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Advice for Beginners - consider this test from an audio club

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On 12/20/2018 at 3:20 PM, robert_kc said:

If you want a really useful test, have a live string quartet play

I went to hear a chamber group of five musicians last year. Three Violas and two Cellos and these were members of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra. To be able to hear unamplified music of that caliber is the finest reference to assess what your system does for true to life audio. I do not want warm tubes or mellow crossover capacitors I want true to life audio reproduction. I want to always be able to sit on that third row and listen to those Violas and Cellos.

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I am fortunate to be able to regularly attend live performances by our symphony and chamber orchestras plus jazz, folk and rock (always wear quality earplugs at rock shows).

 

If the "prevailing wisdom" is to sell beginners on "straight wire with gain" or "as the recording engineer mixed it" then, in my opinion, that beginner will probably never know the full and complete joy that our hobby can bring. No wonder beginners drift away - there's no reason to stay involved if the music fails to speak to their soul.

 

The one thing I want my system to do is provide the emotional connection to the music that I get when I see music performed live. That emotional connection is what draws me into the music and beckons me to play record after record into the wee hours - toes tapping all the way.

 

Music is emotion.

 

Just my opinion.

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3 hours ago, TubeHiFiNut said:

 

If the "prevailing wisdom" is to sell beginners on "straight wire with gain" or "as the recording engineer mixed it" then, in my opinion, that beginner will probably never know the full and complete joy that our hobby can bring. No wonder beginners drift away - there's no reason to stay involved if the music fails to speak to their soul.

 

I agree.  Recording engineers are pressured to mix the way management wants.  Sometimes, particularly with the big selling genres, the better your equipment, the worse it sounds.  See Chris A's threads like "The Missing Octave(s)" and others on de-mastering.

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Well… it seems we’ve veered a bit from my original post - which is fine of course.  Conversations take unexpected turns sitting at a bar, so why shouldn’t they in a audio forum. :)

 

Regarding Tube amps: I will say that I too have heard (and played) a great deal of live unrecorded music in my life.   I strongly disagree that this should predispose me to prefer tube equipment.  I’ve heard many tube amps and have never found them to sound more lifelike.  I have, however, found them to be more prone to noise, more prone to hum issues (which are aggravating beyond description) and more prone to unexpected failures.  ..These are hassles that most newbies wouldn’t be interested in dealing with.  And it's bogus to suggest that by preferring solid-state amps I "will probably never know the full and complete joy that our hobby can bring."  That is audio snobbery.

 

When friends ask me why some audiophiles still prefer tubes I tell them that my hunch is it’s more about their old-timey appearance and their fond memories of audio during their youth than it is about some clear “musical” advantage. IMHO, tubes are romanticized in much the same way as turntables and vinyl.  

 

Anyway, even if a newbie were to give tubes a try.  I think my recommendation still applies.  Before spending heavily on a tube integrated or separates, go to an audio store and compare a cheap tube amp to an uber expensive one but with the same conditions:  PRECISELY volume matched and take steps to ensure you are unaware of which is being used.  Without ANY prompting from the sales rep, do you (the newbie) hear a difference b/w the pricey and cheap, and does one really sound more like music??  You all will say yes, but I have my doubts.  Indeed, I don’t think people, when blinded, can even distinguish b/w SS and tubes as reliably as they think.  I say this b/c I’ve seen people struggle to do so at audio salons time and again.  And I’m sure they  all thought their hearing and discernment was a sharp as everyone here believes theirs to be.

 

All of this amp stuff aside,  don’t forget that the two systems compared by this audio club also pitted super cheapo source equipment against very exotic/ expensive equipment: a $39 cd/dvd combo player vs a  $3-4,000 cd/ DAC; a $15 generic interconnect &  power cord vs. $2000+ cables/cord; and a crummy shaky chair vs. a pricey vibration absorbing CD player platform.  So, just as you folks argue that pricey amps may be justified, don’t you think the audiophile that brought the exotic cd/dac player and cables thought the same??  Of course he did.  And I'm sure he thought his hearing was terrific too.
 

