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Ideal playback system
Hi Guys

When we listen to recorded music, we hope to experience the intended presentation of the performance. The original recording might be a live performance, or it might be a multi-track mix of the band. However it began, that is what we hope to experience.

Our listening room should be acoustically balanced, ideal to have a conversation in. This means it is not entirely "dead" or echo-free, and not too "live" with a noticeable echo or "zing". Hotel rooms are often of a shape that has a zing, which is a short echo, and lack enough absorptive materials to tame that echo.. Every natural environment has some reverberation, so we are accustomed to and need that ambient information when we are deciphering sounds.

Because we have binaural hearing, the best electronic playback system will have two acoustic sources for left and right. Provided the recording has the musical voices mixed correctly, with ambient information intact, this stereo presentation will feel three-dimensional to us. Even a monaural recording can have a natural feel provided the ambient portion is present.

The left and right acoustic sources MUST be full-range, with a frequency response covering 20Hz to 20kHz.

These full-range acoustic sources can be single drivers, multiple drivers, or sub-sat systems. The sub-sat term came originally from the use of adding a sub-woofer to a full-range cabinet, which then morphed into what was more accurately a separate bass cabinet and mid-treble cabinet. However the frequencies are divided between drivers or boxes, the group should be tight and positioned left or right. The listener needs there to be cohesive left and right signal sources

Theatre sound is a bit gimmicky and presents sound in an inaccurate format for proper music enjoyment. The focus is on the video screen, and thus, the acoustic playback is skewed to center-screen. A single subwoofer or woofer is placed on the center-line, with mids-treble splayed out to left and right. That such a layout is now commonplace in most homes is a travesty to musical enjoyment. The main reason for such a trend is economic rather than qualitative.

I use the example of a helicopter flying by. You hear the thumps of the propeller coming from the left and moving to the right. Along the way, you hear the high-frequency part of the engine noise follow from left to right. If you play thisĀ  sound back on a true stereo system, it sounds exactly as it did live, except you have control over its loudness Smile If we play this back over a home theatre system, the thumps are in front of us. Is the helicopter to the left? to the right? in front of us? We do not know until we hear the high-frequency portion move from left to right but all the while the thumps are dead center.

Bass is directional from the point of view of the observer. So, any playback system that has a single acoustic source for bass is inherently flawed.

Do not be fooled by the newer home theatre systems, the point-2, which has two subs. These are driven by the same signal and represent the same mixed information. The only benefit of the second woofer box is that having two such boxes allows placement that can break up or minimise room resonance activation by low-frequency tones.

So, the ultimate music playback system is good old-fashioned stereo. Movies sound better through it as well.

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