Different Strokes for Different Folks?

As I entered the second floor seminar room, where I awaited the third of four installments of Stereophile editor John Atkinson’s “Just How ‘Absolute’ Is Recorded Sound?”, I happened upon an energetic exchange between Michael Fremer of Stereophile and AnalogPlanet.com (right) and Roy Gregory, UK Editor of TheAudioBeat.com (left). Mikey was keeping it light, but the issue was real: how do you describe the sound of a component or system without telling listeners and readers what kind of sound they should prefer?

As critic Dennis Davis joined in (and enjoyed) the exchange, I thought about how my own preferences for vibrant rather than dry sound leads me to favor certain seats in certain halls over any seat in others, and translates into personal preferences for some loudspeakers, electronics, and cables over others. Even as I state my own biases in reviews, I am aware that some people greatly prefer a laidback system with a dark presentation and a toned down top to one that is far more illuminated and vibrant. Hence, even as I cop to what I like, I strive not to tell anyone that what I like is what they should like.

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COMMENTS
ppgr's picture

were arguing on the best spot to catch fish.

GeorgeHolland's picture

The only component that should be described as sounding different are speakers. If your preamp, amp, DAC, CD player, cable, power cord are changing the sound, then something is defective. As for speakers, they are improving to where it's difficult to find flaws in well designed ones. Notice I said well designed.

JasonVSerinus's picture

Stereo Review is alive and well.

GeorgeHolland's picture

Plase keep your snarky comments to yourself Mr Serinus. Try to be a professional if possible. Thanks

Absolutely HiFi's picture

Snarky would be calling you deaf for being unable to hear those differences.  Referring to components as faulty for having a sonic signature which differentiates it from other similar components is laughable.  All components have their own colorations and distortions (even if those are greatly diminished in modern components).  Which components does Mr. Holland use in his refence system?  Is he implying these are without any colorations or distortions? 

corrective_unconscious's picture

Calling him deaf would be name calling, not snarky. Snarky would be suggesting he go back to the Netherlands forthwith.

JohnnyR's picture

........by doing a simple SBT or DBT?

"Referring to components as faulty for having a sonic signature which differentiates it from other similar components is laughable"    Please show me where you have been able to pick bewtween two different amplifiers that have been set up properly. You CAN'T and WON'T. Like Mr Holland said, if a component changes the original signal in any shape or form without the user wanting it to, then that is a defect. Please don't reply it only makes you look denser than you already are.

JohnnyR's picture

I understand that flashbacks can effect the brains ability to comprehend the world around it. Explains a lot JVS.

DetroitVinylRob's picture

Except this time Mr. Serinus is spot on!

After reading the previous comment... even I felt as though I had fallen though a worm hole back to a dark and moronic day of the Stereo Review. Why I thought we had stood upright, contemplated our existence, and stopped dragging our knuckles long ago, listening, evolving beyond that nonsense with the help of J. Gordon Holt. Recall, he exclaimed "if nobody else will report what an audio component sounds like, I'll do it myself!" Amen brother. 

Happy Listener! ;^)>

jjgr's picture

Hey George - lighten up - that was just a friendly quip in response to your crazy opinion/theory.  If you are going to post something like that, try not to be so sensitive when someone calls you out on it.  Happy listening!

GeorgeHolland's picture

Friendly? Not in the least nor was yours or Detroit Vinyl Bobs. Hey if you think youcan distinguish the difference in amps ,preamps , cables and DACS in double blind test then have at it and publish the results.Till then it's all just subjective blather.

Better yet go to PTE's Blind Test report posted earlier on here and read. If you both are at the show then attend and take the test and prove to us all your superiority at telling which cable is which. Brave enough and man enough to give it a try? Let us know if so. I predict that Mr Serinus will deline of course. He might end up with egg on his face.

John Atkinson's picture

GeorgeHolland wrote:
Hey if you think youcan distinguish the difference in amps, preamps, cables and DACS in double blind test then have at it and publish the results.

Over the past 35 years, I have taken part in blind tests comparing loudspeakers, amplifiers, cables, capacitors, surround-sound proecessors, D/A processors, and absolute polarity. While many such tests produced null results, some of the tests in every category produced positive results, ie, identification by ear alone.

Remember that in formal statistical analysis, a test with null results /doesn't/ prove that there is no difference, only that under the specific conditions of that test, even if a difference does exist, no difference could be heard. A single test with a positive result outweighs all the tests with null results.

I examined this subject on more detail in my Richard Heyser Memorial Lecture, that I was invited by the Audio Engineering Society to present at their 2011 NY Convention.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

GeorgeHolland's picture

Always with the semantics Mr Atkinson and excuses.Did you bother to go by Mr Rush's room and take his blind test challenge?  I gather you did not , nor did you care to try. Mr Serinus didn't partake either because of fear it might show his listening abilities just don't quite work as well as he likes to pretend.

