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.



A low noise floor, noise you didn't even know was there until you eliminate it and the notes just come from the most silent background.

Yes, very exclusive. Only used for audio neurotic setups.

The rest of us just buy stuff that just sounds pleasing to the ear.


It certainly is subjective.

For example, is it the recording space and position of the musicians or is it the ability to hear the sound of the guitar pick on the string before the note starts?

Is a system so resolving that it does not sound musical?

etc., etc.

Different strokes.

I do not see it as "subjective." There may be a family of adjectives involved and not everyone agrees about what are the most important. That said, one might consider the following:

Instruments positions are spread out and in definite locations.
(Opposite: they come from everywhere or are only vaguely "right" or "left", etc.)

Instruments sound like themselves -- an oboe sounds like an oboe and not a clarinet, etc. Moreover, they sound like particular, individual instruments.

Small details in the mix can be heard because of the separation and, as mentioned, the low noise floor. Test you can try: compare a complex track on two systems; the one that contains "more" in it is the more resolving one.

None of that is subjective. It is clearly perceptible. And perception is an objective fact in the world.


Does your soundstage have width, depth and height?

Can you hear the difference between a grand piano and upright piano?

Can you clearly hear all the words to a song the singer is singing?

Can you clearly hear the background singers?

Can you clearly distinguish the individual voices when more than one singer is singing lead?

Can you clearly hear the percussion instruments, such as Suspended Cymbals, Finger Cymbals and such?

When the drummer kicks the kick drum do you almost jump out of your seat?

Does your system make you happy?

These are some of the things I strive for in my system.

The ultimate test would be can you clearly hear all the words to “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen?

Joe Nies

Its hard to know till you heard it a few times.  Heard the noise, then heard the system without the noise.  Once its gone its sort of an owe wow, I never knew it was so bad.  Go to a friend house with a good filter.  Have him play with and without.  That will get you part of the way to understanding. Of course, some filters may add some ?????  But its the general idea.  Borrow a filter and put it in your system. 

I don’t know the answer, but the first thing I thought of when reading your post was the album Friday Night in San Francisco. Now, that isn’t responsive to your question, but the reason that I thought of this album was that when I first heard this record on my system, my jaw dropped due to what I thought of as amazing resolution. I haven’t a clue how my system “resolves” compared to any other, but I do know that my cartridge is up to the task and perhaps from the arm to the speakers .. less so. Anyway, a great album.

jay73 - To answer you last question first i.e.

Is that only for system that employ high end components?

Tha answer is no - you do not have to have high end components - but you will need some pretty darn good cables

My modest System MSRP around $20k Canadian...

  • Bryston B135 integrated amp
  • Bluesound Node 2
  • Simmaudio Moon Phono Stage
  • DIY turntable with Audio mods Arm and Denon 103 Soindsmith modified cartridge
  • Gershman Acoustince Sonogram speakers

This is by no means what I consider a high end system, but it sounds better than most $100k+++ systems I have auditioned in some very good audio stores

My very affordable $300 mini system also sounds pretty amazing with the cables I have installed

Good cables are key to,,,

  • improving dynamics to realistic levels
  • improvinf clarity and details - those little micro details of the venue acoustics and reverberations
  • lowering the noise floor
  • achieving a realistic holographic 3D image

Is is pretty easy to achieve once the cables are sorted

Take a read of this link

What Makes a good cable

If you are just starting out take a look at Audio Envy cables - great value and very good performance.

I made my own Helix cables, which are extremely good

Helix Cables - what other members think

How to build them

Regards - Steve



A high resolving system starts with a fully acoustically treated room. It is so much more important than the choice of audio equipment imo. Decent equipment in a fully acoustically treated room will likely always sound better than great equipment in a non treated room. 

It is a bit ambiguous, but visits to high end audio stores can zero one in on what it means.

