Seeing vs. hearing

November 16, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

When it comes to capturing and reproducing dynamic range, audio has visual beat by a wide margin.

The human ear is capable of about 140dB of dynamic range—the same as a 32-bit digital audio capture. That modern recording and playback technology is capable of matching that of the human ear is remarkable. It wasn’t that long ago that tape and vinyl’s limitations of approximately half that range were as good as it got.

Photography, on the other hand, hasn’t kept up as well. The human eye is capable of discerning about 24 stops of dynamic range (a stop is a doubling of light). The best films could capture about 12 stops while modern digital cameras can approach 15 stops—both a far cry from the eye’s capabilities.

And, dynamic range is not all we hear nor see. There are resolution and timing differences too and again, our audio systems are pretty well matched to our native hearing abilities while cameras fall far short. Some of the best cameras today can achieve a resolution equivalent to about 50 megapixels while our eyes can resolve nearly ten times that.

The point of all this is in admiration of how close we’ve come to matching at least one set of senses.

I’ve never been fooled into believing an image is real, but I cannot say the same thing when it comes to sound.

Subscribe to Paul's Posts

77 comments on “Seeing vs. hearing”

    1. I am not aware of this person’s YouTube channel and the first thing that he asked was please let’s not argue and send nasty comments as to what this video is about. I respected that. I respected that but I wanted to ask this gentleman if either he, his wife or children of age were vaccinated and were wearing masks as a matter of habit. Do you know whether they were or not? In either case I have only the best wishes for them but I don’t know who he is and what he stands for. Very sad story.

      1. Hi Neil,
        I don’t know either but it doesn’t really matter whether his family is vaccinated or not; I suspect that they were not.
        The important thing is to make people aware that this sh!t is very real & that some people who come to PP still think that CoViD-19 vaccination is not worth taking seriously.

        1. Oh I definitely feel terrible for this man and his family, that’s completely separate. I just wanted more information which he in his own quiet way try to not have brought up in his story. Because he had such an even temper I respected his wishes. That doesn’t mean that he wasn’t trying to control the entire conversation which may not speak very well about him or his wife.

      1. Right, Baster. Hospitals should offer free test rides on ventilators to people who think Covid is a joke. 😎
        If as many people died from airplanes falling out of the sky each day as die from Covid, the airline industry would be shut down. We need a ‘tough love’ policy in medical care: no vaccination?, no problem, no hospital bed for you (unless you do not qualify for the vaccine.) This, coupled with a concerted effort to get everyone vaccinated would make a world of difference. And it will take the entire world to make that difference happen. I hear Pfizer just agreed to allow a generic version of their vaccine for 2nd and 3rd world countries…but enough preaching to the choir.

      1. Hi Paul,
        Ron is a fairly well known (over 62k subscribers) YT home audio reviewer & since you have impressed upon people to wear a mask & to protect themselves against CoViD-19, I thought that this presentation was realistic & hard hitting enough to make the point to be smart & to get vaccinated since I keep hearing about how many in America are still falling ill & dying from this virus, mostly the unvaccinated…that’s why I posted it on your site today.

        1. Gottcha. Thanks, Martin. It continues to boggle the mind how people have all sorts of theories about natural immunity and percentages and “it’s not going to get me” etc.

          All well and good and probably for most people, right. I look at it as I do seatbelts. Probably don’t need it but danged if something happens. You’d be bummed you ignored it as you’re flying through the windshield.

          1. I’m a big fan of learning vicariously. I donated my Jeep Cherokee with 200K miles to PBS. To save them some money, I dropped it off at the junk yard where it would be auctioned. I saw a totaled vehicle there that had an outward dome in the windshield on the passenger side. There were lots of cracks in the glass. On the inside, someone’s hair was stuck in those cracks. I know this left a mark. Taking preventative measures is always good.

