How Revealing Should a System Be?

I've heard tales of audiophiles reach a point of dimininshing returns as they upgrade their systems. Meaning, the more revealing the system gets, the more discriminating their system will be of the recordings that are played back on it. Some of you have said that recordings that you once really liked were now unlistenable because your system revealed all of the flaws in the recording. Doesn't that limit some audiophiles to what recordings they can actually listen to? If so, we have gotten away from the thing that brought us to this hobby in the first place.........THE MUSIC! It seems the equipment should never be more important than the music.
Interesting thought. I do agree that the music is the point of all this audio equipment.
Perhaps one solution would be to have either more than one source or more than one system.
Or even searching out better source material, (which I will admit that I do, to some extent anyway).

Next question for you then:

If, as the system gets better, and therefore, more revealing, some of the more poorly recorded recordings do indeed sound worse. However, what if on the other hand, some of the better recorded recordings sound utterly fantastic because the system is now so revealing?

What then?

My system is very revealing on both CD and vinyl. I can now hear some flaws in some of my favorite recordings, that I never heard before my current level of upgrading. I accept that as much as I accept that some of my vinyl has small pop and ticks. I merely ignore it, and sit back and enjoy the music.

I think that what you are mentioning is a problem for some people. However, (I believe), it is only those unfortunate few who can no longer turn off the "critical" listening, and for whom enjoying the music is becoming harder and harder. I also believe that it is these people who are on the never ending cycle of audio upgrading merely for the pursuit of audio nirvana. (I hope I never get to that point!)

My two cents worth anyway.
It is one of the faults of having a very revealing system.

It happened to me last year using a passive conttroller,but it was not something that really distracts me from enjoying bad recordings.

Another thing I have experienced is when I get dirty AC and playback is awful. Makes things sound strident.

Try your CDP using CD Direct and that is as bad as it can get using different recordings. Try it for a week.

I am looking for an active Pre-Amp with a good Phonostage again BTW.
I believe,,, a slightly different theory.

Does poorly recorded material sound GOOD on a non revealing system? I think no, i think with more revealing setups the joys of well recorded music can outweigh some of the actual content.
I found this to be very true when switching to Hi Definition television. I found myself watching hi definition more and being less picky of its content, and actually relized the content was appealing after all!

Poorly recorded music is just,, bad, no matter the content.
I think then the real persuit becomes finding the music you like, recorded properly. IMHO
I agree - I think as you explore higher-end systems, you start to realize the limitations of the vast number of recordings. The notion that they used to sound great to you isn't that they sound good on a poorer system, it's just that you didn't used to think about it so much. If you had, you'd have been disappointed on any system.

You have to find a way to put the genie back in the bottle - my recommendation is to visit and surf the site for great music, and the next time you consider a multi-thousand $$ upgrade, but a ton of music instead. Maybe you can get the genie back in the bottle, maybe not.

I think this is why musicians don't get so hung up on high-end systems - the recordings are relatively poor, don't sound that much like the real thing, and they're able to focus on what the musicians are doing to make the sound they're hearing, regardless of the recording quality. In other words, they're listening directly past the recording and playback quality, and hearing the music.
tough call. i just upgraded my speakers and found out thati needed a amp upgrade,which then turned into speaker cable upgrade. imo, it is much more difficult to "dial in" more revealing components to make the system sing.

i would strongly suggest to seek the help of a experienced salesman at a local audio store that is someone who you trust and is familair with your taste and your gear.

if synergy is not happening- then the whole thing sounds like crap. if synergy does !!!!

my conclusion - it is a double edged sword.

i have good luck with dialing in a short period of time. but this is turned out to be a little more complicated than expected.

sometimes very small things bring about very noticable changes ( like cable risers- without them, you would swear you were listening to a different pair of speaker cables...btw, signal cable has some that look cool, work, and are reasonably priced).

so approach with caution and if you go that way - expect to spend more time and $$ to get things to flow.

hope that helps,

Very good question. Idealistically, a system should be as revealing as whatever the microphones pick up. Or at the very least, whatever musical info has been stamped on the disc.

However, the problem lies in the fact that almost every system we ever hear fails miserably in one or more of the numerous categories that make up the musical presentation of what one might consider a musical, tonally rich, warm, blooming, full, robust, detailed, transparent, open and airy, dynamic, and involving musical experience.

Therefore, simply making a system more revealing(which already exhibits one or more serious shortcomings), tips the scales that much further in same direction for which the system has already set it's course. That is when the ear starts to bleed or when the listener starts to wince at certain passages.

Some to many inherently know when something should sound real but instead sounds more like fingernails on a chalkboard. And when we start to hear passages that come across more like fingernails on a chalkboard and we know it shouldn't sound that way is exactly when listener fatigue sets in.

On the other hand, when a system is extremely well-balanced from the top to bottom most octave, a system can never be too revealing. At this level of system, only the very, very worst recordings are intolerable. But then again, they always were.

Additionally, with this same well-balanced system all the other so called poor or mediocre recordings (which are many) that on most systems sound rather lifeless, flat, and 2-dimensional, will instead sound nearly as tonally rich, 3-dimensional, bloomy, warm, full, robust, detailed, transparent, open and airy, dynamic, and involving as your favorite reference level recordings.

So I suppose the answer to your question is two-fold:

1. For those whose systems are significantly lacking in one or more major categories, it simply will not take much to become too revealing. It easily becomes too much of a good thing.

2. For those whose systems are well-balanced and maintained as such, there is no such thing as too revealing and therefore, there is no end in sight as every upgrade in the right direction is considered a major sonic upgrade with benefits typically across the frequency spectrum. Thus maintaining that balance.

