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Kvalsvoll

Bulding the Room2 listening room

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Kvalsvoll    75

I often listen to music from the old days, and I still rediscover albums I once enjoyed, decades ago.

Though I have no exact memory of the sound back then, I do realize it sounds very different on the new systems. But is it better, is it a better experience?

The difference is so huge, that the exact memory of the acoustic event is not needed. Dynamics is far better, bass is far better, soundstage and clarity and insight into the recording is in a different league.

How can I know? Because I can hear details and sounds that i did not know was there, differences between productions, realism.

But still, I also remember certain aspects of the sound from back then, that may actually have been better. The sound was warmer, had more body and fullness in the lower midrange, vocal was softer. It certainly would be interesting to be able to compare, to be able to hear if this is real, or just something that I have created in my own imagination.

I have a few friends which have heard both - the old, and now the new sound. They tend to conclude that the new sound is so much better, it is like a different game. And they are not just being polite, I know them too well, they would tell me right away if what they hear does not please. The old systems also did not get quite the same type of comments and interest, so there is definitely something going on.

The difference is speakers and acoustics. Playback and electronics have improved, but that part was quite good, even though audible differences surely exist between the digital computer playback compared to the old vinyl rig. This is also possible to compare directly, as I have made vinyl rips using the exact same rig, so the old vinyl can be played, or compared to a digital version - the vinyl sounds great, but this is not where the new sound comes from, it sounds quite similar.

It all ends up as differences in decay and reflection patterns - the new sound has much faster decay with a very dead initial gap, more later reflections that create life. This is of course not magic, it is a result of the radiation pattern of the speakers and room acoustics. 

A smoother sound is the result of more early reflections. Can this be desired, in some situations? It smooths things out, masks a little bit, so the brain can fill in what is missing, and create something that was never there on the recording.

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Kvalsvoll    75

Good, I assume it works, then. If you don't have Tidal, you can still see the tracks, and find the music elsewhere.

I will create more playlists, with more narrow selections for the experts. A sub-bass list should be suitable for data-bass audience.

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Kvalsvoll    75

Just wanted to mention a side-effect of having a true full-range system, something the typical data-bass reader can relate to;

You sit down in the carefully located listening chair, put on some quite ordinary music - jazz with vocal, acoustic instruments, perhaps some classical with a small string quartet ensemble.

Sounds nice, the ears warm up a little, and you increase the volume slightly, usually end up keeping it at 0dB.

Then - suddenly, out of nowhere, this string quartet makes the whole world kind of shift as a very powerful pulse of ulf noise makes your heart stop. You don't really hear it, you feel the air blast and the movement . Like in a well-done action movie - except that in the movie, it is expected, appropriate and part of what makes the experience better - and you are don't get scared.

It is obvious that not only movie production studios lack low frequency reproduction capability, music studios have the same limitations, and they don't need it either for the string quartet. Except when someone stomps the floor, or touches the microphone housing, and a microphone picks up this and creates an earthquake on the sound track. If the recording is processed full-range, and no one checks for sub-20hz noise using a spectrum analyzer, this will go unnoticed. Until I play it on my system. At 0dB.

Lots of recordings have ulf noise that is audible, and some have these occasional potential heart-attack inducing monster transients.

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Kvalsvoll    75

New functionality in REW - clarity plot.

Example from current system in Room2 - F2 main speakers + 2x V80 and 2x V6030 bass system.

22366838_10155804092379324_3972776898394

 

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SME    211
On 9/1/2017 at 5:58 PM, Kvalsvoll said:

Level is pushed quite hard on this album, and on some tracks it clips, very easy to hear when you have a system with high resolution. I really can not know whether this was intentional, he uses different distortions and added noise as part of the artistic impression. On Soundtrack To A Vacant Life he uses distortions, noise and bandwidth limitation on some tracks, to create a special sound.

I found the pumping quite annoying on one of the tracks, I believe this is intentional, it is supposed to sound like that. We can like it or not.

