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PostSubject: Harry Pearson 2008   Wed Apr 23, 2014 5:18 pm


Inter.view with Harry Pearson, from The Absolute Sound
by Lucio Cadeddu
[Italian version]

TNT-AUDIO >
I think the HiFi world is heavily crowded with tons of new products each month and, according to the HiFi magazines, it seems we really NEED every single piece of electronic equipment that manufacturers design. How much of this is for real and how much is just hype?
How do you see the current HiFi market, especially in view of the Chinese mass invasion?


Harry Pearson >
The fact that the high end world, as well, is awash in new components is in actuality a good thing, since it shows an unusual burst of creativity, even confidence during these troublesome economic times. The question of how much is real and how much is hype according to the Gospel spread by today's remaining "hi-fi" magazines is one that troubles me. I think that, in general, most of today's publications have lost their way, and thus their authority thanks to their publisher/owner's pursuit of the advertising dollar. Most of the extant reviewers now at work in the fields of high fidelity are writing ad copy, not critical assessments that compare componentry to a known reference, such as an absolute sound (to wit, real music occurring in a real space). To use such a standard would require the thinking reviewer to make distinctions among equipment, in effect grading them on how well they translate the reality of music. Without using a standard of this sort, then everything can be good because there is no touchstone. The situation is now the worst it has been since I felt impelled to start a magazine three decades ago.


TNT-AUDIO >
It seems the Home Cinema trends has definitely lost its initial appeal (if any). It is quite difficult to properly set up two speakers in a standard living room...go figure what happens with 6!!! How's the HT market in the USA right now?


Harry Pearson >
The home theatre market in the U.S. is a mess. In one sense it is a victim of its own technological successes and excesses. The viewing devices (projectors, flat screens, and the like) are improving so quickly and so dramatically that many don't feel as if they should invest a great deal of money only to find their new "toy" obsoleted within a few months by something less expensive and visually better. The picture is different at the low end of the market where reasonably priced (so-called) high definition screens are like comfort food for folks who feel stranded at home because of the rising costs of everything. It's okay to use the theatrical experience as a paradigm to measure home theatre against, but, lest we forget, the media of film and video are so different that each experience is a law unto itself and video transfers are nothing like a filmed original. I really don't see the need for seven (or more) channels of audio for the showing of DVD movies of whatever definition. Outside of IMAX, no theatrical film shown here really has that many channels, so the extra channels are, I believe, for the show-off types. Five is more than enough, and extra subwoofers for the boom-boom summer movies for the eternal male kids is, I regret to say, a necessary evil. One more point, almost no one with a multi-channel system, be it for SACD or movies, knows how to optimally set-up a "surround" sy system. Or, I'm afraid, even knows enough to care. Boom. Boom.


TNT-AUDIO >
I love vinyl. Not that I hate CDs but I think there's still a big difference in the way digital and analogue media communicate Music. Analogue equipment manufacturers are still designing new stuff (TTs, cartdriges etc) hence it seems the interest in analogue Music reproduction is still high and, without doubt, raising. Many artists are releasing their new albums in vinyl (see Elvis Costello, for example). Sound quality isn't always on their minds, though. So it's again a pure "marketing" choice? What happened to SACD? And how's Blu-ray doing?


Harry Pearson >
You are wrong to suppose that the current pop music champions of vinyl don't care about the sound. Check out Eric Clapton and others who can and do hear the differences between analog and digital. It is a marketing choice to the extent that analog/vinyl is now considered to lend "prestige" to a release, but that is because, the prestige release most usually sounds better, and the young listeners not only know that, but they can hear it. As for SACD, the American companies, for the most part (excluding Telarc, Chesky, and a few boutique labels) are avoiding it like it's infected. You have to go outside the boundaries of the U.S. to find many new issues on SACD. Ironically, Sony, in Japan, is re-issuing a great many discs originally recorded in multi-channel [the Leonard Bernstein Mahler cycle with the New York Philharmonic, for example] but not here. We have to order the expensive imports from Japan if we want to hear such masterpieces as they were originally intended to be heard. One of the problems with SACD issues, particularly those of classical music, is that the engineers haven't yet quite figured out a way to capture a real sense of hall ambience in the rear channels, a problem compounded by the fact that most listeners don't know how to set up their rear speakers to best effect. Hint: Keep them near your listening position and canted in toward your ears, while keeping any direct instrumental sound toward (but not always at the front). As for Blu-Ray, it is another case where Sony has failed to produce a product that lives up to its technological promise. The Toshiba/HD system was better and much more practicable. The great difference to be seen between the Toshiba and the ordinary Blu-Ray became most apparent when the images were shown on a large screen. Too many Blu-Ray discs show grain, like a blown up 35mm print, a failing that did not afflict most Toshiba/HD issues. Even now, after Sony strong-armed the film companies into singular support for its process, the average Blu-Ray release is still a disappointment. Some may see an ironic justice in the fact that Sony's technically superior Betamax process lost out to the far inferior VHS system, but not this time.


