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ARSCLIST  April 2013

ARSCLIST April 2013

Subject:

Re: NY Audio Show -- one man's observations

From:

Clark Johnsen <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 15 Apr 2013 13:54:20 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (306 lines)

What Carl says? Dittoes!

On Mon, Apr 15, 2013 at 1:36 PM, Carl Pultz <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> I can't speak with authority on that, but it does seem to be one of the
> design aspects manufacturers' exercise. It doesn't lead to a
> whole-in-the-middle, but does put the emphasis on a 'sweet-spot' where most
> of the magic happens. Step away, and it sounds like a PA column. My feeling
> is that some qualities, like imaging and bass definition and micro-detail,
> have become so much the focus of competitive comparisons that the general
> gestalt got lost. We may see a response to that in the increased popularity
> of old-school English designs like Harbeth or Spendor, or in horn-loaded
> single-driver schemes, which bring some soul (or excessive coloration,
> depending) back to the experience. It may also be a gradual recognition
> that
> it will be music-lovers that will sustain the industry, not audiophiles.
>
> But another way the industry is trying to meet customers where they live is
> in the private realm, between their ears, where that need for privacy
> extends to the home for many people. Personal players have helped to
> replace
> the unfortunate image of quality sound as being all about huge speakers and
> gender conflict. Now, it means something more domestically acceptable. It
> works with the whole neo-urban thing. It's also the current cool fashion. I
> just got home from the gym, where my little ear-buds were embarrassed by
> all
> the big honking 'phones clamped on heads. No metaphor intended!
>
> One beauty of file-based systems is that they integrate with all the
> portable stuff. The kid can hook their iThing to dad's system easily, with
> all the domestic harmony, if not musical, that implies. Being not just for
> the man-cave, it helps to push hifi into Cayenne territory for the
> well-healed family unit.
>
> I'm with you in not finding headphone listening as satisfying as speakers,
> although I use them a lot for work. If I ever find a product that brings
> the
> good qualities of the various models I own together in one affordable unit,
> maybe my mind will change. I can rock out in the nursing home. I also hope
> that the industry isn't so sold on the 'physical product is over' meme. I
> suspect it is premature, at least in the overall market, which is quite
> diverse. Wanna side-bet there will be renewed demand for CDs in five years?
> Might those issues with docs be one cause of a revival? I know people who
> have the 192/24 file and CD/SACD and LPs of favorite records. Rather than
> the replacement paradigm, is there an option in music marketing that covers
> the idea that in aggregate people want everything?
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Tom Fine
> Sent: Monday, April 15, 2013 9:08 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] NY Audio Show -- one man's observations
>
> Hi Carl:
>
> What do you mean by this statement?
>
> "Narrow dispersion figures into a design concentration on lateral imaging."
>
> Are you saying that speaker designers are trying to make narrow "columns"
> of
> sound as opposed to a wide stereo image with a strong center? If so, why??
>
> The networked-server stuff is really interesting. It's getting very
> old-fashioned to have a big pile of CDs! The various iPad-based control
> apps
> are great in that you see your whole music library right there, you can
> search it, you can quickly drag and drop playlists and queues, etc.
> However,
> there's still a big issue with booklets and liner notes. Having AllMusic or
> Gracenote "notes" about something is a cheezy non-substitute for any good
> CD
> booklet, and definitely not adequate for historical-reissue and box-set
> books. The industry should have outsourced PDF'ing all of this stuff to a
> low-labor-cost market years ago. It should just be up there and universally
> available like track names. So when you buy album X from iTunes, Amazon,
> HDTracks or whatever, the CD booklet or original LP jacket art should just
> be linked right to the files, pulled right off the interwebs into your iPad
> so you can read it while you listen just like in the grand old days of ...
> a
> few years ago!
>
> Regarding headphones, I was surprised, overhearing talk in the various
> headphone-centric rooms, how many people don't have big speakers anymore,
> do
> most of their music consumption via headphones. I prefer the sensation of
> real air moving in a space, to my ears it's more lifelike.
>
> -- Tom Fine
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Carl Pultz" <[log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Monday, April 15, 2013 8:49 AM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] NY Audio Show -- one man's observations
