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HUG - here for all audio enthusiasts

Since its inception ten years ago, the Harbeth User Group's ambition has been to create a lasting knowledge archive. Knowledge is based on facts and observations. Knowledge is timeless. Knowledge is human independent and replicatable. However, we live in new world where thanks to social media, 'facts' have become flexible and personal. HUG operates in that real world.

HUG has two approaches to contributor's Posts. If you have, like us, a scientific mind and are curious about how the ear works, how it can lead us to make the right - and wrong - decisions, and about the technical ins and outs of audio equipment, how it's designed and what choices the designer makes, then the factual area of HUG is for you. The objective methods of comparing audio equipment under controlled conditions has been thoroughly examined here on HUG and elsewhere and can be easily understood and tried with negligible technical knowledge.

Alternatively, if you just like chatting about audio and subjectivity rules for you, then the Subjective Soundings sub-forum is you. If upon examination we think that Posts are better suited to one sub-forum than than the other, they will be redirected during Moderation, which is applied throughout the site.

Questions and Posts about, for example, 'does amplifier A sounds better than amplifier B' or 'which speaker stands or cables are best' are suitable for the Subjective Soundings area.

The Moderators' decision is final in all matters regarding what appears here. That said, very few Posts are rejected. HUG Moderation individually spell and layout checks Posts for clarity but due to the workload, Posts in the Subjective Soundings area, from Oct. 2016 will not be. We regret that but we are unable to accept Posts that present what we consider to be free advertising for products that Harbeth does not make.

That's it! Enjoy!

{Updated Nov. 2016A}
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Do audiophiles get enough exposure to 'live sound'?

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  • #61
    Enjoying and appreciate

    This thread is very interesting, informative, true and educate. Viewers, agree or disagree, should grateful and appreciate the effort Alan provided here. Harbeth owner or not, after this and until here, should at least know how to listen the true signature sound of a piano and understand what is superposition really mean but not imaging how it should sound by using hifi magazine or all the audiophile descriptions.

    I am truly enjoying and appreciate all the information here.
    "Bath with Music"

    Comment


    • #62
      To make it easy for members, I lifted the sound of the marbles being dropped onto the strings of the body-less piano (video 20) and combined it with the sound of the complete piano under restoration (video 17).

      First the marbles, then the hammer. Points to note:

      1) I applied a little bass-cut in the second clip (complete piano being hammered) because the body makes the sound richer (obviously) and the play-park piano is just sound board, strings and iron frame.

      2) The marble clip is recorded outside in the open, so definitely no room wall reflections

      3) Despite 1 and 2, the basic quality of the sustained resonance is remarkably similar. They decay at about the same rate with (all things considered) the same sort of tone. If you hadn't seen the videos and just heard the sound (listen to audio clip) you'd be sure to guess that bothw ere some sort of stringed instrument. This must mean that the fundamental sonic character of the piano is not from the rigid, massive case but from the lighter parts: the strings, sound board and perhaps to a lesser degree, the cast iron frame. The volume or loudness of sound is something related to trapping it and amplifying in inside the wooden case. We intuitively know this. All wooden instruments are crafted from very thin wood, moulded and shaped for sonic reasons. We also know that a thin-wall speaker cabinet (like the Harbeths) is easier to tune and damp than a rigid one and during design the sound can be steered from bright and resonant to sweet and damped.


      Loading the player ...
      Alan A. Shaw
      Designer, owner
      Harbeth Audio UK

      Comment


      • #63
        Restringing a Yamaha

        Originally posted by A.S. View Post
        ,

        Obviously, the nay-sayers would believe all this to be trickery.
        They may say the same thing here at 6:57.

        ST

        Comment


        • #64
          Another obvious fake here?

          Or maybe video 17 could even be real? Of course it is. Hope the nay-sayers are ashamed of themselves.

          Comment


          • #65
            A sad end on the beach

            Here is another example of the structural resonance of the piano, provided by a member. Sadly, it marks the end of the instrument which can happen for a number of reasons. Woodworm, distortion of the iron frame, cracks in the all-critical sound board. This is on the beach, so again no room reflections.

