Soundstage and Plane
With this whole Roon and MPD, and ethernet cables, and FLAC vs. WAV etc... it can be hard to quantify subjective things and make sense of what we are hearing. Is a change for the better or worse? I suppose it's ultimately up to the listener's preference.
I'm still not sure what parameters are associated with what, or whether one has less or more distortion, or what mechanism is at play with each other. I've speculated before, so I won't do more of that...I'll just state my observations.
With typical compressed music, it can be hard to make sense of things and you sometimes can flip flop back and forth depending on the recording. Recently, I spent a lot of time with large orchestral pieces and stuff with loads of dynamics and sense of space. Lots of John Williams as well and good vocal Jazz. High dynamic range material.
My observations were very similar to what was said here by James Tanner in comparison to BP-17 and BP-26:
I find there are a few differences between the BP26 and the new BP-17 Cubed preamplifiers. The BP-17 Cubed circuitry is based on the new patent we received for the input stage of the new Cubed amplifiers.
The soundstage presentation is different – with the BP-26 it’s a more up-front sound with the voices or instrument tending to be at or slightly forward of the plane of the loudspeaker whereas the BP-17 Cubed has a more recessed presentation where most of the action is at the plane of the speaker and further behind. The size of the stage (left to right and front to back) as well as the presentation of the instruments (size and position) within the stage was very close so no major difference there I could detect. The BP-26 sounds a little ‘puncher’ in the mid-bass frequency area while the BP-17 Cubed is a little less forceful. If you like that ‘in your gut’ bass punch you may prefer the BP-26 in this area.
The part where I think the 17 excels is when a crescendo comes along – either voice of instrument. In some recordings where the vocalist or instrument goes from a low or medium volume level to a crescendo or maybe even approaching a scream with voice the 17 never sounds strained or has any sense of glare or stridency. Sometimes I was thinking the BP-17 Cubed lacked dynamic capability but the more I listened the more I thought – no – it’s just that it is not producing any sense of overload or strain in the music when pushed. Transients in real music are huge and the ability of the BP-17 to deal with these huge shifts of level is something it handles very well.
So if I had to sum up the BP-17 in a word it would be “organic” – less hi-fi sounding. It has a very natural sound to it with no strain or glare.
Taken from here: http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=151889.40
With large orchestral pieces and good recordings, it finally became very clear what I had been feeling was happening with some less than stellar music. If you listen for more details vs. less details, or more bass vs. less, or tighter vs. less bass...your thinking and results will differ depending on which criteria you are using in your head for assessment.
I find that between the FLAC vs. WAV or long vs. short ethernet cables, the of plane of the music can change. In some instances, when the plane recedes, the music can initially feel as if it's lost some impact or if some details are lost. In quick AB testing, you might very well prefer the presentation of the more up front music as it comes across as louder or more detailed. However, as you listen more and more to each, the one that initially seems less detailed ends up being the more easier to listen to and enjoy and just flows like liquid. On the other hand, the more exciting one can start to sound harsh or tiring over time and even constricted.
It'd be interesting to have measurements relating to how we perceive the soundstage or the plane of the soundstage.
I've tried the same list of tracks in both MPD (with FLAC and WAV) and Roon with different setups and cable lengths. On top of that, I tried using my iMac as a source. I used the same music with Audirvana Plus. Then I also found Spotify and Youtube versions of those tracks which were more compressed and lossy and being fed by a worse transport (iMac).
The variance in how the plane varied between all these combination was quite surprising. In general, whenever I use my computer as a source and listen to music or watch movies or clips on Youtube/Netflix, the plane of sound is always in front of the speakers. The iMac as a source is always the most up front.
With FLAC and WAV, I find the FLAC is more up front. With short ethernet cables, I also find the soundstage more up front.
Right now with this particular Fast ethernet switch (DES-1005) powered by Teradak LPS and long ethernet cables (30+ feet) for each of the links, I find it's the easiest to listen to and the most fluid of the bunch, and with a soundstage that is behind the speakers. If you are initially switching from a more upfront presentation, this can initially sound flat and less dynamic. This is similar to what I also notice with my DAC and BDP-1 when swapping out equivalent digital cables (same wire + connectors) for short and long ones (2 feet vs. 6 feet vs. 10 feet vs 18 feet for SPDIF and AES).
If you are listening on headphones exclusively, good luck! This is something that doesn't quite make sense and translate on headphones.
So the next time anyone wants to do a comparison, maybe they should try and focus on the plane of the music as well aside from tonality. Orchestral soundtracks are great for this.
I'd be curious to see measurements on distortion and other stuff vs. where/how one perceives the plane and soundstage while using the same material and controlling for other things.