TNT-AUDIO >
Many audiophiles believe that advertising is corrupting both the HiFi market and the HiFi magazines. Even online HiFi mags pages are filled with hundreds of banners that make reading difficult, to say the least. Your opinion on this "hot" topic?


Harry Pearson >
Advertising itself does not corrupt. It's like saying "money is the root of all evil". Actually, the quote is "the love of money is the root of all evil" and it's the "lust for the advertising dollar that corrupts" the content of virtually all of today's print publications, and the situation is, if anything, worse online where the content is mostly absolutely free. At least, the owners of print magazines can charge for the editorial content, although most of them prefer to let the advertising pay almost all of the bill, instead of asking the readers to pay more, so that the advertisers can't call all the shots. Audio reviews and critiques are supposed to be for the reader, not the advertiser. The readers need to have reliable guides to help them distinguish among and between the plethora of products flooding the market.


TNT-AUDIO >
In my opinion, something new is happening nowadays. Class D amplifiers are starting to sound unbelievably good for the price (and size). Nonetheless, many audiophiles claim this isn't "HiFi" sound. Are prejudices so hard to destroy? How do you consider this new "trend" of Class D amps, apparently welcomed even by the "big boys" (Mark Levinson, among others)?


Harry Pearson >
I have heard so few Class D amplifiers that, in my ignorance, I can't find anything constructive to say.


TNT-AUDIO >
How's TAS? I've read somewhere you are going to work on a new editorial project...is it just HiFi gossip?


Harry Pearson >
I have a romantic entanglement and deep feeling for the original traditions of The Absolute Sound, probably akin to like father to son and so would be reluctant to up and leave it. Despite the rumors that abound, I, at this point, have no new editorial project that on the boards. Period. This true as of this writing on 24 June, 2008.

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PostSubject: Re: Harry Pearson 2008   Wed Apr 23, 2014 7:00 pm

"(to wit, real music occurring in a real space). "

I think this is a legitimate starting place, but I do have a question.

Why are audiophile systems producing such small soundstages than? I have not seen a stock audiophile component produce a real space real size soundstage in many years if ever. I have heard tuned systems do this so I know the statement is true but why do the designers not make this happen?

Harry, I'm not putting this on you of course cause your not a designer and would be the first one to say "that's it, now that's a real stage", but why would the industry not do real stage comparisons to be a guideline for the truth? That's what I did in my studio in Nashville. I recorded in one room, controled in the next, and the third was for playback. This gave me a reference on which to judge. A 8-12' X 6-8' X 6-8' tall is not a real size stage. I couldn't squeeze an orchestra in there to save my life.

"One of the problems with SACD issues, particularly those of classical music, is that the engineers haven't yet quite figured out a way to capture a real sense of hall ambience in the rear channels, a problem compounded by the fact that most listeners don't know how to set up their rear speakers to best effect. Hint: Keep them near your listening position and canted in toward your ears, while keeping any direct instrumental sound toward (but not always at the front). As for Blu-Ray, it is another case where Sony has failed to produce a product that lives up to its technological promise. "

I think we need to back up a step. I have music all around me with two speakers, why do people need to fill in the back with distortion if the rear hall info is already on the recording to begin with? If people can't get their systems to play the whole recording souldn't we be focused on why instead of putting more speakers in the room? I don't have a problem with rear fill don't get me wrong. What I have a problem with is that High End Audio keeps saying they have the whole picture when they don't.

here's what I think

High End Audio has dug a hole and it's time to dig out of it. Real Space, Real Size needs to be on the list for what makes a recording reference in High End Audio. That means going beyond the frontal stage only. Harry himself is saying there is more, so this to me says we need to have the whole picture. The whole picture being the instruments and the hall.

so lets get back to this

Do High End Audio products give the rear hall? If not why? I have the answer do you? It's because the signal in High End Audio is being squeezed and this is putting the music in a box. A box that is typically sitting inbetween the speakers and right in front of the listener. What happens to the sound when the box is gone? The stage becomes a lot closer to real size with stages that go way beyond the speakers and the hall goes through and behind you. I'm listening to it now. I'm listening to it because I have removed the parts of my system that were squeezing the sound.

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