Skip

All we hear is radio ga ga.
January 11, 2010 11:13 PM   Subscribe

Audiophoolery: Pseudoscience in Consumer Audio. You might think that a science-based field like audio engineering would be immune to the kind of magical thinking we see in other fields. Unfortunately, you would be wrong [...] As a consumerist, it galls me to see people pay thousands of dollars for fancy-looking wire that’s no better than the heavy lamp cord they can buy at any hardware store. Or magic isolation pads and little discs made from exotic hardwood that purport to “improve clarity and reduce listening fatigue,” among other surprising claims. The number of scams based on ignorance of basic audio science grows every day. Via.
posted by amyms (209 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm sorry, but it's hard for me to get outraged over the defrauding of someone with more money than sense trying to buy status. Not because it isn't a moral crime, but because there's no way to protect that determined an idiot from throwing away their money on something else even if you do get rid of magic knob manufacturer #327.
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:22 PM on January 11, 2010


"In this week’s eSkeptic, Ethan Winer (an audio engineer, musician, and skeptic), reveals that the worlds of audio engineering and consumer electronics are filled with pseudoscience."

Is there anyone who doesn't know this?
posted by kenko at 11:24 PM on January 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm happy to see The Audio Critic is still around offering an alternative (albeit a bit cranky) POV to the mainstream audio press. Their speaker wire feature many years ago opened my eyes (and ears) to the possibility that the big boys, even some with solid reputations, weren't all shooting straight. The awkward but well-intentioned, and ultimately fatal (to the Carver Corporation) Carver Challenge to Stereophile was one of the straws that broke this camel's back wrt. being interested in what the industry had to say. I still like my 20 year old planar speakers and beefy but non-exotic MOSFET amp. I was saddened to enter a local, reputable, stero store, to see so much snake oil.

One thing that really surprises me is that there isn't more clamor among the audio nerds for High Definition audio, like the kind Linn Records and HDTracks sell.
posted by dylanjames at 11:44 PM on January 11, 2010 [4 favorites]


Is there anyone who doesn't know this?

Yes. I've met some of them. They're silly.
posted by chillmost at 11:47 PM on January 11, 2010 [6 favorites]


Even though many audiophiles believe it’s important for audio equipment to respond to frequencies far beyond 20 KHz, in truth there is no need to reproduce ultrasonic content because nobody can hear it

Is this really settled? Because I've met enough people who seem grounded in audio science who aren't sure that I'm not sure.

It's not that I don't believe that most people top out in tone frequency perception around 20k. I'm just not sure that means tone character can't be subtly affected for higher values. For example, one person I've discussed this with theorizes that our perception of initial attacks and sustained frequencies might differ somehow.
posted by weston at 11:54 PM on January 11, 2010


dylanjames, why was that fatal to the Carver Corporation? Sounds as if it should have been a coup.
posted by kenko at 11:58 PM on January 11, 2010


What's weirder is that not only are there people who don't seem to have grasped it, but are angry and aggressive about their magical thinking. There are certain discussion forums where mentioning blind testing, for instance, is banned — because some people regard it as anathema.

I don't get it, but the best I can come up with is that, for some people, the brand name and exotic metals and all the other crap that's in the advertising for some of these snake-oil products ... that's part of the hobby to them. There are people who fetishize the metals that their speaker wires are made out of, and the exotic woods that go into their turntable's anti-vibration mount, and seem to have made a quite conscious decision to ride the placebo effect for all it's worth.

People can be quite clever about defending this stance when pressed, too; I've heard people refer to it as the "holistic" approach to stereo building, I think with a straight face. (But, since it was pre-HAMBURGER, maybe I missed the sarcasm. I can only hope so.)

The audiophile mags court this audience, since there the ones who buy the ridiculously high-margin gear, and it's that gear that buys the advertising that keeps the magazines in business. Hence, you don't see a lot of double-blind A/B testing in Stereophile.

Anyway, this reminds me ... I gotta pick up some new speaker cables next time I'm down at Home Depot.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:02 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah... I'm an engineer, as are my labmates, advisor, and some colleagues. There's quite a few EEs who are into audio (in my research group alone, there's 3 of us who are into building amps).

We mercilessly mock these consumers to no end. Sometimes I really do feel bad for them for wasting so money, but it just gets too absurd, and sadly BrotherCaine is right in saying that it is difficult to convince them otherwise.

Fun story: my advisor used to work at an amp store. They decided to do a double-blind study on the eternal battle between solid state vs. tube* and found that people preferred the tube amps (no surprise here). However, when they introduced a low 60 Hz signal to the solid state amp, people preferred them over the tubes.

*I don't want to start a war here. I certainly believe that the tone characteristics of a vacuum tube are damn near impossible to reproduce in transistors without i.e. a piezo-electric to feed macrocosmic mechanical resonance back into the amp, but that doesn't matter -- in the end, it's all a matter of personal taste.
posted by spiderskull at 12:08 AM on January 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


*I don't want to start a war here. I certainly believe that the tone characteristics of a vacuum tube are damn near impossible to reproduce in transistors without i.e. a piezo-electric to feed macrocosmic mechanical resonance back into the amp, but that doesn't matter -- in the end, it's all a matter of personal taste.

Well, if you go digital there shouldn't be any problem in synthesizing any sound you want.
posted by delmoi at 12:11 AM on January 12, 2010


I won't let you suck me into your web of lies!

Honestly, though, I hope that's a joke. Because there ain't no way you're going to pull off the tube sound digitally. Line6 and Vox have been notoriously chasing this pipe dream for years, and they've got a raft of clever engineers. Tubes just have a certain characteristic that is difficult to mimic because there's a heavy nonlinear physical component.
posted by spiderskull at 12:15 AM on January 12, 2010


Emperically measure the transfer function of a tube power output stage from linear all the way to saturated regime. Code this as a lookup table in a DSP.
posted by Rhomboid at 12:24 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think I read this article thirty years ago.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 12:26 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


The biggest variables in audio quality come from transducers—microphones and loudspeakers that, being mechanical devices, must physically vibrate. When assessing frequency response and distortion, the finest loudspeakers in the world are far worse than the cheapest electronic device. And any room you put the speakers in will exaggerate that already poor response even further.

QFT. The nonlinearities and frequency response deviations of loudspeakers are orders of magnitude higher than those of competent electronics.

The high-end audio world is about as scientifically literate as the creationist movement and the anti-vaccination crowd. I wish I could say otherwise about the pro audio world...

I certainly believe that the tone characteristics of a vacuum tube are damn near impossible to reproduce in transistors without i.e. a piezo-electric to feed macrocosmic mechanical resonance back into the amp, but that doesn't matter -- in the end, it's all a matter of personal taste.

The low-order distortion products from output transformers probably have a fair bit to do with the 'valve sound' too.

On preview:

Emperically measure the transfer function of a tube power output stage from linear all the way to saturated regime. Code this as a lookup table in a DSP.

This might be achievable for the simple nonlinearities. However, the microphonic effects are probably going to be more difficult to model.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 12:33 AM on January 12, 2010


Best "stereo" system I ever had consisted of my dad's almost forty year old solid state Yamaha amp (40 watts aside), running four mis-matched speakers none of which I actually paid for (a beaten up pair of small JBLs I pulled out of a friend's storage locker, and a pair of home made specials an ex-roommate just left behind when he moved out). It wasn't perfect but man was it gooooood!

Marijuana helped as well.
posted by philip-random at 12:42 AM on January 12, 2010 [9 favorites]


I think I read this article thirty years ago.

Yes, but this man knows science-y words, and therefore his wheeling out of LOLAudiophile tropes is science fact and we can laugh at them in a whole new way.

Well, if you go digital there shouldn't be any problem in synthesizing any sound you want.

As soon as you want to hear it, you need a digital-to-analog convertor, and it's amazingly hard to design a circuit to do that. Standard designs consist of producing a distorted signal and then running it through some analog filters to remove the noise. You can't get away from analog.
posted by cillit bang at 12:44 AM on January 12, 2010


If you need the very height of ridiculous audio justification, there is this little gem from a few years back. The reviewer is justifying a $5000 per EIGHT FOOT PAIR of speaker cables:

"Simply put these are very danceable cables. Music playing through them results in the proverbial foot-tapping scene with the need or desire to get up and move. Great swing and pace—these cables smack that right on the nose big time."
posted by lattiboy at 12:48 AM on January 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


If you can't hear the difference between a $5 cable and a $5000 cable, I've got some homeopathic drops that shall fix your hearing right away.
posted by qvantamon at 12:48 AM on January 12, 2010 [24 favorites]


Very interesting article! As a non-audiophile movie buff, this is the part that really jumped out at me:
"Even sillier is the way audio is handled on DVD soundtracks. DVDs accommodate frequencies up to 96 KHz, but then “lossy”data compression— which results in an audible loss in quality—is often needed to make it fit!"
Is this true? 'Cause it sounds nutty that the studios or whoever would put in all that extra data, then compress it to fit on the DVD. It kind of makes the whole idea of home theater pointless, at least audio wise.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:52 AM on January 12, 2010


I met a guy who claimed that he could hear a difference in audio quality between cables carrying DIGITAL SIGNALS - DUH !

Another friend conducted blind listening tests at Philips research, using CD, record, tape, and "super" hi-fi... one of these audiophiles, (who claimed to have golden ears) picked the cheap tape deck as the best.

If you look on line you can find the limits of human hearing under ideal conditions... it's far below what you would expect.
posted by Dren at 12:52 AM on January 12, 2010


As soon as you want to hear it, you need a digital-to-analog convertor, and it's amazingly hard to design a circuit to do that.

It really isn't these days.

Standard designs consist of producing a distorted signal and then running it through some analog filters to remove the noise.

Standard designs consist of producing an unfiltered signal, doing the important filtering in the digital domain, then doing the trivial bit in analogue. It isn't 1985 anymore.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 12:58 AM on January 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'm not going to get sucked into this again, but all you audiophile haters, do one thing for me. Take any three non-identical stereos, place them in adjacent rooms, and hook them up to the same source, using long RCA cables and Y-splitters. Make it tidy enough that you can live with it for a week or two. Play your Ipod, your radio, even your TV through them, all together, as you go about your daily routine, and as you move from room to room.

Tell me if you don't at some point, when you walk into another room while you are listening to something enjoyable, say something to your self like, "whoa there's a harmonica on in this room and not in the others." When you go back to check the other rooms, you'll hear that, yes, the harmonica is there if you listen for it. But not so that you would have noticed it, or enjoyed it like you did in the other room.

What would it take, you might wonder, to have one stereo that cold get what all three could, and probably a whole lot more since these were just whatever we had lying around.

To generalize, we want powered transducers that can shine a light into each of these holes in the audio spectrum, where the music could be hiding. Maybe there's something like 50, as say, minor third intervals, each of which could contain a melodic figure simultaneously performed by a different instrument, so a tall order there. On top of that, the room acoustics can alter the contribution of a particular sound by the hundreds of percent, equivalent to the most extreme fog and glare.

If you really wanted to make a dent in the project of providing a perceptually complete audio gamut with clear and accurate recreation, there on site, of these very rich waveforms, then you have in fact committed to some kind of science project.

For all but the super rich, it's more practical DIY to attend to 1000 tiny tweaks that each may improve the sound by .1%, than to shell out for a piece of super-gear that improves some metric by 30%, before the foreclosure mandates selling off the whole system.

So there is a culture of the little tweak, and that's why some people are susceptible to certain sales tactics. There is also the other culture of brandishing items purely because of their exorbitance, and those people do deserve to be mocked.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:03 AM on January 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


The marketing group at a company I used to work for came up with the marketing term "digital quality" for the quality of media delivered on the product. I still haven't figured out what they meant by digital quality.
posted by brando_calrissian at 1:06 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is this true? 'Cause it sounds nutty that the studios or whoever would put in all that extra data, then compress it to fit on the DVD."

It's not dumb at all. Think of it as the difference between an uncompressed 1 megapixel image vs a JPEG-compressed 10 megapixel image. Even though the JPEG algorithm adds some distortion, the latter is still infinitely preferable.
posted by cillit bang at 1:06 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Emperically measure the transfer function of a tube power output stage from linear all the way to saturated regime. Code this as a lookup table in a DSP.

As you correctly acknowledge, the tube doesn't just fail out of range, it continuously rolls off, into yet another transfer function. There is nothing to say these different functions have simple inter-relations, they probably have all kinds of harmonic beat patterns. You're going to end up with more look-up tables than sound samples that you need to correct.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:16 AM on January 12, 2010


Even though many audiophiles believe it’s important for audio equipment to respond to frequencies far beyond 20 KHz, in truth there is no need to reproduce ultrasonic content because nobody can hear it

that's not true

---

I'm not going to get sucked into this again, but all you audiophile haters, do one thing for me. Take any three non-identical stereos

stereos? - no, you take a mixer - or a computer with a good interface, and hook up a couple of monitor speakers

this is what recording studios do - they're the ones who are making, mixing and mastering the music, why aren't they using this so called audiophile equipment to do so? - and if they aren't, how can the audiophiles be said to be getting "better" sound than the equipment used to record, mix and master the music?

it's a load of crap - if this stuff really did what it said, professional audio engineers would be lined up at the door to buy it - but they aren't - sweetwater's, or sam ash, or guitar center, or even higher level pro audio stores would be selling it - but they aren't

you can go on and believe the people who listen to music - i'm believing the people who RECORD it
posted by pyramid termite at 1:19 AM on January 12, 2010 [18 favorites]


stereos? - no, you take a mixer - or a computer with a good interface, and hook up a couple of monitor speakers

You missed my point. Yes I have a pair of Auratones, that I can switch in to show how they used to mix for car radios, but it is in fact the amp and preamp comparison that will surprise you most with how the music is different, and in some cases whole instruments are missing. Use three different mixers, two. I did this accidentally a long time ago, and I got led down a really long and sometimes rewarding path.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:29 AM on January 12, 2010


Can't we all just get along by mocking people who buy Bose speakers?
posted by qvantamon at 1:32 AM on January 12, 2010 [16 favorites]


that's not true

All your link does is support the notion that sampled systems have limited bandwidth. It says nothing about how that bandwidth relates to the human auditory system.

this is what recording studios do - they're the ones who are making, mixing and mastering the music, why aren't they using this so called audiophile equipment to do so?

A lot of the good ones do. Abbey Road uses N801s, for example. Have a look at the monitoring systems in the serious mastering rooms- you'll find B&W, Legacy, Dunlavy, Eggleston etc.

For all the pseudoscientific bullshit prevalent in the high-end hifi world, there are a few companies out there doing real science and engineering. You tend to find their stuff in the mastering studios and the orchestral recording world. There are also some pro speakers that I'd love to have in my living room- ATC and PMC come to mind.

Can't we all just get along by mocking people who buy Bose speakers?

Seconded.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 1:38 AM on January 12, 2010


I know professional audio engineers, indeed celebrated recording artists, who choose not to go down that path, because they don't want to become seduced by an element that they know most of their fans will not be able to access. Then you have, say the Flood produced Bad Seeds albums, and you really feel gratitude for the engineers that came through for us, it can't have been easy.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:39 AM on January 12, 2010


that's not true ... All your link does is support the notion that ...