          2. Like I said in my post that was zapped because of political reasons, natural immunity is not a theory it’s science!! A word of safety. If you had covid and consider getting the vaccination or are forced into it by Biden’s unconstitutional mandate by your company even though you have natural immunity the CDC says you should wait 90 days after you had covid before getting vaxxed. You are 7 times more likely to have adverse side effects if have natural immunity and take the vaccine so wait the 90 days. So make sure you speak to your Doctor and not blog commentators who spread disinformation.

          3. Paul,
            I know of this first-hand, as I lost both of my biological parents in January of 1963 because of a fatal car-crash, & neither of them were wearing their seat-belts; even though they were installed
            in the car that my father was driving.
            Wearing them in 1963 was was still only optional, not mandatory.
            I suspect that my old man wasn’t much of a critical thinker.

            So, everyone, get vaccinated & wear your f#@king seat-belts!

            1. Martin, that had to be the worst possible news to get. I am so sorry. My parents grew up without seatbelts and to the day they passed away refused to wear them. It was just part of that era’s culture.

              When the car manufacturers balked at being forced to equip cars with seatbelts they went bananas with scare tactics (just like the forces against being told to get vaccinated). I remember one of the best scare tactics they used was being trapped in a burning car unable to get out of your seatbelt.

              Could it happen? Sure. Could a blood clot happen from the vaccine? Sure.

              Scare tactics abound. Some, like the seatbelt myths were cruely and selfishly perpetrated by companies resisting being forced to spend money. Others, like the vaccine paranoia are simply from people being afraid.

              Is what it is. Your parents did the best they could to follow what they felt was best. They lost the roll of the dice.

              1. Thanks Paul.
                I was 2 years old so “the news” really went straight over my head.
                It is (was) what it is & I grew up tough, you probably got that from my demeanour, & I don’t take crap from anyone, so there was a silver lining, but a very thin one.
                Laughter is the best medicine 😉

  1. Modern digital cameras allow automatic white balance and monitor displays & tv-screens feature calibration routines. What about equivalent tools for a stereo set-up?

    1. Cameras also have a function called high dynamic range or HDR which really make a huge difference in landscape and other types of photography.

      Some extremely expensive digital cameras go way above 50 megapixels in fact I think there’s a camera that shoots at 100 mega pixels and that makes a large difference as well.

      Correct me if I’m wrong because I am making the statements based on my observing photographers when managing movie and still photo shoots at my friends mansion.

  2. Indeed it seems in audio is very good in its technical specs in comparison and the biggest restriction is the listening room and the (non) ability to really transfer concert room acoustics very well between those very differently sized rooms.

    I think the latter is also the reason why the playback of the full capture of the dynamic range (in case it was 100-120dB in the concert place) within the 400 square foot listening room doesn’t make too much sense and mostly gets limited by the mastering engineers for that reason anyway (even when the media enable its use).

    Overall it seems to me, it’s very important to:

    – not brick wall or compress music (except for artistic and sound quality supporting reasons, which exist)

    – use equipment for recording and playback that enables an as dynamic as possible recording and reproduction within a given dynamic range

    …but from the listening experience at home, it seems it has much less relevance in comparison to other sound quality supporting aspects and especially to the dynamic performance within a given dynamic range:

    – to have a dynamic range potential available above the tape/vinyl limitation (although this is certainly very welcome in general and headroom never hurts)

    Surprisingly vinyl playback (among others) often sounds even more dynamic than digital playback. Maybe the concentration on the dynamic range and „accuracy“ advantage of digital even was most limiting for its progress so far (until folks cared more about jitter, noise and other more important influences on sound).

    The “recording space” is probably also the biggest challenge in photography, where dynamic range also plays a much bigger role than in audio. I think photography can be quite good in capturing a limited space. But reproducing just the true colors and shadings of a sky panorama seems impossible.

