It doesn’t have to make sense
We love things to make sense and fit into neat little boxes so we can manage our view of the world. When they don’t we can take a number of different paths: ignore, anguish, change the story, disbelief, start researching.
We understand that at the heart of 2-channel high-end audio is the goal of doing no harm: the purer the signal, the better the sound. It’s why we make sure there’s perfect power, low distortion, unfettered transient response. We also understand that less is more—the fewer stages a signal has to pass through the better its chance of arriving unscathed.
Which is why it is so maddening that a good preamp placed between the DAC and amplifier sounds better than going direct.
When this statement of fact is presented to people you can almost always categorize their response: agreement from those that have a proper preamp, disbelief from those that don’t, or sometimes anguish and denial because it rubs against the grain of all they know.
The idea that audiophiles often make decisions based on what they hear as opposed to what they “know” is what drives the Objectivists bonkers.
It doesn’t have to make sense.
It just has to sound good.
The sound of microphones
It’s rare that I can hear a recorded voice and be unable to distinguish it from the live version. So rare, in fact, that I think the only times I have been fooled is when that voice is distantly recorded and I am not focused on it.
I place the blame on the device that captures those voices, the microphone. Recording technology has gotten good enough that a direct injected signal from an instrument is indistinguishable from its live performance. It’s really only microphones that are so antiquated as to be instantly identifiable. With only a small amount of practice, you’ll find it easy to classify the types of colorations microphones add to the human voice.
It’s curious to me that so little innovation has gone into the development of new microphones. But then, I suppose, it’s a very difficult problem. To capture sound waves you pretty much have to move some amount of mass and then measure that movement. The types of mass being moved: plastic, metal, ceramic, or granular materials contributes to sound’s colorations.
I once daydreamed about building a stereo servo system around a microphone where a difference approach could be used to correct for the colorations imparted by various materials and microphone patterns. It was an interesting idea but quickly abandoned because, of course, there was no way of capturing what it should sound like without using another transducer.
No, the problem of microphones will be with us for a long, long time.