Of course, personal preference is such that for some, a system is always deemed to be too revealing.

Many times it's because they've been told that true high-fidelity is meant to sound soft, veiled, etc..

But other times the foundations of their system configuration is already out of whack but are forever dealing with the affects rather than the cause.

Nine out of Ten audiophiles agree that a system should be 100 percent revealing and 100 percent musical. Obviously this is impossible and the perception is that as the system becomes more revealing it also becomes less musical and vice-versa. So, a system that is 100 percent revealing will only be about 50 percent musical; whereas, a system that is 100 percent musical will only be 50 percent revealing. My best advice (after years of research) is to split the difference and shoot for 75 percent revealing to 75 percent musical. But whether or not you will recognize when you've achieved this balance is uncertain and completely subjective for each individual. So there you have it, in black and white. By the way, could someone please enlighten me as to how high is up??? :)
The difference between musicians and audiophiles is directly related to your posit.By this I mean a musician is primarily focused on the realism of a given instruments variables and an audiophile seeks some other earthly recreation that in the end does not resemble a living organism.It is primarily a pursuit of technical miracles and subject to so many market variables incomprehensible to many and driven by too few.We have long since past the detail and transparency of the live event and entered into a disturbed place of hyper real... masquerading as more real.A pity really since seeking great music is energy more wisely put to use.
Brucegel, you're absolutelly right. Pursuing an unachievable goal is meaningless unless one enjoys the process itself.
However, it would be good to have several differently sounding systems for different types of music and listener's moods. Something like having SS front end and tube DAC as an alternative, for special cases. Or vice versa.
I have been puzzled by such subject(issue) too. My recent "revised "-thought is : " Enough is ENOUGH " ( get the gears that is good enough to reproduce musical clarity and details ,yet NOT to the point of hearing the soloist's or the conductor's breathing ,which I don't really need to hear and spoiled musical enjoyment "
Again and perhaps along the line ' I can't really comphrehen the so called "neutrality " e.g " this amp /preamp is musically neutral/does'nt add or substract any sonic characters....." yet how about in actual listening session ? does my spkr,my cables;my player;and most importantly my listening room also in accordance/compatible with the amp/preamp's "neutrality " ??

Here's my thoughts (yours may conflict, or not - so caveats apply):

Improving a system does include inproving it's ability to resolve the music. I believe that many interpret this to be lightning quickness and knifelike precision. I don't. I believe that an increase in resolution means improving the palpability of the instruments. A guiter should have a wooden body ALONG with the metal string sound. A piano has a form and a resonating texture that is usually not portrayed on many systems.

I don't particularly like the new trend in metal or diamond tweeters. They sound too sharp and brittle to me. And in order to keep up with their overly quick nature, the midranges are following form, with ceramics and such. All speakers I've heard with this formula, even the expensive ones, are incredibly quick. But they don't portray the body of the instrument to my satisfaction - it isn't believable, it's too Hi-Fi.

This may be where your problem lies.

In my audiophile journey, I've found that a revealing system can be both good and bad. What I enjoy is revealing MUSIC, the type that draws you into the experience and transports you to another place.

Whether a revealing or musical system accomplishes this varies from system to system, but mostly depends on the person listening and how they interpret it.
several years ago i bought a jvc boombox for the bedroom on sale (am/fm/cd/cassette). i would play hendrix, led zeppelin, madonna, boston, as well as jazz and classical from time to time.
on rock recordings the stereo imaging was incredible, and
the "heavy rock" sound was really satisfying and fairly clearly rendered. out in the "living room" where my "audio system" resides, i just don't have time to listen to crosby stills and nash's crappy mixing/mastering as much as i love the music, when i can be listening to mozart or bach. there are many killer recordings of jazz (i have a t.monk live done with a 3 ch.analog tape machine on verve) that rivals anything i've ever heard (well, almost). i've tried metallica (the "black" alblum) for fun just to see what my
"good stuff" thinks of it. it's okay, but ponderous, and i get a migraine after about 10 minutes. so maybe i can't put everything on the big system and enjoy it 100%, but that still leaves about 75% of my music collection that i can listen to. plus my tastes have changed- yes and pat benetar are giving way to allison krause and dianne krall (and metamucil).
Everyone who has responded "gets it" which is very encouraging indeed.I wish all of you many years of musical joy and happiness.I suppose in a perfect world you would'nt even care after purchasing your equipment what it was or wasnt doing would simply dissapear.Like life itself all that would be left would be the illusion of real.
Thank you for distinguishing that musician (drummer) in me that wants to hear it all, from the sustain of guitar strings to the creaking of the piano bench. My SET-based system answers to that desire.
And Simon, thank you for reminding met that each of us not only hears differently, but that each of us also looks to hear different things.
Great thread, everyone.
i think plato hit the nail on the head. there has to be a balance between high relsolution and musicality.

that is where the real challenge is- is finding that synergistic combination.

Different audiophiles have had different experiences with discrimination/detail rendering. I believe most go through a phase where they have achieved lots of detail by changing, cables, sources etc.. only to have it sound clinical or harsh, but all the details are there. This leads many audiophiles to believe that its not such a good thing to reveal all of the details, when in fact, it is. As a result, many of them buy DAC's or tubed equipment that tends to roll-off or compress the high-frequencies in order to eliminate this harshness that they believe comes with the detail.

The real solution is to eliminate the harshness from their front-ends without sacrificing the detail, dynamics or extension. There are two ways to do this: 1) buy EMM or other very expensive gear 2) mod your gear