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Jan Vigne
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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty

"Mixolydian". Yes, I apologize, I was typing in a rush to get out of the house and over to see a friend in the hospital. My mind was elsewhere.


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Shostakovich makes an interesting -- and I'm afraid for your case, rather damning - example against the idea that we can intuitively know what emotion is intended, since he seems to have 'hidden' the 'true' intentions of many of his pieces after his tribulations at the hands of nasty apparatchiks like Zhdanov.

Personally, I prefer his quartets to his large-scale works.

So do I. The quartets are largely unhindered by the Socialists' needs. And I enjoy his jazz and movie soundtracks. Though his symphonies are intriguing for exactly what they do not say and for that which he would never say. However, keep in mind, you now have a prologue that has been fed to you by other interpreters of his music. Has your response to, say, the Fifth Sym. changed once you've read what "authorities" believe was Shostakovich's intent? Do you suppose Stalin had that same advantage? You are seeing this only from your own perspective sixty years removed and assuming this is what everyone heard on the premiere night.

Musicologists and reviewers have put words in Shostakovich's mouth without his consent. I believe the work you are reading will tell you more about his politics than most have thought of Shostakovich the man from his public statements or what had been published in the Western press after the war. If I remember correctly, his son has said his father always had a strong belief in Socialist politics and did his work to faithfully portray the society - and not necessarily the politicians - as worthy of praise. The deception Western writers have pinned on Shostakvich has largely, according to recent accounts, been a work of fiction produced to suit a Western audience, an audience who needed the Boogieman of Stalin vs. the everyman of Dimitri to keep them in their place after the war.

No, I don't think this is "damning" to my argument. It is indeed a very good example and one I chose intentionally being familiar with the tightrope Shostakovich walked throughout most of his career. The Western press used Shostakovich for their own intentions just as much as did the Socialists. I think using it as an example shows just how effective the emotions placed within the text actually are.

So we have a common interest. Why not drop the attitude and we discuss something that is far more interesting than DBT's?

If you play music then you should understand the construction of music. If that's the case, I don't see how you could say emotion is not in the music. I see it as absolutely within the text of the music, it's there before a musician even sees the first note. It is the building material of music. If it were not, what would music be? A series of twelve notes that we would quickly be bored with. No, it is the emotion set within those building blocks; the twelve bar progression with a turnaround, the heart thumping "feel" of a boogie, the naked rawness of heavy metal's power chords or the restatement and modification of a clasical theme that keeps us coming back for more.

It is as much in the text of the music as the emotions are in the words of a work of literature or theatre.

If we take three literary works; "Helter Skelter", "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Five People You Meet in Heaven", we find emotion just in those titles. Aren't we already aware of what we are likely to find in each book? The words themself tell us what emotions are likely to be encouraged by the author.

The same applies to music. If we are competent as players, we have learned to think of music as words, words then become sentences and sentences become paragraphs. This is how we make sense of the same twelve notes laid out in sometimes very similar fashion. A shuffle is a shuffle and it will always elicit the same response, only the time and key signature change. Just as with a paragraph in a book or speech within a play the construction of the notes into phrases alerts us to the emotions we are going to experience. If the time signature is 3/4, we know what to expect. If the time is set at 6/8, the response of the listener is going to be different just as the response is different when reading "Helter Skelter" and "Alice".


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Anyway, what emotion or emotions is Bach aiming for in the first of the Two-Part Inventions?

What you are asking is, "What does the house look like that Bach has built with this work?" That's a little different than asking, "What building materials did Bach use to build this house?" What I am saying is when we look at the building blocks of the work, they are the parts that contain the emotions within each phrase of the work. If a composer selects a major key and a 4/4 time signature, we have an idea we will feel happy or at least content with those ideas at work. If the musicians play it as a 2/2, we know we will feel a sense of urgency. Largo and Presto will provide a different feel to the music as will pianissimo and forte. We might be fooled by a minor or blues pentatonic being played over that major chord progression but that is what makes the entire work different than its individual building blocks. We can place an extra door in the facade of the building and change the overall response to the entire work but the door remains a door and is always used as a door.

When you ask what emotion is Bach trying to communicate, you are asking about something more than I am discussing. What you are asking about is far more open to interpretation than a 7th chord in a I-IV-V progression. Just as two people might take away different impressions of the entire work by Carroll so too might two people come away with different impressions of Bach's individual works. However, if Bach or Lieber and Stoller did not understand how to use the building blocks at their disposal, there would be no telling one from the other just as there would be no distinction between "Alice" and Bugliosi's work or from the maudlin Albom novel if words did not contain emotions.

Therefore, we can like or dislike the entire work, respond this way or that to the entire work, but we respond similarly to the building materials. The flatted fifth of a blues scale will always be a flatted fifth and we will always respond to it with the same emotions. If we intentionally move the root to another note to play in a different mode, then we can expect another emotion to surface, dark and mysterious or exotic and unusual. It is the composer and the musicians who choose what building materials to use and they understand how we will respond to their efforts or else they wouldn't choose them. Our emotions are subjective - not objective as claimed - and one work might remind me of a specific event in my life while your emotions will be stimulated in another way. The Socialist dictator might be fooled into thinking the entire work was meant to praise his power but the individual phrasing of the work's inner core will provide the same emotional response from virtually everyone. The building blocks of key and time, pacing and scale will lead us all along the same path, it is only our subjective emotions, our own ego, that will land us at different locations.

Therefore, the emotions are in the text of the music. How we interpret them is subjective but the sign posts are the same. Whether we speed up or slow down when we see the "Yield" sign is open to our own interpretation. The author of that sign can only hope the intended emotion prevails.

j_j
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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty

It is sad that after so many years some of the audiophile community remains antagonistic to basic, well-confirmed science.

DBT's and their cognates are the only valid way to determine if there is a small audible difference between two things, be what they may, or to determine what the effects of the sound alone are on the listener's choice or preferences. In general, a DBT will serve to remove extra variables from a test, prevent inadvertant self-influence, and so on. Completely inadvertant self-influence is something that every human being (who has been examined for the issue) has demonstrated to present. We evolved to integrate the results of all of our senses, and we do it. Well. We do it even when we do not intend to, AND when we are trying not to do so. The evidence for that is simply overwhelming.

