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trevort
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Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

I read the mention of the wikipedia listing for audiophile a couple months back in this magazine. Recently i found a spare hour to read through the talk page
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Audiophile
which provides some perspective on the community input shaping this entry.

I was initially astonished that there are those who seem to make a career (objectivist magazine editors) out of denying the nuances of sound production, as well as those that have a hate on for "subjectivists".

A couple reactions: 1) head-scratching and doubt. Am I one of the gullible ones who throws money at useless shiny objects? Maybe I really CAN'T hear a difference between some of the cables I've bought, but only think I can.

2) familiarity with this phenomena in other fields. I am keen on wine, in as much as limited tolerance for alcohol and limited budget allows. I've read reports of blind tastings showing wine drinkers can't tell white from red at the same temperature and other such exposures. I can easily accept this as true for some tasters, yet no-one denies that there are those who CAN tell the difference between two different years from the same vineyard.

So, perhaps this anti-subjectivist movement is perfectly normal, its just that audio appreciation is not so well-established a discipline as wine appreciation to establish sufficient credibility for the equivalent of a Robert Parker. If there was acceptance of the degree to which a trained ear can hear differences in sound beyond what shows on a meter, we could then accept that some objectivists are simply audio lovers with mediocre ears, who fall back on crude measurements in an attempt to approach the sounds they can't clearly distinguish.

Should an industry emerge that supported admittedly imperfect blind -- even double blind -- testing, the skill of audio discernment may become more accepted. Surely one could set up a booth at an audio show, do a carefully prepared double blind test between a tube and transistor amp, have well-known reviewers participate. With the bar set so low, we should find decisive proof that not "all amps sound exactly the same".

This result should help to give credibility to subjectivist claims, and more testing sessions, such as regularly take place in the wine appreciation world, would also help to expose those audio accessories that do not significantly contribute to the sound.

Sign me up for a test!

ethanwiner
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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word


Quote:
Sign me up for a test!


If you're ever in my neck of the woods I'll be glad to test you. In the mean time, THIS article explains why I think people often believe they hear differences in gear and wires etc that defy all that is known about the science of audio.

--Ethan

trevort
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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

Very interesting article. Thanks! It takes a pretty balanced view on the subject, and includes some new (to me) points that are worth thinking about.

Your neck of the woods is far distant, but I would really enjoy submitting myself to more formal testing. I've done it with friends and family, but usually not blind, and the pitfalls are well described in your article. Nevertheless, as with wine tasting, even when testing informally, one's discernment is noticeably sharpened, with the eventual result that one does become a better listener, and thus gains more pleasure from the hobby.

Sounds as if you are well equiped with testing gear!

bjh
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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

Ethan,

I must say I find you supposition highly dubious to say the very least. Let's concentrtate on the basic claim:

"I am convinced that comb filtering is at the root of people reporting a change in the sound of cables and electronics even when no significant change is likely. If someone listens to their system using one pair of cables, then gets up and switches cables and sits down again, the frequency response heard is sure to be very different because it's impossible to sit down again in exactly the same place."

OK let's start by taking this as a given. Well then quite obviously when performing a switch, any switch, the likelyhood of a change being perceived is very high, including, it goes without saying, when there has been no actualy switch (e.g. no change in cables or whatever).

What then are we to make of an audiophile claiming to have a preference, say A over B, after *multiple* swaps/switches between the two (two cables, two pre-amp, two watever) alternatives? Sure every time there is a switch a change is perceived but that by happenstance the audiophile just happens to repeatedly prefer A over B (or B over A) seems highly improbable; the change after all is due to comb filtering, *not* dur to [any] attributes of A or B!

I've personally had sessions where I've spent hours swapping between interconnects and have detected differences that persist over dozens of switches! How can this be if comb filtering is what is responsible for the percieved differences?

Extending the argument, why is it that I recognize the sound of my system from one day to the next, why for that matter doesn't my system sound completely different after I return to my seat after running to the washroom for a quick wee-wee?

andy19191
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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

What audiophiles usually lack is an appreciation of the difference between sound and its perception. Although the differences perceived are real they often do not occur because of an audible change in the sound field.

Here is a well known example should you ever be tempted to "trust your ears" like a true subjectivist:

http://www.media.uio.no/personer/arntm/McGurk_english.html

Note that today's lesson is not that the two different "subjective" experiences are wrong but that a "subjectivist" would be wrong to project that experience into the "objective" domain and make the "objective" claim that there were two different sounds.

Windzilla
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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

The point of the effect you link IS to trust your EARS not your EYES.

Not that your point is without merit, just your example isn't quite there.

anyway, In all my searches I have yet to see a properly designed DBT. I am a believer in DBT I really am, just haven't seen anything much better than some arm chair listening tests, to poorly designed to pass muster as a precursser to any real trials.

some software out there would alow for some of this to happen, but it has yet to be controlled and formulated well to the question at hand. (does a difference exist, Not can one place a consistant subjective value on said difference)

andy19191
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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

> The point of the effect you link IS to trust your EARS not your EYES.

How do you come to that conclusion?

The point was to illustrate by example that sound and sound perception are different and that the latter is significantly affected by visual cues and past experience. Given limited "computing capacity" our brain has evolved to use all available streams of information in order to help sharpen our perception of the world around us.

It is interesting to observe the reaction of subjective audiophiles to such direct assaults on their beliefs.

> anyway, In all my searches I have yet to see a properly designed DBT.

I have yet to see anyone that calls audibility experiments DBTs give any indication that they know the purpose and role of an experiment in gathering and formulating scientific information. Never mind the details like the forms of control. This lack of a shared knowledge about science around which to reason and debate pretty much dictates that subjective audiophiles are incoherent on the subject of "DBTs". It is exactly like someone trying to argue that 2+2=22 without knowing the rules of mathematics, not wanting to find out the rules of mathematics or believing it is necessary to know the rules of mathematics.

trevort
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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

I like Andy's example, even though it doesn't address exactly the correlation between two separate distinctions -- the distinction between the sound that a system emits and the sound that the listener hears, and the distinction between two sounds heard by a listener, each from the same original source but possibly slightly altered by the chain of components from the original sound source to the emission of that sound by the system.

I take Andy's example to show that we experience something different from the physical sound, and I have no problem accepting that. Its part of why we listen to music. Its a big part of the musicians craft to feed us almost exactly the kind of trickery we experience when we see "DA", think we hear "DA" when we are hearing "GA". For example, a musician is playing a polyphonic passage on guitar, and he can't complete the melody in the bass because of fingering problems, so he plays instead a note an octave higher, but partially muted: we -- as listeners -- can be happily fooled to think that the note is an octave lower than played, completing the bass melody.

For me, the issue about the listener making a distinction between two identical sound source notes, perhaps slightly altered by the playback system, is that I have no doubt that some people can hear very subtle differences in sounds. The wine tasting example gives credence to the degree to which some people can discern tastes. While there are tests to prove some people don't have great discernment tasting wine, there is general acceptance that there are subtle differences between two batches of the same grape, processed slightly differently, and specially trained tasters can pinpoint the differences. It doesn't matter if they allow their brain to capture the difference as "more strawberry taste" -- of course there's no strawberries, the brain has been fooled! -- what matters is that they can definitely pick up that difference.

Its the same with music. A very skilled musician will put a lot of effort into coaxing slightly different sounds from their instrument. They bow their violin ever so slightly closer to the bridge, the note has more edge, and this change in tone is an expressive tool. The sensitive listener is affected, even if they don't know exactly what the difference is. Perhaps that change in sound is not detectable by some listeners -- some would be just as happy to hear musician x as musician y, but to the other players in the string quartet, the difference is very significant.

When it comes to listening to sound through a system, it is very easy for me to accept that the components will have a slight affect on the sound, similar to those influences on the sound of an instrument -- different strings, different bow hair, rosin etc. -- that musicians deal with as unquestioned, even if some audience members are oblivious to those differences. Yet, I see from a particular objectivist stance in the audiphile world, these subtle distinctions are not only not appreciated, they are vehemently denied.

