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  1. #1
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    "The Truth in Audio" -- according to www.commonsenseaudio.com

    And here's the truth in audio:

    --

    1. The speakers represent about 90% of the quality of sound you will get from your audio system.

    --A speaker takes an electrical signal, moves air to convert it to sound, and then sounds like a real person. Incredibly hard to do well.

    2. The source component (CD or LP) is the next most important piece of equipment.

    --It takes a piece of plastic with pits in it and converts it to an electrical signal capable of making a speaker produce music.

    3. The preamp (or preamp stage of an integrated amp) is next in importance.

    --It takes components of varying impedances, voltages, and levels; uses switches and attenuators, and has an amplification stage of its own.

    4. The amplifier is the least important part of a system.

    --It takes a signal and makes it bigger.

    --There are only 3 types of amps: good ones, bad ones, and 'boutique' ones (ones that alter the sound).

    --If you're spending more than $500 on your amplifier....you're wasting your money.

    5. Fancy cables are the 'snake oil' of modern life.

    --Most are designed to have a sound of their own...to alter the signal. This is not the role a cable should play.

    --16 gauge multistranded copper speaker wire (quality 'extension' cord) is all you need for resonably efficient speakers.

    --Gold plated interconnects from Radio Shack will give you sound as good as any expensive cable.



    You know for the most part, this guy seems to nail it.

  2. #2
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    Although I am not in total agreement with this fellow on his first 4 "truths", my objections to some of the things he says here are just "nitpicking" on my part, and not of enough real consequence to merit much in the way of debate.

    His #5 however resonated with my POV on the subject enough to cause me to visit his website to see what else he had to say in the realm(s) of "common sense". There I found him touting vacuum tubes of all things, which flies directly and firmly against anything and everything resembling common sense, IMO. Having had to deal with those obstreperous devices on a daily basis for a whole bunch of years, I celebrated wildly at what I thought to be their demise and burial in the mid-1970s.

    This desire to go backwards in time and worship at the altar of a technology that "died" a quarter of a century ago, but didn't have the decency to stay dead - absolutely boggles my mind. Makes me wonder if these poor misguided souls would also prefer horse-drawn buggys to automobiles, ice-boxes to refrigerators, tin cans connected by a string rather than telephones, and all of the rest of the outmoded and obsolete technologies of bygone eras. Time and technologies march on inexorably, and whether those that resist that fact realize and are willing to admit it or not, technologies are not replaced by inferior ones. Only when a "better" way of doing things is discovered do old methods fade away and (hopefully) die!
    woodman

    I plan to live forever ..... so far, so good!
    Steven Wright

  3. #3
    Silence of the spam Site Moderator Geoffcin's Avatar
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    Wow, something to agree on.

    I found that someone who professes to know all the answers is likely wrong about most.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodman
    Makes me wonder if these poor misguided souls would also prefer horse-drawn buggys to automobiles, ice-boxes to refrigerators, tin cans connected by a string rather than telephones,
    Well, if the horse drawn buggies were faster and a more comfortable ride than cars, if iceboxes kept food fresher than fridges and if tin cans sounded clearer than telephones and were as easy to use, I'd certainly prefer them! Unfortunately, of all the comparisons in your analogy, only tube amps outperform their counterpart. But I also prefer vinyl over CD, manual car windows to power ones (well, since my power window got stuck open after a visit to the ATM last week!) and the oven to the microwave. So I guess I'm a little old fashioned! And since tubes have been having a resurgence for quite awhile, I guess the newer, better technology was viewed as only newer by many audiophiles and manufacturers. More reliable, though, and I guess that makes it better in one respect.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by musicoverall
    Well, if the horse drawn buggies were faster and a more comfortable ride than cars, if iceboxes kept food fresher than fridges and if tin cans sounded clearer than telephones and were as easy to use, I'd certainly prefer them! Unfortunately, of all the comparisons in your analogy, only tube amps outperform their counterpart. But I also prefer vinyl over CD, manual car windows to power ones (well, since my power window got stuck open after a visit to the ATM last week!) and the oven to the microwave. So I guess I'm a little old fashioned! And since tubes have been having a resurgence for quite awhile, I guess the newer, better technology was viewed as only newer by many audiophiles and manufacturers. More reliable, though, and I guess that makes it better in one respect.
    You have two different POVs here that are in conflict with each other. Namely, you say that you prefer "vinyl over CDs", manual car windows over powered ones, and a conventional oven to a microwave. Fine. Those are indeed preferences, and so long as they are identified as such, I have no quarrel with them (although I disagree with each and every one myself). But then you say that ... "Unfortunately, of all the comparisons in your analogy, only tube amps outperform their counterpart" and you state this as though it were an actual fact (it's not). Outperform? In what way? If we're talking about sonic accuracy, they certainly come up short in that respect. If, as you point out (grudgingly) at the end of your post, we're talking about reliability, then it becomes a genuine "no-brainer" if there ever was one. That was the main reason that working with tubes on a daily basis was such a pain-in-the-ass to me that I was overjoyed when a technology came along to slay that dragon - once and for all! Only, the cussed things didn't have the common decency to stay slain, but instead, rose from the ashes to live another day. Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeesh!

