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Audibly transparent

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WinterRacer's picture
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Apologies if this has already been covered.

A believe this is a good definition of audible transparency:

"Ethan Winer, an acoustics expert, states that gear passing all these criteria will not contribute any audible sound of its own and in fact sound the same as any other gear passing the same criteria.

- Frequency Response: 20 hz to 20 Khz +/- 0.1 dB
- Distortion: At least 100 dB (0.001%) below the music while others consider 80 dB (0.01%) to be sufficient and Ethan’s own tests confirm that.
- Noise: At least 100 dB below the music
- Time Based Errors – In the digital world this is jitter and the 100 dB rule applies for jitter components."

I agree with this definition, and believe it is the only sensible goal of hi-fi. Clearly, this has to apply at your chosen listening level, e.g., when your amp starts clipping it will no longer be audibly transparent.

Speakers are the component furthest from being audibly transparent, which is why many people recommend spending most of your budget on them.

Obviously, there's nothing wrong with personal preference, people differ in their tolerance to different types of distortion.

BTW, to me'system matching' (beyond basic compatibility) is about adding one kind of distortion to another to mask each components shortcomings, e.g., using bandwidth distortion to mask IM distortion around a speaker's crossover.

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RE: Audibly transparent

Interesting. Agree, Speaker (Driver and Port) distortion can certainly be higher than anything from anywhere else in the chain, particularely badly designed (tube) amplifiers aside perhaps.

An increase of 0.01 percent increase in amplifier distortion will not make a huge difference but there are those that argue that anything wrong further back  will have a multiplied adverse effect further upfront.

High jitter does probably affect how we hear something though I think the judge is still out there on just how much is to much. There can't be to little though that much is for sure and most modern, technically sound digital sources have cleaned their act up. -  Marantz'es CD63kI still has a following today. I believe this is partly because the player has more jitter than usual giving it this etheral and larger sound, well at least compared to some others. I dont have measurements of the player at hand but remember having read about it a long time ago. Someone may prove differently.

The problem is that often people dislike 'transparent' equipment which is usually the kind that measures well. Anything that introduces distortion/noise/jitter into the signal can not be described as transparent.

regards

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RE: Audibly transparent

drummerman wrote:

The problem is that often people dislike 'transparent' equipment which is usually the kind that measures well. Anything that introduces distortion/noise/jitter into the signal can not be described as transparent.

regards

 

If the system is transparent then surely you are hearing the music in its most pure form or is the recording process and format that changes that?

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RE: Audibly transparent

drummerman wrote:

...

There can't be too little though that much is for sure and most modern, technically sound digital sources have cleaned their act up.

...

The problem is that often people dislike 'transparent' equipment which is usually the kind that measures well. Anything that introduces distortion/noise/jitter into the signal can not be described as transparent.

regards

Appreciate your thoughts.

 

Regarding "too little distortion", the point is that beyond a certain point (defined above), improvements are completely inaudible.  I believe DACs fall into this category, for example.

On people not liking 'transparent' equipment, I humbly disagree.  IMO, you want a piano to sound like a piano, not one with some added distortion.  I think people have somehow come to associate 'transparent' with overly bright or harsh kit, e.g, kit with bandwidth or IM distortion. Not sure why though.

 

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RE: Audibly transparent

BigH wrote:
If the system is transparent then surely you are hearing the music in its most pure form...

 

Exactly!  You're hearing the recording without anything added or removed.  Unfortunately, a completely end-to-end transparent system isn't available (yet).

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RE: Audibly transparent

Also what does jitter do to the sound?

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RE: Audibly transparent

[/quote]Appreciate your thoughts.

 

Regarding "too little distortion", the point is that beyond a certain point (defined above), improvements are completely inaudible.  I believe DACs fall into this category, for example.

On people not liking 'transparent' equipment, I humbly disagree.  IMO, you want a piano to sound like a piano, not one with some added distortion.  I think people have somehow come to associate 'transparent' with overly bright or harsh kit, e.g, kit with bandwidth or IM distortion. Not sure why though.[/quote]

 

I think part of the problem is vinyl did sound warmer than cds which are cleaner/sharper etc. so people I think are trying to get a similar sound to vinyl. But I have to say some cds do sound harsh/bright and others are fine.