Now, if you want to know how it is going to look in your living room, how reliable it is, what the WAF is, well, those aren't something done in a DBT, and are perfectly valid concerns. A DBT is for determining issues relating only to how something sounds.

If you like the color of the speakers (using that strictly as an example, please) so be it. If you have a preference, you're welcome to it.

But don't argue that it's science, or universal.

Preferences are like opinions, everybody has one, but ...

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


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we can like or dislike the entire work, respond this way or that to the entire work, but we respond similarly to the building materials.

Musicologist and composer Deryck Cook's 1959 book-length essay "The Language of Music" explores this in considerable detail, his thesis being that the main characteristic of music is that it expresses and evokes emotion: Amazon link . Cooke's conclusion was that different people appear to respond the same way to what you term music's "building blocks."

John Atkinson
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Jan Vigne
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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty

Thanks, John, I'll check that book out.

That name sounds familiar. Did he also do some writing for HiFi News and Record Review?

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


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That name sounds familiar. Did he do some writing for HiFi News and Record Review?

Not that I know of. Deryck Cooke did prepare the first authorized version of Mahler's 10th Symphony (of which I have a score) - see Wikipedia.

John Atkinson
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Jan Vigne
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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty

I see he did work for the BBC; http://www.answers.com/topic/deryck-cooke


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His The.Language of Music (1959) argues that tonal music is literally a language of emotions (those of the composer), its words being melodic phrases which have meaning through force of the intervals they comprise: his thesis is developed with energy and ingenuity.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


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How is it that music expresses emotions recognizable across barriers of time, language, and culture. I can tell you how musicians do it in pragmatic terms. Minor keys evoke darker emotions, majors evoke cheer. The dorian mode is grave, the lydian is lascivious, the ionian is bluff and bibulous. Triple meters are capricious, duples can be somber or martial. Etc. It sounds like shabby trickery, but it works. However, there's a much deeper question of the emotional response that all people seem to feel to music, and of course there's the very deep question of how emotions are physiologically encoded in the human brain.

http://www.amazon.com/review/R67RFSZY4YUJC

http://etd.lib.fsu.edu/theses/available/etd-04042008-074925/unrestricted/CardilloKSpring2008.pdf

The only problem I see with Cooke's work is a restriction to "formal" or classical musical forms. Are there any such studies that approach popular musical forms with the same thesis?

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


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Preferences are like opinions, everybody has one, but ...


Exactly. So the relevance of any DBT result in terms of preference is only applicable to the people performing the test.


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But don't argue that it's science, or universal.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


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Quote:
Preferences are like opinions, everybody has one, but ...


Exactly. So the relevance of any DBT result in terms of preference is only applicable to the people performing the test.


Quote:
But don't argue that it's science, or universal.

DBT's are for testing what happens when ONLY sound is considered.

The results of DBT's (done right, of course) are testable, verifiable, and repeatable, so in fact they are not preference, they are science.

DBT's are not for establishing preference UNLESS the person PREFERS to use a DBT to establish their personal preference. In that, it's like any other preference.

None of that, however, detracts from the fact that for testing differences due only to sound, DBT's (again, done correctly, please) are in fact valid and scientifically accepted, and asserting they aren't valid has roughly the same scientific cachet as asserting the earth is 6000 years old, and the great flood made the Grand Canyon.

The abuse being heaped on Sean and Ethan above is really quite inappropriate, and constitutes extremely unpleasant and false professional accusations about several individuals. It is completely inappropriate in any public forum.

The fact, however, remains that Floyd and Sean did come up with an analytic metric that predicted the subjects' preferences in loudspeakers. It's time that everyone simply accepts that and moves on.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


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The only problem I see with Cooke's work is a restriction to "formal" or classical musical forms. Are there any such studies that approach popular musical forms with the same thesis?

The only thing you must realize is that in such comparisons, the differences in music, performance, etc, are very, very far above known audio thresholds.

Most speaker differences are, in fact, also quite above the threshold of audibility (both absolute and self-masking thresholds, as well as differences in room and two-speaker interactions).

However, the two kinds of differences are very, very different from each other, and it is unwise to attempt to argue that one somehow relates at all to the other.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


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The fact, however, remains that Floyd and Sean did come up with an analytic metric that predicted the subjects' preferences in loudspeakers. It's time that everyone simply accepts that and moves on.

Since you have accepted single speaker testing as predictive of speaker preference, how have you incoprorated this into your equipment buyng decisions?

Do you insist on auditioning single speakers?

Do you audition double blind?

I'd love to hear how you have accepted the study data and moved on!

Maybe we can also move on after you tell us how you have transcended sighted testing in your shopping process!

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


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Quote:
The fact, however, remains that Floyd and Sean did come up with an analytic metric that predicted the subjects' preferences in loudspeakers. It's time that everyone simply accepts that and moves on.

Since you have accepted single speaker testing as predictive of speaker preference, how have you incoprorated this into your equipment buyng decisions?

Did you bother to read what I actually said, or did you just choose to be combative and insulting?

I'm curious, because if you actually read what I SAID, you would know the answer to the silly questions you asked.

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Re: Frog


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Unless what you're desperately trying to defend here, is your sockpuppet. You both seem to share the same brain, and it's not much to start off with, so you're really stretching things.

You know... this actually choked me up a bit inside. I don't think krabapple has ever been called my sockpuppet before. I am deeply flattered. Seriously.


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What your responses have shown is, you can't even think up of different insults between the two of you. You make exactly the same ad hominem attacks, the very same lame insults.

This, however, I am offended by. Steven called you a ranting clown; I called you a stroke-ridden and possibly deceased husk of a being. Totally different insults.


Quote:
I refuted Sean Olive's pseudoscientific bullshit in my first post. Unable to address that, or as your sock Sullivan admitted, unable to even read responses longer than 3 lines, both of you responded with lame ad hominem attacks. Totally unprovoked, I might add.

