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Sound reproduction and playback
#21
<WONKISHNESS>
The biggest difference between analog and digital audio is time coherence. With the exception of very high sampling rate ADPCM, which is actually a digital rendering of the analog signal, with sampling rates higher than 4 to 10 times the highest frequency we can hear: 20kHz, almost all coding schemes favor efficiency over fidelity. In other words, the digital files are lossy. What's lost is almost always time coherence, but also can, and typically does, include some of the dynamic range and tonal integrity too.

So what effect does loss of time coherence involve? For one thing, imaging just falls apart. Because time coherence allows your ears to place sound in space if two loudspeakers are reproducing the same sound at slightly altered time offsets, The offsets have to be precise. To be that precise, digital sampling rates have to very high, but that makes files very large and impractical for use outside a studio. Another negative time coherence effect is known as transient intermodulation distortion (TID). If instruments seem harsh, that's the cause.

That's a small primer on the subject. I'll leave it there.
</WONKISHNESS>
Intelligence is not knowledge and knowledge is not wisdom, but they all play well together.
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#22
Unless one hears live music on stage, one does not know what good imaging is. Again, I notice that most of the new LPs of classical music are of pre-digital recordings that may offer better imaging in whatever format in which they are played back.

If I were to tell people how to buy a sound system I would tell people to first pay attention to speakers because there is no measurable way of discerning sound quality from specifications other than the depth of bass response. When I was looking for stereo equipment the last time (and that was over twenty years ago!) I bought some small bookshelf speakers... and I used music for string quartet to test the speakers for sonic merit. That is difficult music to bring to its fullest, but the typical work for full orchestra is for an ensemble in which most of the instruments are violins, violas, and cellos. Pipe organ? Unless one has a pipe organ, nobody can fully get the sound of a pipe organ in its fullest majesty -- even a small organ.

People are in tinier apartments than they used to be, so they obviously don't have the space for the gigantic speakers that recent college grads were buying. Electronics have been marketed much like toys -- regrettably even sound systems. What many of us considered awful compact stereos in the 1970s and 1980s are better than the schlock that fits the constrained space of apartments in places where there are jobs. (One cannot fully escape economic reality even if one hears Wagnerian bombast!) Economic reality is sweat-shop compensation and management, and that landlords can compel tenants to bid up apartment rents as if tenants were super-rich people bidding for Old Master paintings.

Still -- there was much shoddy recording when digital recording became the norm. It was superficially easier. The electronic section of playback and reproduction is much cheaper than it used to be (in the 1970s one could pay $300 for a receiver that gave 15 watts per channel and $500 for a receiver that offers 30 watts per channel, either of which is grossly inadequate today) -- but almost everything now has horrible speakers.

The problem may be with digital recording. I can find some early stereo recordings from the 1950s fully adequate as a sonic experience, but some more recent mass-market recordings utterly awful as sonic experiences. If I hear a fine 1950s recording on a crappy sound system, I know that I am missing something. If I hear it on a great sound system, I am satisfied. On the other hand if I hear a mediocre recording of a great orchestral performance on a great sound system, I am not excited. If I hear it on a bad sound system I am losing little.

Note well: that many of the sound systems on which people are playing back new vinyl LPs are awful. Most people have no idea of what high fidelity sounds like, having listened to highly-compressed formats on 'sound systems' best described as boom boxes in miniature -- or car stereo (the system might be good, but it comes with road and engine noise.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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#23
(12-03-2018, 11:12 AM)pbrower2a Wrote: Note well: that many of the sound systems on which people are playing back new vinyl LPs are awful. Most people have no idea of what high fidelity sounds like, having listened to highly-compressed formats on 'sound systems' best described as boom boxes in miniature -- or car stereo (the system might be good, but it comes with road and engine noise.

Each generation picks the aspects of their lives that matter most to them.  Today, music is ubiquitous and, typically, mediocre as you noted.  The audience for music doesn't seem to care.  If the audience is satisfied, then expect more of the same.  Why work hard to create something people are unwilling to pay for? On the other hand, if you want real quality, expect to pay dearly: you're among the rare few, and the material is priced accordingly.  Sadly, I've heard really excellent performances masked by truly awful production.  Like you, I'm in the minority.  To be honest, I don't listen to nearly as much music now as I did in my halcyon days.  I doubt that will change.   Sad
Intelligence is not knowledge and knowledge is not wisdom, but they all play well together.
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#24
Economic reality is also a factor. I have noticed that places that even  try to sell high-fidelity equipment are getting scarcer.

If it is musical performance - I am a classical music fan, and I am not convinced that the  musical talent is thinning. The repertory certainly isn't thinning, although the discography is thinning. Is Simon Rattle less competent than Toscanini? I think not.  

