What sound am I looking for in a system?

prem

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Over the last few decades, I have heard and owned many systems. It’s only in the last few years, after my interactions with David Karmeli, have I understood what to look for. David Karmeli whose moniker is ddk on Whatsbestforum is a firm believer in natural sound. Within my limited budget and room restrictions, I too over the last few years have been working to achieve natural sound reproduction. Below are the qualities of natural sound as detailed by another member, PeterA, of Whatsbestforum who also follows ddk’s philosophy.
  • No aspect of the sound calls attention to itself
  • The sound is balanced
  • The system sound is absent from the presentation
  • Wide listening window: able to enjoy most/all genres of music
  • Portrays the character of each recording, nuanced venue information
  • Allows a wide range of volume adjustment for what is most appropriate for a particular recording
  • Natural resolution, not “detail”
  • Able to scale up and down, large to small
  • Room is energized and music is “alive”
  • Enjoyable outside of listening sweet spot
  • Images are stable as listener moves around the room
  • Draws listener into the music
  • Relaxing, zero fatigue
  • Open, effortless, and dynamic sound
  • No need to crank the volume
  • No added or artificial extension
  • No analysis of the sound into bits and pieces, music experienced as a whole
 

arj

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After learning about him from Prem have been following ddk's posts . while his views are quite contrarian in many ways he seems to have got the essence of getting components working as a system very well !

Am trying to focus on these elements in my setup these days...mostly playing around with placement and isolation.
  • Natural resolution, not “detail”
  • Able to scale up and down, large to small
  • Enjoyable outside of listening sweet spot
  • Images are stable as listener moves around the room
 

srinisundar

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All the nuances if we get described above in a speaker, we will be out of the audio hobby.

@prem , any speaker you have found or heard as of now ? JBL ?
@arj May be your tannoy is almost nearest to that level ?
 

arj

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All the nuances if we get described above in a speaker, we will be out of the audio hobby.

@prem , any speaker you have found or heard as of now ? JBL ?
@arj May be your tannoy is almost nearest to that level ?
Actually if you go by his posts the modern Tannoys are not there yet and the Tannoy reds surpass the Tannoy golds.

But then I am not even aiming for that level of perfection ..will leave that to Prem :). am trying to get the source right currently
 

srinisundar

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Tannoy reds: Never heard only reading about, may be it will be doing itz duty in the old vintage box specified plus room will play the factor. Your mentioned level of aiming itself perfect and that itself sufficient to leave the audio hobby and get settled in hearing the songs regularly without meddling with test tracks daily. :p :p
 

arj

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Tannoy reds: Never heard only reading about, may be it will be doing itz duty in the old vintage box specified plus room will play the factor. Your mentioned level of aiming itself perfect and that itself sufficient to leave the audio hobby and get settled in hearing the songs regularly without meddling with test tracks daily. :p :p
so true..3-4 years back I was spending more of my time getting that to perfection and actually going down wrong rabbit holes. these days listen to real music I truly enjoy. I usually trouble Prem and @Dr.Bass with audio clips so they can tell me whats going wrong and whats going right !
 

prem

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Srinisundar, it’s not just the speaker. It’s the whole system. The biggest culprits IME are all these fancy wires and isolation stuff. While these improve audiophile stuff like imaging, staging, etc, they impose their signature on everything played. While a a wide listening window and stable images anywhere in the room are things I have managed with all my previous systems, getting a balanced, effortless, dynamic sound which can scale up and down depending on the music played is truly a big challenge. This is one area where digital playback loses to vinyl, irrespective of price. With digital playback, you can see the effort. Also most amps and source tend to take the centre of gravity of the sound up, thereby giving a sense of heightened detail. This is not what you want. The challenge is not to open up the upper registers for sense of detail but to open up the bass. And to open up bass is a big struggle. So while those points I mentioned above look easy on paper, it’s kind of very difficult in practice. With my current system I guess am 75-80% there.
 

spirovious

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I always like a system which sounds smooth ,balanced and can be enjoyed for long hours. I need warm sound without loosing details. Details/highs should not suppress mids or bass performance. Speakers or sound should not draw your attention but one should get involved in music .Not necessarily system should ne costly but need to set as per ones liking. What l realized in these years that if vocals are warm or natural and timbers are close to real, I will fall in love with that system.:)
 

firearm12

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I cannot open Whatsbestform , wondering if problem is in my network or site is down.


