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  1. #1
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    How I rate audio systems

    I listen to my favorite vinyl and cds, and rate each piece of music through various audio systems. I don't focus of the equipment, but on the music. The best system (yes, for me) is the one through which I give my favorite recordings the highest scores. I DON't break down the sound into low end, middle range, and high end. I don't listen for dynamics. I don't focus on tonality. I just listen to my favorite musical records and rate them. By concentrating on the music I am, of course, also listening to the system, but if you consciously focus on the equipment, rather than on the music, you are going about it backwards IMO.

  2. #2
    Ajani
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    I think that works just fine for consumers... Professional reviewers should use the established HiFi terminology to rate and describe gear, however us consumers really only need to worry about how it sounds with our music...

    I always felt that the best way to audition a system for your own use, is to carry a selection of your favourite songs and play them... I've never believed in carrying "audiophile quality" recordings (unless they happen to be some of your favourite songs)...

    Terms like soundstage and dynamics are great for the pros but IMO are not things that a consumer should spend time worrying about... Just listen to the music and buy the gear that moves you...

  3. #3
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tube fan
    I listen to my favorite vinyl and cds, and rate each piece of music through various audio systems... By concentrating on the music I am, of course, also listening to the system, but if you consciously focus on the equipment, rather than on the music, you are going about it backwards IMO.
    How do you communicate to others why you find one of the various audio systems more desirable than other(s)?

    rw

  4. #4
    Man of the People Forums Moderator bobsticks's Avatar
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    None the less...

    Quote Originally Posted by tube fan
    I listen to my favorite vinyl and cds, and rate each piece of music through various audio systems....
    ...a values-based determination must be made...and that's okay, it's part of the hobby...and it's acceptable to have preferences based solely on opinion rather than "science"...it's your stuff after all.
    So, I broke into the palace
    With a sponge and a rusty spanner
    She said : "Eh, I know you, and you cannot sing"
    I said : "That's nothing - you should hear me play piano"

  5. #5
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by E-Stat
    How do you communicate to others why you find one of the various audio systems more desirable than other(s)?

    rw
    You don't... It's about getting a system you enjoy... If you want to write a review or make recommendations, then you need to use audiophile approved terminology...

  6. #6
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by tube fan
    I listen to my favorite vinyl and cds, and rate each piece of music through various audio systems. I don't focus of the equipment, but on the music. The best system (yes, for me) is the one through which I give my favorite recordings the highest scores. I DON't break down the sound into low end, middle range, and high end. I don't listen for dynamics. I don't focus on tonality. I just listen to my favorite musical records and rate them. By concentrating on the music I am, of course, also listening to the system, but if you consciously focus on the equipment, rather than on the music, you are going about it backwards IMO.
    That's the way it should be done by reviewers as well. Subconsciously it comes down to a simple "does this sound right" and how right is it. Way back when when I was seriously looking for loudspeakers and spending 4 years to find something that truly did I wandered into a shop and a no name speaker (because there was literally no name on the front of the box) changed my view of audio reproduction. Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata an acoustic Piano recording. The speaker gave me the piano, and more importantly the room the piano was in. The fundamentals and the decay - all the audiophile words can come after but it sounded like a damn piano in the room. None of the other speakers the store carried came even close to doing that one instrument in the room. It was also neat to see a woman on the other side come around and express surprise that there wasn't someone playing.

    The review audiophile terminology does a disservice because the words end up getting pimped out to gear that in no way shape or form deserve the words that get associated with them. And if you talk up specific products too much there will be great delight by others who have never heard them to attack. It's also tough to review because you want to be balanced and not come off too much in rave mode. The trouble with that is that stuff that deserves to be raved about gets the short end of the stick.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    That's the way it should be done by reviewers as well. Subconsciously it comes down to a simple "does this sound right" and how right is it. Way back when when I was seriously looking for loudspeakers and spending 4 years to find something that truly did I wandered into a shop and a no name speaker (because there was literally no name on the front of the box) changed my view of audio reproduction. Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata an acoustic Piano recording. The speaker gave me the piano, and more importantly the room the piano was in. The fundamentals and the decay - all the audiophile words can come after but it sounded like a damn piano in the room. None of the other speakers the store carried came even close to doing that one instrument in the room. It was also neat to see a woman on the other side come around and express surprise that there wasn't someone playing.

