You are here

Log in or register to post comments
bjh
bjh's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 12 2005 - 2:33pm
Why should DBT interest me

As an audio enthusiast I like to be well informed. While a firm believer in the 'your own ears are the final arbiter' mantra I nonetheless an also interested in the opinions of others. Indeed I'm a big fan of subjective reviews, having consumer 1000s upon 1000s of them, found myself agreeing with some that intersected with my own experiences, and yes, came away from many such intersections thinking "could that guy be more wrong?". The latter is not necessarily a damnation of the reviewer's talent, many times it's a question of taste, since as to suppose that the 'sound' that I prefer invalidates the preferrences of others is simply hubris, foolishness, etc., etc.

But what does DBT or blind testing in general offer me. Where are the publications with the equipment reviews, the community forums when members contribute there own findings based upon their own DBT or other control tests. Oh I know legitimate controlled blind test are difficult, time consuming, expensive, etc. etc. ... but our fav hobby has been around for decades and decades ... where the beef?

So we're left with isolated tests, many of which appear to have reached rather startling results!; the story of JA way back when (sorry JA!) ditching a supposedly sweet sounding tube amplifier for another model that left him spending less time listening and more wondering why he spent less time listening comes to mind.

So frankly, unless someone can point me to the treasure trove, the mags., the reviews (gotta have reviews), then I afraid it ain't music to my ears ... just noise.

Buddha
Buddha's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 years 10 months ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 10:24am
Re: Why should DBT interest me

Great points!

As a consumers, whatever you believe to be true at your house is true. Bias or no, you are always right for you.

Other than fun and stimulation of conversation, DBT doesn't bring that much to the table of the end user. Happy is happy.

This debate seems to me to be more about quality control of reviewers than being something that is my burden in my home listening room. I don't make claims about my equipment for a living.

A reviewer, for better or worse or appropriately or not, makes his living by acting as a set of surrogate ears to decsribe audio gear - to help us decide things about pieces of gear we have never heard. They accept our money and claim to be neutral parties acting in our stead. (Although that function is diminishing in this era of "every piece I reviewed this year is great....;)....)

As reviewers, people have to exhibit listening skills that consumers may or may not have. A reviewer has to try and make his review relevant to everyone.

Since you aren't asking for my money to read about how gear sounds to you, you are off the hook. But they are asking for our money and ad money that comes from us buying their product, and they claim to be very accurate, precise, and "objective." So, why not insist they jump through a hoop here and there in order to validate that claim?

If that Johnathan Scully (Was that his name? Pardon my spelling) only sat in his ribbon chair pontificating about 10k per pair and up amps, how would we ever know he wasn't sitting at home each night chuckling about the suckers who read his reviews?

That's where blind testing comes in. Let's see what these guys are made of. Prove their skills, so to speak.

Heck, even wine critics aren't afraid of blind tasting, and their experience is even more subjective than a hi-fi reviewer's. They have no "platonic" reference like live music to compare wine to, they just describe what they experience in terms of bits and pieces of the wine's character as a whole for us to make judgements about. Those critics know the impact of seeing a bottle of Mouton being opened next to Two Buck Chuck and how it could cloud their evaluation, so why not demand audio equipment reviewers take that into consideration once in a while?

Not every time, but show us what they got, skills-wise!

300Binary
300Binary's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 3 weeks ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 10:47am
Re: Why should DBT interest me

I like listening to Music. I like thinking about listening to Music. I like thinking about other things, while listening to Music.

I also enjoy reading adventure stories about listening to Music on different systems. It is pleasant to think that I do something that is also enjoyed by other people.

DBT is a research technique to assign numerical values to human perceptions of events. Both the units under test and the testers can be numerically analyzed and compared. Stories about these circuses are often amusing. We seek to understand things we enjoy as much as we seek to enjoy what we understand.

Some people seek to pretend they understand more than other people. Age and humility reassure us that no one understands very much, so it is simply polite not to get up on a soapbox and point at the fools. You cannot point to the wrong person. We are all fools. Even the guys with really cool and expensive pointing devices.

Music does not require us to pass any tests to give us pleasure. Any requirements for testing come from our fear of being exposed as a fool. We all fear that truth

smejias
smejias's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 9 months ago
Joined: Aug 25 2005 - 10:29am
Re: Why should DBT interest me


Quote:
I like listening to Music. I like thinking about listening to Music. I like thinking about other things, while listening to Music.

I also enjoy reading adventure stories about listening to Music on different systems. It is pleasant to think that I do something that is also enjoyed by other people.

DBT is a research technique to assign numerical values to human perceptions of events. Both the units under test and the testers can be numerically analyzed and compared. Stories about these circuses are often amusing. We seek to understand things we enjoy as much as we seek to enjoy what we understand.

Some people seek to pretend they understand more than other people. Age and humility reassure us that no one understands very much, so it is simply polite not to get up on a soapbox and point at the fools. You cannot point to the wrong person. We are all fools. Even the guys with really cool and expensive pointing devices.

Music does not require us to pass any tests to give us pleasure. Any requirements for testing come from our fear of being exposed as a fool. We all fear that truth

I enjoyed this post; it made me smile.

