Audiophiles don't really want NEUTRAL. Audiophiles don't really like NEUTRAL.

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Steve Hoffman, Nov 6, 2010.

  1. JonP

    JonP Active Member

    As an ex-violinist I can say that the general consensus amongst professional players is that an instrument that sounds bright and loud is one to be avoided. Not only because it is fatiguing to play, but also because in general such instruments have virtually no carrying power in an auditorium or hall.

    In actual fact, the very best instruments (and I am not just talking Strads and Guarneris - I am talking about good Italian instruments up to the Storioni era and to a lesser extent the more modern makers such as Scarampella) actually sound rather intimate, warm, detailed yet subdued under the ear. I distinctly remember the first times I played really good instruments - a Carcassi and a Nicola Gagliano. I remember being "unimpressed", such was my naivety back then. They sounded subjectively gutless and anaemic under the ear. But the thing was that they carried wonderfully, and people 20 feet away would say how fantastic they sounded compared to the ones that sounded nicer to me under the ear. It took me a long time to develop my sensitivities to what made a good violin and what made a bad one.

    I lament the fact that modern violin string technology has in my opinion detracted from the sound of these wonderful old Italian instruments too. And you can hear the results on recordings too. The string sound on all those "golden age" recordings was just not on account of the engineering side of things during that era - it was the strings the players used as well. Typically they would use aluminium-wound gut on the A string, and silver or aluminium- wound gut on the D and G (with the E usually being steel). This gave a detailed, warm sound with lots of overtones compared to modern strings that have a higher tension and stifle the sound. It also afforded the player more control over the tonal characteristics of the instruments and afforded better articulation and dynamic control via bowing. There are a few soloists around these days who still prefer to use the classic non-synthetic strings such as Eudoxa and Olive, and you really can hear the difference even as a listener.

    Incidentally, I just got a great violin and piano recording last week. Kyung Wha-Chung "Con Amore" - one of those K2HD 100 khz remasterings of the original early digital Decca recording. To this date, this remastering is the best recorded sound I have heard of violin and piano, equal to a classic Living Stereo recording of Heifetz playing the Beethoven "Spring" Sonata (a Kevin Gray Cisco reissue on LP but sadly not CD).
  2. LeeS

    LeeS Blue Note Fan

    Thanks for the comments Jon. We are fortunate to record good violins which sound "sweet" and are not bright; I was merely pointing out that real instruments may seem to have excess treble to those unfamiliar with live acoustic music.
  3. OcdMan

    OcdMan Forum Resident

    Interesting. I've always suspected Shure revised the V15VxMR cartridge body or stylus assembly later in its life. Several VN5xMR styli I got from Shure not long before they discontinued it both sounded and measured quite warm and bottom heavy. I even performed the measurements using the same series of CBS test records that Shure used to voice their cartridges. The response was definitely down a couple of decibels at 10kHz and it went down further from there on up to 20kHz. And that was when it was loaded at Shure's recommended 47k Ohms and between 250pF and 300pF. At that point, I emailed Shure about which Type V cartridge would yield the most accurate frequency-response and they pointed me to the older V15V-MR from the 1980s and not the V15VxMR. When I finally found a V-MR, it was truly dead-flat. At the standard 47k/250-300pF load, there was no tonal difference between a CD and LP mastered with the same EQ. The test record backed this up as well. No peaks or valleys anywhere. Maybe some people who don't like the V15VxMR have one like mine. But, even so, there are still numerous "audiophiles" who don't like the V15V-MR either.
    ExRecordist likes this.
  4. JonP

    JonP Active Member

    Where did these Shure cartridges fall price-wise? I can't seem to find any historical prices for them.
  5. blue

    blue Mastering rules

    sweet spot
    Very true! I had the same problem with MC carts and preferred MM and used the Shure among others. I couldn't listen to the MC treble boost at all, so I used a capacity on them to compensate. Not a good measure, as it has other negative effects, but the only way to listen to MC for me. Later I tried extreme cartridges like the japanese Koetsu, but I didn't like them for other reasons, being not neutral at all.