  3. I think 140db is grossly exaggerated. Anything over 100db on a regular basis causes hearing loss and the lower end (30db?) is pretty much inaudible. Very few recordings require the 55db dynamic range of vinyl, let alone 24 bit digital. For most 16 bit is more than sufficient, which is why it was set as and pretty much remains the standard, notwithstanding the availability of higher resolutions for 25 years. I have a DSD recording with so much dynamic range, parts of it are inaudible. What good is that?

    The key point is that for humans our visual sensory system is much better developed than our hearing, so it is easier to fool our hearing into believing fake sound is the real thing, which is harder to do with the photographic image.

    Moreover, 50mp is a pretty bog standard camera these days, 150mp is standard for professional work. Perhaps Paul should go along to an exhibition of photographs by Andreas Gursky, the great German photographer who specialises in vast realistic images often 30 feet or more long. Then tell me photography can’t convince you about the real thing.

    Anyway, photography is usually highly creative and is rarely seeking realism. Why is it that many people prefer black and white images to colour, given they have less information? This is completely contrary to audio. I suspect the main reason is that black and white image offer greater perception of dynamic range. You still get more dynamic range from black and white film than most digital cameras because of colour filter arrays used in RGB sensors. If you get rid of the CFA, such as in Leica Monochrom cameras, you get about another 3 stops of DR and incredible black and white digital, as good as the best film. Moreover, they are better than the real thing because us humans have relatively poor low light vision, and a Monochrom sensor can capture more low light information that our eyes can.

    So I don’t go with this proposition, and dolphins with acute hearing and poor vision would think photography better than the real thing and audio totally hopeless.

      1. Just love it when our resident snob across the pond goes off about the unnecessary technical jargon when referencing audio components and assembling high performance home music systems. Then, when the subject changes to photography, streaming or computer networking he’s all technobabble!

        The other interesting aspect of his prose is the thousand words written regarding a Devialet integrated amplifier and not word one regarding the musical performance of the recently acquired Wilson Audio loudspeakers. Hmm…

        Perhaps he misses the timbre of the Harbeth’s? There’s a reason why Wilson is in bed with Transparent Audio. Unfortunately in his setup with that forward sounding French rig he will never choose too appreciate the reason’s why.

        Sofa’s pillows and drapes oh my!

    1. The numbers game is a different story I even didn’t want to touch. 120 or 140 dB may be questionable to be a goal for home audio, professional tape is partly named to be able to deliver nearly 90 dB, vinyl even up to 100 dB with test cuts (yes there are measurement protocols of cartridges doing it, I have one). But it all doesn’t matter and I’m fine with the 70 vs. 120dB talk (which I still see somehow valid). As long as many CD’s sound better than Hires or DSD, Tape than LP, LP than a lot of digital etc., we know how limited the relevance is.

  4. A photograph is just an image in a given moment in time. No one ever expects it to be ‘real’.
    In audio, the expectation / goal has always been to sound like in it was being performed in your individual presence at that moment. (Concerning acoustic instruments)

    Every day we communicate, about ‘real sounding sound’ and what is being done to make it real. New equipment, new recording techniques, new diffusers and room treatments. Is it all ‘more real’ or is it just an illusion?

    There’s obviously way more to capturing and reproducing sound than just matching sound levels and frequencies.

    How close we are to meeting the audio expectation/goal is a matter of individual judgment. From Paul’s perspective he has had the opportunity to fooled into believing sound is real. On one hand I might be jealous, on the other hand what sound isn’t real?

    Just like holding a picture in your hand…. The picture is real…. The memory brought to the forefront by the picture may be real….. but the closest you’ll get to real by looking at the picture is if you took it….

    It’s been said before, 2 channel audio is an event unto itself. For me personally I accept and enjoy it for that. It’s fun to play with equipment and set-ups. It’s fun to to read and write every day about audio. Expecting my room and set-up to sound ‘real’ is a pie in the sky dream. To live with that reality right now is what is really real.