Buddha
Buddha's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 years 10 months ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 10:24am
Re: Why should DBT interest me


Quote:

On the issue of reviews having to meet highter standard than us normal listerners I would say this is pure folly as well. Fact is that most reviews DO NOT have better hearing than the average Joe, nor do they require such special gifts to perform their task effectively. Take the case of a mechanic. You roll in with your car exhibiting some strange noise. You know damn well it ain't normal but haven't got a clue what it might be. The mechanic hears the same thing but owing to greater experience with things that go wrong and the sounds associated with them makes an educated guess as to the problem.

I'm mostly with you, but aren't there some sort of objective criteria this mechanic must satisfy with regard to competencey?

Can he just sleep at a Holiday In Express and pop open a stall at the Mercedes/Ford/Whatever dealership and claim his skills are as good as yours when it comes to "hearing" what's wrong with my car?

Sure, we can both hear the same sound, but it's his job, as you say, to diagnose the situation. I want a guy who has the skills to get it right the first time and not just randomly start assigning problems and replacing parts - I expect him to not only get it right, but get it right with proficiency.

Interestingly, most of their work is done "blind" as well. They are sitting there minding their own business until you come in and toss your noise at them. They don't know if you just switched plug wires or installed a new canooter valve for the wrong car - they are diagnostitions, just like a good reviewer should be.

So, anyway, I didn't mean to imply that blind testing is required for every review, but it should be part of the lexicon of the hobby.

I also don't buy into the BS that only DBT is allowed. These aren't counting horses.

Send the same cable/component to 6 reviewers and don't let them compare notes before submitting a review, that would make a great article!

Don't tell a reviewer what cable or tweak (or nothing) was performed and then see what he can hear, another great article!

Yes, I know the bottom line is music making us smile, but then why bother with the audio press at all? It's the audio press who have laid claim to to the ability to discern at the highest level, so why treat them like the leaders of a faith instead of asking for better bonafides?

Honestly, almost any reviewer could secretly be deaf and write what he writes. I want to see how much of a given reviewer's work is fiction!

Buddha
Buddha's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 years 10 months ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 10:24am
Re: Why should DBT interest me

I screwed up an edit, pardon the double post.

I've seen so many posts turn to flames already that I just wanted to make sure to let you know this is all meant in good humor.

Too bad we can't all sit and drink our berevage of choice and have this discussion!

bjh
bjh's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 12 2005 - 2:33pm
Re: Why should DBT interest me

Well, sticking to the metaphor, I believe we are now steering the topic in new direction. Not that I mind as avoiding DBT pot holes is only prudent as far as I'm concerned.

In terms of objective criteria for qualifying reviewers it should be clear that I consider measuring hearing acuity to be of little utility, clear because I don't think anything more than average hearing to be required.

In my case the qualifications of importance are things that sadly cannot be ascertained by some simple objective tests ... honesty, integrity, intelligence, and not least by any means, a clear bias in favor of us Audiophile Joes vs. say the good of the manufactures.

Now just because there are no easy objective tests doesn't imply that we are faced with the unknowable. The happy news is that many in the audio press have a prodigious gift for gab, routinely produce loquacious editorial content not only in the designated sections of their publication but routinely in the reviews as well. They even have a propensity to show up on public forums (like this one) to delight us with yet more ... ya can't shut em' up

This is the material that one must examine to assign value judgements. For example by such means I come to the conclusion that one web based publication is little more than an advertizing firm for manufacturers (don't ask, my lips are sealed), that a certain 'journalist' has never encountered a magical tweak that does instantly qualify as a vehicle to promote his notoriety (ditto), and so on.

Sure this hobby has its fair share of wacky participants. But respectively, gravitating toward DBT as the possible cure is, IMHO, about as productive as taking a nose dive into a black hole.

Opps, I stepped out of the metaphor, hmmmm? how about ... To escape the psychopath in the passenger seat I jumped into the back seat with the schizophrenic, unfortunately leaving the wheel unattended ... but all ended well because when we hit the tree the psychopath was killed and the schizophrenic? he wasn't even aware we had left the road

arnyk
arnyk's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 9:36am
Re: Why should DBT interest me

>But what does DBT or blind testing in general offer me.

While its called blind testing, the technology of reliable listening tests is more than just blind tests. The goal of this technology is obtaining test results with maximum sensitivity, maximum reliable information, and maximum assuredness that the outcome of the test is understandable.

The thee most important fundamentals of modern reliable listening test technology are:

(1) Level matching
(2) Time synchronization
(3) Bias controls

The entire list of modern requirements for doing the best possible listening test are posted at http://www.pcabx.com/index.htm as a sidebar entitled "10 Requirements for Sensitive and Reliable Listening Tests".

>Where are the publications with the equipment reviews,

All over the place, some public some private. Some are in corporate reports, organizational reports, published scientific papers, popular publications, web sites, etc.

> the community forums when members contribute there own findings based upon their own DBT or other control tests.

Probably the best such community forum is: http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index.php

Oh I know legitimate controlled blind test are difficult, time consuming, expensive, etc. etc.

Reliable listening tests can be done for very little out-of-pocket expense using programs and data files that can be downloade for free from www.pcabx.com .

>... but our fav hobby has been around for decades and decades ... where the beef?

Someplace else then where you've been looking, or so it seems! ;-)

bjh
bjh's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 12 2005 - 2:33pm
Re: Why should DBT interest me


Quote:
>>Where are the publications with the equipment reviews,

All over the place, some public some private. Some are in corporate reports, organizational reports, published scientific papers, popular publications, web sites, etc.

