Touching music

January 14, 2017
 by Paul McGowan

Sometimes the music reproduced on our systems is so real you can touch it.

What creates the touchable illusion?

We know a pair of earbuds or a boombox doesn’t come close.

Even live music doesn’t always evoke the same sense.

I think it has two requirements: a quiet environment and great components.

I can stir the sense of touch only if there are few audible distractions. Like what we often achieve in our listening spaces, or hear in an intimate live venue.

But even the quietest of spaces won’t beckon touch if the equipment isn’t up to the task.

If your system is touchable, you’ve done well.

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14 comments on “Touching music”

  1. I have a slightly different opinion.
    Yes I’m an audiophile. I like good equipment to hear my music as good as it gets within my budget.
    But the sound quality is not always that important, depends on the mood and situation I’m in.
    There are moments I enjoy a you tube music video via my desktop computer speakers as much as music via my “hi-end” (whatever that may be) system.
    I ‘d rather listen to music I like on a “lo-fi” system than to music I don’t like on a “hi-fi” system.
    At the end of the day it’s all about the music. After all music is emotion.

    1. As we all know, music in particular is a manifestation of art in which experiences play a preponderant role in tastes, that which we have heard in adolescence and youth, has been recorded in our psyche and when we listen to it, we can find there A truth, no matter what medium we use.

      In this experiential music what emerges are our pleasant memories and it does not matter if they are heard in media considered low quality, because what interests us is the message that our brain processes.

      That is why some music played even through Y.T. Can bring us memories and be perceived as pleasant, beyond any other consideration.

      It is possible that music recorded at the time of the greatest deficiencies of the recording technique, our brain registers them as more pleasant through a very modest system of reproduction, even in a small radio, that if we listen in a Hi-End equipment.

       Everything is in the mind.

  2. The DS DAC definitely is one of the components achieving this touchable illusion in the best way! That’s one of its biggest strengths and a strong buying decision!

    Where with less good components all music sounded more or less good, such that enable that illusion devide recordings in more or less good which all get a part of that illusion and exceptional ones, which are not rare and can easily be identified by their sound, but have to be searched and found by trying them out.

    The capability to deliver this illusion is real high end I think. A few things have to match and be taken care of in the whole setup, that this happpens.

  3. Audiomano, that´s what I meant, although less poetic.
    And I have to say I´m not nostalgiac. I don´t listen much to music from my youth or adolescence.
    Most cd´s and music on radio or you tube I listen to is from the last 25 years and I´m a lot older than that, alas.

    1. Nostalgia is concomitant to the human being and has been found in some animals, but there are very intelligent people who with a commendable pragmatism does not allow to be affected by it.

      Perhaps there are people of this generation who feel nostalgic in the future because of the fact that Nortuega today forever extinguished its FM signal.

    1. It is very possible that it is, you know yourself better than I can know you.

      But it should be remembered that there are people who can not help but feel nostalgic and aesthetic-emotion when we listen in vinyl to the music of Rodgers & Hart interpreted by Chacksfield for example, in that the limitations of the analog system as: dynamic range (a Hi-Fi Terminology) has little or nothing to do in the moments of happiness that we feel when listening to productions like these.

      Nostalgia makes us feel that we are still alive to remember pleasant things.

      1. I’ve got nothing against what you say here. For a lot of people nostalgia is important. And music does bring back memories. And like I said, that’s more important than SQ.

  4. “Palpable” is the often used term by reviewers that describes what you’re referring to. The best system won’t reproduce palpability unless it’s in the recording. So we’re always at the mercy of the recording engineers.

  5. For me, it’s whether or not I can feel the emotion of the performance. It’s elusive and can’t be measured. A popular example is Jeff Buckley singing “Hallelujah” from his “Grace” album. Every good recording conveys an emotion or musical intent. When I know my systems is right, I can fell it coming through.

  6. For me a good sound system can be best compared to a good photographer. A good photographer can capture something that may not be obvious to a layman and can often result in a “better than the real thing” experience. Not often, but sometimes I get that from my system. I must agree that my DSD Direct has made a huge contribution towards obtaining this.

  7. Audio is an illusion, and not a particularly good one. If you think music is touchable, it is because your ears are “broken in” to the illusion. Not necessarily any particular system, but listening to a fixed number of channels mixed from multi-track sources using pan pots and delivered through non-phase coherent, monopole speakers, usually with sharp edged baffles and grille cloth.

    Last night I experienced the opposite – unreality of a live concert. I went to see “Candide”, one of my favorite musicals, performed by the New York City Opera, my favorite contemporary opera company before and after their first bankruptcy. This time they apparently emerged with a major infusion because Hal Prince directed it again with 40 cast members and a production staff of 39, not counting stagehands.

