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Euler
02-01-2012, 10:45 PM
Users often describe the Super HL5 as having a magical "open sound". Given everything he's learned from using software to redesign the C7, 40, and P3, Alan recently worried about "over-engineering" a speaker design, an unintended consequence being the loss of "magic". What do we mean by an "open sound"?

Can we measure it? If we can quantify this magic, then perhaps one could prevent its disappearance during a redesign.

Bruce

garmtz
03-01-2012, 08:52 AM
Unfortunately, an 'open' or 'transparent' sound cannot be measured, but it can be appreciated very easily. It enables you to look 'into' the recording, like the curtains have been lifted from the speakers. The amazing thing with a Harbeth speaker is that this transparency can be enjoyed even at very low playback levels.

The loss of 'magic' is also totally unmeasurable. How do you describe beauty? It must be experienced by a human being. Most things can be measured, but the design of a Harbeth is part science, part listening. It is in the listening that this 'magic' can be detected.

So unfortunately (well, according to my insights), neither an 'open sound' nor 'magic' can be measured. If we could measure beauty and magic, than we could 'engineer' great music/art. It just doesn't work like that.

Having said that, I have heard many speakers that technically sound perfect, but ultimately lack 'soul' and 'beauty'. Harbeth delivers this in spades.

Pluto
03-01-2012, 12:09 PM
Primarily, I would argue, lack of colouration in the low and mid-ranges, particularly in the human voice region of the spectrum.

I never tire of saying, "listen to speech"! Particularly, male speech that must, obviously, be well recorded. Listen to it at a realistic level and ask yourself a simple question - does the reproduced sound actually approach the realism of the genuine article which we hear every day and can, therefore, judge with relative ease.

A very simple test, but one which causes many so-called hi-fi installations to fall at the first hurdle.

Euler
03-01-2012, 04:15 PM
Primarily, I would argue, lack of colouration in the low and mid-ranges, particularly in the human voice region of the spectrum.

I never tire of saying, "listen to speech"! Particularly, male speech that must, obviously, be well recorded. Listen to it at a realistic level and ask yourself a simple question - does the reproduced sound actually approach the realism of the genuine article which we hear every day and can, therefore, judge with relative ease.

A very simple test, but one which causes many so-called hi-fi installations to fall at the first hurdle.

Perhaps the accurate reproduction of human speech is, as you suggest, primarily responsible for this "open sound," but it seems to me there must be some other significant thing going on, for otherwise one might expect other Harbeth speakers, like the C7ES3, which, to my ear, reproduces speech with extraordinary fidelity, to be described as having an "open sound" just as often as the SHL5. Yet that does not seem to be the case. In the Harbeth line, the SHL5, and the SHL5 in particular, is often described as having an "open sound."

I like magic as much as the next fellow, but if golden ear Harbeth users agree on the particular open sound of the SHL5, then maybe there's a real difference, and that difference would have a source, a physical, not a magical, source -- cross-over, cabinet dimensions, whatever -- and that source could, in principle, be tracked down.

Bruce

garmtz
03-01-2012, 09:27 PM
I do not agree that the SHL5 has more of an 'open sound' than any other Harbeth speaker. In fact, I find the Monitor 30 to be more open still (in the midrange).

Euler
03-01-2012, 10:51 PM
I do not agree that the SHL5 has more of an 'open sound' than any other Harbeth speaker. In fact, I find the Monitor 30 to be more open still (in the midrange).

I did not claim that the SHL5 has a more open sound, but rather that the SHL5, more than other speakers in the Harbeth line, is often described by those who've heard it as having an open sound. You, a single individual, might not agree with this general assessment, which is fine.

In any case, my questions remain the same: What do we mean by an "open sound." And can we figure out why, in the engineering sense, a particular speaker design might be so described?

Bruce

Gan CK
04-01-2012, 03:01 AM
For me, anything that is not muffled, muddy, boxy or shut in qualifies as being open sounding. Most modern day spks are sufficiently open. The degree of openness varies from spk to spk. Many spks however resort to a forward & or bright presentation to give the impression of sounding open & to mask a lack of transparency in the midband.

To me, all Harbeth spks are very open sounding & transparent without resorting to a forward & bright/sharp presentation. Such is the inherent quality of the Radial cone driver. And as Garmtz mentioned above, they deliver soul & beauty in spades.

STHLS5
04-01-2012, 09:17 AM
Excellent thread! We have different individuals describing "open" terminology in relation to speakers' sound in their own way.


Unfortunately, an 'open' or 'transparent' sound cannot be measured, but it can be appreciated very easily. It enables you to look 'into' the recording, like the curtains have been lifted from the speakers.

Some of my reference recordings made directly without any amplification sound flat to my ears.


Primarily, I would argue, lack of colouration in the low and mid-ranges, particularly in the human voice region of the spectrum.

A male voice is said to be within 85 to 180Hz. So speakers with limited frequency range to be considered as more open than a full range speaker?


For me, anything that is not muffled, muddy, boxy or shut in qualifies as being open sounding.

You have described the definition of a perfect speaker. So that means only a perfect speaker is an open sounding speaker? Everyday, I pass a music shop and somehow the sound from the Peavey speakers sounding more open than my system. Though I hate the high treble sound of the speakers.