It seems it would be good for the audiophile industry to establish that there are those who really can hear as well as professional wine tasters can taste, and embracing testing would go a ways toward establishing this. If all it does is cool down the emnity between objectivists and subjectivists, much will have been accomplished. It would also be fun to do, and would help to sharpen our hearing, and enhance our engagement in this hobby. The problems with setting up a good testing environment are well-documented, as Ethan and Windzilla have added, but perhaps it would be worth it for a player in the industry to set up, perhaps at an audio exhibition?

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word


Quote:

How do you come to that conclusion?

Last year, in my neurophysiology course, that exact effect was used to illustrate the reliance the brain places on visual cues over those of auditory stimuli (and also about higher order processing, its really neat stuff). if you close your eyes when you first listen, you hear the correct sounds. But if you open them you will rely on your visual cues to modify the true sound. hope that clarifies my point.

It is interesting to observe the reaction of subjective audiophiles to such direct assaults on their beliefs.

> anyway, In all my searches I have yet to see a properly designed DBT.

I have yet to see anyone that calls audibility experiments DBTs give any indication that they know the purpose and role of an experiment in gathering and formulating scientific information. Never mind the details like the forms of control.

right, like i said haven't been any properly designed double-blind tests, we haven't done an RCT or anything of the sort. this of course is my opinion, based not on some exhaustive meta-analysis but on the anecdotal evidence provided through forums and procrastinating google searches. I am not an expert on this field, but I do have Some Experiance in clinical trials. As far as audibility experiments, there have been DBT forms of those in the medical world, and continue to be published, in RCT formated trials**.

anyway, I remember something about discussing such testing matters is strictly relegated to some specific thread or not encouraged or something, so I'll stop.

as for the wikipedia article, It is fairly biased even without the subjective/objective argument. I have regularly made changes to things like pricing information which often focus unnecessarily on the extreme end and have made no mention of the entry-level.

**try out this search in pubmed for results. I believe you'll find the
(underpowered) study by Ries to fall under the umbrella of audibility studies. go to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez and put in this search que [All Fields] AND ("2005/09/07"[PDat] : "2007/09/06"[PDat] AND Randomized Controlled Trial[ptyp])

andy19191
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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

> I like Andy's example, even though it doesn't address exactly the
> correlation between two separate distinctions

Ah but it does. It clearly demonstrates that when someone perceives a small difference in sound between, for example, a blue magic cable and a red magic cable (under normal conditions) only a fool would conclude that this must be because the cables have changed the sound rather than the perception of the sound. If you then add in the facts that the known laws of physics and audibility results would predict no audible difference in the sound and, indeed, failure to distinguish using the beloved "DBTs" even when offered money and fame you would have to be more than a fool to plump for modified sound rather than modified perception. In fact, you would have to be an audiophile operating on beliefs you would like to believe and are encouraged to believe by other audiophiles and the audiophile industry rather than reason.

> is that I have no doubt that some people can hear very subtle differences
> in sounds.

What is your basis for this claim? In order to refute what looks suspiciously like a "golden ear" claim you would have to flesh out what is perceived and under what conditions.

> Yet, I see from a particular objectivist stance in the audiphile world,
> these subtle distinctions are not only not appreciated, they are
> vehemently denied.

What is pointed out by "rationalists" when faced with the more absurd claims of audiophiles is that the sound field has not been audibly changed. This does not mean that the audiophile is not perceiving differences just that it is not the sound impinging on the ears but what is going on between the ears that is responsible for the difference.

> and embracing testing would go a ways toward establishing this.

The survival of the audiophile industry in its present form relies on avoiding normal testing and marketing lucrative but scientifically incorrect beliefs about sound, sound perception and the performance of home audio equipment. How attractive would the audiophile hobby be to current audiophiles if my statements and not your statements are true?

> If all it does is cool down the emnity between objectivists and
> subjectivists, much will have been accomplished.

There is little enmity between audiophiles and those with a more rational interest in sound because the latter simply have no effective interaction with the former. The audiophile world is fairly isolated (own shops, own magazines, own websites,...) with very little interaction with the sound and audio mainstream (own shops, own magazines and technical journals, own websites,...). Why should the rational seek out the audiophile world when it has nothing to offer but nonsense and overpriced, coloured hardware compared to consumer and professional equivalents?

The small number of objectivist-audiophiles I see around tend to be "reformed" subjectivist-audiophiles who still want to be part of the audiophile community. Their motives for interacting seem to be mixed and not always of the purest given that audiophiles are rather soft targets for those wishing to take the p*ss because of the flat earth beliefs. Most of the world just leave audiophiles alone to get on with it.

andy19191
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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

> right, like i said haven't been any properly designed double-blind tests,

There are huge numbers performed every day if you mean experiments that involve double blinding as part of the design.

> As far as audibility experiments, there have been DBT forms of those in
> the medical world, and continue to be published, in RCT formated
> trials**.

I suggest you also read the sound and audio press for a lot more. About the only place you will not find routine controlled listening tests is in the audiophile press of the last few decades which has rather compelling reasons for not doing so.

> anyway, I remember something about discussing such testing matters is
> strictly relegated to some specific thread or not encouraged or
> something, so I'll stop.

Don't know. "DBTs" are a bit of a problem for the audiophle industry but they seem to cope with them rather well in my view.

> as for the wikipedia article, It is fairly biased even without the
> subjective/objective argument.

At least we would seem to be in agreement on the reliability of wikipedia.

trevort
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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

Andy:

Lesson 1 for me as newbie audiophile: geez, I guess I'm a subjectivist, even though I'm keen on testing. At the same time, seems you would have to be lumped into the objectivist camp, if we simplify the world into those two camps.


Quote:

> is that I have no doubt that some people can hear very subtle differences
> in sounds.

What is your basis for this claim? In order to refute what looks suspiciously like a "golden ear" claim you would have to flesh out what is perceived and under what conditions.

True enough! My claim comes from informal contact with those whose senses are far more tuned than my own. Wine tasters with their superior palate. Since I figure the wine industry does accept tasters with the ability to subtly distinguish taste, while there are tests showing some cannot make the same distinctions, this is a useful parallel to establish the argument that testing would show the same ability in audio. Simply -- some tasters can taste really well, so some listeners can hear really well. Anecdotally, I have friends who have an uncanny ability to identify (blind) what they are tasting, compared to me.

I'm new to the audio world, but I pursued a starving artist career as a chamber musician (now abandoned, leaving me finally with an income to buy a decent sound system: ironic!), and have had much association with those who have amazing powers of audio discernment. The examples I've slipped into my previous post are real. I've been taught by, and performed with, people who have demonstrated that their perception of sound is much more refined than my own. We could have played a movement together, and they would point out that I might want to change my tone on a certain note back in such and such a place because it will blend better with this other instrument's note. Upon paying extra careful attention, I could concede.

There is a problem with trying to present an objective argument about such things -- I can see that a skeptic could dismiss such audio perceptions deep in the rehearsal space. There's no measurements, no proof. Perhaps the differences are psychosomatic like the DA GA example.

Also I see a divergence in my examples of experience with super hearing -- it can be argued that these are easily measured, if one were to sample the chord in question, the sound spectrum might present differently in each case. So this kind of example doesn't necessarily support the argument that some people can hear a difference between two notes that appear identical when presented on a sound spectrum. But it does, to me, present proof that people can hear more finely than being able to hear simply the difference between a tube and transistor amp, refuting an objectivist claim that all amps sound the same.

At the same time, the musicians don't care about providing proof. For them its real, its a part of their business, so why waste time trying to demonstrate powers of perception, when the job is to find nuance of expression. So, to an outsider, it can easily enough be dismissed as golden ears (which I take to be an objectivists dismissal of claims of super hearing in subjectivists. please correct me if I'm wrong)

trevort
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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

It may be that the audio industry is worried that DBT will compromise their business, showing the emperor without clothes and all. This could also be argued for the wine industry -- if many folks cannot distinguish between a $25 and a $50 bottle, the market for the higher priced bottle will soften!

On a personal note, given you have such skepticism about the industry (objectivist?!), how is it you are so interested in the topic? Are you interested in extracting the best sound out of your system? How do you go about doing so?

