"There's a difference between Referencing and Reviewing"
I've always enjoyed the mingling of music industry members and the range of jobs and opinions. If I were a writer there would be books upon stacks of books breaking this industry down from simple guide workbooks through the deepest of audio adventures, but at best you get writings from the Late Great Jim Bookhard and the scribblings of yours truly on these pages of TuneLand, plus the valued audio threads of Tunees on their journeys, and writings (articles & reviews) in magazines that have served this industry well. There have also been handbooks that attempt to scratch the surface of this phenomenon of recording and playback, but because of it's nature being so highly subjective and suggestive, these attempts only reach as high as the writers own personal experience.
I like the definition of phenomenon: definition, a fact, occurrence, or circumstance observed or observable: to study the phenomena of nature. Phenomenon paints the picture of audio well. There are facts, but because of the experiential nature of listening meanings, theories, myth creating, grades of expertise all get thrown into this wonderful basket of learning curve, the lid put on, shaken & stirred, until we all call it a day of opinion bashing (exasperated by ego) inconclusive conclusions. Or (I love Michael-isms). Some of us decide to take a deeper look into the actual event (practical application) of audio as part of physics, following it from beginning to end as science. Most of you reading this, know this to be my life's work. I look at measuring as a snapshot of audio at a particular point of view. An Ok hobby on it's own but not accurate enough or a very good moving grade to be conclusive. Measuring has its importance, it just doesn't cover the variables of practical use, but let's not call this a bad thing, just incomplete or not yet humanized (getting closer every day though).
We should also mention the audiophile theorist, but lets not spend too much of our time on this because we are looking for something more meaty on the bones. In this hobby theorist don't usually make it to the practical application side of life and therefore end up in creating talking points based on spinning instead of having the ability to move on to anything conclusive. Many reviews and articles disqualify themselves because of the 'plug & play' nature of reviewing. You basically play something, take it out and put something else in, and judge without addressing the variables. Again good but not really a cigar moment.
Referencing is a completely different game altogether and utilizes different skill types as well as one main factor that is overlooked by both measuring and reviewing. Referencing uses the 'Real Space" of the recorded code as the optimized starting point.
if you don't understand 'recorded code' there's no need for you to go any further
until you gain this knowledge
I mention this as a funny, but in all reality, if you are in this business or hobby and don't yet get 'audio code', 'real space & real size', 'recorded code' and the basics of fundamental forces as they apply and operate within physics, nothing about referencing is going to, one make sense to you, and two be useful to you to get you to the next level of this science. I say this with all sincerity, respect and good intent. There are many that get screwed up in their listening simply because they are trying to created something that isn't there. These folks are dealing with a different set of values that don't have anything to do with 'doing" audio. Some of these folks are specialist in their own right or own school of thought process, but if you can't understand the motion, space and timing continuum of music, as a science, your not going to get your mind around the foundation of referencing. I've had friends and professionals that never got (understood) referencing until they experienced 'real space" for themselves and began exploring how to interact with music reproduction from the practical application side. I've seen some pick up on referencing as if they have been playing piano all their life without formal training, and have seen others sit there with the blankest look on their face. Some failing to even see soundstaging as a real event. Folks who don't get referencing usually have a problem with mind over matter quite literally and never make the simplest of connections on the basics of music, like timbre for example, or note vs frequency. These are usually folks who don't understand that audio is a vibratory action. They just can't get their minds around how a musical instrument has anything to do with audio equipment.
Saving time and words let's jump right in. wiki REM https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R.E.M.
Lately I've been using the A25-M integrated in listening room #1. If you've been reading me over the last several months you'll no doubt be counting the number of units I have and seeing different color faceplates. Don't worry your not watching "the wizard of Oz" I have 3 A25-M's here. I'm also using 3 referencing rooms with the main focus on #1 for this go round and the other two for listening comparisons. To complete the picture my headphone setup is also used. All this for one song? You bet. I don't make it a practice to short change my referencing and my tools mean everything when exploring the soundstage.
For the true soundstage master patience is not only a virtue, it's a must. Physics has its own sense of timing and a major part of referencing is system settling. You can't force space to happen. Every recording has space and that space is a 3D event. Every listening environment is made up of space, no matter how great or small (even headphones). The first truth to look for in referencing a recording is 'missing space'. If you put on a piece of music and there is a dividing line between where the music starts and you, you are listening to only part of the recording. There's nothing wrong with this of course, but realize and accept this as fact. If you take a live acoustical instrument into a room and tune it, you are tuning that instrument to that room and you will experience no line of space between you and that instrument's involvement with you the room and that space. This is your first clue to listening performance and possibly your first step toward levels of listening and system performance.
My first click of play on my remote is the beginning snap shot of my referencing. At this point I can make the decision to listen to my stereo or listen to the recording. Listening to my stereo is an interpretation of the system and the room. Listening to the recording is when the system and room and audio code become one. How do you know the difference? The simple answer is, experience. If have never experienced a recording in tuned playback you may never understand the meaning of referencing.
That first moment with 'Everybody Hurts' for me in this session was great stereo. I was able to see a soundstage box neatly laid out in front of me and mostly between the speakers with a nice sense of depth and space between the instruments. I could go through and give all of our audiophile descriptive terms, but the one that would come up missing would be "whole". The reality is I was obviously listening to parts and pieces but not the recorded code in it's entirety. How did I know? I knew because I could clearly point to space in the room that was void of information. The stage I was looking at, as clear as it was, was lopsided as if the music in the room was fighting with the room itself instead of making the room a disappearing act. There was obvious conflict between the physical room and the sound pressure created by the speakers. What or who's at fault? Who cares. The fact was I was listening to very nice stereo but the system, as a unit, was not behaving as a unit.
