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

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

  1. Rattlin' Bones

    Rattlin' Bones Grumpy Old Deaf Drummer

    Louisville, KY
    I am. I'm a drummer. Been in studios, rehearsal rooms (once a week) and on stage.

    Maybe that's why I prefer "neutral" in audio equipment. I listen for the most natural sound. I probably don't have it, as I can't affords the best, but I try.

    patokiss likes this.
  2. Barnabas Collins

    Barnabas Collins Forum Resident

    If we really wanted neutral, wouldn't all speakers, amps, turntables and DACs sound the same? Heck with that. How do I know on any given recording what was really going on in the studio? Especially with most rock/pop recordings. I just want something that sounds amazing to my ears. I'm not after some kind of "truth", I just want to kick back, listen and have a drink or two (or three).
    mds, Richard Austen, stuwee and 5 others like this.
  3. G E

    G E Forum Resident

    How do we know what neutral is?

    Our ears all hear uniquely.

    I screw around with all the variables until I like it.

    And then when I gets more money I screw around with them some more.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2018
    mds, Kristofa, Wally Swift and 2 others like this.
  4. The Pinhead

    The Pinhead SUDACA ROƑOSO

    I've been at rehearsals A LOT, and also many of my friends are musicians who play instruments, and do know how a guitar/bass guitar connected to an Ampeg, Hartke, Fender amp etc sound. Same with every can and cymbal of the drums. Sometimes the recording captures these sounds faithfully, others it doesn't. Same with equipment and reproduction above certain price point. Not everyone wants that kind of tonal and dynamic realism in their living rooms; not exactly a kick back and relax experience, mind you.
    PhantomStranger, mds, Helom and 3 others like this.
  5. G E

    G E Forum Resident

    This is spot on.

    I've heard some amazing systems but one would never mistake them for
    Live music. Sit in the 8th row of a Mahler program and you will understand.
    mds, Helom, The Pinhead and 1 other person like this.
  6. Grant

    Grant Hmmmm....

    United States
    Neutral is when the reproduction of the source is as transparent as possible. It's very easy to understand.
    patokiss likes this.
  7. I haven't found the DAC1 or DAC2 to be musically involving. It's lacking that elusive quality that gets audio to be emotionally involving. My impressions are based on only listening to the headphone jacks on the DAC1 and DAC2. I haven't listened to a DAC3. I haven't ever tried the DACs with a headphone amp that I know is able to do that musically and emotionally involving style of sound. So I don't know if the reason I don't like the DAC1 or DAC2 is because of the DAC or the built-in headphone amp.

    The Benchmark DACs show up at headphone meets. I like it when they do because they're good gear to use for evaluating headphones. The sound is clean and you can't fault the neutrality. Very useful for technical comparison listening of headphones and has the added advantage for technical listening comparisons of being able to evaluate headphones without the distraction of having the music become emotionally involving and distracting. The Benchmark DACs aren't something I'd want when listening for music enjoyment. An Ayre Codex would be better for headphones if your goal is music listening enjoyment rather than pure technical listening. Ayre manages to capture that elusive emotional content with solid state that Benchmark can't seem to find.
    timind likes this.
  8. jkull

    jkull destroyer of cookie cutters

    I have, to second the guy above. Ive recorded with 5-6 bands over the years, and am currently in 2 projects again. In my opinion I'm very accustomed to 'accurate' sounds of instruments. I think this is part of why i prefer a pretty accurate and transparent sound. Its not always what you might want but at the end of the day, when you're in the mood for that, its the most fun to hear the music this way.
    patokiss and timind like this.
  9. patokiss

    patokiss Forum Resident

    So, you and The Pinhead made my point. You know for sure how to find "neutrality" based in experience. Of course, as to me, sometimes is dificult to reach that system at home because of lack of money, but at least you can get closer choosing the gear, speakers, room treatment, etc. Problem with some audiophiles (not everybody) is they don't have that reference, and spend too much money on useless and expensive gear and widgets and are never satisfy.

    But at the end, it's the music above everything.
    The Pinhead likes this.
  10. jkull

    jkull destroyer of cookie cutters

    Yup.. That is actually exactly what many do when divulging into satisfying the desire for a good home audio arrangement. Within 'practical parameters' I can tell you whether someone is using a fender jazz or p bass on a recording (of course if theyre using the stock pickups and don't have it boosted much with overdrive or other effects). I can sometimes pickout a brass snare, vs wooden snare pretty well. Can easily tell you if drums are sampled or not etc. I am a bit nit picky with recordings and pretty specific about tones, and what tones sound good with what styles and so on.

    Really.. There are a lot of companies and designs out there that we have to choose from. Be it speakers, amps, source components etc. And it is not always easy to know what you like. That takes time. Sometimes you might like to hear the music more subtle, sometimes, more raw, and live-like. Overall, i prefer a detailed sound. A presentation where I feel like I can picture the drummers hands working, bc the amount of force or attack laid into the drums is audible through my speakers. To me, it feels like the music is telling a story when you're hearing it that way. If you can somewhat understand what I'm saying. It just makes your mind 'picture' the bands or artist or whatever it is. When a recording has great dynamics, well, all of that becomes even more interesting.

    I like a strong midrange however. A sweet midrange does a lot. Makes the music grab you even more, and it is the sweetest frequency area for our ears of course. When a guitar hits a lead, it jumps out in front a bit etc. So I would say all in all I like a pretty neutral sound, with a sweetened up midrange.

