Just finished watching "The Boat That Rocks" movie - mainly for it's 60s rock hits. The soundtrack download is going to be a must buy!
Getting to my sofa, I needed more Rock. So I switched the media player to Rock genre, and let my HiFi rip.
Then something that's been gnawing at me slowly over these past few months became as clear as day.
It wasn't my system!
I had simply been playing some "rubbish".
I don't know when or where I read the statement, "The more you open the window, the more the ruck gets in", but that was all the 'problem' was.
Before we go any further I must describe my HiFi system.
Key to everything was a Gold Reference standard, my Sennheiser HD-600 cans. Even the initial listen so very many years ago had a slight warmness that further painful research verified, a gentle hump spread over several octaves centred around 125 Hz by some 2dB. This I easily then EQed out and the resulting tone is what I use to judge expensive and inexpensive systems alike. Like it or not, my sense of "good" HiFi needs a balance across all the frequencies - and I emphasize, all. The only difference in the better (not "more expensive"!) of good systems is in lower (often times not readily apparent) distortion and increased 'resolution'. But I must have the full frequency range that's possible in a recording or it's a Fail.
So when it came to my non-headphone system, I spent many years looking for reasonably-priced gear to get that (EQed) HD-600 "sound" from loudspeakers in a room.
My first pair of Magnapan loudspeakers were "lost", way back in the mid-1980s (long story!) My 2nd pair of Maggies were a gift from a dear dear nephew in 2003 - a pair of used 0.5s. I sold my 0.5s when I was offered a pair of used MG12s 3 years ago, and these are the linchpin of my system currently.
The source is a PC with raw digital data being sent to the internal DAC of my AVR. Yes, AVR! Don't laugh, hear me out first....
I have the MG12s and 2 powered subwoofers connected up to the AVR.
As a sound engineer whose bible is John Eargle's "Sound Recording (first published in 1976), I've always been convinced from John's clarification of why bi-amping is essential for any good sound system. A sub-woofer is an effective bi-amped system as any.
The 2 subs spread out the comb-effect bass has in all rooms. In fact they work so well I've dropped the idea - at the moment (I reserve the right to change my mind later) - of putting corner bass traps in my room.
Sub to mains cross-over is at 60Hz. How this helps even out peaks and dips in the 150Hz region I have no idea! But it does.
The key to both of the above succeeding is the AVR. Two things. Firstly it has a setting to delay main speakers (using the Distance setting) output to have the ponderously slow subs fire first before that signal is let loose on the mains (there is no such thing as a kick drum that has a 35Hz pulse and nothing at 140Hz, however little). And if the sub and mains are out of time, it's... bad. If you think about it you'll realise that there is absolutely no way any multi-way system is going to be able to keep heavy bass transducers in sync with their lighter higher frequency counterparts without electronic processing!
The second thing the AVR does is Loudness Compensation. Well my choice of AVR anyway. It's the old Loudness button of the 70s, but in a much smarter way. Minor disputes aside, the Fletcher Munson Curve is a valid requirement - unless you're only listening at Live levels. The reason Loudness got a bad vibe from the 90s in HiFi circles was simply because it requires source input levels to be absolutely correct (I ReplayGain my tracks to ensure this).
It took me many many years to sort all the above out, but the result is extremely good audio playback for so little money it's laughable. But at times it can be bad. Hence the window/ruck 'discovery'. Playing a genre of mixed tracks highlights bad recordings in way nothing else can. Which tells me it's not my system, but the recording.
Well recorded tracks are simply breathtaking. Depth. Resolution. Separation. Every instrument clear but not overemphasised. Bass that hits you just so. Nothing clouding something else. Nothing missing from the lowest lows to the highest highs.
When a poorly recorded track plays, everything reverses. Great song (I wouldn't bother to keep it if so), but it'll be a real pain to listen to. Luckily it's an easy tap on my smartphone to skip to the next track.
(There is a clear difference music listening, and hearing music. Music listening is when you sit, maybe turn off the lights, and just listen. Hearing music is when there's a party going on, or if you're reading; music just being a background activity.)
So in a great HiFi system, you're going to be listening to some pretty bad playback sometimes. It's normal: you've opened the window and if there's ruck, it's going to get in. It's the price you have to pay to be able to get the super fine sounds that is possible with great Hi-Fi systems. Anyone who doesn't realise this will be constantly chasing their tail with system upgrades and useless tweaks.
It's about a 60/40 split, between well- and badly-recorded music in my library of tracks. It so depends on whether the record producer has tried to do the engineer's job (on the compressors, limiters, mix levels and EQs at hand) with his or her limited listening skills. If so, you can bet the track will be anything but HiFi.
So when your carefully put-together HiFi system next sounds poorly - don't reach for your wallet. Change the track that's playing!.
But make sure your system has been tuned to a reference standard first!