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RE: Audibly transparent

BigH wrote:

Also what does jitter do to the sound?

Below a certain level it doesn't result in data errors and can be considered completely inaudible.  Above that, errors can be detected and corrected.  Above that, it adds non-harmonic distortion, I.e., distortion that is not related to the harmonic content of the music.  

Blind tests have been conducted that have shown no subjects detected jitter of 250ns and only 25% could detect jitter at 500ns.

My view is that any decent digital system such as a CD player digital out or network streaming device will sound exactly like every other one - unless the manufacturer has added deliberate distortion.

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RE: Audibly transparent

WinterRacer wrote:

BigH wrote:
If the system is transparent then surely you are hearing the music in its most pure form...

 

Exactly!  You're hearing the recording without anything added or removed.  Unfortunately, a completely end-to-end transparent system isn't available (yet).

 

Which is also the flip side of the coin. There are so many badly recorded tunes out there I can't blame anybody for not always wanting to hear what the recording engineer wanted you to hear. - You miss out on the well made stuff of course. Basically, we can't win.

regards

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RE: Audibly transparent

BigH wrote:

I think part of the problem is vinyl did sound warmer than cds which are cleaner/sharper etc. so people I think are trying to get a similar sound to vinyl. But I have to say some cds do sound harsh/bright and others are fine.

That's a mastering problem, nothing inherent in digital.  I guess engineers didn't always adapt their mixes for digital systems that lacked the distortions of most record players.

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RE: Audibly transparent

drummerman wrote:

Which is also the flip side of the coin. There are so many badly recorded tunes out there I can't blame anybody for not always wanting to hear what the recording engineer wanted you to hear. - You miss out on the well made stuff of course. Basically, we can't win.

regards

I still believe a system capable of audible transparency must be the goal, however one with DSP for when you disagree with the recording engineer.

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RE: Audibly transparent

WinterRacer wrote:

drummerman wrote:

Which is also the flip side of the coin. There are so many badly recorded tunes out there I can't blame anybody for not always wanting to hear what the recording engineer wanted you to hear. - You miss out on the well made stuff of course. Basically, we can't win.

regards

I still believe a system capable of audible transparency must be the goal, however one with DSP for when you disagree with the recording engineer.

I certainly err that way these days. Perhaps partly because my high frequency hearing is getting worse with age so I am less affected by that range and have to compensate for it so anything which overtly smooths those I find now dull. - However, I have in the past been fairly fond of some even order harmonics and appreciate why some folks like that. - I had some John Shearne amps which sounded lovely. Problem was, everything sounded lovely, sometimes to lovely almost syrupy and even a valve amplifier I had later was more ... neutral.

regards

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RE: Audibly transparent

WinterRacer wrote:

drummerman wrote:

...

There can't be too little though that much is for sure and most modern, technically sound digital sources have cleaned their act up.

...

The problem is that often people dislike 'transparent' equipment which is usually the kind that measures well. Anything that introduces distortion/noise/jitter into the signal can not be described as transparent.

regards

Appreciate your thoughts.

 

Regarding "too little distortion", the point is that beyond a certain point (defined above), improvements are completely inaudible.  I believe DACs fall into this category, for example.

On people not liking 'transparent' equipment, I humbly disagree.  IMO, you want a piano to sound like a piano, not one with some added distortion.  I think people have somehow come to associate 'transparent' with overly bright or harsh kit, e.g, kit with bandwidth or IM distortion. Not sure why though.

 

Be careful I've been slagged off on this forum for suggesting that I knew what a piano should sound like.  Laughing

Chris

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RE: Audibly transparent

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' ...

regards

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RE: Audibly transparent

WinterRacer wrote:

I still believe a system capable of audible transparency must be the goal, however one with DSP for when you disagree with the recording engineer.

For me, enjoyment is the goal......but that's personal.

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RE: Audibly transparent

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.

Anything with some sort of tone control by whatever means and a 'source direct' or bypass is probably the way to go and should cover most occasions.

regards

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