Discuss Your Gaming Environments and AV Setups
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chuckster
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Re: Audiophile, Budgetphile, and Dontgiveaphile thread.

by chuckster Mon Nov 20, 2017 10:17 am

I always thought it was interesting how for home theater enthusiasts, the trend is an ever-forward march of quality increases and changes (5.1 compressed>Uncompressed>7.1>Atmos>etc.), whereas good old stereo has been the gold standard for more straightforward music listening for decades. Of course there has been a general shift to digital over analog (across most of the market), but otherwise stereo is still the king.

Personally I don't feel that Binaural recording or surround sound make musical recordings better in general. Most of the live performances we would attend would have the sound projecting from the front anyway, and a properly tuned stereo system with top-quality mastering can render an insanely 3D soundstage already. It is definitely nice for movies or audiobooks though.
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Re: Audiophile, Budgetphile, and Dontgiveaphile thread.

by isiolia Mon Nov 20, 2017 11:24 am

Technically, audio has had higher quality offerings too - HDCD and XRCD in the mid 90s, SACD and DVD-Audio around 2000, with the latter supporting multi-channel recordings. There's higher quality digital on the market as well, FLAC and ALAC or things in other lossless PCM format, or DSD (basically the audio stream from SACD).

For whatever reason, many people who want to sit and listen to music in a more dedicated listening space go back to vinyl anyway. /shrug

That, however, is the more typical way to enjoy movies. Music, especially these days, is something that can be enjoyed almost anywhere. So, the priority tends to be on compatibility and choice instead of quality.


I think you can add quite a bit to music with good stereo - really, all that's needed given we have two ears. Multi-speaker setups, I think, are needed due to more easily being able to generate directional audio. Stuff actually recorded with a good binaural setup can be amazing, but it can be generated as well. That's mostly what's interesting with Atmos, since it's not a fixed channel system...but it's pretty locked down, not really ubiquitous. Still, I think that's more the trend that might work going forward - actually having positional audio data to make work with whatever setup is there. VR has also created more of a use for 3D sound with just headphones, and it works exceptionally well.
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Re: Audiophile, Budgetphile, and Dontgiveaphile thread.

by samsonlonghair Mon Nov 20, 2017 11:54 am

isiolia wrote:Maybe more will embrace Atmos or other spacial setups (it's started...barely ), but yeah, fairly few even seem to try. Relatively speaking, fairly few people are probably making a point to listen to music with a 5.1 setup.

If you had asked me back in 2000 or 2001, I would have told you that DVD-Audio was the best way to get 5.1 music. If you had asked me the same question in 2005, I would have acknowledged the failure of DVD-Audio, but at least the SACD format has a future in the Playstation 3.

Sadly none of these formats have brought us into a surround-sound music experience. You know why? Because no one is making content for these formats. We usually get a few remixes of a popular old Album like Hotel California or Dark Side of the Moon, and a few demos of Classical music, but rarely anything new. If there is new music released in these formats, it tends to be by some obscure electronic musician working out of his basement who's trying his hardest to grasp the next big thing.

Also, from an audio-production technical standpoint, setting up a 5.1 sound system can be frustrating. I plug a 5.1 source into my 5.1 or 7.1 reciever, and I expect to get 5.1 audio delivered to my five speakers and my subwoofer, right? WRONG. Turns out my receiver keeps trying to downsample my 5.1 source to DTS. Most consumers wouldn't notice the difference, but the whole reason I'm setting this up is for true 5.1 sound with six discreet channels, not "virtual" surround.

Ok... let's try changing some settings in the receiver menu. No? Ok.... let's try upgrading my cables to optical via TOSLINK. No? Ok... let's try HDMI instead. No? Ok... let's try another two or three hours of experimentation before I actually get REAL 5.1 audio to my speakers. The whole process is tiring. No wonder the consumer market embraced sound bars instead. Sure the audio isn't as good, but the setup is dead simple.

chuckster wrote:I always thought it was interesting how for home theater enthusiasts, the trend is an ever-forward march of quality increases and changes (5.1 compressed>Uncompressed>7.1>Atmos>etc.), whereas good old stereo has been the gold standard for more straightforward music listening for decades. Of course there has been a general shift to digital over analog (across most of the market), but otherwise stereo is still the king.