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3 hours ago, ODS123 said:

All of this amp stuff aside,  don’t forget that the two systems compared by this audio club also pitted super cheapo source equipment against very exotic/ expensive: a $39 cd/dvd combo player vs a  $3-4,000 cd/ DAC; a $15 generic interconnect &  power cord vs. $2000+ cables/cord; and a crummy shaky chair vs. a pricey vibration absorbing CD player platform.  So, just as you folks argue that pricey amps may be justified, don’t you think the audiophile that brought the exotic cd/dac player and cables thought the same??  Of course he did.  And I'm sure he thought his hearing was terrific too.
 

I went junk shopping this past week They had this at the dig store.

DSC_0005.JPG

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9 hours ago, ODS123 said:

 I’ve heard many tube amps and have never found them to sound more lifelike.  I have, however, found them to be more prone to noise, more prone to hum issues (which are aggravating beyond description) and more prone to unexpected failures.  ..These are hassles that most newbies wouldn’t be interested in dealing with. 

 

When friends ask me why some audiophiles still prefer tubes I tell them that my hunch is it’s more about their old-timey appearance and their fond memories of audio during their youth than it is about some clear “musical” advantage. IMHO, tubes are romanticized in much the same way as turntables and vinyl.  

 

 


 

 

Tube amps are not necessarily more prone to noise, hum, and other issues.  They can be as silent as the best SS equipment and, if properly and conservatively designed, can last every bit as long as the latter without requiring any maintenance (to me, if a tube lasts 25k to 30k hours before needing replacement, that is about as close to maintenance free as one can expect).

 

There's no doubt that the appearance and fond memories of tubes is enjoyable to many (I got my first glimpse of a glowing tube at age 3 and have never looked back- that was a LONG time ago...).  I still like to walk into a darkened room and see glowing filaments.  That being a matter aside, the advantage of tubes to some is that they provide a sound which is more preferable than that of SS equipment.  And, as THFN pointed out above, it's all about the emotional connection.  If having 2 or 3 % second harmonic distortion allows this, who is to say that it is not a correct model for that individual? 

 

Maynard

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44 minutes ago, tube fanatic said:

 

..it's all about the emotional connection.  If having 2 or 3 % second harmonic distortion allows this, who is to say that it is not a correct model for that individual? 

 

Maynard

 

No argument at all ..And I totally get the evocative visual appeal of glowing tubes.  ..Probably no different than my love for how my Mac's blue meters cast an appealing warm glow to my great room.

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11 hours ago, ODS123 said:

Well… it seems we’ve veered a bit from my original post - which is fine of course.  Conversations take unexpected turns sitting at a bar, so why shouldn’t they in a audio forum. :)

 

Regarding Tube amps: I will say that I too have heard (and played) a great deal of live unrecorded music in my life.   I strongly disagree that this should predispose me to prefer tube equipment.  I’ve heard many tube amps and have never found them to sound more lifelike.  I have, however, found them to be more prone to noise, more prone to hum issues (which are aggravating beyond description) and more prone to unexpected failures.  ..These are hassles that most newbies wouldn’t be interested in dealing with.  And it's bogus to suggest that by preferring solid-state amps I "will probably never know the full and complete joy that our hobby can bring."  That is audio snobbery.

 

When friends ask me why some audiophiles still prefer tubes I tell them that my hunch is it’s more about their old-timey appearance and their fond memories of audio during their youth than it is about some clear “musical” advantage. IMHO, tubes are romanticized in much the same way as turntables and vinyl.  

 

Anyway, even if a newbie were to give tubes a try.  I think my recommendation still applies.  Before spending heavily on a tube integrated or separates, go to an audio store and compare a cheap tube amp to an uber expensive one but with the same conditions:  PRECISELY volume matched and take steps to ensure you are unaware of which is being used.  Without ANY prompting from the sales rep, do you (the newbie) hear a difference b/w the pricey and cheap, and does one really sound more like music??  You all will say yes, but I have my doubts.  Indeed, I don’t think people, when blinded, can even distinguish b/w SS and tubes as reliably as they think.  I say this b/c I’ve seen people struggle to do so at audio salons time and again.  And I’m sure they  all thought their hearing and discernment was a sharp as everyone here believes theirs to be.

