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Thread: The Audiophile Thread

  1. #2851
    Member rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Not interested in re-opening the tubes versus transistors debate. Not interested in re-opening the early CD mastering debate.

    I had a very specific question*, and realized the only way I was going to TRUST the answer would be to research it for myself. So, thanks for all the advice, but I'll let you know what I find out. Preamp should be here Sunday.

    * - "Can a tube preamp fix or mitigate crappy '80's recording practices?"

  2. #2852
    Member rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3LockBox View Post
    As for '80s recordings, im gonna blame mastering. They were EQ'd to hell and gone, not to mention soaked in reverb. My guess is that someone added reverb then EQ'd on top of that. A lot of '80s pop and rock releases are immediately recognized as such because so-n-so wanted their record to sound like so-n-so's; so bright and brittle sounding and heaven help you if someone insisted on adding saxophone. Very few audiophile quality recordings from the mid-to-late '80s, at least in mainstream music.
    I don't know if it's EQ (suspect not) or reverb (there is none) but it might be some kind of compression or maybe even some "Aphex Aural Exciter" to add sibilance.
    Last edited by rcarlberg; 10-15-2022 at 02:44 PM.

  3. #2853
    That's Mr. to you, Sir!! Trane's Avatar
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    first, maybe Carlberg should tell us more about the Eurythmics album he's talking about.

    Pretty sure their debut and maybe their second were not originally released as CD because 1981/é oblige, so they may be bad transfers.


    Quote Originally Posted by Quantum Cat View Post
    I don't have any words of wisdom on the audio chain, but I can tell you from my personal experience that when CDs first came out in the 80s, many of them were exactly as you described: shrill and raspy. I worked at a record store when the CDs first started rolling in and I was an early purchaser. I clearly recall throwing away at least half a dozen CDs for that reason. I was in disbelief when comparing them to the vinyl on the same system.

    At the same time there were other early CDs - I remember Kitaro's Astral Voyage and later, Bothers in Arms and Aja - that were absolutely superb, so I knew it wasn't the medium. It seems that some first-generation CDs may have been very poorly mastered. I know this is controversial, and although I have seen similar assessments published here and there, that is my anecdotal experience. I recall for instance, purchasing In the Court of the Crimson King the first day it arrived in the record store - it was so harsh and unlistenable, in disgust I literally used it for a frisbee. I repurchased a version of the CD years later and it was fine. Again, my personal experience FWIW.

    1985/6 saw the first releases of albums that were specifically mastered for CD... before that, they were mastered for either vinyl or cassettes


    ==================

    TBH, I'm a bit against the principile to add further element in a high-end hi-fi chain, other than the basic ones, in order the "better" the sound (even a t/t pre-amp sounds unnecessary to me) and the best example were those stupid Equalisers. Every element makes it own noise, adding more elements will only make matters worse, especially in an all-analog chain... or for that matter adding one after the DAC and before the speakers.
    my music collection increased tenfolds when I switched from drug-addicts to complete nutcases.

  4. #2854
    Member hFx's Avatar
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    Another way to warm up the sound is by using signal transformers. Though no analogue components will ever "clean up" things (by the laws of nature), they can add distortion that are perceived an "enhancement". Signal transformers do this in a subtle way, adding distortion from magnetic hysteresis and core saturation, and unlike clipping distortion the effect is most prominent in the lower frequency spectrum, tightening up the bass and addning some character to sounds in the tonal range. As from my studio experience, it's those transformers that that cause most if the ear candy from vintage audio gear (From microphone to master, the signal passes dozens of signal transformers on the way)
    My Progressive Workshop at http://soundcloud.com/hfxx

  5. #2855
    Member rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hFx View Post
    As from my studio experience, it's those transformers that that cause most if the ear candy from vintage audio gear (From microphone to master, the signal passes dozens of signal transformers on the way)
    Interesting. It's my understanding-possibly wrong-that every transformer stage causes a 90º phase shift. That's why transformerless amplifiers are a thing. Adding a bunch of transformer stages in a bunch of different frequencies would definitely muddy up the image, I should think, which is part-and-parcel of "the analog sound." Tubes will also impart a phase shift, for the same reason -- a voltage in one part of the circuit controls the gain in another part of the circuit, but at right angles to the input voltage.
    Last edited by rcarlberg; 10-15-2022 at 02:48 PM.