Would someone please provide that link with all the psychophysics that proves you can hear those frequencies? Than you.


posted by StickyCarpet at 1:42 AM on January 12, 2010


"if you go digital there shouldn't be any problem in synthesizing any sound you want."

Um, no.
posted by bardic at 1:45 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


if you go digital there shouldn't be any problem in synthesizing any opera singer you want.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:58 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's not that I don't believe that most people top out in tone frequency perception around 20k. I'm just not sure that means tone character can't be subtly affected for higher values. For example, one person I've discussed this with theorizes that our perception of initial attacks and sustained frequencies might differ somehow.

That's not the real pseudoscience. Think about people selling special fibre-optic cables for TOSlinks that purport to improve the character of the audio in subtle ways. IT'S FUCKING DIGITAL YOU FUCKING RUBES, EITHER LIGHT TRANSMITS WITH NO UNCORRECTABLE ERRORS OR IT DOESN'T, QUIT BUYING THAT SHIT!

Unfortunately the public reward this. NAD are one of the mid-range audio outfits that still give reasonably honest amplification stats for their amps (i.e. numbers based off giving decent, non-distorted amplificiation for sustained periods of time). It doesn't have the sex appeal of BIGGER AMP NUMBERS, even if those numbers can only be realised by making your music sound like shit. Everyone in the cheap end of the market, and most people in the mid part of the market quote bullshit stats because it sells easier than trying to educate people about what the numbers really mean.
posted by rodgerd at 1:59 AM on January 12, 2010


Now is the time to remind you all of the $485 volume knob. Alas, it is no longer on sale.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:06 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Would someone please provide that link with all the psychophysics that proves you can hear those frequencies?

If you accept that distortion increases as you approach the limits of the system (something that's very true of sampling), then it should be bleeding obvious that having a system that has limits far beyond the audible range is better than having a system that can only just render a 20KHz tone. It's not about whether you can "hear those frequencies".
posted by cillit bang at 2:16 AM on January 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


My favorites are the audiophile power cables that somehow make any component to which they're connected sound amazing. Never mind the mile of plain copper between the local substation and your house, just add this $4000 conductor to your setup and "the clearer you can get to the essence of music." Now with free shipping!

As a professional live and recording audio engineer who also teaches a Sound Design course for the local University, I love failing students who parrot this nonsense. Pyramid Termite is spot on; if any of these ridiculously overpriced "holistic" approaches actually resulted in perceivable improvements, professional engineers would be the first to justify the expense. In my opinion, audiophiles do to audio what pedophiles do to eight year olds.
posted by johnnyace at 2:18 AM on January 12, 2010 [11 favorites]


If you accept that distortion increases as you approach the limits of the system (something that's very true of sampling)

What type of distortion are you referring to?
posted by the duck by the oboe at 2:21 AM on January 12, 2010


Not meaning to denigrate Mr. Winer (he freely offers good advice on sound reproduction elsewhere, and I have read much of what he has to say), but he is not the end all of aquired knowledge on sound reproduction, and several other folks who also have things to sell disagree with him.

If you were to place a person in an anechoic chamber with a perfect sound reproduction, they would be aghast at what they heard. Even if the sound were measurably perfect, the sound is unnatural. The reflections of a room, the sense of space, etc. are just as much a part of the listening experience, and not really represented in ideas like frequency response, im distortion, etc.

Further, my own hearing is far from perfect, with plenty of peaks and valleys from congregating with other loud music enthusiast. Even if something were reproduced with a ruler flat frequency response, it wouldn't sound that way to me. My preference is going to be towards something that accommodates the peculiarities of my own hearing.

And most of the other concerns raised and been covered elsewhere before, so it's not like Mr. Winer is saying anything new, and as others have pointed out, there are areas where he is flat out wrong.

But there does seem to be a certain smugness in pointing out some of the foibles people display toward audio gear, as opposed to other more common triumphs of of marketing that people are vulnerable to (is a BMW really that much better than a Honda? $20,000 more better? Do tell...)


this is what recording studios do - they're the ones who are making, mixing and mastering the music, why aren't they using this so called audiophile equipment to do so? - and if they aren't, how can the audiophiles be said to be getting "better" sound than the equipment used to record, mix and master the music?


One common misconception of recording studios is that they are geared towards perfect audio reproduction. This couldn't be further from the truth. Your basic set of studio monitors are basically an amalgamation of the worst tv speakers to the very best speakers money can buy, as the final mix must sound good to decent on all of them. Not to mention the uniqueness of each recording space has it's own set of problems that sometimes help or hinder the recording and all the oddball stories you hear of unconventional methods being used to get a certain sound... the final mix of several recordings is often judged on a car stereo.
posted by quintessencesluglord at 2:30 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


most people in the mid part of the market quote bullshit stats because it sells easier than trying to educate people about what the numbers really mean.

Few things aren't easier than trying to educate people about what the numbers really mean.

Still waiting for that paper, it'll be here soon. The acousticians are now seen as being a little naive with all this testing with sin wave beeps. The higher frequencies are helpful in fleshing out the acuity of the middle frequencies, especially the airy phase relationships. If you can hear 20HZ, and you can localize it in space due to changing phase relationships, then you are resolving above 20HZ.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:33 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


20KHZ
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:37 AM on January 12, 2010


Dren: “If you look on line you can find the limits of human hearing under ideal conditions... it's far below what you would expect.”

For most people. Most people have desensitized their ears because of the crap that passes for recording quality these days. The human ear is capable of more than you know, and if you really think the human ear isn't able to distinguish sound very well I don't know why you listen to music at all.

pyramid termite: “stereos? - no, you take a mixer - or a computer with a good interface, and hook up a couple of monitor speakers ... this is what recording studios do - they're the ones who are making, mixing and mastering the music, why aren't they using this so called audiophile equipment to do so?”

Most recording engineers don't know shit about good sound quality, so they're a pretty bad benchmark to aim for.

delmoi: “Well, if you go digital there shouldn't be any problem in synthesizing any sound you want.”

All digital sound becomes analog at some point before it hits the ear.

Both sides of this argument are stupid. Yeah, the mystical audiophiles who somehow goad their wives into a third mortgage so they can afford the latest brushed-steel shite are fools, but so are you hoards of jerkoffs who spend all day telling me I'm an idiot because I can hear the difference between an mp3 and vinyl. Yes: I spent about $3000 putting together my sound system, in the space of two years; I did it piece by piece, and I built a lot of it by hand, including the turntable. I spent time finding the right needle and cartridge, the right tonearm, the right preamp and amplifier and all the rest. I worked on a principle of "verifiable quality," a principle every audiophile should adhere to: that is, if you can get that part with just as high a standard of quality from a catalog from Japan, fucking do it; and don't shell out until you've checked. There's nothing better than copper wire; so don't lots of spend money on wiring, just make sure the stuff is high enough grade and wind and wrap it your damned self.

Speakers - hearing people talk about speakers pisses me off more than anything else. All speakers are not the same - there are an infinite number of factors that go into making a speaker good or bad, not just the impedance but the inner architecture, the acoustic chamber or lack thereof, the delicate balance of the crossovers, and a billion other things. Not to mention the fact that speakers mean nothing outside the context of a room. And this in particular is why listening to mystical audiophiles talk about speakers pisses me off until I want to choke them – because they spend all this money, top dollar, for speakers that were made in a room two thousand miles away by a guy who had never seen their living room in his life, and probably never will. The fact is that I've hear $10,000 speakers that sounded like shit – probably not because they were shit, but because they were built for the owner of the company's living room, not for the room they were in. That's damned important, and everybody ignores it, as though it's simply not important. It's like a whole market for extremely fancy and expensive shoes that cost $10,000 a pair, but the shoes only come in size 8 1/2.

Audiophiles used to be awesome. They used to be the coolest fucking badass geeks that walked the planet; they knew they were, even if nobody else did, and that was enough. Rudy Van Gelder was a skinny little white kid from New Jersey who lived with his mom. That skinny little white kid was an audio genius; so people like fucking Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, and Thelonius Monk used to come out and visit that kid at his mom's house in Jersey on Sundays just so that he would record them playing. Audiophiles were awesome people.

What happened to audio? The same goddamned thing that happened to sports cars. They got turned into a luxury market intended to give the super-rich something pointless to spend their extra cash on. When the MacLaren F1 came out, you couldn't get one with a stereo in it – you had to have a guy put one in, because that wasn't the point of a MacLaren F1. The point of a MacLaren F1 was to go fast, not to feel like you're the slickest, most sexy douchebag in the world while you're gliding down roads stroking your perm. Now they make these fancy-ass fucking cars, all with the finest stereos and super-premium leather seats and air conditioning and all this pointless shit. That's not the point of a sports car, jerkoffs. Time was you could get a Porsche or an Alfa Romeo that was awesome-fast, but didn't have anything more than cloth seats and a heater that blew air up from the engine if you were cold, for not too much money; but car companies caught on that if you make it super-premium and charge $200,000, even if you kill the market of people who like sports cars for their true purpose - to go fast - you'll hook in the stupid rich, and therefore make more money. The same thing happened to audio.

The purpose of audiophilia is to reproduce perfect sound. This is an impossible task, but it can be approximated. It is an art based on a science; it takes skill, ingenuity, endless inventiveness, and a willingness to dig into stuff most people would be frightened to touch. A real audiophile doesn't buy that new set of speakers because he read a review that said they were tops; a real audiophile builds a set of speakers to his own specifications to perfectly match the room he listens in. A real audiophile has taken apart every piece of his setup and knows how it works; he knows the impedance at every point, he knows what the decibel level should be in the center of the room, and he knows how to make the treble just a little brighter. That's the kind of audiophile I'd like to be, and all you haters with your iPods and your Sony CD players telling me I'm a delusional idiot for thinking that perfect sound is worth pursuing can suck it. This shit is awesome, and I don't give a crap what anybody else thinks about it.
posted by koeselitz at 2:45 AM on January 12, 2010 [38 favorites]


Paging Daniel Rutter...
posted by Splunge at 2:51 AM on January 12, 2010


quintessencesluglord: “One common misconception of recording studios is that they are geared towards perfect audio reproduction. This couldn't be further from the truth. Your basic set of studio monitors are basically an amalgamation of the worst tv speakers to the very best speakers money can buy, as the final mix must sound good to decent on all of them. Not to mention the uniqueness of each recording space has it's own set of problems that sometimes help or hinder the recording and all the oddball stories you hear of unconventional methods being used to get a certain sound... the final mix of several recordings is often judged on a car stereo.”

A bigger misconception of recording studios is that they aren't usually shit. They are. But I guarantee you that Kim Deal didn't mix Mountain Battles on car-stereo level speakers. The guys from Karate actually built their own amplifiers; do you think they wouldn't look at the speakers hooked up to the board before they start mixing? Lots of recording studios are shit, but there are people who care about such things and pursue excellence.
posted by koeselitz at 2:51 AM on January 12, 2010


Regarding the 20khz thing... CDs sample at 44khz, in order to be able to represent 22khz waveforms - the upper peak and lower peak of each wave, hence double the number.

When I first learned this, it instantly occurred to me that, in that case, when you've got a 22 khz sound, CDs are only able to represent it as a square wave - up, down, up, down. If you've got a 20khz sound, it seems to me you might be getting interference patterns occurring as the samples line up then miss the peaks in the audio. So I can completely justify thoughts that reproduction up to 20khz may not be sufficient to deliver the full quality of music.

However - I do most of my listening through 160kbps mp3s on an iPod through $15 bud earphones, and I'm quite happy with that, so in practice I'm not going to let this bother me.
posted by Jimbob at 2:52 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


The acousticians are now seen as being a little naive with all this testing with sin wave beeps.

What acousticians are doing that? The ones I work with have been using MLSSA for many years. It's a hell of a lot more sophisticated than doing third octave sweeps or whatever.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 2:54 AM on January 12, 2010


Here's an interesting question. What if they really *are* hearing better audio because of the placebo effect? Like people who have actually reduced pain after taking something they thought was a pain drug. What would it even mean to have psychosomatically improved hearing? Is there an objective measure of hearing?
posted by DU at 3:02 AM on January 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


doing the important filtering in the digital domain, then doing the trivial bit in analogue. It isn't 1985 anymore.

Sorry it's a patent, but check the references, and the techniques involved: (sorry, linking broken for me now)

http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=TLUjAAAAEBAJ&dq=5587711

Then realise that the stuff referenced there is happening in Euclidean geometry. To find a fractional value, just that fractional distance. Pitched audio, however is a concatenation of harmonic frequencies, and Fletcher-Munson pointed out that half way between two frequencies is not the middle. And it's different for each pair of frequencies, so now when you want to calculate those interpolations between audio loudness samples the middle point has some complicated relationship with the pitches expressed. Please memail this pamphlet explaining how trivial it is.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:04 AM on January 12, 2010


Yes - there's obviously an objective measure of hearing. The measure is: if you can actually identify factually present parts of the recording, then you're improving your hearing of it. You can't just hand-wave and say that it's better without actually having heard anything more from what you're listening to.
posted by koeselitz at 3:05 AM on January 12, 2010


Regarding the 20khz thing... CDs sample at 44khz, in order to be able to represent 22khz waveforms - the upper peak and lower peak of each wave, hence double the number.

When I first learned this, it instantly occurred to me that, in that case, when you've got a 22 khz sound, CDs are only able to represent it as a square wave - up, down, up, down. If you've got a 20khz sound, it seems to me you might be getting interference patterns occurring as the samples line up then miss the peaks in the audio.


This is not how sampled systems work. The things that would make a signals 'square waves- up, down' are the out-of-band components that are removed by the anti-aliasing filter. Sampling theory is somewhat counterintuitive.

A signal or function is bandlimited if it contains no energy at frequencies higher than some bandlimit or bandwidth B. A signal that is bandlimited is constrained in how rapidly it changes in time, and therefore how much detail it can convey in an interval of time. The sampling theorem asserts that the uniformly spaced discrete samples are a complete representation of the signal if this bandwidth is less than half the sampling rate.


This stuff has been proven beyond doubt.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 3:12 AM on January 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


The Carver challenge was a fascinating read. Thanks for the link, dylanjames!
posted by Termite at 3:17 AM on January 12, 2010


Agreed about the Carver challenge. Great story.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:22 AM on January 12, 2010


Machine Dynamica. Do they have a comprehensive system for tuning the room and audio system based on special physical properties of highly symmetrical crystal structures? They do. Do they have a turntable base which corrects for everyday low level microseismic type vibration. Yes. Do they have electrical outlet covers which produce a remarkable degree of focus, fullness, detail and presence? Yes, but sadly only in duplex.
posted by bendybendy at 3:37 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here's a nice affordable amp, bet that thing sounds good. Good to know that the uniformly spaced discrete samples are a complete representation of the signal if this bandwidth is less than half the sampling rate. Here's that amp emitting a 10 KHZ square wave, and doing it's best to imitate a complete representation.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:49 AM on January 12, 2010


In my 20s I dabbled with audiophilia, but at some point in the past (a few house moves, failed equipment that I didn't get round to replacing, having more pressing things to do) I've slipped back into the "couldn't care less" mentality. I now mostly listen to middling-quality MP3s through my PC speakers.