    Then later I made aquaintance to a tuning method (which is used on all my equipment), being able get an MC cartridge sound not only totally neutral on top, but far better, lifelike and natural generally. It's a far more complex treatment than cyrogenic conditioning and much more intensely changes the molecular structure of the conductor with one of the effects to nearly eliminate grain boundaries. Sounds like a sales show, but I'm not selling this. I can only tell, that among others, this made the sizzling top end of MC vanish totally and at the same time being more transparent, open and dynamic than before.

    I very much agree, some bloom at the right place can breathe life into the reproduction, which rarely is recorded so perfectly to deliver the best result on a completely neutral system. But especially treble and bass boost is something I hate.
  6. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    I have mentioned this before but here goes again. If a British Decca recording is to be remastered, it must be remastered with the special Decca EQ box in the circuit or the recording will sound too bright and shrill. Decca boosted the treble when recording and reduced it around 5 db at 8k or so when mastering in the old days to reduce tape hiss. Audiophile mastering engineers do not seem to realize this for some reason even though the raw masters can cause ears to bleed and insects to fall at 40 paces. Every original Decca or London sounds about right compared to the countless over-bright reissues, both on SACD, CD and modern LP.

  7. blue

    blue Mastering rules

    sweet spot
    In this context the short question: Am I the only one, experiencing a non natural (or non neutral) treble and/or upper midrange on many golden era reissues (mainly Classic Records RCA reissues) or even the famous and newly released "Power of the orchestra" 45RPM? To me this is often leading to an unnatural representation of cymbals or horns, not present at modern classical recordings.

    On the other hand there are fantstic reissues of old recordings like the new Wagner Parsifal reissue and the Keilberth Ring and others...
  8. sushimaster

    sushimaster Forum Resident

    How would I even know if my system sounds neutral to begin with, to know weather or not I favor neutrality or lean towards mid/high boost?

    If I have two different amps...a vintage Yamaha receiver from the 70's, and a modern NAD integrated amp...given that the tone controls on both amps are either set to bypass or set to center...the NAD and the Yammy don't sound alike, but are they both still neutral? In other words, can different amps, weather they are tube or solid state, sound different and still be neutral? Or do they have to sound equal or sound a certain way to be neutral?

    There are just too many variables. For all I know, I could try to strive for/build the most neutral system possible. But then the sound gets altered by the physical shape/characteristics of my less than ideal living room, and then the sound becomes not neutral by the time my brain perceives it.

    - Sushimaster
  9. blue

    blue Mastering rules

    sweet spot
    I'd say, if you're not uncomfortable with what you hear, don't bother if it's neutral or not...especially if the sound is not too far away from what you hear of acoustic instruments in a concert...
  10. OldCoder

    OldCoder Well-Known Member

    St. Paul, MN, USA
    I recall buying some of the earlier V15's under $100, and my first V15 Type 5 was $129. Over the life of the Type 5 they rose over $200, and there was one brief audiophile model called The Ultra that retailed at $400.

    I never bothered buying anything else back then, as I felt that the Shure's top of the line sounded as good as anything else I had heard.

    I'm really glad I used them for so long, my old vinyl never suffered from much mistracking, and still sounds great.
  11. BigAlsBro

    BigAlsBro Active Member

    I'm a little past "middle aged" & I usually hear a midrange "hump" (opposite of dip) that sounds rather unrealistic...Been to my fair share of record setting decible concerts. I hope I'm still around when I think I hear live music, walk around the corner to realize its a recorded reproduction...
  12. apileocole

    apileocole Lush Life Gort

    Have you considered that "bloom" may be more dynamically correct than whatever it was that did not have any "bloom"? Because music in a good acoustic environment can definitely have "bloom." At least as I interpret that term.

    Are you trying to capture the effect of the sound in the hall or from standing right there 8' from the ensemble?
  13. konut

    konut Prodigious Member. Thank you.

    Whatcom County, WA
    Have you considered that adding "bloom" to everything is like looking at the world through rose colored glasses? Or salting your food before you taste it? Etc....
  14. Grant

    Grant Now let that bass fall in! Oh yeah!

    United States
    If you reduce the highs, it will exaggerate the mids.
  15. Grant

    Grant Now let that bass fall in! Oh yeah!

    United States
    This goes back to what Steve said in his OP: audiophiles don't really want neutral. It's a general statement and not an absolute truth, but it's true for a lot of us.
  16. misterdecibel

    misterdecibel Bulbous Also Tapered

    Is frequency response the only measure of a cartridge's sound quality?