I didn't respond to your post because, frankly, I thought it was unworthy of a response. It contained so much bile and hate - and ad hominem attacks that came on well before me or krab came on the scene - that responding to it in any meaningful and rational capacity would be like trying to teach tricks to a rabid dog. But since you thought there were some good points in there, though, I'll consider them, although given that your response seems to imply that you've never read any of my other replies on this thread, I'm not sure what this will accomplish:

"Sean Olive's horse was flogged to death 15 years ago."And yet you fail to mention how, who, and where. In fact, neither you or anybody else has cited any commentary from the time period - professional or not - critiquing Sean's paper.

"In sighted tests, Loudspeaker T was universally recognized as superior in sound... 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." None of this is true. T was never the most favored, in either the sighted or the blind tests; the error bars for the blind preferences are slightly touching, which might mean a margin of error of slightly more than 5% in ascribing a clear preference of one speaker or another, but never could mean that the preferences were split 50-50. Are we reading the same results? Because it sure seems like you are misreading them.

"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. ... 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." IMHO, this is dismissible entirely from personal experience, as I am far more aware of what I am listening to during a blind test than a sighted test. If blind testing is so universally corrupting, how do you explain that?


Quote:
So instead of being able to respond to the criticisms of Olive's tests that I and others have given, intelligently, you decided you were just going to respond with "vitriol". Because we insulted your cult leader. Who's fraudulent pseudoscientific bullshit has no place on this group, and has been rejected by the high end audio community ever since Olive has been in the business of disseminating his anti-high end propaganda.

I have quite cogently responded to others in this thread (and others have responded to them in cogent ways). It is your histrionics that is demanding special attention.

Indeed, that you never responded to my first reply to you, in comparison to the slavish attention you've placed on most other posts, suggests that you never actually comprehended that reply in the first place. Or maybe it cut too close to home. I dunno.

You have had every chance to tone down the emotion out of your responses and make this a more civil conversation. Indeed, one of the more critical differences between krab's insults and mine is that I have strived to insult what you are doing, and not really who you are. And yet you're the one still calling people out as idiots, cultists, frauds, sockpuppets, etc. Maybe I'm looking at this from a biased angle but you are really not flattering yourself with your words.

If I left this thread right now - which I have no intention of doing - I would have no problem letting anybody I know read this thread, safe in the knowledge that my responses were entirely just (if not largely accurate too), and that if this played out in real life, I would respond verbally in exactly the same way. Are you? Would you be comfortable letting your family or friends hear aloud what you have to say in this thread? Or do you really think they would think this is OK? Perhaps they're as mean and spiteful as you are and they would find no problem with this, but I do doubt that.


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If I "posted while suffering a massive debilitating stroke".... I wouldn't be able to finish the post, fool. It sounds like you don't even know what "a massive debilitating stroke" is, anymore than you know what "apoplexy" means.

Perhaps it is you who does not know what apoplexy means?

I deliberately equivocated between two definitions of the word. I was, in fact, engaging in what is commonly referred to as a "joke". Although, perhaps, not a very good one. That what I was describing was medically impossible should have made that more explicit (nevermind that you didn't even bother objecting to my rigor reference!)


Quote:
You tag team trolls should keep the ad hominem attacks coming, because it's fun to watch you cultists crash and burn like that.

Wait. You know what an "ad hominem" attack actually is, right? Because IIRC, I've never engaged in one in this thread. Feel free to prove me wrong. Again, I somehow wonder if we're even speaking the same form of English here.

Actually, I'm tiring of the ad hominem attacks quite a lot, especially because, from my perspective, they're mostly coming out of you. Which is why I've started actually making rational, relatively unemotional comments on your statements (and everybody else's). If you're as interested in rational conversation as you say you are, ignore my slights and respond to the arguments, and I'll do likewise. You'll prove yourself to be a better man than I had judged.

Buddha
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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty

Where was I insulting or combative?

I was being interogative.

I'll try again:

With deepest and most sincere respect and affection, could you please indulge this audio worm by enlightening him as to how the study results have been incorporated into your own insightful shopping schema?

____

On the other hand, "It's time that everyone simply accepts that and moves on," sounds pretty dumb-ass in the context of speaker evaluation if you then want to claim that there is now some definitive metric to settle the issue.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty

You know, not even Ethan shops for speakers in this fashion.

Ethan, how do you buy speakers? The other proponents of the study seem to refuse to discuss how they have incorporated these irrefutable findings into the hobby.

Do you buy speakers only by spec or via double blind single speaker auditioning?

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


Quote:
Where was I insulting or combative?

I was being interogative.

I'll try again:

With deepest and most sincere respect and affection, could you please indulge this audio worm by enlightening him as to how the study results have been incorporated into your own insightful shopping schema?

____

On the other hand, "It's time that everyone simply accepts that and moves on," sounds pretty dumb-ass in the context of speaker evaluation if you then want to claim that there is now some definitive metric to settle the issue.

Well, what part of "predict the subjects' response" is unclear? Really?

I didn't say "everyone's" I said "the subjects'".

And I've given up buying speakers. I build them. Some of the modern drivers are pretty (*&(& nice, you just have to be very careful how you design things.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Double Blind Listening Tests


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(One of those 5 million ways is a method DBT'ers are awfully fond of, known as "rapid switching". Which confuses the listener and decimates lunar-sized differences between DUTs. It's kind of like winning a shopping spree, but you're given a sock instead of a shopping cart, to put your preferred items into.

FWIW, I once successfully ABXed absolute polarity on real music with my home headphone listening setup. In hindsight, I don't think it would have been possible without rapid switching.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


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why does a stratovarius sound better than a school band violin?


Because a good violin has multiple high-Q resonances at favorable frequencies. Good violins are also more responsive, louder, and easier to play.


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I'm sure the world's best violinists can tell the difference in a blind test. But I couldn't.


Yes you could! The difference between a good violin (or viola or cello) and a lame one are so obvious that anyone could tell, and blinding is not needed.

--Ethan

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


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I'm sure the world's best violinists can tell the difference in a blind test. But I couldn't.


Yes you could! The difference between a good violin (or viola or cello) and a lame one are so obvious that anyone could tell, and blinding is not needed.

