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ethanwiner
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The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

Sean Olive is a well-known audio scientist, and his blog entry The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests explains the importance of listening blind when assessing audio quality.

Discuss.

If you dare.

rmeyer52
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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

I have said this for years thank you for posting ! High end audio mfgs. would cringe at this because people love to associate price with quality of the product but this study confirms what we already suspected.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

How often have you heard we taste with our eyes, well of course we also listen with them

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

Our writers also listen with their tongues. Licking review components is an important aspect of the evaluation process.

I'm really sorry. I'm totally just messing around. It's Friday.

Jan Vigne
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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests


Quote:
The psychological biases in the sighted tests were sufficiently strong that listeners were largely unresponsive to real changes in the sound quality caused by acoustical interactions between the loudspeaker, its position in the room, and the program material.


Quote:
Brand biases and employee loyalty to Harman products were also a factor in the sighted tests, since three of the four products (G,D, and S) were Harman branded.

A test that proves whether you are loyal to your employer?

Priceless!

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

Ethan,

Over the course of the past few weeks I have been following a similar regarding blind listening tests over on the Slim Devices forum ( Blind Testing) One of the main differences between the two forums is that over on the Slim Device forum people in favor of DBT (double blind tests) far outnumber those who question whether DBTs are really all they are cracked up to be.

I've decided to try a new approach to show the pro-DBTers why some people may question the purported infallibility of DBTs. Here goes:

Okay I will admit that for any given DBT, the results will clearly show that either a difference can be heard or that there is no audible difference. What I don't understand is how the results for a given set of conditions which were present during the testing, i.e. room, equipment used and music used, can then be extrapolated to encompass ALL conditions. Forgot to add: And for ALL people???????

Here's what I mean. The results of a given DBT may show that there is no difference between a high bit rate MP3 file and the original uncompressed WAV file. Great but how on earth is that result, and remember the DBT involved a specific room, specific audio equipment and a specific song (or file), then taken to apply to ALL music??? Forgot to add: And for ALL people???????

Answer the above question with a valid and completely logical response and I'll gladly join the pro-DBT camp, otherwise just accept the fact that DBTs are hopelessly flawed. In fact, DBTs are as hopelessly flawed as sighted tests.

Okay, your turn.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

In a darkened room most people would prefer Radio Shack Minimus 7s over Quad 57 electrostatics. And I'm positive Sean Olive would agree.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

Beer followed beer..then we switched to scotch.

No everyone can see the same, not everyone can run the same, not everyone can think the same, not everyone can drive the same, not everyone can fight the same, not everyone can drink the same..and....

and not everyone can hear the same.

So my hearing is better than the advocates of the DBT, who have no idea what they are taking about.

Just like they discuss who wins the Nascar race, the NCAA game, or the football game. It's not as if they can do any of that.

Same shit, different skill and knowledge.

Reviewers are trained and seasoned pros, and in the case of most audio rag editorial staff, who set the review rules... very well seasoned in all the aspects.

When these DBT people have spent over 20 years designing or building gear AND they have good hearing connected to a THINKING and WORKING brain..their answer will be different.

But in the meantime they are armchair experts- and they may always be exactly that. Sorry.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

Hey, KBK would you please something like your last post on that thread over at the Slim Devices forum. Of course you have to realize that they will tell you that your argument, while completely sane and well reasoned, can not be scientifically proven and is therefore invalid.

Using the results of blind test regarding sound to draw "scientific" conclusions is akin to saying a major league fastball is unhittable simply because 99 out of a hundred average people can not hit it. Meanwhile the remaining 1% make a pretty good living from being able to hit that fastball.

solive
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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

JazzFan,

No scientist would ever claim that his or her experimental results can be extrapolated to or generalized beyond the conditions under which the test was administered, and if they did, it would never get past the peer review stage before publication in the scientific journal. But don't throw the baby (blind tests) out with the bath water (generalization). It certainly doesn't mean that blind tests are as "hopelessly flawed as sighted tests."

Whether an experimental result can be generalized to a wide population of listeners, programs, listening rooms has nothing to do with it being double-blind (or sighted). The double-blindness ensures that the results are not influenced by visual biases, thus allowing the experimenter to make valid conclusions about the relationship between the variable (different speakers or codecs) and the measured effect (listeners' ratings).

The double-blindness also makes the experiment easier to replicate by someone else at a later place, time or date, with different listeners. Replication is the hallmark of a good scientific experiment. Replication, on the other hand, would be difficult using a sighted method because the visual-related biases are likely fleeting, and highly individualist depending on expectations,etc.

A well-designed blind listening test will select programs, listening rooms, and listeners that are highly sensitive to the attributes being measured so that the results hopefully represent the most sensitive, worst-case conditions. If the attributes or artifacts are not audible under those conditions, then there is some assurance that under less sensitive conditions listeners will not generally be bothered by the artifact (as in CODEC testing).

Finally, ask yourself this question: Would you prefer to use a cancer drug passed by FDA based on sighted/open drug trials or based on double-blind testing protocols? If you feel more confident choosing the double-blind tested drug, I would argue that the same rationale applies in selecting your loudspeakers.

KBK
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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

close..more like 1 out of every thousand of the average MIGHT be able to hit a pro league fastball.

Audio is really not any further off that spec of the 1:1000 ratio. However, like watching baseball...many to most can enjoy it as a sport.

But true, proper, accurate, and critical analysis of audio, like the same critical analysis of baseball..escapes most folks. We can analyze to a point, but our analysis is not expert.

Most importantly, like my old t-shirt said:

NORMAL is for AVERAGE

Meaning..the middle is not the absolute it is merely the middle..and their middling opinion on the correctness of DBT is merely that, the opinion of the middle. Middlng audiophiles? Yes, the group is big enough for that. As soon as you get beyond three people, a middle can emerge.