            Hopefuly everyone is now convinced, after a huge and needless additional effort, that what Brian Taylor has filmed on video 17 is completely genuine and very beautiful sound of an entire piano structure in glorious resonance. Blindingly obvious to anyone who turns off the hifi and actully goes out listening to live music in the real world. Surely only such a person is qualified to preach to others about 'high fidelity' and whether this or that equipment, recording, speaker, room is more natural than another.
            Alan A. Shaw
            Designer, owner
            Harbeth Audio UK

            Comment


            • #66
              The lunatic fringe and RADIAL

              Originally posted by A.S. View Post
              I have been advised by that there is an opinion amongst some viewers (who do not have the balls to step forward and say so here) that the claim that the decay sound of the Steinway in video 17 is somehow manipulated or faked by me or the author of the video.
              I have no idea who these viewers are but the very thought that you would fake something like this is utterly mad.

              Not wanting to appear sycophantic, I and maybe also others don't perhaps express appreciation as much as we should for all the time and effort poured into what is almost a free course on acoustics and speaker design. Educational, informative, interesting and very much appreciated. Thank you.

              The thread has moved into the direction of a focus on the critical importance of cone material, and how RADIAL is different from anything else on the market. There's also been an introduction of the idea that the real progress since the 1970s has been in terms of cone material advances (especially RADIAL, of course).

              That raises for me this question. It seems to me that the Harbeth recipe has, broadly speaking, two key ingredients: (1) BBC design principles - e.g. damped thin-walled cabinets, and (2) RADIAL drivers. If one were to take a RADIAL driver and mount it in a "standard" type of speaker cabinet - thickwalled, mitred, glued, or even braced or metallic and designed to be as rigid as possible - how would the combination sound? I realize that, unless Harbeth were ever to choose the route of licencing RADIAL, we are not likely ever to know. But from a purely scientific, non-commercial perspective, wouldn't this be the ideal way to isolate and separate the two variables, in order to get a better handle on what each does in fact contribute to the end result?

              Comment


              • #67
                Thin-wall etc.

                Originally posted by EricW View Post
                ...

                That raises for me this question. It seems to me that the Harbeth recipe has, broadly speaking, two key ingredients: (1) BBC design principles - e.g. damped thin-walled cabinets, and (2) RADIAL drivers. If one were to take a RADIAL driver and mount it in a "standard" type of speaker cabinet - thickwalled, mitred, glued, or even braced or metallic and designed to be as rigid as possible - how would the combination sound? ..
                If you really want to separate RADIAL from the thin walled cabinet then wouldn’t it be much simpler just to use the RADIAL without any cabinets? I thought question 14 of Harbeth’s FAQ explained very well about the role of a cabinet and the reasons for choosing the more expensive thin- walled cabinets that are being used by Harbeth. But it was an interesting question that would have crossed the designer's mind during the development stage, wouldn't it?

                ST

                Comment


                • #68
                  Thin wall predates RADIAL

                  It seem to me Eric was curious how a RADIAL driver sound on a "non thin wall BBC cabinet" instead of how it sound without a cabinet. If I am not wrong the thin wall concept is used before RADIAL.
                  "Bath with Music"

                  Comment


                  • #69
                    Acoustic guitar

                    I am an acoustic guitarist and this gives me a good idea of the timbral qualities of 'live' music!

                    Comment


                    • #70
                      The reality of (a wall of) live sound

                      So, last evening we went to the Papp Laszlo Sport Arena here in Budapest to hear Lorraina McKennitt and here band play (set up like a concert bowl, with the stage being at "centre ice" facing the long side of the arena, black curtains blocking off the other side).

                      One would think that the acoustics would be horrible, but to our amazement, the music and voices sounded very clear. I can say that at no time could I pick out any particular instrument in its location on stage, as the mixing was such that all instruments came from the wall of sound...even when an instrument was soloing. So, it proves once again, when amplified, a live show usually will just be a wall of sound, rather than placing the player in a particular "spot" in space. What we could notice was when an instrument was louder than the others, but again, this was due to mixing and not some acoustic trick of the venue.

                      The "illusion" of hearing an insturment in its "specific spot on stage" is really a manipulation of the engineer, rather than some magically transmorgifiration of the sound by the audiophile system...the crazed arguments of cables/tubes/marble/steel/unobtanium constructed support making the sound do things is unsupported nonsense...

                      Conclusion, go to live shows, listen occassionally to where the sound is coming from, acknowldge the obvious, then just sit back and enjoy.

                      Imagine how much show tickets would cost if each performer insisted on their speaker and microphone cables costing $1000/m to get that "perfect" sound...

                      cheers

                      George

                      Comment


                      • #71
                        The impressive sonic reality of the piano

                        Rarely post on here, but would like to offer some opinion.

