Goal of Gaudi

2014/06/11 created
2022/03/15 updated

The contents of this page were reprinted from the previous homepage of mine, 'Tonochi's Audio Room'. Some parts were edited.

The goal of Gaudi sound is 'living sound', a sound that is so lifelike that you feel as if you listen to a real live performance. It is vivid, open, dynamic and energetic. Sounds of musical instruments sing and dance, and make you absorbed in the world of music before you are aware. As soon as music starts, you feel as if the living room changes to a mini concert hall. That's the 'living sound'.
The sound like this offers astonishment, excitement and deep impression to you. It is rather shocking when you realize there is nobody in front you though you hear a lifelike singing voice. At first, you may feel it is weird, but you get absorbed in the world of music and get excited as you get used to the high quality sound. Finally, it leads to the great thrill and pleasure.

To tell the truth, I didn't aim at the 'living sound' from the beginning. I aimed at traditional hi-fi sound, when I designed Gaudi in 1974. That is, I thought it was ideal to pick up the musical information recorded on vinyl disks in exhaustive detail as a signal, amplify it without any distortion nor noise, and transduce it into sound very precisely. This was the goal of Gaudi sound then.
I changed my way of thinking around 1980, when I majored in psychology and studied mechanism of sense and perception at university. I learned that a man cannot perceive information the sense organ (ear) catches as it is. Information from the sense organ (ear) is separated into elements and a perceivable image is restructured based on them in the brain. Unessential information is discarded in the process, and the restructure is greatly affected by information from other sense organ--mainly visual information--and his experiences (memory), a preoccupation and a biased impression. A man is not able to hear sounds as they are, however hard he makes an effort.
This fact may make audio as a good hobby. Sounds that come over loudspeakers can sound just like sounds of a live performance mainly due to the man's mechanism of perception and recognition, even though the former is totally different from the latter. If a man could perceive sounds just as they are, he could not feel stereo image and would hear the sound from each of the two loudspeakers separately.

I came to consider the traditional hi-fi, reproducing sounds precisely analogous to signals recorded on vinyl records, as 'physical hi-fi'. On the other hand, I decided to call it 'psychological hi-fi' to reproduce sounds I feel just like a live performance to my ears. The goal of Gaudi sound turned to be the psychological hi-fi.

It was 1999 when I hit upon with the word 'living sound'. At that time, I had a chance to compare my power amplifier MA-208 with a prestigious class-A power amplifier manufactured by LUXMAN (see the page of MA-208), and I felt the sound of MA-208 was 'living' and that of the other was 'dead'. I interpreted that this difference was caused by the difference in the design goals; the former's was psychological hi-fi, and the latter's was physical hi-fi.

As of March 2014, Gaudi sound has almost reached its goal, but it is not physical hi-fi. For example, Gaudi's frequency response is not flat. The level of the midrange is lower than those of the woofers and the tweeters by -4 to -5dB. Still, I feel the response is flat. If the level of midrange is set to the same as the woofers and the tweeters, it sounds to me like midrange masks midbass and there isn't enough bass sounds. When full-range drivers were used for midrange before, this tendency was more remarkable.
Tonal volume is the most important one among factors of sound quality. The trouble is that it does not always correlate with the SPL (sound pressure level). I keenly feel the difficulty to quantify sound quality.
FYI, a psychological quantity that indicates an intensity of sound is called 'loudness'. Loudness correlates with SPL, which is a physical quantity, but not 100%. For example, a noise comes from a jackhammer whose SPL is 90dB is so loud that you can't help covering your ears with your hands. On the contrary, performance of an orchestra does not sound so loud, even if its SPL is 90dB.

By the way, can signals recorded on vinyl records and CDs be called 'original sound'? If not, hi-fi is not a possibility.
My answer is 'conditionally yes'. Jazz and popular music are created on the assumption that they are heard through audio equipment. As long as a recording engineer perfectly understands what the composer and the artist intend to express and elaborately tune the sounds, I believe the studio master can be regarded as the original sound.
On the other hand, classical music was created on the assumption that the listeners listen to live performances. The sounds of classical music are formed by not only sounds from musical instruments but echoes in a concert hall. I suppose it is virtually impossible to record the sounds and reproduce them precisely in a listening room.

I have been to Musikverein Grosser Saal in Vienna to see a classical concert twice before. I was convinced that the hall's acoustic is said to be world No. 1. I was deeply touched by beauty of its sonority. I was really 'astonished', 'excited' and 'impressed'.
However, I can't tell whether or not a performance was recorded in Musikverein Grosser Saal when I play a recording that was recorded there. If its liner note said it was recorded in Suntory Hall in Tokyo, I would simply believe it.
I think that's not because Gaudi's performance is not good enough, but because the hall's beautiful reverberant sound was not successfully recorded.
So I believe it is better to listen to live performances as for classical music. In fact, I like going to classical concerts much better than concerts of other genres of music.
FYI, when it comes to live performance of an orchestra, I recommend you listen to it at the home of the orchestra. For example, I recommend concert halls in Vienna such as Musikverein, Konzerthaus or Vienna State Opera if you would like to listen to performance of Viennese orchestras such as Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (VPO) or Vienna Symphonic Orchestra (VSO). You can understand what I mean well, if you experiment it. I mean concert halls are a sort of a musical instrument. The VSO is not so famous in Japan, but it offers breathtakingly beautiful and dynamic sounds in the Musikverein Grosser Saal.

Of course, I sometimes listened to classical music through Gaudi as I am a classical music lover. I enjoy it somewhat different way from live performances.
Among classical artists, some like Glenn Gould regard studio recording as important. I think hi-fi reproduction is possible as for performances by solos or small groups like a string quartet which are recorded in a studio.

Though most audiophiles regard sharp sound images and localization of sound as important, I don't care much about them. I rather feel too small and sharp images are unnatural. I don't think such performance is so important for music appreciation which enables the listener to hear the sound from each musical instrument separately or tell the position of each musical instrument precisely.
You can't tell the exact position of each musical instrument when you are listening to an orchestra in a concert hall with your eyes closed. That's because more than 80% of sounds you hear are indirect sounds (reverberant sounds). The sound of each instrument is mixed with each other while echoing in the hall, and forms beautiful harmony. It's the harmony I regard as the most important.
Among music's three elements: melody, rhythm and harmony, the first two are easily reproduced with audio equipment, but the reproduction of beautiful harmony is very difficult. I still regard vinyl records as the best music source because they are superior to CDs and other digital media in reproducing harmony precisely. In particular, vinyl records are must to enjoy choir.

Though I don't stick to pinpoint localization, in case that stereo imaging is not stable, I consider it as a malfunction in the system and check the system and fix the problem. And, if the sound stage doesn't offer a sense of depth, I consider it as poor performance of the system.