The ears have it

March 3, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

It's both fascinating and refreshing to me getting deeper into the recording arts. Like High End Audio, the myths, legends, wisdom, and common knowledge base are a potpourri of fact and fiction.

Sorting through the morass of opinions on what's the best equipment, techniques and skill sets is a seemingly endless task. Each step along the way is like peeling back the proverbial onion. One bit of common wisdom dispelled leads to another to be sussed out as truth or fiction.

And everyone has a strong opinion.

I love it. No wishy-washy opinions in this field.

As with High End Audio, my methodology for digging down for the facts is basically the same: do the research, make your best guess, then listen.

Always listen. It's the ultimate arbiter of everything from science to pseudo-science.

It's at least comforting to know that even in a distantly related field like pro audio one can rely upon long-held skills for answers.

When it comes to uncovering the truth, the ears have it.

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27 comments on “The ears have it”

  1. The problem here is, Paul, that detecting the audio truth requires unbiased ears! 🙂 But then all marketing departments will become obsolete!

  2. As far as recording music goes I have never heard anyone who gets it 'right' as much
    & as often as Bob Ludwig.
    If you want to know how to record music successfully then go & learn from the master.
    I'd offer Bob money to teach me his 'tricks of the trade' if I was serious about operating
    a high-end, audiophile recording studio.

    **How To PO Your Spouse In One Easy Lesson**
    For anyone who missed this link from the other day:

    https://www.thehifipodcast.net/systems

    Posted by 'muralido',it shows Darren's home-audio rig.

    And for my good friend, 'Steven, Not To Be Confused...'
    **Forget Vinyl, Now CDs Are Making A Comeback**
    by John Earls:- 28 February, 2022

    https://www.express.co.uk/entertainment/music/1573180/buy-cd-online-comeback-vinyl-drop-popularity

    1. Sorry, that's fake news. Look at bpi.co.uk (British Phonographic Industry), and I quote:

      Compact Disc has been showing a decline in demand since 2004 – during rampant digital piracy and as fans first switched to downloads and then to streaming services. However, in 2021, boosted by CD-friendly releases from superstar artists such as Adele, Ed Sheeran and ABBA, the rate of decrease slowed to just 11%, suggesting that demand for the format, which is nearing its 40th anniversary, may solidify as baby-boomers and collectors remain committed to the audio format.

      If you call 11% less than almost nothing a comeback, good luck. It would have been a lot worse but for Adele, who delayed her album release until the CD version was available.

      1. Steven,
        Who's to say that some toffee-nosed git at the 'British Phonographic Industry' office hasn't, for their own nefarious purpose, published the 'fake news' that
        you have posted here?

        The "forget vinyl" & "vinyl-drop-popularity" are the bits that I strongly agree with.

        1. Because the BPI is a trade body representing most of the UK music industry, 85% of all UK music sales, and does a fantastic job promoting the UK music industry and developing artists.

          Their charity, the BRIT Trust, is largely funded by the BRIT Awards, has a budget or about $40m annually, and are one of the main funders of the BRIT School. Graduates include the likes of Adele (and Spiderman). It's been going about 30 years.

          So, no, the BPI is not full of ponces, it has all the UK music industry data because it is their trade body and a damned good and successful one.

          Plus, when I've needed to do research on the film or TV industries, I've used their library.

      1. And more recently MQA has been exposed as being
        not special at all, by other industry icons.
        Personally I haven't heard any music that's been MQA'd.
        I wonder how much Bob got paid for that 7 minute ad.

        1. Enough pay? Or true belief?
          An icon when it comes to cd remasters. A sell out when there’s disagreement 😀
          The beauty of audio - everyone is right - everyone else is wrong.

    2. All I can say is Darren's audio emporium is incredible. His wife must be one of the most understanding women in the world.

      FR, Did you notice the Orea IsoAcoustic units under the subwoofer?

      I actually have a VPI TNT-HR ( hot rod ) turntable in storage. It still works great. If anyone is interested make me an offer.

  3. Well, I ordered an M/C phono stage from a brand I'd never heard of on Monday morning. My dealer brought one round in the afternoon.

    Besides speakers, which are a matter of taste, M/C phono amps may be the easiest of components to compare by listening, for the simple reason that they have the very difficult task of providing massive gain to a minuscule signal. You have to balance the amount of gain, distortion, loading and ground noise. The manual says, and I paraphrase: "play around with the settings until you get the required gain and it sounds best". So when it arrives in a week or so the dealer will come round and optimise the settings, because that's his job.