    1. There is such a thing as IMAX. I went to one of the first demonstrations at Vancouver EXPO 1986 (it is a Canadian invention) is a surround globe with the complete field of vision covered. It was far more real than an audio recording would ever be.

      There were there films: a speeded up San Francisco trolley ride, a space shuttle launch and a gentle canoe trip down a river with overhanging branches. The last one was by far the most realistic and everyone was ducking under the branches.

      So, I hate to say, if you compare audio systems to IMAX, IMAX wins by a mile. It can be scary realistic.

      1. Been there done that also. As you say, it was a very surreal experience.
        As far as comparisons I’ll leave that to the individual. Each of us has our own experiences and expectations.

        As I’ve said many times, to me 2 channel home audio is its own entity and form of entertainment. I enjoy it for what it is.

        If I want real, then like you I go to a show. If I want the reality of 2 channel home audio I stay home and listen. If I ever start to get a feeling that I can’t distinguish between the 2 then I can do a few things. Stop reading about audio and all its challenges. Invest in recordings and equipment that fool me into thinking I’m at a show and it’s real. Or finally, have myself committed because I can no longer distinguish what real is.

        1. I think that sums up home audio for me entirely, absolutely spot on.

          There’s no need to claim its superiority over other things or decry its weaknesses, it is what it is and can be enjoyed at many levels of sophistication. Its just that some people pursue more sophistication (which comes at a cost) than others. Plus, you can no longer get a ticket to hear John Coltrane or Miles Davis.

          1. So you’re spot on also ✌️ 🙂
            If you want to hear some of the masters from the past (since recoding technology started) then you have no choice but to listen to recordings.

            The sophistication part, as you say becomes an individual choice. How deep do you want to go? Are you a designer looking to make a living and build a business? Are you intrigued (obsessed?) by music reproduction and technology? Are you a consumer who enjoys playing around with technology and acoustics? The list goes on and on. It just all depends….

            So now full circle back to what’s real. 😀

        2. Mike I totally agree with what you’re saying.

          With all due respect, didn’t we have a topic like this within the last 10 days about listening at home being our perception of reproduced music versus going into a live venue which is the real deal (mostly)? It’s easy for these discussions to get reset depending on the daily topic.

        3. Mike I totally agree with what you’re saying.

          With all due respect, didn’t we have a topic like this within the last 10 days about listening at home being our perception of reproduced music versus going into a live venue which is the real deal (mostly)? It’s easy for these discussions to get reset depending on the topic of the day.

          1. Hello Stimpy2,

            We probably did have that discussion 10 days ago….. 😉 ✌️

            The point I was making and am slowly coming to terms with, is that for me 2 channel is an entertainment system unto itself. That being said there’s lots of room for subjective (and objective) listening and chasing the dream. Go as far and as deep as you want, or kick back and enjoy. I’m getting much better at the latter. Room for improvement is always there, just how much and for how long being the main questions. So I continue to read, continue to ponder, & continue to dream. I’m Starting with new speaker wires now and will let them break in before adding the new interconnects…..

      2. “Deep Water Horizon”, created in the IMAX audio/video experience, was astounding. Extremely immersive both visually and sonically, this theatrical production (2016) of the real event had you squirming in your seat, gasping at the explosive forces and sweating with tension building anticipation! It was singularly the most impressive combination of an A/V creation I’ve ever experienced!! It was Real, you were There, and being Scared was an Understatement!!

        How real was the theater experience? My eldest son, who invited us to the matinee show and who from 2007 to 2009 worked as an engineer on the DWH, stated it was an Amazingly, Realistic recreation of the rig and operations that brought back many detailed memories and soulful feelings! Thankfully, in 09′ he had been relocated to New Orleans to manage their shelf offshore operations, but did have two company friends who perished in that 2010 disaster.