However, it can be a very negative thing. There are components and systems designed to be high resolution that scrape details from the media and communicate every tiny detail … this can be a CD player, DAC, tt cartridge or even preamp / amp. Put these together and they can end up increasing the noise floor, increasing distortion and stripping the musical content… the emotional connection. I have hear so many terrible sounding “high resolution systems” I have lost track.

Often with these systems, the over emphasis details and subtle cues about the venue and spatial dynamics come at the expense of rhythm and pace (a large part of the the emotional connection one gets with the music) and midrange bloom. So, a system can fascinate one with hearing the conductor moving his foot or the sonic reflections of the orchestra hall and completely miss drawing you into the music. Sterile and analytical are frequently used to help describe these systems


Over time these system fail to engage the user for more than a short time. Lots of us old guys who have been pursuing the high end for decades ended up with high resolving soulless systems and re-evaluated what we were doing and heading back to musical systems, often ending up with all tube systems that are musical first. They have the details and bass, but they are in proper proportion to the musical attributes. These systems are tremendously engaging. After three hours of listening each day.. it is really hard to rear myself away.



A highly resolving system will allow you to hear everything but not at the cost of anything. Nothing will stand out, overshadowing something else. You'll see the forest and forget the tree. It will be done in a relaxed yet rich and full manner.

You'll get all the detail (if not more) you've heard in other systems that sounded bright and edgy but it will be calmly rendered. Think of substituting the edgy brightness with a burnished quality. 

You need not spend a lot to get to this level of reproduction. I've wasted more on components than what my present system costs (about $13K) so the old adage about hindsight would apply save for the fact that it took my last few purchases to get it resolved and they simply didn't exist before the last two years. Time does march on and with it, progress.

All the best,

How do you know if you have a resolving system?


If you can hear differences with cables (power cords, speakers cables and/or interconnects) and wall receptacles, then you have a resolving system.


Now you know why some people can’t hear differences in cables. *wink wink*


the first aspect of a resolving system is that it reveals differences between recordings and is able to allow each recording and performance to be unique. differences become easy to recognize. the system is a chameleon and can relate all aspects of the performance properly with coherence and balance. the musical differences are not obscured by system and room limitations.

the same things that show differences between recordings, also result in greater musical involvement, although that is not really the same thing as resolving.

the opposite of resolving is that the colorations and distortions on the system and room obscure and veil musical distinctions.

it’s normal for systems with minor colorations or distortions to become worse as the music volume increases as the small issues start to get in the way of resolution. so what is resolving at moderate listening levels is not resolving at higher listening levels. this is a lack of headroom in the signal path or acoustics.

so the idea of a resolving system is variable as to how much dynamics it can handle before it falls apart.

the best systems hold together at full tilt bogie levels.

there are matters of taste involved in tonal differences between systems. when you stray from neutral, then at a certain point of scaling there will be issues. systems tuned for particular music can become out of sorts when pushed. but the listener might do that intentionally. it’s not one size fits all. tuning for a desired coloration simply has consequences.

some gear and speakers do have higher resolution as pieces of a system, which can allow for a higher ceiling of resolution all other things being equal. but a resolving system is much more than that.

$400k speakers and $200k amps thrown together in a bad room can suck. good sound is not an accident. or just dollars thrown around is never proof of anything. yet better gear can take you further, when it’s used effectively.

some media has more resolution, some formats have more resolution. garbage in garbage out. so what you feed your system can limit how resolving it is.

There are a lot of great answers here. But for me, in a nutshell, it's a balance of detail and warmth. 

@vonhelmholtz I get what you are saying.

I don’t know the answer, but the first thing I thought of when reading your post was the album Friday Night in San Francisco.

This and Hotel California Live (Hell Freezes Over) are great "test records" for this balance. Of course there are many others.

Hi Jay73!  Can you hear the singer's breating?  Can you hear when the guitar is sightly out of tune. When the Halleluah Chorus really gets going, can you still hear the harpsichord. Do you play an instrument? If so, do recordings of that instrument sound real to you? On closely miked vocals, can you hear the tongue moving in the mouth? On Jennifer Warnes (Famous Blue Raincoat album) "Josn of Arc," how clear is the harmony recording of her voice when she's dubbing in the harmony part? Overall clarity is what you're looking (listening?) for. Got it? Happy listening!

