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Is there a reason why large symphonic pieces could sound rhythmically chaotic on a pair of speakers?

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#1
I was just listening to a recording of the Brandenburg Concerti on HD800s and then Monitor Audio Silver RS6 floor standers. The orchestra on the first movement sounded noticeably less rhythmically accurate on the speakers, and this is mystifying to me! I just replaced a Cambridge Audio AM-10 with an NAD Monitor Series 7600 amp-- could that explain the difference? I am fairly certain it wasn't my imagination.

My thought is that maybe the speakers are now reproducing the room ambience and I am now hearing reverb from the space? Or maybe a delay between the relative response time of the woofers and the tweeters?

Thinking also that one of the nonsense words subjective reviewers use for gear is "disorganized". Anybody have any thoughts?
 

StevenEleven

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#2
Which recording of the Brandenburg Concerti are you listening to? Are you listening in straight-up stereo or a surround sound mode?

The room interacting with the speakers is always an extra variable as compared to using headphones, where you are getting pretty much no reflected sound, though you might get some resonances. In some senses a good pair of headphones has fewer variables between the recording and the sound that reaches your ears. The room and speaker placement make the possibilities almost endless. And then your imagination is a variable too—not just your imagination, but anyone’s imagination.

I seriously doubt the amp has anything to do with it. It rarely does. You might experiment with speaker placement, maybe move them away from the wall if they are close to the wall, and toe them in a little (but not all the way) toward you. That tends to be the most efficient route, and it’s free. :) After that you can work on adding some rugs or curtains if you have a lot of hard surfaces that would reflect sound. Just guesses here.
 
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andreasmaaan

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#3
The orchestra on the first movement sounded noticeably less rhythmically accurate on the speakers, and this is mystifying to me!
Do you mean compared to the same speakers same recording same everything, but a different amp, or do you mean compared to a different recording, or same recording on a different system?
 
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#4
Thanks for the response-- it's the English Concert Orchestra with Trevor Pinnock on Archiv. Listening in 2-channel stereo. It makes sense that it could be the room interaction. But, for instance, I didn't notice it on smaller combo stuff, so I thought maybe the dynamic and frequency range was causing trouble.
 
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#5
Do you mean compared to the same speakers same recording same everything, but a different amp, or do you mean compared to a different recording, or same recording on a different system?
Thanks-- it's the same FLAC played through HD 800s with a Headroom The Max headphone amp vs. NAD and MA Silvers.
 

andreasmaaan

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#6
Thanks-- it's the same FLAC played through HD 800s with a Headroom The Max headphone amp vs. NAD and MA Silvers.
The speakers/amp are unlikely to be distorting anything in the time domain enough to be audible, and even if they were, this would be unlikely to manifest as a sense of rhythmic inaccuracy.

The three main (potentially audible) differences between your headphones and the speakers/amp are going to be (1) frequency response, (2) levels of nonlinear distortion (significantly higher in the speakers), and (3) reflections (present only with the speakers).

My money is on the latter personally.
 

StevenEleven

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#7
Thanks for the response-- it's the English Concert Orchestra with Trevor Pinnock on Archiv. Listening in 2-channel stereo. It makes sense that it could be the room interaction. But, for instance, I didn't notice it on smaller combo stuff, so I thought maybe the dynamic and frequency range was causing trouble.
Just one more thought--maybe make sure when you changed amps you didn't accidentally wire the speakers to the amp with different polarities for the left and right channels? If you did as I'm sure you know they will be out of phase and that will cause all kinds of havoc.

But I'm thinking room reflections too. If you go straight from headphones to speakers you're most likely going to hear a lot more reflected sound when listening to the speakers.
 

Daverz

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#8
It's the basso continuo that tends to set the rhythmic foundation in Baroque music. It's possible that the room modes are smearing this. Try moving the speakers out into the room or using port plugs (or some socks). In my experience, though, Monitor audio speakers are not underdamped in the bass.

Kinda shocked I did not have this set. Thought for sure I did. I'm listening to it on Qobuz.
 
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#9
Will try the port plugs, thanks. It's a good performance! Another one I really like is the Cologne Chamber Orchestra.
 

garbulky

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#10
Keep in mind these are subjective impressions with no measurements to back them up.
I used to have a tough time getting good reproduction of classical music on speakers. For want of a better word things appeared smeared on dynamics. So when the orchestra went big or there were several instruments playing it sounded dull and flat to me with a lack of resolution. I assumed it was the recordings.

The two biggest differences that helped with classical music.
Room treatment. This was probably the biggest one. The more room treatment I put the more clean and natural was reproduction of complex pieces. The dynamic swings were also cleaner with less of a "smear" to them.
The amp - the emotiva XPA-1 gen 2 (and also the Emotiva PA-1 just to a slightly lesser extent) produced cleaner control of the speaker. The XPA-1 gen 2 extended the punch and mid range and bass heft of the speaker while allowing things like spatial detail present in the recording to show through. This was important on orchestral pieces because it helps separate things out versus one big mush.
All the other amps I have listened to have lacked this level of control of the speaker in terms of quick microdynamics.
So that's what's worked for me. Your experience may be different.
 

KSTR

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#11
It's the basso continuo that tends to set the rhythmic foundation in Baroque music. It's possible that the room modes are smearing this.
I would say this is actually most likely the root cause. When you listen to specific test signals one can hear the "rhythm" of high-Q room modes very well. High-Q in the end means there is a long settling time to a new equilibrium state whenever the input to that resonance changes amplitude or phase.

This test signal is a sine which has short envelope "dropouts" in a periodic fashion (~500 milliseconds), a fast and smooth dive to zero amplitude and back, over a few periods of the sine with a raised cosine envelope (or "time window"). After the zero point the sine either continues to run with the same phase or with a 180deg phase offset (inverted). This covers two prominent corners of state changes, a small one and a very large one. It's a really unforgiving hardcore test signal, be warned ;-) ...

Using a set**) of those signals in 1/24 octave spacing in a range of 20Hz....400Hz exposes both the the steady state signature (strong amplitude peaks or throughs/notches) as well as the rhythmic distortion/smear that transients (fast state changes) undergo. When feeding a mono signal to two speakers of a stereo setup, this additionally unveiles amplitude and phase L/R differences at the listening position to an almost extreme highlighting. Finally, by introducing a global polarity flip to one of the output channels this now specifically tests the buildup of resonances for L/R *difference* signals which exite different modal patterns than the mono *common* portion of signals to all speakers.

The experienced difference of speaker vs. headphone playback is gross, typically, in all these regards. Even with well treated rooms. It really seems a mystery why we can still enjoy speakers in a room and even prefer it to headphones. Today I'm more inclined to think moderate amounts of "room patterning" actually help perception rather than disturbing it. One example is perceived pitch of notes. I find it always easier to recognize frequency pitch changes with speakers, with no exception as of yet. Fretless electric bass players, anyone? Intonation control always is much better for me with speakers, that's where I notice the effect very clearly.

**) I once made a nice set of those test files for intuitive use as a live test CD, need to see if I can find and upload those again, the original server where they could be downloaded is gone now...
 
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