- Mar 11, 2022
We're talking speakers here though. The speakers' particular ability doesn't change because the setup of the rest of the system isn't perfect. And I can assure you that low cost speakers from the 1980s can achieve that sort of effect on occasion.
No, you’re right, on both accounts. No single component’s ability can make up for another‘s failure. The faults add up, the virtues don’t. And yes, low-cost speakers from the 80s is what I’m using, too. I bought mine in the early 90s and have not found anything that would make me want to spend money to replace them.
I'm going to stay on the very controversial edge of this though. When I have heard some of these startling effects and oddities, they aren't "real", and I can be pretty sure that they are mostly not part of what was intended in the recording. Singers are supposed to be on stage, drummers normally at the back, guitars to the sides, and so on. First violins to the left, second to the right, cellos to left of centre, (maybe in front and slightly to the left or well to the left according to the orchestra's practice), and so on. When an instrument suddenly jumps to sound "realistic" and way off to the side, or the bass player "sits in my lap" (yes, I've had that appear to happen) I regard it as wrong.
Perhaps I wasn’t clear in my description – has anyone ever been able to describe an auditory impression on ASR without being laughed out of the room?
The startling bit I was trying to convey is not an effect but a property of the (stereo, not multi-channel!) playback system. It requires careful sound recording of an actual acoustic performance, or it can be concocted, with an equal amount of care, at the controls of some marvelous piece of technology. My point was, even if the recording contains it, it is easily spoiled. In fact, 9 out of 10 systems I’ve listened to in my lifetime have not been able to reproduce the sense of realism in recordings that I knew had it in them.
I tend to think of two channel stereo (not so surround, if that is what you have) as being a bit like a slightly 3D TV image. Things should be in place and I should be able to understand everything in context. Even if you have a strong central image for your vocalist, if you have a choir or operatic chorus involved, or different singers placed across the soundstage, that one sticking out becomes, well, a problem.
Yeah, TV/movie sound is of no particular interest to me, I make do with a simple 4.0 system there that keeps the family happy. My obsession is with my stereo setup.
So, in none of those cases, even though audio was sometimes quite badly compromised, was spoken voice unintelligible, timing of the start of instrument sounds affected (the ends were, due mainly to spaces the devices were in, as I heard it), I could tap my foot or dance to the music concerned, I could identify different individual instruments quite happily.
With the right music playing I can even listen contently to AM radio. The kind of fidelity we’re discussing is not about bobbing your head to a song, or understanding what a person says, it‘s about the difference between a really nice sounding stereo system and a convincing 3D auditory illusion – from a pair of stereo speakers. I’ve had friends over to whom I played some pop and rock (Madonna and AC/DC, nothing fancy), who thought I had speakers hidden in all those acoustic panels in my room.
I wish I knew where this quality comes from. It’s likely a mix of qualities, but I believe that phase and transient response have something to do with it. If only for the fact that those are never measured, and none of measurements taken can seemingly explain the differences between loudspeakers (at the level I described above).