Interesting points, Chuckster. I'm glad that you mentioned "good old stereo". Let's look at how stereo became king in the first place.

I read the Ars article that Isiola linked. In that article, they namedrop Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band a lot. That was the album that made Stereo popular. I still use Sgt. Peppers as my reference when I'm setting up a stereo system. It changed audio production forever. Not just for stereo, but for the multi-track recording process that audio engineers still use today. The consumer market ate it up because it was the latest album by the most popular rock-n-roll band in the world.

So that's what we need to move surround-sound audio forward. We need someone super mainstream today like Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, or the Red Hot Chili Peppers to release their next big album on a surround-sound format. I feel like Imagine Dragons could be the band to pull off that trick. They always put good production values into their music. We also need to get audio engineers on board, the same way they all got on board with multi-track recording.

chuckster wrote:Personally I don't feel that Binaural recording or surround sound make musical recordings better in general. Most of the live performances we would attend would have the sound projecting from the front anyway, and a properly tuned stereo system with top-quality mastering can render an insanely 3D soundstage already. It is definitely nice for movies or audiobooks though.


And THAT is where we run into trouble. It's hard to convince an audio engineer that any of this is necessary. Personally, I dig the "surrounded-by-the-band" mixes where I can hear the guitarist on one side, the basist on the other, the drummer behind me, et cetera. Other people prefer a "live-concert-experience" mix where the band is all in front of you, and you can hear crowd noise on the periphery. That's cool in it's own way too. Either way, the consumer deserves to know what they're buying, and the engineers need a convincing reason to drop thousands of dollars to retrofit their sound booths.

I find this line from the Ars article especially telling:
Ars Technica wrote:Litt interrupted: "The Dolby people were really good at saying to us, 'Listen, there's no rulebook on this. The record can be what you want it to be.' I was the one saying, 'Isn't there ONE rule we can go by?'" He laughed. "But there were no rules."

If there's no rules, then there's no telling what the audio engineer will mix and no telling consumer is going to buy. This is one of the Problems that DVD-Audio and SACD never overcame. I fear we aren't learning from our mistakes.
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Re: Audiophile, Budgetphile, and Dontgiveaphile thread.

by marurun Mon Nov 20, 2017 1:07 pm

The thing about music is that even very similar tracks (similar on paper, anyway) can actually sound very different, and be aiming to communicate very different ideas or emotions. The reason it's hard to have staid rules for mixing is that different people want different things, expect different things. I mean, look at the mixing rules used in most modern pop for CD-grade audio releases: push the volume up as high as possible, compress and normalize the heck out of the dynamics, clip the peaks if necessary. Ever since the 90s these rules of mixing have convinced people that CDs don't sound good and that 16-bit, 44 khz sound isn't good enough. The problem isn't the medium, the problem is the mixing. Some of the best classical/orchestral releases ever exist on CD, and they have no problems sounding lush, dynamic, rich. Classical music demands a far larger dynamic range than pop music does, but it also didn't have to compete for attention in a multi-disc CD changer set to shuffle. Bad mixing behavior became the rule on CDs because CDs were too convenient, too ubiquitous, not because of any limitations on reproduction quality, and those bad mixing behaviors became the rule for pop releases, and have damaged the perception of pop and the CD medium for decades. Also, Dolby Atmos is still so new in regards to music. It will take a lot of experimenting to determine any sorts of guidelines for good practices.

