- Jun 26, 2021
- Sydney. NSW, Australia
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.Very often, with the right setup. At least I think it has to do with transients, at least in part. It’s a startling presence of a sound source in the air, in the room in front of you. Startling is the right word, because it can really startle you for its realism. This happens mostly with small ensembles, single voices, etc., not so much with large orchestras. You can easily make out groups of instruments in an orchestra, but you don’t feel like there’s a violin there somewhere. I suppose the multiple instruments blur each other’s transients and make a more homogenous sound.
It can also happen with non-acoustic (i.e. synthesized) music. I listened to a track once (I think it was Yello), and constantly looked over my shoulder because I thought there was someone at the door. The door is on left, somewhat behind the listening chair. Sounds from behind don’t usually do that. They can be interesting effects but you can tell they’re part of the programme. But this effect was so well-crafted that it fooled me multiple times in a row. I even turned off the music to see whether it stops.
These things only come out when my system is at its peak (speakers in the right position, room treated, DSP spot on). I often experiment with different speaker positions, room treatments, Dirac filters, etc. and it is very easy to ruin this ability.
It‘s a bit like the magic that suddenly happens when you bring a telescope into perfect collimation
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. 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.
Special effects aside - the Yello example you give may be the genuine article.
In the last few weeks I have listened to music:Dont agree at all.
Bad loudspeakers make speech very indistinct, and robs the music from every sence of realism making the experience to listen to music very boring. Havent you heard a really good hifisystem ? The sound is very far from any bluetooth kitchen device.
My Eneby 20 loudspeaker in the kitchen sounds very dull compared to my Genelecs.
- on hold music on a smartphone:
- 1950s valve radio:
- small speakers in a large hall, so compromised sound:
- last night at dance class, on a portable Bluetooth speaker:
- my sister's Echo Dot (she has a decent setup as well, but her friends' seasonal radio broadcasts are on low bitrate internet and AM radio, so she listens to them on it because she wants that sound for that experience):
- three or four decent hifi systems, including my own
I'm not arguing that these devices were equivalent in overall audio quality, far from it. I'm just saying that the transient response of drive units, even older ones, were all quite capable in terms of starting and stopping, and producing what they were designed to produce according to the space they were in. Of course the hifi systems did better: they had better frequency range and response, almost certainly had better sources, they were louder (never underestimate that), Transient response, in terms of starting and stopping diaphragm movement? Hardly an issue in comparison with all of the other shortcomings.
I've reported another experience here before, where a smartphone outperformed a half-million dollar but badly set up system in a store demo room, for the really important details of an orchestral recording. While I'm not going to go as far as to say that speaker transient response is completely "solved" or anything that dumb, it's hardly the problem that bad design and setup, poor frequency response, high distortion and the other usual suspects are.