Forgiving or Resolving?

I tend to agree with the analysis given in the PS Audio website on this topic. Opposite of resolving is forgiving. If your system lean towards forgiving, then everything sounds good, but nothing sounds great. If your system is highly resolving, then the extremes between bad and great are magnified.

In my case, I had to make some compromises due to limitations in my source materials. I have Thiel 3.6 speakers, considered highly resolving and revealing. So I use tube gear (pre-amp, DAC, phono pre-amp) up stream to tame down the beast at the end of the chain. I believe some of us do this as a compromise so that we can enjoy most of our CDs, LPs, cassettes, etc. 

...and they certainly resolve any issues you've with a bank balance.... ;) 🙄

@kota1   you nailed it!  I had an Esoteric N05XD Streaming DAC and it was resolving in the extreme black backgound.  Frankly it didn't sound realistic. It was too quiet beyond anything I have heard in the real world. 



OP --- what makes a resolving system?

An audio system sounds the most life like with everything mentioned above. It sounds like this video.


A truly Audiophile resolving system ,1st will take $$ on average at least $50 k

minimum , by many standards 

A system that can reproduce the finest detail within the separated instruments and vocals and place them in a wide soundstage with pinpoint accuracy.

Eric Clayton’s Lady in the Balcony- I hear his shirt sleeve buttons rubbing against the guitar strings down near the base of the guitar in a couple of his songs.  A Led Zepplin song- his drum pedal squeaks.  I forget which song but it is really annoying.  Hum in microphone cords, talking, coughing become very apparent and is distracting at first.  The upside is the black background, the holographic soundstage and the clarity transport me from my listening room to the stage.  Another fun recording is the Carly Simon Live at Grand Central.  The ambience and sounds from the crowd and station are wonderful to hear.

Truly resolving systems are more real than real.  For example being able to pick out individual voices in a Chorle or the individual instruments in an orchestra with breathtaking clarity.  It’s exciting to hear a system that resolving but in real life I cannot stand in front of a live orchestra and pick out each instrument so easily.  Same goes for a choir.  

Clarity and resolution are addictive to me.  I tried to dial it back some by removing isolation on components but once I experienced it I couldn’t go back.  I’m used to it now.  Like in life we learn to filter things out.


You mentioned your last two purchases... what were they if you don't mind sharing?  I'm just curious what finally fixed things for you.

These three comments really nailed it, I think.

A highly resolving system will allow you to hear everything but not at the cost of anything....It will be done in a relaxed yet rich and full manner....Think of substituting the edgy brightness with a burnished quality. 

A high resolving system starts with a fully acoustically treated room. It is so much more important than the choice of audio equipment imo.

 it's a balance of detail and warmth.  

Here’s an example. I listened to Joan Osborne’s ‘Radio Waves’ live album the other day. It’s a compilation of live recordings over her career. In each song, I was able to hear clearly the difference in mics, soundboards, mixing, instrumentation, and in many cases the placement of instruments on stage. It was an interesting experience. Because live bands are mostly recorded from the inputs, not necessarily from the stage or audience, it’s a very different sensation than hearing a studio recording. Qobuz, Roon, iFi Zen Signature, Linn Akurate, AV5125 and Keilidhs.  


One thing that made me realize that my newer system were more resolving was the fact that I had listened to Too Old to Rock & Roll by Tull many hundreds of times over the years and really never read all the liner notes. I recently got my 40 year old album back and played it to hear a second voice throughout the track. Maddy Prior is singing along with Ian.