--Ethan

If not done blind, it is dishonest.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


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Ethan, how do you buy speakers? ... Do you buy speakers only by spec or via double blind single speaker auditioning?


The first big speaker purchase I made was a pair of AR3a around 1970. A few years earlier I heard them at a friend's house (father of my girlfriend at the time) and was blown away. So as soon as I could afford a pair I bought them.

The next "important" speakers I bought was a pair of Voice of the Theaters. I needed something really loud, and they did the job very well. With less than 100 watts per channel I might add!

Then I needed a pair of truly pro speakers for my third and biggest recording studio. This was in the late 1970s. The only two contenders at the time were big Altec pro speakers and big JBL pro speakers. I'm talking speakers the size of a small refrigerator with a 15-inch woofer and horn. I had heard the Altecs at a big NYC pro recording studio and liked them, so I bought a pair. But after living with them for a few weeks I thought they sounded honky, so we returned them (shipping was expensive) and got the JBLs instead.

Later when I sold my software company in 1992 and got back into audio with a home studio, I bought the latest model of those huge JBL speakers, 4430, which I still have in my home studio.

When I first set up my home theater we used my wife's old MacIntosh speakers. They were okay, but had a noticeable - and measurable! - sizzle around 8 KHz that I later learned was from having a piezo tweeter. D'oh! Sheesh. Ouch!! By this time I was well aware of Mackie 824s because three of my friends have them. So I knew them well and had heard lots of different music over a few years on them. I didn't need the LF extension of the 824s so I bought 624s instead.

Okay, that was the long version. Sorry. The short version is whenever I've bought speakers I made the decision based on already having heard them elsewhere.

BTW, you still have not answered what specifically you disagree with in Sean's blog. Well?

--Ethan

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Re: The Dishonesty of Double Blind Listening Tests


Quote:

Quote:
(One of those 5 million ways is a method DBT'ers are awfully fond of, known as "rapid switching". Which confuses the listener and decimates lunar-sized differences between DUTs. It's kind of like winning a shopping spree, but you're given a sock instead of a shopping cart, to put your preferred items into.

FWIW, I once successfully ABXed absolute polarity on real music with my home headphone listening setup. In hindsight, I don't think it would have been possible without rapid switching.

That's interesting. I wonder how the individual you are responding to can explain the results of 50+ years of knowlege of the persistance (or lack thereof) of partial loudnesses?

For some things, fast switching is important. For others, it is not. One simply allows the subject to use the strategy that the subject believes works the best.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


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we can like or dislike the entire work, respond this way or that to the entire work, but we respond similarly to the building materials.

Musicologist and composer Deryck Cook's 1959 book-length essay "The Language of Music" explores this in considerable detail, his thesis being that the main characteristic of music is that it expresses and evokes emotion: Amazon link . Cooke's conclusion was that different people appear to respond the same way to what you term music's "building blocks."

Indeed, and there is now even evidence that utterly isolated cultures react to emotional cues in the same way that Westerners do.

At the same time, dividing music into "happy/sad/scared" is is a pretty freakin' huge level of granularity. Would the Marfi people understand the different emotional nuances of a change in chords? Ultimately, does this (important) topic in musicology have a significant relation with the topic at hand: the relevance of human emotion to the study of audio (as opposed to music)? Any two-bit block radio can express distinctions between "happy" and "sad", but how relevant is higher fidelity to these emotional distinctions?

I think Jan's recent reply, while very insightful, does not offer justifications of that. I'm not even sure it justifies his initial point: of the emotions intrinsically existing in the music itself, and that because blind testing takes those emotions out of the equation, it is inherently flawed. Jan speaks of building blocks being universally interpreted, which I more or less agree with - but whatever flaws may exist with blind testing, when argued on a basis of emotions, rests on such emotions being sufficiently accurate estimators of quality. I believe that would require emotions being not only universal, but also immutable.

And moreover, such universal interpretations do not necessarily mean that the emotions are implicitly "in" the music. Merely that - just like in normal human communication - some emotional cues may exist in the music which are interpreted on a culturally common basis. Some people have have more emotional cues than others, and some may have fewer. That there is (usually) a common subset of these cues doesn't mean, metaphysically, that the emotions are really "in there". But I admit that distinction may be more or less pedantic.

What I don't think is pedantic, though, is making a distinction between emotions themselves and emotional cues in relation to audio. Wide dynamics in the performance of a work is widely correlated to feelings of increased emotionality (right? should I dig up refs for this?) Zero dynamics is correlated with a lack of emotion. Just like how a monotone speaking voice is perceived as unemotional and a scream-whisper-scream level of dynamic shift in a conversation is perceived as histrionics.

Audio equipment can make a difference in how this emotional cue - dynamics - is faithfully expressed to the listener, by ensuring that there is enough output power to drive peak loudness without distortion, and minimum loudness without excessive noise. Similarly, just as dissonance can represent a specific emotional cue which is often to be avoided, the existence of unintended distortion in a musical performance might in some cases trigger an unintended emotional cue, so that lowering distortion levels can better convey these cues. That is the difference between a $10 clock radio and a "real" hifi.

I think that seeing audio and emotion on such a basis - as relying on specific emotional cues, which very often can be categorized in a surprisingly objective way, while the emotions themselves are tempestuous and varying - is a far more productive way of discussing the matter, than simply using emotions as a baseline method of observation. Such a philosophy would be entirely consistent with DBT principles (and implications) while remaining entirely cognizant of the impact of music on human emotion.

Jan Vigne
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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


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Quote:
The only problem I see with Cooke's work is a restriction to "formal" or classical musical forms. Are there any such studies that approach popular musical forms with the same thesis?

The only thing you must realize is that in such comparisons, the differences in music, performance, etc, are very, very far above known audio thresholds.

Most speaker differences are, in fact, also quite above the threshold of audibility (both absolute and self-masking thresholds, as well as differences in room and two-speaker interactions).

However, the two kinds of differences are very, very different from each other, and it is unwise to attempt to argue that one somehow relates at all to the other.

The question makes perfect sense to me.

The answer?

