Questions about Resolving Systems

I know this will be subjective but what makes a resolving system?

Does it mean it has great detail?

How do you know if you have a resolving system?

Is that only for system that employ high end components?

I am just trying to get a better understanding.




I love the example of the muppets because they align with something Steve Guttenberg likes to say — namely, "abandon the quest for perfect realism," or words to that effect. What we want is something that pleases us. We might call that "comfortably real."

Your post made me consider that there are lots of ways a system can be comfortably real, and that involves (as you put it) "alignment with real physics and real human motion." Another way of describing such alignment is "natural" or, more humbly, "the way I move, too."

Your post also made me consider that there are things a system does in obvious and overt ways which also create other non-focal aspects. We could call these the "fringe" or background that makes us feel at home. None of this is unusual for an interior decorator, who understands that colors and placement of objects — however much we’d call them environment or background — are critical to making a house feel like a home.

What we may be making explicit, here with audio, is that same kind of thing. Music that makes us feel "at home."

Steve, thank you for the educational information.  This sounds a good diy project.


I'm coming around to that realization more and more, that ultimate realism isn't a realistic goal, but there are certain presentations that come across as enjoyable and appropriate, as you say they make me feel at home. I've run in to paradoxes where I can clearly say that one speaker sounds better in most ways than another, but I actually prefer to use the lesser speaker because I can adjust to its faults better. 

When listening to a full orchestra symphony finale, most systems present a wall of sound that is a bit garbled. In a concert hall, you hear all the instruments together, but not mixed. For me , resolving is the ability of a system to get close to that. To unscramble the signal and make individual instruments unaffected by the others. This also has a lot to do with the recording. Only in the last 10 15 years do you have high res recordings who have this detail. And very good systems will show it. Those systems will also reveal any distortion. This is why resolving is a double edge sword. Finally, the type of music is relevant in this issue also: old rock and pop are highly compressed and the garble cannot be undone. But in recent classical, jazz, ambient, folk, solving the equation with high detail makes music sound closer to the real thing.  Try Mahler symphony no 3 first movement with Michael Tilson Thomas and San Francisco Orchestra, the last 3 minutes. If you can hear each instrument group clearly, you have a resolving system. If you can hear each instrument separately, you are not human. 


When listening to a full orchestra symphony finale, most systems present a wall of sound that is a bit garbled. In a concert hall, you hear all the instruments together, but not mixed. For me , resolving is the ability of a system to get close to that.

This is a very important point. This is where my system still struggles, but given all it can do with just about everything else -- including letting older, more compressed recordings still speak their truths -- I'm likely to just forgive it. Remember what happened in Hawthorne's "The Birthmark"? We mustn't kill beauty as we seek perfection.

Resolving is a lot like other audio qualities - a matter of taste.  To my ears, too much 'resolution' and the background effects reduce the musicality and become distracting.  The background noise, or peripheral instruments, actually stand out too much relative to the main theme of the music.  You get to say 'wow, listen to that', but then it only indicates that something that should be in the blend is now standing out too  much.

Important to have a balance in resolution, and take it to the edge and not over the edge.  Like too much treble or bass.  I think it is possible to hear into the music too much if you are actually seeking to listen to the music (musicality).

Resolution is a very nice feature of a good system, while too much takes away from that.  Only a personal opinion, of course.....

Resolution is a very nice feature of a good system, while too much takes away from that.  

could not agree more

too much of anything in life, even good things, is not good...

@rogerh113… “Resolution is a very nice feature of a good system, while too much takes away from that.”





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@jay73 - jay, to start with, I am one of the belief that different people refer to the term ‘resolution’ to mean different things. There is something that could be called superficial resolution, which only speaks to a greater contrast between sounds in order to create sharpness of definition. But there is a deeper kind of resolution we can reference - a system that is highly resolving is also one that is highly realistic, because resolution does not merely refer to the contrast, or definition, of specific musical notes as suspended objects, but also to every fine point of sound information that recreates the space in-between, the relationships, between the ‘objects’. This includes with it, the minute transients of time that separate those tiny points of sound information. 


A highly resolving system is also a highly realistic and ‘accurate’ one. Its ability to bring greater definition to detail and specifics does not void its ability to fill in all the other details and textures in-between, and in the time domain.


This leads on to our individual perceptions of ever increasing levels of resolution, being one of relativity. Most interpret relativity as choice being personally driven. I rather define relativity with regards to everything each of us has not personally heard, or listened to, in each of our own systems. I would say that for the thousands of audio products out there, it is difficult to say how resolving each of our systems are, due to a typically limited means for conducting comparisons, from time and budget considerations, to finding equipment examples to demo. Unless we are able to find and prepared to test multiple kinds of equipment, of pre amps, amps, cables, servers, DACs, isolation products, and power supplies, over extended periods and in the specific contexts of our particular listening rooms, it is difficult to eliminate that issue of relativity, to know where we each stand in the search for sound resolution that is our amazing hobby.