I don't find the sound on this album to be harsh, part from the obvious clipping it sounds more like smooth and soft. Many newer releases actually can sound a bit harsh, at least noticeable when switching between albums in a session. This can be because they wanted this sound, or simply a result of too much limiter, which will cause distortion. Compare say Yello - Stay to any typical jazz with vocal recording, Stay sounds more harsh, distorted, not smooth.

I often find it quite easy to listen "through" obvious faults in a recording, because they stand out as separate sound not part of the music itself. Recordings and productions have faults, and I have found it is easier to ignore faults in a system that reveals everything with clarity, as opposed to a system that tries to mask and cover up.

This album is not very loud compared to other things out there, master at 0dB works fine, actually required to get the full effect of the bass.

Bandcamp delivers flac lossless, so that's a non-issue.

I revisited this album today, after my latest system configuration using FIR filters and offering significantly smoother highs and upper mids than before.  This album is definitely a lot more listen-able (at high level) than it was before, but the qualities that made it sound harsh to me are still present.  It has a distinct upper-mid/high push, and many if not most HF transients are clipped.  The pumping with low frequencies seems even more noticeable now.  All of these are among the usual tools (or side-effects of those tools) used by mastering engineers to achieve a louder sound while preserving a subjective sense of dynamics.

I listened to most of it at "-6" ("-7" really, if I were calibrated precisely with pink noise to 85 dBC), and at that level, plenty of content still exceeded my comfort threshold.  I can't imagine listening at "0" except for maybe single songs on a one-off basis.  At "-6", some stuff was uncomfortable.  The cymbal-like sound in "Fog", while relatively clean (for the album), was more upper mid than I wanted to deal with for the full length of the song, so I turned it down.  Likewise, the trumpet in the last song is just plain harsh, even at modest volume.  If you're listening to this at "0", then you must either have a tilted system response or a much higher tolerance for loudness than I do.

In terms of overall loudness, I perceive this album to be no less loud than the majority of content these days.  I don't know if it's meaningful to ask whether or not the heavy pumping with the bass was intentional.  I am fairly certain however that the bass impact in this track would not have been possible without either the pumping or a substantial drop in loudness.  The bass hits by themselves likely used every bit of headroom on the track.

For comparison, I also pulled up "Yello - Stay" right afterwards.  The vocal on that track is definitely heavily distorted, and while I thought it sounded "bad", it did not induce discomfort to my ear.  I would say that the vocal distortion intentional or else it was a terrible recording (or both).  The rest of the sound was quite smooth and, in some ways, a tad less loud than the Flashbulb album.  The transients were not clipped as aggressively if they were clipped at all.  So other than the vocal, I did not find it to be an especially harsh track.  The issue (if there is one) is in the vocal recording or processing.  By comparison, "Piety" has harshness in the mix/master.  "Piety", of course, had no shortage of highly distorted samples as well, but these were almost certainly made to sound that way on purpose.

With that said, it's OK if we disagree on these things.  Every system sounds a bit different, and I know this probably better than most, having heard my own system with easily hundreds of different EQ configurations.  What one hears is a consequence of the source material and the system linear (and to some extent non-linear) response combined.  Flaws in the reproduction system can either enhance or suppress flaws in the source material.  Though, I'd also add that flaws are more likely to enhance one another than suppress one another.  Clipping is perhaps among the most egregious flaws because it introduces a broad spectrum of high frequency energy, which tends to emphasize every HF linear response flaw in the downstream system and often cascades to cause more clipping.  It's something audio engineers should go out of their way to avoid because its' effects on the sound are so unpredictable from one system to the next and are typically worse on less capable systems.

Anyway, I do like the powerful and extended bass on "Piety" and wish more content was done this way, albeit with more headroom and less pumping.  Musically speaking, it's not quite a style I prefer, but I do listen to a lot of stuff that's similar.  It's pretty rare to hear this kind of music with any extension beyond 30 Hz or so, and it really does make a big difference, even at more modest levels, IMO.

