HiFi equipment for ambient/drone/experimental music

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Pater Aeneae, May 17, 2019.

  1. Pater Aeneae

    Pater Aeneae Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Francisco
    I'm not currently in the market for new equipment but was just curious to see if there are any ambient/drone/experimental music fans in the forum and, if so, what equipment you have/had that did this genre justice. I currently have a NAD C370 (recently refurbished), Musical Fidelity V90 Dac, Quad 11L bookshelves on isoacoustic Aperta stands, using Roon to play music from hard drive and Tidal. I am really happy with this set up for all other types of music I listen to (Rock, Jazz, Alternative) but I always find myself preferring to listen to my ambient music on my Sony Xperia Cell phone through Tidal and Focal earbuds.

    I find myself listening to more and more of this type of music (Eno, Stars of the Lid, Kyle Bobby Dunn, Murcof, Grouper, Tim Hecker, Nils Frahm etc...) and I am thinking that once my recently revived NAD gives up the ghost I may want to build a system with the reproduction of drone/ambient music as the primary goal. Thanks!
     
  2. zombiemodernist

    zombiemodernist Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northeastern USA
    I'm a fan of most of those artists you listened, and I don't really see my system lacking or excelling at reproducing them compared to any other genre. Perhaps you're just reacting to the music being in the wider, encompassing "headspace" of headphones vs the traditional directional stereo speakers setup.
     
  3. Davey

    Davey very clever with maracas

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    I listen to a lot of ambient/drone/experimental music but never thought it may require special system building, it's just always been part of my musical interests, and it's also a pretty expansive music descriptor. I tried to put together a very natural sounding system that let's me easily get lost in the music. My path is via Conrad Johnson electronics, but there are many other equally rewarding ways to get there.

    Anyway, just listening to the great Ian William Craig Centres record today, one of my modern favorites, can listen to the first disc all day, over and over, just amazing. The Sarah Louise Nighttime Birds and Morning Stars album in my signature is a big favorite this year too. Also listened to the new Mariska Baars & Rutger Zuydervelt Eau EP today, just one long track but pretty cool.
     
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  4. Pater Aeneae

    Pater Aeneae Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Francisco
    That was my original thought, too. But I also have a Dynaudio Music 1 Wifi Speaker in my bedroom and I even prefer that over my 2 channel primary system for most drone ambient music. It's strange, I know, and it doesn't make sense to me either.
     
  5. Pater Aeneae

    Pater Aeneae Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Francisco
    Will have to check out those works. Thanks!
     
  6. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    I have loads of this stuff and play it on regular equipment. There are folks that listen to this kind of music and prefer high end headphones and such but I generally prefer speakers outside of a few albums that I think work better on headphones. I do think that even modestly priced headphones can do a good job for this music.
     
  7. pdxway

    pdxway Forum Resident

    Location:
    Oregon, USA
    Try a good avr with room setup capabilities and has ability to do multi channels stereo.

    When properly setup, it is fun listening to 2 channel new age, electronica, etc. type of music in 5.1 multi channels stereo mode.
     
  8. vinnn

    vinnn Well-Known Member

    Location:
    England
    A long time Ambient fan here, you can see the deets of my 2 channel system in my profile.

    How has no-one mentioned Biosphere yet?
    Check out his Substrata, Shenzou and Cirque albums as a starter.
     
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  9. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    In such a case, perhaps Maggies would help?
     
  10. Pater Aeneae

    Pater Aeneae Member Thread Starter

    Location:
    San Francisco
    It's not all bad sounding on my system, just the albums/tracks that are very drone-like, with minimal variations, that do nothing for me while listening through my speakers but yet give me goose-bumps while listening through my ear buds. So maybe you're right, some music just works better through headphones. But, I've just seen/read so many threads where people claim that speaker X is good for music type A but not so much for music type B, or Amplifier Z excelled at this but not that, that I was wondering if anyone out there had speakers/amps/or whatever that truly brought out their enjoyment of ambient/drone music.
     
  11. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    I don't know. To me, all that stuff always sounds so... artificial and gimmicky. After upgrading from an AVR, going back would be the last move I'd ever make. My 2 cents.
     
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  12. james

    james Forum Resident

    Location:
    Annapolis
    I’m heavily into all of this and my favorite combination was Snell Js and a Line Magnetic 508ia. Snells or Audio Notes do warmth, touch and scale very well.
     
    bhazen likes this.
  13. pdxway

    pdxway Forum Resident

    Location:
    Oregon, USA
    Yeah, typical AVR might not do that well. In my case, my AV preamp and amps retails for $7.5K. My speakers and sub another $8.5K. It is much better than my previous Pioneer SC95 AVR setup.

    YMMV.....
     
  14. zombiemodernist

    zombiemodernist Forum Resident

    Location:
    Northeastern USA
    I agree with others that a decent setup should play all kinds of music equally well. With ambient I think the goal of most musicians is to encompass and envelop the listener. The only other factors I can think of between the two setups you're preferring is how much they "fill the room" (ie overall volume) or just a simple question of FR or extension since a lot of electronic music has a deep low end. Obviously headphone have an advantage of no room to contend with.
     
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  15. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    If I truly needed a different set of speakers for every genre of music I'd be screwed and would need to own around 20 sets of speakers. I have over 4,000 CDs and roughly 1300 LPs and that's before we get to lossless digital from Bandcamp or HDTracks or whatever. My tastes are all over the place. I need my equipment to sound good with everything. If something only sounds good with one genre of music, I don't buy it or quickly get rid of it or return it.
     
