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There is nothing holy about the signal

Is the signal holy?

  • Yes it is

    Votes: 18 16.5%
  • No it isn't

    Votes: 84 77.1%
  • Undecided / No opinion

    Votes: 7 6.4%

  • Total voters
    109

Newman

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Sorry for the clickbaity title but I thought it was time for another ASR bun-fight ;)
Yeah, I don't like click-baity titles and this one is especially stupid, so I won't grace it with a vote either. Umm, ;)

To be honest, I thought it was a humour thread from the title, and very disappointed to see you try to develop an argument in support of its legitimacy.
For some time now, I have noticed that both groups of audiophiles - subjectivists and objectivists - share the same belief: that the signal should be kept uncorrupted. Purity is all important.
No. There is definitely a population of pragmatic audiophiles.
The only distinguishing feature between the two groups is the approach. Subjectivists believe their cables, power conditioners, cable elevators, DAC's, and analog systems keep the signal clean.
I don't like and do disagree with the labels you are using and the characteristics you are assigning to them.
The whole purpose of an analog system is to prevent the signal getting corrupted by digital. The intention of power tweaks is to keep power "clean" because they think they can hear "dirty power".
To be sure, many who avoid digital do so on the basis that the signal is being less 'fiddled with' if they stick to analog from end to end. The whole idea is a misapprehension, of course, because every analog recording and playback system 'fiddles with' the system a lot more than the digital alternative.

That is why I have a saying: the purest analog (to the input analog) you are ever going to hear from a recording is out of the back of a DAC.

Not that this has anything to do with subjectivists v objectivists.
Objectivists believe that the lower the distortion/SINAD, the better. Speakers are selected for low measurable distortion. The whole point of this engineering exercise is to keep distortion and nonlinearities as low as possible, preferably pushed into inaudible limits. There is certainly a large contingent of very vocal ASR members who say that the system is there to reproduce what the artist intended, and nothing more.
I can't support these statements, because your whole notion of subjectivist v objectivist is....weird.
So you can see, both are the same yet both are different.

However, there are two major aspects to sound reproduction that everyone agrees has a major impact on the sound: (1) the recording, and (2) the speaker/room interface.
Happy to run with the above sentence.
The recording: this is the result of a bunch of subjective decisions made by the artist and the mixing engineer on their monitoring system, which is different to your home audio system - i.e. Toole's "circle of confusion". Take a look at the VST plugins offered by only one company, and realize there are thousands more offered by other companies. All these VST plugins manipulate the signal - compressors, expanders, EQ, harmonic distortion generators, emulators for tube sound, vinyl sound, tape sound, reverb VST's, and so on. Some recordings are completely artificial constructs that never existed in reality, e.g. all electronic music. Some recordings of less talented singers have been "autocorrected" to make them sing in tune. Even recordings of live acoustic instruments have been manipulated. I listen almost exclusively to classical music, and I can tell you that recordings sound crazy different from label to label, and even with the same label. Just compare Deutsche Grammofon from the 80's and 90's and current recordings, even though the recordings are digital. They have changed something in their workflow that makes the recordings sound different.
Yeah but that's not Toole's Circle of Confusion. It's the sonic creation. The CoC occurs from this point on, between the final master as heard in the studio, and what we hear in our homes.
The speaker/room interface: despite the best intentions of speaker designers, the moment the speaker is placed in the room, the response is changed. I think that nearly all of us here on ASR agree that some type of room correction is necessary, preferably with DSP.
Yes.
And if you correct with DSP, you will need a target curve.
Only in the bass.
Here is an older thread on ASR about target curves:

index.php


I have tried all these target curves, and they all sound different.
No no no, you don't want to 'try these target curves'. Bad idea.

I'm sure you are right: if you are trying this, they will indeed all sound different.
All are purportedly supported by science.
Science does not support the imposition of these target curves on your system with DSP. For starters, they extend way outside the bass.
Some of these curves were arrived at by hypothesizing what the speaker's room response would look like if a speaker that measured flat under anechoic conditions were placed in a room. Some others are based on preference studies, e.g. the Harman curve. Even the Harman curve has three bands, "more bass", "less bass", and "Harman curve lovers". These bands are split into different demographics - younger men and older women respectively for the first two groups, and the largest group being "Harman curve lovers".