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Kvalsvoll    75

@SME - what music do you like, perhaps you have some examples from your own collection?

I listened to the tracks you describe, to try to get a better understanding of what you mean. First, in the Moderate Cinema, then in Room2. Paying attention to the properties you describe. What I do notice is that the highs has a characteristic sound - the tonality is colored. like the frequency response at higher freqs has large deviations, and the level is a little loud. I listened to several Flashbulb albums, and find that they all have this sound to them, more or less.

I certainly do not think you experience this because your system has some fault, it is likely more neutral than any "high-end" system tuned by matching cables. Measurements don't tell the whole story, they are difficult to interpret an so on it goes, but a mic and rew is actually the most powerful tool we have, and used properly it results in more neutral sound, and usually better sound. And yes - the 2 systems here sound different, I would say very different - even though a simple frequency response chart shows quite similar curves.

I did not find the trumpet to be harsh or strange. Now I listened at -30dB - it is very late, but tonal character tends to be quite similar regardless of volume, it just gets louder when you turn it up. And eventually it gets too loud - does not matter much how clean it sounds, when the ears overload.

Some other Flashbulb albums (www.bandcamp.com if they are not on tidal):

Reunion: Dynamic and powerful sound. Try "God Is Speaking".

Kirlian Selections: Quite similar in sound, but perhaps more diverse and melodic. Try "Kirlian Selections III" - guitar quite close, violin to the left, deeper and further away.

Soundtrack to a vacant life: Rougher, less refined sound, note full frequency range. Try "Forbidden tracks".

But for judging sound quality, this may not be the best choice of music, especially if you do not know the music from before. Something like Vanessa Fernandez - Use Me has better overall sound quality, and there are less strange sounds and instruments that we really can not know how is supposed to sound. Flashbulb is because I like the music, and also the characteristic sound - it is not supposed to sound like Vanessa Fernandez..

Did you see the Tidal playlists I published? Perhaps I could post the list in text format, so that it is possible to see without using Tidal.

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Kvalsvoll    75

Tidal playlist "The Demo Tracks Part 1":

 

Description

Assorted demo tracks, put together from the collection built while listening to Tidal in the Kvålsvoll Design Room2. This is the "popular" list - music which is easy to like. Some of these tracks are often played in showrooms and exhibitions. This is not a selection of productions with exceptional technical qualities, rather examples of diversity and variation both musically and in sound style. Some have obvious flaws - if your sound system is good, it will still present the music.

 

Tracks on playlist

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Kvalsvoll    75

NEW playlist:

The Demo Tracks - Advanced:

Moving into more advanced territory, with music that requires more both from you as a listener and your sound system.

https://tidal.com/playlist/4337c9a0-0405-48db-94ac-7dfd5fe6e46c

 

# Title Artist Album   Time  
1 Poppkorn Jøkleba Jøkleba! / Nu Jøk?   3:20  
2 Shopenhauer Jøkleba Jøkleba! / Nu Jøk?   3:47  
3 All Through the Night Emancipator Safe In the Steep Cliffs   4:33  
4 Rattlesnakes Emancipator Safe In the Steep Cliffs   4:10  
5 Kleine Dreigroschenmusik (Arr. for Chamber Ensemble) - VII. Cannon Song: Charleston-Tempo Chicago Pro Musica Medinah Sessions   2:20  
6 Shamanimal (Live at Satellit Café) Hadouk Trio Utopies   7:10  
7 The Golden Striker The Modern Jazz Quartet No Sun In Venice   3:41  
8 Vals (En Vivo) Puente Celeste En Vivo en Cafe Vinilo   3:56  
9 Buey (En Vivo) Puente Celeste En Vivo en Cafe Vinilo   7:58  
10 Taquito Militar La Segunda Será Una Noche   3:35  
11 La Roca La Segunda Será Una Noche   5:06  
12 Ascent Lyle Mays Lyle Mays   6:59  
13 Flowmotion Vestbo Trio Flowmotion   4:19  
14 I Love Paris (Live) The Hot Sardines Live At Joe's Pub   5:17  
15 Rainfall Daniel Herskedal Slow Eastbound Train   3:37  
16 There Are Three Things You Cannot Hide Love Smoke and a Man Riding on a Camel Daniel Herskedal The Roc   5:01  
17 Pink Froid Infected Mushroom Converting Vegetarians II   7:40  
18 We the Dub Yore Salmonella Dub Dub for Straights (1993 Sessions)   3:44  
19 Dirt Bikes And Street Vendors The Flashbulb Soundtrack to a Vacant Life   1:55  
20 Swollen Trees The Flashbulb Soundtrack to a Vacant Life   2:28  
21
Rose Hierarchy The Flashbulb Nothing Is Real  