 

All of this amp stuff aside,  don’t forget that the two systems compared by this audio club also pitted super cheapo source equipment against very exotic/ expensive equipment: a $39 cd/dvd combo player vs a  $3-4,000 cd/ DAC; a $15 generic interconnect &  power cord vs. $2000+ cables/cord; and a crummy shaky chair vs. a pricey vibration absorbing CD player platform.  So, just as you folks argue that pricey amps may be justified, don’t you think the audiophile that brought the exotic cd/dac player and cables thought the same??  Of course he did.  And I'm sure he thought his hearing was terrific too.
 

 

And it's also bogus to misrepresent what was posted. Snobbery my a$$.

 

NOWHERE in my post did I state anything other than we should be stressing the emotional connection aspect of our hobby to audio newbies.

 

You extrapolated the rest - incorrectly, I might add.

 

I can only speak for my own audio preferences. Whatever system technology (tubes, transistors, analog, digital, horns, electrostats, dynamic) someone uses and prefers makes no difference to me. I just hope that whatever gear someone chooses to use allows the music to touch their soul.

 

For folks to stick with this hobby, the system has to make that connection.

 

I'm not even talking about system cost at all. I've listened to $250,000+ systems that absolutely failed the emotional connection test. No emotion at all. Sterile. Just notes. 

 

Do you at all get what I am trying to convey?

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10 minutes ago, TubeHiFiNut said:

Do you at all get what I am trying to convey?

Remember this is the guy that said Bonehead did not know what he was doing.

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From the OP’s original post I’m not clear as to wether the test he refers to was a challenge to simply pick the “best sounding” system (which is totally subjective) or to show one could hear the difference between the two systems. And I’m not sure many of the posters here were clear either. That said, I’m a little surprised that someone hasn’t mentioned the Richard Clark $10,000 amp challenge. Very interesting reading. Here’s just one link that provides some good information.

http://tom-morrow-land.com/tests/ampchall/index.htm

I for one have never bought into all the baloney regarding differences between many of the high and low dollar electrical components many claim make an “astounding” difference in the final sound they hear from their speakers. 30+ years of working with electricity tells me that’s just what it is. Baloney. I’ll always put the bulk of my meager audio budget in my speaker purchases.


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24 minutes ago, Dave A said:

Remember this is the guy that said Bonehead did not know what he was doing.

Really?  Where?

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2 hours ago, dwilawyer said:

Really?  Where?

 

Exactly.  I NEVER said or suggested that.  

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Do all amps sound the same?  They certainly sound more the same than different pairs of speakers, but they don't sound exactly the same.  This is so obvious to me that I find it hard to believe that anyone is arguing about it.  I have, on numerous occasions, swapped five or six different amps through my system in the course of an extended listening/comparison session.  The end result is that there are some amps that I prefer over others.  This is my personal preference, and as such is entirely subjective.  My criteria can be distilled, like other folks in this thread, to an emotional connection that I feel with the performers, and the degree to which it feels like there are actual people performing in front of me.  My guess is that my preference is due mostly to the distortion spectra, and the presence or lack of crossover distortion in each amp.       

 

I build tube amps and I am biased, obviously, about them sounding better than solid state.  That said, if I were to recommend a starter system for someone new to audio, I would recommend a solid state amp.  Specifically, the Nelson Pass ACA (Amp Camp Amp) kit, which is a single ended Class A solid state amp that puts out 8 watts per channel and costs $327 plus a few hours for the simple build.  For speakers, buy a pair of used Klipsch Heresy I or II.  This combo should cost between $600 and $800, depending on what you pay for the Heresy speakers.  I have a pair of Heresy II speakers that I used as my main speakers for a while, and they are without a doubt the best bang for the buck audio purchase I have ever made (thanks Geoff!).  The ACA is the second best bang for the buck audio purchase.  With the Heresy speakers, the ACA is dead quiet, and sounds very, very nice.  Especially for the money. 

