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Do we crave distortion?

Chr1

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Big Muff. Yowsa.
Flanger?
Added warmth?
Ahem.

Also, I can switch between my clean/valve setup pretty much as quickly as changing an EQ profile. Just a switch plus the RoomEQ preset on Foobar.
 
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DJNX

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Okay.

But do you not agree that high quality studio valve gear, be it mikes, preamps or whatever are just adding the very same distortion?

Why is it so wrong in playback. I get that it's not "Hifi", but not much different from changing EQ surely? Both are changing the sound of the recording as the engineer intended it.
You have to consider, the music that you are reproducing already has a lot of distortion, introduced on each and every stage of its production, to every single instrument, with an assortment of tools (compressors, EQs, time and dynamic based effects, etc).
However, during production, the audio engineer can finely tune the kind and amount of distortion, discretely to each sound and turn it off, on, down or up, across the length of a song.

Adding your own distortion to the final mastered song, is a blind experiment, not even knowing what kind (or the amount) of distortion you are adding, or without even knowing if you have headroom for it.
I mean sure, it’s not that it’s wrong. Sure, you can like it better, and it’s definitely not ‘hifi".

That being said, if you are EQing (properly), you are doing it with a digital parametric equalizer that let’s you adjust gain, to avoid clipping and distortion, and also with oversampling, to avoid artifacts.
So EQing to your taste and distorting with your audio components, are two very different things.
 

Sal1950

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It is quite possible to design tube amps whose distortion is inaudible. Output impedance impacts though might be a different issue
Very true but not seen very often in todays market, they all want their designs to have a voice, one that pleases them and hopefully many customers.

Whatever. I am optimising the playback sound to my taste, on my own system. No right or wrong actually. Personally, I reckon if you believe that its wrong to change the recording then you shouldn't change EQ either. Room aside... My opinion.
That's all well and good, there is no right or wrong for your taste.
But to use your own food analogy, what if the chief uses too much salt or pepper.
When I go out I ask for my steak to be very lightly seasoned or not at all. I'll fix it my way.
Same for my audio, I want my gear to be neutral, I can EQ it any way I like then.
 

Chr1

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Very true but not seen very often in todays market, they all want their designs to have a voice, one that pleases them and hopefully many customers.


That's all well and good, there is no right or wrong for your taste.
But to use your own food analogy, what if the chief uses too much salt or pepper.
When I go out I ask for my steak to be very lightly seasoned or not at all. I'll fix it my way.
Same for my audio, I want my gear to be neutral, I can EQ it any way I like then.
Agreed. Absolutely.
But to flip it...What if the food is average? I often want salt and pepper...
and hot sauce.

Don't get me wrong. Mostly I listen with my Neumanns flat but frequently I like added seasoning. I recommend both tbh. Don't think it's got to be one or the other.

Like numerous other hobbies : being a nerd for it justifies more than one. For me it's music and motorcycles...

Cheaper than cars and watches from what I can make out thankfully.
 
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Sal1950

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Agreed. Absolutely.
But to flip it...What if the food is average? I often want salt and pepper...
and hot sauce.

Don't get me wrong. Mostly I listen with my Neumanns but frequently I like added seasoning. I need both tbh. Don't think it's got to be one or the other.
My only thought is 2 sets of speakers are expensive.
I'd use the $ from both to by the best most neutral speakers I can.
Then use EQ, DSP, etc to season, that's what I do.
YMMV
 

kemmler3D

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My only thought is 2 sets of speakers are expensive.
I'd use the $ from both to by the best most neutral speakers I can.
Then use EQ, DSP, etc to season, that's what I do.
YMMV
Some people would say the only appropriate thing to do is lightly salt food to taste, or perhaps do nothing. (EQ the room then leave it alone)

Others put hot sauce all over everything they eat, and even carry it with them out to restaurants. (Use distortion, EQ, and even reverb as much as you want, YOLO)

Either way on a technical level, I totally agree with you. Get a neutral system and use DSP. You can simulate tubes well enough in 2023 that there's no reason to pay for a noisy, low-power heap of glass just to get more distortion on playback.
 

