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Audio Lies?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by David French, Jan 14, 2005.

  1. David French

    David French Distinguished Member

    Jun 19, 2002
    The Ten Biggest Lies in Audio

    By Peter Aczel, as printed in The Audio Critic

    I'm a big fan of the truth. I love it when gear/audiophile snobs get smashed on just as much as the next guy. When I set out to read this, I thought I was in for a treat. His first point about ultra high end cables was very pleasing to hear. Then I read his second topic heading, "The Vacuum Tube Lie", and became just slightly alarmed. When I started to see phrases like, "a figment of the deluded audiophile's imagination", I became somewhat more alarmed. Could it be that tubes are truly inferior and should all be thrown in the dumpster? Could it be that any sound obtained with a tube can be obtained with a transistor? I doubt it. Next was "The Antidigital Lie". Could it be that there is no use for Analog recording media? Are we really just "tree-worshiping analog druids"? I doubt it. I bring this up here because I am young and lack the wisdom to be absolutely certain of the truth in these matters. Older, wiser audio engineers, please weigh in.
  2. Randyman...

    Randyman... Well-Known Member

    Jun 1, 2003
    Houston, TX
    I'm far from being an "Older, wiser audio engineer". But, here is my take.

    I tend to agree with the Cable debate to an extent. I have NEVER heard any noticeable improvement by replacing a descent working cable with a more expensive working cable (If the cable is bad, that is a different story). Good quality is a must for reliability, but that is about it. (Edit) I will add that I consider Canare and equivalent cables to be of more than adequate quality at a fair price. No need to spend exuberant amounts of cash on cables IMO).

    The "The Antidigital Lie" could be true in respect to playback devices IMO (a Lavry D/A on a Linn CD Transport is probably hard to "beat" with a Turntable and a good cartridge). But this is NOT applicable to tracking devices and recording scenarios. How many studios do you know that track Drums to 24 Track 2" tape, and dump it into Pro-Tools with excellent results? TONS. The use of Analog mediums as an "Effect" is totally different than using Analog Medium for accurate musical reproduction (tape saturation is an effect used in the recording phase, not a desired attribute of a dynamic music playback system).

    Tubes - I like them. Use them!

    I am pulled to the "Audiophile" side, as well as more of an "Engineering" perspective, and then throw in the "Musician" side, and I'm pulled in 3 directions! I usually side with my "Engineering" brain on most things. Some of these Audiophile claims are just mind-bogglingly ignorant IMO.

    Good read. I'm sure I will be debated on the Cable issue - but I can only testify what I have experienced in my limited audio carreer. Gotta run. Notice my Sig no longer says "Audiophile" ? ;)

  3. Aziel

    Aziel Guest

    i´m not a specialist or savy or anything in audio, but to be honest, once, a good bassist friend, took a generic cable from my desk and conect his instrument...then he changed the cable by his cable, a monstercable (god, i hate that company!!! wayyyy overpriced) and the diference was pretty audible...so, i dont know much about it, but the diference was there...just an experience... :roll:
  4. ghellquist

    ghellquist Guest

    Tubes / tapes -- well, in the studio we are not trying to reproduce exactly, we are creating. Sometimes tube distortion sound better than transistor distortion, sometimes tape distortion is what it takes. So in the studio -- use whatever it takes.

    Good food for thought.

  5. jbexp

    jbexp Guest

    Well, I may be opening myself up here to get flamed, but in my opinion this guy is an idiot.

    Many of the points that he makes are presented as though they are matters of fact, when in reality they are matters of opinion. For example, saying that anything can be reproduced with less distortion by solid-state components than with tube components is factually true, but it is strictly a matter of taste whether a particular listener will prefer the sound of the tubes or not. In his opinion if you do prefer the sound of tubes you are either hearing "figments of your deluded imagination" or hearing "a deliberate coloration introduced by the manufacturer to appeal to corrupted tastes." What!? Many of us know and love the sound of tubes in our signal chain. Are we really only hearing figments of our imagination? No, it is a fact of physics that vacuum tubes produce a different set of distortion harmonics than their solid-state conterparts. Are our tastes really that corrupt? To suggest so is bigotry.

    Now maybe my problem is that I am coming at this more from a guitarist's standpoint than from an audiophile's, but let me tell you that 10 years of playing has taught me there is *no* sweeter sound than that of a well-designed tube amplifier. Solid state doesn't even come close!! All guitar amp manufacturers realize this and not a single one (except for the digital modeling ones, which are trying to model the sound of tubes) offer entirely solid-state designs in their top-of-the-line models. Why? Because that tube sound truly is the pinnacle of tone that can be offered to the "corrupted" tastes of us guitarists. To say that we are deluded or only experiencing a figment of our imagination when we say we can hear a difference is simply a joke. Any day, any time, you let me do a double blind ABX test with a solid-state (non-modelling) and a tube guitar amp and I'll pick the tube model for you *every* time.

