Musings from old school on High Fidelity

Old interview in Stereophile of JA interviewing G Holt.

Do you see any signs of future vitality in high-end audio?

Vitality? Don't make me laugh. Audio as a hobby is dying, largely by its own hand. As far as the real world is concerned, high-end audio lost its credibility during the 1980s, when it flatly refused to submit to the kind of basic honesty controls (double-blind testing, for example) that had legitimized every other serious scientific endeavor since Pascal. [This refusal] is a source of endless derisive amusement among rational people and of perpetual embarrassment for me, because I am associated by so many people with the mess my disciples made of spreading my gospel. For the record: I never, ever claimed that measurements don't matter. What I said (and very often, at that) was, they don't always tell the whole story. Not quite the same thing.

Remember those loudspeaker shoot-outs we used to have during our annual writer gatherings in Santa Fe? The frequent occasions when various reviewers would repeatedly choose the same loudspeaker as their favorite (or least-favorite) model? That was all the proof needed that [blind] testing does work, aside from the fact that it's (still) the only honest kind. It also suggested that simple ear training, with DBT confirmation, could have built the kind of listening confidence among talented reviewers that might have made a world of difference in the outcome of high-end audio.

Yet you achieved so much, Gordon.

I know I did, and my whole excuse for it—a love for the sound of live classical music—lost its relevance in the US within 10 years. I was done in by time, history, and the most spoiled, destructive generation of irresponsible brats the world has ever seen. (I refer, of course, to the Boomers.)

High Fidelity means REPRODUCTION with as little distorion and color as possible and a flat neutral FR within the range of human hearing that retains as much of the original source as possible. This day and age we have the ability to come close but we have chosen the path where High Fidelity means whatever subjective opinion I choose. It might be what one prefers but it isn't HiFi.
JGH earned great credit for his massive contributions over the years but his comments in this (very old) interview haven’t aged very well. High end audio has always been and always will be a tiny niche market, but if it was dying 30 years ago (or whenever this was) it sure is a funny sort of death where there’s more great turntables, speakers, amps and wire than ever before.

One thing JGH certainly was right about, and deserves much credit for, is saying measurements don’t tell the whole story. Measurements are tools. What we build with the tools, that is up to us listeners.
...One thing JGH certainly was right about, and deserves much credit for, is saying measurements don’t tell the whole story. Measurements are tools. What we build with the tools, that is up to us listeners.

A great reminder that there are three sides to most side, the other side, and somewhere in between resides the truth.
It might be what one prefers but it isn't HiFi.

I consider components based on
1) my exp
2) components reputation ie reviews, blogs , dis boards etc
3) actual pics of the guts, w/oa  pic of the guts I would not consider buying as per Kevin Deals' advice over at Upscale Audio.
4) price consideations, what can i afford in paypal debt 
Then to get units up to high fidelity, one must take out low quality parts and add in new high tech stuff, new caps, new resistors, 
Then other monir tweeks, new DIY power cords, new high tech IC's. super tubes = ie Telefunkens, Svetalan 6550s..
all these wteeks add up to going higher up Mt Everest basecamps. 
Have I attained, or ever will attain reaching the pinnacle of Mt Everest? 
What i am hearing in my modded setup, I can see glimpses of the pinnacle breaking through the clouds.. and its just awesome,,been waiting some 50 years to reach this basecamp. 
old audiophile from mid 70's here.
High Fidelity is no myth, no biased opinion, 
Some components are inherently high fidelity potential, while others, even with extensive mods,,will never get you up the mountain to glimpse the summit. 
I have another 2 years, and another ohhh $5K, I should be at a  nice basecamp where I can grasp the summit.
High Fidelity is no myth, 
Although elusive, it does exist outside of opinionated bias....,  The Real Deal is for real.

watch the snakeoil offerings along the way up,,
A great reminder that there are three sides to most side, the other side, and somewhere in between resides the truth.