Couldn't you be a little more specific. What I'm looking for is comparisons of readily available consumer audiophile gear, amplifiers, pre-amps, cables. Surely a great number of comparisons with such items have been conducted (see my ping to you).

I mean, look, if you want to convince audiophiles of the substance of DBT claims, such as the frivolity of the high cost hi-end, such comparisons would have enormous appeal.

Maybe it's the case that the DBT community, being scientific oriented generally, has overlooked the obvious in terms of getting the good word out. For example, suppose you were to grab a typical review of a pre-amplifier from Stereophile, one that contained sonic comparisons with another readily obtained model. You do a DBT and viola, no discernible differences.

Now can you imagine writing this up in a some popular publication, the write up making reference to the flowery subjective language of the original review, followed with an elaborate description of the fine DBT conducted, and triumphantly concluding with the "no discernible differences" conclusion.

It has never occurred to anyone in the DBT community that this is precisely the sort of thing that's required to gain credence with audiophiles in general, that this would be far more convincing than visiting their haunts with nothing more to offer them than suggesting that it must be due to specious reasons, e.g. vanity, pride or whatever, that they perceive difference where none in fact exist? Is it a case of excessive sensitivity to the feelings of the subjective crowd?

Again, I would think that you are personally aware of a number of such comparisons, comparisons of consumer gear claimed to exhibit discernible sonic qualities by some ... THAT DON'T, to have instilled in you the confidence to say many of the things we have recently witnessed.

For that matter if you can't recall any specific samples from memory it shouldn't be difficult for someone with your fine reputation in the DBT community to obtain one. For example you could post a solicitation for examples on a few Internet forums, e.g.:

Hey guys its Arny, I'm compiling a list of DBTs of pre-amplifiers and cables where no discernible differences were detected. Would you help me out and send in the ones you know of, not the reports, just the manufacture and model numbers.

I'm sure the responses will come flying in! I could give you my email address and take on the task of compiling the list. I admit it is presumptuous for me to ask you to burden yourself, but on the other hand surely this involves less effort on you part than what we have just witnessed, slugging it out with the subjective die-hards, if I can put it that way.

And then, in the manner described in the ping, we (not necessarily you personally of course), could proceed to do something that has eluded the great DBT debate thus far ... get somewhere.

arnyk
arnyk's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 9:36am
Re: Why should DBT interest me

>What I'm looking for is comparisons of readily available consumer audiophile gear, amplifiers, pre-amps, cables. Surely a great number of comparisons with such items have been conducted (see my ping to you).

Given the total size of the audio equipment market, and the incredible number of possible comparisons,the total number of DBT comparisons is relatively small.

>I mean, look, if you want to convince audiophiles of the substance of DBT claims,

A futile goal, the how many pursue their beliefs with religious fervor and belief.

>such as the frivolity of the high cost hi-end, such comparisons would have enormous appeal.

That would be a straw man since I pointed out in another post, I don't think that all of high end audio is frivolous.

>For example, suppose you were to grab a typical review of a pre-amplifier from Stereophile, one that contained sonic comparisons with another readily obtained model. You do a DBT and viola, no discernible differences.

The "no discerable differences" outcome is not a given. For example, one or both of the preamps might have audible frequency response differences. Voila, positive outcome.

>It has never occurred to anyone in the DBT community that this is precisely the sort of thing that's required to gain credence with audiophiles in general, that this would be far more convincing than visiting their haunts with nothing more to offer them than suggesting that it must be due to specious reasons, e.g. vanity, pride or whatever, that they perceive difference where none in fact exist? Is it a case of excessive sensitivity to the feelings of the subjective crowd?

If you check the archives of Stereo Review (now Sound And Vision) you'll find that in the late 1980s they did a series of DBT-based articles that did compare some high end and mid-fi components, with results of the kind you allude to.

I discern no widespread lasting results of their efforts. I conclude that the hypothesis that audiophiles could be convince of the desirability of DBTs with a reasonable amount of effort was not supported by the outcome.

>Again, I would think that you are personally aware of a number of such comparisons, comparisons of consumer gear claimed to exhibit discernible sonic qualities by some ... THAT DON'T, to have instilled in you the confidence to say many of the things we have recently witnessed.

I'm not all that interested in consumer audio these days. Most of my efforts go into the far more interactive forms of audio endeavor such as live sound and live recording.

>Hey guys its Arny, I'm compiling a list of DBTs of pre-amplifiers and cables where no discernible differences were detected. Would you help me out and send in the ones you know of, not the reports, just the manufacture and model numbers.

Again you seem to have the mistaken idea that my goal is to assemble a large collection of "no differences" outcomes.

In fact I'm a lot more interested in comparisons where a positive outcome was found. If you check out the section of my www.pcabx.com web site that deals with comparisons of various commercial audio products, you will find that I devoted quite a bit of effort to determining what it takes to get a positive outcome in such listening tests.

bjh
bjh's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 12 2005 - 2:33pm
Re: Why should DBT interest me

I have enjoyed the opportunity to make my request from an acknowledged authority in the DBT field. For me it has been a validation of much of what I have surmised from discussing the topic at length with members at the Audio Asylum; which is not to say that the AA is completely devoid of members that possess valuable and legitimate insights into the field, and even practical experience ... Jon Risch comes to mind.