The biggest culprits IME are all these fancy wires and isolation stuff. While these improve audiophile stuff like imaging, staging, etc, they impose their signature on everything played.

This is true. I tell all my friends that high end cable manufacturers and connector manufacturers have just one target - to make their cables sound different and not better. Whats the solution to this? These cables and connectors may impose sound signature but they do lower down noise also. for budget power conditioners, they can also suck life from music. I am sure costly ones do also cause more harm than good. They may clean the power but is it that over cleaning of the power rob the sound off its characteristics. Even batteries in low power devices like dacs can take life out

I have also noticed that hardwiring power cables directly on wall end has helped immensely, it brought the center of gravity down immediately. I am thinking of hardwiring all my cables and interconnects, i am somehow convinced that it will help but its a risk that can cause more harm than good in long run.
 

prem

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In the last year Whatsbestforum is not accessible from India. You need a VPN to access it.

I have used cables costing a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. They all exhibit some problem or the other. Ditto with isolation devices. The only one I have liked is stuff from SRA.

Hardwiring one end of ac is a not a bad idea. I have hardwired mine to the ac main power line. Use power cleaning devices on other stuff at home but not on the system. I use one each on my TV, Refrigerator, Wifi Device, Set Top Box. This IME, helps.
 

Dr.Bass

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Very good topic Prem.
Knowing what oneself is looking for in a sound is like "Audiophile Realization"
Most of us come from simple college-room-systems into the world of hifi. Those simple systems normally sound right without doing much else.
We expect to make it 100x better with a good hifi. Only thing is, it doesnt happen. The audiophile world is filled with designers, not engineers. Most of them manipulate sound, just like what @firearm12 mentioned about cable manufacturers. Most of us fall into that trap.

From the very beginning (childhood days) I am a "Rhythm" guy. Only in the last 10 years or so I began appreciating vocal inflections. So the prime thing that makes or breaks a system for me is PRAT & Flow. Everything else is important if PRAT & Flow is accurate. Otherwise everything just feels "Okay". To discover this about myself, took me about 10 years into the audiophile journey. But now I know :D

PRAT & Flow is the structure of music which is not dependent on system's ability. Any system should repro it. It has to be accurate else we are listening to a different composition. Unfortunately an appalling number of high end audio distorts it in favour of Spaciousness, Clarity, soundstage size and specificity. And interestingly, the reviewers also do not get it. Instrument is incorrect and so is the test tool (reviewers) of the instrument. In such a distorted environment, someone like DDK (Karmeli) is so refreshing.
 

Naturelover

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This thread should be read along with Prem's earlier one
 

srinisundar

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Srinisundar, it’s not just the speaker. It’s the whole system. The biggest culprits IME are all these fancy wires and isolation stuff. While these improve audiophile stuff like imaging, staging, etc, they impose their signature on everything played. While a a wide listening window and stable images anywhere in the room are things I have managed with all my previous systems, getting a balanced, effortless, dynamic sound which can scale up and down depending on the music played is truly a big challenge. This is one area where digital playback loses to vinyl, irrespective of price. With digital playback, you can see the effort. Also most amps and source tend to take the centre of gravity of the sound up, thereby giving a sense of heightened detail. This is not what you want. The challenge is not to open up the upper registers for sense of detail but to open up the bass. And to open up bass is a big struggle. So while those points I mentioned above look easy on paper, it’s kind of very difficult in practice. With my current system I guess am 75-80% there.
Absolutely rightly said. " The challenge is not to open up the upper registers for sense of detail but to open up the bass."
so true..3-4 years back I was spending more of my time getting that to perfection and actually going down wrong rabbit holes. these days listen to real music I truly enjoy. I usually trouble Prem and @Dr.Bass with audio clips so they can tell me whats going wrong and whats going right !
I heard the tannoy in your home with Leben and impressed with the same. If i could get the level what you have 2 years back that itself great for me.. May be you have crossed so much after that and now look forward to hear the current one.