>
>
> > Interesting, Tom. Thanks for the report. It has seemed for a long while
> that
> > some audiophiles work up the 'quality' ladder by chasing more
> information,
> > more detail, or at least the impression of more detail, often where no
> more
> > exists. That can lead to a clinical, sterile sound that strikes me as
> > a-musical. I was on that path, too, until I changed priorities. Narrow
> > dispersion figures into a design concentration on lateral imaging.
> >
> > My friend Bob, who runs The Analog Shop in Victor, NY, was there; I'm
> > anxious to hear his impressions. He specializes in record-players, and is
> > also heavily into computer-audio. He sees the high-end business picking
> up
> > lately, and the new category of networked systems are helping to drive
> that,
> > at least as much as the vinyl revival has. Headphones, too, as the two
> > categories seem to synergize. One side benefit to the retailer is that
> > computer audio customers are accustomed to figuring out their own
> problems.
> > Thank you, Mr. Gates!
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
> > [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Tom Fine
> > Sent: Sunday, April 14, 2013 9:18 PM
> > To: [log in to unmask]
> > Subject: [ARSCLIST] NY Audio Show -- one man's observations
> >
> > I decided to check out the New York Audio Show today, I think it's the
> > second year of this particular show. It was spread over several floors of
> > the New York Palace Hotel on Madison Ave. I flashed my AES membership
> card
> > and got a discounted admission (I think 10% or maybe 15% off). That
> > admission got me into everything going on Sunday afternoon.
> >
> > A general observation is that the hotel was not an ideal place for this
> kind
> > of event. Demos were taking place in small NYC hotel rooms, and were
> > sometimes overcrowded. The rooms were invariably stuffy and in some
> cases,
> > smelly food had been brought in (why? to clear out the over-crowded
> room?).
> > Detracting somewhat, and no fault of the show organizers, was a power
> > failure, which caused super-loud generators outside the windows to kick
> in.
> > The net result was akin to horrible turntable rumble-feedback. This did
> not
> > last all afternoon, thankfully.
> >
> > I won't get into what makes people spend more on stereo gear than cars,
> but
> > most of what I heard didnt't sound particularly great. Nothing made we
> want
> > to run out and take a home-equity loan because I _must_have_it! But,
> there
> > were some surprises.
> >
> > First surprise was how many headphone companies were there, how many
> > high-end headphone amps are now made, and how mediocre to bad most of
> them
> > sound. However, I found a couple of 'phones that were superb, better than
> > anything I own. Most interesting of that bunch were MrSpeakers out of San
> > Diego.
> > Dan Clark, the "Head-Master" (I assume that means owner or chief
> engineer),
> > has some interesting ideas about "voicing" headphones (as he pointed out,
> > ALL headphones are "voiced" in one way or another). I really liked his
> > mid-line model (the regular unbalanced one). It comes out less
> bass-extreme
> > than my go-to Audio-Technica ATMH50s but still with plenty of solid,
> natural
> > bass. The midrange is akin to AKG 'phones (very natural-sounding,
> especially
> > right where the human voice usually falls) and the treble is much better
> > than AKG and more like the more-costly Sennheisers I heard. Dan Clark
> said
> > he allows a 15-day return policy, so I plan to try out a pair in the
> studio.
> > I think they may be better than the A-T's for judging overall sound
> quality
> > because of the superb midrange. The A-T's are still probably best for
> > hearing exactly what's wrong or right in the bass frequencies (much
> better
> > than near-field monitors). I also have to give props to the Mytek
> > DAC/headphone amp I heard driving HiFiMan headphones (which were very
> good
> > in their own right, but way over my budget for headphones). They had the
> > Mytek playing DSD streaming files off a Mac laptop and the sound quality
> was
> > very pleasant and realistic. They didn't have enough variety of music to
> > render a verdict on DSD vs high-resolution PCM, but I will say I enjoyed
> > that demo very much.
> >
> > A company out of NYC called Well Rounded Sound makes single-driver
> speakers
> > in tubular wooden enclosures that can be combined or used alone. They had
> a
> > setup with their biggest drivers on the floor and their long-tubed
> smaller
> > drivers up on the radiator/ac unit. The beauty of the system is that they
> > had time-aligned the bass and treble so the damn thing sounded fantastic.
> It
> > was a small hotel room, so no telling how this would sound in a living
> room,
> > but I'm wondering about the applications for a studio, assuming one built
