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Friday, June 17, 2011

Science and audio - the listening enigma...


A mathematician is an happy individual: his early morning ideas are - usually - successfully showed on a blackboard, later and self-standing, one-way only, no shades or greys scale: black or white, right or wrong, period.

Music and audio, like medicine, are tentative, trial & error sciences, I'd dare saying "arts"... body complexity and fractal nature is, like, music (and related audio), an highly variable, elusive, extremely broad and magmatic matter and, no regrets, like a new medicine has pros & cons which have to be - mandatorily - tried on guinea-pigs-like men and women for results... well, we all WELL know about our audio habits;-)

Audio... incredibly "light", unimportant matter, for someone, IS - also incredibly - the very same as above... as unscientific and subjective as so technically and scientific in approach and design and building...

... so, enter the "Listening Enigma": these days, I'm experiencing - one more time or "repetita juvant" - that a famous or, expensive and/or superbly (bench) measuring piece of gear is able, subjectively, at listening, to be vastly outperformed by a lesser, cheaper, worst measuring, clanky gear.

I recently stopped using my trusty old Studer A-730 disk-player with its old, built-in Philips TDA-1541 "Double Crown" DAC and I'm using some loaned coaxial/digital outputs-fitted machines with Actinote MN-83 75 ohm cable linked to TacT 2.2 XP-AAA's DAC...

I didn't tried a C.E.C. TL0X, yet... or a 47Lab "Pi-tracer"... BUT, I tried for an afternoon a (quite) expensive Lyngdorf's, then swapped to an Arcam CD-73 "Diva" (Wolfson 9740 24 bit DAC bypassed, of course...) and a (Chinese) "Just Quality", a rubbish looking, mechanically noisy little, unassuming multi-standard - DVD/CD-R/CD-RW reading - machine.

Sure Lyngdorf's (now discontinued) disk-player is the best CD-spinning machine, silent, almost alien... (too much?) perfect!

Its sound is superbly detailed, BUT also uninvolving - i.e. in my case I wished to skip track after track after track, unrelaxed, sort-of "annoyed" by the full-length piece.... strange but true.

The CD-73 is an apparently cheap machine, but it's extremely transparent and less "mechanic-sounding" than Lyngdorf.

I kept it sounding for about one week, then, lacking the A-730 a digital output, as I wished for more "new" emotions... oh, oh... had handy a dusty, unused in months little gizmo, the a.m. "Just Quality" 20 euros (yes, unshamedly...) worth machine.

... and gave it a try...

With its digital-out, all nickel (no bad sounding gold plating...;-)) RCAs, the noisy disk-drawer and disk spinning... I don't know the exact reason, if any... the humble, embarassingly cheap "Just Quality" has the most beautiful, musically satisfying overall sound... low end, mids, highs, ambient and air among instruments, imaging and instruments location in soundstage, both depth and wide.

Maybe the highest torque DVD-compliant motor could explain this performance... I REALLY don't know... yet it's unbelievable, almost ill-fated, considering the price-tag!

... so, I'm asking myself... like in medicine, sometimes an humble, unassuming plant from Amazonia or Tibet (i.e. - the Rauwolfia used to tame blood-pressure disease) has more "healing power" than Glaxo/Smith-Kline's full R & D laboratories, I'm not as embarassed and unconfortable in sharing with you my above mentioned findings...

Ears and listening rule, folks... and how I like it!

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