Music? Or Sound? JVS Elaborates

When I reread my February “As We See It,” Music? Or Sound?, my first thoughts about a piece I had written a while ago were: (1) I wish I’d devoted less space to telling the story and more to expanding upon my thesis; and (2) I’m afraid that my motivation will be misconstrued. Indeed, the flurry of furious comments makes clear that I failed to make the best case for my argument.

I regret that, to some, I came off as arrogant or condescending. It’s not that I have a golden ear; rather, I’ve had sufficient experience with the particular performers and compositions in the recordings used at the demo to have developed a set of expectations as to how those recordings should sound. The reason why others at our listening sessions weren’t immediately “able” to hear the imbalances I heard is that I had the advantage of hearing the recordings in widely varying contexts over years of blogging audio shows.

People tend to trust reviewers who have devoted considerable time to amassing a storehouse of listening experiences that enable them to make valuable critical calls about equipment and recordings. It’s not that these reviewers necessarily have superior judgment; it’s rather that they’ve established standards by which to evaluate the material at hand. They have learned how to both focus on specific elements, and to sit back and take in the big picture. IMHO, those reviewers who are equipped to assess how the entire listening experience makes them feel have an obligation to educated readers and elevate discourse by discussing how equipment can present music in ways that transcend the sum total of its parts.—Jason Victor Serinus

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arve's picture
Why do you think such a study

Why do you think such a study has never been done?

Because if it had, and it had the results the cable companies wanted, every cable company would endlessly refer to the study, and they don't.

ChrisS's picture
0 = 0

Arve,

Did you just say... a study like this has never been done before because a study like this has never been done before?

Please take that course on Research Methodology and another on Logic.

arve's picture
No, that's not what I said

You need to read what I wrote again, and if you still fail to get it, you probably should take that class on basic logic you are trying to use as some lame ad hominem attack.  Again, here is what I said:

Such a study hasn't been done with an outcome the cable industry wants to see.  Had said study existed, then it would have been endlessly referenced by the cable companies as proof they aren't snake oil peddlers.

ChrisS's picture
Still zero

We're talking properly done studies right? Not a bunch of guys in someone's basement fiddling behind bed sheets...  You still haven't said that a study of this has ever been done before. John Atkinson has written about tests he's participated in.

Arve, hint... Go back to your hypothesis.

John Atkinson's picture
Signal Transmission

Quote:
it's true the electrons don't know the difference, since they don't think or hear. They just go where the conductors route them, and do it as the cabling dictates.

Please note that the electrons in a cable don't carry the audio signal. Instead the signal is an alternating electrical field that travels close to the speed of light outside the conductor in the dielectric. The electrons actually travel at few cm/s.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

eugovector's picture
AH HA! SCIENCE!!

I knew it was in here somewhere...

Scorpio69er's picture
Put up or...

Let's settle this nonsense once and for all. You and the rest of the Stereophile staff show, in double-blind ABX testing under controlled conditions, that you can consistently pick out cables X, Y and Z vs. lamp zip cord. Or, vs. the nicely made and very cheap cables/interconnects I get from Monoprice that sound perfectly fine.

Unless and until you can show that without knowing the cables under test you can actually discern any difference, we must assume this whole business of esoteric cables is really just a lesson in marketing. 

P.S. Also publish the results of hearing tests administered to each of you. 

ChrisS's picture
Let's go shopping...

Know anyone who shops for stereo components by doing double-blind ABX testing? Do you know of anyone at all who does double-blind testing for the purpose of reviewing any products?

Been coerced into buying a Ford truck lately?

Scorpio69er's picture
@ ChrisS

If someone is trying to tell me that a piece of esoteric wire costing hundreds of dollars ± per foot is in some magical way better than standard cable from Monoprice, he should easily be able to discern the differences while blindfolded and do so consistently in a controlled setting. If he cannot, that settles it. This isn't that difficult. When I go shopping for stereo equipment, I do not take cabling into account at all, since no one has ever shown that there is any actual difference by passing this simple test.

Now, if you are convinced that wire A is worth 100x the price of wire B, knock yourself out. 

ChrisS's picture
Is it Ella or is it Memorex?

You don't shop and compare?

I have a 1998 Pathfinder that I'd like to sell. It only has 350,000 miles and just a spot or two of rust, but it runs great! Interested?