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SME    211
4 hours ago, Kvalsvoll said:

@SME - what music do you like, perhaps you have some examples from your own collection?

I listen to all sorts of stuff, and I'd be hard pressed to identify much that's really "demo-worthy".  I'm rather more inclined to demo stuff that's familiar to other people, especially if they bring their own music, and some of the few tracks I have with more significant dynamic range.

For that purpose, I like a lot of the stuff done by Chesky Records.  I think I already mentioned "Clark Terry - Live at the Village Gate",  which I find to be a very immersive and dynamic recording of a live jazz performance.  Another album I have that I routinely go to is "Ana Caram - Amazonia".  IMO, it's an all-around excellent latin jazz album, and the vocalist is superb.  There are other Chesky recordings of Ana Caram out there too, but I have heard them.  Another one, recommended by Bob Katz is "Pacquito D'Rivera - Portraits of Cuba".  The brass on that one will really test the high frequency section of your system and your ears too.  :)  All of the above are, IMO, very dynamic recordings that I typically play in the low negative single digits or even at "0" and were likely mastered 10-12 dB louder than typical loudness war stuff.  They also use relatively minimalist micing techniques and deliver a very nice sound stage, if you speakers are able to recreate it.

I also have a fair number of decent classical recordings, but I need more.  Unfortunately, most classical (as well as most big band) just doesn't have enough dynamic range to do it justice.  I've noticed a lot of more recent recordings that have moderate dynamic range (i.e., comfortable playback at "-5") but have annoying clicking artifacts from the digital limiters in use.  Some are much worse than others, but being familiar with the artifact, I find myself hearing it a lot more than I want to in things that otherwise sound fantastic like the "Star Wars: TFA" score (on the BD,; no idea how the CD sounds, but it's probably way more compressed).  Reference Recordings is a label that offers some fairly dynamic stuff including some organ music with real extension, but I find a lot of their stuff to be unrealistically hyped at the top end (cuz, it sounds more hi-res that way?) and often distorted in the livelier parts due to limiters that just don't sound as natural as good-ole-fashioned analog saturation.

Other than that, I like a wide variety of genres: classical / symphonic of various eras, jazz (especially latin jazz), folk, rock, blues, 80s (mostly wife's stuff which is a bit more alt than pop), etc.  I also love a wide variety of world music, from celtic to reggae to raga to middle eastern.  Genre-crossing fusion stuff is great.  I like certain kinds of EDM a lot, but am real picky.  IMO, there's a lot of garbage including most of the stuff that was popular back when I was young.  :P  I really like goa/psy-trance EDM though.  Once I discovered it, I kind of stopped bothering with most of the other stuff, which just sounded slow and unimaginative in comparison (IMO).  I did like some DnB stuff, but I didn't really pursue it as eagerly as I did goa/psy-trance.  I kind of got more into the culture of the latter, even though the "scene" was practically non-existent here in the states until Infected Mushroom and Shpongle and whatnot started making the rounds.  By then, I was too busy doing grown up stuff to really party more than once or twice a year, and those parties were tending toward more of a crazy dark-psy sound with even higher BPM (compared to older psy-trance which was quite fast at 145-180 BPM+) and sometimes chaotic, glitchy rhythms.  A lot of that stuff was likely from artists that never managed to publish as widespread piracy pretty much killed any potential for commercial sales.