Not a lick!

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Re: The Dishonesty of Double Blind Listening Tests


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That's interesting. I wonder how the individual you are responding to can explain the results of 50+ years of knowlege of the persistance (or lack thereof) of partial loudnesses?

For some things, fast switching is important. For others, it is not. One simply allows the subject to use the strategy that the subject believes works the best.

Quite true - and given that I understand that auditory memory is only a few seconds long at most, I would like to hear more from Sean about how fast a switching is possible with his switchers. That's probably a question for the HA thread, though. And I already have several questions outstanding from him in a separate forum. *sigh*

BTW, as far as absolute polarity goes, what I heard was an audible but utterly meaningless effect, and there was an extremely strong argument that my choice of Etymotics headphones (which I have reason to believe to have massive amounts of even order harmonic distortion) strongly increased the audibility of this effect. I was only *barely* able to detect it with my Audio Technica circumaurals. Ironically this reminds me how a lot of the absolute polarity hardliners, like Clark and George, are big tube amp partisans.

So my take home point is, ABX testing really can be quite sensitive, in that distortions not often considered audible by "mainstream" audio engineering can be found to be audible in realistic conditions - but that doesn't necessarily mean that the distortion itself is meaningful!

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You know, not even Ethan shops for speakers in this fashion.

Ethan, how do you buy speakers? The other proponents of the study seem to refuse to discuss how they have incorporated these irrefutable findings into the hobby.

Do you buy speakers only by spec or via double blind single speaker auditioning?

You know, I mentioned this before, and I'm not sure I got a clear response from anybody: this whole argument that "DBTers are being dishonest because they do not use DBTs in their own buying decisions" is itself something of an ad hominem fallacy. Or, perhaps, a fallacy of equivocation. Even when some people really do use them with their buying decisions (and I'd be tickled if I could have that opportunity with headphones!), it is entirely truthful and honest and logical to believe in DBTs while not using them as primary evidence for personal buying decisions.

Fundamentally, I don't think anybody here (definitely not I, but I also think not ethan or steven or jj) is saying that DBTs are the *only* valid evidence for audio: merely that they are *superior* evidence. It's fine and dandy to talk about speaker preferences or format differences or whatnot, like all reasonable people do. But in my opinion, a subjective test with statistical meaning also has an objective meaning which in large degree preempts subjective discussion on the same topic. And such meaning is very often marginalized, ignored, or otherwise misunderstood.

This is largely the criteria used on HydrogenAudio, as was hammered home here - and this might shock you to hear, but I was actually arguing against most of the pro-DBT membership there! AND Steven! Amazingly enough, we are NOT of one mind on this issue.

My belief is that we don't ABX volume controls, some things (like headphones) are more or less impossible to ABX, and not everybody is in a position to make a valid DBT for purchasing decisions such as speakers. Some subjective commentary is unavoidable and absolutely justifiable. (And, like I express in that thread, some tests simply cannot be formulated consistently or are otherwise a bad idea to perform.) But when a test can be made, or has been made, either for a device under test or for an objective parameter or quality which has very great bearing on the purchase of devices, it very often represents a major contribution to the knowledge of the field. Subjective statements are no longer a valid means of contribution to the art.

In addition: there's nothing wrong with taking the available evidence and purchasing something that is substantially higher quality than the evidence would otherwise dictate. All of us (ok, well, at least me) have our paranoias. A lot of HA people rip at 320kbps even though the DBT evidence suggests it is overkill. The important point here is, I don't try to justify that paranoia on subjective grounds. I say "I am purchasing this even though the evidence does not suggest I should, because I am making an entirely personal call." I do not try to communicate some sort of higher objective truth based on that decision - at least, not without some real objective evidence backing me up.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


Quote:

Quote:


Quote:
The only problem I see with Cooke's work is a restriction to "formal" or classical musical forms. Are there any such studies that approach popular musical forms with the same thesis?

The only thing you must realize is that in such comparisons, the differences in music, performance, etc, are very, very far above known audio thresholds.

Most speaker differences are, in fact, also quite above the threshold of audibility (both absolute and self-masking thresholds, as well as differences in room and two-speaker interactions).

However, the two kinds of differences are very, very different from each other, and it is unwise to attempt to argue that one somehow relates at all to the other.

The question makes perfect sense to me.

The answer?

Not a lick!

I would suggest starting, then, with something that conveys the idea that there are multiple kinds of differences in any sensorium. This is not a place to teach the subject, I fear, the hostility and malicious miscomprehension is likely to be far too extensive to succeed.

The point, in short, is that there are many ways for somethign to sound different. The kinds usually added by loudspeakers are very different to the ear than the kinds usually added, say, by good vs. bad violins.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


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Quote:
Ethan, how do you buy speakers? ... Do you buy speakers only by spec or via double blind single speaker auditioning?


The first big speaker purchase I made was a pair of AR3a around 1970. A few years earlier I heard them at a friend's house (father of my girlfriend at the time) and was blown away. So as soon as I could afford a pair I bought them.

No DBT beforehand? So far, so good. Sighted testing is sufficient.

The next "important" speakers I bought was a pair of Voice of the Theaters. I needed something really loud, and they did the job very well. With less than 100 watts per channel I might add!

How did you objectively measure their ability to 'play loud?' How did your DBTs vs. other cheaper brands turn out?

Then I needed a pair of truly pro speakers for my third and biggest recording studio. This was in the late 1970s. The only two contenders at the time were big Altec pro speakers and big JBL pro speakers. I'm talking speakers the size of a small refrigerator with a 15-inch woofer and horn. I had heard the Altecs at a big NYC pro recording studio and liked them, so I bought a pair. But after living with them for a few weeks I thought they sounded honky, so we returned them (shipping was expensive) and got the JBLs instead.

Did they sound honky in DBT? Did you compare the speaker brands in blind fashion?

Later when I sold my software company in 1992 and got back into audio with a home studio, I bought the latest model of those huge JBL speakers, 4430, which I still have in my home studio.

How were these chosen? Not by sighted listening alone, I hope!