Then,,,I guess you take issues with most of my post above 
I think this hooby is not all biased opinions,,,forensics is involved, a  good hunch,,a  fair listening, ,,where luck has no place.
research research research
High fidelity ain;'t gonna drop out the sky in ones setup. 
There was a time when High Fidelity could be bought without all the snake oil.When it could be bought  without going bankrupt. Buyer beware.You can be very happy with a system that will give you endless hours of enjoyment if you just listen with your ears.
High Fidelity Audio is like the air that we breath and the water that we drink, been polluted (by snake oil) that make people think audiophile are silly and crazy! sigh,....
Jadis DPL, like the 1st preamp Jadis ever designed,,just arrived its ancient, simple,, but plays,,, honestly the jadis clone LS9 pre.modded with M  silver caps,,was just fine, but had to see if i could go higher for $1350,,, put my system at a  slightly high base  camp, Then new caps, like 16, should get my system een higher up Everest. ,,,why do we  have this desire to go higher and higher,,what drives us, to reach ever new heights,,when we know our sound is just fine the way it is,,, trying something new, modding what we have,,, we have that urge to go for it, ,,,add new debt to our paypal...At times out choices went sour,, we made some slips on rocky cliffs, but we  hold on,,and look for another route. ,,,maybe we should follow paths laid out by those who are experienced,,and tahts why we post here,,,to question our choices, thereby not making simuliar mistakes other mountaineers made.
Til at last, in our old age, when our hearing is at a loss, we have acheived The Goal,,and hopefully not too late in life where we can sit back and enjoy what we constructed,,w/o any thoughts of tweeking and modifying. 
 at times i find more attention goes into how my system sounds than actually listening to the music for music's sake.  

" at times i find more attention goes into how my system sounds than actually listening to the music for music's sake."

I can relate. I find myself listening to only my best sounding recordings for the most part, but it is what it is. I can bounce around to a song over the clock radio or a boombox. But if the best sound I can achieve affects me like a warm, embracing high for a little while, so be it. I'm OK with not playing crappy recordings, even if it is my favorites, on my A system. If the music I do play on the system gives me that high, then I have gotten what I'm after, my DoC. Some caution to not forget about enjoying the music, but I think there is a legitimate case to be made for seeking the peak, and for me, it comes to a chemical experience, really. No needle or pill required to feel like a carefree, warm pile of mush for a while... 
"...and Heaven is in your mind...."

It still comes to what constitutes one's Heaven, and the ways and means one applies to attain It...

There seems (mho) to be a 'doubt' function in play....

I doubt my speakers are reproducing what they should....
I wonder if my cables are introducing distortion...
Is that DAC working properly?
'Something' amiss....

It's human nature to 'externalize'.....and what ones' focus can zero in on tends to be that which one desires their intention of 'perfection'.

*s* Just musing 'different' here....;)

Old Skool and Proud...but just being the Devils' Advocate for the moment....*g*
Although, blind test can be helpful when evaluating equipment, it is not nearly enough to be the decisive method of determining which system sound is best. One have to live with the system for a long time in order to determine what’s best. In addition, coloration, measurements, frequency respond, debt perception, attack, pace of music, dynamics, quietness are all attractive contributes of a great sounding system. However, many times they are not tangible to each other. Let me explain. If you desire good dynamic system, you will introduce some coloration in the sound - which is typical with horn speakers. If you desire low noise floor and quite system you’ll loose dynamics and micro details, attack and quickness and the sound will become dead. The moral of the story is that, all comes to careful balance of your system attributes. 
@tannoy56....Agreed.  I've come to equate that balance to watching someone walking a slackline vs. a tightrope...

The latter allows for a relatively consistent 'base' on which to tread.

The former, which I consider the 'line' (which is more of a strap of some width) as an analog to the choice of format one plays and the quality of that recording....which all seem to agree is 'variable'...

'Staying on top' of either can absorb varying amounts of ones' time, cash, and perception.  Since none can really claim to be equal on any of those variables...

I've been lucky to have the company of identical twins within my life.
It takes time, but they aren't perfectly identical....but it does take time and perception to tease those differences out....