    Let me also point out that to get the most out of a decent amp you do need decent cables! You put crap cables in that chain and your tone suffers. It is simply a fact. You don't need to spend a fortune on "magic" cables, but you do need cables with decent values for resistance, capacitance and inductance. Cables formulated to have optimal values for these properties are generally not cheap, but they do sound better as these properties have a quantifiable effect on sound transmission. To suggest that a stretched out coat hanger would be indistinguishable in sound from cables that are formulated with optimal values for resistance, capacitance and inductance ridiculous.

    He also "debunks" the myth of power filtering. But we all know the importance of RMI/RFI filtering, and that not all good amplifiers, as he suggests, do have sufficient filtering built in.

    The antidigital lie. Oh man, as though if you enjoy the life of a good LP on the turntable there is something wrong with you. Have you ever listened to a CD a whole lot, and just *wished* something would be different when you hear it again? When you listen to an LP, the cracks and pops are unique each time. At times the sterileness of a CD can be enough to make you go insane! This becomes a matter of preference, where the two formats have their pluses and minuses, but really it is up to the listener to decide what they prefer. In spite of this, he proudly touts that the best recordings ever made are digital recordings. If, as a listener of music, your criteria for best recordings are S/N ratio, then perhaps he is right. But if, as the point has always been with music, your criteria are simply that you *like how it sounds*, then he is simply full of crap.

    I rest my case.
  6. cleamon

    cleamon Guest

    Talk about "deluded"! Look at his wish list--

    $27,000 ice-fish cabin! That must be good cause it costs a lot!

    Lots of the other items look like he is just as deluded as those he critics in his article.

  7. soundfreely

    soundfreely Guest

    I think that he makes some excellent points. Obviously, some of us like certain distortions and I don't think that he really denied that fact. Tubes distort differently than transistors-- so what's your preference? And, he did write that cables should be measured with RI and resistance (impedance)-- some cable cables perform better than others within those measurements (better cable will cost more up to a point, but the really esoteric stuff is way overpriced). I am sure two cables with the same RI and resistance will sound the same regardless of price. I'd rather spend as much as I need to for good sound and not so much that I can brag about a nameplate. Having said that, good stuff is gonna' cost some dough. :wink:

  8. MistaG

    MistaG Guest

    Tubes exist in a vacuum. Transistors exist in air. That's all I have to say.
  9. ghellquist

    ghellquist Guest

    I think the article is about the audiophile society, not about musicians or studios really.

    The guitar amplifier sound is one example. A "low-distortion" guitar amplifier can be built but the sound is nothing we like. The tube distortion is such an importat part of the sound that if you take that away, an electrical guitar becomes a less interesting instrument. Tubes surely is the way to go there. But measure any guitar amplifier, and low-distortion is not the first thing that comes to your mind. (Rember, distortion is any difference between the signal going in and the signal going out. Some of that distortion is the very typical sound of a good guitar amplifier).

    Alas, $10.000 audiophile tube amplifier sounds better than a $10.000 audiophile transistor amplifier is the myth the article is trying to kill. And, well, they probably sound different.

  10. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    Jul 2, 2002
    77 Sunset Lane.
    I think Gunnar hit the nail on the head ... this guy is an "audiophile" ..... not an engineer, producer or musician.

    There used to be a guy who wrote for a stereo magazine Julian Hirsh who argued that all amplifiers sound the same ... so go figure.
  11. MrPhil

    MrPhil Guest

    :D i guess you only love truth when it doesn't disturb your circles...
    It's human.

    BTW, the guy doesn't argue that the "lies" are applicable to what you prefer, but rather as measured quality. To reproduce as correctly as possible, not color - even if you like it.

    And we must differ between what we like and prefer, to what is most accurate.
    I prefer tube amps mostly, but I definitely don't prefer vinyl.
    The first represents a tool of forming a sound, the second a tool of reproducing something most accurately.
    I really hate the scratches and clicks from a vinyl record.
    If it's not intended to be there, I don't want it.
  12. MrPhil

    MrPhil Guest

    :roll: Eh... no, the vacuum is inside the tubes. The tubes exist in whatever environment you put your amp in.
  13. anxious

    anxious Guest

    I wouldn't be so quick to write off Julian Hirsch. First of all, he never said "all amps sound the same." What he did, was discuss the conditions necessary to ascertain when they would, or wouldn't, and suggest some rigor when assessing marketing hype.

    Second of all, if you are familiar with the history of audio technology, you would know that the consumer owes a great deal to the lifelong efforts of the man to try and improve the quality of recorded sound, and the gear that reproduces it.



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