It sounds like the Dolby Atmos mix of Automatic for the People is awesome, even on headphones (with the Atmos for headphones technology driving it). Though I do wonder if the engineers could have achieved similar results by more care and scrutiny of a traditional stereo mix. I mean, a lot of the stereo mixes we listen to now, especially for older music, haven't changed in decades. Then again, audio processing can do a lot with sounds now that we know more about the human ear, so maybe simple stereo can indeed be improved, even just inside a pair of headphones.
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Re: Audiophile, Budgetphile, and Dontgiveaphile thread.

by samsonlonghair Mon Nov 20, 2017 2:16 pm

marurun wrote:The thing about music is that even very similar tracks (similar on paper, anyway) can actually sound very different, and be aiming to communicate very different ideas or emotions. The reason it's hard to have staid rules for mixing is that different people want different things, expect different things. I mean, look at the mixing rules used in most modern pop for CD-grade audio releases: push the volume up as high as possible, compress and normalize the heck out of the dynamics, clip the peaks if necessary. Ever since the 90s these rules of mixing have convinced people that CDs don't sound good and that 16-bit, 44 khz sound isn't good enough. The problem isn't the medium, the problem is the mixing. Some of the best classical/orchestral releases ever exist on CD, and they have no problems sounding lush, dynamic, rich. Classical music demands a far larger dynamic range than pop music does, but it also didn't have to compete for attention in a multi-disc CD changer set to shuffle. Bad mixing behavior became the rule on CDs because CDs were too convenient, too ubiquitous, not because of any limitations on reproduction quality, and those bad mixing behaviors became the rule for pop releases, and have damaged the perception of pop and the CD medium for decades. Also, Dolby Atmos is still so new in regards to music. It will take a lot of experimenting to determine any sorts of guidelines for good practices.

I understand what you mean. It's true that the type of audio compression you are describing removes the nuance from pop music recordings (not that pop music was ever especially nuanced) but that's just a choice of the engineer in studio. That doesn't prevent Trent Reznor or Terry Date from exploiting a wider dynamic range.

I don't think audio compression is a "rule" so much as industry pressure to "make it louder" to sound better. That idea might sound like heresy to audio snobs like us, but you know what? Louder music is more immersive to most listeners; louder music makes is easier to hear subtle details; Louder music stimulates the listener both mentally and physically. For better or for worse, this kind of compression appeals to the masses. That doesn't mean that the mass market is stupid; they just want their music to sound good coming out of their cell phone, so it gets compressed.

When I'm talking about the "rules" for mixing stereo, I'm talking about something like these:
https://www.uaudio.com/blog/studio-basi ... ng-stereo/
which address clarity, separation, and balance in the stereo mix. Notice that most of these rules would direct an audio engineer away from the type of audio compression that you and I so strongly dislike. I think that a modified version of these rules could represent best practices for surround sound music of any format - whether that format is atmos or whatever comes next.
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Re: Audiophile, Budgetphile, and Dontgiveaphile thread.

by Anapan Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:58 am

Has anyone listened to the SACD and DVD demo albums? I did when I tried to set up ~5 close friends and relatives houses who already owned 5.1 systems and had just only plugged them in - goddamn the thousands spent were not wasted - it's pretty cool to be immersed in the full positioned audio experience the audio engineers envisioned using so many microphones around the entire stadium to really make your experience with the audio be fully immersive. It's too bad that I actually gained more 5.1 audio sampled discs setting up those places to be full 5.1 simulated stereo than I brought to try to make those people's 5.1 systems really work. They were only hooked up to basic cable through digital - there was no surround to be listened to. I fully appreciate the surround setup tuning - the reason they gave you a positional mike to tune your position. It's really apparent when you get the 5.1 audio from a MMA/UFC match streaming live - you can really hear impacts as the multiple cameras see the footage. The advantage in games that comes from having positional audio is only the tip of the iceberg when you consider how fully it can let you feel your environment.

I really want to hear my favorite songs mastered like the masters did for the demo DVD and SACD audio masters I have heard.
Last edited by Anapan on Tue Nov 21, 2017 5:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Audiophile, Budgetphile, and Dontgiveaphile thread.

by isiolia Tue Nov 21, 2017 10:12 am

I don't think I have any "proper" SACD or DVD-A discs. I have a few of the old Telarc Digital releases that were mixed for Spatializer, and worked for Pro-Logic and such too. Frequently used as demo discs back in the 90s (The Great Fantasy Adventure Album for instance).

