IS THE TRUTH ABOUT DISTORTION DISTORTED?
Be a Beacon
ONCE AGAIN: How much truth can we humans tolerate? The Greek poets and playwrights, the authors of the Bible, Shakespeare, every great writer, poet and philosopher, every great musician, and artist; Freud and Satre, asked us to consider this very difficult question. And the answer is not always sanguine, my dear Oedipus Rex. How much truth can we, my dearly beloved bros', tolerate in our search for beauty ? How much intellectual integrity should we demand from the audio arts? How high is our musical taste? Can truth and passion co-exist? How much truth can we tolerate in the creation of our illusion?
GAGGED AUDIO PROFESSORS
When I operated New York Audio Labs I used the wisdom I practiced when I wore a doctor's coat on a date men in white coats whether they are audio engineers, or gynecologists have power so I produced a videotape for our dealers explaining how OTL and hybrid Moscodes circuits worked and I wore a white coat.
It is tragic, but true, that audio professors in white coats, our esteemed audio engineers, can not speak the truth about how audio circuits work without getting fired from their jobs. What is more important, paying the rent, making alimony payments, paying for college tuition, or telling the truth about music distortion? What would you do if you worked for a big audio company as an audio engineer?
THE LOW IQ WORLD OF .0000001 TOTAL HARMONIC DISTORTION
There is an old Buddhist saying that I know will ring true for you.."Every man is a saint, as long as he is not in love with a women". Or once we get connected to the opposite sex, shit happens..for both parties. Same is true for audio circuits. The truth is that an audio system is a chaos system with each component interacting with every other, and the room and your brain.
Have you ever seen a distortion measurement of an entire audio system from input to speakers?
It is simple, in any audio circuit, to use enough negative feedback to lower total harmonic distortion to vanishing levels and at the same time make an audio circuit taste like Texas road kill in August which is conventional wisdom in the low IQ audio industry that is more comfortable selling low distortion than high quality sound.
This explains why the rules of audio hype is to never explore the true nature of audio distortion, and its corollary never measure the distortion of those devices that produce so much distortion that consumers will puke because they don't know any better, because we made sure of that like speaker distortion.
The real question is how much distortion does a living, breathing audio system create from beginning to end while it is doing the work it was designed to do, which is to amplify music, not noise? I will give you all of my Pez Dispenser collection if you can tell me where you have seen this tried JUST ONCE, by any manufacturer or magazine. I win.
I now ask the brianiacs in the audio audience to step forward and climb higher with me
NERVOUS TICK WARNING
Nothing is more difficult to achieve than NATURAL TONE/ NATURAL HARMONICS in an audio system, because, now smoke this..because corruption, in the audio arts, like life, is reality. So the type of corruption, the type of mistakes we make, is paradoxically, how we define ultimate quality.
When we encode/decode music, which means we are using a gaggle of crude electro-mechanical devices..we always corrupt the natural tone of music "we always make mistakes" meaning we are adding a huge quantum of harmonics that never appear in real live music and we are filtering out a huge quantum of music's natural harmonics.
What percent of a live musical event can we encode in vinyl, or a CD, and then decode in our living rooms? Hold a CD, or record, of a live Rolling Stone's concert one that you attended. How much of what you experienced is there in that flat disc? Or, let's get more scrupulous let's do something very simple let's record a Steinway Concert Grand. Now let's listen to our master tape, and compare the sound of the piano to what we have on tape. Oh, huge loss. Now let's send our master tape out to the mastering lab, and listen to the "stamper". Oh, huge loss compared to the master tape, and the piano. Now let's listen to the CD or record that will appear in stores compared to the piano and the master tape. Another huge loss even though in a digital world there shouldn't be.
To return to our question: What percentage of the live music event have we been able to encode? I am being generous when I suggest it is about 10% which means that from the live music event to dancing naked in our living room we have accepted about 90% total music distortion or more. Now can you understand why it is so important to have exactly the right form of corruption in the measly 10% that we have available? Grunt if this upsets you.
Yet even with this universal gigantitude of corruption, we can experience a tremendum of abnormal musical pleasure because it only takes a smidgen of the right tone to trigger ecstasy in our body, so the type of corruption we choose is absolutely critical.
Transistors produce much lower total harmonic distortion than tubes, but the type of high order/odd order distortion produced is so irritating, so musically unnatural, that when we compare this to the larger amount, but more benign, even order harmonics of tube circuits, we, the musically refined, reach the conclusion that tubes sound more musically natural; more effective in making our brains secrete the juices of ecstasy. QED: tubes make more mistakes, but of the right kind, while transistor make less total mistakes, of the fatal kind. Both create audio corruption..one is more pleasureful than the other.
And now you know why New York Audio Labs created the world's first hybrid tube/FET amplifiers, MOSCODES, based on Julius Futterman's original idea, that the best way to produce a powerful amplifier, that had some of the tonal virtues of tubes, is to use tubes design an amplifier with a tube front end and solid state output.
Affirmation: I recently watched a cable television series about the great pianists of the twentieth century hosted by Arthur Rubinstein's son..and one of the maestros said that every pianists must make a choice between "accuracy", which is concentrating on playing all of the notes exactly, and "expression" which is all about the creation of a unique personal tone..and he suggested that "accuracy" was the wrong choice..and the "mistakes/wrong notes" were part of the beauty of each performance. This insight has been condensed into: It is more important to express the soul of the music, than play the notes exactly. Grunt if you understand.
THE DIGITAL DEVIL'S FAVORITE SPORT
I remind you that the Digital Devil's favorite sport is corruption of natural tone. What is the compelling reason to create a "new and improved" digital format? I suggest it is to improve the nature of digital's tonal corruption.
Consider this fact of life for the average "A" rock and roll digital recording studio: from the microphone to the hard drive, the music signal is passing through hundreds of integrated circuits (with each having hundreds of transistors), hundreds of capacitors, and many yards of mediocre audio cable. How many transistors does the A/D processor have? Hundreds. Here's a swell analogy about the affect of typical digital rock and roll signal processing has on the music signal: put axle grease on your eye glass's lens.
What are some of the most beautiful vinyl LPs? The ones produced pre-1960, before the IC and transistors virused recording studios. I have now explained why vinyl corruption is so appealing relative to digital's tonal corruption one mimics the harmonic profile of music much better, while the other shifts the balance to much more odd order/high order harmonics, that creates a "brittle/glassy" sound for all of the reasons explained by John Atkinson, in his great articles about digital's discombobularity. I have now explained why vinyl and tubes are such a powerful musical alchemy.
You now know why tube microphones, and tube signal processing, is SOP in all digital recording studios. They are a technique to put some natural tone back into digital, by pumping up, and shifting the digital corruption in favor of even order harmonics and it works. That is right: more of the right type of distortion, is better than less of the wrong type. Grunt if you understand this paradox.
AND NOW TO OFFER YOU A BALM OF PEACE
What percentage of reality did Rembrandt capture in his paintings? What percentage of reality did Rodin capture in his sculpture? What percentage of reality do words express?
The power of art, the power of producing music in our home, is the power of metaphor which means that if you have the gifts, imagination, and the receptivity, there is no limit to your experience. Then you can concentrate, as every spiritually mature man does, on creating exactly the type of art that, in spite of its limitation (or because of its limitations), transports us to the top of our mountain. Again, and again, I suggest you must become the master of tone to get that high.
MORE TO COME
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