> > their own crossover network (or maybe not, I'd probably try it just
> driving
> > the two speakers per channel first, see if I could align them right for
> the
> > room). I know there are probably a bunch of acoustics theories broken
> here,
> > but I know what I heard and that setup sounded really good, better than
> some
> > of the house-priced speakers in other rooms. I specifically asked the guy
> to
> > demo full-range and dynamic music, helping pick from his large pile of
> CDs.
> > Better treble than I expected, really nice stereo-location-cues
> frequencies
> > and plenty of bass (even though the speakers on the floor are only spec'd
> > down to 70hz).
> >
> > Also noted, definitely in the class of what's called a "lifestyle
> product,"
> > along the lines with that 4-car garage in the McMansion, the return of
> the
> > "Hi-Fi Console":
> > http://www.symbolaudio.com/collection/modern-record-console/
> > The difference with the old klunky furniture containing a Garrard
> > record-wrecker, some screamy/honky speakers and an underpowered and
> > ill-vented tube amp, this thing sounds pretty good. I had the guy put on
> a
> > bass-heavy Jimi Hendrix record and then crank that little tube amp to the
> > point of room-clearing loud, too see if the bass would skip the record.
> > Amazingly, no! He's figured out some sort of isolatuion system for that
> > turntable where he was tracking at 1.5 grams and had no skipping or
> feedback
> > issues. The build quality was also impressive, although the tube amp has
> > more a good DIY fit and finish than an old Magnavox chasis of old. The
> > speakers don't have super-strong treble, but they don't sound like a
> blanket
> > is over them either. The little tube amp is quite crisp and clean, like a
> > Dynaco with a better power supply (which is what I suspect is the
> design).
> > The noise floor of the system was good, not at all like the hiss/hum/hash
> > background of yore. The Wall Street Journal had an article over the
> weekend
> > about many-vehicle, million-dollar, stand-alone garages, and one of these
> > things would be great in the loft/lounge area of one of those places. It
> > would definitely sound better than what's more likely to be there.
> >
> > Another general comment -- people demo'ing very expensive equipment
> should
> > obey two cardinal rules:
> > 1) never plug in an iPod or run lossy files from iTunes on a laptop, no
> > matter how thick your cables or how costly your DAC connected to the
> laptop.
> > 2) try to pick music that is not all midrange.
> > Acoustic folk music or a guy and a guitar playing blues doesn't
> demonstrate
> > anything. Original pressings of 70s rock records also doesn't reveal
> > anything except how bad most of those records sounded from Day 1. To
> almost
> > everyone's credit, no demos were done at pain-level SPL's. To my ears,
> too
> > many pricey speakers are "voiced" to have too much midrange or too much
> bass
> > and very few do "air and space" well. Also, too few speakers throw the
> > treble and midrange very wide, and this seems to be a recent trend. I
> > remember in the 70s and 80s that it was common for speakers to be spec'd
> > with a wide treble throw (usually having half of the tweeter orb outside
> the
> > front of the cabinet), and some manufacturers would have a horn-ish setup
> on
> > their midrange driver (or an actual horn, like Klipsch Heresys) to make
> sure
> > it threw wide. It could be that the demo'ing folks "toe-in" these modern
> > speakers too much, but it's not just a problem throwing out beyond the
> > speakers, it's also not throwing in toward the center. I heard this same
> > problem in about half of the demo rooms, with speakers costing a couple
> > grand a pair and speakers costing more than many homes.
> >
> > Probably worth noting that I saw a lot more headphone and
> streaming/computer
> > audio stuff than vinyl-playback stuff. There's definitely a trend out
> there
> > among computer-saavy music fans to set up whole-house servers and to
> create
> > or download non-lossy music files to feed the listening systems.
> > There were definitely more software and whole-home-control reps there
> than
> > turntable or cartridge manufacturers, and many demos were being run off
> > digital devices (although the majority were probably run off CD players).
> > That said, there were several "vinyl playback sessions" each day of the
> > show. VPI had one of their top-line turntables set up playing LPs all
> day.
> > They had a very good-sounding amp and speaker combo, I forgot the brands
> > because the prices were way out of my league (big speakers and lots of
> > tubes, but not all for show because that system's sound was clear,
> detailed
> > and solid if not super-crisp). It was very nice to sit in there, rest the
> > barking dogs and listen to a side of "Dark Side of the Moon."
> >
> > -- Tom Fine
> >
>

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