    Tubes having a "resurgence" have nothing whatsoever to do with facts or truth ... their climb back up out of the grave (where they should've stayed, IMO) into some sort of a cult-like worship status is nothing but misguided respect and adoration, mixed with a cup of nostalgia on the part of some audiophools who really ought to know better, since their professed hobby is predicated upon a passionate interest in the accurate reproduction of sound ... in other words, "high-fidelity".

    You need to put your affection for "the tube sound" into the same box as you placed vinyl, manual car windows, and conventional ovens ... a preference. If you had done so, you would've saved me from all of this typing!
    woodman

    I plan to live forever ..... so far, so good!
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    Sorry you had to do all that typing! Tubes are indeed a preference for me. They bring the necessary life to the music, helping to transform it from an obvious reproduction to something that sounds "live". No reason for me not to state that they outperform their solid state brethren on that basis and naturally I would prefer them as a result. It may not be a fact for everyone but it's certainly a fact for me, i.e, a preference. I certainly have no quarrel with folks that prefer solid state, although I think they're shortchanging their listening pleasure... just my opinion.

  7. #7
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodman
    Outperform? In what way?
    To these ears, they are able to reproduce the harmonic content and transient envelope of unamplified music more faithfully than most SS amps. There are exceptions.

    Quote Originally Posted by woodman
    If we're talking about sonic accuracy, they certainly come up short in that respect.
    That is true when one limits the discussion to a set of nearly useless specifications. May you enjoy your musical experience by viewing THD graphs

    Quote Originally Posted by woodman
    If, as you point out (grudgingly) at the end of your post, we're talking about reliability, then it becomes a genuine "no-brainer" if there ever was one.
    Well designed tube gear is completely reliable. You confuse reliability with wear. Most tires are quite reliable after tens of thousands of miles of use, yet they do wear out. The same can be said of modern tube designs.

    Quote Originally Posted by woodman
    That was the main reason that working with tubes on a daily basis was such a pain-in-the-ass to me that I was overjoyed when a technology came along to slay that dragon - once and for all!
    I can understand that sentiment from the viewpoint of a repairman.

    Quote Originally Posted by woodman
    You need to put your affection for "the tube sound" into the same box as you placed vinyl...
    Indeed. The best analog (actually RTR tape) still outperforms the Redbook standard when live music is the criteria for judgement, IMHO. RB is as yet far from "perfect".

    rw

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    Quote Originally Posted by E-Stat
    To these ears, they are able to reproduce the harmonic content and transient envelope of unamplified music more faithfully than most SS amps. There are exceptions.
    That sir, places them into the realm of a preference as I already pointed out to Mr. musicoverall. The very idea that tubes are somehow able to do a "better job" at recreating sound has been proven to be nothing beyond a myth. That is why you'd be hard-pressed to find any professional audio equipment using vacuum tubes being employed in any recording studios, radio and TV broadcasting, commercial post-production houses, movie studios, or anywhere else where sound reproduction is dealt with "professionally".