Economic reality has its role. First, our educational system is more interested in training  people for existing jobs than in showing people how to live. Emphasis on STEM is desirable, but in view of the shrinking workweek we might need to teach people how to spend their leisure time. That means music, literature, and the visual arts.  Second, smaller apartments allow less privacy for enjoying music on a sound system, so having a chance to listen  to a loud, colorful work like a symphony by Anton Bruckner with the volume turned up on a stereo system gets dicey. Third, retailers have no idea of how to sell high-fidelity equipment. Inflating a price tag and then taking a gigantic markdown is good for selling many things -- but not sound equipment. What sounds good for the price (if one must consider price) is  better than something with an impressive markdown.

In any event I have my idea of how to get really-nice sound, and I am surprised that it is not on the market. Do you remember how rich the sound could be on the giant, floor-standing radios of the 1930s?


[Image: 220px-Vintage_Zenith_Console_Radio%2C_Mo...293%29.jpg]

The speaker was huge, reminding me of a subwoofer. One got very deep bass. It would be possible to create a floor-standing stereo with tweeters and mid-range speakers that opening doors (thus creating stereo separation) to expose a tuner, CD player, and perhaps an LCD screen or at least an input for a reader device to pick off internet videos. A cover may open to expose a phonograph. But my idea is practically retro.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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#25
(12-03-2018, 07:05 PM)pbrower2a Wrote: Economic reality is also a factor. I have noticed that places that even  try to sell high-fidelity equipment are getting scarcer.

If it is musical performance - I am a classical music fan, and I am not convinced that the  musical talent is thinning. The repertory certainly isn't thinning, although the discography is thinning. Is Simon Rattle less competent than Toscanini? I think not.  

Economic reality has its role. First, our educational system is more interested in training  people for existing jobs than in showing people how to live. Emphasis on STEM is desirable, but in view of the shrinking workweek we might need to teach people how to spend their leisure time. That means music, literature, and the visual arts.  Second, smaller apartments allow less privacy for enjoying music on a sound system, so having a chance to listen  to a loud, colorful work like a symphony by Anton Bruckner with the volume turned up on a stereo system gets dicey. Third, retailers have no idea of how to sell high-fidelity equipment. Inflating a price tag and then taking a gigantic markdown is good for selling many things -- but not sound equipment. What sounds good for the price (if one must consider price) is  better than something with an impressive markdown. 
Today's values are convenience, not quality.  Earbuds and files on a streaming service are tiny and the music library is huge.  Never mind that the reproduction is horrid.  It's convenient.


First and foremost, the audience for classical music is shrinking.  Interest in jazz and other serious music is also declining.  Attention spans are collapsing even faster.  I don't see a return to the older values any time soon.  So appreciate what you have, and cherish the fact that the recorded music we have is both abundant and excellent if you look for it.
Intelligence is not knowledge and knowledge is not wisdom, but they all play well together.
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#26
(12-04-2018, 07:07 AM)David Horn Wrote:
(12-03-2018, 07:05 PM)pbrower2a Wrote: Economic reality is also a factor. I have noticed that places that even  try to sell high-fidelity equipment are getting scarcer.

If it is musical performance - I am a classical music fan, and I am not convinced that the  musical talent is thinning. The repertory certainly isn't thinning, although the discography is thinning. Is Simon Rattle less competent than Toscanini? I think not.  

Economic reality has its role. First, our educational system is more interested in training  people for existing jobs than in showing people how to live. Emphasis on STEM is desirable, but in view of the shrinking workweek we might need to teach people how to spend their leisure time. That means music, literature, and the visual arts.  Second, smaller apartments allow less privacy for enjoying music on a sound system, so having a chance to listen  to a loud, colorful work like a symphony by Anton Bruckner with the volume turned up on a stereo system gets dicey. Third, retailers have no idea of how to sell high-fidelity equipment. Inflating a price tag and then taking a gigantic markdown is good for selling many things -- but not sound equipment. What sounds good for the price (if one must consider price) is  better than something with an impressive markdown. 

Today's values are convenience, not quality.  Earbuds and files on a streaming service are tiny and the music library is huge.  Never mind that the reproduction is horrid.  It's convenient, but it is a raw deal.


First and foremost, the audience for classical music is shrinking.  Interest in jazz and other serious music is also declining.  Attention spans are collapsing even faster.  I don't see a return to the older values any time soon.  So appreciate what you have, and cherish the fact that the recorded music we have is both abundant and excellent if you look for it.