    And is the V15 the only cartridge that measures flat?
  17. MikeyH

    MikeyH Stamper King

    Berkeley, CA
    No, and No.. but they are very easy to measure, and praise/blame.

    Most of the comments here center around words that mimic frequency response errors... bright, boomy, harsh...etc. And early audio fetishism for measurements helped all that along too.

    My first system had tone controls and I adjusted them slavishly so that everything I played seemed to have the same balance. When I noticed I wasn't doing it any more, (and more to the point listened quite happily for weeks with the bass all the way up or down(!)) I just set them to the middle and dealt with it. My system now has no tone controls.
  18. BigAlsBro

    BigAlsBro Active Member

    Thanks, but it doesnt work that way for me...
  19. misterdecibel

    misterdecibel Bulbous Also Tapered

    It's not just music, there are many other sources of hearing damage in our daily lives, especially for males. Industrial noise, power tools, lawnmowers, even driving a car with the window open, can expose you to damaging high SPLs.

    Women, on the other hand, are exposed to screaming toddlers...
  20. apileocole

    apileocole Lush Life Gort

    Yes, that's the usual opinion one hears on the matter. Gah I can't stand the salt on seemingly everything... and I've spent a lot of time listening to some gear that is said to be neutral and has no bloom; not only does it seldom sound like live music, it can be downright boring. If something ads a distortion - perceived and/or measurable - but the end product of that gear (the sound in the room) feels more correct, would that be "looking at the world through rose colored glasses" or merely a means of achieving what sounds more accurate to the listener, feeling more like "the real thing"?
  21. Fun that you named this recording as "best recorded sound" as the original
    "shaded dog" RCA press 'Spring' / 'Kreutzer' lp by Rubenstein / Heifetz is in the top ten
    "sonically rich" lps in my collection. When I play this stereo lp thru my Maggies, jaws drop.
  22. JonP

    JonP Active Member

    I did not know this but it sure explains a lot. All the Decca reissues from First Impression Music sound excellent and extremely natural though, so perhaps they are doing the right thing. I hope this company does more of them because their remastering standards and physical medium packaging standards are truly excellent. And I think we consumers have been a bit starved of good Decca reissues when compared to Mercury, Living Stereo and Everest (those Speaker's Corner LP reissues sounded terrible to my ears and exhibited the exact sonic characteristics you mentioned in your post). There are a few JVC reissues of the late 50s early 60s Decca recordings and they sound good too, as do a lot of reissues on the Decca label itself made in the last 4 years or so (many of these are 60s Philips recordings given the merger of these labels under the Universal banner).
  23. JonP

    JonP Active Member

    Yep, that recording is easily in my top ten of all time. Every time I hear it my jaw just drops. I think RCA in particular seemed to produce superb chamber music results. The Rubinstein Beethoven sonatas are wonderful too. All these recordings really do bring the players and their instruments right there into the room with you.

    That specific Heifetz recording is what made me a Heifetz fan. I cannot stress enough how insightful and truthful this recording is. I would probably rate it the most sonically accurate acoustic chamber music recording I have ever heard in my life.
  24. JonP

    JonP Active Member

    Plus shopping centres and supermarkets are far louder today then they were when I was a kid. I've taken SPL readings at my local major shopping centre and pretty much came to the conclusion that anyone regularly there for the duration of a working day (such as employees) are destined for noise-induced hearing loss. These days I wear musician's ear plugs when I go shopping. If it isn't constant piped music at > 85dB, clanging shopping trolleys, fire alarms going off literally right above your head then it is the toddlers you mention.

    There is something very sobering about bending down to pick up a packet of Corn Flakes, only to have the toddler two feet away scream into your direction because Mum wouldn't buy them that toy in the other isle. With my ear plugs, I can laugh all these hazards off. They are also good for blood pressure control (the ear plugs I mean).
  25. Feisal K

    Feisal K Forum Resident

    I just want good music. Music that makes my feet tap sometimes, or soothes the stress at others. Music that gives me goosebumps, or raise the hairs at the back of my neck, music to drive along to or to work. Music to wake me up in the morning, music to inspire me during the day and music to put me to sleep at night. Not asking for perfection... :D

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