who enjoy music reproduction and wonder about why we enjoy the things we do, and don’t the things we don’t.
I think [I hope] we can all agree that balance is the key.
But is there indeed more detail?
Hopefully we can also agree that there is not MORE detail [the software and computing power to do this is not something your typical high-end audio manufacturer is capable of] but that the detail has added emphasis.
I would suggest we try and break the question up into several easy questions:
a) Do some systems make detail easier to hear than others. Yes.
b) Do some systems make detail HARDER to hear than the original musical performance (OMP). Yes. In fact most.
c) Can some systems make detail too easy to hear (over emphasizing detail). Yes [even if they have LESS detail than the OMP].
So these easy questions aside, we are left with the crux of the issue:
1. Can a well-balanced system emphasize detail and still be well-balanced?
2. If so, is this such a bad thing?
I want to suggest that these two questions are related and that for a set of listeners whose membership includes people besides myself - I hope! - a well-balanced system can emphasize [but not OVER emphasize] detail and be a good thing.
As an example I want to use the single pluck of a guitar string of an acoustic guitar. The amount of information, detail, is enormous as the other strings vibrate in harmony and dis-harmonies and their sound echos and reverberates in and out of the guitar body cavity, the vibration of the string against the frets [if struck hard enough], the change in harmonics during the long long decay. The strings, the GUITAR! actually throbs as it resonates [you can feel it through your body if you are holding the guitar].
So now, what if we have a system that is quiet enough, and sensitive enough to not only pick up this guitar throbbing but makes it easy for us to hear. But is it TOO easy? Or should we have to strain to hear what is there?
If you go to Guitar Center and go into their humidity-controlled room and play with the acoustic guitars there, especially old used ones - just walk up to each one and pluck a string with your finger, then listen, then go to the next, pluck it, …
There is an amazing amount of difference and some [my favorites ] will resonate, throb, much, much more than others. I LOVE this.
Now say you have a friend drive you to guitar center, because you have been imbibing your favorite mood-alerting substance. Now, NOW your brain will resonate along with the guitar, the walls will throb along with the guitar like the walls at the end of The Matrix, the decay will last weeks and weeks [YMMV ].
This is because, if you imbibe the right stuff, , you will find yourself much more focused on the particular sounds, so focused it kind of hurts. The fact that your license expired 2 months ago and you are still driving around anyway? Not something no way no how as important as the the observation that the harmonics of each guitar seems to complement the patina of their wood. The sound has not changed at all - just your quality of focus.
It has been my experience that at most live events it is extremely difficult to focus on the sound and it is much easier to focus on various aspects of the sound in private at one’s leisure.
So 1) if you can Itzhak Perlman in your living room, playing and stopping, rewinding himself, playing some more, adjusting volume to your liking, etc. then there would be a lot more subjective detail than what one hears when sitting in the middle a live performance with several hundred other soft protoplasmic blobs wrapped in soft cloth distracting us with their unfamiliarity.
And 2) if you were able to focus much more intently - or cheat [e.g. wine lending much more harmonics] - there would be a lot more subjective detail than what one hears in a more casually focused, mindset.
So A) in some sense Druglike sound - for those of us not imbibing - requires the sound to emphasize reproduction of those things that are special, that are there somewhere in the OMP, that trigger interesting mental states of mind…
And B) I forgot what B was supposed to be
The main complaint about hyper fidelity, like all complaints about sound reproduction, is that it can sound unnatural. That it detracts from the Believability Factor. But I think what is ‘natural’ depends on one’s state of mind and one’s expectations [is the guitar an ancient Gibson or a new Stella?].
In a large sense, for me, a hyper fidelity system allows one to focus on ANY part of the music, stone cold sober having driven home after a hard day’s work in 2 hours of stinky traffic, and see it in as much awesome vivid wonderful living detail, as one would be able to do after imbibing a liberal amount of one’s favorite substance while on vacation for a month in Hawaii [or as one would hear it if Miles Davis was your closest friend, cracking jokes about your appearance, playing at his best while you put your feet up on your fave couch in your holey underwear].
One can compare this to photography - where a great professional photo of, say, Einstein [usually] brings out so much more - so much more depth and character and … detail… than an amateur photo taken with a Brownie camera. Same reality, just different technique and hardware. There is a zone where, with just the perfect amount of lighting and shade, it is still ‘real’ and yet communicates so much more than even a typical face-to-face with the Professor in real life [well, assuming he was still alive, of course].
We usually use the term ‘Enjoyable’ for sound that is by definition not hyper fidelity, and is not designed to trigger adrenaline rushes (Boy Toy) nor altered states of mind (Druglike). Just something to listen to music on and enjoy for what it is.
A lot more to say about this… but later….