A truly Audiophile resolving system ,1st will take $$ on average at least $50 k

minimum , by many standards

We need to talk, I can put one together for $10K or less. If you use a headphone system for $5K. You need to checkout Benchmark:

Audio components (and the systems they are connect to) can commit errors of "commission" and "ommission". Which is to say they get things "wrong", injecting sounds (distortions, phase anomalies, etc) that trigger our ears & brain to believe that something just isn’t right. Errors of ommission relates to leaving out information, or attenuating it (micro dynamics, trailing vocals, detail, space between the notes, etc). Then there’s the whole balance and coherence thing, and placing things in space where they belong.

When all the stars line up and the "suspension of disbelief" kicks in -- where we reach the point when we "disbelieve" were listening to a mere facsimile of a live performance but rather we’re there WITH the musicians, we have assembled a "resolving system."


Steve, I really appreciate that you brought in the Helix design concept for the speake cable and audiophile diyer who experiments your idea gives a really favorable comments/reviews. I am inspired but wonder / not convinced one aspect of the design concepts. The principle is simple, twist the negative polarity wire around the positive one (preferrably at 90 degree) so they do not run in parallel to create the proclaimed noise / distortion. Usually, the twisted negative wire will run 2-3 times longer to achieve an ideal geometry. I am therefore concerned with the potential adverse effect (e.g. out of phase, etc.) due to the fact that negative polarity signal travels much longer than the positive signal. How legit is that concern? Second, in that regard, would the "mutually" twisted cable that is commonly available in the market (given the copper purity / annealing is in high quality) works better, since now the negative signal will travel the same distance with the negative while preserves the non-parallel property?

Headphones for 1 is fine for a alternative, but at least $Teens on up Loudspeakers 

to give resolution needs , dac no less then around $5k minimum

a perfect example which is am saving for T+A 200 dac $7k great dac 

amp,preamp or integrated $10kk.  Cables minimum of $6-8k if you count all digital 

I have $2500 alone just in 3- best in class under $1200 $750 each                   Linear Tube Audio Linear Power Supply., 2 high quality Ethernet cables such as Jcat ref , and usb , over $4k , synergistic fuses another $800, plus power cords,

a $2600 Puritan line conditioner , $50k  is roughly minimum for a truly uppermidfi Audiophile Audio System , my brother spent over $150k and is still always looking for ways to better his Audio system ,his latest DCS Rossini was $36k alone .

it’s all about Your budget.I owned a Audio store for 10 years  and nothing is set in stone . I recently sold a $8k integrated and the buyer was just using the stock $15 powercord , some people don’t get it and this same guy spent $20 k on speakers. 
synergy and balance done right you can save roughly 1/3rd in $$ saved.

I am just giving you a average , for myself you need to spend over $10 k minimum

such as say a Pass labs 200 integrated amp o4 separates. High quality does count , myself upgrading the Xovers in Loudspeakers for years  that is very lacking even in many speakers in well known Loudspeakers , I am just speaking on my many years of experiences  and opinion ,nothing more, at the end of the day it’s your money 💰.

$7K DACs and $6K min on cables...

If you got it, spend it - but I'm sorry but this is not good advice.

You can achieve system synergy that works for you in your environment for a lot less but more importantly, just throwing big bucks at it won't guarantee a good outcome.  


Actually, it was three but I combined the Technics SU-G700M2 and SL-G700 SACD player. The clincher was the Revival Audio Atalante 3 speakers. I have absolutely no need to fiddle with my system anymore but would upgrade to the larger Atalante 5 if I ever get a bigger space to put them in. 

All the best,

Of course the sound quality of a stereo system is proportional to the cost of the components.  But is is much more complicated than that.  Factors outside of the speakers, the amp, preamp and source have as much or more impact on the sound than the components.  The room, the floor, and the ambient noise level affect how we perceive the sound.  Electrical noise, EMI and RFI affect the performance of the stereo gear.  Just moving my bass traps around in the room affects the mid bass clarity.