And the Stereophile's definition -
Exhibiting qualities of delicacy, air, and fine detail. Giving an impression of having no upper-frequency limit.

Having no upper-frequencies limit certainly qualifies the SHL5 with the super tweeters to be more open sounding than other Harbeth speakers.

Whatever is it, it appears, we all have certain preconceived idea of sound that may well be very different to another. It is also common knowledge among recording engineers to increase the frequencies above 10kHz to add air to vocals. The term air or airy is usually associated with open sounding. That's not original but it adds a flavour to the vocals.

The best is to let our ears to judge what's best.

ST

garmtz
04-01-2012, 08:47 PM
Some of my reference recordings made directly without any amplification sound flat to my ears.


What do you exactly mean with this?

STHLS5
05-01-2012, 08:14 AM
What do you exactly mean with this?

When I said live unamplified sound, I meant sound without amplification, EQ and other digital tricks that often employed to improve a recording. Perhaps, the examples of sound clips found here (http://www.gearaudition.com/equalizers.php) may convey my message more clearly. (Try Setting 3)

I agree when you said that an open sound means you should be able to look into the recording, like the curtains have been lifted from the speakers but which of the sounds in the above clips sound transparent? And which one sounds open? Does natural sound open or openness is just an illusion like depth?

ST

{Moderator's comment: I wonder, did Alan cover this with sound examples in his thoughts about recording studio acoustics a while back?}

A.S.
05-01-2012, 12:17 PM
Now this really is an interesting thread.

Are we saying that, despite the fact that we here are all bonded by a common appreciation of 'natural sound', that we cannot define it? May I suggest that we at least try and narrow the field to say what natural sound is not. That may help us to define what it actually is. May I kick this off?

I'd say that 'natural sound' reproduced over a quality audio system will not be ....

1) Fatiguing
2) Too loud

(This is more difficult than it looks!)

STHLS5
05-01-2012, 01:15 PM
What actually isn't 'natural sound' then?

What makes piano sound to be natural? Or a*flute? An acoustic guitar? How can a piano be natural when there is no piano tone in nature? Listen to the nature, listen to the songs of birds, whales or even the howling wolves. Do you hear anything that resemble a piano or any of the musical instruments? Perhaps, with an exemption to the sound of a flute most musical instruments sound is not reproduce by mother nature.

That leaves us with our voice as a sole reference to natural sound which "supposedly" can be reproduced by playback devices. But in reality to reproduce a vocal we need a suitable microphone. Now, isn't human voice is within 80 to 1000Hz? I am giving a much wider range since some singer capable going above the upper limit of 250 or so Hertz. *So why is it we need a special microphone for vocals. To complicate the matter further some microphones suit some singer better than others. There goes my reference again. If I were to record my voice with a *Nuemann and later I discover that Shure really suits my voice then I am without an absolute reference prior to that.


ST

A.S.
05-01-2012, 02:01 PM
Wait. That's going in far too deep too soon, IMHO. We are just never going to progress this unless we concentrate on the core points. Let's just take this nice and easy and carefully examine your very astute opening comment ....


What makes piano sound [to be] natural?

Well, what do me make of that valid question?

STHLS5
05-01-2012, 02:31 PM
The answer is best answered by quoting you...


You know, the piano has a similar characteristic to the human voice. I think that is why it is such a universally loved instrument - it 'talks' to us with a voice and soul just like a human. Reproducing human voice - and hence the piano accurately is by far the most difficult task for a loudspeaker. That's because we all know how a real live human sounds, and many of us know how a live piano sounds too. No degree-level acoustics expertise needed to hear and judge a great piano in action

But then which piano sound is accurate and natural? Compact7 was developed based on the bright tones of Steinway. So is Steinway is more natural than a Yamaha?

ST

garmtz
05-01-2012, 02:35 PM
This thread started with the question how to quantify/qualify an 'open sound'. Is a 'natural' sound always an open sound? Or the other way around, is an 'open' sound always 'natural'? I think the first is true, because 'not open' will always point in the direction of some colouration, either subtractive or addictive. As for an 'open' sound to be natural: many people do not know what 'natural' is, because they are missing some point of reference. Many speaker manufacturers make advantage of this by emphasizing the highs/mids to some extent, giving the IMPRESSION of 'opennes', while in fact, it is simply another colouration. Most of these manufacturers would do this to mask the fact that the speaker isn't really open sounding in the first place.

This has all been said in this topic, but I think it is a good starting point to first define the word 'open'. What makes a speaker sound 'open'? Is it low level detail, lack of colouration? A linear frequency response? I think this will asnwer the question of the topic starter best. Maybe we can open another topic to investigate what constitutes 'natural sound'?

EricW
05-01-2012, 02:55 PM
Well, what do we make of that valid question?

Well, pianos do exist as physical objects in the real world, and they are capable of making sound without amplification. (True, no two are exactly alike, but then, no two voices are exactly alike either.) Virtually everyone has heard an unamplified piano and has a fairly good idea what one sounds like.

So, in very simple terms, I'd say a "natural" piano sound is a recording that conveys as much as possible the sound that makes a piano a piano, and not some other instrument.

Too simple?

Euler
05-01-2012, 05:28 PM
I'd say that 'natural sound' reproduced over a quality audio system will not be ....