No doubt you will disagree with my evaluation but in a nutshell I conclude that in terms of practical tools that may benefit the audiophile at large (component selection to mention but one) that the DBT community offers virtually nothing.

It seems more than ironic to me that for all the talk of legitimacy (you'd no doubt find many of the claims of the casual DBT proponents amusing to the point where you'd considered your disinterest in consumer hi-end audio a blessing) that where the discipline meets the real world of consumer audio that virtually no one does them, DTBs that is. This helps to explain why we are treated to, as one of the hot topics deJour (ok a few days ago), the spectacle of recognized industry participants arguing over the results of tests that were conducted some 30 years ago!

Personally I have my own dark opinion as to why this is the case. You see I believe that were the DBT community to produce a list of consumer component comparisons some of the findings would be so controversial that the mainstream review community would jump into the game, design their own blind tests with the fundamental elements of lack of bias, DUT anonymity, etc. and quickly demonstrate that the current SOTA in DBT methodology is fatally flawed.

arnyk
arnyk's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 9:36am
Re: Why should DBT interest me

>For me it has been a validation of much of what I have surmised from discussing the topic at length with members at the Audio Asylum; which is not to say that the AA is completely devoid of members that possess valuable and legitimate insights into the field, and even practical experience ... Jon Risch comes to mind.

Given that personal attacts are proscribed around here, there's not a lot I can say about him here.

>I conclude that in terms of practical tools that may benefit the audiophile at large (component selection to mention but one) that the DBT community offers virtually nothing.

That would be a personal conclusion that I would prefer to do nothing to disturb.

>You see I believe that were the DBT community to produce a list of consumer component comparisons some of the findings would be so controversial that the mainstream review community would jump into the game, design their own blind tests with the fundamental elements of lack of bias, DUT anonymity, etc. and quickly demonstrate that the current SOTA in DBT methodology is fatally flawed.

The lack of bias and control over the outcome that is inherent in bias-controlled testing would appear to be antithetical to the business needs of the high end audio reviewing business as it presently exists.

bjh
bjh's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 12 2005 - 2:33pm
Re: Why should DBT interest me


Quote:
That would be a personal conclusion that I would prefer to do nothing to disturb.

Indeed, and it would appear to be the case for most in your field.

I only wish that casual DBT proponents would spend their time prodding DBT/ABX practioneers out of their slumber with respect to evaluating hi-end components rather than evangelizing the virtues of the methodology to poor audiophiles!

Cheers,

arnyk
arnyk's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 9:36am
Re: Why should DBT interest me

>I only wish that casual DBT proponents would spend their time prodding DBT/ABX practioneers out of their slumber with respect to evaluating hi-end components rather than evangelizing the virtues of the methodology to poor audiophiles!

Many of us already been there and done that. www.pcabx.com continues to be discovered, explored, and sucessful at making converts by passive means.

300Binary
300Binary's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 3 weeks ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 10:47am
Re: Why should DBT interest me

I tried pcabx and it did not thrill me.

Nothing is perfect for everyone

Sigh.

arnyk
arnyk's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 9:36am
Re: Why should DBT interest me

> tried pcabx and it did not thrill me.

Let me recommend driving well over the speed limit in a hazardous area, if you are looking for thrills. I'm thinking of California state road 78 below Julian. ;-)

300Binary
300Binary's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 3 weeks ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 10:47am
Re: Why should DBT interest me

Listening to Music thrills me. Playing with gizmo critic machineries does not.

You may be winning every battle, but, have lost the war.

arnyk
arnyk's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 9:36am
Re: Why should DBT interest me

>Listening to Music thrills me. Playing with gizmo critic machineries does not.

The same criticism can be applied equally well to any attempt to compare two pieces of equipment by any means, no?

300Binary
300Binary's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 3 weeks ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 10:47am
Re: Why should DBT interest me

No. I just listen and enjoy. Then I modify the system. Then I listen and enjoy. If I occasionally take a wrong turn, I just go back one step. I am not in a hurry to discover the absoute truth, just enjoyng the trip down the audio stream. You demand absolute proof, NOW! Sigh. I do not. I like Music. The toys are fun, too, but are not my focus every moment

If you want to relax and enjoy life, try my Yahoo! group:

Dim Bulb Ear Candy

Norm Strong
Norm Strong's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 2 2005 - 11:06am
Re: Why should DBT interest me

I doubt that a DBT would be of any interest to you, based on your comments. Being an engineer, I find them fascinating. Differences that masquerade as "night & day" suddenly become so difficult to hear that the mere stress of listening obscures them.

Draw your own conclusions.

Norm Strong

bjh
bjh's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 12 2005 - 2:33pm
Re: Why should DBT interest me


Quote:
I doubt that a DBT would be of any interest to you, based on your comments. Being an engineer, I find them fascinating. Differences that masquerade as "night & day" suddenly become so difficult to hear that the mere stress of listening obscures them.

Draw your own conclusions.

Norm Strong

I can only surmise that you didn't study the entire thread, in particular the exchanges with the authority on the topic.

You see, had you, I imagine that you would be at least as concerned as me, actually *more* concerned given your professional affiliation, with the lack of empirical data that seems to be one of the most distinguishing characteristic of the whole DBT/ABX scientific methodology.

I supoose if DBT/ABX were an abstract theory or a philosophy that would be one thing, but I believe, and please correct me if I'm worong, it's actually a testing methodology, a *tool* to perform, you know ... tests!