Mho of audio equipment....nobody has cloned the spaces that we put them in.... ;)  And that's just the start....
Its a trap I tell you ! A freaking trap ! 
Seriously we all at one point or another have fallen into the trap. We have a perfectly sounding HI FI system that gets our juices going and makes us bob and swive , moving our bodies to the beat . Our buddies come in and are surprised at the sound quality .

But even then that little voice comes in and tells us " what if ! " . Then we start searching what to change . A little better top end , more liquid midrange . We spend thousands and if we are lucky we get a little better this or that . Or we make a sideways more . 

I have long come to realized that my true love is music and as long as my system is capable to comunicate it to ME thats all that I need and thats where I stop . Can I have a better sounding system that can also comunicate the music ? Of course I can . Better source ? Of course . Better amp or preamp ? You betcha . 

But in this hobby its easy to get out of control and in the long run the system will be doing the same it was doing 20,000 dollars ago , comunicating music just if we are lucky a little bit better .
" Then,,,I guess you take issues with most of my post above
I think this hooby is not all biased opinions,,,forensics is involved, a good hunch,,a fair listening, ,,where luck has no place.
research research research
High fidelity ain;’t gonna drop out the sky in ones setup. "

LOL....I’m not sure I'm getting the same Rocky Mountain high, but I certainly don’t take issue with your post.
I'm thinking that our current "big iron" approach to hi-fi, matching this component with that, using a such and such interconnect, will become mostly a "thing of the past".  The younger generations don't seem interested in this approach.

I recently purchased a pair of KEF LS50 Wireless speakers for a new home we are having built, for the living room (my wife uses for her Spotify listening), ditching the former receiver, CD player and cabinet.  I suspect that this sort of powered, wifi connected speaker will be the norm, for the up and coming generations.
The hobby is as much faith-based as evidence based.  And wherever faith is strong there will be those who exploit it and those who refuse to delineate between faith and science.  In Hi Fi, they are two different ways of achieving "the best".  The tacit acknowledgment of that fact is the unwillingness by so many to accept that measurements cannot explain an emotional reaction to a piece of gear and the dismissing of double-blind test results.  Few will admit that.  Instead they invent more variables in order to make it even more difficult to distinguish differences, thereby making faith even more important.  The importance placed on visual design and retail price suggest there are other factors at work as well.  
I find that with better playback equip. I enjoy my favorite music more. If it was recorded well it is a bonus. I'm not very interested in "great' recordings of boring music. Nor the "best" gear. It WILL be better tomorrow. That, in itself does not make my stuff worse.
...and, considering the 'better tomorrow'...
 which was yesterday...*smirk*...or the 'best gear' which we debate to distinction or deletion....

One of these speakers is now being offered @ Costco for 350$ sans a penny....under 'furniture'....

My heart is stilled....thankfully, I have defib on board. ;)

(No, it's Not the one you might accept on style.....)
I wonder if this link will 'disappear' again.....since I've no connection to this company or even previous knowledge of their products....

It IS funny it's marked 'MCM...', the common initials for Mid-Century Modern....not a great example of the period, nor the placement pics which is lame for an omni of any kind.....just saying...
There is no such thing like Hi-Fi. There's only My-Fi. My own perception of what high fidelity might be or what suits my own preferences of what I like to hear. It's a well known story that everyone hearing their beloved records through monitor speakers used at studios find the sound unbearable, unforgiving and a very annoying experience. And the monitor speakers have flat response. And it's a well known story that someone called the top critics to hear 2 different hi-fi systems hidden behind curtains and they all agreed that the first system was great hi-fi and the second system was awful, only the second system was a violinist playing live the same piece. Relax and enjoy with no guilt your own system. It's as hi-fi as all the others.
Words have definitions, if we can’t agree on what words mean then communication breaks down.

noun Electronics.

sound reproduction over the full range of audible frequencies with very little distortion of the original signal.

Ideally, high-fidelity equipment has inaudible noise and distortion, and a flat (neutral, uncolored) frequency response within the human hearing range.