More than anything else, I listen to electronic psy/ambient/dub stuff, mostly stuff that grew out of the goa/psy-trance EDM movement, which tends to be infused with more world music influence and is more focused on structured bass beats than pure free-form space stuff.  A lot of the music I have I collected back when this stuff was unheard of here in the states, but of course it was only a matter of time before these sounds branched into other forms like dub-step, which went on to influence pop music of today.

The vast majority of this electronic stuff is not especially dynamic, and overall sound quality is definitely variable.  On the plus side, the mixes often contain a diversity of instrumentation, both acoustic and electronic; they tend to be bass heavy or bass driven, even though extension below 30 Hz or so is pretty rare; they make ample use of phase-based panning including outside the front stage; and they use *lots of reverb*.  All of these are qualities benefit from a system capable of accurate reproduction.  I just don't tend to play most of this music at especially high levels.  Most was probably mastered at close to "-12" or "-14" like typical pop music, and most of my listening is fairly casual in which the volume is more likely at "-20" to "-30" or less.  If I'm in the mood for a more involving experience, I'll probably push things up closer to the mastered level.  There are always exceptions to these things.  A few odd tracks have impressive extension and/or slightly lower loudness including a lot of stuff from "Infected Mushroom".  The compilation album from Interchill Records "Gathering the Tribe" has 20 Hz extension and is a bit less loud than average, and I do sometimes crank things up into the minus single digits on that one.

If you find yourself liking this kind of music, try to get a copy of the BD "Shpongle - Live at Red Rocks" as it's a real gem.  (I know I've already mentioned that one.)  The album releases I have by that group are rather loud and a bit rough sounding in the highs, but that BD is super smooth and has excellent dynamics and very convincing replica of the ambience of the venue, which I happen to live near and have been to on several occasions.

5 hours ago, Kvalsvoll said:

I listened to the tracks you describe, to try to get a better understanding of what you mean. First, in the Moderate Cinema, then in Room2. Paying attention to the properties you describe. What I do notice is that the highs has a characteristic sound - the tonality is colored. like the frequency response at higher freqs has large deviations, and the level is a little loud. I listened to several Flashbulb albums, and find that they all have this sound to them, more or less.

Yes.  I noticed the album had a characteristic sound similar to other selections by the artist you posted.  Thankfully it's a lot less offensive than it was in previous iterations of my system EQ config.  At "-6", it was definitely a lot louder than I would normally listen.  For a more typical but "fully-involved" listening session, I would probably choose closer to "-12" or "-14", which I presume is where it was mastered.  And for more casual listening, I'd use a similar level to most of the rest of the music I "commonly" listen to.  At those levels, I doubt I'd have any problem with the sound, even though its slight edginess would still be noticeable, just as it is with some other albums I own and like.

5 hours ago, Kvalsvoll said:

I certainly do not think you experience this because your system has some fault, it is likely more neutral than any "high-end" system tuned by matching cables. Measurements don't tell the whole story, they are difficult to interpret an so on it goes, but a mic and rew is actually the most powerful tool we have, and used properly it results in more neutral sound, and usually better sound. And yes - the 2 systems here sound different, I would say very different - even though a simple frequency response chart shows quite similar curves.

I did not find the trumpet to be harsh or strange. Now I listened at -30dB - it is very late, but tonal character tends to be quite similar regardless of volume, it just gets louder when you turn it up. And eventually it gets too loud - does not matter much how clean it sounds, when the ears overload.

Some other Flashbulb albums (www.bandcamp.com if they are not on tidal):

Reunion: Dynamic and powerful sound. Try "God Is Speaking".

Kirlian Selections: Quite similar in sound, but perhaps more diverse and melodic. Try "Kirlian Selections III" - guitar quite close, violin to the left, deeper and further away.