Draw your own conclusions.

Kerr
Kerr's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Oct 13 2005 - 5:56am
Re: Why should DBT interest me

I find DBT's fascinating as well. If they are obscuring subtle differences between components, I'd be inclined to believe there is a fatal flaw somewhere in the methodology. I'm still researching this phenomenon and so far, it's inconclusive. It certainly makes for a nice debate! One side trusts their senses and one side is convinced that at least much of the world of audio is a fraud... very interesting!

Kerr
Kerr's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Oct 13 2005 - 5:56am
Re: Why should DBT interest me

I agree completely, bjh. I think the problem is that those folks most willing to engage in DBT's are those who are prone to believe there are no sonic differences while those that do believe subtle differences exist aren't concerned with DBT.

As a skeptic of DBT, I would be much more interested in the outcome of a test taken by yourself than one taken by a DBT cultist. But I presume you trust your senses at this point and I couple it with the point of your last post which I read as "...why should we believe DBT's have merit when there is a lack of believable empirical evidence?".

There is also the question of whether DBT's are sensitive enough and it may have been yourself or Clark Johnsen or someone that posited that DBT's will have to endure a rigorous testing to show sensitivity... from a test between Bose Acoustimass vs, say, Magnepan 20.1's all the way down to speaker wire A vs speaker wire B... and determine at what point the differences become imaginary. No small request!

gkc
gkc's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Feb 24 2006 - 11:51am
Re: Why should DBT interest me

You're not pissing anyone off, Anonymous. If some form of blind testing gives you the assurance you need, then that's the method for you. I think your hypothetical example is rigged, though, as most are. You set up an artificial situation ("obvious" differences sighted, extremely subtle or non-existent differences blindfolded) that is irrelevant to the way we really listen at home. If you could find a way to live with a component or system for a month or so while blindfolded, then the test would be more valid. But who can do this? Blindfolded tests are too short-term, by necessity, to be useful for me. I have over 4000 CD's and LP's, and I need considerable time to assess how the component reacts to different listening situations. No, I don't have to listen to every recording in my collection, but I STILL need a LOT more time than I can spend blindfolded. Besides, I'm going to have to look at the damned thing after I buy it, so I may as well get used to its appearance while I'm in the evaluation stage. Besides, I'm not impressed with brand names, anyway, and if the Adcom sounds better than the Krell, so much the better. If the Krell sounds better, then (sigh) I'll just have to pay more. You sound a little insecure, like you have to have some pseudo-scientific method to validate your final choices. Good luck in finding the perfect blind-test set-up, though, as I can't even begin to imagine one that would satisfy me...I don't WANT anybody else in the room when I'm trying to concentrate. Cheers, Clifton

Jim Tavegia
Jim Tavegia's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 4:27pm
Re: Why should DBT interest me

I agree. What I find most distressing is that phono playback is more problematic. It seems that the RIAA playback curve is so different disc to disc. It may be that one phono stage may not be enough for those of us really into vinyl.

I have some discs that are spectacular and others that sound thin (60s classical and some rock as well). It may be that a stage like the Manley SteelHead with all of its adjustments may be just the ticket.

We also know that CD quality can be all over the place as well, so maybe one system may be most accurate, but may not be the most fun on every disc we own. Having all the flaws revealed is not necessarily totally enjoyable. Just ask any actress in HD TV land who is demanding "soft focus" on her closeups now.

ps. I was reading an old Time magazine article on film makers going to digital technology instead of film. M. Night Shyamalan's argument against digital "filming" was startlingly close to our vinyl(analogue) vs CD debate. He thought you were robbing the performance of its humanity. Really!

The change to digital is a huge cost savings in distribution and editing. There is also a fear of easier pirating, but with all the duplicating from overseas going on already I am afraid the horse is already way out of the barn.

Editor
Editor's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 9 months ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 8:56am
Re: Why should DBT interest me


Quote:
I have some discs that are spectacular and others that sound thin (60s classical and some rock as well).

I suspect those discs are thin-sounding because the mastering engineer either mono'd the low frequencies or rolled them off prematurely to prevent excessive vertical modulation, Jim.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Jim Tavegia
Jim Tavegia's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 4:27pm
Re: Why should DBT interest me

John,

Thanks for the reply. What is interesting is that I have the LP and the NEW RCA SACD of Chopin/Rubinstein, and although I have enjoyed the LP, you can tell that the recording engineers captured much more than what is on the LP. I really am enjoying these old recordings in SACD.

Analogue tape can still sound pretty magical and further proof of that was your K622 effort. The "business" is still about people isn't it?

Kind of like being the slowest guy on the 400 meter track relay team and everyone handing me a comforatble lead, and then I drop the ball as it were on the closing lap, and with full implementation of my "lead feet" lose the race.

I would bet that disc cutting has got to be a very tough job to do right. Isn't MF doing a tour at HE on this subject?