Chr1

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I am still curious as to why on playback, changing the original recordings sound with EQ, possibly emulating a valve amp sound is acceptable, but the actual valve amp and sound are somehow not?

A Formula one car is proper hifi... But only faster on a track.
Try taking one round your favourite twisty road.
You will just hate the road due to its imperfections. (Kinda like sub optimal recordings.)
On most roads, something like a KTM X-BOW GT-XR is way quicker and more fun. Neither is necessary better overall. So if possible have both.
I see my Neumanns like the KTM and the Tannoys kinda like a Ford GT40.
(But waaay cheaper obviously.)
 
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DavidMcRoy

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It's interesting watching people trying to talk others out of what they prefer.
 

pablolie

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If you like music, you invariably like some sort of distortion, because it's built into many instruments and the artistry of playing them quite naturally. If you like many famous electric guitar solos, you absolutely *love* distortion, because overdriving the amp and tearing away at the lever is what makes many of those guitar solos unique... and guitar is by far not the only instrument.

The question is whether you want or like gear to introduce additional distortion artifacts into the delivery of music. My vote leans non-judgmentally on the "not really that much" as a rule.
 

tmtomh

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It's true that it's futile, and often rude, to try to tell other people what they should prefer.

On the other hand, the OP wasn't quite about whether it's okay or appropriate to prefer distortion, but rather about whether all/most of us actually might prefer a small amount of distortion, regardless of what we might think we prefer.

I'd like to think the answer is No, but honestly I don't know, and it's certainly an interesting question.
 

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I think this tread is all about personal preference, and there there is no absolute right or wrong. Use what fits your preference, but know what you're doing. Tube amps are technical inferior to solid state amps, and most A or AB amps are technical inferior to class D amps, that is absolute true.

But technical perfection does not mean it does what you want. Whole "audiphile" subcultures are build arround a certain form of deviation of that technical perfection that so many chase here. And those know what they are doing. That UK reggae soundsystem i mentioned before, Axis Valv A Tron, had a modern and quiet hifi sounding bigger rig, all with modern equipment. But he build a very coloured tube rig, and now only use that one (the other is sold) because he want that limited bandwith and high harmonic distortion. It fits his music selection (old reggae) better than his former modern hifi rig. But it's not hifi, that is very true.

I use both sides, sometimes even mixed in one setup. My main setup is a Mark Audio fullrange and a scanspeak woofer, with a minidsp flex as preamp/dsp and a tube amp on the Mark Audio and a Hypex NCore based amp on the woofer. And it's the best i have in my house, at least for my pleasure of listening to music. It may not fit you, you may prefer the Genelec's that i can't listen to for long because ear fatigue kicks in early. And both subjective preferences are good, as long as you enjoy the music you're listening to. Because that is what count at the end, not fancy graphs. Those are a tool to get to the target point, not the target point itself.
 

Chr1

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Hear, hear.

Reckon first aiming for as transparent a system as possible should be priority.

Then, whether you choose to change the sound with valves or EQ on playback so be it. No harm, no foul.

I would hate to have to choose between one or the other system, to be honest. It may be less hifi, but I still love my valves... and the 140W they put out at idle is the only heating I use in my living room in winter. All good.
 

Sal1950

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If you like music, you invariably like some sort of distortion, because it's built into many instruments and the artistry of playing them quite naturally. If you like many famous electric guitar solos, you absolutely *love* distortion, because overdriving the amp and tearing away at the lever is what makes many of those guitar solos unique... and guitar is by far not the only instrument.
In HiFi, I don't find that its absolutely fair to call this distortion. Whether it's a acoustic or electronic instrument, its the various differences in the sound of say a C minor played on a piano , flute, or guitar the gives them there individual sound. The sound of the source media is what it is, a pure virgin so to speak.

