SonicFlare Answers: The Pain!

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by Josh Ray on February 06 '06


Dear Josh:

My daughter says her mini stereo sounds better than mine! Maybe she's a tough case.

Actually, I was thinking what if hi-end gears (especially, budget oriented ones) incorporated some kind of equalization. You know, the ones you can choose different settings like "rock", "concert hall", "live house", etc.?

Now, the hi-enders gonna really kick my butt!


We feel your pain! As for EQ on high-end gear, why not? Let me know when the Gaincard has a "rave club" setting. Now we're talking about generational convergence!


Howdy, Yoshi! Incorporate some kind of equalization? The end users are already doing that. Just that the equalizers aren't called equalizers and they're not using terms like "rock," "concert hall," "live house," etc. to describe them. But it's really just a matter of semnatics. These various equalizers are more commonly referred to as simply... "cables." ;) se
God, I almost shot coffee out of my nose!
Almost? *sigh* I'm losing my touch. Not to mention the ten dollar bet I made with Yoshi. Ok, how 'bout this one? Two audiophiles walk into a bar... se
Yoshi, I've heard your system with Tool (which you graciously played for me) in Montreal and it made the hairs on the back of my neck and legs stand up. That's a lot of hair (on my legs)! The new White Stripes on vinyl should make a convert of any of these kids. Ian
Ian makes a good point which, put another way is "Play it and they will come." We can lament that much of popular music is compressed to hell and back and to hell again but sitting around lamenting gets us nowhere. Take a page from a popular Nike ad campaign and "Just play it." And to get back on a more serious note regarding Yoshi's comments about his daughter saying her mini stereo sounds better to her tha Yoshi's rig, I'm reminded of my teenage years. Back then it was standard procedure for me to crank up the bass and treble controls full tilt. BOOM! SIZZLE! BOOM! SIZZLE! BOOM! SIZZLE! You get the picture. Then I encountered my first "audiopihle" who told me of the evils of tone controls. Said I should either defeat them if I could or if not at least center them so that they weren't applying any boost or cut. So I did. My first reaction was "YEEEECCCCCHHHH!" It sounded like someone had placed a couple of soggy mattresses over my speakers. The music sounded dead. Lifeless. Suffocating. I could have simply said "Screw this!" and gone back to enjoying my boom and sizzle. But I didn't. I left the tone controls centered. It may sound like crap to me but hey, I'm doing the "right" thing here. But then over time (about a week) a strange thing happened. The soggy mattresses began to disappear. The music sounded more natural and full of life. Hey! Those cymbals actually sound like they're made out of metal instead of just bursts of noise! Just for grins I went and cranked up the bass and treble to where I used to listen. A few moments later I found myself running toward the bathroom looking for something to soak up the blood oozing from my ears. The brain is great at pattern recognition and when it's presented with a particular pattern for some amount of time it begins to "settle in." Change the pattern after this settling in and the brain gets rather chaotic until it settles in again. So I'm wondering if Yoshi's daughter were allowed to acclimate to his system for a period of time, without listening to her mini stereo, what she would think about it and what her reaction would be going back to her mini stereo after a week or two. Could be interesting. se
There might be more than ears at work in Yoshi's daughters opinions!
Part of the reson that people prefer boomboxes and bass/treble boost over accurate reproduction is that these distorted sources capture some of the feel of being at a live (amplifed) concert or in a nightclub. Yes, that is due to distortion both in the boombox playing the recording and the PA at the concert. Some audiophiles need to hear the hall to feel transported to the concert venue. Is that a more noble goal than wanting to feel the physical effects of high volume and distortion if those are a feature of that particular concert? At least those boomboxes can't usually gernerate more than 80-85 dB so there's less chance of hearing damage. Jeremy
I have experienced the same effect when switching from a eq'd system that I used to constantly play with levels to a Denon (not high end but, still improvement) with defeatable tone controls.
As a current McIntosh user, I have tone controls. And I love them. Perfect for that remastered Garcia disc from '72 that is tipped up quite a bit. Nevertheless, a very important point was made above, and that is one of acclimatization. I'd like to see more talk of this in the audio world because it's a very real phenomenon that deserves serious attention, and gets very little. If people take acclimatization into account, they can make their audiophile lives so much more enjoyable. It's all what you're used to. I can't tell you how many times I've been turned off by a piece of gear I've put in, and then after getting used to it, really liked it. Some may say this is "burn-in", and while I believe in burn-in, I think so much more of how we respond to a system or a piece of gear has to do with acclimatizing to it.