When I first set up my home theater we used my wife's old MacIntosh speakers. They were okay, but had a noticeable - and measurable! - sizzle around 8 KHz that I later learned was from having a piezo tweeter. D'oh! Sheesh. Ouch!! By this time I was well aware of Mackie 824s because three of my friends have them. So I knew them well and had heard lots of different music over a few years on them. I didn't need the LF extension of the 824s so I bought 624s instead.

Did you do DBT to prove your impressions of the McIntosh? How about DBT for the Mackies, or were these, too, chosen via sighted lisetening?

Okay, that was the long version. Sorry. The short version is whenever I've bought speakers I made the decision based on already having heard them elsewhere.

But none were chosen by DBT, only via 'dishonest' sighted testing?

BTW, you still have not answered what specifically you disagree with in Sean's blog. Well?

--Ethan

I disagree with Sean's conclusion that, based on his single speaker trials, the audio industry is dishonest in how it markets and sells gear. I question on the one hand, a company tacitly approving a 'study' that is artificially created in such a way that it shines favorable light on their speaker product, while they fail to do due diligence and compare their other lines of products in similar fashion.

Why isn't Ethan clamoring at Sean to see if different amps make a difference in this exact same test?

Speakers sound sufficiently different from one another that even you shop for them via sighted listening, yet you embrace a 'study' that is manipulated in such a way to invent a result that your own direct experience is in disagreement with.

Are you a dishnoset listener?

Calling sighted listening 'dishonest' based on those results is not an honest conclusion, Ethan.

Sean's study flies in the face of how you claim to be able to hear, and how you decide on speakers; but you fawn over his result because it somewhow dovetails with your bias toward DBT, yet his findings are at odds with your own experience.

Your bias is so skewed toward anything claiming to be a DBT that you overlook the fact that it applies to your own habits with zero percent correlation with your own descriptions of how you choose speakers.

Zero.

I don't find Sean's extrapolation from single speaker manipulation a valid foundation for claiming that the audio industry is being dishonest.

You do?

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty

I did not say the results of DBTs are preference. I quoted you and stressed that preferences in DBTs are not universal, an important point in my mind especially for those people who would like to use DBT tests performed by others to assist them in finding gear that they will like.


Quote:
DBT's are not for establishing preference UNLESS the person PREFERS to use a DBT to establish their personal preference. In that, it's like any other preference.

"I don't know much about science but I do know what I like." Martin Amis

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


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I did not say the results of DBTs are preference. I quoted you and stressed that preferences in DBTs are not universal, an important point in my mind especially for those people who would like to use DBT tests performed by others to assist them in finding gear that they will like.


Quote:
DBT's are not for establishing preference UNLESS the person PREFERS to use a DBT to establish their personal preference. In that, it's like any other preference.

"I don't know much about science but I do know what I like." Martin Amis

We agree mostly, then. The subjects in the test were in pretty close agreement, but preference is preference.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


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I don't find Sean's extrapolation from single speaker manipulation a valid foundation for claiming that the audio industry is being dishonest.

Well, do you have any contrary evidence? Evidence is the backbone of science.

I do find people who cite only power response, or only direct response, who "smooth" frequency response results, who do not show polar response, measure distortion only at one or two frequencies, etc, to be skirting the line, to say the least.

I've also had the need to measure more than one or two sets of loudspeakers. Some of the results in measurement from spec to speaker frankly do not look like instrument error, either.

So, I won't accuse anyone of dishonesty, but there is lots of shilly-shallying about what matters, and there is what at best can be described as questionable measurement methods.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


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No DBT beforehand? So far, so good. Sighted testing is sufficient.


I think you misunderstand what DBT is used and needed for. It's not needed for buying speakers, even if you are considering several contenders. All speakers sound different, and sighted switching to pick the one you like best is quite sufficient. There's a good chance you'll live with a speaker for a while and discover its flaws later. But that's a totally different issue!

Where DBT is needed is to debunk ridiculous claims such as a receiver that costs only $150 can't possibly sound good. Or that $1,000 speaker wire sounds better than plain old zip cord. In other words, to learn for sure if a difference can be heard at all, when some claim there is and others claim there is not.


Quote:
How did you objectively measure their ability to 'play loud?' How did your DBTs vs. other cheaper brands turn out?


I guess you never heard a pair of Voice of the Theater speakers, eh?


Quote:
Did they sound honky in DBT? Did you compare the speaker brands in blind fashion?


I didn't have that opportunity, though I sure wish I had. I could have saved a few hundred bucks (1970s dollars) in shipping.


Quote:
Did you do DBT to prove your impressions of the McIntosh?


No, and again that was not needed. I always noticed they had a sizzly high end, which I also measured with software. At one point I took off the front grill cloth and that's when I realized the high tweeters (4-way system) were piezos. Then it all made sense.


Quote:
How about DBT for the Mackies, or were these, too, chosen via sighted lisetening?


Again, I had heard them hundreds of times over many years in at least three different rooms, so I already knew they were excellent.


Quote:
I disagree with Sean's conclusion that, based on his single speaker trials, the audio industry is dishonest in how it markets and sells gear.


The entire industry is not dishonest. Only some manufacturers, and some journalists, and some forum posters.


Quote:
Your bias is so skewed toward anything claiming to be a DBT that you overlook the fact that it applies to your own habits with zero percent correlation with your own descriptions of how you choose speakers.


Again, you misunderstand the whole point. It's not so much to pick which speakers to buy. Rather, it's to know if you really can tell which is which when the brands and prices are hidden.

In the larger picture, from my perspective, the true value of DBT is to prove that audio bigots are full of crap, and that their hearing is just as frail as everyone else's. This is the real issue. To prove that wire does not need to be broken in, that all competent power amps with similar power not driven into clipping do indeed sound the same, and so forth.

--Ethan

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty

Above I said that all speakers sound different, so I'll add a brief anecdote. Two weeks ago I brought one of my Mackie 624s to the studio of a famous mastering engineer in New York City. I wanted to measure my Mackie, which I know is very flat, and compare it to a measurement of one of his Revel Ultima Studio 2s which also claims to be flat. I had heard his Revel speakers a month before and was blown away. I just had to learn what was different, and how two flat speakers could sound so different!

