Subjectivists, meanwhile, sometimes seem to intentionally hold themselves up for ridicule. A few audio writers, especially for the online 'zines, seem eager to prostitute themselves for the latest preposterous product—the Intelligent Chip, the Shakti Hallograph Soundfield Optimizer, the Machina Dynamica Brilliant Pebbles, the Marigo Audio Lab Dots, the Tice Clock. Meanwhile, some prominent industry folks have consistently failed, in my opinion, to maintain a sufficiently skeptical posture toward such products. It doesn't help that in audio there has been a long tradition—a dogma, even—of "trusting your ears," despite abundant evidence from neuroscience and cognitive psychology that our ears and other senses, though supremely acute, are supremely unreliable.
While Jim selected some pretty outrageous audio tweaks to rail against, I kind of wish he'd have done a little more homework. How could anyone leave these off a list of highly dubious tweaks? Schumann Frequency Generator, the Clever Little Clock (unlike the Tice Clock, doesn't even plug into the wall), the Teleportation Tweak, the Red X Coordinate Pen, Mpingo Disc,
One supposes JA means by a "skeptical posture" is dismissing out hand anything that doesn't fit nicely into an easily explainable box. Apparelty JA is not only an expert in theroetical physics (PhD) but alos an expert in neuroscience and psychology. Kudos to JA!
Yet science—and scientific testing—has much to offer audio. Audiophiles ought to embrace scientific methods with the same healthy skepticism with which they embrace sighted, subjective equipment evaluations: as a tool that, though subject to misuse, is invaluable in the hands of honest people with the right set of skills.
That's simply a strawman argument, the old "science is superior to listening" argument, right out of Zen and the Art of Debunkery. I suspect most audiophiles actually do embrace the scientific method, whther they realize it or not. They listen, they evaluate. They listen again. The skill of listening is an invaluable tool in the hands of honest people. The last time I checked the scientific method involves *investigation* - something that JA seems reticent to undertake. One wonders why.
One form of testing that's especially important—and especially controversial—is the use of rigorous methods to validate apparent perceptions: Did you really hear what you thought you heard? Is the sound really different with that new amplifier/cable/CD player from what it was with the old one? Does putting that photo in the freezer really change the way the system sounds?
It's a bit of a "tell" that JA doesn't seem to know what the Photos in the Freezer Tweak even is. While I can appreciate that "skeptics" might enjoy using the photos in the freezer tweak as a prime example of the crazy things some audiophiles do, it would help their "argument" considerably if the object of their scorn were actually understood, at least on a superficial level. :-)
One of the beautiful things about science is that often you can make your experiments more sensitive by applying new technologies. The likelihood of a non-null result can be squeezed and squeezed until it approaches zero, and you can begin to feel sure that there's really nothing happening. But in audio, there's not a whole lot you can do to make your tests more sensitive. Your measuring instruments are limited not by technology, but by the ear/brain system of very human listeners.
Spoken like someone who doesn't trust his ears at all. May I be so bold as to restate his first sentence?: One of the beautiful things about science is that you can apply new technologies to make the sound better. Such as quantum mechanical doo-dads, acoustic resonators, or anything that catches our fancy. Do we really need some "authority" to tell us what we should or should not do and what is or is not possible?
Advanced Audio Concepts