I am interested in getting the best possible sound, but I use my ears to fiddle with things, and don't have much of an interest in buying new things. Its mainly speaker placement and room treatment at the moment, and I spend 95% of my time or more just listening -- trying to get into the subtle sounds the players are making.

Its hard for me (subjectivist!!) to separate the two pursuits, as one enhances the other.

ethanwiner
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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word


Quote:
OK let's start by taking this as a given.


Of course it's a given - I proved that the frequency response changes quite a lot over spans as small as one inch.


Quote:
Well then quite obviously when performing a switch, any switch, the likelyhood of a change being perceived is very high, including, it goes without saying, when there has been no actualy switch (e.g. no change in cables or whatever).


Yes, exactly. As a matter of fact, it is common for listeners to report a difference in an "A/A" test where nothing changed. This proves that human hearing and perception are not particularly reliable. It also proves the influence of comb filtering.


Quote:
What then are we to make of an audiophile claiming to have a preference, say A over B, after *multiple* swaps/switches between the two (two cables, two pre-amp, two watever) alternatives?


But did they know which device they were listening to? If so, then all bets are off. If you have to read the label to tell one from another, then it's perception bias and not an audible difference. That's why I often invite people to visit - I have a lot of cool audio tools, and two different yet excellent well-treated listening rooms. I also have enough confidence in my poker face that a single-blind test will be very revealing.


Quote:
I've personally had sessions where I've spent hours swapping between interconnects and have detected differences that persist over dozens of switches! How can this be if comb filtering is what is responsible for the percieved differences?


Again, you bring those cables to my house and I promise you will be very surprised. This assumes the cables are all competent. Most are, but some are not. Surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly) some of the most expensive wires and tweak products are not competent.


Quote:
why is it that I recognize the sound of my system from one day to the next


Because you hear an average of the comb filtered response. What's missing in one ear is often present in the other. But the distortion of your gear and speakers is constant and not so much affected by comb filtering. Likewise, your speakers have a unique off-axis response, and as you move around that's a subtle clue whether you're aware of it or not.

--Ethan

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word


Quote:
it is very easy for me to accept that the components will have a slight affect on the sound, similar to those influences on the sound of an instrument -- different strings, different bow hair, rosin etc. -- that musicians deal with as unquestioned, even if some audience members are oblivious to those differences.


I agree with much / all of your post, but do you believe these component differences can be measured using standard audio test gear? To me that's the defining distinction between objective and subjective viewpoints.

--Ethan

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

Ethan,

Have you never encountered a cable comparison where an audiophile used headphones instead of speakers for listening? I have and in such cases clearly your explanation of the differences audiophiles report doesn't even enter into the picture.

Of course you can still refute the findings, cite the placebo effect, wishful thinking, delusion, etc. as cause and issue challenges... but so what?... your smoking gun can't help you and hence your just another voice that disputes audiophile claims of cable differences, nothing more, nothing less.

andy19191
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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

> Lesson 1 for me as newbie audiophile: geez, I guess I'm a subjectivist,
> even though I'm keen on testing. At the same time, seems you would have to
> be lumped into the objectivist camp, if we simplify the world into those
> two camps.

I do not call myself an objectivist. This is word used by audiophile-subjectivists to refer to those that disagree with their beliefs. It is not a word used by non-audiophiles who tend to classify the two camps as those that are informed about what is going on and those that are not.

Audiophiles who call themselves subjectivists are rarely subjectivists in the normal sense of the word because they make objective claims which are often incorrect. One can speculate on the existence of sensible audiophile subjectivists who stick to subjective claims but I am not aware of any. Mind you, would a sensible subjectivists take an interest in posting to audiophile chat sites?

> Wine tasters with their superior palate. [...]

I lack the expertise on wine to comment.

> people who have demonstrated that their perception of sound is much more
> refined than my own. [...] Upon paying extra careful attention, I could
> concede.

Why is this more refined? If you can perceive what they can perceive then the difference does not lie with sound perception but with experience in swiftly interpreting sound.

> he difference between a tube and transistor amp, refuting an objectivist
> claim that all amps sound the same.

I think you need to check your sources. Subjectivists say that objectivists claim that all amplifiers the same but you try finding an objectivist that says that all amplifiers sound the same. Then think about why subjectivists are making this claim about objectivists.

> At the same time, the musicians don't care about providing proof.

What have musicians go to do with anything? Audiophiles make claims about the performance of audiophile hardware not musicians. Others point out that some of the audiophlles claims about the performance of audiophile hardware is nonsense. This also has nothing to do with music or musicians but is based on scientific knowledge.

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

Being a technical person and knowing that I don't have a golden ear, I dismiss things that don't provide better measurements as an improvement.
I do believe that psycology plays an important and very real part in a persons perception of sound.
But then lately I have been thinking about our ability to recognize voices. The normal human voice covers a pretty small frequency range. Consider how many different voices that you can recognize in this narrow range. Between relatives, friends, co-workers, musicians, actors, sports figures and other personalities that's a lot of different voices. Our mental processing is really quite amazing.
Maybe we can hear some of these differences that the math says we shouldn't.

andy19191
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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

> how is it you are so interested in the topic?

I am interested in audiophiles and the audiophile industry as one of the strongest examples of how a growing proportion of our society is rejecting knowledge and reason in favour of often nonsensical beliefs. My concerns lie elsewhere but because of the areas of my expertise audiophiles are the most useful to observe.

> Are you interested in extracting the best sound out of your system?

To a modest degree but not in the way of audiophiles.

> How do you go about doing so?

I design and build some, buy some, get some donated.

> Its hard for me (subjectivist!!) to separate the two pursuits, as one
> enhances the other.

Many find concentrating on the sound quality gets in the way of becoming involved in the music. Above a certain level of quality the hi-fi does not appear to matter much if you are interested in the music. I seem to have no problem giving it no attention unless the music is uninvolving when my attention may wander to it.

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

There are so many areas of professional endeavors that could be labeled "subjective" I can't see how it ever got the bad label it has. Architect, graphic designer, industrial designer, music engineer, animator, wine critic, football coach, referee, most managers, military strategist, US President...

Hmmm, so basically almost every profession, when you get to a high enough level only functions when it is OUT of the box, non objective and cannot be measured by process or codified except by broad results. In fact, you could easily posit that even the most measurable levels of genius start to fall apart when you actually try and pin them down. The Eskimos have 25 words for the differences of white they see. Guess what? Most computers only have 256 levels between white and black and believe me- there ARE a lot more levels even the most minimally trained artist can see.

So just because YOUR TOOLS don't acknowledge the differences cables does not mean they don't exist. Before Galileo's telescopes most people did not believe in rotating planets or craters on the moon. Oh, you mean they existed before that anyway? Most tools out there are made for a purpose OTHER than quality of music- in fact almost all are. Engineers did not "believe" in jitter when CDs first came out but, yes, it WAS there and now is accepted by mainstream and high-end alike. AND--- "audiophiles" heard it first! Nuff said- if you don't hear it fine. Don't tell me I don't just because that's your religious view. I've heard more cables I did NOT like BTW than ones I did. But I could tell you each and every time which was which.

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

>There are huge numbers performed every day if you mean experiments that involve double blinding as part of the design.

Sorry, I was referring to DBT's of audio equipment, and determining if a difference can be detected. (not necessarily requiring accurate identification of the source of those differences). of course blinding is part and partial to a "gold standard" study design.

>I suggest you also read the sound and audio press for a lot more. About the only place you will not find routine controlled listening tests is in the audiophile press of the last few decades which has rather compelling reasons for not doing so.

One of them is undoubtedly cost, you seem to know something or other about clinical studies, as you move up the (experimental) ladder from case-controls, cohorts, to RCT you get more and more expensive. It would be impractical to test each component correctly in a randomized blind-ed fashion.