Let me share something with you that is very important here. The function of seeing and listening, as closely related as they are, have similar but 2 distinctive jobs. One is based on reflection and the other, even though it has reflections involved, is based on pressure. When you walk into a room you can look around and see things, until the reflections are taken away by turning off the conduit of info (light). The objects representing colors reflected are still there, they just have a different appearance to our eyes. Tuning colors is a reaction to the volume of light. Hearing on the other hand deals with the range of energy that is more evident to the bigger frequencies of the vibratory scale (pressure). There's a point in listening to your stereo where the information can be tuned so closely in response to the physics of the room that sound pressure becomes more relevant than reflection. This happens with acoustical instruments as well as your speakers. At this level of performance your room becomes a more fit conduit for the music information being played, and the soundstage starts to approach 'real size'. When your system becomes a more suitable producer of the original captured sound pressure the harmonic structures of the actual recorded 'real space' start to be replayed creating a more complete soundstage picture of the real event. In other words on one end of the chain the information is picked up and at the other end that same space (the actual recorded code) will be delivered in part or/and all the way up to it's entirety if the room and system is a suitable, in tune, host able to recreate the fundamentals and harmonics intact.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouJodzhf0k8
Moving from your typical soundstage to 'real size/real space' is quite the experience and for the soundstage critic an essential cue to use as the main tool for judging recordings and equipment. Everything that is considered personal taste, all the way to the absolute sound, can and is challenged as truth for a recording, among professionals and home enthusiasts alike, but the true meaning of staging is how much of the actual space is captured on one end and then delivered on the other. The audible difference between 'everybody hurts' playing at the typical level of stereo vs playing in a tuned environment and system is the difference between a partial stage vs a stage that envelops the listener. The partial soundstage sound is as described above, looking at a soundstage separated from the listener. A real space soundstage is when there is no dividing the acoustical space from the recorded code.
"My first click of play on my remote is the beginning snap shot of my referencing. At this point I can make the decision to listen to my stereo or listen to the recording."
When the system was not in-tune the beginning focal point (a percussive hit) was fixed as within mid air with no motion, body or sense of depth with the exception of where it was in space. After tuned the percussive sound took on life giving the original placement, but in addition, a spherical motion side the side and front to back and up and down from the point of the source. Out of tune there was no sense of reality as opposed to a sound in real life. The object was as if in a dead zone or black hole. The effect added to it after 3 beats was stuck in place as well and when moving my head side to side the effect, as well as percussive hit, was stale. Backing out my senses and starting the song again I was aware of the lopsidedness and sterile overall sound, with those same black holes all over the stage. Certainly nothing we experience in real live and absolutely not something that happens in the recording process. Closing my eyes was needed to remove the room's virtual visual conflict with my sense of hearing. The senses we have are meant to work together and we should be able to focus in and out of our senses at will as well as naturally. This is how our senses work in real life and playing music should be as natural as any other sensory event. Our senses are constantly working like the focus on a camera only far more reactive and responsive. So when I see 'black holes' I know that something is missing from the 'whole'.
After a couple of tuning adjustments the reality came back into play enough that I could listen to more of the 'whole'. The percussive hit was now part of a body of work without black holes in the stage. The audibility is now of a floating sense and all surrounding from my listening position. Moving my head side to side, the 'wholeness' continued in balance as if I changed seats in the audience, as opposed to the out of tune, where the soundstage would collapse into disarray and into the speakers when moving my head side to side. In-tune the music has taken over my placement sensory and I can walk around the room without the sound collapsing into the speaker. I can now get 18" from the speaker before the music moves directly into the speaker, and that was only after I concentrated. Even with the new staging it was fun lowering the lights and walking through this virtualization. I am now confident moving forward with my referencing.
note: at this point I'd like to make an observation to my audiophile friends. If your thinking the soundstage is all over place scattered, bouncing, disembodied, it would be a mischaracterization of this event. The sound is actually extremely organized and cohesive. The sound is now like a sea instead of hundreds of ponds not able to connect to each other or be a part of the bigger picture. The instruments and vocals are now far more in-tune sounding, where as before pitch was in question and timbre lost. Everybody Hurts is now a meaningful soundstage audibly, visually and I can now add feeling as I am now immersed into the soundstage production. I sense more like I've been dipped into something that exist instead of being on the outside looking in through the dividing window. That once fixed, tiny, out of pitch, percussive hit has now a meaningful role, and affect, in this stage. It is now not just a hit, but a spatial participant that is both specific and of mass, flowing into the stage with every action. This is where the referencing begins for me.
At the top of this page and throughout the graphics you will find the name AUDOLICI, reason being, my referencing of 'Everybody Hurts' is two fold, or even more. As I use the recorded music itself as my guide through the soundstage the equipment becomes my set of tools. I treat every part of my system as one piece within many ingredients of a whole. "everything affects everything else". The recorded code and the conduits (Air, Mass and Energy) can not be separated from each other. As I have been placed into the soundstage so has the equipment being used.
below is a link to REM on ACLhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzXQBUedNSY
more coming soon, thanks for reading