        Otherwise, I have to agree with Paul. Many times I’ve been so emotionally moved by musical recreations in my listening room that tears flow as a soulful connection to the performances of the musicians takes over! Over the years I’ve been impressed by beautiful works of art in paintings, photographs and sculptures but to date, only auditory musical reproductions consistently elicit deeper human feelings of admiration and joy!!!

        1. DWH was an excellent movie, but I’m glad I didn’t see it on IMAX!

          IMAX is just another example of a format that, whilst technically superior, the required investment in cinema screens and production costs meant it was never going to be more than a niche product.

          1. Steven,

            On a well designed/set-up Home Theater, I’m sure the Blue-Ray experience could closely simulate the IMAX experience. Since I’ve not invested much into HT, I’ve never tried the BR purchase! Might just have to stream it one day!?! 😉

            1. The whole point about IMAX was that it covered your complete field of vision. It also was better on 70mm film, as digital lacked the resolution needed for the screen size. I doubt BluRay comes anywhere close. BluRay is just another format that has largely evaporated since its peak 15 years ago.

              I still have a DVD player that can play BluRay. We bought and watched 2 BluRay discs. That’s 2 more than the total number of SACDs I ever played.

      3. Ah the Omnimax. Ya that was pretty spectacular. Before the film they perform a demonstration where the screens are backlit to show all the speakers’ locations and the girder structure. Pretty cool. I wonder what drivers & gear they used..? I can’t seem to find that info. Some cool stats:
        A couple of cool facts from the Telus World of Science website:
        #1 The OMNIMAX Theatre seats 400 people. Its screen is 27 metres in diameter. The theatre’s sound system uses high-fidelity, six-channel, two-way sound with sub-bass to create an unparalleled surround sound experience. Twenty-eight speakers are located in clusters behind the theatre’s screen. A 45-minute film requires about four kilometres of OMNIMAX film stock.
        #2 The 15,000 watt xenon lamp that lights the screen is so bright that if you placed it on the surface of the moon and focused it at a spot on Earth, you could actually see its light.

    1. Valid point Richtea, 😉

      How come it never seems to go the other way? A high def visual reconstruction of an an artist or group playing. All we would have to do is fill in the sounds with our imaginations….

  5. Years ago, the ahead-of-his-time Peter McClard invented some software that converts an image into sound, for exactly the reasons you mentioned. The idea was that doctors could better recognize illnesses from sound than they could from looking at an MRI or other visual representation of a body. The software could either play the image entirely (left-to-right, top-to-bottom), or you could move your mouse over areas of interest to listen to it. The system didn’t catch on much, but I think the concept is sound. (heh)

  6. In 1994 I landed a McDonnell Douglas MD11 at Brussels Airport in a snowstorm. Unfortunately, having successfully landed the ‘plane, I found that I didn’t know where the brakes were, so we taxied right into the terminal building. Since this all took place in a multi-million dollar full-motion simulator used to train and certify pilots, we all lived to fight another day.

    The key here is that this was 1994, and the visual effects in the simulator used 1994 technology, albeit the most cutting-edge 1994 technology. So it wasn’t remotely great. But, after landing the MD11, you had to pry my white knuckles off the yoke. It was pretty darned effective invokation of reality. There’s a lot more to the question of “believing something is real” than resolution … although resolution is nice to have!

  7. My first 2 shots in May/June. So now I’m waiting for my 3rd dose. (beginning to sound like an addict).
    But first come the 80-plus folks. I guess in other countries it’s the same.
    As for today’s topic : I always thought it’s the other way around.
    Anyway, in the hypothetical situation we had to make a choice between ears and eyes, almost every person (incl.audiophiles) would choose to keep the eyes.

    1. Jb4,

      A 3rd shot addict here. I don’t meet the age demographic yet, but my DR said based upon my work, travel, etc I should go for it. So I did. I had to mix and match Moderna with Pfizer. The word now is that should be fine…. Guess I’ll see what the verdict is in the future.