Perhaps what is needed is the establishment of boundaries. Start by examining audiophile hypothesis such as a difference exists between loud speakers. Most people would concur with this, and, it wouldn't be surprising if a proper study could show that some people can accurately detect a difference. then you could test the more controversial assertions such as cables in a similar fashion. then at-least you would have limits on what it is possible for a reviewer to hear. Of course in reality like any biologically based phenomenon the outcome would be bell shaped for ability to detect differences. there would probably be those who can't detect a difference in two speakers, and there very well may be those who can detect a difference in amplifiers or even cables. I'm talking about 22gague crappy copper wires vs something better.

anyway it's not easy or cheap to do, even the preliminaries would take serious work. testing individual components by standards that would make it into JAMA (though they have published some really sketchy stuff) is simply not feasible.

had I the time to delve outside the medical literature... Perhaps I'm a bit of a stickler but as someone whose (short) life has been spent in and around laboratories, and working on clinical trials, I'm just too nitpicky to be hang my hat on any of the "objective" testing that has gone on in the audiophile world. Besides as you said, it's about the music.

anyway i ramble, and not coherently.

>At least we would seem to be in agreement on the reliability of wikipedia.

we probably agree on more than that, Perhaps I started on the wrong foot comment on the Mcgurk effect (no lie this has been my favorite effect since i first caught wind of it, mostly due to the name) post with a rather aggressive style, for that I am sorry. I am very much interested in objective measurements, But getting ones of a reliable nature is difficult. Subjective enjoyment is what I want to achieve when using my Hi-fi. I agree with you that having a system that lets you loose yourself in the music is what matters.

You seem to have a thing for audiophiles, am I wrong or have you grouped them all into irrational, over-spending, anti-objectivists. I only know the audiophile world from online forums, and a few friends. sure there are those who are subjective, it is after all a subjective goal, but plenty of us quite objective in our approach to things. statisticians, electronics engineers, research scientists are all members of these forums and all count themselves as audiophiles. Some of us, such as myself, treat this as a hobby, as such the standards to which we hold things in our professionals life aren't applied with the same rigor to audiophelia. There is an aspect of audiphilia akin to watch collecting, there is no need whatsoever to spend thousands on a watch. In many cases a hand-made swiss piece is less accurate than a quartz timex digital watch, not to mention a watch that can receive atomic clock signals, people enjoy them for the craftsmanship and aesthetic beauty. It's a hobby.

I don't have a point, or maybe i do, but really i'm just procrastinating.
happy listening!

worst post ever

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

Thanks a lot for all your responses! I wasn't sure what I was getting into by making my first post, but it has more than satisfied the itch I got from reading then ruminating on the wikipedia article on audiophile. All you guys have kept very well on topic, considering there are so many potential tangents.

To help my addled brain, I need to make a little recap, acknowledging that many juicy ideas from some of the posts must be ignored for the moment.

Some people think audiophile is a dirty word. Seems to be objectivists, following the talk thread, and the resulting adjustments to the article. This negativity and skepticism was astonishing to me, as I waltzed into audiphile all thrilled with how my new and evolving sound system gave me so much more pleasure, and more incentive to sit still and listen closely.

NAIVE THEORY OF AUDIO
It seems obvious that there is an audible difference between a bad system and a really good one. There will be a rough correlation between quality and price of systems/components. There would naturally be a logarithmic curve to quality (sounds better) to price -- meaning, as you spend more, you get less improvement in quality. At some point the improvement in quality becomes inaudible (or nearly so), and that's when the listener will stop throwing money at his system. This point will be different for different people -- some listen less acutely, some have less budget.

This trend seems to be in common with other areas of interest (wine, cars, you name it) and so should be practically non-controversial. Here's where folks like Andy are so helpful, to challenge such rash assumptions.

Do objectivists think all amps sound the same? Here's my source on that:
"...Since all modern audio components, from a $15,000 rip-off amplifier to a $69 portable CD player, have flat frequency response, negligible noise, and negligible distortion.... any two of them....
will sound exactly the same, so long as their levels are matched within +-0.15 dB. I solemnly declare it."
Peter Aczel The Audio Critic
http://www.theaudiocritic.com/cwo/Back_Issues/
Download Issue No. 29 (pdf)

Andy also asks

Quote:

What have musicians go to do with anything?


I am admittedly elevating the Musician, as an example of a class of people who have well-developed sense audio discernment. Audio engineers would probably serve as a better example, since they may spend more time looking at sound spectrums, and thus have more perspective on measurability, but I'm trying to base my grasp on the topic on direct experience. This is intended to support the part of my NAIVE THEORY OF AUDIO: the point at which on listener can no longer distinguish between two similar sounds, whether between two audio components or two notes/phrases played on a musical instrument, is different for different people.

Andy -- I take your point that my examples are not necessarily showing a difference in discernment, if I can hear it.

Quote:

If you can perceive what they can perceive then the difference does not lie with sound perception but with experience in swiftly interpreting sound.


True, and also a big factor is memory. Its so easy to lose track of what you've heard, and both of these factors address the difficulty in testing. You might be right, which does refute my argument that some can hear better than others. I've taken my less swift ability to interpret sounds, as coached by music teachers, etc. as an example of training. In other words, they've helped to raise my ability to discern.

When Ethan asks: Can these

Quote:

component differences can be measured using standard audio test gear?


I am not in a position to answer. Given the level of detail in the comb-filtering graphs, it would seem that current standard audio test gear is pretty sophisticated, so I would venture that the differences I can hear are measurable. A bit of a tangent -- its probably easy enough to measure/analyze the component notes of a 5 note chord on the piano. Some people in my class could effortlessly write out slightly different voicings of the same-named chord played for them, while I had to struggle to do that. But to take a step away from my own limited understanding of the abilities of standard audio test gear, we can consider S.A.T.G. just another listener. A certain A.T.G. can maybe only distinguish a certain level of detail in the sound spectrum, while another set of deluxe A.T.G. can distinguish a finer level of detail. Between those two ends of the spectrum, is likely the level of discernment of the Standard human listener. I believe that's the point that dbowker is raising

Quote:

So just because YOUR TOOLS don't acknowledge the differences cables does not mean they don't exist.


Given your background, I'm willing to defer to your understanding of the current state of S.A.T.G. -- can it distinguish more than you can? Do you think it can distinguish more than a highly discerning listener? ...maybe you are toward the discerning end of the scale, since you're in the biz!

Andy: it seems that at some level, we have a shared interest in the audiophile biz. I'm just fascinated by the apparent lack of acceptance of my NAIVE THEORY OF AUDIO. Just figured that if testing was a part of the business, we'd gain that acceptance. Not so simple it seems.
And with that -- I see a new post on testing from Windzilla!
must read and absorb...

Windzilla
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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

I see you just started reading my post, and i really REALLY should be studying, but thought i would add one quick thought to your post.

As far as elevating musicians, they are artists, some of the finest musicians I personally know don't really listen to recorded music.

to put it more succinctly (suck what?)
Beethoven was a great musician, but I wouldn't trust his ears.

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word


Quote:
Beethoven was a great musician, but I wouldn't trust his ears.


At least not his later ears.

However, Beethoven is an excellent example of how our ears and minds can be trained. By the time he lost his hearing he knew how the sounds of the orchestra blended and how to create sound color, as well as melody and harmony. Thus he could write complex music without physically hearing it. He didn't need to test the result - he already knew.

Similarly, we learn how to listen to reproduced music. A well-trained set of ears can easily discern what frequencies are elevated in pink noise as well as in music. The average person detects neither.

This illustrates one of the problems with double-blind testing in audio. Typically when psychoacousticians conduct a DBT they know precisely what the differences in the stimuli are and know that these differences exist. The stimuli are not being tested to determine if they are real - the subjects are being tested to determine what the human response is to the stimulii.

If we are trying to test the possible difference between wires with DBT we are truly running blind; we don't know if we are testing the wires or the subjects' abilities to discern any differences which may exist. Additionally, we are also testing the subjects' decisions as to whether any perceived differences are more "real" sounding.

Great stuff, Windzilla.

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word


Quote:
Of course you can still refute the findings, cite the placebo effect, wishful thinking, delusion, etc.


Yes, exactly. I never said that comb filtering is the only reason people report a change when no change is likely. In fact, I think the reasons you site are more common. Comb filtering enters into it only as a way to show how sound reaching the ears really can vary when nothing has changed in the equipment.