I suspect that whether we admit it or not, many of us pick the target curve that we like based on what sounds best to us. So here is the rub: the moment we pick a target curve, we are manipulating the signal to our preference.
The whole process of everything you are saying above is not recommended. If people are recommending the above, they are not following 'the science'. If room correction box makers are recommending it, then that's just a sales pitch, and definitely not 'science'. In fact, Toole has written a paper dedicated to the topic, “The Measurement and Calibration of Sound Reproducing Systems”, and basically he says Don't Do That. Covered in ASR.
Even if we choose a speaker that has a certain target curve with no digital signal manipulation, we have still chosen a target curve that we prefer.
Speakers don't have 'target curves' that can be measured at the listening position or area. Anyone taking that approach has lost the plot.
Another point of data: valve amps and turntables distort the signal and measure objectively worse. Yet there are many people, myself included, who think that they sound pleasant. Why? My hypothesis was that people just like some additional distortion, so I performed an experiment on distortion - thread here. I deliberately added distortion to the signal, and asked people if they prefer "A or B", without revealing what the intervention was. Nearly all the people I tested preferred some distortion. As I emphasized in that thread repeatedly, this was not a scientific test given that it was performed under uncontrolled conditions with only one system, but the trend seemed significant.

And yet another data point: in another thread, @ppataki recommended I try Pultec EQ to improve subjective bass slam. I downloaded a VST and tried it. It works by boosting bass followed by a little undershoot, i.e. it effectively modifies the target curve. It is still early days in my testing, but I like it very much. I need to throw more music at it to see if it still holds up after a few weeks of listening, but here is another example where signal manipulation has increased my enjoyment of the system.

Conclusion. My system is an unholy hodgepodge where I have manipulated the signal to an extent that would horrify both objectivists and subjectivists.
That certainly seems to be true.
It started by realizing that recordings all sound different, and Toole's circle of confusion meant that my system wasn't reproducing what the artist intended anyway.
Only because you choose to ignore it.
I began correcting the system with the intention of making the circle of confusion smaller, before I realized that this intervention by itself was manipulating the signal to my preference.
Only because of the way you went about it.
So why not go further. I ended up installing all sorts of VST's and rejecting most of them on grounds of taste, so I have only kept a few. The important feature of my system is that I can turn everything off with a few clicks and everything is restored to unmolested signal, with the exception of the target curve that I can not avoid because it is baked into the system.

If you conclude that it is OK to manipulate the signal to your preference, the very uncomfortable corollary is this: there are no standards in audio, nor can there ever be. All the preference scores in spinorama.org are moot. We are back to the Wild West where anything goes. I myself am uncomfortable with this because as a scientist at heart and by profession, I can not accept a universe of disorder and chaos.
Yes you have boxed yourself into a very strange position. No wonder you end up advocating 'it's all hopeless, just do what sounds good'.
So my questions for ASR are: do you think signal integrity is important?
In some respects yes, in others no. All in accordance with our best understanding from scientific investigations to date.

In terms of high fidelity, what we want to have integrity to, is the sonic and musical 'art package' that the musicians and sound engineers created for us to enjoy in our homes, and heard in their studios. If all sound studios were identical and unchanging (an idea with its own problems), then we could replicate it in our homes and 'job done', integrity is preserved.

The gap between the studio(s) and our homes is inevitable and Toole labels it the Circle of Confusion, as you have pointed out. But Toole didn't do that in order to conclude that 'all is lost'; far from it. He has dedicated a long career to identifying ways to minimise, in perceptual terms, the impact of the CoC. It turns out that human perception doesn't need the exact same sound field in the home as in the studio, to create a perception very much like the studio. Instead of thinking in black-and-white 'it's perfect or it's useless, so give up and just fiddle to taste', Toole concluded that some "signal corruptions" are unimportant to the end experience, some are 'mission critical', and yet some more are manageable by one means or another to the point where, while still 'corrupted', they won't stop us getting high fidelity to the studio experience. And there are limited areas where it is appropriate to adjust certain "signal corruptions" to taste. It's fairly complex and that's why his books are 500-600 pages long. But importantly, in the end, I think Toole's message is that the CoC can be largely circumvented with the right approach and we can experience high fidelity to the studio creation in our homes.
Do you avoid all manipulation to the signal?
Goodness no, that would be self-destructive in the bass regions and into the transition region.
If you did manipulate your signal, how did you choose your target curve?
Don't do it that way.
Do you think there is a role for preference when it comes to signal manipulation?
Definitely. As per Toole, there are several areas:
  1. After optimising the bass all the way up to the transition frequency of your room, using a recommended bass optimisation regime, one should vary the level of the bass below about 150 Hz, to taste. Do it with reference grade recordings, so that #2 below makes more sense.
  2. Use (good) tone controls to compensate (however roughly) for substandard recordings. That’s different to using them to mess with a flat direct sound FR when listening to high quality recordings.
  3. Consider upsampling of stereo sources. Not all algorithms for this are well executed, but the good ones bring perceptual benefits.
cheers
 

