Sting of the Dragon

October 16, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

A am utterly fascinated with cable break-in.

For many people, the idea of a piece of wire breaking in or changing its audible character over time is questionable at best and for others bordering on the preposterous.

And yet, cable break-in is as real as the sun rising each morning.

Recently we have been assembling Music Room Three into a reference room with the new FR30 loudspeakers at the forefront. Spearheaded by engineers Chris Brunhaver, Darren Myers, and Bob Stadtherr, along with acoustic engineer Tim Gulsrud, we’ve spent a great deal of time and money getting things right.

MR3 has, since we first built it, been plagued with acoustic problems like boomy bass and overly reflective walls. That’s where engineer Tim comes in. Tim spent a good deal of time measuring every parameter of the room to form a plan to tame its acoustics. Now, finally, the bass traps and acoustic modifications to the walls and ceilings are nearly finished.

Meanwhile, we’ve had the pleasure of listening extensively to both the FR30 loudspeakers as well as prototypes of Bascom H. King’s newest masterpiece, the BHK 600 monoblock amplifiers. Holy crap. I am still shaking my head attempting to sort out all that I have been hearing. It’s delicious beyond words.

For cables, we’ve duplicated what Music Room Two and the Infinity IRS are connected with, Audioquest Dragons. They are, by far, the best sounding cables we’ve heard—and yes, they are crazy expensive. And when first connected and powered on they sound, well, in some respects, questionable.

From what little I have come to know the FR30s (because of my limited time with them) I have a couple of observations that are ironclad: the speakers are seamless—as if they had but one full-range driver. And the music is completely divorced from the enclosures. It’s as if the drivers and enclosures did not exist. And yet, when first connected with the Dragons the wider edges of the musical soundstage are trapped in the left and right enclosures. The center image and soundstage are great, it’s just those outside edges.

Something’s not right.

Darren calmed my jitters explaining that the Dragons do that when connected without any break-in. They do that for at least one hundred hours of play.

I trust Darren.

As we burn in the cables and system with 24-hour music I find his advice to be correct. With break-in, the sound is divorcing itself from the enclosures. It’s like someone’s slowly turning a divorce valve. Every morning I come in to check they are better and better.

I know this is lunacy to some and honestly, I don’t care.

It’s real. I am living with it daily.

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85 comments on “Sting of the Dragon”

    1. It’s actually quite simple to understand. We discussed that audio cables possess the electrical properties of capacitance and inductance. When an a/c signal from the amplifier is first presented to the speaker cable, the dielectric acts as a capacitor and stores voltage.

      This creates a phase shift between the voltage and current causing a bright forward sound and unfocused soundstage. Over time, the cable releases this stored energy and relaxes into improved in-phase power delivery. Actually, cables store and release energy all the time but that’s a topic of discussion for another time.

      Consequently network cables compound this phenomenon due to the passive components incorporated into the cable. (inductors, capacitors and resistors)

      Have you yet to witness the sound from your Wilson speakers relax, warm up a tad and expand their 3-D soundstage?

      1. I’d love to see some measurements of this phenomena. You’re assuming the cable acts as a perfect capacitor if it’s causing a phase shift between I and V. If that causes a bright and forward sound, surely it should measureable in frequency response, because capacitance has a direct relation to it.

  1. Is it possible to claim that the burn-in of the cables is responsible for the huge improvements in sound quality while at the same time the loudspeakers, amps and source are also burned-in? The manufacturer of my actual loudspeakers recommends 500 hour for burn-in. Thus shouldn’t a cable be burned-in separately and then inserted into the stereo system for checking the burn-in-effect? By the way: the best way to get the sound “divorced from the loudspeaker’s enclosure” is to chose an ambiophonics set-up and activate crosstalk-cancellation! 🙂

    1. Why shouldn’t cables & loudspeakers, & indeed amplifiers,
      DACs & cartridges, all be burned-in together; concurrently?
      It will save a lot of time & bring the whole audio system into
      focus a lot quicker; which *is* where you want to be, right?