Well, it turns out they do not sound very different at all. It was just the situation, the different room, expectation, etc. Yes, when both speakers were placed with the tweeters adjacent there were small differences in the response as measured and heard. But the differences were very small! At one point I thought I was hearing the Revels but it was actually my Mackie! The test was not blind, and it wasn't even a test. The other guy did the switching and at one point I lost track of which was which. When he asked which speaker was playing I guessed wrong.

I no longer lust after the Revels, but they are excellent, and probably a tiny bit better than my Mackies. But at $16k per pair versus under $1k for two Mackies, I no longer have speaker envy.

--Ethan

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


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Jan speaks of building blocks being universally interpreted, which I more or less agree with - but whatever flaws may exist with blind testing, when argued on a basis of emotions, rests on such emotions being sufficiently accurate estimators of quality. I believe that would require emotions being not only universal, but also immutable.

And moreover, such universal interpretations do not necessarily mean that the emotions are implicitly "in" the music.

That's one remarkable post, I must say. Just in those few sentences above you agree, then disagree, then agree once again and then disagree once more.

And that's the part of that post that made the most sense!

You're missing the point. It's not the building, its the bricks. The bricks are universal and immutable. They have not changed in over two thousand years. How much more "immutable" do you require?

Even in other cultures, the bricks are universal. The invasion of Western style music into a multiplicity of other cultures that had never experienced such a style demonstrates the bricks are universal, just as your link indicates. They may be different than the bricks traditionally used in other cultures but their effect is universal.

Can I say we've ascertained you do not play an instrument and you do not know what, say, modes are? Key signatures? That you are unclear on how playing in 3/4 time is unlike playing in 6/8 time or 3/2 or 2/8 time and how that difference impacts the emotional effect of the music?

This is somewhat important because, if you do not understand those things, then discussing them will mean little to nothing to you. That's hardly my intent. If you don't understand why a flatted third has a certain effect, then there is more to discuss than just saying a flatted third is a building block. There's nothing wrong with not knowing this, I' am not always certain of some things myself - like "Mixolodian" when my mind is elswhere. If you don't know these things, just say so.

The last time I responded to one of your posts I said virtually everything you posted was either untrue or inaccurate.

Sorry to say, you're now two for two.

You've totally misconscrewed what I said about DBT's.

But I don't really care since I'm not here to have anything to do with DBT's. Most two bit radios can manage to convey the intent of a flatted third but numerous high end systems cannot do much better when it comes to a fifth.

But this ...


Quote:
And moreover, such universal interpretations do not necessarily mean that the emotions are implicitly "in" the music. Merely that - just like in normal human communication - some emotional cues may exist in the music which are interpreted on a culturally common basis. Some people have have more emotional cues than others, and some may have fewer. That there is (usually) a common subset of these cues doesn't mean, metaphysically, that the emotions are really "in there". But I admit that distinction may be more or less pedantic.

What I don't think is pedantic, though, is making a distinction between emotions themselves and emotional cues in relation to audio. Wide dynamics in the performance of a work is widely correlated to feelings of increased emotionality (right? should I dig up refs for this?) Zero dynamics is correlated with a lack of emotion. Just like how a monotone speaking voice is perceived as unemotional and a scream-whisper-scream level of dynamic shift in a conversation is perceived as histrionics.

Let's start with, didn't you just a few sentences earlier say you agreed that emotion was "in" the music? Didn't you post a link that indicated that was true?

Now you're saying it's not?

I am not - metaphysically - certain what you said.

I have to say I find your entire post to be filled with circular arguments that contradict what you have said just a moment before. Other than you seem to think I don't care for speaker DBT's because of wide dynamics, I really don't know what you said in all that stuff you posted.

And yep, yep, I would like to see some "ref's" for that wide dynamics idea. I would say just the opposite is true, that the micro-dynamic scaling is far more expressive than the macro-dynamic range. So, yes, please support that bit of thinking you've come up with through a few references to some sort of authority that would agree with you.

And spend some time listening to Edit Piaf and Billie Holiday or maybe some Litz (http://www.amazon.com/Nojima-Plays-Liszt/dp/B00000157J). How about a Brando film?

Some people "have more emotional cues than others, and some may have fewer"?!!!

First, let's make it clear that "people" are really not what I'm discusing here. People are the recipient not the carrier. I, and apparently Cooke, have said the emotional cues are within the text of the music. Our (people's) response is to those cues - the cues that exist within the music. If you haven't kept up, this is not about what Bach intended you should "feel" with any specific work. This is about the human response to the mechanics of the work. Things like, how does a 7th chord work in a three chord progression? How does a minor key affect the music in a way that is unlike a major key? Those are what I am focussed on and those are apparently universal and without dispute.

You can wrap this up neatly in the idea of tension/release, the building blocks of Western music. You can question the "pedantics" of the statement but even Cage's 4'33" is filled with tension/release. And, quite surprisingly, there are no dynamics in that piece.

Finally, if I am going to be forced into a discussion of anything DBT, can it be this; 4'33" is the perfect selection for DBT's.

If I must die by way of a DBT, I only ask that you let this be my last request for the music selection.

Please O Please O Please!

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


Quote:

Quote:
The only problem I see with Cooke's work is a restriction to "formal" or classical musical forms. Are there any such studies that approach popular musical forms with the same thesis?

The only thing you must realize is that in such comparisons, the differences in music, performance, etc, are very, very far above known audio thresholds.

Most speaker differences are, in fact, also quite above the threshold of audibility (both absolute and self-masking thresholds, as well as differences in room and two-speaker interactions).

However, the two kinds of differences are very, very different from each other, and it is unwise to attempt to argue that one somehow relates at all to the other.


Quote:

The question makes perfect sense to me.

The answer?

Not a lick!

I would suggest starting, then, with something that conveys the idea that there are multiple kinds of differences in any sensorium. This is not a place to teach the subject, I fear, the hostility and malicious miscomprehension is likely to be far too extensive to succeed.

The point, in short, is that there are many ways for somethign to sound different. The kinds usually added by loudspeakers are very different to the ear than the kinds usually added, say, by good vs. bad violins.