(what my T-Shirt said to people, if they were paying attention: They could be normal if they wanted to...and spend the rest of their lives being average)

Fundamentally, DBT is a flawed test for this situation. This has been talked to death, and personally, I'd kill the subject in front of crowd, even if it was crying and begging for it's life. We'd done this before, we're past this. Long ago.

If the middling of the scientific crowd has one whit of sense, they'd know this.

The wiser among them aren't arguing it, they've gone on to more useful and effective methodologies. Only those who don't understand -still argue it.

To create a effective tool for audio analysis at the most rarefied levels, you FIRST have to understand the subject at it's HIGHEST levels.

Those who do know the issues, tend to keep that to themselves..as this is part of the lore by which they make their living. We KNOW the DBT is flawed but the middle won't accept the answers we are willing to give,as to why..as it does not fit their model.

Can you see it now?

This will be my last comment on this subject in this thread, and for quite a while. I walked through, around, and over the bodies of DBT people over 20 years ago. It's old dead ground I don't need to cover again.

Jan Vigne
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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests


Quote:
Finally, ask yourself this question: Would you prefer to use a cancer drug passed by FDA based on sighted/open drug trials or based on double-blind testing protocols? If you feel more confident choosing the double-blind tested drug, I would argue that the same rationale applies in selecting your loudspeakers.

Not'xactly! The drug test asks for the direct results on the person using the drug or placebo. There are no other ways to use the medicine or device other than how it is tested. Take a temperature, measure a blood count and you essentially have most of your answer. Ask the person using the drug how they subjectively feel and the results of the tests might be quite different.

Loudspeakers are meant to reproduce a signal - hopefully music - and they require the driving force of an amplifier. People listen to music to relax or stimulate themself, not to constantly judge other components. You have removed the listener from the music by asking only if there is a difference. You have added variables if you ask whether the listener prefers this speaker or that speaker with the same amplifier.

Of course, if your other blind tests show all amplifiers sound the same through a particular set of loudspeakers, then you can happily go on your way knowing everything sounds exactly the same unless the company you work for, the one conducting the tests and the one sitting there with a pad and pencil waiting for your answer, designed and built it.

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The Dishonesty of Double Blind Listening Tests

Oh, not this again! And not Sean Olive again! Sean Olive's horse was flogged to death 15 years ago, Ethan. Olive's useless time-wasting, money-gobbing tests only prove that double blind tests disorient the listener, and are an unreliable means of testing audio gear. He proved it himself, but is too prejudiced to want to recognize it: In sighted tests, Loudspeaker T was universally recognized as superior in sound; both by the 40 test subjects and professional critics. That's very significant in itself. I'm certain it had nothing to do with the reviews on Loudspeaker T (a competitor's speaker), since it is unlikely that the 40 test subjects all read the review on that particular loudspeaker, not knowing they'd be tested on it.

In the blind test that follows however, results are less consistent, more random, and in this case, about 50-50 with a slight preference for Loudspeaker S. Wow, what a shocker. Even loudspeakers don't matter, according to DBTers! Fact is, pretty much -everything- you blind test in audio produces similar random-like results to Olive's loudspeaker tests. That's because blind tests skewer everything, and introduce all kinds of new stresses into the equasion, that change the nature of how you listen. I know all this very well from who and what I've tested in the past. Bad so-called "audio scientists" (right! very prestigious!) don't want to know this. Doesn't serve the agenda. If you blindfold someone, spin them around 20 times, then give them a forward shove, chances are they're not going to walk in as straight a line as before you'd done that, either.

Let's get something else straight here: Sean Olive is an ideologue, but he is NO scientist. He only plays one on "tv". First, he works for an audio company, not as an independent. Second, he always goes into these so-called "tests" knowing exactly what sort of outcome he wants - and gets it. A real scientist would not go and conclude that because the blind test showed more random results under blind conditions, this automatically indicates visual bias, and means we can conclude its because the listeners were influenced by the look of the speakers. When it could be for all kinds of other reasons (I note this is the same thing you do all the time in your audio sermons; come to false and foolish conclusions based on false and foolish premises). Particularly when all other audio DBT advocates claim you don't even need to do a DBT when it comes to loudspeakers. Since it's supposed to be a given among both perpetually misguided DBT fanatics and reasonable, intelligent audiophiles alike, that speakers sound different. But no, Sean Olive makes your regular DBT fanatic look like Enid Lumley in comparison. Because not only is he saying everything else sounds the same, but even loudspeakers somehow sound the same. And don't trust your lying ears on that, as Sean's got the data that "proves" it. LOL! Yes, now small, cheap, plastic boxes of harman kardon junk sounds "slightly better" than a large pair of critically acclaimed $3,600 speakers not made by harmon. According to Sean Olive. But Olive's "results" obviously suits Harmon well, because harmon kardon can't compete with high end equipment on sound, so they have to sell their gear on whatever specs they conjure up for the brochures.

That just makes things perfect for the DBT fanatics, because with Sean Olive "proving" speakers don't matter, with various other DBT's that have "proved" that amps, cd players, cables, wires etc. don't matter, that means the $500,000 audio system you thought was producing a massively realistic performance in your living room, is really just a placebo that doesn't produce any better sound than the $100 special at Best Buy. See, it isn't that double blind audio tests are flawed, and about as "scientific" as holy water, it's that everything sounds the same. Of course, if you believe that, you probably don't need a hifi system to begin with. You can save yourself even more money by merely imagining you have one.

It

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests


Quote:
Loudspeakers are meant to reproduce a signal - hopefully music - and they require the driving force of an amplifier. People listen to music to relax or stimulate themself, not to constantly judge other components. You have removed the listener from the music by asking only if there is a difference. You have added variables if you ask whether the listener prefers this speaker or that speaker with the same amplifier.

To me, that sounds like an extremely good reason in favor of blind tests. That's not a bug, that's a feature.


Quote:
Of course, if your other blind tests show all amplifiers sound the same through a particular set of loudspeakers, then you can happily go on your way knowing everything sounds exactly the same unless the company you work for, the one conducting the tests and the one sitting there with a pad and pencil waiting for your answer, designed and built it.