Part of it was the sheer effort it took to just listen to music - finding a time when I had an hour or two free to just sit in my near-empty living room without being disturbed, when I could raise the volume a little without upsetting my neighbours.

And part of it was realising that there is no 'objective' sound. I mean, the musicians made some sounds. Each of those musicians, and every other person in the studio, heard something subtly different. The music was recorded and mixed according to someone's personal taste or their idea of how it would best play on the radio or through cheap or expensive equipment. And then you listen to it, with no handle whatsoever on how it truly sounded to someone who was 'there'. All you can really do at that point it optimise the listening experience for you. At which point you're reduced to tweaking your audio equipment to get exactly what you want from each particular recording you own. You can't really even try to create a perfect match between what's on the recording and what you perceive, because hearing is such an odd, imprecise, unmeasurable thing.

On a more emotional level, it's just that I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. I came to a realisation that, for me, it's the lyrics, the melody, the complex emotions of a song or instrumental that give it substance. Perhaps if I were really into symphonic music, the way the characteristics of individual instruments are conveyed would be more important. I don't know, because at the moment that's not the music I'm enjoying. I'm just happier being able to take my music everywhere with me and enjoy it outside the narrow confines of a darkened room.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 3:54 AM on January 12, 2010 [11 favorites]


Audiophilia is worse than mere magical thinking. In fact, it's long been diagnosed as clinical neurosis.

"Most [audiophiles] are middle-aged, male, and intelligent. They rarely play any musical instrument well themselves. The hi-fi devotee, Dr. Bowes found, is very frequently of compulsive personality, and tends to go through rituals in the playing of his recordings."

I should also mention that audio enthusiasts don't bother me one bit (such as koeselitz and others above, judging by their rational, informed responses), but self-proclaimed audiophiles who eschew critical thinking in favor of suggestibility earn no respect from me.

The sheer amount of audiophile misinformation available is staggering, but to choose just one example, there are those who believe that ripping a CD and then burning it to a black-colored CD-R results in audio quality that "will sound noticeably, even significantly better, rendering the original discs unlistenable by comparison." This is the kind of "audiophilia" I will not tolerate.
posted by johnnyace at 3:59 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


you can't fool me. my cd's TOTALLY sound better if i color the edges with green magic marker!
posted by rmd1023 at 4:07 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


StickyCarpet: “Here's a nice affordable amp, bet that thing sounds good. Good to know that the uniformly spaced discrete samples are a complete representation of the signal if this bandwidth is less than half the sampling rate. Here's that amp emitting a 10 KHZ square wave, and doing it's best to imitate a complete representation.”

I say this as an audiophile: transistor amplifiers work much, much better than tube amplifiers, and at a fraction of the cost. This might not have been true thirty years ago, when transistors weren't built to the same specifications and had a lot of variance in quality; but there's absolutely no reason to use a tube amplifier for audio reproduction today.

Tubes are just a relic of audiophile mysticism. And at that price, I'll bet the connections are all crap. Sorry, but I'm not buying a little toy just because it has some arcane steampunk-looking bulbs on top that don't improve the sound of it whatsoever over comparable systems that are much higher in quality.

Plus, it's a lot more fun to build transistor circuits than it is to wire tube circuits.
posted by koeselitz at 4:08 AM on January 12, 2010


... and, like I said, StickyCarpet, I say that as a guy who spent two years and $3000 building his stereo system. You're not fooling me with this tube trash. There is nothing "warmer" or "more organic" about the sound that tubes produce. There simply isn't. I've never heard it, and I'm one who's actually listened to $10,000 systems and paid attention to them.
posted by koeselitz at 4:10 AM on January 12, 2010


Possibly the least-helpful Metafilter thread ever.
posted by jock@law at 4:18 AM on January 12, 2010 [8 favorites]


posted by StickyCarpet at 1:42 AM -

"Would someone please provide that link with all the psychophysics that proves you can hear those frequencies? Than you."

I can no longer hear the 'Mosquito Ring Tone'. I can hear a click when the mp3 starts and stops - but that's it. In fact, above 14k I'm deaf.

My son, however, pounded into the room when I was trying this out on my computer with the volume turned up all the way, hands over his ears. HE could hear it, no problem.

(Of course, he's 11, but... hmmm. This would make a great wakeup for those mornings he doesn't want to get ready for school...)

It depends on how you've treated your ears over the years, and your own physiology. I'm tending to side on the 'above 20k it doesn't matter' side, myself.
posted by JB71 at 4:34 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good to know that the uniformly spaced discrete samples are a complete representation of the signal if this bandwidth is less than half the sampling rate. Here's that amp emitting a 10 KHZ square wave, and doing it's best to imitate a complete representation.

I'm not sure if I'm misunderstanding you, but you do know that a 10kHz square wave does not by any stretch of the imagination have a 10kHz bandwidth, right? Given that, I'm not sure what this is supposed to prove.
posted by teraflop at 4:41 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can we do expensive wine vs. cheap wine in a blind test next?
posted by fixedgear at 4:59 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the days of my first Dyna gear and my first Fender Bassman amp (hint, ca. 13 years old) to now, when I am in the midst of buying an $8000 surround cinema system for my department and plug my telecaster into a solid-state Fender amp (but running through a high end DSP), I have always been amazed at all this foolishness. As a musician with highly tuned and trained ears developed over a lifetime of close listening, I call bullshit on 90 percent of claims to be able to hear differences between tube and solid state, between expensive and cheap wiring, between gold plated connectors and plain old tin, on claims that 96KHz really "sounds better" than 44KHz recording, and on and on. In fact I doubt most people can here the difference between a high bitrate mp3 and an uncompressed track played over the same equipment (it's there, but it's not easily distinguished if the mp3 was compressed properly from a good source). And as a guitarist, I really call bullshit on the tube fetish, even though half my friends believe in it. I can make my rig sound like any amplifier ever made with my DSP gear, and I do not believe most listeners could tell blindfolded. The sound of vacuum tubes is not -- I repeat not -- recognizable to the vast majority of listeners when compared to a decent DSP modeling of the same amp. I doubt it's recognizable even to musician tube-fetishists in most cases.

I've been messing with audio gear all my life, building amps, tearing them down, modding them, custom wiring guitars, etc. I made my living as a musician for a decade, including hundreds of hours in recording studios, and as a music professor now. (And despite all the loud music, I can still hear steady tones up to 21KHz, well). If I can't hear the difference, I don't believe it's there.

Blind test everything before you buy. Do not let the price or the fancy specs or the pretty blue lights fool you. The quality of cheapo consumer electronics now is better than the quality of audiophile-grade gear of a generation ago. I'm about to buy an $1000 solid-state Denon AV receiver (3100) that sounds better than any separate amp, tube or transistor, that I've ever owned (and that's got to be at least 3 or 4 dozen by now). Polk speakers that cost $400 a pair sound better to me than anything else under $1000 a pair.

I believe there is a quality scale, but it's both much more compressed and much less related to price than audiophiles like to admit.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:06 AM on January 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Okay. So let's assume I am an average middle-class SINK American looking for a pair of headphones under $150 that don't require batteries and will let me hear things clearly and block out outside noise. Since buying the Bose Triports would make me an absolute buffoon, what should I get? Assume I'm buying from Radio Shack or the Apple Store (the two closest places I know of to buy headphones).
posted by jock@law at 5:09 AM on January 12, 2010


There is nothing "warmer" or "more organic" about the sound that tubes produce.

I haven't listened to a tube amp in my adult life, but it seems pretty well-accepted among the actual audio science crowd that there is a difference. I saw an explanation that solid state electronics produce even harmonics of the original signal, and that tubes produce odd harmonics, and for whatever reason, people prefer the odd harmonics. And this is apparently true even though the tubes produce a LOT more distortion than the transistor amps.

For my own critical music listening, I use a pair of Sennheiser HD600s, driven by a Total Bithead (an inexpensive headphone amp), driven by the headphone output of a Squeezebox. This offers unreal sound quality, to the point that I can't imagine ever doing much better. Total cost: about $700, and as far as I'm concerned, the music listening problem is solved forever. Well, until something breaks, anyway.
posted by Malor at 5:16 AM on January 12, 2010


jock@law: the Sennheiser HD280s are very well-regarded in that space. They're about $90. You can get them at Amazon.
posted by Malor at 5:18 AM on January 12, 2010


fourcheesemac: “I believe there is a quality scale, but it's both much more compressed and much less related to price than audiophiles like to admit.”

Yes. And I think it's even more important to note that the quality scale is vastly more related to art than to price.

To take your example: I agree that you can get Polk speakers for $400 that sound better than most $800 speakers. But even above and beyond that fact, the Polks are generally only better because they have better cabinets, and because they're set in those cabinets in a more balanced and acoustically correct way. So that it'd be possible to buy cones and magnets for even less than that and build a set of speakers for around $100, taking the room into consideration while you're doing it, that sound better than even $4000 speakers that come prebuilt.

I am continually surprised that more people don't do this.
posted by koeselitz at 5:19 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, if you go digital there shouldn't be any problem in synthesizing any sound you want.

and add in all kinds of error which comes from A to D and D to A conversion. Digital is another panacea foisted on the consumer. "If it is digital it must be better."

Even though many audiophiles believe it’s important for audio equipment to respond to frequencies far beyond 20 KHz, in truth there is no need to reproduce ultrasonic content because nobody can hear it

The human body is more complicated than that and the science is still not all worked out. For instance we apparently also hear with our skin. Some cocky audio engineers go on and on about how the high frequencies don't matter because most adults can't hear the tone test above 15 kHz or so. Nevertheless, some less cocky scientists have done actual studies, as opposed to just making assumptions. The studies show that taking out the high frequency component of music, above the technical threshold of human hearing, negatively affects the listener's perception of the music. Just because we don't yet understand why does not make it untrue. The engineers who make unsupported assumptions are no different than the audiophiles who want to believe in magic.
posted by caddis at 5:29 AM on January 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


I remember years ago a magazine did a story on how professional musicians -- mostly millionaire rockers, like Sting -- listened to music. Almost all of them listened through crappy, widely available, rinky dinky little boom boxes and the like. To me, this pointed out a difference in what people are looking for when they listen to music. I mean, a vast majority of recorded sound throughout history has been badly recorded, badly mixed, and presented through terrible playback systems -- most of the music I grew up listening to came from AM radio stations where things like sun spots could really mess with the sound. Culture is transmitted badly, and, for a lot of people, that's fine -- it's sort of amazing how few people can tell you the lyrics of their favorite song, and, when they find out, are sort of surprised (I'm guilty of this too -- I only recently realized Immigrant Song was about Vikings.)

Audiophiles seem to take pleasure in nuances of sound that other miss, or don't care about, or don't mind having to work extra hard for. And more power to them -- whatever makes you happy. What chaps my hide now and then is when audiophiles insist that this is the preferable way to listen to music. It's a way, and, if you're looking to hear music in a certain way, probably a good way. But listening to old cowboy songs on am radio back in the 70s on a long road trip to Colorado was a pretty good way too.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:31 AM on January 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


Malor: “I haven't listened to a tube amp in my adult life, but it seems pretty well-accepted among the actual audio science crowd that there is a difference. I saw an explanation that solid state electronics produce even harmonics of the original signal, and that tubes produce odd harmonics, and for whatever reason, people prefer the odd harmonics. And this is apparently true even though the tubes produce a LOT more distortion than the transistor amps.”

I think that this was probably true even within the last twenty years; but I have to say that I've seen stuff that convinced me otherwise. Anyone can disagree with me, but the transistor-based amplifiers I've heard are so good that I really can't believe that anybody would hear a discernible difference. Moreover, I think you're right that the distortion can be pleasing to human ears; but I don't want a stereo system that's pleasing to human ears. (I'm only going to listen to my Fall records anyway.) I want a system that accurately reproduces sound. Transistors do that better.

“For my own critical music listening, I use a pair of Sennheiser HD600s, driven by a Total Bithead (an inexpensive headphone amp), driven by the headphone output of a Squeezebox. This offers unreal sound quality, to the point that I can't imagine ever doing much better. Total cost: about $700, and as far as I'm concerned, the music listening problem is solved forever. Well, until something breaks, anyway.”

Sennheisers are great, and they're one of those companies that emerged a decade ago in the practical-Audiophile market as making really great stuff for really good prices. Another I can recommend is Grado; I use their cartridges, and they make a fantastic line of headphones that are very similar to Sennheiser's in price and quality. In fact...

jock@law: “Okay. So let's assume I am an average middle-class SINK American looking for a pair of headphones under $150 that don't require batteries and will let me hear things clearly and block out outside noise. Since buying the Bose Triports would make me an absolute buffoon, what should I get? Assume I'm buying from Radio Shack or the Apple Store (the two closest places I know of to buy headphones).”

As an option so that you have two to choose from, in addition to the Sennheiser HD-280s that Malor recommended, jock@law, I'd also recommend the Grado SR80s, which are available for a comparable price. Personally I actually prefer the Grados, but they're both very high-calibre headphones for a very good price.
posted by koeselitz at 5:36 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Whoops, didn't see that you wanted to block sound with them. Since the Sennheisers are closed-cup, and the Grados are open-air, the Sennheisers will work better for sound blocking, jock@law.
posted by koeselitz at 5:38 AM on January 12, 2010


I am continually surprised that more people don't do this.

Well, what do you expect from hoards of jerkoffs?
posted by Splunge at 5:39 AM on January 12, 2010


I am continually surprised that more people don't do this.

I live in a NYC apartment. If I had a wood shop in the garage, I would.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:40 AM on January 12, 2010


OK, I'll be the one: as someone who knows next to nothing about this, and has never bothered to buy any even remotely fancy audio gubbins of any sort... what's wrong with Bose speakers (or the people who buy Bose speakers)?

Just idly wondering - I've always been fairly impressed by the sound quality from them any time I've been in their presence. Not in a "OMG I can hear the sound of the bassist's hair moving" sort of way, just... you know, pretty good sound. Are they actually shit, or overpriced, or is it just that people who buy them are kind of dicks?
posted by flashboy at 5:41 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had a really high end stereo once, and went the whole hog with the super-premium cables and components. I found the sound of my breathing impinged on the quality on my hearing experience, so I would hold my breath while listening to music.

I trained for some weeks and managed to hold my breath for two minutes and forty-eight seconds, and sold my music collection accordingly so I could invest in only music tracks under that length of time.

My favourite song was "Taxman" by The Beatles. Long enough to really savour the harmonies and just short enough before the headrush and ringing in my ears started.

Alas, a lifelong love of unfiltered Botswanan cigarettes meant that for some time I have been unable to listen to anything but a few bars at a time and I have, reluctantly, retired my stereo and tend now to spend my time watching repeats of the Flying Doctors on TV.

You can mock audiophiles and their dedication to fidelity, but I applaud the dedication involved to rise above the tyranny of hiss and crackle. Have you luddites ever considered they might just have a better sense of hearing than so-called sound engineers?
posted by MuffinMan at 5:45 AM on January 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


The "warmth" of vacuum tubes is, as the article points out, simply "distortion." A digital synthesis of any distortion effect you can imagine is easily possible.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:47 AM on January 12, 2010


Also, back in my studio days, we would routinely listen to our mixes on car stereos, boom boxes, and cheap shelf systems before committing to what we were hearing in the nearfield monitors.