      1. That’s a rather simple rhetorical question and switches Paul’s topic of cable burn-in (which obviously also includes burn-in of plugs and sockets) to a more general topic – thus you are making a typical category-error. Experienced dealers also know that a system has to be warmed up (including the voice-coils of the loudspeaker’s drivers) before they perform a demo – however this is the typical procedure my audio dealer prefers. In my system only pure battery driven components are switched off. Everything else is switched on 24/7 – my P10 was switched off only four times (Firmware Update and some break-downs of the mains supply. 🙂

  2. Something you should consider is the changing state of the speaker’s driver/crossover in relationship to the electromagnetic fields obtained by use of a given cable’s R-C properties through EMF. The properties of the speaker in the chain is responsible, not the cable.

  3. Paul’s perceptions are totally believable. Our ears are incredibly sensitive: nature has given us the

    gift of immediately recognising, for example, directional sound as essential to our survival.

    The ear is quick, whereas the eye is slow and interpretative.

    What are you gonna’ trust in the dark?

    1. This is not to say that there isn’t an audible difference in use of cable A vs. cable B, however, the properties of the cable isn’t that which changes, it is the speaker itself.

    2. Good morning Richard_43!
      You’re correct in everything you said!
      I’m a blind man.
      But for almost 29 years, I’ve been without eye sight.
      What I couldn’t see anymore, I’ve learned to listen for it.
      Every time I heard trouble coming, I quickly got out of the way of it.
      I guess you can take music speakers cables and amplifiers, and apply the same principles to them as well.
      When you get brand new tubes for your amps and preamp, it will take a certain amount of time for the tubes to brake in so that they can perform at their best.
      But with speakers, the voice coils spiders and cones need a certain amount of time to brake in.
      Not to menschen the components in the crossover networks have to brake in too.
      You get a new amp, you have to give it a certain amount of time to brake it in too.
      So, yes, I understand all of that!

      1. Hello John,
        Good morning back to you sir.
        Nice to hear from you. As you say, equipment takes time to burn in. And our ears can detect changes in its sound very easily. It is 11.21 pm here on our little island at the bottom of the world.
        Take care.

          1. Cheers from Tasmania John,

            Our ears are very sensitive instruments (Hi, jb4). Think about how we routinely detect not just differences in words such as ‘car’ and ‘care’ but tonality and slight hints of different accents.

            We can be sidetracked with music if we think one hi fi component is better musically when it is just louder. With speech we are evaluating meaning and are not distracted so much by differences in accent, tonality or volume unless we are evaluating pronunciation as a specific skill.
            Enjoy your favourite music.

            1. Hi again Richard_43!
              That’s exactly what I was telling JB4!
              But I also advised him not to take for granted, what he can see with his eyes.
              Because, one day, he won’t have any choice but to rely on what his ears hear.
              But my guess is, he doesn’t understand life as a blind person.
              If you really stop to think about it, listening is what us blind people do best.
              This is why we can hear way better then our sighted counter parts can.
              And yes, there has been a lot of studies done on the ears of a blind person verses the ears of a sighted person.
              And so, if there’s something out of place on any hifi system, we can tell you, before you can tell us that something doesn’t sound right with the sound system.
              But again, I don’t think JB4 understands that.

              1. Yes John,
                We can develop one sense to overcome a problem with another. I recall a neighbour who lost her hearing later in life. She had an astonishing ability to read lips such that we could easily hold a conversation from a distance and I could speak almost in a whisper.

                I have always found the story of Helen Keller fascinating, not just her determination to survive deafness and blindness, but the ability of a teacher to start her on her journey to connectedness to others.
                People are amazing.

            2. I’ve just completed a short adult education course entitled “Insights from Cognitive Science.” The subject gets as deep as electrical engineering, if not more confusing. As a listener I often use cognitive recognition of lyrics, especially those sung by people with an accent different than mine, to evaluate a system. And the really accurate ones reveal the smallest of vocal fluctuations. With singing, I find “differences in accent, tonality or volume” contribute directly to the meaning. Interestingly, the retired professor who taught the Cognitive Science course will be following up with a course on Bob Dylan, who rarely sings a song the same way twice.

              1. Yes, differences in tonality, accent or volume are important indicators of how how revealing a system is and also influence our response to it.

                The human voice is of course a musical instrument as well as a communicator of transactional language: ie the language for getting things done.