    The review audiophile terminology does a disservice because the words end up getting pimped out to gear that in no way shape or form deserve the words that get associated with them. And if you talk up specific products too much there will be great delight by others who have never heard them to attack. It's also tough to review because you want to be balanced and not come off too much in rave mode. The trouble with that is that stuff that deserves to be raved about gets the short end of the stick.
    That would be all well and good if all recordings were created exactly the same. But they are not. One persons "Favorite Music" my actually be a really bad recording and would surely sound much worse to them on a revealing setup while the one that sounds good to that person is really just a Bose Lifestyle system which masks the fact that the recording sucks, because that whole system sucks so you are not aware of it.

  8. #8
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ajani
    If you want to write a review or make recommendations, then you need to use audiophile approved terminology...
    That was not my question. If someone asks me, for example, why I prefer New York Sharp Cheddar, I do have an answer.

    rw

  9. #9
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tube fan
    I listen to my favorite vinyl and cds, and rate each piece of music through various audio systems. I don't focus of the equipment, but on the music. The best system (yes, for me) is the one through which I give my favorite recordings the highest scores. I DON't break down the sound into low end, middle range, and high end. I don't listen for dynamics. I don't focus on tonality. I just listen to my favorite musical records and rate them. By concentrating on the music I am, of course, also listening to the system, but if you consciously focus on the equipment, rather than on the music, you are going about it backwards IMO.
    I'm not sure I entirely agree. Perhaps its the gestalt that matters to you, but one ought to be able to describe the qualities that make it so agreeable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wikipedia
    Gestalt psychology or gestaltism (German: Gestalt - "essence or shape of an entity's complete form") of the Berlin School is a theory of mind and brain positing that the operational principle of the brain is holistic, parallel, and analog, with self-organizing tendencies.
    Analog? WTF?!?

  10. #10
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyfi
    That would be all well and good if all recordings were created exactly the same. But they are not. One persons "Favorite Music" my actually be a really bad recording and would surely sound much worse to them on a revealing setup while the one that sounds good to that person is really just a Bose Lifestyle system which masks the fact that the recording sucks, because that whole system sucks so you are not aware of it.
    I would suspect that most persons have more than one favourite recording... So it's less likely that all those recordings are bad quality...

    Further, let's assume all your recordings are bad and somehow a Bose Lifestyle system makes them sound better than even the most expensive HiFi, then why not buy the Bose? Because Audiophiles will scorn you? Because you'd rather know that your system is 'technically accurate' than enjoy listening to your music? I really see no reason not to just buy the Bose in that scenario...

  11. #11
    Forum Regular pixelthis's Avatar
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    Cool

    Quote Originally Posted by tube fan
    I listen to my favorite vinyl and cds, and rate each piece of music through various audio systems. I don't focus of the equipment, but on the music. The best system (yes, for me) is the one through which I give my favorite recordings the highest scores. I DON't break down the sound into low end, middle range, and high end. I don't listen for dynamics. I don't focus on tonality. I just listen to my favorite musical records and rate them. By concentrating on the music I am, of course, also listening to the system, but if you consciously focus on the equipment, rather than on the music, you are going about it backwards IMO.
    True nuff dat.
    I HAVE a little "desktop" audio system from Yamaha, only cost 400 bucks but I enjoy it a great deal(listen to it at work). Only place I DISAGREE with you is that if you don't pay some attention to gear you are not getting the best sound you can get.
    EVERY SIX MONTHS or so I do a complete overhaul, inspect things, review choices made,
    see what changes I can make. Sometimes I enjoy playing with gear as much as music.
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  12. #12
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by E-Stat
    That was not my question. If someone asks me, for example, why I prefer New York Sharp Cheddar, I do have an answer.

    rw
    The first part of my response answered your question:

    "You don't"... It's about auditioning a system to find something you enjoy, not describing to persons why you like it... If explaining what you like about it is important to you, then you can use audiophile jargon to analyse your choice...

  13. #13
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ajani
    If explaining what you like about it is important to you, then you can use audiophile jargon to analyse your choice...
    Simple language works just as well - or better. My wife summed up hearing the Sound Lab speakers when I first got them by saying "They aren't there".

    rw

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by E-Stat
    Simple language works just as well - or better. My wife summed up hearing the Sound Lab speakers when I first got them by saying "They aren't there".

    rw
    YES. this is my point. I always take a wide variety of music, all of it demanding (but in different ways). trust me, all of these recordings are both well recorded and beautiful. At the recent CAL show, my recordings sounded the best in the Teresonic room. The few Cds I had sounded by far the best in the Audio Note Room.