Much music is actually engineered to sound best on cheap equipment. Deal with it, h8ters.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:48 AM on January 12, 2010


Sorry, fcm. Didn't mean to be insulty - I totally agree with you, it's silly that people act as though you have to pay $1000 to have good speakers.

flashboy: “Just idly wondering - I've always been fairly impressed by the sound quality from them any time I've been in their presence. Not in a "OMG I can hear the sound of the bassist's hair moving" sort of way, just... you know, pretty good sound. Are they actually shit, or overpriced, or is it just that people who buy them are kind of dicks?”

First, the components are really subpar - parts you wouldn't see in Radio Shack gear. Which is just how slick their marketing machine is. Second, a lot of the 'neat sound' that most people get the impression of from Bose equipment comes from their stringent marketing, which is done in pretty underhanded ways - they're always boosting the bass and the treble so you'll go 'ooh, sounds dynamic,' unless you really listen closely - but the trick is that any system will sound that way if you boost the top and the bottom.

As a first-hand experiment of how Bose works, go into any Best Buy or what-have-you that sells their stuff and wander into the Bose section. I guarantee that, if you check, you'll find that the Bose equipment, the controls for the dynamics especially, are very curiously under glass so that nobody 'testing' them can actually modify that dynamic preset they've put on it. They keep you from doing this because they know: if somebody pumps up the treble and it sounds tinny, people will associate Bose with 'tinny sound.' It's really a marketing ploy, and they're very good at it - you'll notice that all of their displays are generally locked-down and very carefully arranged, and since they're always next to displays of electronics that can be fiddled with and fooled with, they always come off looking better than they are.

This is to hide the fact that you could buy gear of the same calibre for about a quarter of the price. Literally a quarter of the price. It used to be more like a tenth of the price, but Bose has increased their quality in the last ten years.

It's just a waste of money, that's all.
posted by koeselitz at 5:50 AM on January 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


I find Grado gear inconsistent. The same model can vary from unit to unit, in significant ways. I am not sure why that is.

Most musicians I know use Sony MDR-V6s for their under-100-bucks cans. I do too. Rugged as hell, and accurate as hell too for like $70. For me to spend double that on a pair of cans, they'd have to be pretty amazing.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:54 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


This thread is highly entertaining! Keep up the good work folks!

I wish we could come up with another name for the really gullible audiophiles. It's sort of sad that we have to group together the merely-obsessed with the certifiably-kooky.
posted by muddgirl at 5:54 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


... and, like I said, StickyCarpet, I say that as a guy who spent two years and $3000 building his stereo system. You're not fooling me with this tube trash.

Having spent probably 50K over 10 years, on parts alone, I shan't fool you with any tube trash. My place is a little too active to have fragile hot tubes hanging around. Incrementally improving my ability to listen has been a great adventure. But sometimes I'll put a few 2" Radio Shack speakers right on the desk with no cabinet, just for a change of pace. Seriously. There is no preferable way to listen to music. Even among high rolling audiophiles the road splits from the start, between those who want to recreate a perfect soundstage, just so, exactly like standing in front of the orchestra, and another faction that thinks more along the lines of a high powered microscope. I'm in that second group, I want real data but I want the detail blown up huge. Everything becomes tiresome without change. I found this nice little set of old plastic Harmon/Kardon computer speakers, that probably sold for around $10, and I really enjoy the sound they were able to get out of those. As Astro Zombie points out, a relatively small amount of recorded music rewards extraordinary efforts. The best part is when someone indifferent to audio gear, who thinks they know a piece of music, discovers there is more there in the song for them.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:56 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


fourcheesemac: “Most musicians I know use Sony MDR-V6s for their under-100-bucks cans. I do too. Rugged as hell, and accurate as hell too for like $70. For me to spend double that on a pair of cans, they'd have to be pretty amazing.”

That's precisely what my friend paid for his Grado SR80s - $70. They're still available new for about that. But admittedly he doesn't need anything rugged; Grados aren't made for that kind of stuff. And I grant that there is some inconsistency, although I haven't experienced that as much in the last five years as I did before that.
posted by koeselitz at 6:02 AM on January 12, 2010


Yeah, i dont understand the Bose bashing either.

Bose products incorporate a neat innovation that allows lower frequencies (longer wavelengths) while still retaining a small enclosure size. From acoustical physics you can show that a vented enclosure can be driven up to wavelengths as long as the path from one side of the driver to the other (ie. picture a fluid sloshing from one side of the speaker cone around through the vent and back to the other side).

Bose has made this cutoff wavelength large by a winding snail-shell of a cavity behind the driver.

The article wisely avoided the lengthy treatment of drivers and enclosures, because the science is fairly involved and the products do in fact vary widely in quality (though not necessarily correlated to cost).
posted by dongolier at 6:03 AM on January 12, 2010


what's wrong with Bose speakers

Well, typically they make tolerable sound, but they're generally built of the absolute cheapest available materials, and they're priced at nosebleed levels. If you take the time to shop, you can almost certainly get equal sound for a lot less, or much better sound at the same price.

One thing that Bose often goes for is the micro-satellites, which seriously impair real sound reproduction. You don't usually find that by other manufacturers, because it doesn't work very well. You need some physical size to properly reproduce bass, or else you need a hugely powerful (and expensive) amplifier. That's why bookshelf speakers are so commonly used; they're about as small as you can get, while still getting decent bass reproduction off an ordinary amp.

There's a reason why Bose always sets up their demonstration stations in a place where you can't A/B them with something else; they're deliberately taking advantage of the fact that human auditory memory is very short. It would be very clear that the competition is better in a quick A/B switch, so they contractually require their sellers to position their products in a place that makes A/B comparisons impossible.

If you're interested in Bose, try to set up a true A/B listening session, where you can compare anything else you want very quickly. You will find this to be very difficult. This is not accidental.

If you can do a true A/B with anything you want, and you find that Bose sounds better, by all means, buy it. It's not impossible. They do actually have some real engineering talent, and their tradeoffs really might suit your ears better than other choices. But if you can't freely A/B, don't buy.
posted by Malor at 6:05 AM on January 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Caveat emptor:

Real products
Spoof products
posted by boosh at 6:08 AM on January 12, 2010


jock@law -

Go mail order instead, and invest in either a set of Koss Porta-Pros, or Grado SR-80 cans, and spend the rest of the money on beer.

I've got both, and I like them better than the Sennheisers in the price range. The Grados do sound better, but the Porta Pros do a better job of controlling sound leakage, which is a factor if you plan to use them in the office, and they're easier to wrangle on the train if you're a commuter. Either one will knock your socks off when compared to Altec or Sony gear in your price range - and I have whatever the opposite of a golden ear is. If I can notice a difference, there's a difference.

In-ear headphones are probably better, but I don't like things shoved into my ear canal, so I can't give much of an opinion on those.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:08 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you're interested in Bose, try to set up a true A/B listening session,

It's my understanding that Bose dealers are not allowed to A/B, and that's why the Bose stuff is always just outside the listening room where the other speakers are.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:12 AM on January 12, 2010


dongolier: “Bose products incorporate a neat innovation that allows lower frequencies (longer wavelengths) while still retaining a small enclosure size. From acoustical physics you can show that a vented enclosure can be driven up to wavelengths as long as the path from one side of the driver to the other (ie. picture a fluid sloshing from one side of the speaker cone around through the vent and back to the other side)... Bose has made this cutoff wavelength large by a winding snail-shell of a cavity behind the driver.”

Sorry, but that's marketing hogwash. I've yet to see any of this 'acoustical physics' that Bose always talks about in their ad copy. I know, I've seen the picture with the fluid sloshing, but it's pure silliness - what little about it that's true has been true of compact-form speakers since the 70s, and whatever 'innovations' Bose introduces are in fact pseudo-science masquerading as truth.

If you can come up with any actual 'acoustical physics' to back that statement up, I'm all ears. But to be honest, this very point is the chief reason why there's so much 'Bose hate' in the world; because, from the time they started peddling their junk, they've repeated these outright lies about some sort of scientific basis for their superiority, and people who actual know about the science of sound have found it preposterous.

It's fine if you like the way they sound, but the marketing copy really isn't true.
posted by koeselitz at 6:13 AM on January 12, 2010


It's my understanding that Bose dealers are not allowed to A/B, and that's why the Bose stuff is always just outside the listening room where the other speakers are.

Again: if you can't A/B it, DO NOT buy it, period. There's a reason they won't allow A/B comparisons, and it's not because their products are competitive.
posted by Malor at 6:14 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can no longer hear the 'Mosquito Ring Tone'. I can hear a click when the mp3 starts and stops - but that's it. In fact, above 14k I'm deaf.

I can hear all of those tones, all the way up to 22Khz. Does this mean I can stand around outside shopping precincts acting aggressively and feeling down?
posted by metaxa at 6:16 AM on January 12, 2010


Oh, and I'm 31.
posted by metaxa at 6:16 AM on January 12, 2010


Okay, here's a nice debunking of hardware audiophiles, now let's have a massive and comprehensive double-blind test database for people who think they can tell the difference between LAMEenc mp3 and ogg vorbis, or even -v-0 VBR mp3s and 320kbps mp3s and FLACS
posted by tehloki at 6:19 AM on January 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


koeselitz regarding compact-form acoustic physics: try taking an 8" driver and gluing into a ten foot cardboard mailing tube. you will be amazed at the freq response, imaging and presence from a single inexpensive car audio speaker.

The biggest impediment to most audio systems is that most people (myself excepted) are unwilling to build enclosures into their house/car/boat/head and so have to comprimise with an actual ugly, boxy product.

Bose is just being honest with the comprimise (and charging for their candidness).
posted by dongolier at 6:21 AM on January 12, 2010


oh god there are actual hardware audiophiles still in the thread augh
posted by tehloki at 6:24 AM on January 12, 2010


gawd guess you'll just have to wait until they leave and the giraffes arrive
posted by koeselitz at 6:28 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


oh god there are actual hardware audiophiles still in the thread augh

actually, im a software audiophile. While im here can i just endorse the Sansamp tube modeler to provide strong evidence against the false dichotomy of a Tube vs. Solid
State religious debate.

Do it in software--- zero noise and fully digital. (its the device guitarists use in the recording studio to get the tube sound without all that noise)

Cant do math transforms unless your using numbers baby!
posted by dongolier at 6:33 AM on January 12, 2010


dongolier: “koeselitz regarding compact-form acoustic physics: try taking an 8" driver and gluing into a ten foot cardboard mailing tube. you will be amazed at the freq response, imaging and presence from a single inexpensive car audio speaker. The biggest impediment to most audio systems is that most people (myself excepted) are unwilling to build enclosures into their house/car/boat/head and so have to comprimise with an actual ugly, boxy product. Bose is just being honest with the comprimise (and charging for their candidness).”

Yes, I know that's how it works - the trouble is that you've just given an exact description of what's inside a Bose speaker! (1) 'a single inexpensive car audio speaker' and (2) a cardboard tube.

But they're not being honest with their compromise. First of all, that gives a bit of frequency response, I grant; but it so muddies the signal that it's really not an effective way to increase audio fidelity. Second, and more importantly, when was the last time you heard Bose mention how really cheap their parts were? If you open up a Bose speaker, you'll be shocked at how much cardboard there is in there - it's pretty much all cardboard. And yet these things can cost thousands of dollars! Why? This certainly isn't 'honest' in marketing.

There is a certain amount of honesty to it - their discovery is unique. The dishonesty concerns what they discovered. They didn't discover how to make dramatically better sound come from a smaller speaker - there are speakers of the same size that sound much better for lower prices, and there have been since the 70s. What they discovered is how to make very, very cheap speakers sound like something other than total shit. That's what helps them market it.

That's honesty, of a kind - I guess. But it's not really anything to write home about.
posted by koeselitz at 6:35 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the article: "The ignorance and misguided loyalty of some audiophile magazines is a significant problem in this business."

Yes, and there is somewhere on the internets a copy of an audiophile magazine article criticizing some snake-oil wire for being snake-oil -- much of the advice in that column is what we read here.

Fast-forward a few years and the same magazine is reviewing said snake-oil and giving it a good review. This is the catch: those few people that fall for the scam create a whole new market for advertisement dollars, which any print magazine is crazy to not take, I guess.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:40 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


StickyCarpet: "There is nothing to say these different functions have simple inter-relations, they probably have all kinds of harmonic beat patterns. You're going to end up with more look-up tables than sound samples that you need to correct."

QFT. Digital stinks at nonlinear transfers. It can do linear better than anything else, but if you want to do nonlinear audio transformations digital either runs out of CPU or fakes it, badly. There are bad analog computers from the '60s that do turbulance calculations faster than a modern supercomputer. Much less accurately than the supercomputer for linear, but for moderately complex nonlinear stuff digital just can't hang.

StickyCarpet: "Then realise that the stuff referenced there is happening in Euclidean geometry. To find a fractional value, just that fractional distance. Pitched audio, however is a concatenation of harmonic frequencies, and Fletcher-Munson pointed out that half way between two frequencies is not the middle. "

The algorithm works in the amplitude domain, not the frequency domain, and provably does the right thing in the frequency domain. This is signal processing 101. Audio is a time varying signal. A property of a time varying signal is that it can be analyzed by its derivative. That does not mean that you need to do your calculations in the domain of the derivative in order to operate effectively on the time varying signal.

To sum up: digital does accuracy and linear reproduction better, period. The problem is that people actually like the distortion that analog introduces, and digital stinks at doing acoustically pleasing nonlinear distortions.
posted by idiopath at 6:41 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Denon AKDL1 Dedicated Link Cable

$500 for a 1.5M cat-5 cable optimized for audio over Ethernet. It's got arrows on it marking direction. The customer photos are quite amusing.
posted by cosmac at 6:55 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


HAHAHAHAHA. How many iPods could I buy?
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:59 AM on January 12, 2010


I just like to listen to music. Heck, on the right night the AM radio in the Chevy Vega sounded really good.

Plus, ever notice that when you turn on music on a cheap system it sounds bad for a minute or less before you start listening to the music and not the stereo?
posted by cccorlew at 6:59 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can hear all of those tones, all the way up to 22Khz. Does this mean I can stand around outside shopping precincts acting aggressively and feeling down?
posted by metaxa at 6:16


Nah, it just means in five to ten years you'll listen to that again and go "Dang, where'd the upper registers go? And then you can annoy YOUR kids with it.
posted by JB71 at 7:00 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


One common misconception of recording studios is that they are geared towards perfect audio reproduction. This couldn't be further from the truth. Your basic set of studio monitors are basically an amalgamation of the worst tv speakers to the very best speakers money can buy, as the final mix must sound good to decent on all of them.

Seconded. Even when I was in audio engineering school, this is how we did it. I believe our main monitors were some cheap JBL's*, because "they're the best-selling speakers in the world, so that's what most people will be hearing it on."

Plus, when you consider the fact that most people calling themselves audio engineers nowadays have no clue what they're doing, and that as a result most music sounds horrible even on the master recordings, then it really doesn't matter what kind of equipment you're using.