1) Fatiguing
2) Too loud

(This is more difficult than it looks!)

I wonder whether the sound of the chicks in the nest of Great Tits might be very "natural" through Harbeth speakers, yet still fatiguing.

Bruce

A.S.
05-01-2012, 05:40 PM
...But then which piano sound is accurate and natural? Compact7 was developed based on the bright tones of Steinway. So is Steinway is more natural than a Yamaha? Thanks for the quote but to the casual reader it could be misinterpreted as meaning that somehow the C7 was optimised in such a way that it enhanced the Steinway at the expense of the Yamaha. And that's definitely not true; it's not my job to design a speaker that has a strong sonic personality that could favour one istrument over another.

The key question surely has to be this: One cannot begin the process of appraising what is 'natural sounding' unless you have some reliable, memorable experience of hearing a particular instrument (or at the very least, a class of instrument) in the raw, unamplified with your own ears and with enough time to concentrate on the sound and absorb and commit the experience (or at least, the ghost of the memory of the flavour of the experience) to long term memory.

So, what I was commenting on was, heard 'in the flesh', how much brighter and interesting the tone of the Steinway was than I imagined it to be. Whether you like the Steinway sound is of course entirely a matter of choice. But it's certainly very difficult for any speaker system to capture that air.

Euler
05-01-2012, 05:40 PM
This thread started with the question how to quantify/qualify an 'open sound'. Is a 'natural' sound always an open sound? Or the other way around, is an 'open' sound always 'natural'?

[snip]

What makes a speaker sound 'open'? Is it low level detail, lack of colouration? A linear frequency response? I think this will asnwer the question of the topic starter best. Maybe we can open another topic to investigate what constitutes 'natural sound'?

Yes, if "open sound" and "natural sound" are different, then we have two different questions. My original question -- What do we mean by an "open sound" and can one track it down, in an engineering sense, to a source? -- was prompted by Alan's worry that, driven by all the knowledge he has gained over the years, he might inadvertantly end up engineering the "magic" (which might be the "open sound") out of given speaker in its redesign.

Bruce

A.S.
05-01-2012, 10:27 PM
I'm wondering is this 'openness' is related to frequency response. Perhaps in the loudness of particular frequency bands or to the extension of the overall bandwidth at the extremities.

We've looked at this sort of concept in very great depth in this thread (http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/showthread.php?1170-The-sounds-of-musical-instruments).

In particular, going directly to post #62 (http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/showthread.php?1170-The-sounds-of-musical-instruments&p=13462#post13462), we can hear examples of the manipulation of the frequency response. Also have a look at posts # 63 and more examples in post #64.

Are we still floundering or can we perhaps eliminate frequency response as a factor in 'openness' I wonder and move onwards. Or perhaps not? But we do need to run this one to ground.

STHLS5
06-01-2012, 05:25 AM
This thread started with the question how to quantify/qualify an 'open sound'. Is a 'natural' sound always an open sound? Or the other way around, is an 'open' sound always 'natural'? I think the first is true, because 'not open' will always point in the direction of some colouration, either subtractive or addictive. As for an 'open' sound to be natural:

That's tough because we are having difficulties in describing what's natural. IMHO, Natural sounding speaker is not necessarily a criterion for open sounding. Unless, my understanding of open sound is different from the rest of the members here, I have perceived far better open sound in a some fatiguing speakers such as the Peavey that I mentioned earlier. The only thing that was common in these speakers was they were playing much much louder than I normally listen to and in a bigger room than mine.


A.S. wrote:-I'm wondering is this 'openness' is related to frequency response. Perhaps in the loudness of particular frequency bands or to the extension of the overall bandwidth at the extremities.

I suspect so. I am not sure if flat frquency response is an important criterion for open sound but from my experience with my PreAmp, I need to play above a certain minimum level for the sound to open up. Has this got to do something with loudness or the changes in FR at higher level of loudness? I don't know. Perhaps, my room is too damped that it sucks out the highs while playing at low volume.

The other thing that I have observed is the dynamic range of some system, which seems to compress so that the loudest and quietest passage appears equally loud. Playing Jennifer Wernes Way Way down, the first few beat of the drum is as high as 100db and the vocal is moderately soft. In my friend's system which appears to be more open than mine both the vocal and the drum sound doesn't vary that much. Did they design the speakers in such a way so that high and low passages sound loud giving a false sense of attractiveness?

ST

Gan CK
06-01-2012, 05:55 AM
I don't think open sound automatically confers natural sound. For eg, most of the PA spks are very open sounding by virtue of its wide dispersion horn design. But are these PA spks natural sounding? Far from it!

Same goes to a lot of other high end domestic loudspeakers. Many of these are also very open sounding but definitely not natural. I feel that a natural sound reproduction is one that closely mimics what we hear from anything other than those that's electrically amplified. Like voices, birds chirping & sounds from acoustic musical instruments.

A.S.
06-01-2012, 09:02 AM
Viewed from the outside, we are not looking too impressive in this thread. It would seem that we who live and breath high-fidelity sound can't succinctly define the very core words that we use every day. Even wine experts can agree a common lexicon to describe the basic qualities of wine.