Quote:
your smoking gun can't help you and hence your just another voice that disputes audiophile claims of cable differences, nothing more, nothing less.


Not sure what point you're trying to make, other than to be a little rude to someone you disagree with. But at least I'm genuinely trying to understand why people believe the sound changed even when it could not possibly have changed. I've spent a lot of time and effort to understand the issues scientifically using logic and reason, versus just calling others who disagree with me wrong.

In other words, there's informed opinion and then there's uninformed opinion. I like to think I'm about as informed as it gets. But I could be wrong, and I'll gladly listen to anyone who offers a better explanation. The key being explanation, not just making statements with no further evidence.

If you have a plausible explanation for why some people believe the sound changed when cables were swapped, when no difference can be measured, I'm all ears. But please be specific! The only things that can possibly be affected by a cable swap are frequency response, noise, and distortion. All of these are easily measured to a very high resolution - to better than -100 dB if not greater. So if you dispute this, what is your better explanation? Again, please be very specific.

--Ethan

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

Good post, Ethan, with a nicely restrained tone. I, too, don't understand the need by some to attack.


Quote:
The only things that can possibly be affected by a cable swap are frequency response, noise, and distortion. All of these are easily measured to a very high resolution - to better than -100 dB if not greater.

As one that can hear the differences between some cables, but zero difference with others, I would adore knowing what is going on.

Are there differences that we do not know yet how to measure? Are there differences that we can measure and that we can hear, but we do not yet know the correlation?

The example the continues to fascinate me is how Analysis Plus cables (scientifically designed, tested in ever parameter) sound threadbare in my system. Theory would predict that they would be wonderful.

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Quote:
As one that can hear the differences between some cables, but zero difference with others, I would adore knowing what is going on.


I think most people truly want to understand how audio works, and learn what matters and why. That's why I continue to discuss this stuff in public, even at the risk of harming my business by offending people who dislike what I have to say. Of course, some people prefer to believe one way or the other, and no logic will convince them otherwise. And some people are simply anti-science and distrust everything they don't themselves understand. I gave up arguing at the Tweakers Asylum years ago.


Quote:
Are there differences that we do not know yet how to measure? Are there differences that we can measure and that we can hear, but we do not yet know the correlation?


I can't imagine that's the case. Audio science has been fully understood for most of the last century, and even digital signal theory was well known long before suitable hardware could be built. So this tells me the more relevant issues are more likely psychological.

For example, are you absolutely certain you can reliably hear a difference in cables? What if you can't see which cable is which? Can you still tell 20 times out of 20 exchanges? It's not enough to switch once and decide you heard a difference - especially if you know which cable is which. But again I will remind everyone that some cables really are incompetent, and really can roll off highs which can be perceived as a smoother sound. So I will not claim that all cables sound the same. But I am confident claiming that all competent cables sound the same, whether they cost $3.00 or $3,000.

My usual disclaimer - I do not have a closed mind, and I'll gladly listen to any plausible explanation. Not rants that I'm wrong and must have tin ears, but actual facts and arguments put forth logically.

--Ethan

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word


Quote:

Quote:
Of course you can still refute the findings, cite the placebo effect, wishful thinking, delusion, etc.


Yes, exactly. I never said that comb filtering is the only reason people report a change when no change is likely. In fact, I think the reasons you site are more common. Comb filtering enters into it only as a way to show how sound reaching the ears really can vary when nothing has changed in the equipment.


Quote:
your smoking gun can't help you and hence your just another voice that disputes audiophile claims of cable differences, nothing more, nothing less.


Not sure what point you're trying to make, other than to be a little rude to someone you disagree with. But at least I'm genuinely trying to understand why people believe the sound changed even when it could not possibly have changed. I've spent a lot of time and effort to understand the issues scientifically using logic and reason, versus just calling others who disagree with me wrong.

In other words, there's informed opinion and then there's uninformed opinion. I like to think I'm about as informed as it gets. But I could be wrong, and I'll gladly listen to anyone who offers a better explanation. The key being explanation, not just making statements with no further evidence.

If you have a plausible explanation for why some people believe the sound changed when cables were swapped, when no difference can be measured, I'm all ears. But please be specific! The only things that can possibly be affected by a cable swap are frequency response, noise, and distortion. All of these are easily measured to a very high resolution - to better than -100 dB if not greater. So if you dispute this, what is your better explanation? Again, please be very specific.

--Ethan

I'm sorry but it is hard to take you seriously. Why? Well let's re-examine your belief:


Quote:

I am convinced that comb filtering is at the root of people reporting a change in the sound of cables and electronics even when no significant change is likely. If someone listens to their system using one pair of cables, then gets up and switches cables and sits down again, the frequency response heard is sure to be very different because it's impossible to sit down again in exactly the same place. So the sound really did change, but probably not because the cables sound different!

I then proceed to point out a circumstance where your belief "that comb filtering is at the root of people reporting a change ... when no significant change is likely." manifestly don't bear on the question and you suggest I'm being rude.

The only thing that is clear is that you believe what you believe, and such is reinforced in your last response when you say you are "genuinely trying to understand why people believe the sound changed even when it could not possibly have changed".

Hence the domain of your thinking is clearly bound by what you consider pre-established and that being the case any "informing" that can occur can only be for the purpose of adding substance.

Personally I'm not much impressed by your claim of being as "informed as it gets" when I witness little but in-the-box thinking. I'll leave it at that because I'm afaid to say more would be preceived as rudeness.

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

[guote]
The only things that can possibly be affected by a cable swap are frequency response, noise, and distortion. All of these are easily measured to a very high resolution - to better than -100 dB if not greater.

It seems to me that there are more parameters that can be measured than these. These three values may be enough to capture a snapshot of sound, but the concept of time is lacking. For example, a sound envelope includes description of its attack and decay -- how the sound volume changes over time. Each of the three parameters above will also vary with time.

The sequence of sounds in time will be different when played through a sound system, compared to the sound as it happened live. All the processing of that sound has had an influence on the time domain -- there is a small amount of time required for sound to travel through wires, each component within an amplifier with affect the degree to which the volume changes over time -- in the system vs the original sound. I expect there is some sense of electronic inertia that influences the way a sound in one instant affects the sound in the next instant.

What is true of this comparison in the time domain between the original sound and the sound played back through a system, is equally true comparing the recorded sound played back between two systems.

How well does the current standard audio test equipment capture these details? There is the question of sample rates -- are they rapid enough to create a sound history that is as nuanced as the ear can hear. This question reminds me of dbowker's post, where he mentions 256 shades between black and white on a computer, as being less nuanced that a person can perceive.

I've certainly experienced recorded sound having less dynamic range than the original sound. In this case, the sound volume from one instant to the next is not as pronounced in the system compared to the original sound.

If an objective analyst focusses on the paramaters they know, which does not include all the parameters that comprise the sound experience, it naturally follows that a person listening to the sound will hear what is beyond that being measured.

This is a bit of tangent from the question whether a person can hear the static sound spectrum with more acuity than current instruments, but it does open the door to the possibility that subjective listening hears what instruments do not. It is certainly theoretically possible that a live person could hear two different sounds, while these sounds appear identical to a testing instrument, due to limitations in the instrument.

This rant in attempt to contest Windzilla's claim for the worst post ever.

andy19191
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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

> Do objectivists think all amps sound the same? Here's my source on that:
> "...Since all modern audio components, from a $15,000 rip-off amplifier
> to a $69 portable CD player, have flat frequency response, negligible noise,
> and negligible distortion.... any two of them.... will sound exactly the same,
> so long as their levels are matched within +-0.15 dB. I solemnly declare it."

The quote does not support your statement even in the form you present. Do valve amplifiers under normal conditions have a flat frequency response and negligible distortion? More interestingly, are you being deliberately dishonest in misrepresenting what the opposition has said or are you unable to understand what was written? In either case it should start to give you some insight about why "audiophile is a dirty word".

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

Windzilla:
It is enlightening to get a relatively positive perspective on why the audio industry does not do objective testing. I'm not yet gracious enough to accept this as the main reason. It seems there could at least be a component similar to watchmakers NOT doing time-accuracy testing with other watches (well, maybe they do, I don't read horological magazines, but the point being that maybe audio manufacturers know that the sound difference between product A and B is not significant enough to clear show in a test).