Regards,

gkc
gkc's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Feb 24 2006 - 11:51am
Re: Why should DBT interest me

I WANT my reviewers sighted. I want to know how the stuff looks, feels, and (of course) sounds. I want to know about how it reacts to different types of software (an extremely important point you didn't address). As a group, Stereophile reviewers give me all this information. I can interpolate their brand prejudices into my own situation because I can read, and they can write. I don't want a rag that relies on the pseudo-scientific, pseudo-objective conclusions that are begged by the blind approach. I want them to listen to components the way I listen to them. I want to know their biases, negative and positive. If you published a magazine that relied on blind testing, I wouldn't subscribe, because it would be not only boring, but also biased in ITS own way. You can't escape bias in ANY evaluative endeavor, and I would prefer to have all the biases, overt and latent, embedded in the writer's text, for ME to evaluate. All of the Stereophile reviewers are open, honest, and thorough as to their prejudices, which is why I subscribe. I am sorry you cannot audition components in your home. As for your desire to have a magazine that follows a methodology YOU favor? I can only assume it doesn't exist because trial balloons have indicated it wouldn't sell...perhaps this is the entrepreneurial opportunity of a lifetime for you. You can be the first! Happy listening, blind or otherwise. Clifton

ChrisS
ChrisS's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 hour 26 min ago
Joined: Mar 6 2006 - 8:42pm
Re: Why should DBT interest me

Hi Anonymous,
Did you happen to read all the posts under "Why Blind Testing (is) such a HOT Button?" as well as "Why Blind Testing is NOT such a hot button with..."? Does it not make sense that because we all hear so differently and that we react so differently when music is used as the test material, that the largest source of uncontrolled variance (anything that can change the outcome of a test or measurement) is ourselves, the "Listener"?
Let's say I set up a "proper" double blind test according to your methodology, iron-clad as far as any "objective" observer can see, but that I'm the only listerner. Would you choose my findings if you knew that I'm over 50 years old with a "slight" hearing problem and my musical taste tends towards jazz and Bob Dylan? I'm curious to know why you think a double blind test with one listener (or even a small group of listeners) can be valid when only one source of variance is controlled but nothing else. Have a look at the last few issues of UHF (Ultra High Fidelity) Magazine, a Canadian publication. The reviewers use single blind testing to sort out some speaker cables and interconnects that result in some interesting and informative findings but without the pretention of "Science". I enjoy UHF and Clifton has quite succinctly described why I like Stereophile as well.

rogergraham
rogergraham's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: May 8 2006 - 7:23am
Re: Why should DBT interest me


Quote:
I don't want a rag that relies on the pseudo-scientific, pseudo-objective conclusions that are begged by the blind approach. I want them to listen to components the way I listen to them. I want to know their biases, negative and positive.

Hi Clifton, it's interesting that you dismiss the only objective, scientific process there is, as being not scientific and not objective!

If you want to read reviews that are biased, then you're in heaven, because obviously all sighted reviews are coloured by unintentional bias. That just can't be helped - it's not a slight on any reviewer's integrity. However, I am sure that there are a lot of people like me who would prefer a review that didn't suffer from such biases, unintentional or subconscious or otherwise.

Remember, we would have the same reviewers, with the same listening skills, with the same writing skills - the only difference would be that we would be reading *only* what they hear, not what they hear coloured by their knowledge of what they are listening to. I simply cannot see how you could argue that this isn't the best way for the *listening* part of the testing to be performed.

(That is, your point about what the equipment feels like and looks like is irrelevant - we can happily let the reviewer see and feel the equipment *after* they have written the listening part of their review, just like JA does his measurements *after*, and independent of, the review. THEN they can let their biases run free! I'm sure you wouldn't argue that JA's measurements should be known to the reviewer before the listening tests, as they would colour the reviewer's judgement - so why argue that the reviewer's thoughts should be coloured by knowing the brand/price/etc of the equipment?)

Clearly this is a religious style argument where neither one of us can convince the other of the logic of our positions. I find it as bizarre that you want your reviews to be biassed and coloured, as you (no doubt) find it bizarre that I want honest independent uncoloured reviews!

Happy listening!

rogergraham
rogergraham's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: May 8 2006 - 7:23am
Re: Why should DBT interest me


Quote:
the largest source of uncontrolled variance (anything that can change the outcome of a test or measurement) is ourselves, the "Listener"?
... Would you choose my findings if you knew that I'm over 50 years old with a "slight" hearing problem and my musical taste tends towards jazz and Bob Dylan?

Hi Chris, and thanks for your reply! As I said in my reply to Clifton, I'm sure we can never make each other see the light, but the chats are interesting nevertheless

In this case, I fail to see your point. Sure, every reviewer is different, but that is already the case. All we are doing by blinding the reviewer is taking away one source of bias, i.e. knowing the brand/price/reputation of what they are listening to. Clearly, this approach will improve the objectivity of the listening test. So to repeat myself, I am just baffled by the fact that anyone would argue that reviews should be biassed and coloured, when they could so easily be that much more objective?!

We can still read the review safe in the knowledge that the reviewer is 50yo with slight hearing problem who prefers jazz; that's simply irrelevant to the point about reducing bias in the review. And we'd still read as many reviews as we could get our hands on, to get a spread of honest, objective, uncoloured, unbiassed opinions. Heaven (for me)!

So I'd turn your question back on you - I'm curious to know why you'd choose any reviewer's findings when you know that their listening findings* are unavoidably coloured by the pre-knowledge of what they're listening to? No-one can seem to answer that simple question.

Also, I have not read the UHF article you refer to, so I cannot comment directly. But what is interesting is your statement that it reports some interesting and informative findings but without the pretention of "Science". Why do you find an objective process "pretentious", when it is precisely the opposite - that is, it is trying to get to the heart of the matter, get rid of pretention? That seems completely back-to-front to me!