I'm really concerned when in the same context as 'natural sound' I see mention of PA speakers with their "open sound." This is crying-out for a proper definition please. I did start that analytical process > here (http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/showthread.php?1502-Quantifying-an-quot-Open-Sound-quot&p=17051#post17051) < but it just hasn't been followed through, hence we are going around in circles. Surely we need a short list we can collectively digest, not thousands of anecdotal words.

Can I urge you to press on with this until we have a draft working definition and keep tightly on subject until we do. I've asked Moderation to be especially vigilant in keeping to that path.

EricW
06-01-2012, 09:14 AM
Surely "natural" is the more straightforward term of the two. I would simply define a natural-sounding speaker as one that can reproduce a real-world unamplified sound (piano, voice, trumpet, birdsong) with audible fidelity to the original, without any too obvious distortion or coloration. There may be more, but I think that must be the starting point.

"Open" seems to me a more more slippery and inherently subjective concept. It sounds good, but I'm not sure what it's supposed to mean. Even assuming that it's a quality that we can zero in on, would it not be more a characteristic of a recording than of a speaker? Wouldn't a "natural" sounding speaker also always sound "open", if "openness" (whatever that is) is captured on the recording?

espakman
06-01-2012, 11:50 AM
For me open and natural is:

-Low coloration/distortion, especially in the mid band
-no dynamic compression

Eric

STHLS5
06-01-2012, 12:47 PM
I think it is difficult to describe a natural sounding speaker. So I asked myself why I bought Harbeth *even though I am unable to describe it.*

My reference for a good speakers has always been the vocals. I just can tell by hearing if the vocals is clean without any coloration. I think you just know it that the sound coming out from the speakers is the actual sound of the recording and not from the speakers.

Maybe, you can't describe a natural sounding speakers but you can comprehend one when you hear it.

ST

{Moderator's comment: OK maybe so but how to translate your vivid experience into language a hi-fi novice half a world away could understand? That is what we must try to do.}

Pluto
06-01-2012, 08:55 PM
My reference for a good speakers has always been the vocals. I just can tell by hearing if the vocals is clean without any coloration
Are we going round in circles here. GOTO post#3 (http://www.harbeth.co.uk/usergroup/showthread.php?1502-Quantifying-an-quot-Open-Sound-quot&p=17037#post17037) in this thread.

Euler
06-01-2012, 09:57 PM
Surely "natural" is the more straightforward term of the two. I would simply define a natural-sounding speaker as one that can reproduce a real-world unamplified sound (piano, voice, trumpet, birdsong) with audible fidelity to the original, without any too obvious distortion or coloration. There may be more, but I think that must be the starting point.

"Open" seems to me a more more slippery and inherently subjective concept.

Eric's rough definition of "natural" would be my rough definition as well. Of course, it would take a listener with a finely tuned ear and extensive experience with the unamplified sounds of voice and instruments in various venues to judge the "naturalness" of a speaker with accuracy and reliability.

An "open sound", on the other hand, suggests to me a different sort of fidelity, something like the accurate reproduction of the "air" or "space" around the performer and in the venue, so that the speakers disappear and the listener feels as if he's been drawn right into the performing space. This may be related to sound stage creation too.

This is quite vague, and it may not correspond even vaguely with how others think of "open sound", but before we can arrive at a more careful definition, we should first agree at least on a vague meaning.

Bruce

STHLS5
07-01-2012, 08:05 AM
?.......

I'd say that 'natural sound' reproduced over a quality audio system will not be ....

1) Fatiguing
2) Too loud

(This is more difficult than it looks!)

I will add (3) sense of being there.

May I suggest that we modify (1) and (2) to reflect the quality of Harbeth's natural sound? How about

(1) you hear extended highs without feeling fatigue.
(2) it can play loud without feeling too loud.

ST

Kathylim
07-01-2012, 02:25 PM
Newbie non techkie view of natural sound = faithful playback of entire frequency range + correct intensity (volume) of the original sound recorded......... though this doesnt tie in, in all situations with Alan (a) non fatiguing and not loud.

EricW
07-01-2012, 05:01 PM
An "open sound" ... suggests to me a different sort of fidelity, something like the accurate reproduction of the "air" or "space" around the performer and in the venue, so that the speakers disappear and the listener feels as if he's been drawn right into the performing space. This may be related to sound stage creation too.


Bruce

I had been thinking along similar lines in terms of what "open" might mean, but then it occurred to me that the sense of air or space around the performer or in a venue is ultimately a property of the recording, not the speaker. Yes, the speaker should reproduce it, but only if it's there. What if the recording is dry, close-miked, close-up? You wouldn't want a speaker adding an artificial sense of "openness" in that case, I would think.

So to me it seems that the idea of an "open" sound ultimately comes back to the issue of fidelity and naturalness. In Harbeth's case, as we've heard a number of times, that seems to include the idea of fidelity not only at normal levels but at very low microtonal levels (owing to the properties of their cone material above all), which may be why they reproduce both natural instrumental tonality and the sense of a natural acoustic (if the recording has one) so well.