Ooh! Allegations of bias! Allegations of fraud! Ad hominem attacks! The mind is tittilated.

I offer - as an equivalent, more valid, less paranoid hypothesis: that Harmon is truly interested in developing the best sounding equipment, and spending money on useless equipment and features keeps that money away from places better spent, both inside the company and for its customers. A strong proof of equivalence would thus serve to improve the efficiency of development and, ultimately, improve the sound quality of Harmon's products.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests


Quote:
and not everyone can hear the same.

So my hearing is better than the advocates of the DBT, who have no idea what they are taking about.

Reviewers are trained and seasoned pros, and in the case of most audio rag editorial staff, who set the review rules... very well seasoned in all the aspects.

When these DBT people have spent over 20 years designing or building gear AND they have good hearing connected to a THINKING and WORKING brain..their answer will be different.

But in the meantime they are armchair experts- and they may always be exactly that. Sorry.

Why? Why should I trust a reviewer more than any other random joe on the street? I've seen a lot of touchdowns on TV, does that make me an authority on football? Just because somebody has listened to a lot of hifis doesn't make him any more of an authority than me. Just because somebody has built a lot of hifis doesn't necessarily make him an authority.

I'm very tempted to stuff words in Sean's mouth here, but instead I'll just quote him (bolds mine):


Quote:
We have never said that audio reviewers "do NOT tend to prefer the the sound of loudspeakers that meet the derived Toole/Olive criteria." In fact, our data suggests that they tend to prefer the same loudspeakers as our trained listeners when given the opportunity to review them under well-controlled double-blind conditions (click on the graph here and compare the audio reviewers' preferences to the other groups' ). The problem is that audio reviewers seldom evaluate loudspeakers under properly controlled double-blind conditions, which means we rarely read a valid, unbiased opinion about the sound quality of the product.

Based on that same study, we did find that the audio reviewers as a group were about 1/5 as discriminating and reliable as the trained listeners. Age and occupational-related hearing loss could have been a factor since this sample of reviewers were on average older than the other groups of listeners. This is pure speculation since we only tested the hearing of the trained listeners, who had normal hearing.

Toole on page 436 in his new book " Sound Reproduction" talks about hearing loss, which are unfortunate afflictions, "especially for audio professionals and audio reviewers whose judgments are no longer representative of normal hearing listeners." He concludes: "an audiogram should perhaps be part of the personal resume of people in certain sensitive areas of the audio business, displaying evidence of why anyone should trust their opinions about sound quality."

---

I'm not sure your insecure attempts at justifying your beliefs with a false sense of superiority about your hearing abilities - or jazzfan's or frog's - deserves much of an answer. I think you've meted enough rope out to hang yourself already. Here we have a man who's actually done the tests and the time to make a case about hearing ability - and who has run the tests and the training for selecting true golden ears - and all you can come up with is "well, we're able to hear better than those people?" It's like you weren't even conscious of what you were saying when you typed that in.

My understanding is that there is simply no evidence to support the belief that audiophiles are any better of hearing than the rest of society. In fact, based purely on matters of age-relating hearing loss, and the generally inferior hearing abilities of the human male, they ought to be among the least trustworthy people on the matter.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Double Blind Listening Tests


Quote:
Oh, not this again! And not Sean Olive again! Sean Olive's horse was flogged to death 15 years ago, Ethan. Olive's useless time-wasting, money-gobbing tests only prove that double blind tests disorient the listener, and are an unreliable means of testing audio gear. He proved it himself, but is too prejudiced to want to recognize it: In sighted tests, Loudspeaker T was universally recognized as superior in sound; both by the 40 test subjects and professional critics. That's very significant in itself. I'm certain it had nothing to do with the reviews on Loudspeaker T (a competitor's speaker), since it is unlikely that the 40 test subjects all read the review on that particular loudspeaker, not knowing they'd be tested on it.

In the blind test that follows however, results are less consistent, more random, and in this case, about 50-50 with a slight preference for Loudspeaker S. Wow, what a shocker. Even loudspeakers don't matter, according to DBTers! Fact is, pretty much -everything- you blind test in audio produces similar random-like results to Olive's loudspeaker tests. That's because blind tests skewer everything, and introduce all kinds of new stresses into the equasion, that change the nature of how you listen. I know all this very well from who and what I've tested in the past. Bad so-called "audio scientists" (right! very prestigious!) don't want to know this. Doesn't serve the agenda. If you blindfold someone, spin them around 20 times, then give them a forward shove, chances are they're not going to walk in as straight a line as before you'd done that, either.

Let's get something else straight here: Sean Olive is an ideologue, but he is NO scientist. He only plays one on "tv". First, he works for an audio company, not as an independent. Second, he always goes into these so-called "tests" knowing exactly what sort of outcome he wants - and gets it. A real scientist would not go and conclude that because the blind test showed more random results under blind conditions, this automatically indicates visual bias, and means we can conclude its because the listeners were influenced by the look of the speakers. When it could be for all kinds of other reasons (I note this is the same thing you do all the time in your audio sermons; come to false and foolish conclusions based on false and foolish premises). Particularly when all other audio DBT advocates claim you don't even need to do a DBT when it comes to loudspeakers. Since it's supposed to be a given among both perpetually misguided DBT fanatics and reasonable, intelligent audiophiles alike, that speakers sound different. But no, Sean Olive makes your regular DBT fanatic look like Enid Lumley in comparison. Because not only is he saying everything else sounds the same, but even loudspeakers somehow sound the same. And don't trust your lying ears on that, as Sean's got the data that "proves" it. LOL! Yes, now small, cheap, plastic boxes of harman kardon junk sounds "slightly better" than a large pair of critically acclaimed $3,600 speakers not made by harmon. According to Sean Olive. But Olive's "results" obviously suits Harmon well, because harmon kardon can't compete with high end equipment on sound, so they have to sell their gear on whatever specs they conjure up for the brochures.