Very very little, in relation to percentage terms, separates between entry level systems and the most realistic sounding systems in the world. But here’s the thing, each percentage of improvement is huge in cognitive terms, and once heard is difficult to unhear, in returning to what we previously knew. Sometimes, it takes multiple little changes before a positive improvement of one entire percent can be heard, which is one of the primary reasons why our hobby is the most difficult one to quantify and qualify – the very matrix of right combinations that has to be made for a positive improvement upward, is boggling.

This is one of the primary reasons why some audiophiles resort to measurements -–  to avoid the effort and considerable regret of having made decisions over incorrect combination of equipment changes which didn’t give that one or two percent improvement; in forgetting that the measured qualities of a single piece of equipment is the furthest thing from knowing what its contribution is to the totality of an entire system and a single percent change closer to the ceiling of what is attainable.

There is no easy road in our hobby, if a true highly resolving system is the goal, because it is wholly dependent on the very system and room we listen to our music in. Some want to believe it is easy and accessible, either due to their lack of time, patience, or inability to afford more. Others, because of their belief they know all the answers fed to them by dials and digital readouts measured from equipment divorced from its chain. The truth is that the passion of our hobby is one involving the cultivation of listening skills and that huge effort of time, patience, and expenditure it takes, to bring as many pieces of researched equipment of multiple price points into the chain of one’s own system in its specific room, one at a time, and over extended periods of listening and comparison over the years; and not the quick listening that pretenders or number engineers engage. 


A highly resolving system takes tremendous effort because of the complex matrix of equipment combinations that result in different sound outcomes, and the difficulty in identifying differences in sound quality that distinguish what entry level, the most realistic sound systems, and everything else in between, have to offer within the specific contexts of our listening rooms, in reducing the element of relativity.


I hope this all made sense.


In friendship, kevin

That’s what I have been saying.  Resolution is a two edged sword.  The added detail and clarity can distract from the music- at first.  The little sounds and noises in the background were stressing me at first.  I still hear things that make me think someone has walked into the room at times.  Eventually, I grew accustomed to it all.  In a word, the added detail and clarity is exciting. 

It is not for everyone.  As I said before, I have had people get up and leave the room.  They didn’t much care for the realism.  

At Deer Creek Audio we believe high quality, proven audio equipment is the minimum requirement for producing high resolution audio. Next we believe in staying in the digital domain as long as possible before you convert to analog with excellent DACs and powerful low distortion amplifiers.

In our listening studio the ultimate upgrade has proven to be Dirac Live processing which occurs with uncompromising precision in the digital domain.

Dirac Live technology corrects frequency response and also sound timing, meaning each sound wave hits your ears precisely when the artist intended. This delivers phase alignment, speaker driver alignment, room resonance reduction, and early reflection reduction. 

Deer Creek Audio is an authorized miniDSP dealer.


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I understand. I’m talking about the other side of resolution, ie. the footfalls, coughs, hum in mic cables and whispers. That all comes through as well. It was distracting at first but I am able to tune it out, mostly. The benefits are hearing the voices of a Chorale spread out across the room vs. just a cloud of sound or the clarity of mid bass. That part is exciting. I mention mid bass a lot because I think that is the hardest thing to get right in a room/system. And unfortunately, I didn’t know it was lacking or missing until I heard a top notch resolving system some years back.

I was talking to a recording engineer at Axpona last year. He can hear where the splices are in the master tapes while playing back a song; but that is his job. That is a level of listening beyond my capabilities for sure.


@tonywinga - sorry for the delete, had to sort out a silly double emphasis which made my post look etched  😂

here’s how it was supposed to read….actually, from what you’ve written, tony, I believe we are talking about very different things. The details and textures I refer to of the everything in-between do not distract from the music in the least, nor do they create the stress you mention. From the very first impression of a good highly resolving system, all that fine detail that may not have been heard before in a lesser system, adds to the texture of space itself as the profound context of its soundfield, in becoming part of the music. It is a realism that has nothing to do with having to accustomise or get used to - what you describe sounds etched, or hyper-realistic - the very thing I try to avoid as superficial resolution. But of course I would have to have an involved listen of your system to truly know what you mean.


In friendship, kevin

For me a resolving system is a system that lets you know everything about the recording, warts and all - sometimes it's a blessing sometimes it's a PITA.

A resolving system also makes the effect of upgrades or tweaks (cables, power filtering, vibration decoupling, capacitors upgrades etc) very obvious and also highlights phenomenons such as burn-in, variations in AC quality, etc.

What we need is a system that reveals all the good characteristics of good recordings, but then detects bad recordings and "fixes them up."