Any science to explain the “weight” or “3D depth” of hardware audio vs software that some people claim?

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soundmodel
KVRian
699 posts since 28 May, 2010 from Finland

Post Sun Jan 12, 2020 6:01 am

Is there any science to explain the "weight" or "3D depth" of hardware audio vs software that some people claim?

There's, I think, strong subjective evidence to suggest that the phenomenon is true. But I've not found scientific explanation as to "what creates it" or "what it is (in measurements)".

Any input?

Also,

https://dsp.stackexchange.com/questions ... e-audio-vs

cron
KVRAF
3287 posts since 27 Dec, 2002 from North East England

Re: Any science to explain the “weight” or “3D depth” of hardware audio vs software that some people claim?

Post Sun Jan 12, 2020 6:13 am

This is a bit above my pay grade to be honest, but AFAIK a problem with scientifically measuring such a thing is that there's very little work gone into scientifically describing timbre. As per Roads in Composing Electronic Music, the MPEG-7 audio descriptors are one of the few efforts in this area. Typically used in content ID-type systems for identifying pieces of music, like asking Siri what a track is, or automatically generating copyright strikes on Youtube. They're perhaps a good place to start if you want to try measuring this stuff in any way outside the realm of psychoacoustics.

dark water
KVRian
1274 posts since 2 Jun, 2016

Re: Any science to explain the “weight” or “3D depth” of hardware audio vs software that some people claim?

Post Sun Jan 12, 2020 6:26 am

The trouble is that you're dealing in perceptions; also, those will vary greatly between individuals due to many factors (of which I'm sure a few immediately spring to mind).

It's possible that a psychological investigation based upon people's qualitative responses to different pieces of music (in this case those derived via hardware vs fully software) might exist or indeed offer some insight into this issue.
But even if you had, say, ten thousand people respond to a qualitative experiment, what exactly would your hypothesis be?
(And would any scientist really see such a psychological experiment based upon perceptions as scientifically worthy even if you somehow came out with a statistically significant result about some sort of prior hypothesis?).

It's also possible that you might use brain scanning equipment to highlight different responses to hardware and software derived music. But could you be confident that what appeared as different colours on a machine actually corresponded to only the ability to perceive '3D depth' in hardware music vs software music?

So scientifically, you have certain hurdles to get passed. Any fool can conduct an experiment but how would you be sure that your results matched your predictions in this particular hardware vs software scenario?

Lastly, whilst it is possible for hardware music to of course exist without the use of any software during its recording / playback process, would you ensure that this was definitely the case for any 'hardware music' in your experiment?

So you can see the problems.

I doubt any convincing science experiments have been undertaken in this area, but I might be wrong?

soundmodel
KVRian
699 posts since 28 May, 2010 from Finland

Re: Any science to explain the “weight” or “3D depth” of hardware audio vs software that some people claim?

Post Sun Jan 12, 2020 7:03 am

^Good points yes.

However, since many people refer to weight and "3D sound", then I think this implies that the phenomenon is not entirely subjective. But there are some unifying "properties".

But I'm more interested as to what "weight" or "3D" even mean in acoustics sense.

Is weight merely an "EQ bump"? Or is there more to it? Some phase relationships for example? Is it a time-relative process, rather than stationary?

Or "3D"? Is it EQ, dynamics changes, spatialization? All of them? Are there some particular "3D frequencies" or frequency areas?

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Tj Shredder
KVRAF
3801 posts since 6 Jan, 2017 from Outer Space

Re: Any science to explain the “weight” or “3D depth” of hardware audio vs software that some people claim?

Post Sun Jan 12, 2020 7:16 am

First you would need to see if those claims are actually related to any property in the sound. Thats a lot of double blind tests with a lot of people to get statistically relevant information. I doubt that these terms are meaning the same for different people. But such tests could theoretically give a hint...
Most of these claims though are obviously biased and thus pretty useless. Stuff has to be sold...
And those who buy need a justification to feel good...

dark water
KVRian
1274 posts since 2 Jun, 2016

Re: Any science to explain the “weight” or “3D depth” of hardware audio vs software that some people claim?

Post Sun Jan 12, 2020 7:22 am

@ soundmodel

Some hardware tape machines do indeed give a low end bump (as I'm sure you know), and other hardware items might affect the sound when it passes through them.

