How to discriminate a good sound from a bad sound?
What judgment could the common man give by observing a painting by Picasso
regarding the judgment that would make a critic of the history of art?
Of course painting and music reproduction are two very different things and
above all in the audio field we have the "advantage" of being universally
agreeing on one point: a sound reproduced faithfully must resemble its original
form as much as possible.
However, I am convinced that, just like what happens for the critical evaluation
of a painting, even one's instinct to listen must be educated. Just as life
experience teaches how to make the right choices, even the auditory instinct can
learn with experience but it must be an experience of listening and not reading
magazines or chatter from the forum. Basically, there are two aspects that each
of us can cultivate to appropriately evaluate a chain of reproduction: the
sensitivity and the experience of listening live groups unplugged (ie not
amplified). In reality, however, there is a further prejudicial aspect that does
not concern the ear: everything that has to do with the blazon of the brand or
with the captivating aesthetics has nothing to do with the sound but
unfortunately determines a " predisposition "(which in psychology is called"
conditioning ") sometimes more decisive than any listening to establish their
own preferences. In this section, however, we will disregard this psychological
aspect to examine only and exclusively how it is possible to evaluate it audibly.
A first aspect on which we need to agree when it comes to natural reproduction
is to never refer to amplified live concerts. When we speak of faithfully
replicating an original we always talk about non-amplified instruments.
Obviously if a Hammond organ needs its amplification like a Fender guitar it is
obvious that these proprietary amplifications will be an integral part of the
sound of those particular instruments.
Of the original instrumental naturalness, how much
is on our records? Can there be objective methods of judgment? Let's reason
together: for obvious reasons we can not know neither the timbre nor the
dynamics nor the amount of information engraved on our "X" disk, for which it
would seem that only the subjective aspect of listening should have relevance,
but it is not so. Nobody knows exactly what actually ends up on a record, not
even the sound engineer who did it. What he knows is in fact reproduction
through a stereo monitoring system that is in turn far from perfect and
therefore offers its own interpretation of what is engraved, as happens with our
But there is a system that, almost unconsciously, we apply all (or almost) to
discriminate if a product is of quality: anyone can verify in a relative way, ie
passing from the system "A" to the system "B" if there has been a loss or an
increase in information (understood as instruments or environmental echoes that
"get lost" on the street or not), these repeated comparisons "n" times with
different systems can give us an indication NOT of what is the actual amount of
information recorded on the disk (which we will never know) but of the system
able to extrapolate the largest number of them!
For those who object that even the colorations are sounds but "added" I can
answer that the colorations are highlighted ALWAYS masking the background music
and then always making a loss of information: if we imagine observing a
landscape through a certain number of glasses (each of which represents a link
in the chain), we will observe this landscape as it is only on condition that
EVERYONE of these glasses is perfectly transparent, not deformed or colored. It
is enough even just a deformed glass in the middle of other transparent to
irremediably compromise the result.
It is therefore very useful to always try the equipment on your system (of which
you should know the merits and defects) to judge sufficiently objective if the
device is right for us or not. Such listening in the domestic tranquility teach
however to understand some things such as that the dynamic does not coexist with
the aggressiveness (term used to identify those sounds that cause a real
annoyance to listening) and the colorations but is proportional to the harmonic
richness real, as well as the depth, the greatness of the recreated image and
the proper timbre of the instruments.
We get to understand that the more we increase the real transparency of a
system, the more we restore intact the harmonic details that contribute to
recreate a large space and a minor annoyance to listening to recreating the
illusion of real listening.
Generally it is easier to find a good result from low power amplifiers (less
than 50 Watt) because from experience the problem that determines the sound of
the amplifiers is present directly proportional to the power. So when you read
that certain "bests" in solid state of high power have a high dynamics, almost
always for correctness we can replace the term "dynamic" with the term "
aggressiveness". An advice: do not expect results that are relevant only to
expensive things, there is a lot of smoke sold around for expensive roast while
it happens that there are surprises from cheaper products. Listen to everything
from 100 euros to 100,000 euros with the same yardstick and without being
influenced by high-sounding names, this is my motto.