A.S.
07-01-2012, 06:24 PM
...I had been thinking along similar lines in terms of what "open" might mean, but then it occurred to me that the sense of air or space around the performer or in a venue is ultimately a property of the recording, not the speaker. Yes, the speaker should reproduce it, but only if it's there. What if the recording is dry, close-miked, close-up? You wouldn't want a speaker adding an artificial sense of "openness" in that case, I would think.This is absolutely correct. Whilst I have in my mind a concept of 'naturalness' I'm far less comfortable with 'openness' as a word whilst I fully appreciate it as a concept and experience. We're down to micro-semantics here. When we talk of someone's personality being open, we are referring to their lack of concealment - we imagine that what we are presented with is the totality of the true inner person, that there isn't a hidden face. And repeated exposure to that person would reinforce (or not) that impression of openness.

'Naturalness' is a different quality. I don't recognise naturalness as an inner quality (as openness is) but the external manifestation of certain inner thought and personality processes. Taken together then, the inner openness of the speaker lays bare the personality of the speaker and the naturalness of the speaker is the physical manifestation of the speaker's inner personality expressed in the simple traditional constructional no-frills style, the outward presentation in response to different musical situations. You could naturalness is akin to simple, traditional country-clothing where others, less natural, dress themselves up. Could an open personality also be one which is overly concerned with fancy externalisation? I don't think so. Not a truly open personality.You could be disappointed. Since 'naturalness' and beauty are entirely personal matters devoid of any absolute ranking, she could disguise a cold, heartless, closed personality with a cloak of what gentlemen rate as naturalness. The same applies to speakers: a since few of us really know how instruments sound in the raw, we are all exposed to the trickery of the recording engineer and hall can seduce with the illusion of naturalness. But true openness cannot be faked - it is an inherent quality of the heart, not the cloak.

This suggests to me that the inner quality of openness can (perhaps) coexist with the external quality of naturalness, as it does with Harbeth speakers. But were we to take the very same open-sounding core elements of cone and crossover and mount them in a Beau Brummell (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beau_Brummell) cabinet, would we still appreciate the same naturalness of sound? I wonder. Surely part of the Harbeth experience is the absence of pretention, and that reflects back on the personality, and openness.

I am concerned that whilst openness is bound up with the essential core qualities of the parts, the naturalness may be faked and hence fool the listener. Perhaps some musical examples would illustrate this. (I'm working on them)

P.S. Consider this. If you spot a pretty girl across the street, based on her external appearance alone you may, according to your internal ranking system, ascribe her as 'natural' - which as a distant observer you take from certain cues concerning the way she dresses and presents herself to the world. But to begin to rank her 'openness' you need to cross the road and make her acquaintance; then, after some hours, days or weeks form a solid impression about the invisible, internal workings of her personality.

Many would say that a conventional paper cone speaker with a simple crossover and chipboard box sounded natural. But spend time with such a product and the true personality slowly reveals itself: rather faster if an instantaneous A-B switch-over is used, akin to the 60 second get-to-know speed-dating boy-meet-girl method of rapid comparison.

A.S.
07-01-2012, 10:59 PM
I've been playing around trying to find a simple audio example that could, perhaps, point us in the direction of 'openness' or 'naturalness' - that magical quality which we here commonly value but have difficulty defining.

There are two audio clips here. The digital recording was made by Decca at the Kingsway Hall, London. Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20, K466. Vladimir Ashkenazy. Catalogue: 414 337-2.

Are there any audible differences between these clips? Do you prefer one over the other? Does one or other illuminate the discussion about openness or naturalness in any useful way? The frequency range from low to high extends equally for both clips. This is quite subtle and these two clips are definitely the original and one I have processed. As with all these little demo clips they are just made and checked on my Logitech plastic PC speakers. There is absolutely no need to connect-up your hifi system.

/library/mp3files/Mozart20A.mp3 Version A

/library/mp3files/Mozart20B.mp3 Version B

macroaudio
07-01-2012, 11:33 PM
As a percussionist, "Natural Sound" might be described as sound which mirrors reality. For example the triangle I hear is a 4" being played at the bend or on the flat, the 14" snare drum back beat is alternating between the center of the head and edge, the djembe is a 16", not an 18".

"Open Sound" might be described as depicting the air and ambience one experiences when listening to a minimally miked direct to disc recording session, such as Dave Grusin's Sheffield Direct to Disc title "Discovered Again!". If any of the forum members have that disc, listen to any cut and hear the air around each instrument, the ambience of the studio room, the 3D-ness of each performance, how the acoustic bass resonates within itself and the room. That is Open Sound!

Kathylim
08-01-2012, 03:45 AM
Morning Alan, I think I understand the differentiation you make between openness and naturalness in relation to human traits, personalities, cultures, societies etc but had some difficulty in joining the dots between openess and naturalness, specific to sound and sound through the Harbeths.

However after listening to both clips, conclusion I reached is. The music presented in both clips sound natural. Ver. A, to my ears, sounds more open than Ver. B. If that is correct then both present the natural sound but in different ways. Presentation then become one of personal preference.

If that is correct then that leads me to the next question which may perhaps fall outside the scope of this thread. As you say, since few can tell what is the correct sound of a musical instrument, I gather that absolute correctness in tonality/timbre of an instrument does not come into the equation (a Steinway can sound like a Yamaha) in the delivery of natural sound though preferred, natural sound through a pair of speakers is specific to the music, sound a person or society is used to ( a reference). Say someone who has never heard an orchestra and listens purely to rock would reference natural sound to the music he is accustomed to. Therefore natural sound becomes subjective played through a given set of speakers?