*This was around 1984 or so. I have no idea what the current best selling speakers are.
posted by fairywench at 7:04 AM on January 12, 2010


koeselitz: If you can come up with any actual 'acoustical physics' to back that statement up, I'm all ears

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loudspeaker_enclosure

is a pretty good rundown of speaker geometries, many of which you probably wouldnt want to look at sitting in your living room. According to wikipedia there are other manufacturers using the "transmission line" design, and the design is older than Bose 1970s offerings.... As ive just learned the original 1930 design, the Voigt Pipe, is a superior version of the straight cardboard tube enclosure.
posted by dongolier at 7:09 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm a classical musician (for want of a better term) and I've never understood audiophilia. I don't understand what people are hearing. I have to have pretty attuned hearing and I honestly don't hear what others claim to hear. For me there are two questions:
1) Can I hear what I want to/expect to hear
2) Do I like the sound.
If it's a yes to both then it really is good enough for me. But then I'm only really interested in listening to the music.
posted by ob at 7:10 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I knew a really obsessive audiophile when I was in school, and it seemed like a form of OCD to me. This guy was never completely happy with his stereo's sound; there was always another amp/wire/receiver/whatever with "better" sound around the corner. He also seemed to listen to his stereo rather than the music itself, if you follow me; he'd continually boast about the quality of the sound emanating from his speakers, but rarely if ever talked about the actual music. I mean, to each their own, everyone needs a hobby, he's not hurting anyone, etc., but it was kind of sad. It reminded me of the princess and the pea; no matter how many mattresses expensive stereo components he piled up, something still nagged at him.

I've long since lost touch with him, but I'd imagine he's still sitting in front of whatever expensive get-up he has now, brow furrowed as he tries to figure out how he can improve it...
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:11 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I MAKE MY OWN EAR BUDS OUT OF TELEPHONE WIRE PRINTER PAPER FRIDGE MAGNETS AND HOT GLUE
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:13 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seconded. Even when I was in audio engineering school, this is how we did it. I believe our main monitors were some cheap JBL's*, because "they're the best-selling speakers in the world, so that's what most people will be hearing it on."

There's a story about Jimmy Page coming back to the UK after mastering one of the early Led Zep albums in NYC. He was all excited about how good it was sounding and he called together the other guys and put on the tape. It sounded like brown mush. I expect that he never made the mistake of at least referencing the final mix on crappy speakers again.
posted by ob at 7:16 AM on January 12, 2010


The worst part about the obsessive magical audiophilia to me is that it poisons the well for those of us who want the best for our money, but have a limited budget. Is there any good source out there for recommendations like the knowledge you guys were dropping about awesome under $100 headphones? Every time I wade in I end up giving up dismayed because I don't want a treatise on it all, am not looking to learn how to build the thing myself, and I just want a good trustworthy voice who believes in the science and the sound (but not the $$$) to guide me. I mean, my 6 year old Boston computer speakers actually sound pretty damn good to me, but I know I could do better without breaking the bank.
posted by haveanicesummer at 7:21 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Much music is actually engineered to sound best on cheap equipment.

How true.
posted by caddis at 7:33 AM on January 12, 2010


Several years ago I bought a pair of somewhat pricey near-field studio monitors to use as computer speakers. I use them to listen to high-bitrate mp3s played off my laptop. These speakers sound much, much nicer than the $65 Sony MDR-V6 headphones I was using before. They have a sonic clarity far beyond anything else I have ever listened to. That may sound like hand-wavey bullshit, but I honestly never suspected my music collection contained so many police sirens and ringing phones.
posted by ryanrs at 7:37 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, I only listen to live music, never recorded music, and I also never listen to electrically amplified music either, only acoustic performances in quiet basement rooms because I care are about sound quality and you obviously don't. Face it, all of you so called "audiophiles" don't even take the time to listen to real music. You are living a lie.
posted by fuq at 7:37 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Okay. So let's assume I am an average middle-class SINK American looking for a pair of headphones under $150 that don't require batteries and will let me hear things clearly and block out outside noise.

I do voiceover production and editing for a living, so I have a stake in being able to hear minute details of sound, (usually clipping if someone new is running the soundboard during a recording session).

If you want to passively block out sound, get the Sennheiser HD280s everyone mentioned for $90. If you're cool with in-ear headphones, go with Shure SE310s for $150.

Those two, particularly the 310s, are what I use when editing voiceover. The 280s have incredibly flat frequency response, so they might not initially sound as good because most of us have been brought up listening to crappy headphones with the bass levels jacked to hell, etc. - once you've adjusted your equalizer to taste, though, the 280s are incredible for the price.
posted by Ryvar at 7:45 AM on January 12, 2010


If you were to place a person in an anechoic chamber with a perfect sound reproduction, they would be aghast at what they heard. Even if the sound were measurably perfect, the sound is unnatural. The reflections of a room, the sense of space, etc. are just as much a part of the listening experience, and not really represented in ideas like frequency response, im distortion, etc.

Well .... sort of. It would sound different than listening in a regular room, certainly. But whether it would sound bad would depend on the recording in question. If the recording had been made close-mic'ed or "dry," then yes, it would probably sound pretty off. It would be like having the instruments plugged directly into your brain, and that's an odd effect if you're used to listening in your living room. (It would seem quite normal to a musician used to listening to themselves on a in-ear monitor, though.)

But if the recording was done with room mics, "wet" — and especially if it's a well-made multichannel and the speaker placement in the anechoic chamber was correct, the reproduction system and recording were good enough, etc. — then it ought to sound pretty amazing. The only room tone you'd be hearing would be from the space where the recording was originally made (and thus, a valid part of the recording).

If the ultimate goal of sound reproduction is an experience that's aurally indistinguishable from the real thing — and this is not an uncontroversial statement (especially when you get into electronic, or worse synthetic, instruments; what is "the real thing" there?) — then an anechoic chamber might not be a bad listening environment with the right recording.

More practically, this is the argument given by fans of headphone listening and binaural recordings. And while I don't find headphone listening to be the most comfortable way to enjoy music at home, I do think they're onto something. The "best" — in the sense of most accurate, truest to life — recording I've ever heard was recorded on a Neumann KU-81 into a DBX-700 recorder, and then played back on headphones in a quiet room. (I tried it with a few different kinds of headphones, and it made less difference than I thought it would, actually, at least when it came to being able to pick out instrument locations. Except that they roll off bass, iPod earbuds are surprisingly decent for this purpose.)

Recording and listening to music that way is sort of a technical curiosity, IMO; I'm a big proponent of the "if it sounds good, it is good" philosophy ... but if accuracy and 'simulated real-world experience' is the goal, a totally "dry" playback environment is not necessarily bad at all.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:48 AM on January 12, 2010


haveanicesummer: Is there any good source out there for recommendations like the knowledge you guys were dropping about awesome under $100 headphones? Every time I wade in I end up giving up dismayed because I don't want a treatise on it all, am not looking to learn how to build the thing myself, and I just want a good trustworthy voice who believes in the science and the sound (but not the $$$) to guide me.

There are a couple places like the AVS Forum where you can usually get some decent advice on just about anything having to do with , Sadly, even they have a section for ultra-expensive equipment, although it's (a) kept separate, and (b) occasionally has some cool stuff from people using actual high-end/pro equipment like 4K Digital Projectors and theater-level (i.e., 25-speaker surround sound) acoustics that consumers won't see for a while if ever. And even though the snake-oil vendors and their adherents sometimes get to air their quackery in the main forums, it's usually rebutted fairly quickly (at which point the threads usually devolve into "U SUCK" from the pseudoscience crowd). Of course, the rest of the forum is almost entirely made up of ultra-nerdy discussions of LCD vs Plasma, monopole vs dipole, Blu-ray vs HD DVD (thankfully no longer), and the like, although those actually tend to have some kernels of useful info.

Or, of course, you could hop over to Ask.Metafiler and get the same advice with less of a headache. But where's the fun in that?
posted by zombieflanders at 7:52 AM on January 12, 2010


Possibly the least-helpful Metafilter thread ever.
posted by jock@law


Seriously, yo. I've been wanting to buy a surround-sound system for my TV/DVD and a good stereo so I could listen to music on something besides my PC speakers, car stereo, or iPod earbuds. I was all like, "Hey, this thread will probably be helpful cuz I'll get good advice on what to buy and what not to buy, so I don't get ripped off!"

Instead it's all like, "I have a tube hertz that reproduces samples above 1.21 gigawatts in the acoustic solid state digitals range, but if you Bose your Sennheisers you can imitate the Budweiser with 42 pre-amps of monster cables!" and, "Yeah, right, like anyone but a jerkoff wants to listen to digital whatsajoules unless you've got an echo chamber that mimics the human ear in the 34 to 45.2 milli-ohms ratio to the cabinets of your snake-oil amps! Har Har!" You guys are NERRRDS!

Seriously, though, I wish I understood 1/4th of what the hell you all are talking about, because I really do want to get a decent sound system and not get ripped off, but I feel like I'll have to go back school to get an engineering degree. And people say post-structuralist literary theory is confusing! Sheesh!"
posted by Saxon Kane at 7:57 AM on January 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


this is what recording studios do - they're the ones who are making, mixing and mastering the music, why aren't they using this so called audiophile equipment to do so? - and if they aren't, how can the audiophiles be said to be getting "better" sound than the equipment used to record, mix and master the music?

it's a load of crap - if this stuff really did what it said, professional audio engineers would be lined up at the door to buy it - but they aren't


There's an anecdote about Nigel Godrich walking into a store selling this kind of hugely expensive equipment, including some piece-- an amp or turntable or something-- that cost approximately what the entire equipment budget had been for OK Computer, and laughing at it all.

posted by jokeefe at 7:57 AM on January 12, 2010


I'm old(ish) and with the wisdom of years I can tell you that the only audio equipment ownership experience you are going to look back on with truly fond memories of is the first one you have.

For me it was white plastic sears phonograph with a see-through smoked plastic cover that I bought with my saved up allowance topped up with paper route money. When the village people poured out of that beast it was pure parent killing noise that made an 11 year old's heart leap.

Debate physics all you like but you are never getting that back no matter what science or psuedo science says. Your childhood is gone and the memories only get sweeter and more impossible.

Of course the iPod army's cognitive dissonance brigade will disagree....
posted by srboisvert at 7:59 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the recommendations. It would be helpful if there could be lay explanations for some of what went on upthread. A lot of the lawyers here try to explain things in English so a return favor would be great. ;-)
posted by jock@law at 8:10 AM on January 12, 2010


Like everything else, it's maximizers vs. sufficers all the way down. Sky's the limit, whether it's stereos, cars, bikes, dining, houses, computers...
posted by fixedgear at 8:15 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


kenko - I'm sure Carver failed for lots of reasons, but picking a battle that ended up being mean-spirited with their main advertising medium was definitely a factor.
posted by dylanjames at 8:20 AM on January 12, 2010


it's sort of amazing how few people can tell you the lyrics of their favorite song, and, when they find out, are sort of surprised (I'm guilty of this too -- I only recently realized Immigrant Song was about Vikings.)

There are some surprising things being said in this thread, but this one in particular could not pass without comment. Valhalla, I am coming - I mean, what else could it be about?

On the other hand, Ronald Reagan's 1984 campaign minders wanted to celebrate the era of prosperous optimism he'd created with a theme song whose first verse goes: Born down in a dead man's town / First kick I took was when I hit the ground / End up like a dog who's been beat to much / Till you spend half your life just coverin' up. So it's a common problem, I guess.
posted by gompa at 8:25 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I replaced the hardened rubber gaskets in my phonographs' reproducers with rings I hand-cut out of dense flexible styrofoam packing fabric, and it was like I was hearing my record collection again for the very first time. No matter whether your reproducers have mica or tin diaphragms, you must try this.
posted by squalor at 8:41 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I second, or third the Sennheiser HD280 recommendation. They are great headphones and especially for the money.

Another thing I recommend is Ficion Audio loudspeakers. They are, for the money, the best speakers I have ever heard. Their driver design is the big deal. I bought a pair of their now discontinued bookshelf speakers and I use them for nearfield reference. They are quite delightful. Site is at eficion.com.

I, too, want to know why the amp challenge was "fatal" to the Carver Corporation. Did I miss this in the thread somewhere?
posted by bz at 8:46 AM on January 12, 2010


Oh... oh and I adore my now over 30 year old Yamaha B2/C2 V-FET amp/preamp.
posted by bz at 8:48 AM on January 12, 2010


the only audio equipment ownership experience you are going to look back on with truly fond memories of is the first one you have

Good music stimulates the release of dopamine. If you're already happy, the resulting high will be more intense.

A broken car stereo rescued from a garbage heap, jury-rigged and hooked up to factory speakers pulled from an abandoned Dodge, powered by an old car battery and resting on a stump in the woods, sounded better to me than my Infinity ES-101's simply because I was feeling very smug and self-satisfied at the time.
posted by CynicalKnight at 8:50 AM on January 12, 2010


A broken car stereo rescued from a garbage heap, jury-rigged and hooked up to factory speakers pulled from an abandoned Dodge, powered by an old car battery and resting on a stump in the woods, sounded better to me than my Infinity ES-101's simply because I was feeling very smug and self-satisfied at the time.

This is also why a toasted cheese sandwich made under a tree on a mountainside in cold, rainy weather tastes better than any other toasted cheese sandwich.
posted by bz at 8:55 AM on January 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


bz: "I, too, want to know why the amp challenge was "fatal" to the Carver Corporation. Did I miss this in the thread somewhere?"

This forum thread provides a bit of insight.

Basically he was right, and he proved it, in a way that embarrassed the industry and the customer base.

It's as if Ford trucks tried to come out and tell their customers "hey you really don't need all that horsepower most of the time and you don't ever go offroad anyway and you would save money and the environment by getting a smaller more efficient vehicle and renting a utility vehicle on the rare occasion you need one" - they would be right, and they would lose their paying customers.
posted by idiopath at 8:59 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Recommendation: Go to an audiophile place that sells used gear, compare and contrast, and buy the finalist with the most wattage. (Or write down the model number and head to eBay.) I paid peanuts for a Rotel stereo receiver and RB980BX amp that had no doubt been ditched for the latest'n'greatest 5.1 system. IM(truly)HO, power to spare covers a multitude of sins.

Oh, and inherit a pair of Martin Magnificats. That helps, too.
posted by whuppy at 9:00 AM on January 12, 2010


The best part of being a friend of an audiophile is having them invite you over to their house to check out their new $8000 speakers made from the shoulder blades of virgins, placed in just the right spot in their media room as defined by the Kabbalah, getting seated in just the right spot on the chair so that all the sound waves are focused on your cochlea.

And the song he puts on is "Smoke on the Water."
posted by Pastabagel at 9:01 AM on January 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also, why does everyone hate Bose speakers?
posted by Pastabagel at 9:02 AM on January 12, 2010


Why do we hate Bose speakers? Because getting people to pay $1000 for crappy paper-cones that sound much worse than gear that costs a quarter as much by convincing them that they get some hand-wavey magical "Patented Wave Effect™" is a scam, plain and simple.
posted by koeselitz at 9:17 AM on January 12, 2010


Valhalla, I am coming - I mean, what else could it be about

Sleep?
posted by mpbx at 9:19 AM on January 12, 2010 [8 favorites]


mpbx: Oh man, let's not start that again.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:21 AM on January 12, 2010


For the record, I've been serious about my audio ever since about age 11 when my cousin stuck a pair of headphones on me and made me listen to the channel-panning synthesizer freakout at the end of Emerson Lake + Palmer's Lucky Man. That was almost forty years ago.