  15. #15
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tube fan
    The few Cds I had sounded by far the best in the Audio Note Room.
    Because...you liked the draperies better?

    rw

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ajani
    I would suspect that most persons have more than one favourite recording... So it's less likely that all those recordings are bad quality...

    Further, let's assume all your recordings are bad and somehow a Bose Lifestyle system makes them sound better than even the most expensive HiFi, then why not buy the Bose? I really see no reason not to just buy the Bose in that scenario...
    If all recordings were on the lousy side, and a cheap system made it sound good, then I would also agree. But when a recording is stellar, you will surely miss most of it if you bought your system based on lesser recordings.

    On the flip side, I am a victim of my own making because some of my favorite bands/CDs absolutely sound horrid to the point I rarely listen to them unless in the car or using a boom box.

    I will gladly stick with a system that can totally resolve the bass on Marcus Miller M2 any day tho. No Bose system will.

  17. #17
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hyfi
    That would be all well and good if all recordings were created exactly the same. But they are not. One persons "Favorite Music" my actually be a really bad recording and would surely sound much worse to them on a revealing setup while the one that sounds good to that person is really just a Bose Lifestyle system which masks the fact that the recording sucks, because that whole system sucks so you are not aware of it.
    I have found that the best systems tend to make everything sound better not just one form of music or one recording type. There is a balance but I tend to find that a lot of the so called revealing systems tend to have self induced grain artifacts that are more noticeable on lesser recordings. I have a very wide taste in music and I am sure to bring that diverse collection with me when I evaluate systems.

    I do know what you are saying in respect that many systems/speakers that can do the likes of 70s rock quite well completely fall apart on classical or jazz. But the same is also true the other way around. I prefer a speaker that can do well recorded classical and jazz and acoustic music brilliantly well and also do AC/DC brilliantly well and can do Delerium/The Evil Nine brilliantly well. Why have a system limit your choices in music? If your choices in music are limited already then that's fine of course - some speakers do an incredible job at that which they excel at.

  18. #18
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ajani
    I would suspect that most persons have more than one favourite recording... So it's less likely that all those recordings are bad quality...

    Further, let's assume all your recordings are bad and somehow a Bose Lifestyle system makes them sound better than even the most expensive HiFi, then why not buy the Bose? Because Audiophiles will scorn you? Because you'd rather know that your system is 'technically accurate' than enjoy listening to your music? I really see no reason not to just buy the Bose in that scenario...
    That's precisely the point. People are social animals that look for the approval of the top monkey. Kind of helps to understand the theory of evolution (err fact of evolution) and understand the principles of it. Which is why we hold movie stars up and athletes up on pedestals. One can buy a technically more accurate system but if it sounds worse and you don't play it then you might feel better when you're on a forum arguing but not when actually listening to music.

    There are far fewer bad recordings out there than I suspect people think - it may be that the revealing system is the problem. Treble grain sounds like there is more treble and it may be mistaken for accuracy when it is surrounding distortion. But even if you don't buy that which is fine - if it is annoying on all your favorite recording why the heck would you want them? The point is to buy a stereo for YOUR music not to buy a stereo and then be forced to buy boring music you don't like because it sounds better on your stereo.

    Any system that dictates what you can and can'[t listen to isn't a good system IMO and IME. I can listen to compressed music that is clearly a weak recording (Motley Crue) and it still captures the essence of the music and doesn't make me run screaming from the room because it's a completely inferior recording to something terrific like Sophie Milman http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=22164