In addition, your point about not being clear about what is being tested gives me pause. Proper testing, as you say, needs to have clearer purpose than just playing the two systems A/B. In order to determine what sounds more real, perhaps the subject would need to hear a live sound, that is recorded as its played, then played back through system A or B. That gets complicated! Another option is to play a highly controlled sound sample, say a standard synthesized test sample with a known spectrum, so that the question of what is the relation between the original and played sound. The problem with this is that it seems that synthesized sounds have a less subtle sound than say the human voice, so could be insufficiently revealing to adequately challenge our ability to hear.

Regardless, your perspective on testing does give me some pause -- its becoming clear that testing in the audio industry is not as simple as I thought.

bjh:
I don't see Ethan's comb filtering argument to be so easily dismissed. I take it that he has asked the question: "Why do people think they are hearing more difference between two systems than I think they ought", and has searched for and found a rational explanation. Personally, I don't feel that it likely gives the final answer -- based on my own sense of my system sounding familiar in all corners of the room as you point out, and even hearing a difference between two components so obviously that I don't even get back to my sweet spot -- I guess that our brains have a way of compensating for this effect, and that's why we don't notice the effect to the degree that his charts would suggest. However, when it comes to straining to hear a difference to two very similar sounds, like a system with only the cables changed, it is plausible that the comb filtering effect be is greater than the difference between the two sounds.

andy:
Curious that you would suspect me of being deliberately misleading with respect to the quote I provided. My recollection was that the author I quoted was specifically making the point that all amplifiers sound the same. At your suggestion, I looked up the article, and thought the quote was a useful indication of what that portion of article was trying to get across, which is that (essentially) all amps sound the same. The fact that later makes the "rare exception to the above in the case of the most eccentric "retro" vacuum-tube designs", then returns to his point that there is no sense in A/B testing because "all modern electronic signal paths sound the same", only further suggests to me that this author thinks "all amps sound the same".
True, I am pursuing this post in hopes of understanding why audiophile is a dirty word.
You feel I am "misrepresenting... the opposition". How is it you think I consider this author as representative of "the opposition"? This suggests an emnity that I have perceived -- in the wiki audiphile article -- but which I certainly don't feel myself. I mentioned perceiving this emnity earlier in this thread. I certainly don't consider this author to be the opposition, nor do I consider objectivists in general to be opposition. As Ethan insightfully asked:

Quote:

...do you believe these component differences can be measured using standard audio test gear? To me that's the defining distinction between objective and subjective viewpoints.


My reponse to his question is that component difference I can hear in sound can be measured. Perhaps not with standard audio test gear -- perhaps the current state of audio measurement isn't yet sufficiently developed to record as much detail as a human can hear. Thus, I suppose I am an advocate of the objective viewpoint.

I don't think all amps sound the same, I pretty comfortable that I can make a distinction between some amps. I can accept that Peter Aczel (the author mentioned above) cannot, and perhaps his audio test gear does not make a distinction in the comparisons he's done, but that does not make him an opponent!

Can you help me understand why you would suspect I'm being deliberately misleading or misrepresenting in my pursuit of this topic? I suspect this will be my most fruitful approach to discovering why, for some, audiophile is a dirty word.

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

Windzilla:

I did look up the medline search you mentioned.
Got a lot of results with too many large words, didn't see an article by Ries.

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word


Quote:
I then proceed to point out a circumstance where your belief "that comb filtering is at the root of people reporting a change ... when no significant change is likely." manifestly don't bear on the question and you suggest I'm being rude.


So what is your better explanation for why cables that measure the same are reported as sounding different? For the third time now I ask you this, and I also remind you to please be very specific. It's not enough to call me wrong. You have to explain why you think I'm wrong.

My Believe article mentions a number of reasons people might think they hear a difference, yet you have offered nothing of substance other than to say I'm wrong and I'm not credible. If you have a better theory, now would be the time to make your case.

--Ethan

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word


Quote:
It seems to me that there are more parameters that can be measured than these. These three values may be enough to capture a snapshot of sound, but the concept of time is lacking.


You are correct, and I intentionally left out time-based parameters like wow and flutter and jitter because they don't apply to cables at audio frequencies. THIS article from Skeptic magazine last year lists all of the audio parameters that matter, including time-based, with quite a bit more detail than I've explained in this thread.


Quote:
How well does the current standard audio test equipment capture these details?


As far as I know audio science knows how to test everything that is audible. I appreciate that some people don't agree, but whenever I ask for a specific example of what can be heard but not measured, they never have an answer.


Quote:
There is the question of sample rates -- are they rapid enough to create a sound history that is as nuanced as the ear can hear.


Sure, assuming a sample rate of at least 44.1 KHz. This too is well understood, and easily provable.


Quote:
This question reminds me of dbowker's post, where he mentions 256 shades between black and white on a computer, as being less nuanced that a person can perceive.


Agreed, and anyone can see the divisions in GIF files with a color gradient. But even CD quality audio has 65,536 steps, which is 256 times higher resolution.


Quote:
I've certainly experienced recorded sound having less dynamic range than the original sound. In this case, the sound volume from one instant to the next is not as pronounced in the system compared to the original sound.


This is a psychoacoustic phenomenon - compression - that happens within our ears. If an electronic device does not respond the same at different volume levels that's distortion, and is easily measured.


Quote:
If an objective analyst focusses on the paramaters they know, which does not include all the parameters that comprise the sound experience, it naturally follows that a person listening to the sound will hear what is beyond that being measured.


Again, the burden of proof is on those who claim there's more than the four known parameters.


Quote:
It is certainly theoretically possible that a live person could hear two different sounds, while these sounds appear identical to a testing instrument, due to limitations in the instrument.


Anything is theoretically possible, including a UFO landing on the roof of my house in five minutes. That doesn't means it's likely. Test gear can measure to better than 100 dB below peak signal level. Most people cannot discern detail more than about 30 to 40 dB down.


Quote:
This rant in attempt to contest Windzilla's claim for the worst post ever.


Not a rant at all! Those were all good points.

--Ethan

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

Ethan,

Doesn't your argument for comb filtering assume:

A) That we had our head in a vice when listening to cable or component "A"

B) We then did not have our head in a vice when listening to cable or component "B"

Since assumption A is not likely I find it difficult to accept your assumption B holds as much water as you would have us believe.

RG

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Quote:
Doesn't your argument for comb filtering assume:


Why do you think it assumes that? You don't need your head in a vice either time, and I proved that the response changes dramatically over spans as small as an inch. So that alone accounts for real differences in what reaches your ears.

--Ethan

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word


Quote:
bjh:
I don't see Ethan's comb filtering argument to be so easily dismissed. I take it that he has asked the question: "Why do people think they are hearing more difference between two systems than I think they ought", and has searched for and found a rational explanation. Personally, I don't feel that it likely gives the final answer -- based on my own sense of my system sounding familiar in all corners of the room as you point out, and even hearing a difference between two components so obviously that I don't even get back to my sweet spot -- I guess that our brains have a way of compensating for this effect, and that's why we don't notice the effect to the degree that his charts would suggest. However, when it comes to straining to hear a difference to two very similar sounds, like a system with only the cables changed, it is plausible that the comb filtering effect be is greater than the difference between the two sounds.

In the case of headphone monitoring in comparative listening it is trivially obvious that the comb filtering theory as rational for percieved sound differences cannot be applied; if I'm not mistaken Ethan has not challenged that assertion.

Now as to the initial criticism I offered, i.e. for the speaker listening context, it seems to me that *my* arguement was dismissed by Ethan with his "all bets are off" assertion in the demand of unsighted listening. That's nothing new to me, nor to anyone else familiar with the demands of naysayers generally (to say nothing of the hardcore DBT/ABX proponent crowd).

Anyway as you have offered that comb filtering could be a plausile rational where differences are not great, i.e. where we are "... straining to hear a difference to two very similar sounds..." and hence where comb filtering differnces could be "...greater than the difference between the two sounds", then I invite you to address my argement.