Otherwise, maybe stuff like BT's This Binary Universe that included a DVD of the album mixed for DTS 5.1. I suspect his more recent album _ is also, but only have the MP3 version of it (since the physical release was WAV and MP4 files on a USB stick that isn't readily available. Videos are on Youtube though). PC is a bit odd for 5.1 though, if not using HDMI audio, since it won't do multi-channel PCM over regular coax or optical. So those only work if content is DTS or Dolby Digital, or DTS Connect/Dolby Digital Live is working right.
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Re: Audiophile, Budgetphile, and Dontgiveaphile thread.

by marurun Tue Nov 21, 2017 12:35 pm

I have some concert DVDs that use 5.1 positional mixes, but no dedicated DVD-A albums.
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Re: Audiophile, Budgetphile, and Dontgiveaphile thread.

by samsonlonghair Tue Nov 21, 2017 2:45 pm

Anapan wrote:Has anyone listened to the SACD and DVD demo albums?


I bought "A Night at the Opera" on DVD-Audio. Listening to Bohemian Rhapsody in 5.1 is flipping awesome! Different sections utilize different audio channels. The "I see a little silhouetto of a man" vocals bounce back from one side to the other while Freddie Mercury argues with his own chorus. It gave me chills.

Trying to actually make it work, on the other hand, is a pain in the posterior. When I first bought that DVD-Audio disc, I was under the mistaken impression that I could play it on any old DVD player since it uses essentially the same technology as a 5.1-encoded DVD movie, just without the video. NOPE! It's not that easy. Turns out that my older DVD player was sending PCM stereo audio. Apparently the recording studio was concerned about piracy, so my player couldn't transfer the digital DTS-5.1 signal to my amplifier because of some sort of DRM scheme. So what's a man to do in this situation? I had to fire up bittorrent and download the same album I had just paid real money for. Great job with that DRM, guys. Hurt the paying consumer, but don't phase the pirates one single bit.

Once I had the audio on my computer, I opened Adobe Audition so that I could test out the individual audio layers one at a time. That's how I found out that my amplifier was only playing DTS Coherent Acoustics "virtual surround," not the true DTS 5.1 with six discreet channels. Nice try, but no cigar. At this stage, most folks wouldn't notice the difference, but I did.
isiolia wrote:PC is a bit odd for 5.1 though, if not using HDMI audio, since it won't do multi-channel PCM over regular coax or optical. So those only work if content is DTS or Dolby Digital, or DTS Connect/Dolby Digital Live is working right.

Bingo! I had to disconnect my TOSLINK optical cable and connect HDMI instead. Even then, I still had to go through a lot of trial and error to get the full 5.1 experience that I was looking for. Can you imagine why the consumer didn't flock to the DVD-Audio format? It did sound amazing in the end, but only after two days of setup.

Anapan wrote:the reason they gave you a positional mike to tune your position

I am skeptical as to the value of these positional microphones. I have held one or two in my hand, and the build quality feels poor to me. I always ditch the microphone and just use my ears. It helps if you can isolate one audio channel at a time to get the job done.
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Re: Audiophile, Budgetphile, and Dontgiveaphile thread.

by fastbilly1 Tue Nov 28, 2017 4:38 pm

Looking to upgrade my main receiver. The Yamaha HTR-5730 Ive been running for the past few years is starting to have some issues and its about time to move to 7.2 or 5.1.2. Eyeballing either a Denon s720w or s920w for the upgrade. Anyone else have suggestions for the sub $400 range? My only worry is that my mains are 140w. I only need 4x HDMI, dual sub is nice but not necessary due to how my subs are setup.

I am not planning on upgrading anything else. I love the Kenwood 4 ways as mains. After I put in new passivs subs into them they are smoother than ever. I will need new far rear speakers. My plan is to get another set of KLH 911Bs since they are cheap, work well, and fit in box we have under the side table for when not needed.

Mains - Kenwood JL-1105
Center – JBL N-Center
Rear – KLH 911Bs
Subs – Sony SAW30 x2
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