Listening room acoustic.

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Listening room acoustic.

Is attention to listening room acoustics considered important to say non audiophiles - those who might prioritize their music listening criteria as composition, performance, recording, playback sound?  It seems audio grail seekers are something of a dying breed these days especially with the growing influence of home entertainment systems with their strong appeal to watching things.  Certainly the Blu-ray disc has the potential for SACD audio quality or better but does the surround experience - sound field instead of sound stage - mask existing acoustic problems in an untreated listening room enough to be a non issue?  There are those who argue for the superior sound of the LP and presumably the merits of two channel stereo compared to digital surround.  And there are some who claim the first component in a music listening system is the acoustic sound of the room.  Any believer/non believers on the forum?  Best, Hal.         

RE: Listening room acoustic.

Good morning from the distant island of Maui, Hawaii. I do not think that, "audio grail seekers", are totally dead or even dying these days. The costs of really high quality audio equipment in 2010 are prohibitive for the majority of intending users.

For over 37 years I owned and used Quad amplifiers, a Thorens TD 124 turntable, equipped with an SME 12" arm, and fitted with a variety of high quality cartridges. I played LP's, - I still do so - 78's, and 45's. I used both Quad 57 electrostatics, and also Lowther Acousta's fitted with PM6 drive units. For tape recording and reproduction I used a Vortexion WVB for monaural enjoyment, and a Vortexion CBL for stereo. These days I use a Sony 5 channel receiver, a Quad, and a Sony cd player, and a Samsung SACD player. Speakers are Rogers LS3/5A's. My source material for listening these days by choice is the cd. And therein is another side to this issue of sound reproduction in 2010.

It relates to those, "...who argue for the superior sound of the LP...". The digital cd process requires very sophisticated reproducing players in order to decode even a fragment of the recorded information encoded in the musical cd. Less than 1% of marketed players are capable of accomplishing this decoding. The digital recording process requires scrupulous attention to detail in order to obtain accurate phasing and recording of reproduced sounds. The cost of the digital equipment to accomplish this is astronomic and limiting for recording companies, and the skills of recording engineers very rare indeed.

For many years I have observed the following. If you selected 100 electrically recorded 78's from major manufacturers you would likely find that over 75% sound excellent. If you then select 100 LP's you may find 3 that sound excellent. If you select 100 cd's at random, you are likely to find none that sound excellent. You would have to increase the number to at least 1000 cds to locate 1 or possibly 2 that sound excellent. For excellent please read outstanding and natural.

Regretably this is a very complicated and complex issue. When we consider the additive technology required in order to experience a realistic sound stage in recorded music today in 2010, the majority of listeners are unable to reproduce an accurate result because of the astronomic costs involved. The majority of modern modest audio systems available and in use today, provide a much less expensive and better sounding result than was obtainable from similarly priced systems in the 1960's. But also regretably, downloading, and an addiction to compression of recorded music, by both manufacturers and radio stations appears to be the order of the day, and this deprives modern day listeners of hearing recorded music accurately reproduced to the point where the listener believes that the artists are in the same room as they are.

As for sound stages, acoustical issues, and listening rooms, I know I have not addressed these essential concepts. Perhaps another enthusiastic listener can take it from here. Enjoy the remainder of the listening week. Irvine Shamrock.

 

 

Irvine Shamrock

RE: Listening room acoustic.

Irvine, as always a pleasure to read your comments.  And it's good to know audio grail listeners are not on the list of the endangered, yet.  Still I can't help but observe that more and more of the once friendly hifi shops here in the states have disappeared or are still morphing into video stores which just happen to sell audio.  What passes for a listening room at what's left-places like Fry's or Best Buy in my neighborhood are closer to blaring-carpeted- storage areas where they "stack 'em deep and sell 'em cheap."  Video presentation isn't much better - glaring screens in dreadful light projecting the latest action movie or game seems pretty standard these days.  It seems popular home entertainment sensibilities have moved ever closer to more or surround bells and whistles which for most video offerings is just fine with me - plot driven and/or effect laden movies for example having their own reality.  But with classical music recordings, it seems possible to recreate the essence if not the image of a studio or live event at home which in my world helps to enhance the music listening experience.  With that end in mind, I've found that one of the easiest and cheapest ways to improve music listening, (not counting the close but, (IMO,) not quite earphone experience,)  is through careful equipment setup and room acoustic conditioning.  I hope your system brings you as much listening pleasure as mine does.  Best, Hal.  

RE: Listening room acoustic. RE: Listening room acoustic.