Since then, I've pretty much heard it all (from the beat-up ghetto blaster playing cassettes that sounded pretty much magical to the hundred thousand dollar club system that felt so toxic I could only conclude it was some form of sonic weapon). That said, I can immediately think of two rather expensive home systems (3-5000 bucks in today's numbers) that were absolutely stunning. Being in their presence (assuming someone had actually selected the right music) was akin to a spiritual experience. One of these was in a fairly big rich man's living room and had been specifically designed to fit the room's specific acoustic dynamics. The other was just a friend's low-rent suburban bungalow front room.

So yeah, long live thoughtful "audiophilia" that's driven by a genuine love of music itself, and love to all who "suffer" from it (far more than just another permutation of OCD).
posted by philip-random at 9:21 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


One common misconception of recording studios is that they are geared towards perfect audio reproduction.

but you do the mixing on the good equipment you have and then check to see how the mixes sound on the various consumer set ups you have - if it doesn't sound right on the cheap stereo or car radio, then you fix something, but you use the monitors to do it and then check again on the cheap stuff

---

Most recording engineers don't know shit about good sound quality, so they're a pretty bad benchmark to aim for.

but then they would be producing bad sounding recordings - and thanks to the "loudness wars" they do - and of course, expensive audio equipment isn't going to polish that turd, is it?

there are some who know what they're doing

---

And as a guitarist, I really call bullshit on the tube fetish, even though half my friends believe in it. I can make my rig sound like any amplifier ever made with my DSP gear, and I do not believe most listeners could tell blindfolded.

it's been my experience that the emulations in stuff like amplitube or the boss gt-8 are very good for clean to medium gain stuff, but the high gain stuff sounds "fizzy" - and one has to do a bit more tweaking with things at times
posted by pyramid termite at 9:37 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


OK, I see a lot of 'negative audiophilia' in this thread too, which is also poor thinking.

You really can get very good sound, even startlingly good, without spending a ton of money. As I said upthread, my combo of Senn 600s ($350ish), Total Bithead amp (about $100), and a Squeezebox ($300) headphone out, is just amazing. I might get a small improvement with a better amp, but probably not very much; there's not much difference between competently-designed amps. For personal listening, I'm pretty much done. As long as those things don't break, I can't imagine ever needing anything more.

This will sound way better than the typical crap you'll find in a big-box store, and it will give you the ability to listen to well-mastered music and really hear it. It will give you the ability to understand what well-mastered music is. You can find very, very good stuff out there if you look a little. A good classical CD, for instance, can sound just freaking amazing. Telarc's stuff is first-rate.

However, at the same time, it will probably make you bitingly dismissive of the shit they're shoveling out these days. The Wall of Sound and the Loudness Wars have damaged modern music tremendously. When you get gear that's good enough to understand why that CD that you bought in 1989 sounds so much better than the CD you bought in 2009, you've gotten to the sweet spot, where you can really hear the music, without obsessing about your gear. And it doesn't take the disposable income of Bill Gates to get there... a $1500-$1750 modern stereo will pretty much kick ass and take names, as long as you put most of the money into the speakers.

Once you can truly hear the music, you'll understand that a lot of it is crap, but that there's wonderful stuff still available. The fact that the mainstream record companies are shoveling out shit isn't a very good reason to buy shit for reproduction. If all you want to listen to is Britney Spears, then iPod earbuds are probably fine, but there are many wonderful recordings, and pushing them through crap will give you crap. Lemme tell ya, Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah through a boombox just doesn't have the same impact.

Also, why does everyone hate Bose speakers?

Well, I don't hate them. They're usually pretty listenable. But they're poorly built, overpriced, and don't last like audio gear should. You can do much better. I'm fond of Energy speakers, personally; I have a set of Take2's that I bought in the early 90s that I'm still using as my main computer speakers, and those little guys are great. I bought down a little, only having $500ish to spend on them, so the sub I could squeeze in was pretty weak, but I still end up doing most of my music listening on them, simply because they're on the computer. They're not as good as my Senns, but sound nice, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if they're still in service in 2019. Had I spent a little more, $600 or $700, and gotten the better sub, I think most people would prefer them to the $2000 Bose systems from the time, or the $3300 system I see at Best Buy today. (to be truly fair, that's adding the speakers onto an existing receiver, so for a straight price comparo, you'd want to add in a $400ish receiver.... call it $1100 in 1990-era dollars versus $2000 at the time, or $3300 today.)

There is some objective truth here, and there IS real merit in not buying crap. Just be aware that once you get to 'good' stuff (typically, though not always, the $1500ish system price level), further improvements are expensive, and have limited return.
posted by Malor at 9:42 AM on January 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Saxon Kane: Here's some advice I posted a couple years ago to Ask.Mefi. It's just general spending strategies, no specific brands, but you might find it useful.
posted by Malor at 9:54 AM on January 12, 2010


Late to the thread, but my few cents...

I went through my audiophile phase to the degree that I became a regular writer for a prominent audiophile publication. My "beat" was mostly mid-range ($500-$5K) equipment reviews, and so I spent several years comparing and evaluating CD players, integrated amplifiers, and standmount loudspeakers.

There most certainly are differences between components--even between CD players. Unfortunately, the snake oil quotient is indeed very high, and ultimately I found it distracted from enjoying the audiophile pursuit. Too many manufacturers--and way too many customers--buy into theories and beliefs about mechanical audio reproduction that range from dubious to more outright nutty and unscientific than the anti-evolution crowd.

Ultimately, two realizations drove me out of the audiophile business. Practically speaking, devoting so much time and attention to the "sound" of music rather than the feeling of it undermined why I listen to music in the first place. I eventually found myself getting more actual pleasure and enjoyment from my portable mp3 player than my multi-thousand dollar "reference" system. Sure, the reference system sounds amazing and puts on a great demonstration, but it's just too ... formal ... for actually having fun.

On another level, like I said, there are differences between audio components. But when you hear enough of them, inevitably they beg the question: so what? I found very little correlation between differences in audio reproduction and actual enjoyment of the music.

Of course others may feel differently. I don't advocate buying crap audio gear, but the bells-and-whistles stuff no longer appeals.

On a side note, for anyone who is interested in high quality audio gear on a budget, I suggest looking at Chinese brands. The "high end" gear being made and sold to the Chinese market are in some cases the exact same equipment being sold under Western "prestige" brands, at significantly lower prices.
posted by thebordella at 10:15 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm in the camp of "I wish I were an audiophile, but I don't have the patience." I love music, and I'm forever consuming more of it. These days, most of it comes out of dinky desktop speakers or Koss KSC75 headphones, on the recommendation of an audiophile (they're his iPod headphones: good sound quality and durable, but not top of the line by any means). They're open so I find myself turning them up too loud if I'm not in a really quiet area, but I've had some surprising realizations with them (Broken Social Scene is really deep in terms of layers of instrumentation, and decent speakers make that clear).

But super-compression still pisses me off. I read about the Loudness war and though "hmm, that's a weird thing to do," but didn't believe it was really that bad. Then I listened to a FLAC rip of a Depeche Mode record. Even on my cheap desktop speakers hooked into my computer, I could hear a lot more complexity. To this day, I shake my fist at Emily Lazar.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:27 AM on January 12, 2010


ideopath - thanks for the link to the summary of the Carver challenge saga. As an audio "objectivist" seeing this unfold was like watching an awful train-wreck happen in slow motion, to the point that I eventually had to look away.
posted by dylanjames at 10:31 AM on January 12, 2010


Not a bad article, and some really good comments here.

There are definitely some mistakes in the original article - here's IMHO the howler: "The last type of time-based error is phase shift, but it’s benign even in relatively large amounts."

This is absolutely not the case. If you want to hear a gross example of this, simply go to your stereo and switch the "red and black" (or + and -) on one of your two speakers. You'll hear the middle drop out of your music - and this isn't a subtle effect, your music will sound grossly tinny and lacking in body. (I will bet you that at least 10% of you who have stereo systems where this is possible have done this wrong. If you've never checked this, make sure that "red is going to red and black to black" on both speakers - if it isn't and you change it, you're going to hear a dramatic improvement in the sound of your speakers!)

Now, this is a 180 degree phase shift, of one whole channel of material. But don't let them tell you that lesser effects aren't noticeable. I couldn't understand why I couldn't get the drums in a recording I was working on recently to have impact... the drummer point out to me that the high hat mic was pointing up and the snare mic, a few inches away, was pointing down - resulting in phase cancellation. (NOTE NOTE NOTE: that recording is not a mixdown but just to demonstrate cancellation! However, I do love that session, it's like a middle-period Can jam...)

Even fairly small phase shifts can be bad. I remember watching an engineer struggle to figure out what was wrong with one damned note in a bass part before he figured out that there was a little phase shift that was cancelling some of that note's frequency.

I'm actually surprised they put this in the article. One of the big issues of early digital audio players was the fact that the low-pass filters that dramatically roll-off the signal after 20KHz had terrible phase coherence - which accounted for the very obvious "brittle" sound of early CDs. As I remember it, it looked for a while as if this was going to be a roadblock to digital audio - because there are physical laws that mean that the "steeper" the digital filter is, the worse the phase coherence is - and you want both very steep filters (so you don't filter out the top end of your program material) and phase coherence.

Luckily, the invention of oversampling filters saved our bacon - it's not that they repealed the laws of physics, but that they push the computation up to 8x or 16x the frequency range, do it there, and then shift it back down, so the problem is now 1/8 or 1/16 times as bad.

Also: you can absolutely, absolutely hear the difference between "digital" cables!

Before the mob shows up with pitchforks, I need to clarify and say, "You can hear the difference between defective digital cables and working ones". And I don't mean cables so defective that they don't work - but fairly subtle differences between two cables that apparently work.

Here's the scoop. The easiest example is the RCA-style digital coax cables used for S/PDIF digital audio. These are externally very similar to regular old RCA cables - and if you use an audio RCA cable for your digital audio, it will "work" - but if you're in position to see "error counts" on your digital audio stream, you'll see that they sky-rocket - and more important, you'll some of the high-end of your audio, because the error correction is working overtime and the first part of the signal to go is the high-end component.

The issue is that the digital audio signals are very high-frequency, and plain old cables with the wrong impedance allow reflections of the digital audio signals internal to the cable. This means that you get your bit, and then later you get a little echo of that bit... error correction can fix this but the result is a clearly degraded signal, more errors, and inferior sound quality.

You can get a very similar result if your perfectly good digital cable has been abused, or if you buy an off-brand cable where they weren't very careful with their shielding.

Again, I wasn't sitting there with some audiophile system listening to Stokowski belch (huge points if you recognize this reference, Google doesn't!), but sitting in a grimy basement a decade ago in Brooklyn working with a live recording and wondering WTF had gone wrong (answer - we were duping it through a very crappy Radio Shack cable - once I spent $10 for a cable all our problems went away).

As for digital tube simulations sounding distinguishably different from real tubes, well, these days I'm skeptical. The reason your amp sounds so different from your Line 6 is almost certainly because of the speaker. I might still be convinced you could tell the digital tube from the real one, but only if you had a true A/B comparison with matched levels going through the same speaker.

The one thing that might be missing from digital simulations of tubes is the response of a physical tube to the abuse that guitarists give it. Your average player runs his tubes hot and a lot - the tube's transfer characteristics definitely change temporarily when the tube is very hot, and permanently if you do it a lot. It's not clear to me if the amp simulations cover the temporary change but I'm sure they don't cover the permanent changes - you'd have to slowly change your settings over multiple sessions to cover that. (It's not that the digital simulation can't actually simulate the new state of the tube, but that it doesn't slowly and automatically change over months to do so...)

It's 2010. We really, really have a good grasp on digital signal processing these days, and this includes really good models of analog devices like tubes. I might still believe that real tubes have some advantage for a couple of years - but these days I think you'd really have to prove it with a scientific test, a bald claim that real tubes are better than a simulation is not convincing.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:32 AM on January 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


dylanjames: "ideopath - thanks for the link to the summary of the Carver challenge saga. As an audio "objectivist" seeing this unfold was like watching an awful train-wreck happen in slow motion, to the point that I eventually had to look away."

No prob, but on small quibble - saying "objectivist" when you mean materialist or empiricist or whatever gives Ayn Rand way too much credit.

lupus_yonderboy: "As for digital tube simulations sounding distinguishably different from real tubes, well, these days I'm skeptical. The reason your amp sounds so different from your Line 6 is almost certainly because of the speaker."

"Better" is another question altogether, of course. Being more of an artist than an engineer, I personally think that getting the sound of analog exactly right is a fool's errand, because to a large degree we like the distortions that are particular to analog more for their familiarity than any inherent musical usefulness. But that being said, if your goal is to simulate exactly what a tube preamp or power amp does to an input signal, matching every quirk and source of distortion or noise, digital just does not have enough processors or cpu speed yet. Transistors (in analog operation, natch) and even more so tubes, are nonlinear on a scale that is hard to do on a computer. We can fake and emulate it and fool the ear sometimes - but for all the complaining done about lossy mp3 compression, analog signal processing emulation is much much worse if your sole criterion is peak by peak accuracy of the output waveform.
posted by idiopath at 11:00 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


the drummer point out to me that the high hat mic was pointing up and the snare mic, a few inches away, was pointing down - resulting in phase cancellation.

I suspect the problem may have been somewhere else. Sound waves aren't like sine waves with peaks at the top and troughs at the bottom...they're pressure waves. A microphone pointing up will detect the same pressure wave (and phase) as a microphone pointing down.

Also any talk of tube vs solid state has to separate the listener's amp needs from the guitarist's amp needs. They're completely different animals. The goal of the listener should be accurate reproduction of the source material at the speakers (or, more ideally, at the ears) and the tube vs transistor sound is just a matter of taste. Guitarists are overdriving their amps into hard clipping and the tube vs transistor difference in tone is real and remarkable. Modern DSPs are bridging this gap, however.
posted by rocket88 at 11:26 AM on January 12, 2010


Kadin2048

Ehhh, even wet in an anechoic chamber (was the speaker suspended? the mic position? corner or out front? etc.), I'd be hesitant... back in the day particular "sounds" seemed shared by several different companies whose designs had nothing in common except for the same test facilities. But certainly exceptions apply.

but you do the mixing on the good equipment you have and then check to see how the mixes sound on the various consumer set ups you have


So stuff like Threshold amplifiers? B & W speakers? ADS speakers? and other things commonly found at even higher level pro audio stores. You might want to inform Telarc they are doing it wrong.

Absolutely shocked that I'm seemingly the only one who has been taken in by hucksterism in the audio realm. Stupid purchases I've made? Let me show you the museum. Hope you got a few days. Oh no, I'm so much wiser now.
posted by quintessencesluglord at 11:27 AM on January 12, 2010


we like the distortions that are particular to analog more for their familiarity than any inherent musical usefulness.

Love this thread!