ChrisS's picture
Levi's or X brand?

My son shops like you Scorpio69er.... He buys two pairs of Sears brand jeans for the price of one pair of Levi's. He can't tell the difference either.

John Atkinson's picture
Testing

scorpio69er wrote:
You and the rest of the Stereophile staff show, in double-blind ABX testing under controlled conditions, that you can consistently pick out cables X, Y and Z vs. lamp zip cord.

Michael Fremer and I have done so, in a single-blind test administered by a mainstream reporter at a CES a few years back. In addition, Michael Fremer accepted the Amazing Randi's "Million Dollar" challenge regarding his ability to identify cables, but under the condition that the testing not be administered by Randi's associates but by independent experts from, IIRC, Scientific American magazine. Randi backed out.

Quote:
Unless and until you can show that without knowing the cables under test you can actually discern any difference, we must assume this whole business of esoteric cables is really just a lesson in marketing.

If you are so skeptical about what this magazine's writers say, then I have to ask why you subscribe to Stereophile in the first place?

Quote:
Also publish the results of hearing tests administered to each of you.

Kalman Rubinson and I have both done so in the past.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

arve's picture
If you are so skeptical about

If you are so skeptical about what this magazine's writers say, then I have to ask why you subscribe to Stereophile in the first place?

As opposed to most of the subjective audio press, you provide measurements for, which is usually what I click right through to in a review.  This is also the chief reason why I visit your SORC sibling Innerfidelity.   I don't come here for the subjective descriptions or anything else.

(On that note - have you considered publishing power cubes for amplifiers?  It's a pretty telling means of evaluating how an amplifier will behave in the real world)

Scorpio69er's picture
@ JA

re: "in a single-blind test adminstered by a mainstream reporter at a CES a few years back..."

This, of course, hardly constitutes scientific proof of anything, as you well know.

What I am skeptical of, sir, are your claims regarding pieces of wire and the magical musical properties you assign to them. Now, it should be a simple matter to set up a scientifically controlled test of the type everyone here would like to see performed, taking into account all of the variables I and others have pointed out. Forget Randi and have an independent entity set up the tests with those whom you chose: "independent experts from, IIRC, Scientific American magazine". Just because Randi "backed out" doesn't mean you should or that this is somehow "proof" of your assertions regarding wires. 

I have been reading Stereophile since the glory days of JGH, long before esoteric wire became a religion. Somehow, JGH was yet able to make meaningful judgements about, particularly, loudspeakers (Bob Carver kinda fried you guys on amps), and somehow all of us were able to enjoy our stereos and the music. This wonderful hobby of ours must be taken with some sense of humor, as I recall Sam Tellig many years back urging us to Armor All our records, claiming sonic nirvana would result (which many also attested they heard), only to later retract his recommendation. Oops.

I enjoy learning about what's out there in stereoland, since I cannot attend CES or have manufacturers send me their wares for my own evaluation, but the fact is 99% of us who love music cannot afford such gear. I have no doubt your reference system sounds superb, but when you and others venture off into la-la-land about cables, I call bullshit, because that's what it is. 

ChrisS's picture
Why?

Just because you believe it so?

Paul Luscusk's picture
It was not records Sam Said To Armor All It was CD's

Just keeping the record stright.

Scorpio69er's picture
@ Paul Luscusk

Yes, you are correct. Not nearly half as crazy as putting Armor All on vinyl. laugh

John Atkinson's picture
@Scorpio69er

Scorpio69er wrote:
John Atkinson wrote:
in a single-blind test adminstered by a mainstream reporter at a CES a few years back...

This, of course, hardly constitutes scientific proof of anything, as you well know.

I am not impressed by your claim to be able to read my mind. I was offering that this test was performed and had a positive result in response to the claims that there had _never_ been any blind tests of cables that produced positive results and that Stsreophile's writers had never taken part in such tests. That you don't believe the result doesn't mean the Gomes test wasn't valid.

Quote:
Forget Randi and have an independent entity set up the tests with those whom you chose: "independent experts from, IIRC, Scientific American magazine". Just because Randi "backed out" doesn't mean you should or that this is somehow "proof" of your assertions regarding wires.

I mentioned this in response to the poster who said we could win Randi's Million Dollar challenge if we believed cables sounded different. When the opportunity did arise to take the challenge, it was Randi that backed out.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

audioclassic's picture
Music Or Sound?