The economics of stereo gear, just like about all products mass produced, is that for every $1 of material cost the selling price will be about $3.50- $4,00.  Once labor, overhead, taxes, insurance, R&D, admin, etc and then the distributor and final sales outlets get their cut that is roughly the cost to purchase.  So you see, we beat up a speaker manufacturer for using cheap capacitors but the reality is if they were to use say $400 worth of caps in their cross overs vs. $50 in caps, the selling price would end up being some $1400 higher which might price their speaker out of the market.  So the savvy audiophile can buy the $400 set of caps and upgrade their speakers saving $1000. 

Like it or not you pay $60k or more for a new car knowing that it has about $15k worth of parts in it.  Thing is, most of us would not know what to do with a pile of auto-parts, sheet metal and 7 gallons of paint.  And while the automaker pays $50 for a fuel pump module (they buy millions of units per year) the dealer will charge you over $500 for the same part.  Maybe you can get a similar unit at the discount parts store for $250.  Point is, you cannot cost effectively build your own car.  The same goes for a stereo system.  

Do everything you can to your room- seek professional help if need be (for the acoustics, I mean) and then do what you can to enhance the performance of your stereo components by using better power cords, power conditioners, cables, isolation and dampening devices.  And then the hard core audiophiles go into their speakers, amps, preamps and sources and replace internal components such as caps, wiring and resistors for even more enhancements.  This hobby really has no end and infinite permutations.  

Still, it’s cool to see these million dollars systems and admire the art of it.  They may or may not sound like a million dollars but I’ll never know.

excellent thread and some excellent observations and comments

if this board had a 'stickies' function, this is one that would deserve it, so noobs can learn what it is we are shooting for with all this crazy stuff

Wow, just came back to the question that I posed yesterday.

Thanks for all the feedback, I will need to take some time to to review all this.

the answer is, It’s different for different people.  I really good friend of mine (best man at my wedding) has a receiver and speakers from the 80’s. Nothing has been updated or changed in any way.  In fact it’s been in his living room for 30 years and he’s as happy a clam.  Me, I’ve been slowly upgrading my system and when I retired, I started building a totally new system.  When he say the speakers, he told me I was nuts for spending “that kind of money “!

To each their own.

the answer is, It’s different for different people....To each their own.

There's no overlap? Nothing to share, then? It's all so subjective that there are no common rules of thumb? We wouldn't have a hobby or be able to have a disagreement if that was true. 

The underlying message of "to each his own" is -- why bother? That's an escape hatch to having the conversation, but it's not an answer to the conversation. We are far more similar than we think.

I’ve been thinking about the word "resolving" and had a visual experience that inspired me. I was sitting at a stop light with a freight truck in front of me. It had a round tail light composed of an array of little red LEDs in what looked like an even pattern. I peered over my glasses and saw the LED array out of focus and noticed something I could not easily detect when they were in focus - they were not evenly spaced apart, but were grouped into sub arrays that created a flower petal effect. The blurry vision revealed the subtle spacing differences that were harder to see with sharper focus, which just made all the spaces look relatively large compared to the size of each LED element.

I created the attached image to try to demonstrate the effect. I’m not sure how exactly this applies to audio but I suspect it does. Some systems may reveal things that weren’t intended to be revealed while simultaneously obscuring things that should be revealed.

By sacrificing the contrast of each individual dot by adding a blurry halo around it I'm simultaneously adding an increased contrast of the distance between the dots.

A system that reveals as much of the recorded information as possible. The trick being leaving the music to sound proportionally correct. Not sure soundstage comes to mind as it is contrived but harmonics, tone of instruments, vocal pitch etc 

@lanx0003 - I responded to your question via the Private Message function

Hope that helps - Steve


My very affordable $300 mini system also sounds pretty amazing

Okay, I gotta ask what is it???

@williewonka, I was able to take a "one-time-only" peek at your response (via notification) but nothing was related to my question. This is a fundamental question related to the essense of your Helix design that, I believe, audiophiles desire to experiment this concept if it really works as you have claimed. I really wish you could take this chance to articulate it.

