Other than speakers, which components affect macro and micro dynamics of the system the most?
The source material
Contributor to The Absolute Sound, EnjoytheMusic.com, Vintage Guitar Magazine, and other fine publications
I agree that the source is important. What's really important for microdynamics is that the signal never be subjected to 44.1kHz/16-bit PCM encoding. That very fine transient detail that infuses the music with a sense of life is smeared by standard-res digital coding. That's a big reason that LPs have more realistic rendering of timbre than CD.
I hope you do your research, Robert. :-) According to Bob Katz of Meridian (white paper here: http://www.meridian-audio.com/w_paper/Coding2.PDF), "Even among audio engineers, there has been considerable misunderstanding about digital audio, about the sampling theory, and about how PCM works at the functional level. Some of these misunderstandings persist even today."
To quote: "What is suggested is that because (for example) a 16 bit system defines 64K steps, that the smallest signal that can be ‘seen’ is 1/64K or about –96dB. Signals dropping off because they are smaller than the smallest step or Least Significant Bit (LSB) is a process we call truncation. Now you can arrange for a PCM channel to truncate data below the LSB – but no engineer worth his salt has worked like that for over ten years. One of the great discoveries in PCM was that, by adding a small random noise (that we call dither) the truncation effect can disappear. Even more important was the realisation that there is a right sort of random noise to add, and that when the right dither is used, the resolution of the digital system becomes infinite. What results from a sensible digitisation or digital operation then is not signal plus a highly-correlated truncation distortion, but the signal and a benign low level hiss. In practical terms, the resolution is limited by our ability to resolve sounds in noise. Just to reinforce this, we have no problem measuring (and hearing) signals of –110dB in a well-designed 16-bit channel.
"Regarding temporal accuracy, (ii), if the signal is processed incorrectly (i.e. truncated) it is true that the time resolution is limited to the sampling period divided by the number of digital levels. However, when the correct dither is used the time resolution also becomes effectively infinite."
Notice Bob uses the word infinite. Infinite temporal resolution, infinite dynamic resolution within the reproduced range. In other words, as long as the right dither is used, a dithered 16-bit CD will resolve microdynamics just as well as any analog signal (plus some low level hiss, which is usually inaudible). 16-bit just determines the loudest passage the CD can record without resorting to dynamic compression, so a CD can carry a dynamic range of up till 96 dB thereotically.
Effectively, 24-bit CD records up till a deafening 144 dB. A well dithered 16-bit CD with noise shaping can give you dynamic range that of an 18-bit or 19-bit recording ie. around 110 dB.
Let me add that I'm baffled by the term "macrodynamics" used by audio reviewers. Microdynamics may be defined as the ability to resolve fine steps/details of the dynamic range in the temporal domain. Macrodynamics sounds like a term invented to describe "colored" speakers or components - maybe a tipped-up treble/bass to emphasize "loudness" at certain frequencies, which doesn't seem to be a desirable quality at all.
As to what COMPONENT makes the biggest difference in dynamics (other than the speakers), my local audio store insists (and my ears agree) that the preamp has a huge impact on the macro & micro "jump factor" of systems. One of my fave tests is a Scarlatti piano item. A good "macro/micro dynamics" system lets the artistry shine. A system that homogenizes the soft notes makes the great Vladimir H. sound like a beginner.
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I noticed a change in detail when I upgraded my source components. I noticed another when I upgraded my amps. But I'll say the most effect for me is in source components. If you don't get it off the source it can't be reproduced. The amps brought out more of what the upstream components pulled off the discs, probably.
I think its a toss up between front end components (cd player/DAC & turntable/cartridge) and pre amp. If you have a high quality front end a preamp upgrade can do wonders.
I'm a little confused by Robert Harley's response since he stated, "I believe that the primary reason reproduced music doesn't sound like live music is some kind of catastrophic loss occurs at the (recording) microphone diaphragm." TAS April/May, 2009 "From the Editor" article. It would seem that both micro- and macro-dynamic information would be a part of any catastrophic loss. Moreover, I can't imagine any high-rez format / processing having the ability to recreate music info not already embedded in the recording.
As for the question at hand, the fact of the matter is micro- and macro-dynamics are nothing more than music information spread throughout the frequency spectrum, just like tonality, texture, overtones, etc. and hopefully there is a general agreement that most any well-thought-out-system makes little intentional distinction between the types of music info being processed. At least in theory.
That said, I can't emphasize enough how important it is to realize our playback systems are entirely dependent on two fundamental sources of energy to even function much less function well, electricity and vibrations. Yet, these same 2 sources of energy induce such tremendous amounts of distortions that when these energies are uncontrolled or under-controlled the distortions they induce utterly destroy a component's precision and accuracy so that vast amounts of the music info being processed becomes inaudible as it drops into the noise floor, including and perhaps surprisingly much of the macro-dynamics.
Hence, when noisy AC and mechanical vibrations are under-controlled all affected components and speakers are generally equally responsible for the apparent lack of micro- or macro-dynamics. On the other hand, when noisy AC and mechanical vibrations are brought under extreme control all affected components and speakers are generally equally responsible for far more audible, even startling micro- and macro-dynamics. And since our playback systems are generally indiscriminate regarding the information processed this remedy is not limited to restoring just micro- and macro-dynamics information.
I think you can ask the question with the caveat "all things being equal" but audio is a systemic endeavor. The results are only as good as the weakest link and everyone's upgrade path is different. But for me, the biggest improvement in dynamics in general was when I went from an integrated low current amp to a stand alone high current amp with very low noise and a decent damping factor. Current is king imho and really makes the difference in what you can get of of your speakers.
If you have that piece of the puzzle solved, the source and source material. With those things in place, I hear a huge difference between 44/16 and 96/24 and beyond.
The other subtle, but significant thing in my experience, are your interconnects and cables. It all works together.
For me (based on my personal experience with my own systems), it was without any doubt whatsoever the use of a PS Audio Power Port AC outlet on freshly cut and finely sanded copper wire ends to supply the whole system. For literally $49.95, everything that has been said as a benefit about them was proven true in the first second and every second and minute and hour thereafter. No lie !! I was truly amazed and taken aback at how much improvement my entire system had. It immediately and substantially revealed so much more subtle nuances and details and I could hear the sustain and decay of notes so much more clearly and longer as the huge reduction of noise in the system allowed me to hear what I could not all those other times. Bass was cleaner and more defined as was the midbass. Treble was less grainy, no longer harsh, and had so much more clarity and openness to it. Staging depth deepened and became more open as well. Any sound of any kind came through clearer and more pronounced and with more life than ever before. I was never so awed and compelled to keep listening to any system in my life as I was that evening; and I had a very, very humble system at best. I would not have a system of any quality level without one or something similar; be it from PS Audio or Shunyata or MIT or so on as long as the company is reputable. Disagree as you may as it is your right to do so, but that was like no other improvement of any kind that I ever heard, and as a former sales person for a few stores in PA, VA, and NC who sold 78 brands and auditioned 132 others and as a test technician at Cary Audio, I have heard true high end gear and systems with fabulous benefits from one component or cable or "black box" so to say. For me though, nothing surpasses or even equals that event.