  16. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Right, some speakers don't go that low and might do better with a subwoofer. I don't use a sub so I prefer speakers that can go to 40-45 instead of those that only go to 55hz or whatever. For some ambient artists where most of the activity takes place in the low regions of sound, headphones might be better overall. For example some albums from Lull, Lustmord, and James Plotkin sound better to me on headphones. I know of one ambient artist that specifically recommends headphones with her music.
     
  17. spartree

    spartree Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    I agree with patient_ot and zombiemodernist; if your speakers don’t go fairly low or you don’t have a properly integrated sub you won’t get the full sense of space and depth that we all love about ambient/electronic soundscapes. It’s not about thumping club bass; it’s about scale, which is a big part of what pulls me into this kind of music. I don’t use a sub but my speakers extend quite low in-room, and imo they also excel at scale (particularly soundstage height & width) and filling the room without having to be super loud. The tweeters also have a pretty wide dispersion, so maybe that helps. My favourite albums from Boards of Canada, Jon Hopkins, Nicolas Jaar, Plastikman, Mount Kimbie, etc. really need room to breathe and I wouldn’t want my speakers to be the first bottleneck. I need the goosebumps.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2019
  18. moops

    moops Forum Resident

    Location:
    Geebung, Australia
    I like to muck around with this sort of stuff with a surround set-up and say ... Pro Logic II, getting a sub involved is fun at times.
     
  19. bever70

    bever70 It's all about the soundstage

    Location:
    Belgium
    With electronic ambient or electronic anything you need a good subwoofer (or 2), period! A good set up sub will pressurize your room together with a pair of main speakers set up for the best soundstage. When done right, you will no longer want to/need to listen to headphones.
     
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  20. Hipper

    Hipper Forum Resident

    Location:
    Herts., England
    I know very little about this type of music but assume you want an enveloping sound.

    You seem to get good results from your ear buds. Therefore one approach of thinking this through would be to try and replicate this in your room.

    This is not easy as once sound leaves your speakers it is interfered with by the room and its contents. Not only do you hear sound direct from the speakers (which is all you get from headphones), but also reflections particularly off sidewalls, and also back and front walls, and possibly the ceiling and floor. In addition bass frequencies (roughly below 200Hz), because they have wavelengths of a similar size to your room, misbehave - some frequencies become louder, others quieter or non-existent. Furthermore, you will hear sound from the left speaker not only in your left ear but also in your right - with headphones you only hear the left side in your left ear (unless you use some sort of crossfeed processor).

    The solution is good positioning of your listening chair and speakers, room treatment (bass traps etc.), and perhaps DSP/EQ. If you can't do the first two, DSP/EQ could go some way to help (you can get software or separate boxes). So can a couple of carefully placed subs if bass is the main issue.

    If you can't be bothered with all this, use good headphones. You can perhaps enhance the sound from them using something like a Smyth Realiser.

    By the way, just as an experiment, you could try walking round your room whilst your music is playing from your speakers to hear if the bass (or the overall sound) is any better or worse in different locations. If it is that shows that positioning is important.
     
    bever70 likes this.
  21. Pastafarian

    Pastafarian Forum Resident

    A good system can play any music and I listen to a fair amount of ambient, my REL sub is the piece of equipment that changed my understanding of the music, as so much tends to go on at very low or subsonic frequencies.

    To my mind this needs to be experienced in a room, as headphones don't produced the visceral effect of those bass notes occupying the space of the environment rather than just a sound inside your head.
     
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  22. bever70

    bever70 It's all about the soundstage

    Location:
    Belgium
    Amen to that! For this kind of music it is really necessary to add a sub because this music is more about 'being immersed in it'. Play around with placement of sub(s) and mains until the room comes 'alive', it is hard to explain to someone in words what that means, but once you heard it, there is no way of going back and you will only be left wondering what you have been listening to before.
     
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  23. vinnn

    vinnn Well-Known Member

    Location:
    England
    Never upmix stereo, just don't.

    That aside I'd suggest good speaker placement is key to being immersed in a spacious soundstage, that and a pair of full-range (or a sub to back up smaller speakers).
     
  24. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    I started out my system with IEM's (In Ear Monitor's). Then I brought in speaker's and amps and speaker's and amps...

    After a while, I reached a point where the speakers way outshined the IEM's or the headphones.

    There is so much low frequency information in modern recordings, that you will never obtain the full effect of the recording if you have a sub that can play deep and strong enough to properly pressurize the room.

    See above.

    The true effects of sound in a room cannot be matched by headphones. I think your term "visceral effect" summarises this quite nicely.

    I like to listen to all kinds of interesting sounds through my system.

    [​IMG]

    What I don't like to do is to ever "process" stereo sound. I do like to use multiple systems with multiple amps and speakers to provide the listener with a room filling immersive sound experience.

    [​IMG]

    I think that lighting and visuals on the TV helps with the ambient effect.

    [​IMG]
     
  25. Davey

    Davey very clever with maracas

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    I thought you retired and moved out of that motel setting, or do you still live there? I'm starting to plan on the retirement digs, so been thinking some about the audio system and how it might be affected. Hopefully be able to make that a focus, and maybe even make it better.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2019
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