I'd beg to differ on that claim, though it's not outrageous. It seems that humans intrinsically like even-order harmonic distortion, like that generated by tubes or other overdriven physical devices, the reason being that these bring out octaves and other harmonically friendly material, which is why adding even-order harmonic content makes signals sound "warmer" and "smoother" whereas adding odd-order harmonic content makes them sound "harsher" and "more brittle" because of the enharmonic partials (which are in practice the harmonics that don't appear "close to a regular note").

The history of instrument design reflects this - it's why early instruments often sound harsh or tinny to modern ears. In fact, you can think of instrument design before electricity as having three clear imperatives: more expressive, louder, and warmer. Warmth is the reason we went from double-reeds to single-reeds, it's the reason for the strange shape of the piano's harp and the guitar's body - heck, if you want to hear the difference between even-ordered and odd-ordered harmonics, simply compare a clarinet and an oboe playing the same passage.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:45 AM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


These Sonys are cheap, effective, and available at your local Target. I have three pairs of them (home, work, and gym), they sound great and if you lose them it's a trivial expense.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:46 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


One of the big issues of early digital audio players was the fact that the low-pass filters that dramatically roll-off the signal after 20KHz had terrible phase coherence - which accounted for the very obvious "brittle" sound of early CDs. As I remember it, it looked for a while as if this was going to be a roadblock to digital audio - because there are physical laws that mean that the "steeper" the digital filter is, the worse the phase coherence is - and you want both very steep filters (so you don't filter out the top end of your program material) and phase coherence.

Yeah, the anti-aliasing filters in the early PCM recorders were baaaad. I'm not sure if it was going to be a roadblock to digital audio in general, but there were definitely people who thought it was going to kill PCM in favor of other technologies.

And, to a certain extent, I was one of those people. (Whoops.) I never liked PCM, and in particular the PCM F1; I had a huge thing for its competitor, the DBX 700. Actually I think it's still one of my all-around favorite pieces of basically forgotten technology. That thing sounded fantastic. I still have one, and a few tapes recorded on it, although it's not hooked up and now just finding a working VHS deck without AGC might be a real problem. But I can't bear to get rid of the thing.

The DBX used the same sort of recording scheme that SACD would later use (to about as much commercial success). Instead of taking 16 bit samples at 44.1 or 48kHz, it operated at 644kHz and one bit per sample (delta-sigma modulation), and then layered a lot of stuff on top of that to dynamically alter the step size. Somewhere around I still have the manual from it; unlike modern products that expect you to pay no attention to what goes on inside the box, they explained everything in great detail, complete with equations.

From a user's perspective it was much more of a drop-in replacement for 1/4 or 1/2" tape than the PCM-F1; you could run about the same levels and it would saturate like tape rather than clipping, and of course it didn't have the filters. And it came with some really, really nice built-in preamps, so if you wanted to you could just run two mics directly into the thing and hit record. (This was how I made the recording I talked about in my earlier comment. The more I think about it I'm not sure that the mic was a Neumann though; it might have been some homebrew binaural thing. Anyway.)

It had the sweetest digital meters on the front of it, too.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:51 AM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


ideopath: thanks -- you're right, I didn't mean to pull Ms. Rand in to this. I'm pleased (but not surprised) to hear that the general tenor on this issue is one of science and not voodoo. Tubes and many fancy speaker wires (and all loudspeakers) are tone controls. More accurate technologies are available (except for the perfect speaker) - whether one prefers one version of inaccurate over another is a subjective question. How close any of them get to the source recording is not.
posted by dylanjames at 11:59 AM on January 12, 2010


lupus_yonderboy: "It seems that humans intrinsically like even-order harmonic distortion, like that generated by tubes or other overdriven physical devices"

And even order harmonic distortion is trivial to do digitally. It is just doing it exactly like analog that is tricky. And there are all sorts of digital effects that people typically like the sound of that are very hard or impossible to do in analog (analog auto-tune, anyone?). What I take an issue with is treating analog as some kind of gold standard. It is analogous to the cinema buffs that complain about how hard it is to emulate the exact kind of coloring artifacts you get on celluloid with HD - sure, that is true, but why is that source of noise the only one that could be artistically useful?
posted by idiopath at 12:08 PM on January 12, 2010


"Also, why does everyone hate Bose speakers?"

As an acoustician and speaker-designer friend of mine once said to me (a very long time ago, now): "If sound were sandpaper, Bose would be a very rough grit."
posted by bz at 12:13 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


This article is full of it's own kind of bullshit. Of course there are plenty of rip offs in stereo equipment, and snake oil galore, but if you think all gear sounds the same then that is just stupid. growing up my dad was always a bit of a gear head. He had reel to reel tape recorders and even built some of his own speakers from a kit when he was a teen. When I was growing up he would upgrade his stereo every 3-4 years and the system he ended up with was a pair of Quad electrostatic speakers and OCM amps. They sounded incredible. With certain recordings they were absolutely stunning. Like goosebumps and raise your jaw off the floor amazing. And I also had a friend who worked at a hi fi store and he used to let me listen to the big Magneplanar 20s and they too sounded AMAZING. So no, you certainly don't have to spend megabucks, but with a little research and especially looking at the used market you can assemble a pretty satisfying system.
posted by vronsky at 12:38 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


How close any source recording can get to hearing *music* is an existential question. Live music is often mediated live by defiantly less-than-best-possible technology (hey, the singer likes his SM58!), if not defiantly low-fi and broken technology (where do we think a preference for distortion comes from? It is as nostalgic as reverb is "spiritual" or saturated mids are "warm".) There are a hundred (or thousands of) legitimate ways of recording any given live musical sound that generate different aural images entirely. There are as many reasons for listening to one aural image or another of "the same" source. Transduction is never transparent. It is also, however, not inherently schizophonic. The problem of audiophilia, as a disease I've had myself, is that it always places you at one remove analytically from the question of what you want to experience sonically. There is no such thing as transparency when there is distortion at the source. You need to conceptualize a "transparent" window on that distorted source, or a window that colors the world of all possible sources a certain consistent way, or that meshes well with the non-transparent features of the original source or the audio-mediated listening environment. These are culturally and experientially conditioned forms of cognition, even if the sonic object upon which they operate are empirically *describable* in concrete, well understood terms. Hell, even if the neurobiology of situated, subjective listening is well understood (which at the moment, it is not, although we do know a great deal about *hearing,* which is not the same thing).

When people first heard Caruso singing through a Victrola horn, they marveled at the striking realism of the audio image. Same for LPs, CDs, and on and on into the future. The older image only becomes "distorted," or colored, or marked by contrast with the new, "higher resolution" images we have become accustomed to expect from our machines as time passes. But old is not only not bad; it is often something we value as *good* in conscious and unconscious ways.

The sound of rock recorded on 1 inch tape using tube amps and Shure microphones, mixed for listening to on a Technics direct-drive turntable through AKG headphones plugged into an Onkyo receiver while you did bong hits with your friends, defined a certain phase of my youth (phillip-random, I know exactly what you refer to in "Lucky Man," and check out the way the hoofbeats gallop across the soundstage in opposite pattern to the yodels in the jam at the end of Aerosmith's "Back In The Saddle!"). When I hear something that recalls this particular chain of transducers, I get the fucking munchies, it's so real.

Now I work analytically with restored field recordings from the 1940s. All I want is everything digital audio offers -- let me at the closest thing I can get to a pure image of that fluttery, hissy, oversaturated tape.

I do believe there is better and worse gear out there, and up to a point you do get better stuff for a higher price. But it's not perfectly predictable. Nor can you rely on any one manufacturer to be reliably great. (For all the mockery, JBL is back with amazing pro studio monitors at a decent price point these days, for example.) They go through phases. They get bought. They move manufacturing to China. The introduce a budget line with everything made out of vinyl. They rest on their laurels. The great engineers die or get poached or lose their spark. Whatever.

Fact is, you can get audio nirvana in many flavors for as little as a couple of hundred bucks (Ion AudioDesk powered speakers) and you can legitimately spend in the tens of thousands for stuff that will do what it says better than other stuff does the same stuff. Hell, you want to do it seriously? Have an acoustic architect redesign your living room, or build a dedicated studio in your basement. You could spend 100K, and studios do, just on crafting the best space for sound to propagate accurately to a pair of ears seated in front of a big table.

There is a sweet spot in terms of price and performance for each category of gear and each application. It's usually lower than you might think, and definitely lower than audio salesmen or publications will lead you to believe is acceptable.

Or you could walk into the subway and here music in a terribly distorting environment and still be living an audiophile's dream if you close your eyes (but watch for the edge of the tracks, please).
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:49 PM on January 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


Man, that's the second time I've spelled "hear" as "here" today. Apologies.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:58 PM on January 12, 2010


Funny thing about that Bose "wave guide." That's what got me into audio hacking to begin with. The concept sounded interesting, so I bought an 18" Peavey speaker and built serpentine plywood boxes around it, and ... nothing interesting happened. Whatever shape the serpent took, the boxes seemed more concerned with their volume alone. Should I have looked at a book, or any kind of reference first? Perhaps. But the lesson is that no matter how clearly you can visualize things flowing and reflecting, whatever you've pictured doesn't matter. You have to listen honestly. So then I started moving the baffles around, changing the size and shape, while listening. Sure I arrived at the same place I would have if I'd cracked a book, but it was an experientially rich outing.

Ultimately, I settled on two brief sound samples as exemplars: a single strike on a tympani drum, and a solid pluck on a bass viol, each at about the same low pitch. I kept moving things about until the tympani sounded round, and the bass string sounded linear, and they really palpably did end up sounding like their respective shapes. And I learned something about listening carefully.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:10 PM on January 12, 2010


OK, so who can point me towards some good/inexpensive speakers? I have a nice setup at home but need something for the office. I have two spaces each pretty much 500 sq. ft. I just need stereo in each space, no surround or anything, and would like something that is shelf-sized, not huge as I'd like to wall mount. For amps I've been looking at these little Class D Tripath amps like the T-amp.

I've been keeping my eyes on the little Gallo spheres on eBay but have lost on the auctions when something reasonable has come up. I'd like to spend less than $300 a pair. Cheaper than that even better! This is an office so we'll never be listening with to things too loudly.

This was the audio advice thread, right?
posted by misterpatrick at 1:17 PM on January 12, 2010


I do my music listening on a $60 Creative 2.1 speaker setup, driven by the builtin AC97 sound card of my PC.

I think any audiophile would commit seppuku if they ever listened to it.
posted by ymgve at 1:39 PM on January 12, 2010


I second misterpatrick's request.

I just want good speakers, only 2 of them, not dominating the room.

Preferably for $700 or less for the pair, though. (I only have one space to fill)
posted by Theta States at 1:41 PM on January 12, 2010


lupus_yonderboy: It seems that humans intrinsically like even-order harmonic distortion

as a jazz man myself im partial to the odd partials.... 3 times the fundamental gives you the perfect fifth musical interval, 5 times the fundamental gives you your major third interval, and then finally 7 times the fundamental lands you somewhere between the major and minor (dominant) seventh interval. These "seventh" chords make jazz harmony what it is, although not for everyone.... (ie. best turn down your tone knob).
posted by dongolier at 1:46 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


theta states, you could get the magneplanar MMG for $600. They come with a 60 day guarantee.

here is a review -- "The word “bargain” has been worked almost to death in these pages—to the extent that when the genuine article comes along it may not stick out as much as it should in a veritable sea of products said to be as good as others many times their price. While I’m not denying that there are plenty of good deals out there, the MG12 and the MMG are honest-to- God special. Every ten years or so, something like these speakers comes along to make even an ultra-perfectionist like me wonder if spending more dough is really worth it. While ultimately I think it is, I can say with utter confidence that I could not only live happily with the MMGs or the MG12s, I could live with them as my loudspeaker references in a system that costs two-hundred times what they do. It almost goes without saying that, like the 610Ts at the other end of the price spectrum, they earn my unqualified recommendation."
posted by vronsky at 2:19 PM on January 12, 2010


If anybody wants a truly amazing sound system for about $300, pick up a pair of these M-Audio Powered Speakers for $147, this 16GB Cowon MP3 player for $129, an old stereo amp off ebay.

Besides blowing your balls off with it's insane power, you'll also be floored at the fidelity and bass response of this simple setup (the speakers weigh FOURTEEN POUNDS). It beats the living hell out of any "dock" system you'll find, no matter the price.
posted by lattiboy at 2:22 PM on January 12, 2010


Err, ignore the stereo amp mentioned above. The speakers are powered. Duh....
posted by lattiboy at 2:23 PM on January 12, 2010


misterpatrick, I have found Polk Audio (mentioned above) makes the best passive bookshelf speakers for the money at just a slightly higher price point. RTiA1s are about 300-350/pair.

I accidentally referred to "Audio Desk" speakers above. What I meant was Audio Engine. These are emerging as the things to beat at reasonable prices, certainly for powered/active/computer speakers. I'm seeing rave reviews all over the place lately. They are also very reasonably priced. I'd give them a look/listen too.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:53 PM on January 12, 2010


theta states, if those are too room dominating for you, look into Epos.
posted by vronsky at 2:58 PM on January 12, 2010


OK, so who can point me towards some good/inexpensive speakers?

The lumber yard near me in NYC will deliver MDF (a plywood-like material preferred for speakers) pre-cut for a dollar a cut. I make double-layer 3/4" panels that overlap at the joints, so it ends up 1 1/2" thick all around, with interlocking edges. They weigh a ton, another way I save on not buying them from someone else. The subwoofer is pushing 200 lbs, but that's a novelty, a regular speaker should weigh about 70 lbs.

Cutting the holes is the hard part. A 1 15/16" inch drill or whatever for the tweeter, and a jigsaw for the larger hole.

Happy to share my techniques, memail me.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:08 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


What I meant was Audio Engine. These are emerging as the things to beat at reasonable prices

I know what you mean, I tried a pair. And they were WHITE just like I wanted them to be. The ipod hookup is good, too. Ultimately they fatigued me as a listening speaker, I see them in the bathroom or the kitchen.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:15 PM on January 12, 2010


The Audio Engines, self powered with an ipod charger on top of one speaker, are really easy to take on a road trip or to a party.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:21 PM on January 12, 2010


Epos are a fine speaker for the money, just a little hard to find.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:32 PM on January 12, 2010


Monster Cable vs. a coat hanger: guess who wins.
posted by Evilspork at 3:35 PM on January 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


I MAKE MY OWN EAR BUDS OUT OF ... HOT GLUE

That's gotta hurt.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 3:46 PM on January 12, 2010


pick up a pair of these M-Audio Powered Speakers for $147,

O! I'm using those right now as my computer speakers. They are quite nice and have a lot of detail at low volumes, and they are small and light.
posted by fuq at 4:36 PM on January 12, 2010


God damn what an exhausting and depressing thread.

Off to listen to Fugazi on whatever the fuck speakers I can find.
posted by chronkite at 6:48 PM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Since some folks are giving shout-outs to their favourite reasonably priced audiophile equipment makers, I present to you, Norh.

I've got three Norh 5.1s (a stereo pair and a shielded centre) and they are seriously the best small speakers I've ever heard. I'm not going to make some outrageous claims about how superior they are to [YOUR FAVOURITE SPEAKER], but they win in a few ways:

- Decent or above average parts used through-out. They source cones, hardware and cross-over parts meticulously, and tell you when they have had to make compromises (and why.)
- Made in Thailand using local (when they can) material and local, enfranchised labour.
- Good price shipped to your door. You get what you pay for.