                If ‘burn-in’ is a metaphor for human learning then our brain is on a long journey indeed. And we are the better for it.

                1. Looking at the evolution of our species, our brains have indeed been on a long journey. With the advent of the global community and the increase in consciousness, we might just survive our own suicidal trajectory. The earth can certainly survive without us if we make the planet uninhabitable for our species. The consciousness audiophiles develop toward music could become valuable tools for taming our greed and our destructive tendencies. If “_43” stands for “1943” you probably know what I’m talking about.

                  1. Yes longplayer our audiophiles preference for maintaining and improving system interconnectedness offers hope for the planet.
                    Incidentally, ‘-43 ‘ refers to a former street address To avoid mistaken identity.
                    Kind Regards
                    Richard.

  4. Ear and eye are instruments. They don’t interpret anything.
    It’s the brain that interprets.
    And I know what I trust when I cross a busy street…my “quick” ears or my “slow” eyes…
    As for today´s topic : yes, everything has to burn in. Amp, player, cables.
    I experienced that so many times in my life, the last time with the speaker cables I bought last year. It took about a month before they really started to shine. Same with my recently bought speakers.
    Burn in (break-in) sometimes takes a few weeks, sometimes a bit longer.

      1. Pedantic ?
        No Richard_43, sorry if I hurt your feelings, it’s just that your 3:55 comment is so silly.
        “slow eyes and quick ears”…haha. How did you come up with it ?
        If you invent more of these wonderful sentences, you could become a stand-up comedian.

    1. Good morning JB4!
      Just one word of advice to you.
      Don’t take for granted what you can see with your eyes.
      I’m telling you this because, one day, you’ll have to rely on what your ears hear.
      Trust me, I know these things.
      I have ben going threw this, for almost 29 years.
      But there was one thing that I done differently.
      I didn’t need it at the time, but I learned to read brail at the young tender age of 8.
      And when I lost the ability to see, I fell back on the brail.
      The only thing that sucked for me, is, I couldn’t drive myself around anymore.
      So, no.
      Richard_43 isn’t off on anything.
      It’s a matter of fact, he’s right on the money.

    2. Yes, back in paleo times when we and our pre-Homo sapiens ancestors were not the apex predators, quick response omni-directional hearing (as opposed to forward facing stereoscopic vision) could literally be the difference between life and death. You live, you reproduce, your genetic traits get passed forward. Yaayyy! You don’t live, genetic screeching halt. Vision is better for optimizing offensive targeting, which usually includes a significant degree of cognitive processing that slows things down. Not to mention the whole hand-eye coordination thing for accurately throwing spears, etc. at where speedy prey animals are calculated to be rather than where they are (they can hear and react also).

  5. Paul, come to think of it, I would’ve moved all of the already burned-in
    cables from MR2 & installed them into MR3, since you are going to be
    spending a lot more time in there for the foreseeable future.
    And the new cables could’ve gone into MR2 & been burned-in there.

    1. Good morning FR!
      For what it’s worth, I agree with you, hole heartedly man!
      Paul should take the cables from music room 2, and swop them with the cables that are hooked up to the speakers and amps in music room 3.
      And take the cables that are in music room 3, and brake them in in music room 2.
      To me, that sounds more practical and logical.

        1. Did you conclude or assume that the set of cables that give optimum sound to the IRSV system is the best cable choice for the FR-30? I can see how initially using the same cables for comparison of the FR-30 with the IRSV is a practical starting point, but might it be possible to improve the FR-30 sound with a different cable loom from that of the IRSV system?

  6. The thing that worries me here is that MR3 was specifically and I presume carefully constructed and yet has “been plagued with acoustic problems like boomy bass and overly reflective walls”.
    What’s going on?

    1. Well, good point. MR2 was always the one we made sure was as good as our skills permitted and which is why it’s always been the reference room. MR3 is bigger and we built as best we could in the space remaining. It had the advantages of non-parallel walls (by about 1 foot) and angled corners, but its dimensions were never optimized as they were in MR2.

      When we built it the architect simply filled in around MR2 to make the whole upstairs work. Now we have to fix the problems of a non-perfect room.