What? Didn't we settle this 35 years ago? OF COURSE, I CAN HEAR THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN JUST ABOUT EVERY CABLE IN THE WORLD AND I'll bet most of the guys reading this can, too.

Bill Leebens's picture
A nice piece, Jason...

...and welcome to the world of the forums!

Any of y'all with Jason's level of musical knowledge and skills as a listener, feel free to comment on his writing. Most of what I see here, however, is the same old tired "anything beyond zipcord is a waste of money and only DBT tells the truth" bullshit.

If you really believe that, why are you here? Did mom banish you to the basement again?

Man. Good luck, my friend. You are far more patient than I !

Scorpio69er's picture
re: "bullshit"

What is "bullshit", sir, is spending more than a few cents/ft for any piece of wire for dubious results. Of course, those who believe in magic want to believe in magic. If spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on wire makes you happy, feel free. For the rest of us who do not have money to burn, it makes a big difference as to whether spending more actually gets you more. Oh, the esoteric cables are certainly pretty, but the question is what spending more than a few bucks at Monoprice actually gets you. For someone to claim some musical magic from a cable is all well and good, but if I blindfold them and suddenly they cannot tell any difference between a $500 interconnect and a $5 one, there's a real problem.

ChrisS's picture
Whose problem is it?

If you don't want to spend the money, don't. If you can't hear a difference, too bad.

Scorpio69er's picture
@ ChrisS

 

re: "If you can't hear a difference, too bad."

 

Don't feel bad for me! You're the one apparently willing to drop ridiculous amounts of $ on a product that no one on God's earth can prove sounds any different than the fine, inexpensive wire from Monoprice. Just because you believe you hear something doesn't make it real. But, hey, if it makes you feel better, go for it. 

ChrisS's picture
Sounds great, less calories!

I have a great bricks and mortar stereo shop that I've been shopping at since my university days, and that was decades and decades ago.... This shop allows me and other customers to borrow various pieces of equipment to try out at home for several days at a time. The last "major" purchase I made was for a power cord- I tried out 3 different models of WireWorld power cords and settled on the mid-priced one for a whopping $160!

As I've asked in another post here, what constitutes proof for you? And why do you not trust yourself and your own ears?

When was the last time someone made you buy a Ford F-150 just because that person felt that it's the BEST TRUCK in the world? Would you do a DBT to know if it's true or not?

Scorpio69er's picture
@ ChrisS

re: "why do you not trust yourself and your own ears?"

Oh, but I do. It is precisely because I do that I know that, when blindfolded, nobody, including moican differentiate wires in a controlled setting. So when someone claims that they can, but refuses to "trust their own ears" by submitting to such a test, I call bullshit.

I'll spend 100x more on a piece of wire when it can be shown scientifically that it yields even a 10x improvement in sound quality. Until then, spending hundreds of $ on cables that would be much better spent on a better pair of loudspeakers is foolish.

ChrisS's picture
Better bullshit?

How do you know that?

You believe...therefore it must be so?

Scorpio69er's picture
@ ChrisS

Show me the tests that prove me wrong. They do not exist. Try it yourself, if you really want to prove it. Of course, that would take a bit of doing, since I am talking about controlled listening tests. But perhaps for your own amusement, have a friend randomly swap in some cheap cables into your own system over a period of a month (no peeking allowed!) and you keep a journal detailing what you think you hear on any given day. See if you can actually discern any differences with any degree of statistical significance in your own system.

In the mean time, check out this piece:

http://www.nousaine.com/pdfs/Wired%20Wisdom.pdf

Still not scientifically conclusive due to the lack of control, but interesting nonetheless.

ChrisS's picture
Show me the science....

You're right- 3 different "tests" with 3 different listeners wtih 3 different systems does not constitute "science". Nor does opinion.

Scorpio69er's picture
@ ChrisS

You have shown nothing in any of your posts, except a dogged belief in magic. Good luck to you, sir, and may I recommend to you a few meters of my fabulous Asian Forest™ cable. It is a true bargain at only $50000/meter, as attested to by my dog, who actually has super hearing and impeccable taste in music.

 smiley

ChrisS's picture
Truth in advertising...

You've shown us how you shop.

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