The website is chock-full of personal musings from a technically minded ex-pat, and he is not afraid to tell you what limitations the different models have, and publishes a fair amount of information related to design and testing.

He is guilty of selling over-priced wire, but as far as I'm concerned, anyone who buys that shit is defraying the cost of R&D for the other stuff.

Of course, I think they sound great. What else am I going to say? But they look great, and folks comment on how much clean sound comes out of such little units. The sound is reasonably flat, and the amount of real, pure bass that is ported out the back (I have the drum shaped ones) is amazing.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:58 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Great thread! I've never had the money to buy any high end audio equipment, so for me I'm happy finding the sweet spot of affordability and good enough quality. However, I most definitely appreciate quality and can tell the difference between high bitrate mp3 and flac, even though I know nothing about the technical aspects of music or engineering. As was pointed out earlier there is a huge emotional factor in the listening experience, and I remember listening to an all-Beatles internet radio station on my first computer, low bitrate on a cheap soundcard with $10 desktop speakers, and truly enjoying it. As for the "nutty" audiophiles, I think a lot of cognitive dissonance is involved, ie once you've spent that much money you're not going to allow yourself to think that it wasn't worth it. I just wish that at least the music industry would get its head out of its ass and put out better-recorded music for those to whom it is important.
posted by blue shadows at 6:58 PM on January 12, 2010


Apart from amyms - who posted the link - are there any females in this thread?

Because it's coming across as a stereotypical boyzone pissing contest.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:03 PM on January 12, 2010


Monster Cable vs. a coat hanger: guess who wins.

I thought I was in the abortion thread for an ugly second.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:13 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


A microphone pointing up will detect the same pressure wave (and phase) as a microphone pointing down.

Typical drum mics have cardioid or hypercardioid pickup patterns and will pick up different things depending on where they point. Also, phase issues on multi-miced drumkits can be a nightmare. Typically you need lots of mics unless you have perfect drummer on perfect kit in perfect room (and I mean perfect. When The Levee Breaks perfect. Printing stuff to tape is always dangerous.)

Also any talk of tube vs solid state has to separate the listener's amp needs from the guitarist's amp needs. They're completely different animals. The goal of the listener should be accurate reproduction of the source material at the speakers (or, more ideally, at the ears) and the tube vs transistor sound is just a matter of taste. Guitarists are overdriving their amps into hard clipping and the tube vs transistor difference in tone is real and remarkable. Modern DSPs are bridging this gap, however.

This x 1000. The DSP caveat I'd add, however, is that we can simulate pristine clean (50's gentle tones) and extremo Metallica distortion, but the inbetween half-dirty-blues-digging-in is still a bit off (based on my experience with SansAmp, Guitar Rig, Amplitube, etc.)

It is analogous to the cinema buffs that complain about how hard it is to emulate the exact kind of coloring artifacts you get on celluloid with HD - sure, that is true, but why is that source of noise the only one that could be artistically useful?


In audio, the general public's perception of what instrument x should sound like, and the subsequent musical evolution of said instrument, is based to a large extent on these artifacts. [/boomerist, genXist possibly]

All that said, there is good valve vs bad valve, good solid state vs bad solid state, good digital vs bad digital. And typically old gear, barring mechanical failures etc., just sounds like it always does. There's no such thing as 'vintage' gear. It doesn't mature in oak fucking caskets.
posted by kersplunk at 7:36 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I thought I was in the abortion thread for an ugly second.

You only made that joke because you know no women are around.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:50 PM on January 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I will admit that I am the audiophile. I own, I even built, my own single ended triode amplifiers (I recommend this type of amplification to anyone). You can't use those very awesome planar speakers pitched upthread, you need something very efficient as the amps are flea powered, about 2.5 watts per channel. It's the cleanest, most awesome 2.5 watts you will ever hear. I have a big sucking transistor monster setup which will blow out the windows for other listening experiences.
The triode rig blows away the power rig, and just about anything else I have ever heard.
posted by caddis at 7:51 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


the inbetween half-dirty-blues-digging-in is still a bit off (based on my experience with SansAmp, Guitar Rig, Amplitube, etc.)

My favorite ever guitar amp was a two-tube podium PA with a horribly dirty spring reverb. It's long gone, but I've never found that particular match of fruity smooth + incoherent distortion anywhere else.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:53 PM on January 12, 2010


kersplunk: "In audio, the general public's perception of what instrument x should sound like, and the subsequent musical evolution of said instrument, is based to a large extent on these artifacts. [/boomerist, genXist possibly]"

And in cinema, the general public's impression of what a movie should look like is based on celluloid. An artist's prerogative includes redefining the tools and the material that conveys the medium, and I think that is needed when the alternatives of new tools and media exceed the alternatives offered by the old ones.
posted by idiopath at 8:10 PM on January 12, 2010


Apart from amyms - who posted the link - are there any females in this thread?

Because it's coming across as a stereotypical boyzone pissing contest.


Yikes, Ubu, don't introduce a controversy where none exists (well, apart from the audiophile arguments, that is).

When I posted the link, I didn't think of it as a boys' topic or a girls' topic, I just found it to be an interesting article and I figured it would spawn some thought-provoking discussion. I don't think the people posting comments are having a pissing contest, at least not gender-wise. I think most of them are just passionate about their opinions, and I'm enjoying reading all the interesting information they're offering.
posted by amyms at 8:50 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, let's not derail.

Reading through the comments, though, it just kinda struck me.

It's amusing to translate it into car-talk:

"Man, have you heard about those idiots who think that gold-plated spark plug tips increase your engine power? FFS, a spark is a spark. Carburettion is where it's all at!"

"Meh, I build my own carburettors, specific to the air temperature within my hood, and customised to the intake manifold compression ratio vortex uptake! I have no idea why more people don't go down this path!"

"Whatever. I bought a $100 1970 Datsun, and all I had to do was fit some racing slick tyres & some GTSX 1324 shocks & I can burn off brand-new sports cars!"

"LOLPORSCHEBUYERS!"
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:10 PM on January 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Well, if you go digital there shouldn't be any problem in synthesizing any sound you want.

The problem isn't that it's difficult to reproduce in analog, it's that you flat out cannot get the tube sound without some pretty clever physical apparatus.

Emperically measure the transfer function of a tube power output stage from linear all the way to saturated regime. Code this as a lookup table in a DSP.

This isn't an LTI system. In fact, it's quite the opposite -- it's nonlinear and definitely time variant. At best, you can break it down into a mix of linear components interacting with nonlinear ones, thereby bounding the complexity of the problem. But creating nonlinear tube modelers isn't an easy problem.
posted by spiderskull at 9:17 PM on January 12, 2010


And in cinema, the general public's impression of what a movie should look like is based on celluloid. An artist's prerogative includes redefining the tools and the material that conveys the medium, and I think that is needed when the alternatives of new tools and media exceed the alternatives offered by the old ones.

True, true. But music is many times more abstract than cinema. I'd say for example, 90% of electric guitar ever recorded is more 'unreal' than what we see in the celluloid of, say, 'Tears of the Black Tiger'. Also, whenever someone moves things forward, many times more people rip off their artifacts (people dropping tapes in the sink to make them more Boards of Canada-like etc.)

I'm not disagreeing with you. I'm just saying I could talk about this forever. If I didn't have a thesis to write. On another, completely different subject.
posted by kersplunk at 9:25 PM on January 12, 2010


It's amusing to translate it into car-talk:

I used to drive a Geo Metro, and I swear to Capt. Picard that the Geo Metro is the best automobile built. It routinely got 50 miles to the gallon and it had quite decent acceleration. The design really maximized the interior space so that I never had any storage issues. The back seat even managed to be comfortable.

I only unlocked it's full potential when I listened to hard drum and bass music. I'm pretty sure that I passed several Hondas with 2-3 spoilers with this technique. Also, I got a beaded seat cover like taxis have.

Sadly, it was destroyed by an SUV that ran a red light. YMMV.
posted by fuq at 9:28 PM on January 12, 2010


This isn't an LTI system.

Nothing in my reply indicated that it was. A lookup table can completely represent a nonlinear response.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:28 PM on January 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Rhomboid: "A lookup table can completely represent a nonlinear response."

I think you mean some nonelinear responses - because otherwise there are some folks working in fluid dynamics who would be very surprised and excited by your breakthrough. Or do you mean an imaginary terrabytes large N-dimensional set of tables? Not very practical in real usage.
posted by idiopath at 4:58 AM on January 13, 2010


I once drove a Geo Metro. My feet got sore from kicking the ground to make it move.

Seriously, that was a bad, bad car.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:25 AM on January 13, 2010


I apologize, my last comment probably came across as a bit hostile.

The world is full of more nonlinear systems than linear ones, and I think that the amount of science dedicated to understanding the more linear systems, and the less nonlinear of the nonlinear systems, makes people think that the world is much more linear in its details that it actually is. Fluid simulations require supercomputers for seemingly simple systems. And the kinds of circuitry that is used in analog filtering just happens to be the same kind of stuff that was used in analog computers to simulate fluid systems (op amp stands for operational amplifier - as in mathematical operation, they were invented as modules for doing calculations in analog computers). And that is not a coincidence.

Modern DSP tends to fake it with lookup tables and IIR lowpass digital filters, but this has its limits, and you find them fast when trying to do some of the subtle stuff between clean and extremely dirty (as mentioned above). And I would add that there are many kinds of extremely dirty that are hard to do too, if what you really want is that "analog sound" as priority number one (though I wouldn't blame anyone who is not deeply into the noise scene for not being interested in this particular problem, or failing to hear the difference).
posted by idiopath at 6:07 AM on January 13, 2010


re there any females in this thread?

try going to an audio convention or show. females are quite the rarity.
posted by caddis at 7:22 AM on January 13, 2010


I'm female, but I don't really care about the nitty gritty details. I just want a great sound system so I can listen to Cat Power really loud, sit on the floor, eat cake, and cry.
posted by Theta States at 7:45 AM on January 13, 2010 [9 favorites]


I'm female, but I don't really care about the nitty gritty details. I just want a great sound system so I can listen to Cat Power really loud, sit on the floor, eat cake, and cry.

Sounds like most males I know. They'd just never admit it.
posted by philip-random at 8:32 AM on January 13, 2010


Just to toss another inexpensive-speaker recommendation out there, if you can find a gently-used pair of Infiniti Primus 150s, they got surprisingly good reviews when new. They were about $300/pair originally, and I'd imagine (if you could find them) that they'd be around $100/ea or less now.

They're bookshelf speakers so they're not going to fill a large room with sound or anything, and they're a bit weak on bass (it's only a 5-1/4" driver, after all), but they'd be a good upgrade from small computer speakers, paired, perhaps, with a decent little NAD amp. They're not magnetically shielded so you can't put them next to your monitor ... as an alternative, think about wall-mounting them behind your monitor, slightly above your eyeline. Frees up some space on your desk, too.

They'd also probably work well if you wanted to assemble a really kicking 5.1 system (as the 4 corner/quad speakers; you'd probably want something heftier for the front and then a sub).

Unfortunately, Infiniti discontinued them recently, replacing them instead with the (suspiciously less-expensive) Primus P152s. I haven't seen a review on these from a reliable source yet, although Amazon comments suggest they're not bad.

But if you're in a stereo store and you ever see a pair of Primus 150s kicking around that don't look like they've been abused (any good store should let you hook them up and have a listen), I'd pick them up.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:46 AM on January 13, 2010


I'm female, but I don't really care about the nitty gritty details. I just want a great sound system so I can listen to Cat Power really loud, sit on the floor, eat cake, and cry.

Hey, I just saw Cat Power live last Friday - for the fourth time. Unfortunately, cake didn't feature on the bar menu, but I did sit on the floor for a while.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:26 PM on January 13, 2010




Listen to cake and eat cat instead
posted by tehloki at 8:36 AM on January 14, 2010


Can anybody recommend a parametric EQ that can notch filter out all the frequencies at which Cat Power's music can be heard?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:07 AM on January 15, 2010


A low-pass filter with a sufficiently high cut-off should do it.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 10:41 AM on January 15, 2010


This talk about audio systems that allow you to hear more of what's in the music: I gradually learn more and more about music, and one of the things that makes it enjoyable to me is that as I learn more music, I hear more of what's going on in familiar music, things I didn't notice before. It doesn't really matter what sort of audio system I'm listening on, either, for example, I've listened to songs from my high school days on a stock car radio, and noticed layers of sound that would have completely passed me by just a few years ago, because of the things I have integrated into my understanding of music only recently.

I suspect that the people who spend incredible amounts of money on their audio systems would get a lot more benefit out of buying a mid-priced guitar and spending 1/4 of what they are spending on their equipment on music lessons. Of course, that would be work...
posted by Jimmy Havok at 1:13 PM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I suspect that the people who spend incredible amounts of money on their audio systems would get a lot more benefit out of buying a mid-priced guitar and spending 1/4 of what they are spending on their equipment on music lessons. Of course, that would be work..."

And, for those with high-end home theaters, no doubt they'd get a lot more benefit from buying an Arriflex or Panavision 35mm film camera, a generator and some 20K HMIs.
posted by bz at 2:11 PM on January 15, 2010


This is a bit late, sorry: as far as female in audiophilia, I agree that it's mostly the domain of middle-aged men. But Kim Deal is notoriously strict about using only the highest-quality analog equipment she can find for the entire recording process, refusing to use computers for any stage of the recording, mixing, and mastering process, and (from what I've heard) has been known to be pretty strict about what's allowed into the studio.
posted by koeselitz at 3:06 PM on January 15, 2010


Yeah, Kim Deal created the All Wave recording philosophy. I think it is a bit silly.
posted by bz at 3:44 PM on January 15, 2010


no doubt they'd get a lot more benefit from buying an Arriflex or Panavision 35mm film camera

More than they'd get from buying Monster Cables, at least. Home Theaterists suffer from many of the same problems that audiophiles have.

However, I believe that knowing some music gives you a lot more benefit, both when listening to music, and in general life, than knowing some cinematics could. You don't have to be professional level, or even half-competent (I know I'm not) to benefit from learning music.

I could be wrong, though...I've never done more video than trimming the boring ends off of a shot to post it on YouTube. Maybe if I did more my appreciation of movies would benefit the way my appreciation of music has benefited from learning to play a little bit.
posted by Jimmy Havok at 7:15 PM on January 15, 2010


bz: “Yeah, Kim Deal created the All Wave recording philosophy. I think it is a bit silly.”

Probably... but then, I guess the fact that females can be just as ridiculous when it comes to electronics and sound is a step forward for equality... right? Maybe?
posted by koeselitz at 9:11 PM on January 15, 2010


'Mountain Battles' is a fine record, tho.
posted by koeselitz at 9:12 PM on January 15, 2010


Vinyl is so 00's. For the new decade - chocolate.
posted by caddis at 6:11 AM on January 16, 2010


"I first tried making records out of ice cream beer cheese sausages and even butter"

If he had only tried bacon he would be king of the Internet.
posted by idiopath at 7:07 AM on January 16, 2010


« Older Steroidera   |   This little piggy went to market Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post