The question is whether you want or like gear to introduce additional distortion artifacts into the delivery of music. My vote leans non-judgmentally on the "not really that much" as a rule.
As a 73yo audiophile who's been chasing better sound for my cherished music at home most all my life, I've played and heard just about all the tricks and games that exist.
In the end I decided for me it's best to use the current SOTA cleanest source and most accurate gear I can acquire. If then I find the reproduction lacking in some way it's always easy enough to introduce whatever "distortion of the source" that's desired.
YMMV
 

kemmler3D

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In HiFi, I don't find that its absolutely fair to call this distortion. Whether it's a acoustic or electronic instrument, its the various differences in the sound of say a C minor played on a piano , flute, or guitar the gives them there individual sound. The sound of the source media is what it is, a pure virgin so to speak.
I don't totally agree. Aside from a certain instruments recorded for a live album, almost anything we hear at home has been through a distortion box or plugin at some point. It's quite rare to put something through a clean mic and straight on to the record without any 'enhancement'.

Even very dry recordings are often put through "tube pres" or warming compressors during the mixing stage. And this is all rightly called distortion! A little HD is like salt on food, it's unusual to serve anything without it. A mix with zero compression or distortion is usually totally unacceptable, except when it comes to certain classical recordings.
 

Sal1950

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I don't totally agree. Aside from a certain instruments recorded for a live album, almost anything we hear at home has been through a distortion box or plugin at some point. It's quite rare to put something through a clean mic and straight on to the record without any 'enhancement'.
That's absolutely not what I said, your disagreeing with something that is totally opposite of my statement.
Maybe you should go back and read it again a few times.
 

pablolie

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In HiFi, I don't find that its absolutely fair to call this distortion. Whether it's a acoustic or electronic instrument, its the various differences in the sound of say a C minor played on a piano , flute, or guitar the gives them there individual sound. The sound of the source media is what it is, a pure virgin so to speak.
...
We are saying the same thing. I clearly stated some distortion (you may call it harmonics) are inherent parts of music.

And I also stated I dont want my audio equipment to add to it.
 

Sal1950

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We are saying the same thing. I clearly stated some distortion (you may call it harmonics) are inherent parts of music.

And I also stated I dont want my audio equipment to add to it.
Yes we were. I was just clarifying that I don't feel we can call anything that's on the recording distortion, it's a artists creation.
It's how we handle it after that to either keep it as close to its virgin sound as possible, or we can wank it up. LOL
 

kemmler3D

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That's absolutely not what I said, your disagreeing with something that is totally opposite of my statement.
Maybe you should go back and read it again a few times.
Whether it's a acoustic or electronic instrument, its the various differences in the sound of say a C minor played on a piano , flute, or guitar the gives them there individual sound. The sound of the source media is what it is, a pure virgin so to speak.
What I understood this to mean was distortion added during a performance or production shouldn't be called distortion, nor should harmonics inherent to acoustic instruments. I agree with the latter but not the former.

Musicians and engineers add distortion, especially tube-style harmonic distortion, all the time, from the stage to the final mix. There is no other way to call it. As @pablolie said, almost nobody plays electric guitar without adding distortion. Same goes for electric piano, electric organ, many vocal performances, basically all synthesizer performances, etc. Distortion is simply another artistic tool.

I 100% agree with you that distortion added by artists is categorically / philosophically completely different from adding distortion on playback. Once the artists are done adding distortion... it shouldn't be messed with. However, not everyone agrees, I guess.
 

Sal1950

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When we're discussing HiFi systems, the discussion of various distortion creation methods, fuzzboxes, Leslie speakers, whammy bars, everything used in the creation of music can only serve to confuse the discussion. They are all distortions of pure sine wave tones in a artistic manner.. Not our concern in the big picture of High Fidelity reproduction.
From the HiFi listeners perspective, there is no distortion on the source, all we need concern ourself with is, can our rig reproduce that virgin source in a accurate way.
That's what Amir spends his time and energy measuring HiFi gear to determine and reveal to us.
Now on the back side, if any listener prefers to crank his bass tone control to +20db, that's his prerogative.
 
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