      As far as choosing senses I’ll wait for the mandate as to which one I have to give up.

  8. Just if anyone else noticed:
    It was the third time today (two occurrences earlier in the last weeks) that one of my posts was first displayed on the page right after I stored it and then vanished again angewiesen minutes later. It was not important, so I left it like that, but the two times before I made a second post which then displayed permanently. I don’t suspect anyone deleting anything, I guess it’s just a technical oddity or I’m just writing nonsense and the system cares 😉

    1. Of course, we care! I just looked and they got tagged as SPAM by Akismet, our auto SPAM filter. I just restored them. Probably because there may have been some links in them? I haven’t had time to investigate. Let me know if it happens again because the system doers not flag me when this happens.

  9. I am not into photography and I have never looked a photograph and thought it was real. I look at photographs in books to take me back to a time when the Beatles and I were both young and looked like the handsome devils that we once were. 😉

    When it comes to audio, I have never been fooled thinking that recorded music was live or the other way around. I have had an interesting but stupid experience at some audio shows. It happened when I heard a singer and guitar music coming from a room that I could not see into. I thought the music was recorded, however, when I went into the room I saw it was a woman singing and playing an acoustic guitar into a microphone that went into a microphone preamp and into a pair of active speakers. The dealer who’s room it was would switch the microphone preamp output into a power amp and speakers that he was selling and show the listeners that it sounds the same as when the music was played “live”. Of course, all he was proving is that his amp and speakers sounded the same as the active speakers. As I said, interesting but stupid. 😀

  10. There are many reasons photography is farther from approaching human vision than audio sound from human hearing:

    1) As Paul points out, cameras have a more restricted dynamic range than human vision; best exemplified by trying to take a photograph of the interior of a normally-lit room that includes a window with a brightly lit exterior landscape on a sunny day–a dynamic range our eyes easily accommodate but a camera cannot, without selective post-processing, and even then, a lot of detail is lost. In contrast, audio recordings can simultaneously capture the lowest to highest audible frequencies.

    2) Stereoscopic imaging has not yet been perfected; the best way to tell a photograph from reality is that there is no stereo depth in the photo image. Stereo imaging requires two images recorded a few centimeters apart to match the distance between the pupils of our two eyes. [In college I made my own stereo slides using my 35mm film camera, taking shots of scenes by moving the camera a couple of inches apart between shots, affixing the developed slides on cardboard mounts that fit into an old Radex viewer I found in my aunt’s attic. They come close to looking real, but still…no one is fooled because of the other photographic deficiencies.] Motion pictures can give only a sense of stereoscopic vision through the movement of the camera which communicates depth better than fixed camera shots, but it is not true stereo vision like our eyes and brain enjoy in real life. In audio, two omni-directional microphones spaced apart similar to the distance between the human ears (with perhaps a baffle between them of a size and shape similar to the human head) can record on separate channels essentially what the two ears hear, and playback is virtually (note, I did not say exactly) what a human would hear in the same microphone location.

    3) When we view a live scene the lenses in our eyes can focus on close-up and then far-away objects and back to near field extremely fast. This continually responsive lens accommodation is in coordination with the brain and helps us perceive depth. Photographs offer only one lens setting so the eye is not called upon to re-adjust focal length for objects at different distances. Thus we miss one important depth perception cue. Photograph tricks such as blurred foreground or background and vignetting are not what our eyes actually see.

    4) Camera lenses do not precisely replicate the lines of perspective that our brains perceive through our eyes. If you look at a wide-angle or fisheye lens photograph, lines that our brains perceive as straight appear curved. Moreover, straight lines rendered by telephoto lenses are sometimes interpreted by the brain as curved, because the brain is by design compensating for how the eye lens actually “sees” straight lines. The camera film or sensor is typically flat, unlike the curved light sensing surface of the retina, so camera lens design is an attempt to emulate what the eye sees through its adjustable lens and retina.