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13 hours ago, dwilawyer said:

Really?  Where?

Read the Best Cornwall thread from 11-15. All the way through would be best. ODS123 said Pro gear belonged in amusement parks even though he has never heard any and dumped on Pro hard enough that the Chief chimed in with comments and you can read it all there and draw your own conclusions. You know what mine are.

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3 hours ago, Dave A said:

 ODS123 said Pro gear belonged in amusement parks even though he has never heard any and dumped on Pro hard enough that the Chief chimed in with comments and you can read it all there and draw your own conclusions. You know what mine are.

 

I think you've mischaracterized the extent and length of any disagreement with BH.  Anyway, from Klipsch Pro Series Brochure.  Highlighted near bottom.  Pretty clear: Amusement Parks and Train/ bus Stations.  ..I don't see this as a bad thing. ..Though you seem to.

 

750767708_ScreenShot2018-12-25at12_50_51PM.thumb.png.253944401e91adb1c5de30f43c84c61e.png

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It also says “A/V Production Environments”. You could have mentioned that, but you chose “Train Stations”, clearly trying to downgrade the commercial stuff -  as if not fit for home use (which ironically use as good or better drivers than found in the consumer lines). And now you play coy. 

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1 hour ago, Deang said:

It also says “A/V Production Environments”. You could have mentioned that, but you chose “Train Stations”, 

 

That had already been mentioned in the thread - it was not in dispute.  My recollection is that someone (Dave A perhaps?) was insisting that Heritage speakers were inferior to Pro Series  b/c they are made of MDF.  I pointed out that Heritage and Pro, and their respective cabinet constructions, were for different purposes.  MDF used in Heritage Series is better for sound (more inert) and finish, Plywood (used in Pro series) is better for commercial applications b/c it's more durable.   Anyway, i'd be happy to resume that discussion in the other thread if you'd like.

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8 minutes ago, ODS123 said:

Anyway, I’d be happy to resume that discussion in the other thread if you'd like.

No thank you. 

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His OPINION, based on conjecture and in the case of Pro gear nothing he has chosen to actually listen to, supercedes the knowledge many of us have acquired through personal research and actual listening. Now if I can clearly see he has dismissed an entire line of Klipsch production as being inferior without any experience with them what am I to make of all these things he says about other stuff?  Personally I want to hear everything Klipsch that I can. I have gone through a ton of Klipsch gear both Pro and Vintage because I wanted to KNOW what they sounded like.  Some things like KHorns and Belles I have not had here but I can talk to people who have had some of the speakers I have and have also owned those KHorns and Belles and get their educated real world opinions and we both know what we are talking about because of common ownership and listening experience. How can you possibly explain stereo to a guy who walks around with a finger in one ear all the time and this is the problem here.

  OD is right about train stations though. I have an old well done steam engine recording and you can feel the steam and smell the coal as it drives by on those MCM's. Almost like you were really there as the ground shakes.

 

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Roy propped a 402 on top of an MCM bottom - and there were audible gasps. Roy even seemed a bit surprised, and he gets surprised by very little. 

 

His setup down in Hope has an edgy clinical sound that comes with $39 CD players and the like - but it still sounded very good. 

 

Someone mentioned the merits of the small 10 watt chip amps. Yes, they can sound very good, but like many SET amplifiers, the FR will track the impedance at higher frequencies - so these fail the “linearity” test.

 

This thread just makes me sad. The forum has come full circle. When I joined almost 20 years ago, there was very little in the way of discussion regarding subtle (or not so subtle) nuances in sound that could often make or break the overall presentation.

 

The burden of proof is NOT on those of us who assert  that components that measure differently sound differently. 

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