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Applying the Objective/Measurement Approach to Reverse Engineer the Ultimate Listening Experience

danielmiessler

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I am new to ASR and have two questions—one specific and one general.
  1. What quality aspects, if any, within a digital or analog signal, determine the quality of experienced soundstage?
  2. Has anyone (mostly to @amirm) taken the cherished components of listening (clarity, stereo image, speaker transparency, soundstage, imaging, etc.) and looked for the objective, measurable variables within digital/analog signals to see what affects them?
In other words, we all (even objectivists) recognize that there are good and bad audio experiences. Even more, horrible vs. brilliant experiences. You can have a spiritual experience while being secular! You don’t need to believe in the supernatural to appreciate art and beauty.

So.

If we know that these “heavenly“ audio experiences exist in the world, and we’re unwilling to become wine-snob-subjectivists, what are the specific scientific variables that create those effects?
  • How much is signal?
  • How much is the speaker?
  • How much is the room?
  • If we know that most people want a flat frequency response, is there a similar “best soundstage” or “best stereo image” or “most transparent speaker image” that we can use science/measurement to move towards?
TL;DR: How can we, as objectivists, reverse-engineer the ideal listening experience and break it into variables we can measure and therefore optimize?
 

Blumlein 88

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Most accurate recreation of soundstage is with crossed figure 8 microphones, and playback over speakers at a 90 degree angle if using 2 channels. Developed by Alan Blumlein in the 1930's.

Speaker has to be good, and the room up to some minimum specs.

The biggest impediment to that is the recording. Recordings made this way are damned rare, even more so that aren't further processed to muck up the results.

Early Chesky recordings, and Water Lily acoustics recordings use the proper techniques on the recording end. Not hard for everything between the recording and the speakers to be good enough. Also Mario Martinez has some excellent recordings done without extra processing using only two microphones. He has offered a few tracks for free if you will listen and give your opinion to membership here.
http://www.playclassics.com/

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...j-master-file-giveaway-for-asr-members.16286/


After that good speakers in the right configuration should do it for you.

Now that we've eliminated more than 99% of the available recordings what would you like to know? Best ways to fake it otherwise?

The other good method is 3 channel recordings with 3 omnis played back over 3 speakers. The method developed by Bell Labs also in the 1930s by Snow, Fletcher and Steinberg. There are some Mercury Living Presence recordings done this way with all three channels available on some of the transfers to digital video discs. Don't know of any others available.
 
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voodooless

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I am new to ASR and have two questions—one specific and one general.
  1. What quality aspects, if any, within a digital or analog signal, determine the quality of experienced soundstage?
  2. Has anyone (mostly to @amirm) taken the cherished components of listening (clarity, stereo image, speaker transparency, soundstage, imaging, etc.) and looked for the objective, measurable variables within digital/analog signals to see what affects them?
In other words, we all (even objectivists) recognize that there are good and bad audio experiences. Even more, horrible vs. brilliant experiences. You can have a spiritual experience while being secular! You don’t need to believe in the supernatural to appreciate art and beauty.

Besides what @Blumlein 88 already pointed out: room and speakers are the number 1 and 2 that dictate this. They dictate frequency response, off-axis response, reflection, refraction and all kind of acoustic effects. One other important aspect is your volume control knob. Volume has a huge influence on how we experience sound.

Digital transmission unless totally broken should and will not have any influence. It's fully transparent.
 

VintageFlanker

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If we know that most people want a flat frequency response, is there a similar “best soundstage” or “best stereo image” or “most transparent speaker image” that we can use science/measurement to move towards?

When we are talking about speakers, directivity is definitely related to the perceived soundstage and imaging.

I suggest you to check these three-parts videos from Audioholics, feat @Matthew J Poes.



 

Frank Dernie

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I am new to ASR and have two questions—one specific and one general.
  1. What quality aspects, if any, within a digital or analog signal, determine the quality of experienced soundstage?
  2. Has anyone (mostly to @amirm) taken the cherished components of listening (clarity, stereo image, speaker transparency, soundstage, imaging, etc.) and looked for the objective, measurable variables within digital/analog signals to see what affects them?
In other words, we all (even objectivists) recognize that there are good and bad audio experiences. Even more, horrible vs. brilliant experiences. You can have a spiritual experience while being secular! You don’t need to believe in the supernatural to appreciate art and beauty.

So.

If we know that these “heavenly“ audio experiences exist in the world, and we’re unwilling to become wine-snob-subjectivists, what are the specific scientific variables that create those effects?
  • How much is signal?
  • How much is the speaker?
  • How much is the room?
  • If we know that most people want a flat frequency response, is there a similar “best soundstage” or “best stereo image” or “most transparent speaker image” that we can use science/measurement to move towards?
TL;DR: How can we, as objectivists, reverse-engineer the ideal listening experience and break it into variables we can measure and therefore optimize?
As @Blumlein 88 explained the recording is the most important.
I do think there are people who do know what is crucial (I have not researched it myself since soundstage has rarely been an important part of my experience) since things like the Smyth Realiser and Edit : BACCH work very effectively.

