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A Question of Focus and Illusion

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housteau

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I had this as a topic on another message board several weeks ago, and since it has to do in part with my MLs, I thought it would be an interesting discussion here as well. Here it goes:

I have been thinking about something lately and wanted to put it out there for discussion.

A friend of mine has a smaller listening room on the dead side with point source speakers close to and along the short wall. The soundstage and image presented in his room is quite precise with the vocalist taking center stage and the left and right center fill is just perfect as well. However, the image of the various vocalists are so pin-point that the illusion of them often appear somewhat small to me and not life size. The lack of reflections allows great imaging, but sometimes at the expense of robbing life out of the recordings.

On the other hand my room and set-up is almost a direct opposite being larger and of an ideal Louden ratio. It is slightly on the live side and I use dipolar speakers, either ribbons or electrostats set-up out into the room along the long wall. The illusion of the vocalists image that I see in my mind is not pin-point, but wider as if a full sized person there between my speakers. To me this sounds more correct, but to my friend it seems wrong. Dipoles by their nature often cannot image vocals with pin-point accuracy as well as point source drivers can, but I find they do add more spacial energy and presence to that voice. Non-vocal sounds will image nearly as well as the point sources though. I assume that is because they are often less complex.

I guess each of us have different needs that we try and steer our systems to meet. What I value and look for may not be what someone else has in mind. For example: My friend highly values that precise imaging, where I am willing to compromise on that a bit to achieve what I consider to be a more realistic presentation of soundstage.

I guess what I wanted to know is what do you see in your minds eye when listening to music? What is it in the presentation of that illusion that you value the most?

http://www.audiocircle.com/gallery/thumbnails.php?album=189

Dave
 

Jeff Zaret

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Dave,
Interesting question and I think there is no right or wrong answer here. I believe you answered it based on aural taste. My quess is that you like more of a realistic sound. akin to live performance, where spacial clues and visual clues are present. With ML's you have to close your eyes to "see" the visual clues to where muscians are placed. I have heard on many recordings with my CLSiiz's, as I am sure you have, where a vocalist seems to move from side to side in front of the microphone as they are expressing an emotional moment within a song. I have never heard this from point source speakers. I can see the stage and placement of the players within the recording due to the "space and depth" the vocals or insrtuments are presented.

My guess, again, is your friend is used to point source type of sound (like a rock concert) and may be has not experienced or likes a small club environment where a small jazz group or chamber orchestra can really make you delve in to the music and forget where you are at times.

Just some thoughts

Jeff

:cool:
 

Tube60

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I like Jeff's comments. I agree totally with his observations. My soon-to-go-in-to-the-garage Infinity electrostats don't image as well as ML's but they're still better than conventional dynamics IMO. For the most part I've never been happy with conventional speakers for imaging.
I have a suggestion for both you and your friend: If you don't have it already, get Sarah Mclachlan's Afterglow: Live album. This is a combined CD / DVD set, with the audio tracks the same for both. Here's the drill: Watch the DVD first, to get the visual association with the songs. Watch and listen a couple of times. After that, listen to the CD, and "see" where the imaging is. Adjust your speakers and room acoustics so the sound comes from the same angles as the singers and instruments do visually on the DVD.
The first time I watched that DVD, I was so involved with the whole experience I lost track of time! It's well worth purchasing, both as a calibration tool and a wonderful way to enjoy an evening! But really almost any similar album will work.
HTH!
Regards,
Ross
Ross
 

housteau

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Jeff Zaret said:
I have heard on many recordings with my CLSiiz's, as I am sure you have, where a vocalist seems to move from side to side in front of the microphone as they are expressing an emotional moment within a song.
Yes I have. I think of it as more of a living center than a sterile artificial one. I don't mean to say that point source speakers always create a sterile environment, but I do find dipoles seem to have more of a 'living' presence to them. However, I am just as guilty as those that have only had point source speakers to judge from, since I have only had stats and ribbons in my own listening room :).

Dave
 
E

esoxhntr

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Hi Dave,

You've just hit it right on the head why this is such an interesting, diverse, and sometimes controversial hobby. There IS no right. We all have different ears, different tastes, and different models of the sound we prefer to hear. There are so many variables of voice, instrument, venue, room size, studio production values, etc., etc., and we fool ourselves into believing that we are going to come up with the magic combination that will do it all perfectly.

When I listen to equipment now, I try to consider only what the music is saying to me. Does my foot tap, does my head bob, do I try to play drum licks with my hands? If so, I am then musically motivated and will take note the odd time of where the saxophone is coming from, and how deep the image is between the speakers. If I become aware of these things early on in a listening session, that tells me that the music is not standing up on it's own, and I am losing interest in the performance.

If you can listen to your system for hours on end, if you can put just about any recording on and be entertained and engaged, if your system goes away and leaves you with music, then you have done an admirable job of assembling your gear an should be happy, whether you stuff is worth $100, or $100,000. Bottom line, YOUR ears have told you what they like to experience, and you have built your system with that in mind. Bravo!

As for what I see in my mind's eye when listening? Hopefully nothing. If I have to picture/visualize/mentally construct an image while music is playing, then - for me anyway - something is not sounding right.
 
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