      1. Thanks for the reply Paul. Perversely I almost find it encouraging for those of us without a dedicated listening space. Our shared rooms with the associated paraphernalia and artefacts of everyday living creating an array of uneven surfaces, with varying textures, are maybe not so bad at diffusing and absorbing unwanted reflections. At any rate, we all have to work with what we’ve got.

  7. I really hate breakin time. Because I’m impatient…
    When i bought the audioquest rockets 88 biwire, something also wasn’t right.
    The mid/highs where a bit, ehh crisp/fresh to my ears.
    Despite having the dbs system, the seller convinced me that they also just needed time to settle in.
    I already knew he wasn’t joking, but the question remains: to which point do they get eventually, and will they work right in my system.
    Short answer: yes, but they also took there time to get there.
    It took weeks of breaking in, but in retrospect they became what i hoped.
    So yess, i believe Paul…

  8. I don’t doubt a word. Anyway it would be I interesting to know a recording example where this happened for you. Reason is, there are many recordings which never play anywhere near a speaker, others which have parts mixed quite directly into the speaker and again others which can appear partly in the speaker but don’t have to in a well positioned setup.

    What’s an exemplary recording that went from in speakers to divorcing from enclosures completely for you?

    1. I can sure relate to your comment, Jazz. Most time the music is completely out of the box in my room, but every once in a while an instrument will be mixed to come right from the speaker and it can shatter the illusion of listening to live music.

      1. Yes sure, that’s quite normal, but there’s so much to differentiate even if we leave the room out of the equation and assume a decent speaker-front wall distance.

        There are setups which put the soundstage far behind the speakers and just put instruments anywhere near the speakers if it’s vintage ping-pong stereo. But those setups not rarely fail to image also on level or even in front of the speakers if necessary. Their soundstage is far back, but more or less only far back and doesn’t really span a plane front to back, which is more fascinating. The room from behind front wall to slightly before the speakers should be filled with appropriate recordings ideally imo. Sometimes (e.g. with Q sound and few other recordings) it can extend to 90 degree aside of the listening seat (Try this track: https://danielcartertobiaswilnerdjibriltourefedericoughi.bandcamp.com/track/east-flatbush-bonus-track).

        Anyway, it was just a very simple question to be able to follow the story and try what Paul described at home.

        1. I don’t know about any particular recording, but buying any speaker over $30k would likely trigger a divorce in my house. 😎 Yes, it’s really cool when the sound comes out from the plane of the speakers to meet you. There’s so much that can be accomplished with speaker placement if you’ve got the permission/authority to play with it.

          1. Yes, an audiophile without halfway options to place speakers is a frustrating being (from an audio point of view). If only headphones would be an alternative…this would change a lot for the high end industry.

              1. I use headphones regularly for Zoom classes and I fear they are damaging my hearing. It is hard to tell when they are playing too loud, and the volume can change wildly when different people speak in class or different videos are shown from YouTube.

                1. Yes, that’s another problem.

                  Headphones will never provide the physical impact, speakers do, but I hope it will be possible sometime to provide a far away and not in your head enveloping soundstaging. I thought it might be possible to create some illusion when having the chance to sit directly on one’s ears and having some control of the whole situation..

                    1. Yes, that would do it, although I was looking for a less invasive concept than what was done in Cronenberg‘s movie Existenz when plugging an interface into the spinal cord to enable a realistic gaming experience 😉

  9. I was thinking of opening an audiophile winery. I’ll just sell the grapes and cables together, tell the customers to jump on the grapes and when the cables sound good the wine should be ready. Why anyone should expect a product to be good to go when purchased, I’ll never know.

    1. Not an unreasonable expectation and also a fine example of British humour 🙂
      Both cables and wine are good to go, they just get better with age, allegedly 😉

  10. My Summer has been mostly filled with -breaking in new speaker wire-! After my music room’s set-up re-arrangement, my prior speaker cables of 35 years were too short. The four sets of new cables I experimented with (3-multi stand, 1-single strand) took anywhere from 100 to 500 hours to totally settle in to their final characteristic sonic signatures.