Cheerio,
Roger

* as opposed to their thoughts on build quality, looks, ease of use etc, which can be performed and written up after the blind listening test.

Buddha
Buddha's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 years 10 months ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 10:24am
Re: Why should DBT interest me

While still not a reader who requires "INSTANTANEOUS" DBT, for many of the reasons already mentioned, I do think "leisurely" DBT should not be so feared by the trade press.

Not knowing which cable, if any, has been changed for a month-long (or however long) review seems entirely valid - giving the reviewer plenty of low key listening time, repetition of material, and demo music - for an honest review.

I can't actually come up with a reason why any cable review shouldn't be done blind.

It gets tougher with other gear, so I forgive sighted reviews.

I'd like to see reviewers with black boxes which would allow for different amps to be placed in the system and be listened to blind, etc...

What really distresses me is the fact that reviewers react so strongly and so negatively to talk of blind listening. No offense, but I ask myself one question when this comes up:

How does a reviewer's reaction/answer to this question differ from how a fake or charlatan would answer?

If the two never give any answers that would differentiate between them, then how does the reviewing community differentiate itself?

To be fair, the same goes for the DBT zealots who have never heard any DBT that revealed a difference. If they can't establish a positive control, then they are as bad as the "trust me" reviewing fakirs.

Both sides fail to demonstrate the proper positive energy, curiosity, and excitement that the notion of DBT should bring out as a way to challenge ourselves and EXPLORE what happens when we listen sighted or blind.

At this point, the iconoclasts railing at each other are both merely screaming their own religion. I can get that on Fox News.

ChrisS
ChrisS's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 hour 26 min ago
Joined: Mar 6 2006 - 8:42pm
Re: Why should DBT interest me

Hi Roger,

What most people don't understand about DBT is that it's a method used in research to control not just one source of variation, but as many as possible. Ideally in medical research, a huge number of trials should be performed on a large test group to generate meaningful results. For example, if you're testing a new drug for arthritis or depression, it doesn't make sense to test people who don't have arthritis in the first case or have a diagnosis of schizophrenia in the second. So you target your test group to control variabilty in order to have meaningful results (large randomized test groups are often used to control individual variability where changes in specific medical conditions are not being tested). To generate statistical significance, you have to have a large test and control groups and undergo many trials. For example, if 5 out of 10 people suffer heart attacks while using an experimental arthritis drug or 1 out of 10 commit suicide after taking one dose of a new anti-depressant, these medications wouldn't see the light of day outside a lab. However, if the test group is much larger like in the thousands, then the pharmaceutical company exec's can decide how many lawsuits they can handle and put their product on the market (please excuse me, if I have a slight case of cynicism...)

Now how does this apply to audio component testing? I don't think it's too hard to show that how each of us hear, whether it's test tones, music, or the sounds in a forest, is totally unique to each of us. Bias is not just pre-conception, preferences and degree of experience. It's also biological, physiological and neuorological. The only way you might control for these variances, for example, is to target a large group of 50 year olds with a slight hearing problem who like to listen to jazz (50's and 60's in particular). Or test an even larger randomized group. Take an extreme example- my mother-in-law was profoundly deaf for many years until she received a cochlear implant about 4 years ago. Her doctor has said that she's had the best response of anyone's who had this implant, but how would you "review" the sound of an audio component to someone like her? So it doesn't matter how long any one reviewer undergoes double blind testing with any audio component, the results are only meaningful to that one person and totally irrelevant to me. Let's say two reviewers test the same components. What if one reviewer hears a difference and the other doesn't? What if neither hears a difference, but a third one does? What about both hearing a difference, but can't agree on the difference and neither likes what they hear anyways.... Where's the objectivity and science (ie. statistically significant and meaningful results) in that? The pretense is the use of a research metodology in a very inadequate and inappropriate manner and claim "objectivity". But I didn't say "blind testing" was totally useless or that I object to "objectivity"... If you do look at the articles in UHF, you'll see that a small panel of reviewers (two listening and one switching the components) use single blind testing in a very credible and engaging manner. Although far from being "scientific", I am interested enough to listen to these components for myself. I read Stereophile because I know the biases of each of the reviewers, what they use for reference equipment, their musical tastes, etc. and I enjoy how they write about what they hear. I don't believe for one minute that any of them will hear exactly the way I hear or enjoy the same music as I do , but their reviews gives me a place to start. Double blind testing done properly is way too cumbersome and uses way too many resources for the kind of information this method generates and you don't even want that kind of information in a newstand magazine, unless you like reading scientific journals. I'd go along with Buddha insofar as single blind testing can be a way of checking reviewers' perceptions of particular components, but what the writers of Stereophile do, like the folks who preview movies for us, taste wine, or put new automobiles through their paces, they do well.