Namely, if comb filtering is the the prominent factor in percieved difference how is it that an audiophile percieves similar changes over multiple swaps?

Ethan stresses that the effect of comb filtering is highly variable by position, just a few inches here or there yield significantly different FR, so where actual (if any) differences are swamped by comb filtering effects you would expect an audiophile to *not* observe similar differences over (swap) trials but rather to find it difficult to notice any such, i.e. we would expect the audiophile to suggest that while there are differences he cannot make head nor tail of them, that they are inconsistent.

--

I would like to point out that I am not opposed to blind testing. I actaully like blind testing and frequently do it with a cable designer friend of mine; simple casual blind tests, I generally leave the room during the awap (e.g. A, then B, then A, etc., nothing fancy and no shenanigans).

On a recent visit we were doing some blind testing where I knew only that A and B were different, I expected isolation devices (he was playing with an idea) or cables. Anyway we did only 3 A/B swapps and then he declared, "Ok, I beleive it now". I was then told that the test involved a lone Shatiki (sic?) stone.

We had an ongoing dispute regarding the effect of Shatiki stones. I have always claimed that, no matter where they are placed in his system, that they "dummy down" the sound, a dulling effect, lose of timbral nuance. He, on the other hand, likes them.

For the test it turns out that A was no stones in the system and B was a single stone placed on, believe it or not, the power supply box of his 2 box SimAudio MOON Andromeda CD Player. I just want to point out the test didn't convince him that the stones are bad, not at all, he still likes them in the system, only that my reaction to the stones was consistent even when comparing blind.

The reason I recount this incident is to encourage you to reflect on the issue of "subtle" or "small" differences. It is common to discount such changes because they are, well, "small", but in reality they can have very meaningful consequences on the overall sound, i.e. on the enjoyment of sound.

bjh
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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word


Quote:

Quote:
I then proceed to point out a circumstance where your belief "that comb filtering is at the root of people reporting a change ... when no significant change is likely." manifestly don't bear on the question and you suggest I'm being rude.


So what is your better explanation for why cables that measure the same are reported as sounding different? For the third time now I ask you this, and I also remind you to please be very specific. It's not enough to call me wrong. You have to explain why you think I'm wrong.

I pointed out that you theory doesn't cover the headphone listening scenario, hence it is hardly a complete theory.

But what I find truly amusing is the following:


Quote:
So what is your better explanation for why cables that measure the same are reported as sounding different? For the third time now I ask you this, and I also remind you to please be very specific.

For starters I have no idea why cables sound different, did I ever give you the impression I did? But what's amusing is that it seems you believe that just because you have developed a theory, one that has been demonstrated to be incomplete, that this somehow buys you the right to go demanding explanations. What is that, "I have a theory, you don't, nah-nah-na-nah-nah?". Is that about correct?

ethanwiner
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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word


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In the case of headphone monitoring in comparative listening it is trivially obvious that the comb filtering theory as rational for percieved sound differences cannot be applied; if I'm not mistaken Ethan has not challenged that assertion.


See my fourth post in this thread where I said:


Quote:
I never said that comb filtering is the only reason people report a change when no change is likely. In fact, I think the reasons you site are more common. Comb filtering enters into it only as a way to show how sound reaching the ears really can vary when nothing has changed in the equipment.


This is also made clear in my article, that comb filtering is only part of it. Just yesterday I said psychology is an important factor too. Indeed, I never said that all perceived differences are due to comb filtering. So I have no idea why you keep claiming I said that, or that my entire argument rests upon that premise.


Quote:
if comb filtering is the the prominent factor in percieved difference how is it that an audiophile percieves similar changes over multiple swaps?


Assuming competent cables, and not knowing which cable you're hearing, I do not accept that anyone can correctly identify what they're hearing a statistically significant number of times. I will need to be present at such a test before I'll change that opinion, because the idea that one competent cable can sound different than another - especially when no change in the frequency response can be measured with test gear - defies all that is known about the science of audio.


Quote:
For starters I have no idea why cables sound different, did I ever give you the impression I did?


And this is exactly why you need to offer a better explanation. As we skeptics say, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof." The claim that competent cables can sound different with competent gear, or that a small Shakti stone can change the sound, is extraordinary because it defies all that is known about audio. So far you have offered only anecdotal evidence - which is all I've ever seen put forth by cable and Shakti believers.

--Ethan

andy19191
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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

> I don't think all amps sound the same, I pretty comfortable that I can make
> a distinction between some amps. I can accept that Peter Aczel (the author
> mentioned above) cannot, and perhaps his audio test gear does not make a
> distinction in the comparisons he's done

You are continuing to misrepresent what Peter Aczel has said. Why? "Objectivists" do not say that all amplifiers sound the same but many audiophiles claim that they do. If you look really hard you may even find somebody that makes the claim but you will first have to dismiss a great many non-subjective-audiophiles (like Peter Aczel, Ethan, myself,...) stating the opposite.

Broadly what is said by the informed is that modern competently designed amplifiers (low distortion, flat frequency response, small output impedance,...) operating under normal conditions (reasonable speaker load, not clipping,...) degrade the amplified signal by an amount that is not audible. This means most valve amplifiers, very cheap solid state amplifiers, significant numbers of nonstandard audiophile amplifiers, various class D amplifiers all degrade the amplified signal by an audible amount. Some audiophiles like the sound of the degradation and claim it is more "musical" but everybody will happily sign up to it being different.

If you want confirmation from controlled listening tests in the audiophile press you will have to go back 20 or 30 years. When the results became clear to even the slowest witted of audiophile magazine editors such testing almost completely ceased. As part of the "cover up" they blamed the messenger and this has largely succeeded among audiophles but at the cost of widening further the gap between audiophiles and the rational.

> Can you help me understand why you would suspect I'm being deliberately
> misleading or misrepresenting in my pursuit of this topic?

Because you have now made the same false statement 3 times. You are either being consciously dishonest or unconsciously dishonest. At some point believing the latter becomes untenable.

> I suspect this will be my most fruitful approach to discovering why, for
> some, audiophile is a dirty word.

Both the technically literate and those that have listened in a rational manner recognise that audiophiles hold some "flat earth" beliefs about sound, sound perception and audio equipment that are remarkably convenient for the financial well being of the current audiophile industry. Amplifier sound is one such belief mentioned above.

People's reaction to audiophiledom and the "flat earth" beliefs will vary depending on how it impacts them. To most people it has no impact at all and so they hold no emotional view. To a few, audiophiles are a problem or embarrassment and they can be expected to hold a negative view.

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word


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When the results became clear to even the slowest witted of audiophile magazine editors such testing almost completely ceased. As part of the "cover up" they blamed the messenger


Excellent point Andy, and blaming the messenger is at the root of the anger and hostility I see from some "believers." I never get angry about this stuff, except when people resort to name calling and insults because they have no real argument or evidence for their beliefs. I actually enjoy a good technical discussion, but too often it's one-sided because the other side - sometimes at their own admission - lacks a technical understanding of the issues at hand. Statements such as, "I can't explain the science but I know what I hear" are common in discussions like this. I don't know of one college-educated EE who believes that competent cables can sound different. That view always comes from people who are not schooled in audio, and have never designed a circuit in their lives.

--Ethan

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

Sorry, I can't let these pass unchallenged:


Quote:
*my* arguement was dismissed by Ethan with his "all bets are off" assertion in the demand of unsighted listening. That's nothing new to me, nor to anyone else familiar with the demands of naysayers generally (to say nothing of the hardcore DBT/ABX proponent crowd) ... I am not opposed to blind testing. I actaully like blind testing and frequently do it with a cable designer friend of mine


Then what's your point?


Quote:
if comb filtering is the the prominent factor in percieved difference how is it that an audiophile percieves similar changes over multiple swaps?


If the test is sighted, that factor is self-delusion and a belief system.

As soon as the test is blind and proper, nobody - including you - can tell which cable is which.