That just makes things perfect for the DBT fanatics, because with Sean Olive "proving" speakers don't matter, with various other DBT's that have "proved" that amps, cd players, cables, wires etc. don't matter, that means the $500,000 audio system you thought was producing a massively realistic performance in your living room, is really just a placebo that doesn't produce any better sound than the $100 special at Best Buy. See, it isn't that double blind audio tests are flawed, and about as "scientific" as holy water, it's that everything sounds the same. Of course, if you believe that, you probably don't need a hifi system to begin with. You can save yourself even more money by merely imagining you have one.

It

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

This debate, on audio newsgroups and forums, that's raged now for over a decade about the validity of blind testing is, from my perspective, mostly a waste of time. OK. blind testing can tell designers if they're heading in the right direction when putting together a prototype of a new product but is totally irrelevant to 99.9% of audio purchases. When was the last time any of you were offered a properly conducted blind test by an audio retailer while shopping for new gear? Most of us buy gear we like the sound and look of and would probably refuse point blank if we were ever offered a blind listening test as the means by which to choose a particular item to spend our money on.
So, from my perspective I simply can't see why this debate has raged for so long. I'm happy to let the blind testers have their admittedly useful tool but I'll still go on being a 'sighted' audiofool & try out components I'm interested in my own home on my system in my acoustic and without being blindfolded - thank you very much.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests


Quote:
Our writers also listen with their tongues. Licking review components is an important aspect of the evaluation process.

I'm really sorry. I'm totally just messing around. It's Friday.

I thought it was the lips on the backside of the manufacturer that made the difference.
I too am really sorry. I'm totally just messing around. It's Friday.

cyclebrain
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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

I am confused about this DBT. I have some eye patches that my wife and I use with our telescope.
I find that Single Blind Testing is really annoying independent of which eye I cover. DBT sounds better, but I keep knocking over my beer when reaching for it.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

"Finally, ask yourself this question: Would you prefer to use a cancer drug passed by FDA based on sighted/open drug trials or based on double-blind testing protocols? If you feel more confident choosing the double-blind tested drug, I would argue that the same rationale applies in selecting your loudspeakers."

Your argument would have been equally irrational and false had you linked DBT to something even scarier than Cancer, say the Black Plague or Gonorrhea.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

Hi Ethan - Here is a quote of yours from a previous discussion on this subject.


Quote:
From my perspective, the only reason for a DBT is to determine if a significant number of people can even hear a difference at all. Forget better or worse.

The link you provided and the test results therein speak to the effects of sighted and unsighted listening tests as they relate to preference, your

rmeyer52
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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

Let's not forget that Mr Olive has a personal agenda and that is the sale of his Olive Music System which is getting its clock cleaned by high end audio brands entering the field

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

Mr. Olive's use of the word "dishonesty" in this context was my first clue that he has a personal agenda.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests


Quote:
Let's not forget that Mr Olive has a personal agenda and that is the sale of his Olive Music System which is getting its clock cleaned by high end audio brands entering the field

It is? I would love to see the data on that. Could you provide links to support your claims?

RG

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


Quote:


Quote:
Loudspeakers are meant to reproduce a signal - hopefully music - and they require the driving force of an amplifier. People listen to music to relax or stimulate themself, not to constantly judge other components. You have removed the listener from the music by asking only if there is a difference. You have added variables if you ask whether the listener prefers this speaker or that speaker with the same amplifier.

To me, that sounds like an extremely good reason in favor of blind tests. That's not a bug, that's a feature.

You have failed to impress me with your logic. Please explain how using a product for something other than its indended purpose serves any reasonable goal. If we tested whether people preferred Coke or Pepsi as a bug killing insecticide, would that serve the purpose of defining which tasted better as a soft drink?

Please explain how merely getting an acknowledgement that various pairs of loudspeakers (situated with their resulting positional effects) will sound "different" from one another serves anyone's purpose.

Finally, please explain how adding variables to a DBT makes a more effective test.


Quote:
Ooh! Allegations of bias! Allegations of fraud! Ad hominem attacks! The mind is tittilated.

Tittilated? Yes. Functioning? No.

I have attacked no one. I have not alleged any fraud. The author himself states there was personal and professional bias evident in the test results which apparently skewed those [Email]results@.[/Email]

Winer has resorted to a dupian methodology here by presenting a brief snapshot of a biased verdict on a flawed test. Whether the function of continued employment* is a factor or not, if you are one of those employees who has worked on a particular speaker design, then you are very likely to be one of those who favor that particular speaker over others.

The author's bias is showing in the title of the article. If you wish to see that as a personal "attack" on the author, I suspect your own biased reasoning in these matters will lead you to your inevitable "logical" conclusion.

If you require a DBT to decide whether two speakers sound dissimilar to one another, then knock yourself out. Most of us simply do not. If this article proves anything, please show me exactly what that would be. The issue of DBT's is one more thing that strings along with "all amplifiers sound the same", "bits is bits" and "wire is wire".

To inject this without further comment is the ultimate dupism by Winer. A nice diversion of sorts by the resident uber-cynic to disrupt an otherwise calm Christian Holy Day weekend.

If you care to believe any or all of those things, that's your business. To discuss this further is mental masturbation.


Quote:
An important question is whether sighted audio product evaluations produce honest and reliable judgments on how the product truly sounds.

This is only important to those who enjoy masturbating without a fruitful ending.

Need I point out that in high end audio as in all things subjective buying decisions are based on many factors.

*

Quote:
The negligible perceptual differences between loudspeakers G and D found in this test resulted in the creation of a single loudspeaker SKU for all of Europe, and the demise of an engineer who specialized in the lost art of German speaker voicing).