  6. #2856
    Member rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Isn't it funny, last night I couldn't remember the name of the device to save my soul. This morning it just popped into my head: the "Aphex Aural Exciter."

    I really believe this device is the source of most of what's wrong with 1980s recordings. The sibilance is overwhelming.

    thousands of legendary recordings bearing the unmistakable Aphex sound
    When an audio device has "a sound" you know it's not good for the music.
    Last edited by rcarlberg; 10-16-2022 at 10:21 AM.

  7. #2857
    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    "Aphex Aural Exciter."[/URL]"
    Sounds like something a woman would have in her night stand drawer.
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  8. #2858
    Man of repute progmatist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trane View Post
    first, maybe Carlberg should tell us more about the Eurythmics album he's talking about.
    Would he lie to you?
    "Well my son, life is like a beanstalk, isn't it?"--Dalai Lama

  9. #2859
    Member rcarlberg's Avatar
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    It was a compilation I made from decent online sources (iTunes etc) from their first 3 or 4 albums. 1981 to 1985 or so.

  10. #2860
    Member rcarlberg's Avatar
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  11. #2861
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    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    Interesting. It's my understanding-possibly wrong-that every transformer stage causes a 90º phase shift. That's why transformerless amplifiers are a thing. Adding a bunch of transformer stages in a bunch of different frequencies would definitely muddy up the image, I should think, which is part-and-parcel of "the analog sound." Tubes will also impart a phase shift, for the same reason -- a voltage in one part of the circuit controls the gain in another part of the circuit, but at right angles to the input voltage.
    The transformers were used (and still are in some cases) every time the signal should go between unbalanced and balanced and vice versa. For the simplest signal path, say, Microphone to mixer (2), mixer to multitrack (2), back to mixer (2) and mixdown to master (2). Some 8 transformers and then some (any external compressor, limiter, EQ)

    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    I really believe this device is the source of most of what's wrong with 1980s recordings. The sibilance is overwhelming.
    The presenter'ss ssssibilance in the vid is quite overwhelming...

    The Aural Exciter in combination with extreme compression (the in/exhaling is as loud as the voice itself) is a terrible 1980's phenomenon...
    My Progressive Workshop at http://soundcloud.com/hfxx

  12. #2862
    Member Firth's Avatar
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    All this talk about compression used in the 80’s. Perhaps much of the sound issues for pop recordings were because the effort was to make it sound “better” and punch on FM which became so crowded on the dial. This is the subjective tool needed to avoid inter channel interference (which destroys FM) and sound louder (narrowband FM pushed the power out to longer ranges). But what erupted in the early 80’s was MTV which for the most part was heard thru crummy TV speakers. However, in my case, my Sony trinitron had RCA outs and I interfaced the sound to my Snell based audio system. Then you could clearly hear the difference between the sound of many groups, and Tears for Fears, Peter Gabriel and others.
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  13. #2863
    Member rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    So, thanks for all the advice, but I'll let you know what I find out. Preamp should be here Sunday.
    Arrived right on time. Popped in the tubes (6K4), installed the preamp and wired everything up (using Monster cables). It works! Balanced the bass and treble (10:00 o'clock) and gain (2:00 o'clock) to match the optical output of the CD player.

    First impressions: the phase shift in the bass is noticeable. I no longer get a firm image of the kick drums between the speakers. Switching back and forth between the optical digital and the tube analog (wired) input, the preamp has a pleasant, clear, & undistorted sound but it is definitely a couple shades less phase coherent.

    In fact, I had to turn the treble down to 9:00 o'clock because this preamp is obviously designed to make everything louder and brighter.

    Switching to The Crusaders "One" -- my go-to test CD because it's just so clean -- Wilton's tenor sax and Wayne's trombone just don't have the "bite" they do on optical. (Is that "the analog sound"? Could be.)

