'Transparent' is just another failed word in the lexicon of attempts to describe what is fundamentally indescribable. (Like 'natural', 'neutral', 'organic', 'warm', etc.)
It's a sense like sight and smell. Describe differences between greens on a colour chart and the variety of greens of springtime that you experience during a walk in the woods. Describe the colour of an old oak table in bright sunlight. The wood contains too many shades/hues and has too many reflected colours to just call it 'brown'. Describe the smell of leather without reference to leather. On top of this there all the personal associations and memories that forests, leather, old furniture etc. will have for you (just you) that cannot be conveyed adequately to another. Even artists and poets can only hope to try and communicate their impressions in any meaningful way. (They can't do yours. Although good ones can evoke or 'trigger' your own feelings and memories, they can't actually know that that will happen or put words to them.)
It's the same with hi-fi replaying recorded music. Someone who has heard a lot of their music collection live at concerts will have different impressions and memories and personal experiences than someone who has only ever heard music from stereos, radios, TVs etc. Their requirements of a system will differ. One experience is no more 'valid' than the other. We can't judge what the music from those people's systems will evoke in them. The concert goer is not more 'qualified' to choose a system for the other person or vice versa. However, they will have fundamentally differing musical 'triggers' when it comes to selecting a system they like. (As would someone who is actually a musician.)
Measurement merely goes as far as to tell you how well the component measures against tests accepted by the industry to demonstrate some degree of technical 'competence' and/or fitness for purpose, electrical safety and so on.
For every system described by it's owner as 'transparent' (or 'natural', 'organic', 'musical', 'smooth', 'fast' or whatever) there will be another person who finds it the opposite. (And I guarantee that will include any system whether active or not and whether costing £45 or £45,000.)
Back in the radiogram days people would say 'it has a nice tone' and would buy it, if it was the right price and suited their other furniture.
'It has a nice tone' says just as much to me as 'transparent'. (Ok it says more to me because I grew up in that era and know what it meant and how highly 'a nice tone' was valued.)
I'm rambling so thats it. Stopped now.
Marantz M-CR603 + AirPlay • Rega R3 loudspeakers • iPhone 5 • iMac • Apple Airport Extreme 802.11n • Apple iPad Mini • Panasonic TX-L32D25B • Sony BDP-S390 • Ruark Audio R1 Deluxe • Humax HDR-Fox T2
'Transparent' is just another failed word in the lexicon of attempts to describe what is fundamentally indescribable. (Like 'natural', neutral', 'organic', 'warm', etc.)
I get your point about personal choice and wholeheartedly agree, however I do believe that 'transparent' is a valid term if used in the right context to describe a lack of obscuritites or to put it another way, lack of distortion.
It just so happens that transparency can be used in visual and aural contexts, but the visual context is perhaps more literal.
The other adjectives listed are a little more vague and not really anything other than an attempt to describe a sound in words. They are not quantifiable.
Mac mini > AVI ADM9Ts
Only four parameters are needed to define everything that affects audio quality: Noise, frequency response, distortion, and time-based errors. "Transparent" just means that all these parameters are below defined levels.
Didn't J. Gordon Holt say something about the idea that making pleasing rather than accurate kit was what destroyed the high end?
Synology NAS + ATV2 > ADM9RS
Thanks Craig, that's the article I was thinking of.
One point I think is important, I believe accurate kit is pleasing kit. The idea that it isn't I find very strange.
I think Winteracer has hit the nail on the head with his previous comment on 'transparency with DSP' for occasions when you dont agree with the sound engineer.
PC > AVI Neutron Five 2.1
Sony NWZ-A847 64GB Walkman > Westone UM3x
I prefer the quote from Nelson Pass - "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgement. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers are for those who do not."
These two quotes nicely highlight the two diverging opinions, as to what is most important when buying a hifi system.....and there is no right or wrong, only what brings maximum joy to the owner.
"Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again." André Gide
One man's transparent is another man's coloured...
Understand where Winteracer is coming from. I believe he uses AVI's new 40 which is probably more transparent or technically adept than many other options out there.
However, even over on HDD, there are people that would like a little bit more 'warmth' (distortion) than their equipment has on occasions. A certain irish person recently has changed the mid/bass drivers on his ADM's to gain some body, furthermore, he has recently started a thread on 'warmth' ...
Yes, vastly chucklesom, still banging the same old drum too. Bless...
Onkyo TX-NR818 / Tannoy Revolution DC4 (bi-amped)
AVI Laboratory Series CD Player
Very hard to achieve in standard audio. Very hard to achieve in passive or active systems too. You might get close, but recreating the "as is"? Nope. Hence why many folk go for "pleasing" and whatever version of "pleasing" you think that is.
Hard for turntables and speakers, especially passive ones.. I'd suggest we're there, or thereabouts for digital transports, streamers, DACs, SS Pre and power amps, oh yeah, nearly forgot cables in that list!
All this active-aggressive beahiviour is getting very tiresome.
'And so on February 22nd 1966, at Luton airport...'
To add to Cno's quote, it is a trait in modern life to consider relevant only criteria which can be measured and given a number.
So we are assured that our ears hear, and only hear, simple combinations of frequencies between 20 Hz and < 20 Khz. Why? Because that is easy to measure (and we can see hairs in our ear which respond to frequencies). But that is not the whole story; our ears are much better than that. They are very good at hearing, and recognising, transient sounds, like a symbol being struck, or a pin dropping, sounds which are not a simple combination of fixed frequencies. We can hear very quiet transients amongst other noise – our survival in the past probably depended on this.
Our bodies can sense frequencies below 20Hz, and there is some evidence for above 20 Khz, though maybe not through our ears.
I was once at a concert for deaf people. They stamped and clapped in time to the music. The Percussionist Evelyn Glennie is deaf but she plays in orchestras all over the world.
So do not get too hung up on figures, they measure only bits of the sounds we sense.
I'm more of a passive-aggressive but can see where the active may come in handy ...
Pretty ... and pretty proud of it
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