STHLS5
08-01-2012, 09:57 AM
IPAD - A sounded better than B but slightly increased in the highs and the violin group sounded bit artificial. If I were to make a quick buying decision based on the first 20 seconds I would probably have chosen A.

PC Altec Lansing - A sounded better initially but progressively becoming irritating.

SHL5 - B anytime is natural and my preference.

For openness, I don't really sense any marked difference in both versions with A having a very negligible edge.

ST

A.S.
08-01-2012, 11:31 AM
Excellent feedback. I think we're moving towards understanding this issue. More comments appreciated please - there are no right or wrong answers here. We are talking about sound, and that's a hugely personal matter. Not only is it personal, but we've seen that the same clips played on different audio equipment give rise to different preferences - just as we'd expect.

Gan CK
08-01-2012, 12:30 PM
Initially i preferred A too but after a few listen, B seems less forward & less fatiguing & probably more natural.

delgesu
08-01-2012, 01:24 PM
on the integrated speakers of my iMAC example A sounds better. a little more harsh in the highs, but open and nice. B is a bit more dull.

would prefer A on the iMAC

best,
delgesu

keithwwk
08-01-2012, 02:06 PM
After listened A, B seem more air and "open" due to it more echoey character to my ear. For piano concerto music i prefer A which is more focus on the piano sound.

Was listen both clips thru my Samsung galaxy SII built in speaker.

garmtz
08-01-2012, 06:23 PM
B sounds much more natural, which rich tonal balance and nice decay trails in the piano sound. Nice imaging and spaciousness.

A sounds more 'crisp', but in my ears does not sound more open. It just sounds flatter, brighter and more fatiguing. In general, it sounds processed. How do I learn here about openness vs naturalness?

B sounds more open AND more natural, despite the tipped up balance of A.

ninja
08-01-2012, 10:57 PM
B is more appealing to listen to. A sounds harsher, a bit of a rasp on the string section. But both tracks leave something to be desired especially the piano sounds, as compared to how it would sound live.

So would B then be termed more natural?

{Moderator's comment: listening on headphones is perfectly OK, but please state (as you have) that you have arrived at your opinion listening on 'phones not speakers. Thanx for the feedback.}

Pluto
09-01-2012, 05:33 PM
There are two audio clips here. The digital recording was made by Decca at the Kingsway Hall, London. Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20, K466. Vladimir Ashkenazy. Catalogue: 414 337-2.
On PC speakers the main difference that leapt out was the slightly "swimmy" quality of the reverberation of version B. Likewise, there seems to be a tad more top in the strings in version B.

The extra reverb. (in example B) could cause the strings to acquire this extra HF "sheen", or a little HF might have been removed from version A, dulling down the presentation.

I guess that A is the true sound of Kingsway Hall - B sounds a little artificial in comparison.

Loop4fun
09-01-2012, 09:42 PM
"A" sounds to me like it was recorded a little farther back in the music hall than "B".

{Moderator's comment: I think you mean that the microphones were further away from the performers in the hall. Right?}

Reply: Correct.

To me, it sounds if the the microphones were farther back and more in the middle of the music hall with clip A than in clip B.

czekhaan
10-01-2012, 02:21 AM
I listened to both clips on my IBM laptop built-in speakers.

The immediate impression was that "A" sounded brighter with perhaps more energy weighting in the HF band and the piano sounded ever so percussive. Upon further listening back and forth comparing both clips, I confirmed "A" as bright and fatiguing - something which does not match my experience of classical music performance in a hall.

Both "A" and "B" are Open, yet I felt "B" closer to what I thought as real music performance, i.e. natural sound.

In other words, to me, "B" is Natural and Open. "A" is Open but not so natural.

garmtz
10-01-2012, 12:19 PM
I listened to both clips on my IBM laptop built-in speakers.

The immediate impression was that "A" sounded brighter with perhaps more energy weighting in the HF band and the piano sounded ever so percussive. Upon further listening back and forth comparing both clips, I confirmed "A" as bright and fatiguing - something which does not match my experience of classical music performance in a hall.

Both "A" and "B" are Open, yet I felt "B" closer to what I thought as real music performance, i.e. natural sound.

In other words, to me, "B" is Natural and Open. "A" is Open but not so natural.

Spot on with my experience, stated earlier in my 'Listener preference 6' post #41. Clear preference for B on hi-fi (Harbeth) speakers. The same results on studio headphones (Shure SRH-840).

Euler
10-01-2012, 08:50 PM
B sounds much more natural, which rich tonal balance and nice decay trails in the piano sound. Nice imaging and spaciousness.

A sounds more 'crisp', but in my ears does not sound more open. It just sounds flatter, brighter and more fatiguing. In general, it sounds processed. [snip]


This is also my impression after listening to A and B. But we are now using the word "open" as if we had agreed on its meaning. For me, personally, an "open sound" opens a window on the instrument (including voice) and the space around it. Closing my eyes, I could be there, near the microphone (when the recording is closely mic'ed) or in the hall (when the room makes more of a contribution). Like this:


[snip]
"Open Sound" might be described as depicting the air and ambience one experiences when listening to a minimally miked direct to disc recording session, such as Dave Grusin's Sheffield Direct to Disc title "Discovered Again!". If any of the forum members have that disc, listen to any cut and hear the air around each instrument, the ambience of the studio room, the 3D-ness of each performance, how the acoustic bass resonates within itself and the room. That is Open Sound!