Like @cdc has asked too, I had procured two $300 mini systems (Loxjie A30 + Sony sscs5 / Tannoy Mercury F1) for my kids and they like it. To me, however, these mini systems could only reach 70-80% of performance compared to my 2nd system that costs 10 times more in my (of course) subjective assessment. IF the bottleneck is cabling and utilizing your design could substantially enhance its performance to a "pretty amazing" level, I will consider it a no brainer experiment.




William James' work on non-focal attention (or "fringe") may be of interest, here. 

Here's an interesting and influential paper on the subject:

This is a very promising paper on the "fringe" and the uncanny in experience.

Good, better, best.

Good- a stereo that blends into the room decor and has a good tonal range.  It might even have some strong bass and clarity in the midrange.  Good for dancing, background listening and parties.

Better- a stereo that is incorporated into the room decor.  It stands out in the room but still blends in and often times makes a statement as both tech and art.  It makes some friends just a little envious but most will admire it and be impressed with its performance.  Good for tuning out the world and just listening to the music.  Certainly engaging and fun.

Best- a stereo in a purpose designed/built room.  The stereo is the main object in the room.  The room electrical and acoustics are dedicated to optimum sound.  Large, room filling components and speakers that completely overtake the room offering limited seating for others.  Creates an immersive sound stage with totally engaging music.  Perfect for critical listening and tuning out the world for a few hours.  Escape comparable to a good movie.  Friends and family are no longer jealous, they are concerned.

@cdc - RE: "Okay, I gotta ask what is it???"

Its a yamaha integrated rado/CD/usb/amp unit with seperate speakers

I upgraded the speaker cables and it resolved all of the distortions and improved bass perofrmance coming out of the silly little speakers

I updated the power cable and it again improved the bass depth and accuracy and in the upper frequencies it improved clarity and details, at the same time improved the imaging

I have also upgraded the power cables in all of my Bluesound components with amazing success.

I actually took one of my power cables to the audio store when I bought the bluesound remote speaker and the guy there was amazed at the improvements in sound quality from just a power cables.

  • I later returned with power, speaker and interconnects and two guys at the store spent the better part of an hour swapping amps and speakers - totally amazed at the transformation

Even my Bluesound Soundbar improved its imaging significantly with just an upgraded power cable.

Unfortunately, all of my cables are an advanced DIY design, which I readily share with others via the links in my first post of this thread, but I do not make them for others.

At no time were magic mushrooms part of the equation 😁

Regards - Steve


@lanx0003 - there is no Phase issue with the helix cables

  1. due to it’s longer neutral conductor because the neutral is a thicker gauge, which balances the resistance of both neutral and signal conductors to the same level (approximately)

However - If you are of a belief that that the "negative Polarity signal" only travels down the negative conductor you are mistaken

  • both +ve cycle and -ve cycle parts of the signal travel ONLY down the signal wire - this can easily be seen using an osciliscope
  • the neutral wire is just that - NEUTRAL - , because it is connected to the neutral sides of the connected components, which in both components should be at ZERO volts.
  • There is no phase implication between the signal and neutral conductors in any cable

The phase implications that impact sound quality and imaging is between the signal conductors in the cables that convey left and right channels. any phase difference between the L and R channel will alter the image dramatically

  • a pair of Helix interconnct or speaker cables will maintain phase accuracy providing a stunning image

Hope that clarifies things - Steve


Thanks for the links. The uncanny is an interesting topic. The term gets applied to CGI graphics, which can be simultaneously impressive and disappointing. I'll admit I didn't see the connection to my post at first, but the idea that something is so right in some ways but so wrong in others I think is on point. CGI graphics come to mind because they allow portrayals of people and animals that can do thing that no Muppet could ever do, and yet they don't move quite right and so it's really weird - really bad sometimes. I'll take the Muppet because it fails more broadly and evenly and better allows me to suspend my disbelief. The ways it does move are perfectly in alignment with real physics and real human motion of the Muppeteer.