@

Quote:
Brand biases and employee loyalty to Harman products were also a factor in the sighted tests, since three of the four products (G,D, and S) were Harman branded.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests


Quote:
Let's not forget that Mr Olive has a personal agenda and that is the sale of his Olive Music System which is getting its clock cleaned by high end audio brands entering the field

Olive Music has nothing to do with Sean Olive.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests


Quote:

Quote:
Let's not forget that Mr Olive has a personal agenda and that is the sale of his Olive Music System which is getting its clock cleaned by high end audio brands entering the field

Olive Music has nothing to do with Sean Olive.

LOL. Well done.

And since we're correcting egregiously stupid arguments, the answer to this one from JVigne:

"If you require a DBT to decide whether two speakers sound dissimilar to one another, then knock yourself out."

is that neither Sean Olive nor anyone else referenced in his article is using DBT to tell whether two loudspeakers are *dissimilar* from each other. No one questions that different loudspeakers are likely to sound different. DBT of loudspeakers is for bias-controlled study of *preference* of their different sounds, not simple detection of difference.

Buddha
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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

Sighted listening is 100% honest.

With sighted listening, I bat 1.000 when it comes to accurately identifying what's different!

What's more honest and accurate than that?

None of that dishonest "I won't tell you what you are listening to" stuff.

DBT is dishonest, man. They won't tell you what's what up front.

To me, DBT is a toy. It's a Hi Fi toy.

Hell, Hi Fi itself is a toy.

However I decide to play with my toy is right, for me.

Now, if some guy wants to sell me a new toy and I take a sighted listen and draw my own conclusion, I am still right!

I think the bullshit begins when a sighted listener decides that everyone else has to hear what he hears.

Then, it's time to roll up your sleeves and meet him in DBT land so he can demonstrate his assertions!

Still fun and games, though; not rising to the seriousness of cancer medicine research.

I think Sean sounds like a fun guy. I bet he's even willing to try tasting wine blind!

Other questions for Sean:

Are you willing to do sighted listening tests?

Do you assess sound quality when you are at a concert, at an audio show, or at an audiophile's house? How do you do that "honestly?"

I do it with sighted listening, myself.

Call me dishonest.

Another one for Sean:

To keep it simple; Harman International makes amplifiers under the Crown, Mark Levinsion, and Harman Kardon lines.

Assuming you are an "honest" company, would it be "honest" to assume that by offering these different products that they can be differentiated from one another via DBT? Or, is Harman a "dishonest" company that makes Mark Levinson amps costing many kilodollars that can't be told apart from far cheaper Crown or HK amplifiers?

I mean, it would be, like, totally dishonest for a company to market products that sound identical at such radically different price points, eh?

It would be a real Double Bind having to fall back on Double Blind when the same company sells indistinguishable amplification at such disparate price points.

Has does Ethan feel about that?

Looking at the speaker tests, if Harman charges more for speaker G or D, then that is also dishonest, they 'sound the same!'

It's early, but now I'm in the mood for sound 'n wine.

Thanks alot.

Disclaimer: I own a couple Crown amps and AR speakers, so I am a fan of Harman. This is for sake of discussion.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

Ooops I thought it was the same Dr Olive but I stand corrected.

However I would be willing to bet the ranch that people could not hear the difference between a $6,000 CD player and a $2000 CD player and the same would be send for expensive cables which even Robert Harley say are a waste of money

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

There was no answer required as there was no question posed. The sentence reads, "If you require a DBT to decide whether two speakers sound dissimilar to one another, then knock yourself out." That's true, if you can't tell whether one speaker is different than the other, knock yourself out. I don't care. That statement has no direct relationship to the article. It is simply a statement of personal belief.

In this specific situation the text of the article reads, "A total of 40 Harman employees participated in these tests, giving preference ratings to four loudspeakers that covered a wide range of size and price."

The test determined whether one speaker at a time sounded "different" than another speaker each time. In this case, since nothing was stated to the contrary, we can assume it was an "A/B" test - one is "different" than the other. In one specific instance "G and D were identical loudspeakers except with different cross-overs, voiced ostensibly for differences in German and Northern European tastes, respectively. The negligible perceptual differences between loudspeakers G and D found in this test resulted in the creation of a single loudspeaker SKU for all of Europe ... "

The paricipants were asked for a "preference" which implies a they were searching for a "difference" between "A" and "B". The listeners were not apparently asked which was the superior sound or the more accurate sound (something this tester might have found interesting, don't you think?), only the "preferred" sound. "Preferred" between "A" and "B" which are "different" from each other. Both "A" and "B" could have been horrible, the listeners needed only to express a preference for which was the preferred degree of horrible - which was different enough to make it acceptably horrible against the truly horrible. If "A" and "B" weren't "different enough", then the model was made into one version. That is stated in the article and I have quoted it above. Why are you having such difficulty understanding what is in print?


Quote:
DBT of loudspeakers is for bias-controlled study of *preference* of their different sounds, not simple detection of difference.

But there was acknowledged bias in the testing procedure.

The author does not state whether the "negligible perceptual differences" were found during the sighted or unsighted tests.

The issue here is one of missing information. A good salesperson knows not to tell lies. However, a good salesperson, attorney, priest, physician or poll taker also knows when to leave out certain truths which would make a less compelling case. This brief article is such a statement IMO. What is said and implied is meant to lead to a predetermined conclusion. That conclusion is predicted in the title of the article, one really need not go any further to know the outcome that was sought. The full truth of the matter might be very "different" than what has been told. Or are you that unfamiliar with how "honesty" actually works?

This is another case of; if you don't understand this concept, take a print out of this thread with you when you do your next jury duty call. Show it to the attorneys, tell them you don't get this "leaving out details" stuff and I suspect you will be home early that day.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

Look..here is the lowdown in my eyes..

Sound quality can be influenced by product/brands, which is true for just about any product today that's why there is marketing. Auditioning components at audio dealers means nothing unless they can duplicate your listening environment and components/cables. Does this mean that some people probably may have overpaid for their products? Could be but as long as they are happy with the results who cares ! If someone can afford to buy a $6K CD player and believes that it sounds better than a $1.5K CD player than good for them they made a great choice. Over time I believe that our ears change and we listen to music in different ways, what sounds great now may not sound great in 3 years but like I said before for a lot of us its a passion and enjoyment and for that its hard to set a price

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests


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What I don't understand is how the results for a given set of conditions which were present during the testing, i.e. room, equipment used and music used, can then be extrapolated to encompass ALL conditions.