In radio, sound recording, etc., an approximately exact reproduction of sound achieved by low distortion and a wide range of reproduced frequencies, from approximately 20 to 20,000 hertz

High fidelity is not "my fidelity " it is not whatever I want it to be. I might not like sound reproduced as accurate and distortion free as possible but that’s what it means. The equipment that can reproduce the sound it is given with as little distorion or inaudible distortion comes the closest to being High Fidelity equipment no matter the price. High Fidelity Audio is dying even though we have equipment that can reproduce music more accurate than ever before we choose to be subjectivist and declare whatever we prefer HiFi.
noun Electronics.

sound reproduction over the full range of audible frequencies with very little distortion of the original signal.

Ideally, high-fidelity equipment has inaudible noise and distortion, and a flat (neutral, uncolored) frequency response within the human hearing range.

In radio, sound recording, etc., an approximately exact reproduction of sound achieved by low distortion and a wide range of reproduced frequencies, from approximately 20 to 20,000 hertz
Very interesting....

This official definition makes me understand many thing, that was not obvious for me...I am not an engineer so far, nor a working specialist in the audio field....

Only an "amateur" looking for a good sound....

This definition makes me conscious that " high fidelity" is restricted in the very narrow sense of electronical engineering....

This is normal because in the last hundred years it was engineers that gives to us the gear that makes possible the reproduction of recorded sound...

But i am an audiophile who dream to gives to himself the maximum S. Q experience possible at the least cost...

Is electronics components the only variable able to do so?

The answer in my case is a resolute no....

Embeddings mechanically an audio system, controlling resonance and isolating it from external vibrations is not necessarily the results of electronical new application or the results of buying new electronic component...Different passive materials or device can make it happen....

Embedding electrically an audio system to controls the noise floor of the house and room is not necessarily also the results of placing a new active electronic device all along the road of the electrical grid, i succeed with passive materials of my owns all along the road...

Embedding acoustically an audio system can be partially the results of using electronical device, i use for example many Schumann generators modified, but generally most use passive materials of requisite properties, and i use also active resonators of different size and kind, and many other passive device of my own....

Then high-fidelity concept is not synonym with audiophile concept....

Distinguishing the 2 concepts is important.... Separating them and opposing them is useless and only the proof of a misunderstanding...There is NO objectivist versus subjectivist war.... Only ignorance on the 2 side....

« Distinguishing without separating»- old Groucho Marx
I will add that what we listen to at the end comes more from the interaction of the speakers with the room, and comes better if the noise floor of the house and room are low, better if resonant gear are also controlled and tuned and isolated for sure, what we listen to comes more at the end from these controlled conditions than from the choice of any electronic component, be it a dac or a an amplifier in particular most of the times....

That is my experience....

In audio history some evolution of engineering design for recorded sound transmission seems to come first, but the acoustical conditions for the experience were always there, for example in the acoustical design of concert hall or church acoustical function or Greek and Roman theater...

High-fidelity and audiophile experience are 2 hands from the same body.....Anyone who want to say otherwise is confused....

Not bragging, and honestly, no i have not heard many top class systems lately,,but recall some from years ago,,and IMHO , my system now with new IC's, is  close to Real High Fidelity. 
My friend has a Golden Tube amp modded (he is a tech) + AR's + CJ pre modded, sounds really great,, IF you like that warm  sound,,, sort likea  olive band at a  club. Thats not what i am looking  for, I avoid *warm*, Mine is quiet, dynamic, fq separation/sound stage, voice pure natural, 
When I hear a  system which has these descripts
 Midrange fqs::Muddy/murky/smokey/greyish, musht, bland, flat
/highs rolloff, voice not natural, like has a   covering over the vocals, other things that get on my nerves are ::: ,boomy bass,, highs too extended = plastic and tinny. 
I  usually just stand there and pretend I am interested,, makinga  few foot tappings to let the owner know , yeah its a nice sound...when actually i want to turn the vol knob alot lower, real fast,,,or finda  excuse to get away from the torture. 
Here is my latest YT upload, and my system is really comming together now with the 2nd pair of IC's. 
Humbly, my system to me sounds ~~High Fidelity~~More changes/mods to come,,,,
This is the best sound I've ever heard in my life comming froma  system.