    On tubes, the bass guitar and drums come in from somewhere other than right between the speakers. The effect is not unpleasant... just everything is noticeably less "live" sounding. The effect isn't even very subtle -- it's immediately apparent which input I'm listening to.

    Annie's vocals on The Eurythmics? Ssstill ssssibilant.

    I'll let the tubes burn-in a few days, as everyone seems to recommend, and then do another A-B comparison.
    Last edited by rcarlberg; 10-16-2022 at 07:16 PM.

  14. #2864
    Member rcarlberg's Avatar
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    The Chinese guarantee card is kind of a hoot:
    Guarantee Item
    1. 3 months upon date of purchase,if there is function problem,we should offer the same item subject to goods and packing maintain perfect
    2. 1 year upon date of purchase,we will guarantee to keep the goods in repair.(not including fittings)
    3. Guarantee service is subject to normally using.
    4. All of damage byman-made(tear open the horsing,tear off the sticker,unnormally using),or losing this card,we will not guarantee.
    The "Frequently Asked Questions" also includes this:
    Q: Why does the sound is cracking?
    A: This product is for the tube preamp, but also can be used as preamp. If post equipment is max volume & preamp too, it's easy to distortion, you just need to turn down the volume of the equipment, then ok.

  15. #2865
    Member Firth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    The Chinese guarantee card is kind of a hoot:

    The "Frequently Asked Questions" also includes this:
    Fleaking clazy
    Last edited by Firth; 10-17-2022 at 04:52 PM.
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  16. #2866
    cunning linguist 3LockBox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    Isn't it funny, last night I couldn't remember the name of the device to save my soul. This morning it just popped into my head: the "Aphex Aural Exciter."
    In the liner notes for Eagles - Hotel California and The Long Run there's a stand alone sentence stating that, "This album was NOT mixed through the Aphex Aural Exciter." According to a few articles I've read it had been around since 1976 and was all the rage for a while, before the proliferation of CD.

  17. #2867
    Member rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Precursor of The Loudness Wars, when everybody realized CDs could be jacked up to 0dB across the board.

  18. #2868
    Member rcarlberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    I'll let the tubes burn-in a few days, as everyone seems to recommend, and then do another A-B comparison.
    No change after three days. I'm debating returning the preamp: it was only forty bucks but I have yet to find a situation where it is advantageous. It'd be useful to demonstrate principles, but I have nobody else to demonstrate to....

  19. #2869
    cunning linguist 3LockBox's Avatar
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    It's likely a lot of these cheap tube pre-amps are really solid state in function with tube buffers which isn't the same as a good old fashioned tube pre-amp.

  20. #2870
    Member Firth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3LockBox View Post
    It's likely a lot of these cheap tube pre-amps are really solid state in function with tube buffers which isn't the same as a good old fashioned tube pre-amp.
    Then explain why MacIntosh is now marketing integrated receivers with tube preamps and sold state class A/B amps. In theory the tube preamp may actually be responsible for the goodness of the tube sound, however for the best overall performance, tube amps may not be the best choice. There seems to be a lot of religious assumption about different technologies when in reality electronic design is an art to a significant degree. MOSfets have much of the harmonic advantages of tubes, but not that noise characteristic of tubes which the ear averages and enhances the perception of harmonics.
    “I’m not giving in an inch to fear” David Crosby

  21. #2871
    Member Quantum Cat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rcarlberg View Post
    No change after three days. I'm debating returning the preamp: it was only forty bucks but I have yet to find a situation where it is advantageous. It'd be useful to demonstrate principles, but I have nobody else to demonstrate to....
    Hey thanks for your reporting on this, your A/B listening observations were quite interesting if not terribly surprising. I can even imagine that subjectively some might actually prefer the tube "analogue" sound. Some people think an unfocused sound stage with overwhelming distorted bass is great and don't like a transparent system that reproduces the subject material as it was recorded: "Hey what happened to the bass?". All IMO.

    BTW, sorry about my long rambling about early CD mastering etc., clearly, I was off the mark in terms of what you were looking for and you knew all that anyway.