But is this how others are using the word "open" in our discussions? If we have different meanings in mind, then we're not communicating with accuracy and fidelity (to use two other audio terms).

Bruce

Euler
10-01-2012, 09:52 PM
But is this how others are using the word "open" in our discussions? If we have different meanings in mind, then we're not communicating with accuracy and fidelity (to use two other audio terms).

Bruce

And once we come to some agreement on the meaning of "open", we still have the question that led to this thread: can one, in an engineering sense, track down the source of this "open" sound? Is it due to the speaker's resolution? Does an "open" sound result from high resolution/detail and a "natural" sound from the accuracy/fidelity of that detail?

Bruce

{Moderator's comment: Indeed. We are still collecting listener feedback from the two clips please hopeful that this will throw some light on the matter. Thank you.}

HUG-1
11-01-2012, 08:12 AM
Can contributors please confirm whether they have made their preference for A or B on h-ifi speakers/system, PC or similar small non hi-fi speakers (incl. inbuilt speakers) or headphones.

Contributions, observations, preferences are still very much welcomed.

STHLS5
11-01-2012, 02:47 PM
I have to admit that I have the least experience with live orchestra music. Therefore, after reading a respected member's opinion which contradicted mine I had some doubts about the correctness of my assessment. A *member of HUG ( a silent observer ) who initially agreed with my earlier observation is now having second thoughts.

Looks like we also hear what one suggests. As for me, I still stand by my post No:36.

ST

Euler
11-01-2012, 02:53 PM
B sounds much more natural, which rich tonal balance and nice decay trails in the piano sound. Nice imaging and spaciousness.

A sounds more 'crisp', but in my ears does not sound more open. It just sounds flatter, brighter and more fatiguing. In general, it sounds processed. How do I learn here about openness vs naturalness? [snip].


This is also my impression after listening to A and B. But we are now using the word "open" as if we had agreed on its meaning. For me, personally, an "open sound" opens a window on the instrument (including voice) and the space around it. Closing my eyes, I could be there, near the microphone (when the recording is closely mic'ed) or in the hall (when the room makes more of a contribution). [snip]

Bruce

Just to confirm: I listened to A and B on PC speakers.

Bruce

EricW
11-01-2012, 03:04 PM
On my laptop's built-in speakers - the farthest thing from high fidelity - A seems initially more impressive in that it seems to give a bit more bite and incisiveness to the piano's sound.

But I agree with those who find B more natural-sounding: the reverb trails on the piano are easier to hear, and the strings in particular seem smoother and better-balanced. On A they sound a bit harsh and screechy.

Don Leman
11-01-2012, 06:17 PM
On cheap desktop speakers, my preferrence was "B". I found the strings on "A" to be unlistenable.

Audentity
12-01-2012, 07:17 AM
Track A becomes fatiguing quite quickly. Too crisp and shallow.
Track B is more "rounded" and relaxing. More musical.

Finding words for what I heard is an interesting exercise in itself.

czekhaan
12-01-2012, 04:28 PM
I have to admit that I have the least experience with live orchestra music. Therefore, after reading a respected member's opinion which contradicted mine I had some doubts about the correctness of my assessment. A *member of HUG ( a silent observer ) who initially agreed with my earlier observation is now having second thoughts.

Looks like we also hear what one suggests. As for me, I still stand by my post No:36.

ST

It's a matter of perception and as Alan said earlier, there is no right or wrong answer or assessment.

You mentioned an interesting but different topic on influence, in particular, by a respected member. A book by Robert Cialdini elucidates how influence works its way in everyday life and makes a good read.

Anyway, I enjoy this exercise and will learn even more about my own perception of sound, regardless of the "outcome".

{Moderator's comment: this Forum cannot hide contributions and even if it could this is not a formal, structured test and needs a certain amount of visible user activity to encourage others to participate. The point you make though is correct about the dangers of opinion leadership. More listening experiences welcome.}

A. E.
12-01-2012, 10:30 PM
After listening through AudioEngine A5 active monitors, I heard A was louder and harsh which made me think it's compressed...

B sounds less "open" and more natural relatively, to my ear.

If A had a bit more clean upper midrange and treble, I would choose to play both synchronously... then it would be nicer than the real...

I mean playing A+B synchronously could be better than acoustic live concert in audiophilic terms...

Sometimes in concert hall, I feel acoustic sound of the instruments are less open, and less natural than they should be... also they don't have pin-point and 3D imaging like audiophile stereo systems:-)

A. E.
13-01-2012, 05:16 PM
Yesterday I had chosen B, because of it sounds more natural.

But after listening one more time, today it doesn't sound like it was yesterday. May be it's because of my ears, or my mood, or room air conditions, or speaker placement, or computer produce different amount of jitter...

Now I choose A, it sounds clear (better than a Redbook CD) like SACD or XRCD version, the only thing I didn't like is: piano partition at the beginning sounds as if it's recorded microphones are closer to each instrument.

B has a disturbing reverberation for piano (or as if it's a kind of electrical piano). I can't see the walls of the hall, I feel as if I hear the notes twice.

If I had sound Photoshop I would mix A and B yesterday; today I would cut first half from A and second half from B to produce my taste.