    5) Different camera lenses distort the depth distances between objects. Wide angle lenses make spaces look deeper and objects farther apart than our eyes perceive. In worms eye views they make buildings look taller and the normal perspective is distorted. Telephoto lenses make objects look flatter and closer together. Telephoto views of city skylines like Los Angeles, Denver and Salt Lake City deceptively make the background mountains look closer and taller relative to the buildings than they appear to our eyes in real life.

    6) The brain automatically filters visual information to a degree that cameras cannot match. For example, through your eyes you do not see noise dots and artifacts that you often see on photographs, such as in low light environments. And your brain typically ignores the absence of light receptors at the point where the optic nerve exits the eye, a blind spot that is only visible on certain optical illusions. Audio technology offers similarly sophisticated noise reduction capabilities, sometimes equally mysterious and currently unexplainable!

    In summation, I agree with Paul that audio recording and playback technology has come closer to reality than photography. Audio offers real-life dynamic range, true stereo imaging, holographic sound stages able to portray instruments and voices in their correctly scaled spatial arrangement, and resolutions commensurate with the brain’s maximum audible processing capability as we know it.

    1. Same valid points, but some basic findings are missed. Both, aural and visual perception are most sensitive for aural/visual illusions due to the fact that our conscious perception is the result of a reconstruction process made by our brain system based on impressive data reduction compared to the data input via the eye-lenses or tympanic membranes. Our brain is a kind of forecast computer permanently comparing input data with known and stored data. But which data are stored? There is research based on AI and artificial neural networks claiming that our visual system can be described based on some 50 dimensions? What about the number or dimensions needed to describe aural perception which is additionally influenced by moods and all kind of bias? And what about the biggest problem of 2-channel stereo: crosstalk between left and right loudspeaker, resulting inherently in a blurred signal reaching the ears. Perception and psycho-acoustics is much more complex than simple stereo recordings and room acoustics.

      1. I was not trying to address every aspect of aural and visual perception, illusions and mysteries of the human brain, like “impressive data reduction,” whatever the heck that means. Of course “Perception and psycho-acoustics is much more complex than simple stereo recordings and room acoustics.” You can make that statement after nearly every claim made by any poster. I was just pointing out some personal observations that I have made through my experience with photography and audio.

        As far as crosstalk is concerned, I do not believe it is a significant problem with the 2-channel audio systems I experience. There is always going to be a degree of crosstalk, through room reflections and even between your ears in your skull and brain matter as you sit at a live performance. What I care about is does it sound real, three-dimensional, and like I am there. In audio, I get closer to that illusion that I do with photography.

        1. “Data reduction” means that the visual nerve can only transmit a small portion of the data received by the photoreceptors of the retina. A similar process is found for our hearing system. Thus which elements are crucial to be transmitted correctly in order to get a reconstruction which allows us to identify faces or voices or instruments? Crosstalk cancellation is a most powerful tool which for the first time got me an immersive sound from my stereo system and had the side-effect of revealing fine details buried in the recorded, details which are masked somehow by the combfiltering inherent with normal stereo!

          1. In a nutshell, how did you cancel crosstalk in your stereo system? I understand room surface treatments, speaker and listening positioning, discrete left-right channel separation in the equipment chain from source to loudspeaker, and recording techniques and processes that minimize crosstalk.

            1. I own two DACs (Weiss DAC 501 & TacT RCS 2.2XP) both offering XTC-mode for crosstalk cancellation. I also have a freeware (see: ) installed on my notebook. And finally there is a most powerful solution including head tracking: BACCH-SP2 (see: ) from Princeton University (Prof. Edgar Choueiri). And I also appreciate having the loudspeakers positioned in a listening angle of some 30 degrees already minimizing combfiltering.