Sokel

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The concept of a "target curve" for speakers is inherently problematic and widely misunderstood. The harman curves are the measured result of a small number of speakers and a small number (11) of people's preference for these.

So at best we can call them preference curves, and you were never intended to force your own system to follow them with the use of DSP.
Yep,no "target" curve is a goal but a nice in-room curve is the result of a nice designed speaker.Forcing a curve is absolutely wrong,specially after transition.
Don't like the curve?Fix your room or get better speakers.
That's what science says.

As Dr Toole says if someone gives you a hammer everything looks like a nail:


Edit:Link
 
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MaxwellsEq

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You could have had a more controversial debate if you had asked whether the phase of the signal in the audio band is holy. Everyone so far seems to have latched on to frequency/amplitude only.
 

Roland

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Your target curve should reflect your hearing and differences in left and right ears in order to hear what the musicians / engineers intended. It’s easy to do an audiology test to get a curve for each ear.
 

mcdn

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Maybe people should fix the basic FR of their own systems before pontificating? So many threads about this or that tweak, where the basic FR hasn’t been addressed. @Keith_W you have a lot to do based on your “dry bass” thread before you can even begin to think about house curves.
 

mcdn

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Your target curve should reflect your hearing and differences in left and right ears in order to hear what the musicians / engineers intended. It’s easy to do an audiology test to get a curve for each ear.
Best laugh of the day!
 

Sokel

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Best laugh of the day!
Sometimes I think past was way better with the power cables snake oil and the little bells and stuff.
At least they didn't altered anything unlike wrongly used DSP which can mess things up (and sometimes physically destroy stuff) big time!
 
OP
Keith_W

Keith_W

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Maybe people should fix the basic FR of their own systems before pontificating? So many threads about this or that tweak, where the basic FR hasn’t been addressed. @Keith_W you have a lot to do based on your “dry bass” thread before you can even begin to think about house curves.

You do realize that this is attacking the person and not the points? I welcome and respect discussion, disagreement, and different points of view, but ad hominems are immature and unnecessary.
 

Sokel

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You do realize that this is attacking the person and not the points? I welcome and respect discussion, disagreement, and different points of view, but ad hominems are immature and unnecessary.
That's not attacking a person,is attacking wrong conclusions coming from bad practice and acceptance of "opinions" instead of science.
 

Mart68

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I voted 'Yes it's holy' but with some trepidation.

We start with the recording on the disc or file, what went before is irrelevant. Nevertheless I like to use CD so I can choose the mastering I want. Almost always the original mastering since I am a purist. That may not be the best sounding one.

I don't use tape or vinyl as sources since they corrupt the signal

I don't use some weird DAC that mangles the sound and my amplification, although far from state of the art is still good enough to be 'transparent'

So far so good, I have maintained 'purity'

Then we approach the final fence, speakers and room, is this one too big to jump?

my view is that it's like a snooker player manipulating the cue ball. He doesn't need it to stop in an exact spot on the table to make his next shot (unless that shot is very difficult), it just needs to stop inside an area of the table that still gives an angle for the shot.

Some talk about curves and so forth but who would use a curve that peaks up 5db at 1Khz the drops again, then peaks again at 5khz? No-one - but this is what some loudspeakers have built in. So I avoid them, I try to stay in the 'ballpark of accuracy' since that's the best we can do.

So I maintain signal purity as far as I can, for that last stretch I try not to dirty it too much. The problem with just doing whatever sounds good is that will not be a constant across every recording.
 

olieb

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If you conclude that it is OK to manipulate the signal to your preference, the very uncomfortable corollary is this: there are no standards in audio, nor can there ever be. All the preference scores in spinorama.org are moot. We are back to the Wild West where anything goes. I myself am uncomfortable with this because as a scientist at heart and by profession, I can not accept a universe of disorder and chaos.
As a scientist at heart and by profession, I can totally accept a universe of disorder and chaos.
But I recommend you rethink the other sentences above. "there are no standards in audio, nor can there ever be."
Of course there can be standards. There even are. But your preference is not bound by any standards.
On the other hand it may be cool to "put a big reverb and tube saturator on the whole thing" but for most that is a thing of a few minutes to impress whoever and then you will go back to something else.
Toole says that if you make controlled experiments the preference of humans is converging to an astonishingly narrow window.
So maybe there are even standards in preference, that you could choose to ignore any time, of course.