But in fairness, what you're looking for with your idea is something that can not be replicated by software - and your cited ideas above (eg EQ or phase relationships etc) are easily reproduced by software.
So those can't necessarily allow someone to identify hardware music vs software music (and therefore also not any intrinsic hardware 'weight or depth').

FWIW, I believe that hardware can add '3D depth' to sound in ways that take a bit more manipulation via software.
But software processes such as Nebula (Acusticaudio) can pretty well replicate 'depth' of hardware consoles etc (for example AlexB consoles).
So what was notable about those consoles and reverb machines, for example, has now been captured by sampling, kernel manipulation and software.
In passing, there is also an argument for software mixers leaving headroom to allow their music to breathe, rather than digitally slam it.

So again, you will need to identify whether 'hardware music' can exist in ways that 'software music' can not.

It might be more helpful / accurate instead just to recognize that some vintage hardware items had an effect on music and that we often now try (successfully) to replicate those in software.

soundmodel
KVRian
699 posts since 28 May, 2010 from Finland

Re: Any science to explain the “weight” or “3D depth” of hardware audio vs software that some people claim?

Post Sun Jan 12, 2020 7:39 am

^Yes which is why I'm interested in it. Because I fancy if people were able to produce music "fully ITB", but they now still hang on to hardware, just because software cannot sound convincing enough for some. Even when this has been tried many times and some emulations are quite good. Yet they're still not the same. So there's possibly still room for improvement.

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Tj Shredder
KVRAF
3801 posts since 6 Jan, 2017 from Outer Space

Re: Any science to explain the “weight” or “3D depth” of hardware audio vs software that some people claim?

Post Sun Jan 12, 2020 8:53 am

dark water wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 7:22 am
So again, you will need to identify whether 'hardware music' can exist in ways that 'software music' can not.
Yeah, the other way round is so much more obvious...

I think the hands on experience is very different and will influence who ever is playing an instrument. Also hardware can simply be more inspiring for whatever reason. Even the limitation of hardware can help to stay focused for example...
I doubt its on the level of sound though - at least not any more...
For me personally I had very inspiring experience with an original Arp 2600, but Max/MSP maxed it out by far... Hard to compare though...
And don’t forget even ITB there is always hardware involved. Most importantly controllers and of course powerful computers. The options you get with VCV rack are mind-blowing, especially if you start to do MPE in polyphony...

soundmodel
KVRian
699 posts since 28 May, 2010 from Finland

Re: Any science to explain the “weight” or “3D depth” of hardware audio vs software that some people claim?

Post Sun Jan 12, 2020 9:14 am

In a broader perspective there's "obviously" the thing about "adaption" as well.

This can be greatly demonstrated by listening to mixing people who would claim the opposite than some "analogue fan boy". Some mix engineers find that digital has offered a lot of improvement, rather than degradation. Digital is e.g. less noisy, so it allows for more specific decision over "what I want and what I don't want into a mix". Where an "analogue fan boy" could claim that "hardware analogue EQ sounds better", such people mentioned here could say that "digital parametric EQs are vast improvements over noisy analog equalizers".

I've personally noticed a shift towards "becoming confident with digital sound" as to not think that "analogue sound is _better_ than digital". Rather, that "good sound" depends on a multitude of things often more significant than mere analog/digital.

And also that digital can sound good, depending on context.

Yet there seems to be quite a bit of "likeability" towards the analogue over digital. Some of it may not be very "scientific" though, i.e. more about personal bias.

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toine6
KVRian
1309 posts since 29 Mar, 2002 from Salt Lake City, Utah - U.S.A.

Re: Any science to explain the “weight” or “3D depth” of hardware audio vs software that some people claim?

Post Sun Jan 12, 2020 10:28 am

These topics are fine, but don't really matter. I won't say analog is better than digital or vice-versa. If it sounds good it is good, and music is subjective anyway, beauty is in the ear of the beholder. Never do I listen to my analog synths, or effects, or signal paths and start thinking about 3D depth, or if I do, it's because of the mix, not the equipment. In reality I use digital 95% of the time for the ease of convenience.