It is surprising to me how big these effects are.
A little story.
I bought a Devialet amplifier right at their beginning. I bought a second when they made it possible to link two together as a bridged pair. I was a beta tester of the software and firmware they used to link the two together and how they shared inputs (they couldn't at first).
One of the versions of the software completely destroyed the stereo image. It was astonishing. I don't know what caused it, it was fixed in another update, but it must have been phase related. Q-sound recordings no longer "worked".

Q-sound is an astonishing technology which gives an amazing huge stereo image from "Amused to Death" Roger Waters, the dog bark is out of the room and old soldier narrative almost alongside me in my system.

When it comes to rooms and speakers I my view is that there is a big difference between "preference" and "accuracy".
Wide directivity speakers give a generally preferred in room sound, as long as the off axis response is good. Narrower directivity speakers give, IMO a more accurate reproduction of my own recordings.

This is almost heresy on this site ;) but I consider wide directivity speakers to give euphonic colouration and to lose the accurate spatial aspect of stereo imaging, but seem to be preferred in tests.
@Dialectic has mentioned his best experience of the Edit : BACCH software was with Sanders Electrostatics which are extremely narrow directivity so have less not-on-the-recording sound arriving at the ears to compensate.

Anyway, if it sin't on the recording in the first place, forget it, obviously.
Conventional nice sounding stereo images in normal rooms with good speakers are euphonic artefacts not accurate reproduction.
If you want accurate position information from stereo you need to use something like the software I mentioned.
Otherwise multi channel is needed.
IME.
 
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abdo123

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I think the qualities you mentioned are very personal to each person. For me, my right ear is significantly worse than my left ear. So i don't get the stereo sound stage magic everyone talks about here. The sound stage is usually crunched between the center and the left speaker for me.

Use your manufacturer's guidelines on speaker positioning and just go with the flow. We can measure what enters your ear, but we can't measure how your brain interprets them.
 
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danielmiessler

danielmiessler

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When we are talking about speakers, directivity is definitely related to the perceived soundstage and imaging.

I suggest you to check these three-parts videos from Audioholics, feat @Matthew J Poes.



These were great, thank you. So it looks like the Genelec Ones are really good at this game of optimizing the main and off-axis signal.

Amir mentioned not being a fan of The Ones type design, with the tweeter in the middle of the woofer and such.

I wonder if he's heard or tested any of the Genelec Ones though.
 

voodooless

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danielmiessler

danielmiessler

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Then he should have done IMD measurements on them.. he didn't... It's one of the ways to get good polars in all directions.



He did: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/genelec-8341a-sam™-studio-monitor-review.11652/
Wow, they scored so high. I'm going to try to have a listen next week, but if they sound good---combined with these measurements---I'm definitely going the active route.

So glad I found this forum right before spending 60K on legacy stuff.
 

voodooless

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Note that these are the smaller and cheaper ones.
 

abdo123

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Now that you've watched the videos, allow me to introduce one of the best speakers on the planet. The Dutch & Dutch 8C

Very controlled directivity ALL THE WAY DOWN TO 100 Hz

1616171029872.png

Low frequency extension all the way down to 20 Hz

1616171080061.png


All while maintaining perfect in-room frequency response

1616171121785.png
 

ahofer

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So glad I found this forum right before spending 60K on legacy stuff.
I’m not as well-versed in this material as many other folks here. But I believe there is a difference between wide/narrow directivity as compared to uneven directivity. The latter is considered bad by most, but even and narrow directivity seems like a more common preference. Some here have described it as “a deeper soundstage” (entirely subjective). However, I would suggest you listen to and compare KEFs/Genelecs/Revels in a listening situation like your room or in your room, if you can. You might want to try something more narrow directivity than the KEFs (suggestions?). If you have a pretty steady location for listening, it’s possible you will prefer the narrower directivity sound. And you may find that the Revels sound better to you at your listening distance, if it is longer. Olive showed what a majority preferred, but it wasn’t 99%. And I think it was one speaker as well(?).

I vastly prefer my Harbeths over my KEFs and small Genelecs. Based on Stereophile measurements, I suspect the Olive score here wouldn’t be too consistent with that preference.