Very good topic Prem.
Knowing what oneself is looking for in a sound is like "Audiophile Realization"
Most of us come from simple college-room-systems into the world of hifi. Those simple systems normally sound right without doing much else.
We expect to make it 100x better with a good hifi. Only thing is, it doesnt happen. The audiophile world is filled with designers, not engineers. Most of them manipulate sound, just like what @firearm12 mentioned about cable manufacturers. Most of us fall into that trap.

From the very beginning (childhood days) I am a "Rhythm" guy. Only in the last 10 years or so I began appreciating vocal inflections. So the prime thing that makes or breaks a system for me is PRAT & Flow. Everything else is important if PRAT & Flow is accurate. Otherwise everything just feels "Okay". To discover this about myself, took me about 10 years into the audiophile journey. But now I know :D

PRAT & Flow is the structure of music which is not dependent on system's ability. Any system should repro it. It has to be accurate else we are listening to a different composition. Unfortunately an appalling number of high end audio distorts it in favour of Spaciousness, Clarity, soundstage size and specificity. And interestingly, the reviewers also do not get it. Instrument is incorrect and so is the test tool (reviewers) of the instrument. In such a distorted environment, someone like DDK (Karmeli) is so refreshing.
@Dr.Bass territory is all high end... He is searching too high... :)
 

IndianEars

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"What sound am I looking for in a system?"

An Extremely important question that helps audiophiles focus ... Not only for system tweaking, but probably the most crucial question when Upgrading !

We all have different priorities, like Prem and Dr Bass have stated. They both differ.... There is no "correct" directive.

Each Manufacturer (Electronics, Cartridges, TTs or speakers) have their own take, which results in their "House Sound". Buy buying more expensive products from the same brand add to all aspects of the House Sound to Improve or polish it, but still maintains the same House Sound. I personally believe that this concept of "House Sound" is Very Important to understand and identify when buying equipment. A Marantz Component is never going to sound like one from Cambridge Audio, or from Naim.

Yes, the same applies to Cables too ;). Each brand has its own house sound, there is No Right or wrong, just that it may not be up your street.

I believe an audiophile will best serve his interests if he has a clear mind about his sense of priorities (Like Prem & Dr Bass Have done) and then pursue that goal with the correct mix and match of components, or even stay with a single brand throughout... source to speakers, if available under the Brand (eg McIntosh)

I have my own set of criteria which are different (at least somewhat) from that of either Prem & Dr Bass. I respect their opinions and respect the fact that they are clear in their mind what they like and what they are pursuing.

To that end, I do not subscribe to the Pass Labs House Sound... I by far prefer Jeff Rowland. Still does not make either Pass Labs or Rowland incompetent...
 

prem

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Very well put IndianEars. The important thing is recognising what sound appeals to you. As you rightly said there is no right or wrong
 

IndianEars

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To me the Most Essential aspect of Stereo Reproduction is Soundstage.

EVERY Other aspect of reproduction does not require Stereo, ie 2 of EVERYTHING in the Chain.....

If you have spent DOUBLE on Stereo, it seems to me to be ESSENTIAL to get Good Sound staging. :)

Saying this not only because I firmly believe in this, but also to demonstrate that Opinions differ widely. Best to be exposed / informed of the diverse preferences, and then decide what floats your boat.... a Sort of "Think Global, Act Local"
 

Hari Iyer

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Reading all the above post again reaffirms my point which is this - "A natural sounding and accurate sounding setup can never be bought. It has to be made."
 
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