                        I am not an audio engineer, a scientist, a salesman, an audiophile (I still don't know what that actually means). I'm a musician, keyboards mostly but I've messed around with nearly all of the instruments you would see in an orchestra. Never got my hands on a double bassoon mind. I've also tuned Keyboards from Harpsichords to Rhodes.

                        I guarantee that anyone who claimed that 'video 17' was intentionally manipulated has not opened the lid, played a piano, or slammed the lid of the piano in a fit of pique! Either that or they are joking. Next time you're in a music store, go up to a piano lift the lid, and gently run your fingers over the strings, flick your finger on the bracing, then play a note on the keyboard. You have achieved sound from a piano in four different ways, with 4 different results. The Piano is a severely manipulated, severely dynamic harp after all.

                        Below is chap who dissects an upright (not grand) piano, same effects exist fundamentally. You will see the full insides of a piano being removed - how piano keys are struck, YOU can see how the sustain pedal would manipulates the sound/tone etc when the hammer of the key hits the TAUT string. I hear the TAUT strings vibrating, echoing, rumbling when indirectly knocks the exposed piano.

                        If you're interested in how it's all made up, this is a very interesting section, grab a sandwich!

                        Piano dissection/disassembly/workings. 1906 Ludwig & co.

                        It's brutal really, but informative.

                        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baau5YYiIXk

                        What is the oldest stringed instrument keyboard we know of? It's the Clavichord! Below clips show a progression from Clavichord to Harpsichord to the modern PianoForte or Piano.

                        Lots of different tones, vibrations and manipulations (some you may not exepct) performed right here!

                        Very interesting:

                        Bravo to the moustache'd demonstrator!

                        Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uCCw_hmILA
                        Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9IaE2i-DmA

                        More dynamic, more manipulation, more excitement! Wow, sounds like a lot of instruments, very clever!

                        A very, big deal.

                        Pianoforte, which means LoudSoft in Italian.

                        The Italians had most musical descriptions (be it the pace of the music being played by voice/instrument eg Adagio, the volume of the music being played by voice/instrument eg Forte, or even the names of the instruments being developed) sewn up by then.

                        From Wikipedia, but this is a decent bullet point explanation showing the progression for a stringed keyboard to combine expression of control, volume and sustain.

                        "While the clavichord allowed expressive control of volume and sustain, it was too quiet for large performances. The harpsichord produced a sufficiently loud sound, but had little expressive control over each note. The piano was likely formed as an attempt to combine loudness with control, avoiding the trade-offs of available instruments."

                        Comment


                        • #72
                          Beautiful recorded acoustic

                          Originally posted by royals1871 View Post
                          ... Bravo to the moustache'd demonstrator!

                          Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uCCw_hmILA
                          Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9IaE2i-DmA...
                          I agree, two absorbing videos. You've got me interested in pianos again!

                          Did you notice the fabulous acoustics of the hall in which the video was recorded? I calculate the reverberation as about one second (inspired guesstimate). It's the cleanness of the decay after his voice which is so impressively even in tonality. I made a short excerpt from the video here.

                          Loading the player ...

                          When the recording engineer sets just the optimal amount of reverb for the piece, and the reverberation is sonically characterless, it brightness and loudness to instrumental tone: it brings out the 'flavour' and sparkle which is what holds the listener's attention. In our home listening environments we too need to aim for characterless reverberation. But no reverberation at all - like listening in an anechoic chamber - kills the life in music as we expect it to sound.

                          Accurately replaying this reverberation 'air' on a loudspeaker is one of the most difficult - perhaps the most difficult - aspects of the entire design. Contrast what you can hear in the reverb on a conventional speaker with a polypropylene cone with what you can hear on a Harbeth RADIAL cone. The reason I developed RADIAL was precisely to reproduce that microtonal decay, which polypropylene just cannot do accurately due to its molecular structure.
                          Alan A. Shaw
                          Designer, owner
                          Harbeth Audio UK

                          Comment


                          • #73
                            Astonishing beats and tones in the piano

                            The grand piano is the most incredibly wonderful machine. It is hard to even begin to describe the subtlety of the construction and the exceedingly well balanced forces harnessed for our pleasure. The taut strings exert a pull of some 60 tonnes and would kill if the iron frame failed and the instrument imploded. No other instrument of the orchestra harnesses pure energy in such a way. The details of the engineering leave one speechless.