    There are quite excellent sounding pop discs as well - and once you know a pop disc is well recorded (even if it has amplified music or uses Synthesizer) if a system can't cut it when you KNOW it's a good recording then it's a system problem not a recording problem. Simply saying it is amplified so it is bad is not an answer/excuse that I will accept. The speaker's job is to react to electrical signals. I find the excuse that amplified music for example is poor misses the greater point on how does the system react to different kinds of amplified music. Some made for classical speakers sound washed out on amplified music and treats both good and poor rock recordings the same and thus doesn't do a good job at all at contrasting the very big recording differences of a Motley Crue DR. Feelgood verus an AC/DC Back in Black. A system that homogonizes those very different recordings isn't a very good system - whether or not you like rock or whether amplified music is problematic as there is a lack of a reference point to it. I think people think they need to make the choice and I don't believe that they really do. A big Tannoy can handle both excellently, The Acapella High Violoncello II, the Trenner and Freidle RA Box and some other loudspeakers can do justice to acoustic string instruments, classical, vocals and can ALSO rock the house in a big way

  19. #19
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    Here are the records I took to the CAS:

    "Muddy Waters, folk singer" (it's hard for an audio system to capture the timbre of Muddy's voice, the deep bass, the three dimensionality, and the dynamics. Only the Teresonic system came close to what I hear at home. The Magico system failed in the lower bass and in dynamics).

    "Chet" (the Analogue productions version. A stunning group: Chet on trumpet, Herbbie Mann on flute, Pepper Adams on baritone sax, Bill Evans on piano, Kenny Burrell on guitar, Paul Chambers bass, and Connie Kay or Philly Joe Jones drums. On a good system you can hear Pepper Adams move as he plays on "Alone Together". Chet's trumpet sounds as if he is in the room on a good system).

    "The Firebird" (Antal Dorati conducting the LSO. This is a real challenge for any system).

    "Blues and the Abstract Truth" (another fantastic group: Oliver Nelson alto and tenor sax, Eric Dolphy alto sax and flute, Freddie Hubbard trumpet, George Barrow baritone sax, Bill Evans piano, Paul Chambers bass, and Roy Haynes drums. On a great system, the sextet sounds as if were in the room).

    "Adagio d'Albinoni" (Super Analogue Disc. Gary Karr double-bass and Harmon Lewis organ. The only system that captured the power AND emotion of Karr's playing was in the Teresonic room)

    "Waltz for Debby" (another Analogue Productions record. Bill Evans, Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian should be IN the room when you listen to this on a great system. I was shocked to hear the CD sound close to the analogue in the Audio Note room, and this was listening via their less expensive CD3.1x/II, $5,500. In other rooms, the sound was less realistic and three dimensional).

    "Songs For Distingue Lovers" (Billy Holiday. Don't know the backup group, but it's great. The female voice is a test that many systems fail. Here you should get both the sound AND the emotion of Billy).

    "Lieutenant Kije" (A tough test. Great dynamics, full range, and a great recording. On only a very few systems, do the wind instruments float softly and beautifully over the orchestra playing full out).

  20. #20
    Vinyl Fundamentalist Forums Moderator poppachubby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    That's precisely the point. People are social animals that look for the approval of the top monkey. Kind of helps to understand the theory of evolution (err fact of evolution) and understand the principles of it.

    Hahahaha. Rich I love reading your posts but you must stick to audio. The top monkey?

  21. #21
    music whore Happy Camper's Avatar
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    Top monkey here, whatcha got?
    d HC b

  22. #22
    RGA
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    Quote Originally Posted by poppachubby
    Hahahaha. Rich I love reading your posts but you must stick to audio. The top monkey?
    Meaning acceptance of a social group or segment of a social group. Usually a leader that approves of followers. Everything from a bully the recruits others to follow, to brand identification that "I'm cool if I buy the cologne that movie star X wears' or drive a $100k car because that shows off my virility via financial prowess. Climbing to the top of the social heap to be the monkey other monkey's are following is a desire that most humans have. To be a "star" and revered by everyone and to get the money to basically have it over others. And for many there is no sense of "enough."

  23. #23
    Feel the Tempo eisforelectronic's Avatar
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    The only answer I'm looking for when I hear a system is to the question, "Does it move me?".
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by eisforelectronic
    The only answer I'm looking for when I hear a system is to the question, "Does it move me?".
    Yes, if a piece of equipment moves me, playing my favorite records (an ever increasing list), then I will consider it. It's always surprised me how many pieces of horribly expensive audio equipment fails this test.

  25. #25
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    The original post here is misleading since the OP has some pretty nice gear to start with. Without mentioning any setup or component, the OP sounds like any old crappy gear may be good enough for him.

    Tube Fan,
    When you listen to other systems using your criteria, are you not comparing it to what you already have?

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