    Tight, articulate bass averaged 50 hours to settle in, with upper register details, smoothness and resolution following between 100 to 200 hours. 2D soundstage was always present to some extent (including outside the monitor placements), however good 3D depth was elusive and only two cables ever came around to consider as keepers! My final cable (the single strand SP4 Morrows) opened up the soundstage presentation depth to 30-50 ft Beyond the placement wall, 15-20ft beyond the monitors, with ceiling heights soaring beyond 40ft! With huge air and accuracy of the recorded venue space and precise placement and imaging of the musicians/vocalist and instruments in that space, it is as if I walked through the venue’s entryway and into the live performance space!!

    I’ve experienced it, I’ve heard it and I Know, “Cable Break-In” is Real!!! 😉

    Ted

  11. I own a pair of Audioquest Thunderbirds. The Thunderbirds for those unfamiliar with the Audioquest line is the sibling to the Dragon using the same design only using copper and not the 100% silver were the Dragons price goes astronomical! I had a demo pair for 30 days that took several hundred hours of break in and then I purchased a new pair. The Audioquest speaker cable more so than power and interconnects need hundreds of hours I don’t know a ball park or actual number I apologize but once they reach that point they are addictive and pull them out and substitute with anything less substantial and you will lose your passion for listening to music on your system without them IMO. That’s exactly what happened in the short term for me between demo pair and waiting for my new set! Patience is a must with Dragon and the other two mythical creatures! Invest and enjoy!

  12. Paul exciting times when accommodating a new system, in your case speakers, amplifiers, and cables. I too am going through a similar experience and can fully relate to the adjustment and break-in phase of the components. With multiple variables and minor adjustments the fine tuning can be overwhelming, especially considering how the system signature changes over time. My experience led me to leave well enough alone until things settled down to the point that the system had more or less stabilized. After 450 hours on the new components I am now comfortable with returning to dialing in the speaker positions. Also, I completely align with you comment regarding coherence and consistency of the speaker sound as if a full range driver. Congratulations on a seamless sounding design. A you certainly know you are in a rather unique situation regarding your experience with speaker cable break-in. Few of us are fortunate enough to be able to compare broken in and new top tier speaker cables in a SOTA system. I look forward to you sharing your experience with the MR3 system and how the sound was altered with the broken-in AudioQuest Dragons.

    Those FR30s must certainly be special, and then here are the BHK600s. Bravo Sir, Bravo indeed!

  13. Every time I change cables, it took some time to burn in. I am not talking about new cables, I am talking about changing to other set of old cables that I owned. It took a couple days before the system sounding good. Settled in is probably the better words to use.

    The new cables just take much longer time to burn in.

  14. So let me try to add a little science to this discussion ( only a little, not too much ). Even though I was educated and trained to become a physicist, I worked as a material scientist the last 15 or so years of my career. Many things used in home audio systems have burn-in or break-in ( the terms mean the same thing ) periods when they start being used. Here is a list of the most common break-in periods.

    Vacuum tube have a “life cycle”. Burn-in, main phase steady performance, burn-out.

    Anything that has bearings and rotates needs to seat-in before it becomes steady state ( air bearings may be an exception to this rule ).

    Any material that has visco elastic properties ( rubber, polymers, elastomers, etc. ) which are used in most dynamic speakers have a break-in period before they settle into steady performance.

    Capacitor dielectrics can have a hysteresis loop ( google it if you need to ) that can take many hours of use to burn-in ( the Teflon capacitors in my c-j amps are notorious for their 100+ hour burn-in period ).

    In cables it is the dielectrics that burn-in and not the wires although wires can have a preferred direction for current because of how they are extruded.

    Solid state electronics ( semiconductor chip, transistors and diodes ) are often burned in to eliminate early failures. For best performance ( critical listening ) let your SS gear warm up for at least 30 minutes to an hour to reach a preferred operating temperature were its performance should be at its best.

    Now I want to talk about human adaptation. Without any planning there are periods when I do not play my stereo system for several days or sometimes a week or more. This is a good thing. Because when I go back to playing music on my system I am more sensitive to the actual sound of the system ( is it bright, is it harsh, is the bass boomy, is the acoustic image realistic and three dimensional, etc. ). When I play my system everyday ( which is what I prefer to do ) my brain starts to adapt to the sound of the system ( assuming there isn’t something grossly wrong ) and it is good to allow the my brain to “relax” and hear the system fresh again ever so often.