You are absolutely correct, and Sean explained it well in his Post #64919. If the speakers you use for the DBT have little output below 70 Hz (common for speakers with too-small woofers) and the differences are all below 70 Hz, that particular test will not reveal differences that really are present. So when someone believes that test is not valid, the next step is to do another with better loudspeakers.

This does not discount the value of DBT. All it discounts is the validity of tests that are poorly implemented!

--Ethan

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests


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I simply can't see why this debate has raged for so long.


It continues because so many people still don't understand science and the value of the scientific method. Anti-science is rampant, spurred on by ignorance and even arrogance - "I know what I hear and no amount of 'science' will ever convince me otherwise." When these people are subjected to a DBT proving they really can't hear the difference between 16 gauge zip cord and $2,000 speaker wire, rather than accept the truth they attack the test methods.

--Ethan

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests


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Have you had a change of heart?


Heck no! When everyone can hear the difference between two devices, there's no need for a blind test. DBT is needed only when someone claims a subtle difference that only they seem able to hear. Or, in the case of Sean's blog, to help separate true preference from expectation bias.

--Ethan

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests


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To me, DBT is a toy. It's a Hi Fi toy. Hell, Hi Fi itself is a toy.


LOL, agreed. The reason I care so much about this is not to force my views onto others. Rather, it's a consumerist issue. People are asked to part with their hard-earned money - sometimes a lot of money - with the promise that paying more for Brand X yields better sound. If Donald Trump wants to waste $5,000 for a replacement AC power cord from Shunyata, that's fine with me and it won't affect his lifestyle even a little. The rest of us prefer to spend our money more wisely and actually get what we pay for and what is promised.

--Ethan

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests


Quote:

Quote:
To me, DBT is a toy. It's a Hi Fi toy. Hell, Hi Fi itself is a toy.


LOL, agreed. The reason I care so much about this is not to force my views onto others. Rather, it's a consumerist issue. People are asked to part with their hard-earned money - sometimes a lot of money - with the promise that paying more for Brand X yields better sound. If Donald Trump wants to waste $5,000 for a replacement AC power cord from Shunyata, that's fine with me and it won't affect his lifestyle even a little. The rest of us prefer to spend our money more wisely and actually get what we pay for and what is promised.

--Ethan

Ethan, you're buying into the opinion of a guy whose company sells 10,000 dollar power amps based on the premise that they are "better" than 800 dollar Crown amps.

Unless they are unmitigated liars, they are claiming that they either...

A) Can't design amplifiers that work properly for less than many thousand dollars, or...

B) That even though the amplifiers may not be able to be told apart in DBT, there is still something ineffably better about Mark Levinson amps vs. Crowns.

Despite this cognitive dissonance, you trust them about speaker DBT's because it, what, fits you bias?

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

I see. I thought you meant forget using DBTs to determine preference when you said "forget good and worse" and "the only reason for a DBT is to determine if a significant number of people can even hear a difference at all". Discussing this issue can be subtle, even slippery at times.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests


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Ooops I thought it was the same Dr Olive

his name isnt "Dr. Olive" but Dr. *Oliver* Bergmann

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

Speaking of Mark Levinson, has anybody read his book?

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests


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you trust them about speaker DBT's because it, what, fits you bias?


This has nothing to do with trust, or relying on the opinions of others, or whether those others are biased. It's simple common sense. If you know a speaker wire costs a lot, you're more likely to think it sounds better even when it doesn't. If you don't know how much it cost, or even which wire you're listening to, then you can assess its quality much more fairly.

Your obfuscating the issue with prices of various amplifiers sold under the Harmon umbrella is irrelevant and off-topic.

--Ethan

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests


Quote:

Quote:
you trust them about speaker DBT's because it, what, fits you bias?


This has nothing to do with trust, or relying on the opinions of others, or whether those others are biased. It's simple common sense. If you know a speaker wire costs a lot, you're more likely to think it sounds better even when it doesn't. If you don't know how much it cost, or even which wire you're listening to, then you can assess its quality much more fairly.

Your obfuscating the issue with prices of various amplifiers sold under the Harmon umbrella is irrelevant and off-topic.

--Ethan

Not really obfuscating, Ethan.

I think it's important to consider the source of data. If the company thinks amplifiers sound different from one another, but speakers sound the same, then what is a consumer to think?

You don't think their amplifiers sound different from one another, do you?

Why should you believe their speaker data?

Maybe this person can just get it over with and demonstrate that all Hi Fi gear sounds exactly the same. Then he'd probably give you a "Big O!"

rmeyer52
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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

I don't believe that price is an indicator of how one product sounds better than another. Components that have small volume and are hand assembled are going to cost a hell of a lot more than higher volume items. I'm not sure how many middlemen are involved but my audio salesperson tells me that he makes up to 60% on some products but he would tell me which ones they were

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests


Quote:

Not really obfuscating, Ethan.

It's big time obfuscation, 'Buddha'. It assumes, for one thing, that all branches of Harman are under Sean Olive's purview. And it makes the truly stupid leap of logic that concludes that results of application of scientific method to study loudspeaker preference are not trustworthy, if the amplifier branch doesn't apply the method too.


Quote:
I think it's important to consider the source of data. If the company thinks amplifiers sound different from one another, but speakers sound the same, then what is a consumer to think?

But 'the company' DOESN'T 'think' loudspeakers sound the same. In fact, it assumes they DO sound different, in blind comparison -- which is a reasonable assumption. If you actually were familiar with Olive's published work, and had for example seen samples of the report sheets that listeners use, you'd know that the tests Olive does are about *preference* for loudspeaker sound -- research it would be *utterly pointless to do* if there was no true sonic difference between loudspeakers.