  22. #2872
    Member Quantum Cat's Avatar
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    On another note, just curious if anyone has had my experience.

    I have a surround system (all vintage B&W matrix speakers) and I have come to the conclusion that I prefer to mostly listen in 5-channel stereo mode (sometimes with the center channel off). I like being "right in the middle" and with many recordings it sounds like a surround mix, often with instruments uncannily isolated in specific areas in space and material separated clearly left-right and front-back I suppose due to the differing response of the speakers, separate amps and the acoustic proclivities of the room. I'm not sure how it happens, but I like it.

    YMMV and I'm sure some will think I'm daft and should stick to the main speakers which are driven by a nice dedicated stereo amplifier. Well, I never claimed to be an audiophile and my ears are probably too old to be audiophile quality anyway.

  23. #2873
    Member Firth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quantum Cat View Post
    On another note, just curious if anyone has had my experience.

    I have a surround system (all vintage B&W matrix speakers) and I have come to the conclusion that I prefer to mostly listen in 5-channel stereo mode (sometimes with the center channel off). I like being "right in the middle" and with many recordings it sounds like a surround mix, often with instruments uncannily isolated in specific areas in space and material separated clearly left-right and front-back I suppose due to the differing response of the speakers, separate amps and the acoustic proclivities of the room. I'm not sure how it happens, but I like it.

    YMMV and I'm sure some will think I'm daft and should stick to the main speakers which are driven by a nice dedicated stereo amplifier. Well, I never claimed to be an audiophile and my ears are probably too old to be audiophile quality anyway.
    If you are using a multi-speaker surround setup, are you using a receiver/processor with microphone based calibration with atleast time alignment between speakers. I didn’t enjoy extended stereo or 5.1, with 5.1 speakers until I got a calibrating receiver. The receiver also calibrated the EQ on a per speaker basis, including the 2 active subwoofer channels.
    “I’m not giving in an inch to fear” David Crosby

  24. #2874
    cunning linguist 3LockBox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Firth View Post
    Then explain why MacIntosh is now marketing integrated receivers with tube preamps and sold state class A/B amps. In theory the tube preamp may actually be responsible for the goodness of the tube sound, however for the best overall performance, tube amps may not be the best choice. There seems to be a lot of religious assumption about different technologies when in reality electronic design is an art to a significant degree. MOSfets have much of the harmonic advantages of tubes, but not that noise characteristic of tubes which the ear averages and enhances the perception of harmonics.
    You got me confused with someone else. I'm not an advocate for tubes. I'm not ant-tube either. Whatever floats one's boat. My point was that some of these cheap pre-amps might not be that great anyway and going through a tube buffer might not be of much help when the unit isn't particularly good - we are talking about a $40 component. Im guessing McIntosh (not to be confused with cheap products) is introducing integrated amps with tube pre-amps for the same reason companies got back into the turntable game - there's a buck to be made. Hell, there's a few companies marketing new tape decks. I care not.

    I think what most people like about tubes could probably be replicated with an old fashioned solid state reverb amp like Pioneer and Sansui used to make.

  25. #2875
    Member Firth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3LockBox View Post
    You got me confused with someone else. I'm not an advocate for tubes. I'm not ant-tube either. Whatever floats one's boat. My point was that some of these cheap pre-amps might not be that great anyway and going through a tube buffer might not be of much help when the unit isn't particularly good - we are talking about a $40 component. Im guessing McIntosh (not to be confused with cheap products) is introducing integrated amps with tube pre-amps for the same reason companies got back into the turntable game - there's a buck to be made. Hell, there's a few companies marketing new tape decks. I care not.

    I think what most people like about tubes could probably be replicated with an old fashioned solid state reverb amp like Pioneer and Sansui used to make.
    I prefer not to be prejudiced about price versus quality/capability. It’s better to get reputable reviews and/or try or listen to the product. One friend expressed pessimism about Macintosh, stating that it’s more of a name than real quality. So I found some reviews
    “I’m not giving in an inch to fear” David Crosby

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