    1. Excellent analysis, Tony. You give scientific explanations for the benefit of burn-in.

      On the topic of brain adaptation, I too find that when I listen to my system after a few days of NOT listening to it, it sounds different, even better, than when I listen to it every day. In fact, sometimes my jaw drops and I think I’m listening to a different system. There does seem to be brain things going on. I experience this not only with my audio systems, but also with my piano and even the sounds of nature.

    2. Many many years ago, we had a workshop radio that had a dry cap. When the radio was turned on in the morning it produced the occasional squawk then after ten minutes very distorted sound was heard and after around an hour a passable result for a workshop radio was achieved.
      The effect of electrickery and heat on the chemical composition of the capacitor dielectric which affected the circuit characteristic as the radio ‘warmed up’ was obvious. It was some time later the light bulb moment occurred for me when I realized the significance of the capacitance of a speaker cable, which is influenced by the insulation (dielectric), actually had on the music we listen to. Heat, humidity and electrickery huh.
      Eventually, the apprentice got fed up with the lousy sound from the workshop radio and replaced the dying cap, we were happiness filled, and left wondered why we put up with it for so long.

  15. Paul, your post says “For cables, we’ve duplicated what Music Room Two and the Infinity IRS are connected with, Audioquest Dragons.” I assume you are referring only to power and speaker cables? PS Audio “Products/Connections” says AudioQuest Fire is your reference analogue interconnects and other AQ cables for digital. Is this correct?

  16. “I know this is lunacy to some and honestly, I don’t care.” — Paul McG.

    In that case, may I introduce one of our local brews: Luna Sea (say it fast) E. S. B. (Extra Special Bitter) from Empyrean Ale of Lincoln, Nebraska.

    In my profound and and much in demand opinion: “Gudt schtuff, keedz!”

    Hey, beer is vegan, right? Just steer clear of Klingon blood wine. Also avoid the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster which contains a dissolved Algolian suntiger tooth which “spreads the fires of the Algolian Suns deep into the heart of the drink.” according to the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” (now available on the Brambleweeny 69 Sub-Mason Portable Brain with strange quark/Babel fish direct neurological interface). And, as always, “DON’T PANIC”

  17. It is debatable, especially where the perceptions of “burn in” actually exists from.

    Is it our brain or our ears in general?

    Equipment burn in is in almost all pieces of a sound chain, however for cables to have burn in is a tough one to digest for many because I think it is way too subjective.
    I myself have not experienced this cable burn in people talk about, however I’ve experienced some cables being better than others with highly resolving equipment.

    Paul. I can’t say you are right or wrong. I can only listen what you have to say. 😉

  18. I can think of at least one organisation that changes not an insignificant amount to pre burn in your cables thereby saving you the trouble. Of course if you took this option you wouldn’t actually experience it for yourself so would surely have to be a believer. Have faith my friends.

        1. Indeed. I was not thinking theologically. I was thinking people’s faith in audio components: “things hoped for” and “evidence of things not seen.” 🙂

  19. ‘Soundstaging’ and ‘imaging’ are all about psycho-acoustic cues; and nearly all audiophile use of these terms is from a learned delusion – that is, the neural circuitry wiring and programming of your hearing that adapts, or ‘breaks in” to the sound of 2 channel recordings played back in your listening room.

    In the same way, we learn to associate 3D objects with the 2 dimensional representations of drawings, photographs and videos. Aboriginals who have never seen a photograph do not recognize objects on film or LCD screens – they only see the object they can touch, and the image appears as decoration. Recordings that are mixed and mastered are ‘audioshopped’ like a cell based cartoon, with audio pieces placed into the ‘image’ by knobs (physical or virtual). There is nothing real or 3D about them.

    About cable break-in. I know from my work in material science that dielectrics have properties that vary with the environmental history, particularly applied voltage and frequency. This can range in affect from milliseconds to days, and is measurable but very subtle. It matters if you are trying to measure µVDC or nA. OTOH, on an AC impedance or distortion meter this non-linearity varies by material, but does not show significant break-in effect. Ears are much better at resolving musical sounds than our crude measurements so I believe you hear SOMETHING from cable break-in – but it is NOT the real imaging that you seek.