I don't know which one I'll choose tomorrow :-)

Is there anybody who hears (or feels) different at another day?

A.S.
14-01-2012, 09:51 AM
...Is there anybody who hears (or feels) different at another day?After a week or so I thank the sixteen contributors who had the confidence and willingness to step forward and give their opinions in an open forum. I take my hat off to you. This is a 1% response.

The problem we now have is that with such a minute sample we have to take care to draw reliable conclusions that can truly expand our understanding of what we mean by 'natural' and 'open' when we describe audio experiences. So, before I reveal the identity of clips A and B this is your chance to review (or make) a contribution which will give us more opinions and more data to work with. You are contributing to a really important audio test.

Just describe what you hear and feel. As I said before, there are no right and wrong answers. It may be better for those who contributed to be able to discuss this further in a secure, private sub-forum rather than we collectively give away, FOC, valuable knowledge to the entire industry.

Thank you again for your willingness to play the game.

gakyle
14-01-2012, 10:55 AM
I found A to be the more direct sound and by definition natural and open to the recorded sound. B I found to be more distant or indirect i.e. there was more real or electronic space between sound and the recording.

This was with earbuds from the laptop. Of speakers I have owned, they could be sorted by the differences as mentioned, with 60's Kef Chorale's being like B and B&W DM4's like A.

Nahtanoj
14-01-2012, 11:58 AM
Listened on my Dell desktop computer speakers.

The big difference seemed to come when the strings played. in "A" they were brighter and "screechier" than in "B". In B -- and this could all be subjective -- it seemed easier to distinguish the different instruments in the orchestra from each other.

Maybe that ability to distinguish is what people are talking about when they refer to an "open" sound. I have always imagined this term to refer to being able to hear the spaces between the different instruments or voices (meaning spaces in time, or in frequency).

Others here seem to be referring to perceived physical space between the instruments on a soundstage, but maybe we're referring to the same impression of separation between the tones. This separation would let you better distinguish the different instruments or voices.

Pluto
14-01-2012, 12:31 PM
I wonder if the original question actually asked by Alan has been lost along the way.

At the same time we have learned something about the nature of audiophilia. Many English language adjectives are used in an attempt to describe the nature of sound quality. Many such words are, necessarily, imprecise when used in this context. Harsh, toppy, honky, boomy are examples that describe dislikes of a certain kind and there is not likely to be serious dispute as to the meaning of these terms (but for now, let's not get into the tricky area where my "nice clean top" might be your "harsh"). The point I am trying to make is that these terms are all descriptors that embrace the idea of distaste, to a greater or lesser extent.

If I describe a sound as clean, revealing or open, these are accepted as positive terms while (to my mind) being considerably less enlightening as to the true nature of the sound than the terms mentioned in the previous paragraph. Isn't it odd that we have reasonably precise terms for expressing dislikes, but far vaguer ones for satisfaction and pleasantness - perhaps that says an awful lot about human nature.

I fear that the problem we have come up against here is that quite a few participants have simply used the term "open" as a synonym for "I like it"! Does this mean that an "open" sound is always good? Are there instances where a less "open" variation is to be preferred?

Let me offer a first level working definition of the term "open sound" for your consideration. An "open" sound is one where the balance between direct sound (the instruments, for example) and the indirect sound (consisting of content related to the wanted sound such as reverberation and unrelated content such as street rumble) feels subjectively correct. We would describe music in an under-reverberant environment (such as an anechoic chamber) as "too dry" and the opposite as "swimmy" (an allusion to "wet"). But is "just right" part of the attribute we describe as "open"?

micron
14-01-2012, 09:19 PM
Hi
Let's see what do we have here: an audiophile's dilemma?

Reading the Alan's test we have to chose between "open sound'" and "natural sound" and we have for this (in the same order according to the post) two mp3 (or whatever compressed files) an A "open" and B "natural"

Should be that simple? Like I said, the two files are compressed computer files - so can't be an right answer. But, if I play this game, I can say that: A is open but unnatural and B is open and natural.

For the B example I can recognise the Kingsway Hall in terms of natural space.
For the A example I have a feeling of studio recording space.

I must say I use sony MDR CD30 headphones conected on sound card.

Cheers

{Moderator's comment: No. Alan did definitely NOT ask to chose between two descriptions. He just asked for feedback. Contributors may have chosen those words (or others) to describe what they hear, but not Alan. In fact, the results are a complete surprise.}

Macjager
15-01-2012, 11:08 AM
Hopefully not too late to comment, when it comes to preference, I found that the strings on "A" were screechy when they were hitting the high notes. I noticed this more after a few listenings, and found that I would cringe when the notes were played especially those at the 16-17 second mark.

If this is the natural sound of strings, then I agree with the post-processing of "toning them down". If on the other hand they were pushed up from the original recording, then that was an error in my estimation.

"B" does not thrust out at you from the speakers, while "A" at times pushes out in the centre, which makes listening much less pleasurable. "B" also tends to be duller when compared to "A", however as I noted that is not a good thing.

Overall "A" may be more open, revealing as it were, but it does not sound natural.

Cheers

George

Listened via AirTunes through my Harbeth 7 ES-3

HUG-1
15-01-2012, 02:55 PM
Thanks to those who took the trouble to make a contribution.