    That is true when one limits the discussion to a set of nearly useless specifications. May you enjoy your musical experience by viewing THD graphs.
    I don't enjoy music by viewing THD graphs ... or, by "listening to" vacuum tubes, or by "listening to" solid state devices either. I enjoy listening to MUSIC that emanates from whatever equipment is doing the reproduction of it, if said gear is doing a reasonable job of recreating it.

    Well designed tube gear is completely reliable. You confuse reliability with wear. Most tires are quite reliable after tens of thousands of miles of use, yet they do wear out. The same can be said of modern tube designs.
    Pure, unadulterated hogwash! The only thing that you can rely upon with any degree of certainty with tubed gear is the unreliability of the vacuum tubes themselves. They are inherently unreliable critters. They are prone to idiosyncrasies and all sorts of undesirable behaviors that their solid state counterparts are simply not inclined to exhibit ... ever. I confuse reliability with "wear"? Not hardly do I confuse any such thing. I was faced with the challenges presented to me by vacuum tubes, day in and day out for more than 30 years. Those challenges were not something caused by the tubes "wearing out" - not at all. They were often a case of a given tube simply not being capable of performing the job it was being asked to do. These tubes were not "worn out" or even performing poorly because of usage ... they were simply not up to the task. On the other hand, there were tubes that were functionally "usable", but didn't perform their jobs as well as they could have or should have, due to a plethora of reasons. Perhaps the most glaring difference between tubes and SS devices is the fact that from the day that it is put into service, a solid state device will perform its assigned task at an optimum and unvarying level until it finally dies, while a vacuum tube can (and will) exhibit a wide range of efficiency in dealing with the task it's asked to perform.

    I can understand that sentiment from the viewpoint of a repairman.
    I'll thank you to not refer to me as a "repairman". I was an electronic servicing technician, who also saw duty as an electronic design engineer (without the qualifying "credentials"). The term repairman in this context is tantamount to calling an automobile mechanic a "grease monkey".
    woodman

    I plan to live forever ..... so far, so good!
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    Quote Originally Posted by E-Stat
    To these ears, they are able to reproduce the harmonic content and transient envelope of unamplified music more faithfully than most SS amps. There are exceptions.


    That is true when one limits the discussion to a set of nearly useless specifications. May you enjoy your musical experience by viewing THD graphs


    Well designed tube gear is completely reliable. You confuse reliability with wear. Most tires are quite reliable after tens of thousands of miles of use, yet they do wear out. The same can be said of modern tube designs.


    I can understand that sentiment from the viewpoint of a repairman.


    Indeed. The best analog (actually RTR tape) still outperforms the Redbook standard when live music is the criteria for judgement, IMHO. RB is as yet far from "perfect".

    rw
    Well said.

    As an educated guess, I've got about 3000 hours on my current set of tubes and they're still going strong. I find it telling that I personally know of many folks and have read posts from many others that have moved from solid state to tubes for a superior sonic experience. I can think of 2 people TOTAL that moved from tubes to solid state over the last dozen years.

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    Woodman, first of all excuse me for not being aware of how to set off each of your quotations (those I'll be referring to) in order to make my response easier to follow. I'll be happy to clarify if necessary.

    You stated that you listen to music from a system that does a "reasonable" job of recreating the music. Solid state, IMHO, does that reasonable job. But after several years of listening to music through SS, I decided I preferred something that did the job much better than just reasonably. I upgraded to tubes and have never looked (or listened!) back.

    A given tube not being able to perform its assignment might well have been normal back when you were working with tubes. Now such a thing is called an amp "design flaw". Only very rarely have I encountered tubed amps that used tubes not up to the task and in a few of those situations, the problem was fixed by using a different set of tubes. Certainly there are tubed amps that are unsuitable for certain speakers due to limited power or impedance issues or what have you. But when you find the proper amp to drive your speakers, you will no longer use the term "reasonable" in describing the music reproduction you're hearing, assuming your ancillary gear is well mated and performing optimally. My only complaint about tubed gear is that it tends to be expensive in many cases. On the other hand, there are many expensive solid state amps as well.