    You can bombard me with measurements, send Dr Toole around personally, but the ears have it. I've heard much more expensive units than this one, but I'm more than happy. Strangely, this mysterious brand draws a complete blank on Mr Fremer's website and Stereophile, the man who is meant to know more about analogue than anyone, and they do have a USA distributor (who seems to have very good taste).

    I hate to say it, but this is where a good dealer does the legwork. Mine does a lot of vinyl and they offer 18 different phono stages ranging from $250 to $60,000 and averaging at $19,000. You can sit down and listen to products at the same price point and make easy listening comparisons. I've done that with DACs and honestly could not tell the difference, so there are limitations.

  4. Here’s something to ponder…..

    If the following is true…. “When it comes to uncovering the truth, the ears have it.”

    Which ears are most correct? Of any given group of experts who have a difference of opinion, which opinion is closest to the truth? This conundrum is why the audio world always seems to be in a tail spin, but as an industry hasn’t crashed.

    As consumers picking the closest to our present truth within our budget is relatively easy.
    As a manufacturer the truth is marketed from their products targeted to a certain audience who hear the same truth.

    Then there’s the art of recording, recording techniques, mastering and formats. If they aren’t ‘truthful’ then is what we amplify just an untruth? Is the actual musical artist’s presentation just secondary to something else?

    Art- it’s beauty is a connection taken in by the beholder. Or a lack of connection which has no beauty to the beholder.

    Truthful / untruthful Correct/incorrect - each of us will pass our own judgment - some us will attempt to pass their judgment off as the final word. Others will always question the judgement of others.

    1. It's not that complicated. You ears are the most correct and I'm sure you have a list of recordings that you can rely on.

      1. The fall back position. Classic! 😀

        In the end that your statement may be correct. But in reality all you may have decided is that something is just truthful enough for you.

        2 channel audio is there to be enjoyed. How much enjoyment one gets is up to them.

        Obviously your old phono M/C stage didn’t get you to your truth. So now you have found one that gets you closer.

        Let’s face it …. Like you’ve said many times the real truth is when you experience the real thing.

        The rest is just an exercise in pleasing one’s self when at home. It’s been said before, … consider 2 channel audio an event unto itself. Pick the equipment, pick the recording , pick up the G&T and enjoy. If you want more from a system then go look for it. Use your ears as the final judge, or use someone’s measurements. What ever works best for you and your version of the truth.

        1. You bet I did! The old one was a budget item (although possibly the most popular phono amp ever made), but better than my digital one. It was still very enjoyable, there aren't many products that stay in production for 50 years.

          2 channel is an event unto itself, mostly, but last night I put on the Starker / Bach cello suites so popular in the USA and they did sound very real, even if not the greatest recording quality. I think I will spin the Pierre Fournier version on Archiv tonight. The live event tends to be unique as well. I've not heard them all since lockdown, but not long before heard performances from Stephen Isserlis (very close up) and Jean-Guihen Queyras (not so close). Obviously different instruments, Isserlis is a bit darker, it's not even certain what instrument they were written for. Plus Starker seems to lack some of the dance-like quality, whereas sometimes you think Isserlis is going to get up and dance, and Jean-Guihen Queyras was playing them (all of them, start to finish) during a dance performance.

  5. That is why people who rely on numbers and type of technology only are unaware of what they are really missing. Sad very sad. It's simple commonsense that what one hears is the final deciding factor. Still....Regards.

  6. Paul, nothing I have heard so far comes close to the original vinyl Sheffield recordings. Maybe some of those folks are still around, and the custom equipment they used.

  7. Steve_Bur,
    Agreed. I have several of the early recordings, and have made many equipment choices based on them.
    Lincoln Mayorga and Friends and a few more. Exquisite.

    Octave Records seems the have drawn on that expertise, and yet incorporated new tech.

    When “gain staging“ my latest phono cart and pre, I used one Sheffield to set gain and observe noise floor and and clarity.

  8. The ears are the best test equipment if you have heard the best sounding equipment. If you don't have a reference then you might think what you're listening to is great not knowing what you're missing. The room plays a big role too. You might not be hearing your system as good as it gets if the room sucks or the speakers are not positioned right. Some speakers are made to deal with different rooms better than others. All speakers sound best when sitting in the sweet spot. Some only sound good in the sweet spot and some sound terrible even in the sweet spot. I avoid those. There are different types of sound staging and speakers with different tonal balance, detail and transparency. My ears know all of them. I can like more than one type of soundstage or more than one speaker. I can have my favorite main speakers while still enjoy listening to some other speakers for a change. The same goes for different electronic equipment.

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