If the source (you) can't get fundamentals like this correct, it's important to consider whether what the source says has any validity at all.


Quote:
You don't think their amplifiers sound different from one another, do you?

In level matched blind comparison, with the amps not being driven to distortion, I think that's likely to be the case.
Which of course means that not all of their amps will be suited to driving all loads at all desired levels.


Quote:
Why should you believe their speaker data?

Leaving aside the nonsequitur nature of this argument, the answer is: Because it resulted from well-conducted experiments published in a peer-reviewed journal.


Quote:
Maybe this person can just get it over with and demonstrate that all Hi Fi gear sounds exactly the same. Then he'd probably give you a "Big O!"

Isn't it funny how *no one* but ignorant, braying 'subjectivists' engaged either in outright misrepresentation or heavy-handed attempts at satire, *ever* makes the unqualified, blanket claim that 'all (X) sound the same' about any class of audio gear?

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests


Quote:
Speaking of Mark Levinson, has anybody read his book?

From the Amazon product information page:


Quote:
Pleasing color sketches and simple diagrams adorn the pages of Satisfaction: The Art of the Female Orgasm by famed Sex and the City actor Kim Cattrall and her husband, jazz musician Mark Levinson.

Mark Levinson is a "jazz musician"?!?!?

Has this man no shame?

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests


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Mark Levinson is a "jazz musician"?!?!?

Has this man no shame?


LOL! The guy is a legend in his own mind.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests

Yes, he and Catrall are divorced.He hooked up with Kim Cattrall in 1998 in the Blue Note, where he(Levinson) was playing bass with Chick Corea.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Double Blind Listening Tests

OK, I'm glad you got that all out of your cellphone. You must be in a lot of pain to go through the supermarket in a raincoat. I am truly sorry for your loss, whatever it urrggh---

No, stoopy. You're doing it all wrong. It's "AXON", "AXOFF". Do it like I showed you, and don't improvise.

I mean, how can anybody reply to a fatal bout of apoplexy, except with comfort and solace, like any good aid worker?

I believe this thread is discussing double blind tests, and that's what my message addressed. I don't know what your response is supposed to be addressing, but it's certainly not a response to anything I wrote, let alone an intelligent response. Let alone a coherent response. Let alone a sane response. Sounds more like you're in the midst of an identity crisis or something. I can't help you with that.

Now, can you explain to me what you are meaning by all of this?

Again, I can't help you with that. You need to understand the basics of DBTs first, at least an elementary reading comprehension, and an attention span longer than, say, a ficus tree. If you couldn't read past the first three lines of my post, you have neither. And some more serious problems which I won't get into right now. I would suggest you should probably stick to the beginner's section. If you hurry, I think you can get there in time for milk and cookies.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests


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Mr. Olive's use of the word "dishonesty" in this context was my first clue that he has a personal agenda.

I made that point earlier in the thread, and also showed how Olive implements his personal agenda in the conclusion of the test findings (assuming they are even honest to begin with). I've long been familiar with Sean Olive's pseudoscience and his agenda. There is nothing scientific about his approach, and nothing scientific about his position. Anyone can take those some test results and skewer them any way they want, according to their agenda. If you believe Sean Olive's test results, it's because you are already indoctrinated into his belief system. As I said, they are about as relevant to high end audio as a banana, or a stand mixer.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests


Quote:

Isn't it funny how *no one* but ignorant, braying 'subjectivists' engaged either in outright misrepresentation or heavy-handed attempts at satire, *ever* makes the unqualified, blanket claim that 'all (X) sound the same' about any class of audio gear?

Actually, I am a firm believer in the listening process and finding repeatable blind results.

I was mostly tweaking Ethan, who firmly believes that a Pioneer receiver is sonically identical to a Mark Levinson hand crafted amplifier.

Then, Ethan decides to throw away that aspect of Harman's approach and embraces the part he decides fits his own bias.

Cherry picking is fine, but it should be pointed out.

Ethan is only happy when things are perceived as sounding the same.

____

Now, if an employee of Harman is allowed free reign to publish a result, then I would expect Harman to tacitly agree with his findings.

That is great news, actually. Perhaps Harman can condone some research into the various sonic characteristics of their electronic products! I wonder if an employee doing that would get a green light to publish.

Anyway, one of the conclusions of the study:

"...sighted tests produce dishonest and unreliable measurements of how the product truly sounds. It

andy_c
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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests


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Yes, he and Catrall are divorced.He hooked up with Kim Cattrall in 1998 in the Blue Note, where he(Levinson) was playing bass with Chick Corea.

Dang! Well, he must be a pretty decent bassist to have played with Chick Corea.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


Quote:

Quote:

Quote:
Loudspeakers are meant to reproduce a signal - hopefully music - and they require the driving force of an amplifier. People listen to music to relax or stimulate themself, not to constantly judge other components. You have removed the listener from the music by asking only if there is a difference. You have added variables if you ask whether the listener prefers this speaker or that speaker with the same amplifier.

To me, that sounds like an extremely good reason in favor of blind tests. That's not a bug, that's a feature.

You have failed to impress me with your logic. Please explain how using a product for something other than its indended purpose serves any reasonable goal. If we tested whether people preferred Coke or Pepsi as a bug killing insecticide, would that serve the purpose of defining which tasted better as a soft drink?


Music does not contain emotion. Speakers do not project emotion. These feelings of relaxation, of stimulation, etc - the only place they exist are between the listener's ears. Surely you agree with this. That you equate music listening with those emotions, and object when those emotions are removed from the equation, seems to tell me that you admit that such emotions form an important part of how sound quality is perceived. Which I agree with! But then you must also admit that those sound quality perceptions are not entirely based upon the qualities of the playback system: they have much to do with the state of mind of the listener, much of which is subconscious in nature. In other words, music equipment and objective sound quality, by and large, has much less to do with its perceived sound quality than many people seem to believe.

