February 28, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

One of the reasons why we published the Audiophile’s Guide discs and book is simple. Getting the system to adhere to an easy to attain standard.

Standards are important for getting a system to play nice with all types of music. If you can dial in a simple recording of voice and piano, for example, then chances are excellent a full orchestra will sound right too.

But it doesn’t always work in reverse.

In other words, if you try and use a large and complex piece of music as a standard for which you base your system on, it may not work with the simple.

I am certain better minds than mine have the reasons for this figured out, but in my experience, getting a simple trio or small non-complex group to play perfectly on your system almost always insures the large and complex with be near-perfect too.

Get the simple reference track dialed in and everything else will follow.

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19 comments on “Correctness”

  1. It kinda makes sense that ‘simple’ music, maybe a four piece jazz ensemble, will image & soundstage more coherently than an 80 piece orchestra or an amplified 7 piece Rock ‘n Roll band will.
    Micing, recording, room acoustics are just 3 variables outside of the home-audio rig set-up
    that can impede a decent 3D soundstage presentation.
    When it comes to complex, multi instrumental music reproduction I’m probably more willing to compromise about the overall presentation from a decent home-audio rig than some others would be, but that could be because generally I’ve been dealing in, & with, lesser than ‘high-end’ gear throughout my home-audio retail years & so I’m more aware of & accepting of the reality & imperfections (distortion, phase shift, etc.) of reproducing recorded music.

    1. Agreed FR & Paul!

      A small instrumental/vocal acoustically recorded ensemble (with a lot less going-on musically) allows for easier analysis of what’s happening with my system/room acoustics and facilitates quicker tweaking of such to fine tune and achieve my expected soundstaging/imaging/realism music playback!

      Once desired results are achieved, seems larger ensembles in large recorded venues fall nicely into the realm of you-are-there performances!!

  2. The question is „what is correct?“, when we consider that most soundstages are artificially created on the mixing board and every recording has an own tonality created during mastering?

    I think it could make sense if the guide delivers selfmade one point or little mic’ed recordings, which are verified against the live experience and provided with instructions how they should sound in detail, but is this the case and is it on the other hand possible to claim how external recordings should sound? I guess mostly too much usually is delegated to the perception and taste of the listener to actually claim an appreciable degree of correctness in this process.

  3. Paul the experimenters at Harman rank orchestral also Penske voice as most revelatory. Fast Car. Bird on a Wire.
    With jazz trios (“Waltz for Debbie) least discriminatory, less variance between educated listeners and the Less discerning as shown by opinion spreads.

    Search Harman +(program Effect on listener Performance)

  4. Sound advise today? On some level yes. I refer back to @jazznut 3:44am.

    The listener is the final judge in the end, the level of ‘correctness’ is also judged by subjective listening. What the majority of listeners get to hear is what a recording or mixing engineer wants us to. Yes there are guides and steps that can be taken to help in determining the best set-ups and gear. But That’s what they are, guides…. A place to start from, rather than a hap hazard disorganized start. The final result is up to whomever sets things up.

    Looking at Octave’s studio, and many others, it seems to me that it would be nearly impossible to achieve a cohesive live presentation in that environment of anything but a very small acoustic ensemble. Even then, the way things are being recorded are in pieces, individual microphone tracks. Those pieces are then assembled into a cohesive presentation.

    It’s been said before… a recording is like a snap shot… it captures a moment in time.
    The real trick is figuring out if your playback is representing that faithfully and accurately.

    1. Yes. No matter what conclusion one draws out of small scale evaluations, I can give you 10 very different audiophile large scale recordings, of which you can choose, which you think represents the „correct“ match. 😉

      But it’s right imo, that it’s an even more random play to begin with large scale and transfer to small scale than the opposite.

      The will to help with somehow „standardized“ guides is honorable, but imo largely useless in a world of no audio standards from mics, to recording production, gear and rooms.

    2. Therein lies the beauty, the magic, the intangible….
      The more you remove the more you get…
      Moving away from the basics is a huge rabbit hole.
      Room not sounding right? Add room dressings… Wheeeee! Off down that rabbit hole… But sometimes it’s not so easy to rearrange the room, the lifestyle, the spouse, to get a clean start with an acoustic blank canvas…
      Gotta love the adventure of a good rabbit hole to navigate.

  5. Yesterday while fixing Sunday morning breakfast I streamed a jazz radio station WBGO over our home audio system. The house system with 14 ceiling mounted speakers is good for what it is, but far from an audiophile system.

    So I was very surprised when all of a sudden I found myself sitting in the middle of an evangelical Baptist church, with full choir, and the whole congregation participating with clapping and singing. There was no purity of sound or tone in this recording. But there was in rejoicing and soul more than made up for these deficiencies.

    The relevance to today’s post is, you can’t judge the quality of an audio system with a very complex recording. Even on our homes built in audio system, this joyous live recording came alive.

  6. I really can’t remember what I used to tweak the position of my current speakers when I got them in 2017. I placed them in the same position as the 16 year old speakers they were replacing and then tweaked them from that position. My guess is it was a Rolling Stone album that I am very familiar with, probably Sticky Fingers.

  7. Today’s post suggests an alternative interpretation of Wife Acceptance Factor. Simply record your wife and use the recording as a reference for tuning your system. What could be more familiar? When her voice is acceptable, you know you’ve got the system tuned in. 😎

      1. You could disguise the recording as a memento to leave for the grandchildren and then do the tuning when she’s not around. I can hear her talking now…”When I was your age we never had…” 😎

  8. Regarding Paul’s post today, I would quote two things : First a song from the group, the Monkees: I’m a believer. 2cd a lovely lady Lily Von Schtup from the Blazing Saddles: It’s twue, it’s twue.
    Paul’s book and CD/SACD provide an accurate way to tweek your system not only to your taste, but provide an ACCURATE REFERENCE for center stage, soundstage, and for me most importantly, depth!
    I’m actually surprised that the new FR 30’s aren’t pulled out further from the walls.

  9. Given Paul’s post here is the exact analysis and reason why the ‘correctness’ in the simplest of musical structures is portrayed and often used at many HIFI shows to demonstrate speakers. I get it. I really do, but my god is it boring as hell.
    I want to walk into a HIFI expo and the first music I wish I could here is Megadeth or Sisters Of Mercy just blasting!
    That may sound ridiculous to some people, but it is that kind of music that really challenges a speaker and tells me what it’s really got! 🙂

  10. I want to repeat my comment for a previous post about audiophile language:
    I think the situation under discussion has already been resolved very conveniently.
    J. Gordon Holt had very seriously thought about the subject of a vocabulary for “evaluation of reproduced sound quality by ear” from the very first issue of his Stereophile. That process culminated in the July 29, 1993 issue of Stereophile when he published an article “Sounds Like? An Audio Glossary”
    There also is a book by him “The Audio Glossary”. The book is long out of print, but I have seen it available on eBay, Amazon, and some other sites in used condition at $80 and more.
    Of course, because we are audiophiles and we have to exercise our “right” to disagree with anything that is rigorous, there will be numerous individualists who will ignore this Glossary. That is very sad.
    Here we have been a glossary that could be used universally as a baseline when evaluating, or discussing sound quality.
    Unfortunately, that is not likely to happen.

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