Simple rule of hifi listening

Here we go.     After listening to Naim and other hifi over the last 20 years, in conclusion the main indication of is your system sounding rite.

The better you are able to understand vocals the better the sound, for years you thought you understood the words and meaning, then when you improve your system, gee I never really understood not until you here it, you don't realise what you were missing.

In conclusion IF you can understand the vocals all else will follow music wise.

I await your response 

 

steve

 

Original Post

That is definitely a very strong indicator; in radio communications terms it's known as 'readability'.  The other easily identifiable factor is instrumental differentiation - the ability to hear individual (quieter) instruments in a complex sound-stage (or not as the case may be!).

Musical involvement is probably more important, but unless the differences are gross it's very difficult to get a definitive value judgement, for instance as to when the system is just slightly better or not quite as good in this respect.

Interesting post, i would have agreed with @Johnell but recent upgrades have really brought out clear main and backing vocals, prior to this i would say i did not believe there was an issue, but would say the vocals where muffled. Now the music has transformed and YES being able to follow the vocal without trying really makes the music boogie more and less strained and more enjoyable.

This would work if all vocals were recorded and engineered in more or less the same way, but they are absolutely not. There are recordings like Eva Cassidy where the voice is recorded with the utmost clarity and intimacy, other recordings like Muddy Waters where the ambience of the venue is a major component of the reproduced vocals, many modern recordings where frequency response of vocals are tailored to enhance the overall presentation i.e the vocals are purposely distorted by the engineer. There are recordings where vocals can’t be understood because there’s both the engineered distortion and they’re not singing in English, vocals where the engineer has played around with the sound stage or reverb to make them sound diffuse or airy and finally there are vocals that sound like vocals but are produced electronically.  Essentially your hi-if should clearly reveal and allow you to understand what you are actually listening to, but intelligibility of vocals is not a reliable standard due to the many and varied techniques used to record and engineer vocal content. 

 

Blackmorec posted:

This would work if all vocals were recorded and engineered in more or less the same way, but they are absolutely not. There are recordings like Eva Cassidy where the voice is recorded with the utmost clarity and intimacy, other recordings like Muddy Waters where the ambience of the venue is a major component of the reproduced vocals, many modern recordings where frequency response of vocals are tailored to enhance the overall presentation i.e the vocals are purposely distorted by the engineer. There are recordings where vocals can’t be understood because there’s both the engineered distortion and they’re not singing in English, vocals where the engineer has played around with the sound stage or reverb to make them sound diffuse or airy and finally there are vocals that sound like vocals but are produced electronically.  Essentially your hi-if should clearly reveal and allow you to understand what you are actually listening to, but intelligibility of vocals is not a reliable standard due to the many and varied techniques used to record and engineer vocal content. 

 

+1

The simple rule surely is that if it sounds good to you, the listener, it is good...    Though that of course doesn’t mean it can’t be better!

Aside from whether the vocals were recorded in a clear enough manner, to me at least, there is far more to most music than the vocals, and no matter how perfect the vocals, if the rest of the music is not conveyed well it is not as satisfying: my satellite speakers using ATC’s dome midrange unit reproduces vocals superbly. I could discard the PMC EB1s serving the bass end, and the bass amp, and the vocals would still be incredibly clear, indeed with some music maybe clearer because other louder sounds have been removed. But I would not enjoy listening to music that way.

TOBYJUG posted:

There will always be those words sung that no amount of hi end hifi can decipher.

Blinded by the light

Rabbit likes a juice and a donut in the night...

Yep. And maybe some things are either intended to be ambiguous or may be more interesting if miss-heard: the debate in school over Hendrix’s Purple Haze wouldn’t have been half as interesting if it was clear whether the words were: “ ′scuse me while I kiss the sky”, or: “ ′scuse me while I kiss this guy”.

Harry posted:

To me it's how much time I spend listening to it. If I can invariably find other more pressing things to do, there's something wrong. For years I thought I had lost interest in music. Then I heard a CD5....

Yes completely all right .

For me - it has been something beyond intelligibility of lyrics.

A (very) simple song like "Clerk Saunders" (sung by June Tabor) presents its lyrics on the crudest of players.

Its emotional force can can easily be diminished by processes I don't pretend to understand - Naim did a better job of retaining this and that's why I was drawn to the brand all those years ago.

This fugitive talent has also helped ease me into wider ranging appreciation of gamelan, Rai, reggae, deutschrock and co.

It certainly helped me with minimalist jazz and, just about, fado.

The emotion is the key, I've even used it for setting up my NBLs' distance to the wall but lyric inteligibllity seems to come along for the ride to somer extent. The ND555 is particularly good at resolving mondegreens as well as conveying the feeling.

I make it 10: That is 10 simple rules of hifi listening:

  1. Turn on system if not already up to full working temperature.
  2. Chase anyone not joining you out of the house, or othewise to areas where they will not be disturbed, and issue strict orders not to disturb you unless the rest of the house has burnt down and the fire is about to engulf the listening room.
  3. Get a ready supply of drink - maybe a bottle of wine, but tea or even water will do if desired.
  4. Adjust heating and lighting.
  5. Check seating for comfort, plump up the cushions if necessary.
  6. Sit down*
  7. Select music
  8. Turn ears on
  9. Start playing
  10. Adjust volume - as loud as the music needs to be for maximim enjoyment

*This may need to be later in the sequence if you use physical media and/or dont have a remote control for 7, 9 or 10. 

 

Vocals are a really good indicator of speed variation especially harmonies and I agree to a certain degree they are a good instrument to show up improvements in a system where other instruments are not and recognizing words is a good way of measuring one system against another. 

I try to use the emotional connection a system provides as my key indicator. The problem is that is a very subjective measure. Yes you can play tracks that have in the past.....err......grabbed you emotionally, but I find this 'measure' is impossible to quantify and is greatly influenced by your mood and concentration levels at the time of listening and even by recent events in your life. So a rather unreliable and unquantifiable measure.

The intelligibility of lyrics I have used as a useful measure and it is certainly more objective and....err.....measurable, but it only gives a view of the accuracy and transparency of the midband. And, there you go, I am already into the rhetoric used by many to judge a system's performance in HiFi terms, as opposed to how well the music connects and engages with the listener. Instrumental separation too is a good indicator but offers little in the musical connection department.

So there we have it. For me the only valuable measures of a system's performance are those that are the most elusive, subjective and impossible to quantify. I am not being very helpful, am I?

Edit: As I posted this I am listening to Bentley Caldwell 'This Love (Is War)' off his wonderful 'The Place That I Call Home' album and I actually welled up, and this track has never connected with me in this way in the past. The recoding quality of this album is not exceptional either. My rig must be doing its thing tonight!

You are quite right. Vocals can be as clear as a bell, but if the music doesn’t stir your soul you may as well not bother listening. To me, sounding natural and real, with a strong emotional connection, is what matters. I generally don’t really bother about whether I can hear the lyrics. 

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