  11. #11
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by woodman
    The only thing that you can rely upon with any degree of certainty with tubed gear is the unreliability of the vacuum tubes themselves.
    I guess I have lived a charmed life having used various tube products since 1981.


    Quote Originally Posted by woodman
    I'll thank you to not refer to me as a "repairman".
    My apologies. Although I now work in a sales capacity, I am a computer programmer. Does that make me a Software Design Engineer ?

    rw

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by musicoverall
    Well said.

    As an educated guess, I've got about 3000 hours on my current set of tubes and they're still going strong. I find it telling that I personally know of many folks and have read posts from many others that have moved from solid state to tubes for a superior sonic experience. I can think of 2 people TOTAL that moved from tubes to solid state over the last dozen years.
    I don't debate the practicality issue. I have a twenty four year old Threshold amp that I now use in my garage system that has been utterly trouble free. On the other hand, it cannot reproduce solo piano, voice, symphonic works, etc. quite like my VTL 450s.

    rw

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    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Hmm, I'm with Woodman on this one...

    I've spent more than a few days demoing various tube amps hoping to find one that will just blow me away. Aside from all the impossible to prove rhetoric, I haven't heard any Tube amp that had an ability to make a recording sound like "live music" as opposed to just a recording of such. Same with SS, to be honest.
    I meet alot of audiophile types who have some sort of emotional, nostalgic attachment to Tubes, and then others who are dead set against them. Myself, I demand proof, first hand, with my ears to believe that Tube amps are superior to Solid State amps of equal price. I haven't heard it yet, though, many sound AS GOOD to me, some sound great, but nothing better.

    I laugh at people who suggest otherwise, then fail challenges using their own equipment to validate these claims.

    I am a musician, I play alot of live venues...The sweetest amp I've ever heard playing through VR-1's sounded like utter hi-fi compared to being at a live show. I have personally challenged many people to invite me to listen to their systems so I could hear this phenomenon of transforming playback to the real thing. Most back down, the few that don't admit later that no system can ever be as good as a live venue, no matter how exotic the gear. At present time, nothing even comes close.

    I passionately loath the term "musical" as a descriptor, to me this means "I hear something you don't, whether real or imaginary". And I laugh at the suggestions that hi-fi gear of any design (as of this date in history) can match the sound of a live performance.
    What is "musical"...at what point does something become (or not become) musical, what value of resistor, what size of capacitor is responsible for this phenomenon.
    Why does one audiophile passionately insist his Krell is more "musical" than his friends "McIntosh", and vice-versa?
    Thoughts?

  14. #14
    Suspended markw's Avatar
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    "musical" is a relative term.

    I see it as meaning that the system "manipulates" the sound in such a way that the listener finds it pleasing.

    Likewise the term "transparant". .... as opposed to what standards?

    Actually, it would seem that the terms "musical" and "transparant" are at odds with each other.

    I guess this is analagous to flowers vs. weeds. A weed is anything that grows where you don't want it to. So, in essense, if you are cultivating dandelions or chickory, a rose would be considered a weed in that garden.
    Last edited by markw; 12-31-2004 at 01:08 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    no system can ever be as good as a live venue, no matter how exotic the gear. At present time, nothing even comes close.
    I can't imagine anyone arguing otherwise. No gear comes close to the live experience. However, in my experience, tubed gear comes closer than solid state.

    As for "musical" vs "transparent", I think a better term for the former would be "forgiving". A transparent component would pass the recorded signal unadulterated while a forgiving one would add something to the signal to make it more listenable. In this sense, I think markw's approach is agreeable.

    It's hard for me to think of ANY component as perfectly transparent since many of them sound so different from one another. I prefer to think of components as more or less transparent rather than totally transparent. On the other hand, it's hard to guage since I wasn't in the recording studio when the recording was made. So even though I know that a stereo system isn't very close to live, I still use live music as my barometer. The closer a component comes to making me partially believe I'm hearing live music, the more transparent the component. I realize this isn't a very scientific method but it has allowed me to assemble a system that knocks down room boundaries and often makes me believe, even if just for an instant, that I'm at a live venue.