The lack of this kind of established standards in recording, mixing and listening does create a rather open landscape of "Wild West", that is certainly true.
 

AudioJester

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Your target curve should reflect your hearing and differences in left and right ears in order to hear what the musicians / engineers intended. It’s easy to do an audiology test to get a curve for each ear.

So how do you do that with live music?
Or all live music just sounds wrong to what the musicians intended?
 
D

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I consider the signal holy in that sense that I want the path as straight line as can be. You decide if that's the case with Streamer-->TOSLINK-->miniDSP-->Power amp.

It's the purest I can get it whilst keeping my room correction which is something I can't live without.
 

mcdn

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You do realize that this is attacking the person and not the points? I welcome and respect discussion, disagreement, and different points of view, but ad hominems are immature and unnecessary.
Sorry if you took it that way. As soon as the signal from a mic is recorded it is distorted. As soon as a track is mixed it is is distorted. As soon as the signal comes out of the speakers it’s distorted. There is not, never has been, and never will be any “pure signal”.

What we do have is some science on how to achieve reasonable facsimiles that appeal to most people with most recordings. That should be our baseline to use before we start looking for different approaches. I do get frustrated when people are led toward niche solutions before these fundamentals are addressed
 

Mart68

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Sorry if you took it that way. As soon as the signal from a mic is recorded it is distorted. As soon as a track is mixed it is is distorted. As soon as the signal comes out of the speakers it’s distorted.
only the last one is true, what happened in the recording process is irrelevant to the question of purity in playback.

And the recording was made using speakers that distorted it so even that isn't so much of a deviation.
 

Sokel

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only the last one is true, what happened in the recording process is irrelevant to the question of purity in playback.

And the recording was made using speakers that distorted it so even that isn't so much of a deviation.
I have a funny story about it.
I'm all for classical,right?And I absolutely adore 50's and 60's performances so I thought "what the hell,I'll replicate what the engineers heard in the studio when they produced this stuff"

I made my homework to find out what they were using to listen,amps and speakers mostly.So old tubes and you can imagine the speakers.
So I gathered them through friends (one of them is a hoarder of old stuff,but mostly these huge pro turntables )

Do I have to describe my disappointment?

The only thing that stood out through all of this is that people who made all this beautiful recordings with the means of the era were heroes.
 

mcdn

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only the last one is true, what happened in the recording process is irrelevant to the question of purity in playback.

And the recording was made using speakers that distorted it so even that isn't so much of a deviation.
You don't think compression applied in mastering is distortion? "Signal integrity" is a complete joke at every level of the recording chain. We can have it in the electronics of the playback chain (dac, amp, etc), agreed on that, but then speakers throw all that integrity out the window.

Not sure what you mean about recordings being made using speakers, that's quite unusual in the literal sense. There were (and are) some amazing analogue effects systems at the great studios of the 50s-70s, including one which used a speaker in a large chamber with a mic at the other end. Some highly praised "audiophile" recordings went through that reverb system. See the Apple TV documentary by Mark Ronson for details.
 

Purité Audio

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The recording is the only artefact, we can only aspire to reproduce that file as accurately as possible.
Keith
 
D

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Maybe people should fix the basic FR of their own systems before pontificating? So many threads about this or that tweak, where the basic FR hasn’t been addressed. @Keith_W you have a lot to do based on your “dry bass” thread before you can even begin to think about house curves.

LOL! -I thought exactly that when I read the OP.. :p
 

DavidMcRoy

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I am in general agreement with the OP. Toole's "Circle of Confusion" means that audio frequency response is the Wild, Wild West whether we like it or not, so I season to taste. In my case that's something like the B+K and EBU curves, but with extra bass boost below 100Hz climbing with decreasing frequency. If the industry ever closes the circle of confusion with some kind of meaningful standard...well, I'll probably be dead before that happens, anyway. Maybe it'll happen when someone in marketing realizes that remastering everything ever recorded would be required and can therefore be resold...
 
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