Soundtrack to a vacant life: Rougher, less refined sound, note full frequency range. Try "Forbidden tracks".

But for judging sound quality, this may not be the best choice of music, especially if you do not know the music from before. Something like Vanessa Fernandez - Use Me has better overall sound quality, and there are less strange sounds and instruments that we really can not know how is supposed to sound. Flashbulb is because I like the music, and also the characteristic sound - it is not supposed to sound like Vanessa Fernandez..

Did you see the Tidal playlists I published? Perhaps I could post the list in text format, so that it is possible to see without using Tidal.

Indeed.  I am more confident in the accuracy of my system now than ever before, but significant differences will always persist, no matter how close to perfect our systems may get.  Do keep in mind that sound quality problems are a lot more forgiving when the level is lower.  On my last config, I found anything about "-13" to be pushing it a bit, so being able to push up to "-6" while keeping things mostly comfortable says a lot about how even "small refinements" can make a big difference in a system's sound quality.  I'm really surprised by how loud I can play a lot of stuff now without really experiencing discomfort.

I thought the trumpet had fairly significant distortion, which was probably done on purpose.  Though for me it just seemed way too overbearing.  Maybe my ears were just tired from the high levels they'd endured before it.  After "Piety", I played the song from "Yello" and then immediately followed that by "Metallica - One (live)" from "Through the Never" on YouTube.  The last selection I played at a full "0", and it was not especially harsh even at that level.  However, when the music stopped, I noticed temporary threshold shift (TTS) for a few minutes afterwards, which was not apparent from the previous selections.  From what I understand, TTS is a warning sign of potential damage, which suggests that sound harshness or unpleasantness does not necessarily correlate with damage.  It's possible for sound to be very clean and comfortable and yet be quite damaging if listened to for long periods of time.

Thanks for posting all the selections.  Most of that stuff I haven't heard.  Unfortunately, I don't have access to Tidal, and Bandcamp playback recently broke for me for unknown reasons.  When I did my replay, I had to rely on YouTube, for better or worse.  Even with YouTube, things are dicey these days as Firefox recently stopped playing well with Linux audio.  It's not the fault of Linux but simply programmers who don't try to understand how the system is designed.  In the case of Firefox, it's fond of opening the audio device and keeping it open, preventing other apps from using it, so I have to divert it to a fake device until I want to actually play sound with it.  I'll probably resurrect my Roku some time soon, which I had disabled because it hijacked and completely broke my HDMI chain, presumably due to buggy CEC support.  :angry:  At least it'll do YouTube, and if the phase of the moon is right, I can ChromeCast from my phone. 

Alas, I don't get why the young'ns rave about the convenience of digital streaming.  For me, it's nothing but inconvenient.  I'm much more likely to buy a DRM-free download or even an old-fashioned redbook CD than to try to stream.  Mind you, I was streaming music all the time back in the late '90s and early '00s when the protocols were open and DRM hadn't infected everything.  Now everything is locked-down and walled-off and the artists still aren't making any money, except from a few services that actually care like Bandcamp.  Hence, I'm real sad that Bandcamp broke.  I guess people on this site can relate to the fact that almost all streaming TV/video services only offer audio in stereo.  How lame is that?  They're offering us 4k (albeit at bitrates that deliver quality that's still inferior to BD) but only 2 channel audio?  Get real.

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Kvalsvoll    75

@SME, I buy all music I know I want to hear often, everything on local disks is the only way to go. In a world where companies sees shorter lifetimes, you never know when your streaming service shuts down, and all the music is gone.

Why doesn't Bandcamp work? At least you can buy and download?

Tidal requires a Win pc, and it is only a coincidence that i have one in Room2 - I bought a small, white laptop because I wanted a white one, and later realize it is not possible to get linux on it.

Chesky has good sound, I have some if it. I also see you like Infected Mushroom - though that is something quite different. 

If you have any more listening impressions, I am reading.

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