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How do you measure how ‘HiFi’ something is?

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MajorFubar's picture
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I was listening to the Themes album by Vangelis on cassette last night. In every measurable and scientifically-quantifiable way, it is inferior to the CD I own of the same album, because cassettes are less technically-competent than CDs, in the same way that records also are. So using technical competency as a method of ranking how HiFi something potentially will be, the cassette medium cannot possibly be considered as HiFi as CDs.

Yet I found the cassette version of the album far more enjoyable and immersive to listen to than the CD version. Assuming that the mastertape is at least as equally enjoyable and immersive to listen to, then the cassette version of the album, to my ears, is more HiFi than the CD, because it more faithfully reproduces those vital qualities.

But how can you quantify ‘enjoyment’ and ‘immersive’ so that you can put them on a new product’s spec sheet? If you could measure them, then it seems that totally against all odds my cassette deck (and probably my turntable) would have better figures for those two specs than my CD player and HRT DAC, even though the CDP and DAC would be vastly superior in every other measurable specification.

Certainly to my ears, those two qualities, which I feel are fundamental to how HiFi something is, are not inherently related to technical proficiency, bit-perfect datastreams, impressive S/N ratios, huge DRs nor anything else which is currently sold to us as being important.

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You ask davedotco and accept

You ask davedotco and accept his answer as final.

Btw, 'rudimental'?!

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MajorFubar's picture
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RE: How do you measure how ‘HiFi’ something is?

Poor grammar! Now corrected, sorry.

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RE: How do you measure how ‘HiFi’ something is?

Do you listen to much liquid funk or jungle?

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RE:

Ok here's my attempt at a sensible answer (sorry guys).

High fidelity basically means low distortion. So you could just measure the amount of distortion to tell how 'hifi' something is. It wouldn't be all that simple though as there are different types of distortion and deciding which ones are the most important is open to argument.

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RE: How do you measure how ‘HiFi’ something is?

MajorFubar wrote:

How do you measure how ‘HiFi’ something is?

How well it reproduces a well recorded BBC Radio production (like the one I am currently listening to).

With the lights low and the volume turned up (to the point where foreground voices match the levels of our own at the same distance) it's uncanny.

You really do reach the point where the acoustics of the spaces people are talking in (churches, cafes, pubs, cars, offices, outdoors in towns, outdoors in the countryside etc.) and the noises (of their clothes when they move, birdsong, distant cars driving past etc.) subsume the acoustic properties of the room you are listening in. This all helps the story take over and - to use your word - immerse you in their world.

This is not necessarily format dependent. It happens with a good FM broadcast, CD replay and rips from my BBC CDs played back via AirPlay (320K AAC) like the example I linked above.

 

 

 

 

 

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RE: You ask davedotco and accept

You can't measure subjective qualities, except with your own ears.

How for example, do you measure authenticity, believability, emotional content, realism, immediacy, authority and refinement - these are the sort of things I look for in a system. 

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MajorFubar's picture
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RE: How do you measure how ‘HiFi’ something is?

BenLaw wrote:

Do you listen to much liquid funk or jungle?

No.

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RE: How do you measure how ‘HiFi’ something is?

I don't understand HiFi terminology, it's all meaningless gobbledygook to keep readers entertained, to me it either sounds one of three things, good, average or poor, but if you to write a review saying I thought it sounded good no one would read it or buy it unless it was dressed up with flowery language, saying something has a very hfi sound is just another one of those meaningless expression chucked about that is open to the readers own interpretation. 

 

 Fidelity means faithful, so being faithful to the original signal which will be impossible because everything is a compromise including our room which adds to the distortions that have gone before it.

 

 

The solution,?, quit worrying.

CnoEvil's picture
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RE: How do you measure how ‘HiFi’ something is?

Bigsounds wrote:

The solution,?, quit worrying.

The solution is to get the system that brings the music to life.....put enjoyment at the heart of the decision process, and trust what you like.

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RE: How do you measure how ‘HiFi’ something is?

Bigsounds wrote:

I don't understand HiFi terminology, it's all meaningless gobbledygook to keep readers entertained, to me it either sounds one of three things, good, average or poor, but if you to write a review saying I thought it sounded good no one would read it or buy it unless it was dressed up with flowery language, saying something has a very hfi sound is just another one of those meaningless expression chucked about that is open to the readers own interpretation. 

 

 Fidelity means faithful, so being faithful to the original signal which will be impossible because everything is a compromise including our room which adds to the distortions that have gone before it.

 

 

The solution,?, quit worrying.

yeah ....... What he said

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Leeps's picture
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True hi-fidelity and musical

True hi-fidelity and musical enjoyment are sometimes experienced at the same time and sometimes they are not. Much depends on whether you actually want to listen to the original sound the producer intended, or whether your tastes disagree with him/her.
This may help to explain how some manufacturers known for a little coloration of the signal (Roksan, Spendor) find many loyal customers and why spending more money on hifi kit may or may not result in a smile on your face.

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MajorFubar's picture
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RE: True hi-fidelity and musical

Leeps wrote:
True hi-fidelity and musical enjoyment are sometimes experienced at the same time and sometimes they are not. Much depends on whether you actually want to listen to the original sound the producer intended, or whether your tastes disagree with him/her.

This is true, but the point I was making...isn't a piece of equipment which conveys emotion and involvement (and all those other immeasurable quaities) just as (or more) 'HiFi' than something which is technically superior, but fails to convey them.

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RE: True hi-fidelity and musical

Leeps wrote:

...and why spending more money on hifi kit may or may not result in a smile on your face.

I spent the morning listening to expensive systems that did exactly that.....whereas the systems at a fraction of the cost made me smile.

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Assuming you listened to both

Assuming you listened to both versions at about the same volume, if the cassette version sounds better it is better.

If it sounds better, chances are it is closer to the original multi-tracked performances in the ways that are most important to your ears.

There are lots of aspects of sound reproduction that can't be measured with laboratory equipment, but can be heard by our ears.

The master tape version of that album is very likely to sound a few steps better than the cassette version when played on a properly adjusted professional tape machine.