  16. #16
    Suspended markw's Avatar
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    We have a Winnah!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by musicoverall
    On the other hand, it's hard to guage since I wasn't in the recording studio when the recording was made.
    bingo. Likewise, we are at the mercy of the remix engineer who has ultimate control over all matters audio. Relative contribution of each insturment in the overall mix, insturment placement, echo/reverb and equalization.

    Ultimatly, what we hear on our home system is NOT a real time/real music situation. It's a totally manufactured event.

    When anyone states absolutes such as more musical, more transparant, proper soundstaging, etc, etc... I tend to shake my head. The crux of the matter is simply that only the engineer knows for sure what he intended. Anything else that pops up on out home system is simply the manifestation of various distortions, smearings driver/room interactions et. al. that may or may not be pleasing to us.

    Yes, it may come close to making us think it's a "real live" performance but that's simply the skill of the engineers at work creating that illusion, not the transparancy or musicality of the system.

  17. #17
    Silence of the spam Site Moderator Geoffcin's Avatar
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    This is not to defend tubes;

    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    Hmm, I'm with Woodman on this one...

    I've spent more than a few days demoing various tube amps hoping to find one that will just blow me away. Aside from all the impossible to prove rhetoric, I haven't heard any Tube amp that had an ability to make a recording sound like "live music" as opposed to just a recording of such. Same with SS, to be honest.
    I meet alot of audiophile types who have some sort of emotional, nostalgic attachment to Tubes, and then others who are dead set against them. Myself, I demand proof, first hand, with my ears to believe that Tube amps are superior to Solid State amps of equal price. I haven't heard it yet, though, many sound AS GOOD to me, some sound great, but nothing better.

    I laugh at people who suggest otherwise, then fail challenges using their own equipment to validate these claims.

    I am a musician, I play alot of live venues...The sweetest amp I've ever heard playing through VR-1's sounded like utter hi-fi compared to being at a live show. I have personally challenged many people to invite me to listen to their systems so I could hear this phenomenon of transforming playback to the real thing. Most back down, the few that don't admit later that no system can ever be as good as a live venue, no matter how exotic the gear. At present time, nothing even comes close.


    Thoughts?
    While not a pro musician myself, I've been around music, and musicians all my life. Usually when 2 or more of my friends gather, at least one of them is a pro, or used to be. MOST guitar players that I know absolutely swear by tube amps. I never understood it totally myself, but being that it's their lively hood, and they devote much of their time to playing, I never questioned it. For home use I reserve opinion on them, as most people who know me know that I'm a "Big SS Iron" man. Even with that being said, I did settle on an SS amp, the PS Audio HCA 2, that is renown for it's "tube like" properties, whatever that might be. I also auditioned the sublime Musical Fidelity Tri Vista when I bought the MF A3cr, and while I didn't think it was worth the extra $$$, it had a quality that is a bit incomprehensible....a sweetness if you will, that A3cr didn't bring to the table. Hey, for $4k more you better get something right!

    Even though I have SS amps exclusively, I try to keep an open mind. I'm not saying tubes or SS is better in quality, although just from an ergonomic point of view SS wins hands down.

  18. #18
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    Interesting diversion, Geoffcin, and you've mad a hippocrite of me. I swear by Marshall tube amps and the likes when I play, but tubes in guitar amps are intended to add a thick tone to the sound. That should be captured in the recording...adding tones again would be altering the source.

    However, I'll be the first to admit, if there's one group that relies more on rhetoric and provides absolutely NO substantial proof, it's guitar players, and I'm one of them. I doubt I could pick between an inexpensive ss Peavey and a tube amp in a DBT, but if my guitar heroes used it, I'll buy it without question.

    Flipping this around, I never said SS amps sound better either as a rule. I just haven't heard anything from a tube amp that sounds outright better.

    I think for a given budget, I'd feel comfortable saying I could build a better stereo system with a less costly SS amp while diverting the rest of the money to speakers and source, than taking money away from these and allocating it to tubes. Just my opinion though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by markw
    Yes, it may come close to making us think it's a "real live" performance but that's simply the skill of the engineers at work creating that illusion, not the transparancy or musicality of the system.
    I totally agreed with you up until the above statement. The problem with it is that when my system was SS, some of the engineers skill was missing. And some different solid state systems do a better job than others, as do some tube systems over others.