    With my first entire setup, I didn't get this. I didn't know what I really 'wanted' my home stereo to sound like bc I hadn't found it. I finally ventured to hearing some very different things from what I currently had and even then had to have it in my own room to 'really' know.
    patokiss likes this.
  11. bhazen

    bhazen Magical Mystery Tourist

    Newcastle, WA
    Are Harbeth P3ESR's 'neutral' ...? If so, I like neutral. :) They just sound correct.
  12. jkull

    jkull destroyer of cookie cutters

    Ive personally never heard harbeths unfortunately. According to what I can conclude they are a very pleasing speaker that sounds very natural with a slight warmth to them. Not the furthest from 'neutral' but dead neautral is not always exactly what you want. It is nice to have some impact that is distinct to your components while still staying natural and not 'overly' colored in any way. Which i think harbeths should be this way.
    bhazen likes this.
  13. Grant

    Grant Hmmmm....

    United States
    I seriously wish I had a dead neutral, ruler-flat system.
    bhazen likes this.
  14. jfine

    jfine Forum Resident

    I seriously wish all my records sounded perfect on my system.
    Kristofa and bhazen like this.
  15. Grant

    Grant Hmmmm....

    United States
    I don't want everything to sound perfect or even good because not all sound sources are perfect. I want to hear warts and all. I mean that!
    bhazen likes this.
  16. stuwee

    stuwee Forum Resident

    Tucson AZ
    Lot's of very wonderful posts (I didn't read all of them, it's late). I was surprised that our host Steve said most MC carts lean to the bright side. I haven't heard any new, this century, MC carts on a nice table/system. I do remember my AQ404 from the mid 1980's was a winner sonically from top to bottom. I have to say the weight on the back of the SME arm was on the last screw rib do to the mass of the thing. Not an optimal match, but it sounded wonderful! I have many very high quality cassette tapes from a equally high quality deck, the SAE C101 and a Nak B300. They let you know the AQ404 was tits! I also have many tapes from my ownership of the Grace F9e, moving iron gem, that cart twisted my last good nerve, missed it from day one of selling it.

    Then I got a Shure V15 VI, HE special tracking, dullness?? Wot? No midrange? 'scues me. I hear a wonderful slam and pace in old Lps. The Summits do not suffer fools in the midrange where the music lives. Color makes life fun, who wants the perfect sound right now?

    Thanks Steve, it's nice to hear from an engineer how the truth is in the pudding, I hope you know what I mean by that. I'll post more later...
  17. GroovyVinylDood

    GroovyVinylDood Forum Resident

    Eastern Canada
    While I am a "newbie" I'm not going back to read 45+ pages of this thread. Based on the OP and the thread title, I can say that as an audiophile I DO want neutral. That said, I have processing I can loop into my rigs that can add colour to the neutrality as I see fit (trade out of improved sound quality for increased noise etc).
    The Pinhead likes this.
  18. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Bumping by request
  19. Gibsonian

    Gibsonian Forum Resident

    Iowa, USA
    We can measure for neutrality easily now, i.e. pink noise and high band analyzer. Compare phase, timing between drivers. You can get very close to neutral if you want to. Many would not want that, cause their ear/brain combo want it the way they's wants it! Reminds me a bit of Gollum and his all consuming ring!
  20. Dan C

    Dan C Forum Fotographer

    The West
    This whole thread started 8 yrs ago because of the Shure V15xMR cart. I still use mine on my VPI Classic.

    Sometimes I think it's time to replace it with something new and different, but I'm terrified all hell will break loose, totally change the sound and nothing will track as well and I'll be filled with angst and regret.

    So I just keep playing records.

    dan c
    Wngnt90 likes this.
  21. Chris Schoen

    Chris Schoen Rock 'n Roll !!!

    Maryland, U.S.A.
    Try a Denon DL-110. Very musical, huge soundstage. You will be pleased, I think.
  22. mds

    mds Forum Resident

    I started a "neutral" post the other day not knowing this existed but my concern was slightly different than "most audiophiles don't want neutral". My reason was because I believe the majority of equipment is not neutral and when someone is trying to put a system together in which they are working on synergy between components with the goal of a balanced system that suits their tastes in its final sound they many times start a thread asking for help finding their next piece of equipment. This request for help may ask for recommendations that have a slight voicing to the equipment that may make it fall on a warmer or more detailed or less detailed side of the fence and too many people start off by telling them they should start over basically and buy neutral sounding equipment which I believe is almost impossible to do and basically not what they are asking for advice with. The notion that chasing neutral isn't the best approach in selecting equipment is based on my experience in listening to many systems in all prices ranges and playing my test disc through them to hear that they all sound different. Some may sounded pretty bad but most have sounded pretty darn nice and accurate to my way of understanding music. This is also based on going to multiple types of concerts in many different settings and noticing that the sound is always different and therefore this idea of neutral is a trap that one should not fall into too deeply. I think balanced and matching what the person's ears want to hear is the better approach knowing that there are very few pieces of equipment that are truly neutral (Pass Lab amplifiers/Harbeth speakers to mention two respected pieces of equipment but are not truly 100% neutral) once they end up in someone's listening room and influenced by the other equipment, room furnishings and wall boundaries or lack there off. I am not saying that one should be satisfied with equipment that is far from perfect and full of warts that make its sound unfaithful to true life, but let's be real there are many pieces of great equipment out there that are not 100% neutral and needs to be integrated into someone's system and if done correctly the final sound will be very accurate and pleasingly transparent, detailed, throw wonderfully realistic sound stages and all the other words that people use to describe great systems.
    ZenMango likes this.

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