Hal,If I remember correctly you have the same front end - Conrad Johnson Premier 17 that I have. You in the US used to listen through British speakers (B&W - do you still have them?) whilst I in the UK listen through US built speakers (Avalon Opus Ceramic)! Didn't you decide to listen in surround? I decided to buy an SACD player but went for a stereo only version made by Musical Fidelity. In fact it plays either SACD or CD and won't let me listen via the CD layer of a hybrid issue - thats fine of course because listening via SACD is a notch above generally.I've not gone to the trouble of doing much to the room acoustics because fresh from the box everything sounded good to me. All I've done is adjusted the speaker positioning little by little - and that's been constant now for a couple of years. What put me off surround was the additional hardware and speakers required - and also where does all that cabling go?I have a separate Nad hardware / Rega speakers in my bedroom - and a Yamaha/ Harman Kardon/ 6 speaker Castle cinema surround system for Sky Arts/ BBC 4/ films and DVD set-up etc. So I suppose, yes, I'm very interested in the best sound I can possibly afford, but I want to listen to the music firstly and foremostly.

Looking forward to further discussions. Jack

 

 

 

RE: Listening room acoustic.

Jack, your memory is first rate.  Yes to the CJ Preamp and yes to the B&W 801 Speakers.  As to the surround gear, most of it went upstairs to my video system when I upgraded everything to Blu-ray a few months ago.  However I must say that some SACD recordings really need the surround audio set up to truly show their stuff.  At present, no complaints with my current two channel stereo set up which includes a Music Hall Turntable for that lovely vinyl I've collected over the years.  My new to me SACD Player, (with only a few hours playing time,) seems designed for analogue mastered recordings - especially the high rez Living Stereo/Living Presence releases from RCA and Mercury.  One simple way to evaluate the overall sound of your listening room is to listen to something akin to a books on tape recording and decide how natural the voice sounds.  I also like to listen to a well recorded, (no reverb or other audio tricks if possible,) female vocalist for clarity, overall presence and hopefully that "you are there" feel.  Then it's time to think about waf/paf considerations and we're off and running.  Should we continue?  Best, Hal.      

RE: Home

Back in my student, rented apartment, days, I used to pin egg cartons all over the walls of my listening room to create an anechoic chamber and got excellent sound out of mediocre equipment. Then I got married.

Let's face it, most of us listen to music in rooms that are designed for other things too, so compromise is inevitable. Anyway, as one gentleman said earlier, the quality of software is still the key factor and if engineers continue to monkey around with their set-ups to produce a sound that flatters indifferent playback equipment, our chances of getting the best out of our expensive hi-fi are limited. 

RE: Listening room acoustic.

In our first home I actually had quite good acoustics for my Quad ESLs, 33-303 and Luxman PD131/SME Series III/Shure V15 Type III (all of which I still have). The large lounge/dining had more windows than wall and these went right to the ground. The ceiling was soft tiles and the carpet was the thickest Axminster I've ever seen. Hideous, but of amazing quality. The second, more expensive house, however, had a smaller lounge and the huge windows had Venetian blinds instead of drapes, while  the ceiling was plaster board. Putting up heavy drapes made a huge difference. After hanging these, when we switched on the TV we both felt as though we'd lost some of our hearing. That's how bad the echoes had been. But it wasn't until we extended the room that we came anywhere near the acoustics in our first house. The living room in the house we have now is too small for a decent listening experience (though any estate agent would classify it as large). 

RE: Listening room acoustic.

With a stereo system delivered through two loudspeakers the room acoustic makes an important part of the listening experience most obviously if the room is resonant.

In the case of surround sound the acoustic is supplied by the four (or more) speakers and should recreate the acoustic of the venue in which the recording was made unless of course the recording engineer has imposed his own idea of what you should hear. When the surround sound system is set up it is possible to tweak it to your liking. For example a small room can be made more resonant by increasing the delay in the rear speakers.

The "pure audiophile" searches for the closest approach to the original sound stage but due to modern recording techniques which involve complex digital manipulation of the original signals from multiple microphones I doubt if this is possible.

Modern recordings and equipment can certainly produce a convincing musical experience though it is still an imitation of the real thing.

 

Archie

RE: Listening room acoustic.

Tag, egg cartons - preferably clean and yoke free - excellent use of low cost room treatments.  Wool blankets can also be effective in dampening the sound of a listening room along with the more waf/paf friendly drapes, tapestries and occasional oil painting.  Better still, (IMO,) proper speaker and equipment placement can help any system sound better for little or no additional cost. Best, Hal.  

RE: Listening room acoustic.

Archie, point well taken.  I suppose the best any recording can offer is the essence of the performance more so than the image.  But that doesn't deter audio grail seekers like me from trying to discover whatever home hifi sound perfection might be possible.  Hopefully such a journey bests serves the music and the recording/playback industry which in my world happily fulfills any number of subjective needs.  Best, Hal.   

RE: Listening room acoustic.

Laraine, with equipment as described, I suspect within reason and depending on the choice of music you could make a clothes closet sound pleasing.  Best, Hal.      

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