No scientific theory or measurement, but what differences do I hear between analog and digital, if any? I hear very subtle differences in math. Explaining the math I'm hearing is very difficult. Again, neither one is better or worse, but different, barely. Sometimes it's the micro fluctuations of the volume envelope, sometimes there's a kind of subtle constant variations in compression. Sometimes there's a kind of harmonic math, like a fuzzy glow. But nature has a way of making very complex math work at an infinite resolution and speed, digital is a more simple math, with not as much high resolution variety (but digital can make drastic lower resolution variety if you desire.) If you take your digital synth and run it through analog you can get some of the real world physics of math in there. To give it even more real world math properties you can play your digital synths out of speakers and mic them.

I'm of the mindset that too many people are all about the science lab when their music would be better served by improving their mixing, arrangement, and musical chops. Rock and roll! Or at least have some kind of punk rock spirit, even if your making techno or folk.

I have more analog equipment than you can shake a stick at but it doesn't do my music a bit of good. It makes me kind of happy to have the gear, like a toy box of goodies, but also kind of unhappy, because it takes up lots of space and makes me a hoarder. If you go analog, don't overdo it. Simple and sleek is probably a better philosophy.

imrae
KVRian
928 posts since 2 Jul, 2010

Re: Any science to explain the “weight” or “3D depth” of hardware audio vs software that some people claim?

Post Sun Jan 12, 2020 12:39 pm

It is rather frustrating that people so often complain that a particular device (usually digital but not always) sounds "thin" or "harsh". "Thin" and "harsh" are attributes that can be changed with EQ. Put it through a Pultec-style EQ (especially good for fixing those things), tweak the spectrum and NOW tell me what it is you don't like about the sound. Not everything in a mix should be "fat", "warm" and "smooth".

Meffy
Skunk Mod
20868 posts since 10 Jun, 2004 from Pony Pasture

Re: Any science to explain the “weight” or “3D depth” of hardware audio vs software that some people claim?

Post Sun Jan 12, 2020 1:27 pm

For decades I've been jonesing for a Moog of my own, and will probably make the jump this year. Will the sound be objectively "better" than what my software synths can produce? I doubt it. For several years there has been software for sale that IMO is every bit as punchy, funky, and choose-an-adjective-y as similar hardware… and a LOT less expensive.

Why bother then? Because the experience of programming and playing a hardware synth brings back muscle memories and conjures up sounds from when I first learned all this stuff — on classic Moogs and ARPs, of course. No measurement will be able to detect this effect. No listener will ever have a clue that it exists, unless maybe my playing is better when I feel connected to all that history (very unlikely). But the difference to me will be significant.*

I compare longing for hardware gear to a favorite car from the past, or motorcycle, bicycle, or even horse. When you ride or drive a favorite after years without, there's a lot going on that has little to do with acceleration or handling or hay-consuming capacity — but everything to do with bringing back feelings and emotions. (This can evolve into sentimentalism, nostalgia, self-justification, and less positive things too.)

The only science that can address that is psychology, not electronics or acoustics.
________________________________
* Not "Model 55 Limited Edition" significant. Big modulars will remain beyond my reach. But "Matriarch" significant, yeah. That I can manage.

User avatar
vurt
addled muppet weed
58980 posts since 26 Jan, 2003 from through the looking glass

Re: Any science to explain the “weight” or “3D depth” of hardware audio vs software that some people claim?

Post Sun Jan 12, 2020 1:33 pm

weight is a measurement of mass. does sound have mass? does software have mass?

Meffy
Skunk Mod
20868 posts since 10 Jun, 2004 from Pony Pasture

Re: Any science to explain the “weight” or “3D depth” of hardware audio vs software that some people claim?

Post Sun Jan 12, 2020 1:37 pm

vurt wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 1:33 pm
weight is a measurement of mass. does sound have mass? does software have mass?
You must've known someone would post this, so: https://www.native-instruments.com/en/p ... massive-x/

AnX
KVRAF
6160 posts since 17 Nov, 2015

Re: Any science to explain the “weight” or “3D depth” of hardware audio vs software that some people claim?

Post Sun Jan 12, 2020 1:42 pm

vurt wrote:
Sun Jan 12, 2020 1:33 pm
weight is a measurement of mass. does sound have mass? does software have mass?
aparently the Internet weighs 25g

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