    They still had the same innovation in staging with bigger imagination than technology. Besides the LED lighting, all the visual stage devices were used at the Globe Theater. The conductor did an amazing job with a pick-up chamber orchestra, whipping them into shape by the end of the overture. In the more intimate reaches of the Rose Theater they sounded great for being submerged in a pit; and they managed to field fabulous singers and orators.

    But something was wrong. During the brilliant choreography, the voices did not change timbre when the characters faced away. Next I heard the voice of Candide coming from the right side while he was singing from the left balcony. The whole show was wireless hairline microphones mixed into the line arrays up above the third tier. I suspect even the orchestra was amplified, Broadway style.

    The male voices had exaggerated maleness and the female voices were too smooth. This system mangles phase through the ridiculous acoustic pathway from mouth to mic hidden in the hair, the digital compansion and the huge amount of EQ and dynamic processing needed to recover consonants. Line arrays are also notorious for comb filtering upper frequencies as the driver separation is too great, and we were sitting in the lobing zone.

    As a result it was hard to pick out the libretto, there were compression and processing artifacts that gave me a headache and all the signature four voice songs devolved into a sonic mess. Sound Designer Abe Jacobs and Production Sound mixer Jake Scudder should be banned from productions for New Yorkers, this is what I expect at spectacles for tourists like “The Lion King”. I guess that is what NYCO gets for association with “Broadway Hal”.

    The enduring legacies of Leonard Bernstein and Voltaire, the comedy, the cast and otherwise first rate production values made it worth sitting through. The closing number still made me cry, as usual. BUT, I will be writing a detailed complaint to management.

    1. When live performances of serious music is processed through an electronic audio system because the market prefers the sound of speakers to the sound of musicians, then music is dead. It is hardly surprising since it seems that technology is destroying art. Classical music may be the last to go but it appears that it might be doomed. Anyway, much to the anger of Lawrence Schenbeck and others of his manner of thinking I reiterate my contention that both composition and performance quality in every genre of music has deteriorated to the point where what was once mediocre is now considered excellent and what was once awful is now acceptable. Modern art, modern music, commercial junk pop music and even radical architecture found in some places like China are an affront to the sensibilities of anyone who still recalls what excellence looks and sounds like. Even more deplorable is when critics and even college instructors give it credibility. Now that we can be politically incorrect again thanks to a certain individual who brushed the current culture aside with one sweep of a campaign, I’m more willing to openly call the current culture at all levels pure shit. It makes knowledge of my mortality easier to accept knowing the world will be continuing to get worse off when I die. 🙁

  8. I only experienced this reach out and touch the performers sensation perfectly in one place. That was the two times I visited Ralph Glasgal’s house where his ambiophonic sound system is installed, surely the best of its type that exists. No expense was spared in this system which must have cost well over a million dollars. Ambiophonic sound is one of those cross channel phase cancellation systems like 3D sound Edgar Choueiri has experimented with.

    On both occasions the sources of sound appeared to be along a horizontal line between me and the main speakers. Their location was pinpoint. The monster curved Soundlabs electrostatic main speakers were remarkably clear. The add on auxiliary surround system with I think at least half a dozen more pairs of Soundlabs electrostatic panels and another curved pair in back intended to create ambient reverberation seemed to have no appreciable effect to my ears. It was an interesting experience. This is not an endorsement of this concept in that I would not say it was accurate or desirable as an ultimate music sound reproducing system but it was unique in my experience. Ambiophonic processed samples are available for home listening on his Ambiophionic web site. The have a similar effect if you are in exactly the right position but not quite to the same degree. I’m always interested to see what people experimenting on the real frontiers of sound are up to. In my system the performers are pushed away from the listeners, farther back by as much as say a perceived 100 feet or more depending on how it is adjusted. They are not necessarily pinpoint localized to nearly the same degree.

    I listened to Choueiri’s web site demo which has people sitting around a conference table introducing themselves. The location of the voices seemed to be coincident with where they were on the monitor screen. I didn’t shut my eyes to see if seeing the visual display was part of the effect. Choueiri’s recordings are made with a binaural microphone arrangement.

    As luck would have it, yesterday I was in the next room over from the Bell Labs “Dead Room” which is now the second quietest room in the world. I researched what is now claimed to be the quietest room in the world but it is much smaller. The Bell Labs room is huge, I’d say about at least 40′ x 30′ x 30′ high. The doors, loaded with acoustic padding have to be at least 3′ thick. The only thing that bothers me about that room is that when you walk into it you are walking on a bunch of thin wires. It’s got to be at least a 10′ drop to the bottom if you ever somehow fell through although I’m assured it is very safe. They’ve placed some carpet tiles to walk on over the wires which was reassuring and the only places I would walk. I’m told there is going to be some sort of musical performance there in the not too distant future. Strange. It seems like a great place to make measurements and carry out experiments but……

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