    People who have never heard audio hear all 2 channel recordings as dual mono, coming from two points in space. The first time you sit them down in the sweet spot or put headphones on, after some orientation time the response is “I have never heard that before!” – and that is 100% accurate because the sound of 2 channel audio DOES NOT OCCUR IN NATURE.

    Real 3D sound has three conceptual aspects: inter-aural level differences (IALD), inter-aural timing differences (IATD), and head related transfer function (HRTF). The first two can be approximated to some degree in two scalar signals, the last can’t – and it is over 90% of the true 3D information content.

    IALD results from the acoustic shading of the head from side to side. This is the most common fake stereo effect, using pan pots to ‘place’ the mono multi-tracks in the ‘mix’. It is totally artificial because the acoustic shadowing is frequency dependent, varies from head to head, and more importantly, the IALD of each reflection of the sound is different so reverb can’t be anywhere near physical reality. In terms of information content, the IALD of each mono track is expressed by 8 bits, which is greater resolution than humans can hear form a pan control. Even if you have 96 tracks and 96 pan pots, that is .0005% of the data in one second of a mixed 16/44 Redbook recording.

    IATD is the difference in time of flight between the ears for sound vectors arriving from off center. Experiments from mechanical apparatus (von Bekeszy) to state of the art digital show that humans can hear an IATD of 3µs, which is equivalent to a sample rate of 384K! This should not be surprising, since the neural acoustico-electric transducers fire on the positive pressure peak. Mammals hear in TIME, not FREQUENCY. (Note: humans surpass the Fourier Uncertainty Principle and the Nyquist criterion by a factor of ten, but that’s another discussion.)

    But again, the paradox is that each reflection of a sound has an IATD that corresponds to the direction of arrival, which varies depending on where the sound source is in the room. This is why artificial reverb sounds so artificial.
    The closest to real reverb is convoluting a dry signal with an impulse response (IR) measured in a real room. But, the IR is different for every position on the stage, so you really need to convolute each track with a different IR depending on where you want to place it.

    You can save the bucket of coal’s worth of electricity needed to do all those computations and get more musical sound if you use the proven recording technique of Near Coincident Pair (NCP). This consists of placing two directional microphones close to each other, separated by a distance measured between the width and half a diameter of a human head. This captures the IALD and IATD of every sound source and every room reflection of every sound source, and is the most image information you can encode into a 2 channel recording.

    This does not work in a recording studio, you have to record in a real performance space, and while we are getting real, we should add an audience into the ACOUSTIC mix – because audience positive feedback improves musical performances.

    If you listen to ONLY NCP recordings of live performances in performance spaces, and still hear cable break-in, your credibility improves a lot. If you attend acoustic concerts two or more times a week, your reliability as a witness goes up further – because you need to ‘break-in’ your ears to real music before you can judge audio accuracy.

    There is no guarantee that your stereo delusion matches anyone else’s. This will vary depending on which recordings, speakers and rooms your ears are ‘broken in’ to. Only the absolute reference of live musical performance can inform audio comparisons via words.

    1. [quote]@acuvox…If you listen to ONLY NCP recordings of live performances in performance spaces, and still hear cable break-in, your credibility improves a lot. If you attend acoustic concerts two or more times a week, your reliability as a witness goes up further – because you need to ‘break-in’ your ears to real music before you can judge audio accuracy.

      There is no guarantee that your stereo delusion matches anyone else’s. This will vary depending on which recordings, speakers and rooms your ears are ‘broken in’ to. “Only the absolute reference of live musical performance can inform audio comparisons via words.”[/quote]

      Agreed!

    2. acuvox,
      Interesting stuff; thanks for posting.
      I never expected to hear the illusion of 3D soundstaging & pinpoint imaging back in 1993 from a bunch of black boxes connected up with wires.
      Nothing prepared me for it.
      Quite frankly before I experienced it I thought that it was a load of audiophile BS; just another marketing ploy to get you to spend more money.
      So when I did experience it, first-hand, I had to admit that for all intents & purposes it was in fact ‘real’.

  20. As a studied material engineer, I can well imagine the mechanisms and changes in the structure of the conductor that occur by so-called burn-in.
    I have already been stoned in one forum for this statement. Hahahaha

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