--Ethan

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

If they KNOW what they hear, why can't they know why? Cu's'ss' they ain't hearing it without first having been BS'd into the idea, checkout the cable ads, nice birdy, ya bend a wire put a bird on it, and THESE wires have sound. Do all cables with magic need lifting off the floor, or only certain magic properties neeed lift? Certain reviewer on staff, hears demag'd plastic, wires, and other assorted nonsense. can i write for StereoPhile, I'm capable of dreaming, and putting it into text. I don't have to measure anything, just make absurd claims....When JA measures, and proves it's nonsense, we go and review something else. Better than being a weatherman, don't matter if we is wrong, or way off, just move on, no accountibility in the absurd claims. When did wire become an audio component anyway? Do you base your car purchases or new appliances on teh brand of wire they used inside, how come audio nudnicks are impressed when some audio sheister writes in his "specs" he uses this or that magic wire or magic capcitor. this sells stuff. It's like RELIGION, all made up stories. 21st century, and the wires still have sound, like there is a dude watching everyone, and he loves you, but F' up, and he sends you into a different place!!! Grown adults beleiving in wire.....

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

WHoop, there it goes, this thread is heading down that old familiar path again.

everyone, lets be accusatory!

use this tried and true little device to ensure self-rightousness
do you not understand X translation (your an idiot)
or do you make up X to serve ulterior motives (a liar and scoundrel)

why do people so often neglect an at-least eaqually likely reason for contradiction in someones statments.

that being, its an internet forum, people don't always put forth there ideas clearly, perhaps there is some miscommunication compounded by hyperbole and such.

maybe those types of discussions are why audiophile is a dirty word.

not to say that these post are all negative, or to say that i am without my own provacative postings. I say shame on me, and let us go forth and be merry, its music, it's lovely, we play with toys that can reach into our hearts with beautiful music! Can you see that i'm serious? join me, can you do any less!**

speaking of, maybe audiophile is a dirty word because enjoying music is so primal, and enjoyed so universally.
when you take to audiophilia you are, to some extent, placing the music produced by every day equipment at a lower level than that produced by "better" gear. to the uninnitiated there may be an association that says in doing so you have judged there experiance of music to be inferior to your own.

sure we hear all know its about what makes the individual happy, about tweaking out that last bit of sound, that judgment of other's enjoyment is for jerks and weiners, but to an outside observer it would be easy to see otherwise.

cheers,

no spel cheik!

**too much immunology study makes me something something, like a Japaneses detergent commercial***.

***anyone watch the simpsons?

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word


Quote:
Assuming competent cables, and not knowing which cable you're hearing, I do not accept that anyone can correctly identify what they're hearing a statistically significant number of times. I will need to be present at such a test before I'll change that opinion, because the idea that one competent cable can sound different than another - especially when no change in the frequency response can be measured with test gear - defies all that is known about the science of audio.

Frankly I'm at a loss to understand why you think I, or anyone else for that matter, would be concerned about what you do or don't accept, nor what conditions you would require meet to change your opinion.


Quote:
The claim that competent cables can sound different with competent gear, or that a small Shakti stone can change the sound, is extraordinary because it defies all that is known about audio. So far you have offered only anecdotal evidence - which is all I've ever seen put forth by cable and Shakti believers.

Again I really could care less what you do or don't consider an extraordinary claim, nor your ideas about burden of proof for such.

I'll leave it at that Ethan because sparring with you is about as much fun as sparring with any other demanding objectivist/naysayer, not fun at all and mostly a waste of time.

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

Mr. DUP...You know, the way you post is more like old timey religion than any other writer here! The unquestioning belief in the rightness of your own view of the world through science and engineering, AS YOU UNDERSTAND IT, is by far the closest thing to a man on a pulpit than anyone who sings the praises of cables.

No writer in Stereophile or any other audio magazine is saying YOU are a bad person for not buying X, Y or Z product. They simply are stating an opinion based on their experiences, which like all opinions you can take or leave. Ditto for any poster here, and yet from your grand platform you rant, cajole and exhort as if the fate of Western civilization hung in the balance. Ummm, we ARE just talking about home stereo equipment, right?

If this is the way all Audiophile forums behave then I know exactly how "audiophile" became a bad word. It becomes synonymous with uptight guys who have to be right and prove to everyone how much better they are by virtue of their equipment choices. I sure would not want to be included in THAT club! On the balance I don't think that's what most posters here want to be.

Personally. I'd have more an inclination to listen to your perspective if I actually heard something new, and a little more "proof" on your end that I could verify. So far, not so much. Where's the objectivity?

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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

Watch out, Dbowker! :-)

To teh tune of Jaws:

DUPDUP, DUPDUP, DUPDUP

bjh
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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

Ethan,

If I may a few strictly objective observations regarding the frequency responses from Figure 2 of your article, i.e:

Taken individually neither of these plots resembles anything even remotely close to a flat frequency response. We witness multiple peaks and dips across the entire frequeny range of at least 10db, in fact many (especially the dips) far in excess of 10db.

Moreover when either of these plots is contrasted with those that appear in Stereophile speaker system reviews I can't help but wondering what choice words John Atkinson would offer were he to encounter anything even remotely resembling a wild roller coaster ride frequency response similar to either of your plots.

Now if I'm not mistaken Atkinson performs in-room speaker frequency response measurements, albeit using a nearfield-measurement protocol. Yet when we consider that absortion in a typical room is naturally high for the higher frequencies it stands to reason that at least for high frequencies in-room measurement, even if not nearfield, should begin to resemble anechoic chamber measurements.

However when we examine your plots the wild deviations seem roughly the same in magnitude across the entire frequency range, even beyond 16kHz the deviations continue with swings of roughly the same magnitude as for lower frequecies.

It seems to me that there is sufficient cause to reexamine your measurement protocols. At the very least you might want to consult with others with experience measuring speaker system in-room frequency response to comment on your data; again when contrasted against the dozens of plots that John Atkinson has produced over many years it does seem your plots are anything but typical.

CECE
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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

Not YOUR.....it's YOU'RE an IDIOT. You know contractions and all from 4th grade engrish

ethanwiner
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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word


Quote:
Again I really could care less what you do or don't consider an extraordinary claim, nor your ideas about burden of proof for such. I'll leave it at that Ethan because sparring with you is about as much fun as sparring with any other demanding objectivist/naysayer, not fun at all and mostly a waste of time.


I rather enjoy this, for the same reason I enjoy listening to conservative talk radio. It keeps me sharp and fends off Alzheimer's as I find all the logic flaws. So yet again you call me wrong, but don't even try to articulate why.


Quote:
If I may a few strictly objective observations regarding the frequency responses from Figure 2 of your article


Excellent, glad to see you're back with the discussion. Hang in there, one of us will learn something yet.


Quote:
when either of these plots is contrasted with those that appear in Stereophile speaker system reviews ... It seems to me that there is sufficient cause to reexamine your measurement protocols.


I can see why you'd think that, but my measurements are highly accurate, and much more so than what you see in typical loudspeaker reviews. The difference is the frequency resolution of the measurements. Loudspeaker measurements are typical averaged to third octaves, mostly to hide how horrible the room is they're tested in. Even when tested in an anechoic chamber, manufacturers routinely use averaging to hide the true response. I think this is explained, but maybe not clearly enough, in my Believe article where I show the second set of measurements one inch apart, using averaging to better see all seven responses at once.

Below is a screen cap showing the very same room response measurement, displayed as 1/3 and 1/12 octave overlaid at the same time. Here's a link to the full article:

http://www.realtraps.com/art_monitor.htm

--Ethan

Windzilla
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Re: Discovering "audiophile" is a dirty word

Dup

I failed nearly all grammatical quizes/tests/assignments in gradeschool. Oddley enough, I did rather well in comprehension and composition. I have an extremely difficult time with spelling, and have never, ever at any point in my life, been able to diagram a sentance. I am awful at the more technical aspects of written language. I failed High-school spanish.

yep, when it comes to 4th grade grammar, I am an idiot.

anyway, that rambling X post wasn't about anyone in particular, just the degrading atmosphere of the thread.

-not that i couldn't understand or read or even speak spanish, just that i couldn't properly conjugate anything, didn't give a damn about tenses and was SOL when it came to spelling any of it.

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