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ohfourohnine
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"Nothing is real, nothing to get hung about."

Well, John, if you haven't laid the DBT debate issues to rest with this month's "As We See It", I don't know what more can be done. Gotta be your best shot yet especially in a literary sense. Again, my sympathies to the reviewers who forsake the pleasures of normal listening for the critical listening required to do their jobs.

Editor
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Re: "Nothing is real, nothing to get hung about."


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Well, John, if you haven't laid the DBT debate issues to rest with this month's "As We See It", I don't know what more can be done. Gotta be your best shot yet especially in a literary sense.

Thanks very much. I look forward to seeing what the "objectivists" have to say. :-)

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Buddha
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Re: "Nothing is real, nothing to get hung about."

I'm on the subjectivist side, right up until they start saying things like, "I look forward to what the "objectivists" have to say."

I've known enough subjectivists who think things like the magic chip yield "orders of magnitude improvement," and I've heard enough subjectivists talk about food-like sound that we can't exactly trust them, either.

Subjectivists seem to float from flavor to flavor, and objectivists insist there is only one flavor at all. Both are wrong.

I'm not one of those drum beaters who want you to ruin the review process, but a more frequent journey into comparing what different reviewers have to say about the same piece of gear, or getting a cable review done without the reviewer knowing what, if anything, was changed would be pretty nifty and enlightening.

Single blind is good enough for me, and not every time.

Hi fi buddies are well familiar with this type of listening. We do it all the time: "OK, this is cable A, see ya later..."

If hobbyists do this with alacrity and some frequency, then a few more reviews should exist in this context.

Admit it, that's kind of fun.

(I call B.S. in advance on the reviewers who claim nobody can touch their system but them. An absolutely friendless reviewer is not to be trusted to begin with.)

So, this should not be a war between two absolutist camps, it should be something that is fluid and tries to ask more questions about the whole process than either side is currently willing to do.

Buddha
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Re: "Nothing is real, nothing to get hung about."

Hi, Cliff!

You are absolutely dead right in what you say.

The twist I would add is that you are not claiming expertise in those frequency ranges or trying to convince me and evrybody that your findings are universally valid to the market in general, which is what reviewers, if they admit it or not, are doing.

I think the whole crux of the DBT vs. subjectivist war is that reviewers make claims, and people want to know their "bonafides."

Again, another disclaimer: One great "bonafide" that objectivists overly minimize with regard to subjective reviews is that we can go and listen to what a reviewer has listened to and make comparisons. If we do that over time, a bullshitter would tend to be found out. With the reviweres I like to read, I have not seen any such ground swell of dissent among us listeners. That's kind of a good thing to me.

Objectivists only seem to yell that subjective reviews take place in the first place, I don't think they actually consider the consistency of the reviewer to the degree that they should.

I think I learn to trust a reviewer not based on reading one review, but by reading many over time and then comparing his/her thoughts to my own.

ohfourohnine
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Re: "Nothing is real, nothing to get hung about."

Well, Bhudda, so far we've got you in favor of this group process, "hi-fi buddies" support for playing oraganized guessing games with gear. I suspect it is a generation thing - goes with organized uniformed soccer teams, rigid schedules, adult envolvement, bicycle helmets, that stuff. We all love playing with our gear. You might want to consider, however, that some of us see playing in a different and far less group oriented light than you do.

This afternoon, I installed a new speed control on my turntable. I've never had any discernable speed variances, I just looked at it as an insurance policy. I then spent about an hour listening to some favorite recordings the sound of which I believed were improved in terms of clarity of instrumental timbre. There is no reason I know of that that should be the result of the new element of my system. I attribute my reaction to being in a good mood or perhaps to my, at that time, being physically and/or mentally better able to appreciate what I was hearing. One thing I'm objectively certain of is that such factors are always present.

In a recent blog, Stephen was somewhat at his wits end. He detected differences in two different set-ups of his new system, but he couldn't manage to express those differences in words. On that basis, he wondered if the differences could then exist. Perhaps the real problem he and we encounter is the general belief in the importance of being able to put expressions of art into words, to make assessments, to debate, and to resolve conflicts. When asked once who was the greatest pianist of his time, Rubenstein was reported as having replied that not everything in life is a competition. I think he had a point.

Buddha
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Re: "Nothing is real, nothing to get hung about."

Hi, Cheapskate.

My only problem with what you describe is the good ol' audio placebo effect. It's rampant and insidious and wonderful and not real.

It's not about organized guessing, it's about listening. We claim to be all about listening, but too many audiophiles can't shut up and do it. They can't relenquish control long enough to sit and ponder what they hear. They want to hand over cash and sit down and immediately say things like, "Twice as clear," or "An order of magnitude improvement."

They need to know what happened in order to know what to hear.

Mostly, they are spouting pap.

What a pile of crap. Crap crap crap.

Add in peer pressure, pre-existing reports, group hysteria, and the effect of tossing a thousand bucks into something, and you will arrive at the source of too many of our listening reports of clever clocks and brilliant pebbles.

Dude, you mean to tell me that you never wonder about what you hear?

No curiosity other than only wanting to know what you are hearing at all times? No need to question your assumptions?