"only that under the specific conditions of that test, even if a difference does exist, no difference could be heard."  hmmmmmm strange that you seem to like that quote and use it often and yet we have people on these posts who tell me to "use my ears and that's all I need". Can't have it both ways Mr Atkinson. Either you can hear a difference or you can't. Care to go to Mr Rush's room and take a shot at proving how well you can pick out power cords and cables? I won't be holding my breath.

John Atkinson's picture

GeorgeHolland wrote:
John Atkinson wrote:

Over the past 35 years, I have taken part in blind tests comparing loudspeakers, amplifiers, cables, capacitors, surround-sound proecessors, D/A processors, and absolute polarity. While many such tests produced null results, some of the tests in every category produced positive results, ie, identification by ear alone.

Always with the semantics Mr Atkinson and excuses.

No excuses, simply pointing out to you that I have extensive experience with blind tests, both as a test subject and as an organizer. What experience do you have with blind testing, Mr. Holland? Any published results?

GeorgeHolland wrote:
Did you bother to go by Mr Rush's room and take his blind test challenge?

No, I didn't learn that Mr. Rush was performing blind tests until after the show when I was copy-editing Jason Serinus's copy. But in case, blind tests at shows are more akin to showbiz rather than a serious attempt at science. My experience has been that it is almost impossible to control the interfering variables.

GeorgeHolland wrote:
John Atkinson wrote:
Remember that in formal statistical analysis, a test with null results /doesn't/ prove that there is no difference, only that under the specific conditions of that test, even if a difference does exist, no difference could be heard.

hmmmmmm strange that you seem to like that quote and use it often and yet we have people on these posts who tell me to "use my ears and that's all I need". Can't have it both ways Mr Atkinson. Either you can hear a difference or you can't.

I am not having it both ways, Mr. Holland. Organizing a formal blind test is difficult and time-consuming. Under show conditions, where a proper blind test is very rare, the listener might as well just listen and trust his ears. Shows are meant to be fun after all. Do you disagree?

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

GeorgeHolland's picture

Love the more excuses, keep it up. Lets see your published blind test results please.Difficult and time consuming? I suppose so for someone who never does them and never will..You're losing credibility the more you open your mouth.. I thought you had more pride than this, but i guess not. So blind testing at shows are next to impossible but simply walzting into a room you have no problem describing what you are hearing? Like I said contradictions.This is amusing to say the least and sad at the same time. You say the same thing over and over without really saying anything.Toeing the party line, no room for testing cables and power cords and magic bowls but plenty of time to say why you can't. I guess it makes you feel safe hiding in a circle jerk of  "I can't and this is why". Don't be surprised when one day the high end falls flat on it's face because of no sales. Thanks for being a part of the fiasco.

Upon further thought just forget about any future dialog with myself or my freinds who abhor your forum and your refusal to admit you are delusional. The statement you made about Ted Denney's products affecting the listener but not the audio system was the clincher for us. Never have I read such a foolish staement in all my life. Do his products emit moon beams or fairy dust?  Well it doesn't matter since you refuse to even try to test any of them. Like I you say over and over , excuses. Have fun ruining the high end with your refusal to admit any wrong doing.

JohnnyR's picture

........make excuses.

QSYSOPR's picture

I agree to the statements most part, but would like to make some comment.

First of all I am pretty sure, that nowadays technical equipment is able to measure things, that our ears and eyes cannot perceive. Even if you try hard, you`ll never be able to go beyond infrared and ultra violett to see thing our technical devices can measure exactly. The other thing is, that for me the work in a recording studio is a completely art of its own. If you intend to hear the sound of a symphony orchestra how it sounds live, well brother, you got to go to the concert. If you want to hear, what the artists have done in a studio, try to get the equipment that matches your taste and your purse. I agree what JA says about blind tests though I prefer double blind tests to be really sure not to trap in my expectation. That may be sobering but could help to save a lot of money especially if it goes to voodoo.

Thank you for your patience. 

Pro-Audio-Tech's picture

When I go into a room I can surely develop initial thoughts on it, however sometimes they are WRONG. It takes a bit of time and different types of music to form a CORRECT assessment. I have seen these reviewers walk into a room, listen for 45 seconds to 2 minutes and exit with their analysis.

If they believe that they have an honest and subjective review to write I say they are contributing to the downfall of high end.

If high end audio is to continue in this new economy there must be new buyers, new sales. When there are so many negative comments posted by reviewers, magazines or even bloggers, that hurts the business. If I were a guy wanting to get into audio just trying to decide what to buy and I read these kinds of negative comments I would assume all the equipment is bad or not worth the $ and just buy a Porsche instead!!

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