                            On other clips here on HUG I've mentioned the importance of a quality audio system trying to regenerate the 'air' around an instrument, the sense that it is placed in an acoustic space and to give the listener a sense of how large that space is. Is it a small church or a cavernous international concert hall with beautiful, well controlled but lively acoustics. I know that I'm listening to a piano - that's taken for granted - what I really want to hear is how that instrument interacts with the hall around it. To be honest, I'm often more interested in that interplay, especially between hall and piano, than the music itself: it's that important to me. My deveopment of the Harbeth RADIAL™ cone is a direct result of wanting to release more of the masked sound of the hall which we concert goers appreciate when the pianists fingers leave the keyboard and the sound decays into silence - perhaps over several seconds. Of course, if the recording was made in a studio with the microphone jammed under the lid - the way much jazz is recorded - there will be no ambience; we can't create ambience out of nothing - all we can do is release it from a recording that already contains it.

                            I've commented before that there is a certain 'sourness' of tone which I find very attractive from the piano. Well, I've just discovered a video which perfectly and accurately describes what I hear live, and what I want to hear from a well recorded piano. It is, in fact, nothing more (! - the engineering challenges must be horrendous) than extremely subtle beat frequencies of strings in motion. I hear them, and I really like them; they define the concert grand piano, especially the Steinway D. What I didn't appreciate until I watched this video is that the beat products are not the result of played strings, but open, undamped strings that have not been played (hit).

                            This really is astonishing. I hope you enjoy and appreciate the significance of this engineering miracle. The key point is that we hear cyclic microtones not from the played strings, but from the unplayed string. The 'sourness' I describe is illustrated as the 3 or 7 times a second beats. Reproducing these beats and hearing them clearly when the fingers lift away is damned difficult for a loudspeaker. Speakers don't 'do' subtlety very convincingly.

                            Video here. Full screen is best.

                            Now example recordings that illustrated the subtleties of tone which are really brought out when you let the piano breath into a big open space .... (this is the primary reason I became a speaker designer, to get hi-fi speaker sound as close as possible to the real Steinway which I adore)

                            Hop over to here...
                            Alan A. Shaw
                            Designer, owner
                            Harbeth Audio UK

                            Comment


                            • #74
                              Piano videos

                              Well thanks Alan, for causing me to use the best part of an entire morning looking at videos of piano technicalities ;)

                              Two I found of particular interest:

                              This one shot at a lecture about the challenge of equal temperament and changing approaches to it over the past four hundred years. Unfortunately, there is quite a lot of audible analogue flutter which disguises some of the more subtle examples, but an interesting video nonetheless.

                              This video shows a top class piano tuner at work. To call the guy merely a 'tuner' is doing him down as you will see. Piano maintenance at the highest level involves a lot of work on the mechanism and this film demonstrates some of the repairs done as part of the piano technicians routine.

                              Comment


                              • #75
                                Hall acoustics - all important

                                Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                                I agree, two absorbing videos. You've got me interested in pianos again!

                                Did you notice the fabulous acoustics of the hall in which the video was recorded? I calculate the reverberation as about one second (inspired guesstimate). It's the cleanness of the decay after his voice which is so impressively even in tonality. I made a short excerpt from the video here.

                                Loading the player ...

                                When the recording engineer sets just the optimal amount of reverb for the piece, and the reverberation is sonically characterless, it brightness and loudness to instrumental tone: it brings out the 'flavour' and sparkle which is what holds the listener's attention. In our home listening environments we too need to aim for characterless reverberation. But no reverberation at all - like listening in an anechoic chamber - kills the life in music as we expect it to sound.

                                Accurately replaying this reverberation 'air' on a loudspeaker is one of the most difficult - perhaps the most difficult - aspects of the entire design. Contrast what you can hear in the reverb on a conventional speaker with a polypropylene cone with what you can hear on a Harbeth RADIAL cone. The reason I developed RADIAL was precisely to reproduce that microtonal decay, which polypropylene just cannot do accurately due to its molecular structure.
                                Yes, I did, fabulous acoustics indeed. An attacking acoustic.

                                Acoustics in halls such as these can break many a performance, lumpen and leaden. The Royal Festival Hall has an awful reputation with their acoustics. I haven't met anyone who enjoys performing or listening in that environment.

                                Acoustics in performance halls should be an accomplice to the performer, if you can control it through your performance to me that is a good acoustic, if you can't it is a bad acoustic.

                                Bit black and white, but...

                                Comment

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