IMO, speakers require listening, which can be logistically difficult. Fortunately, measurements give you a tool to narrow down the number of speakers you try. Find even directivity through the frequency range, then see if you prefer narrow or wide. Interested whether others concur.
 

abdo123

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I’m not as well-versed in this material as many other folks here. But I believe there is a difference between wide/narrow directivity as compared to uneven directivity. The latter is considered bad by most, but even and narrow directivity seems like a more common preference. Some here have described it as “a deeper soundstage” (entirely subjective). However, I would suggest you listen to and compare KEFs/Genelecs/Revels in a listening situation like your room or in your room, if you can. You might want to try something more narrow directivity than the KEFs (suggestions?). If you have a pretty steady location for listening, it’s possible you will prefer the narrower directivity sound. And you may find that the Revels sound better to you at your listening distance, if it is longer. Olive showed what a majority preferred, but it wasn’t 99%. And I think it was one speaker as well(?).

I vastly prefer my Harbeths over my KEFs and small Genelecs. Based on Stereophile measurements, I suspect the Olive score here wouldn’t be too consistent with that preference.

IMO, speakers require listening, which can be logistically difficult. Fortunately, measurements give you a tool to narrow down the number of speakers you try. Find even directivity through the frequency range, then see if you prefer narrow or wide. Interested whether others concur.

The videos explain this dilemma perfectly, and while the author is a tiny bit biased towards narrow directivity I must say I agree. A lot of things can go wrong with wide directivity speakers, while little can go wrong with narrow directivity speakers.

In my experience, the less you radiate the room the better the sound is.
 

Cahudson42

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Suggest thread needs two separate forks - headphones, speakers.
 

VintageFlanker

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Only major issue is actually the somewhat high distortion.
As many actives, I would say.

I assume these would be a better pick than any Genelec for high SPLs. As for farfield listening.

Considering his budget, @danielmiessler could also think about Kii Three (BXT?) or the cheaper Buchardt A700, which won't need any sub with 17Hz at 1.5dB
.
DSCF5613~2.jpg
 
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voodooless

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As many actives, I would say.

Not the Ones it seems. The distortion on them seems quite a bit lower. Directivity above 500 Hz seems smoother, but not by much.

I assume these would be a better pick than any Genelec for high SPLs. As for farfield listening.

Why? Obviously < 500 Hz directivity is beter on the D&D, but SPL wise, I don’t think the largest Genelec will be worse.

If you have the chance, try to audition them both. As a Dutch man I will root for the D&D, but won’t jump to conclusions to quickly either.
 

voodooless

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Don’t rule out Danley’s new home audio concept either. Or one of the pro audio synergy horns if you can stomach the looks.
 
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VintageFlanker

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but SPL wise, I don’t think the largest Genelec will be worse.
To be honest, I didn't try these by myself, but if I rely on this:
All was not well. You may be wondering with measurements as good as posted, why the 8341 did not get the top honor panther and had to settle for the next grade down. I was quite surprised that as I turned up the volume, listening at just 1 meter or so from the speaker, it just would not get that loud. At first I heard a glitching/ticking sound which then moved into red LED coming up with much more distortion. The amplification is simply too low for the amount of bass this speaker produces.

VS @hardisj saying that he reached 100dB at 4 meters with the 8Cs...

Genelec still don't advertise the 8341 to be optimal for farfield:
direct_sound_dominance.png


I guess it should not be any concern with their 8361A flagship I'm sure @danielmiessler may afford.:cool:
 

Inner Space

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If we know that these “heavenly“ audio experiences exist in the world, and we’re unwilling to become wine-snob-subjectivists, what are the specific scientific variables that create those effects?
  • How much is signal?
  • How much is the speaker?
  • How much is the room?
  • If we know that most people want a flat frequency response, is there a similar “best soundstage” or “best stereo image” or “most transparent speaker image” that we can use science/measurement to move towards?
In my experience, having made hundreds of commercial recordings (but admittedly a long time ago) and listened to them at work and at home:

Virtually none of it is the signal. Virtually all of it is the speakers and the room - and they must be considered together. Think of a headphone for a minute - there's a driver and a cup working together, and nothing else. Your speaker is the driver, and your room is the cup, working together, and there's nothing else.

What creates the "best stereo image" or "soundstage" is tight pair matching between the speakers, and the absence of local aberrations at the speaker positions, such as port chuffing, panel resonances, and so on. Position the speakers with an open mind, not a pre-planned scheme. Treat the room so that reflections are well under control.

Such measures will provide the best platform to examine the recording. As @Blumlein 88 notes above, some are spectacular - I made a few crossed-pair Blumlein recordings which are staggering - and some are pretty bad, but as long as there was some panning and potting going on, there will be some kind of image.

To answer the question, therefore, the metrics would be measuring the pair matching, and any non-musical rattling, buzzing, hooting or smearing from the cabinets. Sadly almost no one tests for either.
 
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