I don't buy that.

I love having a buddy put one speaker out of phase, or change a parameter and let me listen. We, as audiophiles, are all about what we hear, it's crucial to learn things that way - otherwise you'll become the poor schmuck who heard "different" and confused it with better and bought the out of phase speakers and regretted it a week later when you finally wised up.

Seriously, you are analytic enough to wanna go buy a speed control, but then not analytic enough to wonder if you could tell if it were in your equipment chain or not?

If so, great, I have some quarters with M&M's glued to them that I'll sell for only 80 bucks each.

The history of hi fi is littered with the bodies of placebo effect accessories, designs, etc...you will know them by the number of their initial endorsements which then trend toward zero over time.

Peter Belt, Harmonix quarters, frozen/cooked/demagnetized CD's...the list is long.

Critical listening should not always be based on what you know, sometimes it should be based in not knowing and learning to take it all in.

It's not about objective 100% of the time, or subjective 100% of the time. It should have a component of "what am I actually hearing here" from time to time.

How else would you expect an audiophile to hear a system and say, "Oh, the sounds out of phase," or some other thing? Magic? "Practice," experience, is key.

Otherwise, no need to listen. Just swipe your credit card whenever you want your system to please you a little more.

ohfourohnine
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Re: "Nothing is real, nothing to get hung about."

Hi again, Bhudda,

I got your point the first time - not 100% either way. I guess you did'nt get mine. Now that I read it over, I can see why. One of those too much wine at supper rambles. I'll try to do better.

I'll finally decide on the worth of a new toy after lots more than a couple hours of listening. I don't seriously believe that speed control had any immediate effect. It'll just turn out to be what I bought it to be, another layer of insurance against those nasty critters in the mains. I've just had a day when listening to the music was fun and for whatever of the myriad reasons my hearing of it was clear and deep and well defined. I'm sure it was me. We all have good days.

Now, I contend that if there had been two or three of us, each capable of good/better/best hearing acuity, our swapping stuff in and out and sharing opinions about the results would have no value beyond that of pleasant social interchange spiced with the competition which is ubiquitous in male discourse. Nothing wrong with chatting, mind you, but I can't see it as a way to judge how happy I ought to be with my system or what I might want to do to it next.

Putting the speakers out of phase? Get serious. Rush Limbaugh would catch that in a second and he hears, such as he does, through an implant.

Of course you're right - we all engage in "critical listening" a lot. I just think making it a group thing waters down its effectiveness.

No doubt we have the same religion, we just go to different churches.

Cheers.

Buddha
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Re: "Nothing is real, nothing to get hung about."

I bet we're more like same church, different pew!

Which of course, makes us mortal enemies and prevents YOU from ever going to audiophile Heaven, of course.

Which reminds me a an old seasonal chestnut of a joke which I shall take the ethnic sting out of (but think Friday this week): You know why God invented whiskey?

So audiophiles wouldn't rule the world.

Cheers, amigo!

nrchy
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Re: "Nothing is real, nothing to get hung about."

Is there a DBT method to prove double blind testing? It's all science, isn't it?

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Re: "Nothing is real, nothing to get hung about."

I would also agree with the balanced perspective. I think a reason why many of us like Sterophile reviews, is that they balance a very subjective description with clear, well explained measurements that try and analyze the source of many of the subjective reviewer claims. To that end I found JA's essay a tad defensive; I think most 'phile readers are neither objectivist nor subjectivist, and don't see the debate in those terms.

I would enjoy some double blind tests as a portion of a review, in a way similar to the seperate measurement section. While they are not the whole story I think they are useful in certain contexts which the writers are capable of providing. I am also at a loss as to why measurements are not included in cable reviews I have seen, specifically when companies make measureable claims about inductance, skin effect, etc. I would think that this would balance their presentation and lead to somewhat less bickering on this controversial subject...

ohfourohnine
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Re: "Nothing is real, nothing to get hung about."

Welcome. Since you're interested in DBT, you might want to have a look at an old and very long thread entitled "Why double blind testing is such a hot button"

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Re: "Nothing is real, nothing to get hung about."


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I would enjoy some double blind tests as a portion of a review, in a way similar to the seperate measurement section.

We did do blind tests in a series of speaker reviews throughout the first half of the 1990s. They were not popular enough with the readers to justify the considerable expense involved. As editor I have to concentrate the magazine's resources on what I believe the majority of our readers actually want to read.

Analysis of the results by individual listener, however, did give me useful information on the hearing abilities of each reviewer. Such tests test the listener as much as they test the product being listened to.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile

bengrbm
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Re: "Nothing is real, nothing to get hung about."

Thanks for the welcome, that is quite an intense thread...

The argument about expense is certainly valid. To be done well, such testing would seem to tax the magazines staff quite a bit, perhaps beyond any practicality. That said, audiophile interest in recent years seems to have taken off - maybe due to the home theater phenom. I think people might enjoy a special installment every once in a while which also discusses the merits/flaws of the process, but maybe I'm wrong. I personally would be interested to see if the measurements, which I thoroughly enjoy and trust, are more noticable in a DBT or a subjective review. Did that come out at all in the early '90s trials?

Thanks for the response, Ben

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