This completely matches my personal experiences.

In that context - in the context of the demonstrated fallibility of human perception of sound quality - the isolation of the tested environment with a blind test is only logical and natural. To a very large degree I disagree with your notion of critical listening during a blind test being somehow unnatural and inaccurate - but I don't even have to dispute that point to debate this. What I'm saying is that, even if that were true, blind testing results are a simply superior method of communicating subjective listening results. Whatever issues it may have, it is better than the alternative.


Quote:
Please explain how merely getting an acknowledgement that various pairs of loudspeakers (situated with their resulting positional effects) will sound "different" from one another serves anyone's purpose.

That's a bit of a strawman and it's not actually what is being discussed. The specific tests that Sean conducted gave listeners the chance to give preferences to the sounds of different speakers. That doesn't sound much like they were "merely getting an acknowledgement that various pairs of loudspeakers ... sound 'different' from one another'". It sounds like the listeners said, "speaker X sounds better than speaker Y", and they did it with a rather high degree of statistical confidence.

When I post blind test results, I always document what I'm hearing subjectively - that's the whole point of the test, after all. It rarely boils down to merely acknowledging a difference, IMHO.

With the German/European voicing thing, I think Sean freely admits that they could not state with certainty that no difference existed, and yet they eliminated the distinction from their product lines anyway. I think this is naked cost-cutting, and it is a good thing. The product feature could not justify its cost and the money could be better spent on other products - which ultimately lets that money get used to more meaningfully improve sound quality.


Quote:
Finally, please explain how adding variables to a DBT makes a more effective test.

No variables are being added - some are being removed, but certainly not added.

I'm kind of confused here as to what you're actually referring to. If you're mentioning how unnatural blind listening is and how different people react to it in different ways, I fail to see how that is any worse of a situation than with sighted testing, where unrelated emotional factors play just as much of a role. Except, in the blind testing case, critical listening can be trained and such issues can be minimized, while in the sighted testing case, the issues seem to be largely subconscious - and therefore harder to control.


Quote:

Quote:
Ooh! Allegations of bias! Allegations of fraud! Ad hominem attacks! The mind is tittilated.

Tittilated? Yes. Functioning? No.

I have attacked no one. I have not alleged any fraud. The author himself states there was personal and professional bias evident in the test results which apparently skewed those results.

So I admit I was wrong to ascribe malice to your statements and I apologize. I can see that you're fundamentally making a claim of bias here, where I was reading your statements more like the (perhaps justified) attacks often made on pharmaceutical companies and their tests - where the results of such tests sometimes are fraudulently skewed).

Of course, I have to make the distinction here between your post and Frog's, and he really does allege fraud. But I'm not debating Frog in this post, I'm debating you.

To address your specific claim of bias: I think you are equivocating here between a) employees' sighted biases for their own products, and b) of a bias in testing results due to the perceived incestuousness of the relationship between the tester, the equipment under test, and the employer of the former and the manufacturer of the latter. Olive freely admits a). But there is no evidence for b) - merely speculation. And the two points certainly are not equivalent.

Is b) a valid point? No. One has to show that the bias has a significant likelihood of existing, and that if it exists, the statistical power of the result is compromised. You never actually showed the former, and as far as the latter is concerned, what kind of deficiency might exist in the test equipment to lead to a biased conclusion? That can actually be backed up with evidence?


Quote:
Winer has resorted to a dupian methodology here by presenting a brief snapshot of a biased verdict on a flawed test. Whether the function of continued employment* is a factor or not, if you are one of those employees who has worked on a particular speaker design, then you are very likely to be one of those who favor that particular speaker over others.

Do you have any evidence to show that Sean actually *developed* any of the speakers tested? Or the amplifiers? You did read the article, right? Especially the part where he said he was hired as a "Manager of Subjective Evaluation"? That seems to inform me that he had nothing to do with the construction of any of this equipment.

Again - your point makes perfect sense in the context of a) above, and in the context of the *testers*, not of Sean. But it seems like you are taking a) and twisting it into b), and using that as an attack on the test as a whole, and even beyond that, questioning any of Sean's tests coming out of Hardon. Those are simply not supported by the evidence (or indeed, by *any* evidence).


Quote:
The author's bias is showing in the title of the article. If you wish to see that as a personal "attack" on the author, I suspect your own biased reasoning in these matters will lead you to your inevitable "logical" conclusion.

Now you're making a second equivocation - between the bias of being pro-DBT and having a bias that leads to a bad test result or conclusion. That Sean is pro-DBT is patently obvious. How does that have to do with anything else?

Biased or partisan people are perfectly capable of conducting good, meaningful tests with important results. You actually have to *look at the test* to look for signs of a biased result. On this specific point, I'd like to amend my previous apology - while I was wrong to assert your post was a personal attack, this equivocation between Sean's pro-DBT biases and any form of biased result is a textbook form of ad hominem fallacy. That a fact about the speaker of a statement affects the truth or falsehood of that statement. Not a personal attack, just fallacious reasoning.


Quote:
If you require a DBT to decide whether two speakers sound dissimilar to one another, then knock yourself out. Most of us simply do not. If this article proves anything, please show me exactly what that would be. The issue of DBT's is one more thing that strings along with "all amplifiers sound the same", "bits is bits" and "wire is wire".

Nobody (especially not Sean) is proposing that. What I believe he is (and I am) saying, is, blind testing is simply a superior method of subjective evaluation than sighted testing - and that continuing to place higher trust in sighted testing over blind testing is intellectually dishonest. So I think the title of his post was entirely justified.


Quote:
To inject this without further comment is the ultimate dupism by Winer. A nice diversion of sorts by the resident uber-cynic to disrupt an otherwise calm Christian Holy Day weekend.

Heh. That's quite ironic of you to dismiss science and promote a religion in the same sentence.


Quote:
If you care to believe any or all of those things, that's your business. To discuss this further is mental masturbation.

I'm willing to have a rational discussion about this if you are.

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