This silver IC's do seem a step up from Cu, and the $ not so stratospheric to do so. So I'll say 'good move, and expond further on what you percieve, please. *S*
But I'm charmed by the 2x4....and Please, change your fan to a pair of 'puter fans...they're so much quieter...*s*
(The shoes beat the socks...;) I'm a 'sandals' guy myself, but spouse sez I've got 'ugly feet', 'hammer toes & ruined big toe nails L&R....'omg'*L*)

"Real High Fidelity".....Well, you're almost There...

...for now. ;)

OK...Now, Enjoy!   If only for the moments you seek on That LP, in that moment.  It's seems too damn transient a time for most who haunt here.

Not that I belittle the quest in the general sense of the meaning; trust me here (and hear *s*), because I do understand...and appreciate the Quest.

I seek in my own fashion, as do (I hope) anyone else that frequents AG.
We all have our various Nirvanas....*S*

I prefer 'flat' the point of having a separate digital eq that allows room DSP for whatever speakers I'm running.  This in a space that has been 'temporary' for far longer than I'd care for, less so to admit to.

One adapts....and moves forward....eventually....

I have no problems with 'The Quest', and what we do to attain our goals.
'We' may be a breed doomed to extinction, considered 'extremist', 'driven', or just merely 'nutz'.  "Old Skool....and Proud."

We Can (perhaps) utilize our experience, our collective knowledge, and ( for that matter), 'tastes' to shape the inevitable future of 'fi'.  Make class D live up to its' promise.  The 'next Gen' speakers really sound like Real High Fidelity, and for that matter influence the digital processes that 'synth' 3D audio 'environments' to Really Work...every damn time, without sounding like ones' been dumped into a Pollak or a de Kooning of audio fuzz....

...or we can sit here, and just argue and bitch.


Anyway...I like the idea of silver cables that don't cost replacing the engine on a car.  I recognize the seller, good 'stats'.

The world needs more heretics.

Cheers, J

Some thoughts from a "boomer" professional audio systems engineer and musician who has designed and built systems from high end tweak hi-fi home installations to performing arts theaters and sports arenas regarding the hobby that Syn Aud Con founder Don Davis referred to as "Hi Futility":
I love music, all kinds. I have played in everything from jazz ensembles to blues or beach music bands to symphony orchestras. Likewise I listen to a broad range of music, though I lean toward the more acoustic performance genres than electronic.

There are both empirically measurable physics and unavoidably subjective qualities involved in the design and application of audio components, especially for analog transducer elements at each end of the chain, microphones, pickups, loudspeakers, analog to digital converters at both ends.

I'll address the digital realm first since that is the easiest to deal with. Digital encoding is simply applying a scale of discrete numeric values to a varying analog voltage. Think of a simple yard stick. The physical length of the stick is represents the range of analog values. The incremental numeric marks the digital values. The smallest measurement increment is the scale resolution. For a yard stick perhaps the highest practical resolution is 1/32" and the limiting resolution beyond which it becomes useless is perhaps 1/64th inch.  Digital audio resolution has progressed from the original CD format 44.1KHz/16bit through the typical studio values of 48KHZ-96KHz 24bit to current DSP software and internal sampling values as high as 192KHz with full 32 bit float, i.e infinite fractional value encoding.
Once an audio signal is in the digital realm, the only critical thing is that those numeric values get transferred between AD and DA converters with absolute mathematical accuracy. The hardware at its best is accurate to one bit error in billions.
To quote Don Davis again, you don't empirically know something in physics until you can assign it a number. The digital audio realm today is the realm of applied mathematical physics. The only effect it can have on audio quality is that which is deliberately introduced for desired reasons depending on application. 
Two important things to understand about physics.
1. Science does not deal in absolutes. It deals in probabilities and approximations. The gold standard measurement constant in physics is the speed of light in a vacuum. After nearly 200 years physicists still quibble over the exact measurement of this value depending on which set of theoretical equations are used... at the 17th decimal place!
2. Beyond a reasonable point empirically related to the task at hand mathematical precision becomes irrelevant.

To be continued...