    I think most of what makes a recording sound "live" is the engineer, no doubt. But the final tweak is the system. It enforces the illusion created by the recording. That's not to say that I don't enjoy music on other systems. To be honest, I sometimes wonder if I don't "really" enjoy my second system more than my main rig! But the truth is I enjoy them both at different times and during different moods.

  20. #20
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    For good "live sounding" recordings of good music, it's tough to beat MapleShade recordings. Their recordings are really top notch. If your after a recording that resembles real music...but not everyone wants that.
    Listening to Mapleshade recordings always leads me to wonder why other recordings can't capture the music the way Mapleshade does. If you've never listened to their recordings...at least give the MUSICAL FESTIVAL (sampler) cd a try.





    Have a Happy (and safe) New Year!

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    enjoy the music!

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by markw
    bingo. Likewise, we are at the mercy of the remix engineer who has ultimate control over all matters audio. Relative contribution of each insturment in the overall mix, insturment placement, echo/reverb and equalization.
    I agree with you completely when you limit the discussion to multitracked studio recordings.

    rw

  22. #22
    Silence of the spam Site Moderator Geoffcin's Avatar
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    We agree, Guitar tube amps rock!

    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    Interesting diversion, Geoffcin, and you've mad a hippocrite of me. I swear by Marshall tube amps and the likes when I play, but tubes in guitar amps are intended to add a thick tone to the sound. That should be captured in the recording...adding tones again would be altering the source.

    However, I'll be the first to admit, if there's one group that relies more on rhetoric and provides absolutely NO substantial proof, it's guitar players, and I'm one of them. I doubt I could pick between an inexpensive ss Peavey and a tube amp in a DBT, but if my guitar heroes used it, I'll buy it without question.

    Flipping this around, I never said SS amps sound better either as a rule. I just haven't heard anything from a tube amp that sounds outright better.

    I think for a given budget, I'd feel comfortable saying I could build a better stereo system with a less costly SS amp while diverting the rest of the money to speakers and source, than taking money away from these and allocating it to tubes. Just my opinion though.
    I've got a cheap Peavy, and although it's good, it's not a Marshall Valve by a long shot. The kid wanted a Bass for christmas so we've got a Peavey with a MicroBass amp.
    Here's a pic of the kids Guitars so far;


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    Quote Originally Posted by kexodusc
    I am a musician, I play alot of live venues...The sweetest amp I've ever heard playing through VR-1's sounded like utter hi-fi compared to being at a live show. I have personally challenged many people to invite me to listen to their systems so I could hear this phenomenon of transforming playback to the real thing. Most back down, the few that don't admit later that no system can ever be as good as a live venue, no matter how exotic the gear. At present time, nothing even comes close.

    Thoughts?
    I like the turn that this thread has taken, the live vs. recorded event is always an interesting one. I gathered that when B&O was testing their new acoustic lens speakers and placed a live band behind acoustically transparent blinds, the listening panel could not reliably distinguish between the recorded sound and the live band .

    I think the reason why folks think that nothing comes close to live is because they can see the band or at least know it is there , an audio recording will never come close to a live performance because it is audio and has no visuals and we know that , take away the visuals and many folks will be at loss to differentiate between the recording and live sound under optimal conditions.

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    I think the relatively larger size of the live venue has a huge roll to play in it too, and I've never heard any speakers that sound like the real thing just by cranking them up in a large room.

    I also think that nobody does justice to human vocals like mother nature does herself. And, as much as we all hype and bash equipment, I think modern recording technology still has a long way to go...

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    Yep, I think it will be pretty difficult to recreate a live stadium event , but recreating jazz club performances and smaller indoor classical ensembles are not nearly as difficult to recreate as many folks imagine, some of acoustic issues that speakers face are also encountered in live performances unwanted reflections, bass boom etc and the make for a less than satisfying experience at times. Truth be told, there are times that a recorded event can sound better than a live event because these issues can be addressed in a recorded event.

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