Convenience, low cost, and superficiality -- such is exactly what one wants if one is overworked, underpaid, and scared of the boss. Such says much about American politics and economics. Our economic order practically demands that people become philistine because the enrichment and pampering of elites is not the means but the end. Confusion of means and ends always gets perverse results because life becomes nothing more than compromises.

I am a classical fan because I love the predictable richness of sonority, counterpoint, and emotional range of the genre. Jazz and folk have respectability in that aspect, as did rock on occasion. Classical music almost exclusively offers musical entertainment that lasts between two and three hours, paradoxically the attention span necessary for appreciating a sporting event. The question remains: what can one listen to for two hours?  It might be an opera.

At my age, I would love to share my cultural values as a worthy and enriching tradition. Maybe the Millennial generation is at fault for its philistine ways... but that is how they were brought up. For a Boomer, government was a friend until one became an adult due at the least to inexpensive college education if one needed or wanted it and was able to apply oneself. One could take a 'useless' major because employers appreciated intellectual rigor. One might get a major in history and show the ability to program a computer or do traveling sales; after showing one's abilities, who cared what one's college major was?

X got the shock as the system changed in the early 1980s when it was not fully grown up. The Millennial generation knows that their world is not only hardscrabble (the GI Generation experienced that and were no worse for it) but, far worse, pay-to-play.  One might be trained (at the cost of going deeply in debt) to perform competently at an entry-level, technical role -- but that is where one gets stuck. Because of the rigid class system even in offering opportunity. Birth and affiliation matter more than competence because the system churns out plenty of competent people who have the 'wrong' birth and affiliation. Add to this, the cost of things so basic as housing, utilities, and transportation become fiendishly expensive. Add that employment is increasingly transitory, and one could never do something that takes time and attention must be sacrificed for a critical, capricious communication that orders one to one's next gig. Orders? Sure -- because economic reality is the only reality in contemporary America, and it is nearly as harsh a master as the fictional Simon Legree.

People have to be warned to turn off their cell phones while at live theater, the opera, or the concert. The tools of 'connectivity' are our masters and not our servants -- because most of us are now servants of rapacious, ruthless, selfish classes of owners (now mostly heirs) and managers (now mostly affiliated by birth) to owners. There might be exceptions on this, probably between white Christians and everyone else, because white Christians (and the worst expressions of American capitalism, like Donald Trump) still have some residual faith in capitalism at its worst and everyone else knows that our plutocracy is no ally. If one starts a small business (more likely for people either non-white or non-Christian) one is in as much rebellion against the established order as if one were an out-and-out Commie. That is the political divide and the meaningful cultural divide in America.

We are as productive as ever -- indeed so productive that we make more stuff than we need or can even keep. We even produce huge amounts of bilge in 'culture'. The paradox is that we can do better, and occasionally do so. We are in a second Golden Age of Cinema -- maybe not as brilliant as the late 1930s, but the generational constellation suggests that we are in a parallel time. Maybe people who can watch a ninety-minute feature film can just as easily listen to and watch an opera or listen to a symphonic concert.

For me, intensity of experience is the cause of bliss if the experience is benign. I am willing to ride an emotional roller coaster that culminates in catharsis. I can listen to The Art of the Fugue in one setting because the masterful counterpoint creates its own drama. To those who lack the time -- can they watch a football or basketball game? If one can watch a sporting event on TV, then one has the time. But if one watches a sporting event on TV one has a distance from the 'stage' and one may need to do something on the side (like guzzling mass-market beer and devouring snacks heavy in caloric content but 'light' in nutritive value).

So my discussion of a cultural trend and the technology that it rejects becomes a social critique. That's how things go in this Forum.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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#27
Brought over from another thread because this issue rapidly goes off the topic of the quality of music...reproduction qualities matter.Maybe I can revive the topic of this thread.

Recordings are the only way a living person can now have of how Pavarotti (let alone Caruso!) sang; how Artur Rubinstein played the piano, how Mstislav Rostropovich played the cello, how Jascha Heifetz played the violin, or how George Szell conducted. (Add musicians of other categories too). Recordings are one way to rediscover music that has gone undeservedly out of style.

But this said, you are not going to get people to spend real money to go to a concert hall to listen to a recording. Obviously the copyrights get in the way... Recordings always lose something, and in the era of digital recording they really lose something. Compression and decompression? Or did recording companies and recording engineers get excessively complacent with the word "digital" that they lost the concept of musicality?

In my experience, the late analogue era of recording (1970s), before record companies pushed "DDD" as if it were a revolutionary improvement instead at times of a mangling, offered some superbly-recorded recording of music. Digital recording was great for the bean-counters in the recording cartel.

But that topic goes to sound quality.I might take that discussion to an old thread for revival.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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