UH, ...

I'll get back to you on this. 'kay?

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty

Ethan, Sean was doing speaker tests.

How does that extrapolate to your ranting about wire and electronics?

His findings are at odds with your own buying history.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


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If I must die by way of a DBT, I only ask that you let this be my last request for the music selection.

You've confuted so many idea together here that I hardly know where to start.

The cues you refer to as emotional cues, etc, are, frankly, well above the threshold of hearing, and that's well understood. Of course you can hear things like that.

Your bit about "microdynamics" is simply impenetrable. You need to define what they are and show they exist, and then we can talk about them. Certainly Edith Piaf doesn't require microdynamics, Alison Krause, Toscanini, Green Day, or Radiohead ditto.

The low-level hearing limits of the ear are quite well established, and are within this close ->||<- of the actual level permitted by the intrinsic noise of the atmosphere. This is an actual, pretty much hard limit to microdynamics, whatever they might be, in and of itself. If something is below the atmospheric noise level at your eardrum by a few dB, it's not audible.

Now, DBT's are repeatedly demonstrated to be valid for detecting small differences. That's what they are for. I'm not sure what you think they are for, or what they are being used for, so perhaps that's a place to start. What DO you think people are using DBT's for?

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Ethan, Sean was doing speaker tests.


And speakers vary much more than wires, for instance.

Quote:

How does that extrapolate to your ranting about wire and electronics?


Very nicely, because the kind of distortions in speakers are orders of magnitude larger than wires, and than most amps. The kind of distortion does matter, but the absolute level in a cheap wire, or in a modest amplifier, is low enough to allow reasoning from basic understanding of the hearing apparatus.

Quote:

His findings are at odds with your own buying history.

How so? Sean didn't tell people how to buy speakers, he told experts how to test them.

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What DO you think people are using DBT's for?

To argue endlessly on audio forums.

Your turn.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


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Quote:
What DO you think people are using DBT's for?


To argue endlessly on audio forums.

I don't generally accord much respect to wise guy answers. Care to try again?

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty

No.

I don't discuss DBT's.

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Maybe you should find some other wise guy to talk to. There's plenty of them to disrepect around here.

And you aren't making any sense to me.

Are you related to Axon?

Metaphysically?

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No. I don't discuss DBT's.

... except when blind tests are the only things you are talking about, for the first three of your posts of a thread such as this one?


Quote:
Are you related to Axon?

Woot! Congrats jj. You're now related to krab by two degrees!


Quote:
http://search.yahoo.com/search?ei=utf-8&fr=slv8-hptb5&p=microdynamics%2fmusical&type=

So, I see a lot of discussion about "microdynamics" in that search, with hardly any professional discussion about what it actually means.

The most authoritative reference I see on the subject is by Bob Katz in that search:


Quote:
the ebb and flow within the natural rhythm of the music, what I call "microdynamics", within even 2 to 4 bars... can create more impact

Certainly, microdynamics by this definition, are, um, important. A musical piece devoid of dynamics changes on the scale of 2-4 bars or below places rather tight limits on what music (and instruments!) can be performed. And music performed without any long term dynamics can still be quite expressive through microdynamics.

At the same time, you'd be hard pressed to find legitimate, credible ways to actually compromise the "microdynamics" of music, under that definition. Added noise can obviously do it - but it would have to be a lot of added noise. Massive amounts of reverberations and other forms of longer-term temporal smearing could do it. But the temporal smearing in MP3 encoding wouldn't do it. Nor would many room effects. Linear and nonlinear distortion can have varying effects but may quite possibly not affect it or even accentuate it. Limiters can compromise it, but most compressors are too slow to compromise it. (In fact, in the presence of background noise like in a car, compressors may improve the clarity of microdynamics.)

I'll compose a longer response to your longer reply when I have more time. For now I'll just say that microdynamics is entirely besides the point of what I was meaning.

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Quote:
we can like or dislike the entire work, respond this way or that to the entire work, but we respond similarly to the building materials.

Musicologist and composer Deryck Cook's 1959 book-length essay "The Language of Music" explores this in considerable detail, his thesis being that the main characteristic of music is that it expresses and evokes emotion: Amazon link . Cooke's conclusion was that different people appear to respond the same way to what you term music's "building blocks."

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Who coined the phrase, "music soothes the savage beast"?

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Quote:

Quote:

Quote:
What DO you think people are using DBT's for?


To argue endlessly on audio forums.

I don't generally accord much respect to wise guy answers. Care to try again?

I suggest you put on a thick skin here.

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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


Quote:
... compressors may improve the clarity of microdynamics.)

If you compress it, it ain't "micro"-dynamics any longer.


Quote:
I'll compose a longer response to your longer reply when I have more time. For now I'll just say that microdynamics is entirely besides the point of what I was meaning.

Please, don't put yourself out on my accord.

Jan Vigne
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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty

I'm finding the new title to this thread all the more honest as we go along.

Editor
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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


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Who coined the phrase, "music soothes the savage beast"?

I believe it was "savage breast" - I've met a few of _those_ in my time - and it was Shakespeare.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

JIMV
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Re: The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests


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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.

One of the best analogies I have read....and, of course, all cables sound alike and do not even start on power products.

I have just found the time to read this thread and am finding it entertaining, especially with beer in hand and The Beach Boys on the turntable.

michaelavorgna
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Re: The Dishonesty of Dishonesty


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I no longer lust after the Revels, but they are excellent, and probably a tiny bit better than my Mackies. But at $16k per pair versus under $1k for two Mackies...


Don't you see the tiniest bit of irony in the fact that Revel is a Harman Int'l company and you were the one that started this thread whose title is "The Dishonesty of Sighted Listening Tests" after an article written by the Director of Acoustic Research for Harman International and you are basing these impressions on...sighted listening? I know you purposefully state "this wasn't even a test" and the Revel's are "probably" a tiny bit better but sheesh. How about extending this same latitude to the 'audio bigots'? If they're full of crap, and sighted listening tests are dishonest, you must surely be dishonestly oozing something foul.

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