              1. The link on ambiophonics is quite interesting and now I get what you mean by loudspeaker crosstalk. Where and how does one implement the ambiophonics software in the stereo equipment chain? You mentioned two DACs you own that offer XTC crosstalk cancellation–sounds like a fun feature. I’m wondering how a recording mixed to sound correctly on conventional stereo setups would sound right when ambiophonics is applied. For example, on my conventional system, on good recordings instruments sound correctly located on realistically proportioned soundstages. Wouldn’t ambiophonics change the soundstage and make instruments sound farther apart, and possibly place the listener too close to the stage, rather than at a comfortable distance in front of the stage? I can see pros and cons to ambiophonics, depending on the particular recording and how that recording was mixed and mastered. If the mastering engineer used ambiophonics I can see how a system that also employs ambiophonics would be optimal, but if the mastering engineer worked with speakers exhibiting some crosstalk, playback with some crosstalk might better reflect the intended result. I am also loath to introduce any additional processes into the audio signal path. We’re way off topic, but this would be a great subject to further expound upon in a future Paul’s Post, especially if his topic is related to Crosstalk.

                1. I had the same questions when I got the first information about loudspeaker crosstalk. The solution: I simply downloaded the freeware to my notebook and checked the effects. Then I downloaded the free app for my iPod and the effects were not subtle at all. You are absolutely right: the best results are achieved if there is an ambiophonics-microphone used for the recording and you have a 4-channel system. But even normal recordings profit already. The stage gets wider and deeper and one feels immersed in the sound. But singers or instruments you whose location in a normal 60 degrees set-up is perceived as coming from the loudspeakers directly stay there while the loudspeakers are now placed for a much smaller listening angle. Today I cannot listen without XTC activated. Due to the fact that the mixing is done for ordinary old fashioned stereo there are some timbral shifts especially for the bass. But they can easily be compensated by the internal equalizer of my DACs. You also can find some demo tracks from Ralph Glasgal on his homepage. Concerning the topic of this post: a photo of a painting can give you a near identical impression of the original painting. But a stereo-recording of a single sound source (single singer or single instrument) will now be presented by two sound sources (loudspeakers) forcing our brain to create a phantom-sound image. Better make a mono recording of the singer and listen to it by only one loudspeaker. You can easily check the differences in sound quality between a mono recording reproduced by a single loudspeaker and the reproduction of the same recording by both stereo loudspeakers. I bet you will prefer the puristic approach!

                  1. ! don’t know how I would use the ambiophonics app with my current stereo system components. I do not stream music or play from a computer source, other than my digital organ program (called Hauptwerk) which does not integrate with ambiophonics. The only way I could incorporate XTC is to buy an expensive DA processor like your Weiss that has it as an option. I suppose I could play with ambiophonics with my desktop computer and its small desktop speakers if my computer sound card could somehow integrate with the ambiophonics program. If my stereo systems did not already give me an expansive, holographic soundstage I might be less complacent and more inclined to undertake the learning curve.

                    1. Again, I do not use a PC or MAC to stream my music. If this system were so great, it seems every new DAC would offer the feature and there would be more people talking about it. I read one Stereophile review of the Weiss DAC with the XTC feature and the reviewer wasn’t impressed, probably because he did not have his speakers spaced close enough together or his music recordings were not optimized for it.

                1. Paul’s argumentation isn’t logical- as often – and misses some points. Concerning headphones there are most sophisticated ideas for crossfeed eliminating the in-head-localization (I have crossfeed settings in my Roon Nucleus and my Weiss DAC501). Inter loudspeaker crosstalk is an inherent (and unwanted) side-effect of ordinary stereo. No wonder there are multiple mixing tools (plug-ins) for “improving” the original recording by artificial reverb and other sound effects. No need here when making a serious ambiophonic recording. But as we all know Paul has just started the adventure of detecting the basic problems of recording and mixing and the tricks to be applied to mask the unwanted effects (the “art” of the sound engineer). 🙂

Leave a Reply

© 2023 PS Audio, Inc.

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram