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Ingredients of Good Sound


Mar 20, 2023
Grampians, Australia
This is it. The perfect sound. If you don't think it's the perfect sound then find your own perfect sound.

Well I'm not quite sure about that - each to their own. I'd agree that there is a certain wholesome, rustic and meditative experience in listening to what may be an engine of a few thousand horsepower.

I understand, and I am happy to be corrected, that Harley Davidson actually patented their sound. So no other motorcycle manufacturer could copy it. Whatever "it" is.
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Senior Member
Feb 19, 2023
I’m still pretty new to high-end audio and the science behind it. I’ve learned a ton from Amir and others on these forums.

When thinking about what exactly makes something sound “good”, I’ve made some interesting and counterintuitive discoveries during my own personal listening sessions over the last year or so. Some of these are obvious but others seem counterintuitive or even go against mainstream opinion. I’d like to share these observations and theories and hopefully get feedback.

- Mood seems to be one of the biggest factors in determining “good sound.” For me personally, I’d even say it could be the biggest. I’m a musician and pretty emotional at times so maybe this is a bigger deal for me than if is for others. But there are days where my favorite tracks bring tears to my eyes, where everything sounds rich and detailed and beautiful, even mundane sound effects, and I’m left in awe of my sound system. But then there are other days where the exact same sounds and songs sound fine, or even good, but not nearly as amazing as other days. This has been the biggest surprise for me in my own listening.
- Good sound seems to depend heavily on the absence of noticeable, distracting imperfections like resonances, crackles, distortions, etc. Focusing on minimizing a system’s weaknesses seems more important than maximizing its strengths.
- Good sound seems to require bass that isn’t too soft or too loud and is even/smooth. Booming bass seems just as bad or even worse than a total lack of bass. But it seems to me that the sound quality seems to jump way up when the bass is calibrated just right and blends well with the higher frequencies.
- High volumes seem to be a requirement, unfortunately. For me personally, 70-90 DB.
- Scale? Not sure what to call this exactly, but it isn’t exactly volume, but more of the feeling of being enveloped by the sound.
- There seems to be a limited window of listening time before the ears seem to start to become desensitized. Turning up the volume gradually can counter this a bit but this just seems to lead to fatigue. So for me I can only get about 1 hour of listening at maximum sound quality.
- I keep hearing that bass frequencies can’t be localized. Heck, movie theaters are designed around this. But I swear I can hear the location of the subwoofers which are rolled off at 80hz. It’s not as noticeable as higher frequencies, but it’s easy to hear. Stereo bass seems to sound better to me. Am I fooling myself?
- Room acoustics seem to be absolutely massive. Perhaps even more important than the speaker. Even moving furniture around slightly can change the sound significantly. Rugs are huge.
- Source material/recording/mixing is obviously huge. High quality speakers don’t seem to help low-quality audio sound any better at all. If anything, bad audio seems to sound even worse through good speakers.
- I have trouble hearing or fully understanding this concept of “imaging.” I keep reading about it and I know lots of people value it. But I don’t really understand what amazing imaging would sound like in a stereo system. Pinpointing the location of an instrument doesn’t seem to make sense to me unless you’re talking about surround sound with lots of channels. I’ve noticed dialog suffers when the L/R speakers are too far apart or not pointed in enough. Is this part of imaging?

Would love to hear any feedback on my thoughts.
I would say I agree with almost all of what you say except the listening fatigue. You may want to consider a small lowering of the 3k+ frequencies. They are usually the most fatiguing...that or an over pronounced snare drum.

Bass I super agree with, though it depends on the genre. Some bands do bass way better than others. Generally though, bass is king, but due to room modes and other things, bass is not enjoyed by most people.


Major Contributor
Sep 22, 2021
Albuquerque, NM USA
Someone else who miss understands what I’ve said.

To summarise at no point have I said my system isn’t capable of good imaging. I’ve said that in my opinion imaging is overhyped.

I have also said most audiophiles (and I’ll now go further and also include most subjective journalists) overstate imaging.

Since you are trying to educate me on my speaker placement because you have assumed I have no idea, I have two systems and in both setups my speakers are toed in thanks. I don’t need an education on speaker placement and I need even less of an education from Paul at PS Audio.

I don’t need to go over my entire listing history of the past 30 years to simply say that in my opinion imaging is overrated.
To offer a belated counterpoint, I believe that almost more than any other facet of competent reproduction, that failure to recreate a convincing 3d soundstage is a)/allows one to suspend reality as a good film is able to draw you in and put you in the thick of things b) which is why even good or even very, very good playback seldom elicits an OMG I have to buy a system of my own; i had no idea it could sound so life-like.

If I were to find one descriptor from the review of near SOTA systems where high end equipment reviewers go absolutely ga-ga, slack jawed and fumbling for words its when the capability of simple 2 speaker stereo to produce z life-like soundscape where musicians are in the room, an image so solid and stable one feels as if they could walk across the room and shake hands with the musicians.
Once experienced, there is nothing overrated about it and minor to moderate transgressions with freq response and dynamics are easily forgiven. In short its to die for.
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