I think a good cure for all DBT proponents is to make them take undergraduate courses in "Perception" and "Statistical Research Methods"....Otherwise, people keep doing what John Atkinson calls in the Apr'06 issue "Bad Science".

gkc
gkc's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Feb 24 2006 - 11:51am
Re: Why should DBT interest me

Roger, there is no "objective, scientific process" for evaluating one's subjective reaction to music listening, either live or in the home. That is why I used the terms "pseudo-scientific" and "pseudo-objective." The "science" and "objectivity" come into play only when measuring abstract graphic and numeric representations of aural performance, not the aural performance itself. As Locke (and later Kant) admitted, one cannot get at "primary qualities of experience," (Kant's "dinge-an-sich" ) through the measurement of abstract "secondary qualities." Or, as that great skeptic concerning the scientific claims of his time on all-encompassing "truth," William Blake, noted, "Bring out Number, Weight, and Measure in a year of Dearth." Music is alive, measured abstractions dead. And not immune to error. To me, this is a dead issue. For some reason, you feel compelled to preach the gospel of pseudo-science and make-believe objectivity. Hence the use of "should" in the beginning of this thread. Don't you feel a bit of cognitive dissonance in displaying such evangelical zeal during your conversion attempts? I don't mind bias in my favorite reviews because they are embedded in text, and I am confident that I can decode the text, accustomed as I am to reading all types of language. Which brings up the rather messy issue of language, doesn't it: blind or sighted, the experience must be shaped by language, right? I suppose, in the interests of "science," we could invent numeric equivalents and encode the experience into still another layer of abstraction, thus skirting the ambiguities inherent in discourse.

Buddha notes that cables, being somewhat unobtrusive in a sight layout dominated by racks, speakers, and electronic boxes, might be subject to blind testing. Perhaps. But even in this isolated case, switching cables and keeping track of which is which require somewhat cumbersome logistics. Eventually, you will have to find out which is which, and then you will be working from memory, not presence. Let me see, was it the Nordost or the Cardas that I REMEMBER as more open with the Stravinsky... or was that the Schoenberg? Damn, I can't remember. What do you MEAN you don't understand what I mean by "more open"? And etc. This is all just a waste of good listening time. I think I'll just trust all 5 of my senses, thank you. Or was that 6? Don't we all have a third ear concerning music?

I find you somewhat naive in your applications of the words "scientific" and "objective" to any activity that takes place in the dark. Do you lack confidence in your own ability to evaluate with eyes wide open? Please do not foist that insecurity on me and declare it to be in the interests of science. Psychologists (science or pseudo-science?) call that "projection." I don't have any problems assessing my musical experiences at a concert hall OR in a listening room. If you do, maybe you should seek qualified help. Yours in broad daylight, Clifton.

Jim Tavegia
Jim Tavegia's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 4:27pm
Re: Why should DBT interest me

What I always find interesting in medical trials is that some patients given placebos seem to feel or see improvement when none should be evident. I am not sure if the same effect could or would happen in audio, although I think someone "wanting" an improvement could tip the scales. WE ARE HUMAN.

I have taken part in medical studies for new asthma drugs when I needed help and my current meds were not doing the job. Some in our group did get placebos just to try to validate the evidence.

I go back to one of ADs tests of the new Audioquest cables with batteries, which he liked very much without the batteries in the "circuit", if that claim could be made in trying to get that unruly dialectric organized. When I look at his experience, the high quality of his system, his understanding of "live" music being a musician himself, and what I sense is pure, unadulterated honesty, I would think the truth can be found.

I do not think that wholesale changes would work. A component at a time or a cable at a time would be preferred as better science I would think. Wholesale changes should make much larger sonic changes.

I personally would try it (DBT) just to test my own powers of perception and see if it worked for me. I would not look to buy equipment this way as I believe a longer audition is needed on varying software to really make a buying decision.

Plus, at my age I am so over the trying to hear Gnat Farts at 50 feet. There is too much music and so little time.

Regards,

stereophillips
stereophillips's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 13 2005 - 10:55am
Re: Why should DBT interest me


Quote:
Plus, at my age I am so over the trying to hear Gnat Farts at 50 feet. There is too much music and so little time.

Hearing a gnat fart once is sort of interesting. However, once you've gotten past the novelty value, it's just a gnat farting and how interesting is that?

Monty
Monty's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 16 2005 - 6:55pm
Re: Why should DBT interest me

So that's what that strange smell was?!

Buddha
Buddha's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 years 10 months ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 10:24am
Re: Why should DBT interest me


Quote:
So that's what that strange smell was?!

Now THAT is a high resolution system!

The best my system can do is make me wonder if I smell pot during certain live LP's and DSOM.

Jim Tavegia
Jim Tavegia's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 4:27pm
Re: Why should DBT interest me

You guys just can't wait for "smellavision". 5,6,7,9,heck 20 dot one, or two, or four, one for each corner of the room. Lets make those little "buggers" get busy. If we do 20.4 we'll just have to get Mr. Mietner to add more DSD channels.

If the world is going backwards to MP3s we'll just have to go full-throttle forward. Let'em try and download that!

Sorry, my attendants are coming...time for my nap. I do hate these jackets with the funny, long arms. Gentlemen...not so tight this time.

ChrisS
ChrisS's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 hour 26 min ago
Joined: Mar 6 2006 - 8:42pm
Re: Why should DBT interest me

Hi Jim,
It's too bad the medical community tends to dismiss the "placebo effect", even though this phenomenon occurs quite significantly in many medical DBT's. This effect is nothing more than the ability to heal ourselves, but there's little research in this area. I guess pharmaceutical companies like to bury anything that would cut into their profits and seldom pursue what they cannot market.
As for gnat farts, they're well beyond my range these days, but I can still hear a mosquito hiccup after it's taken a dram of my red stuff on a still summer night...
Happy swatting!

rogergraham
rogergraham's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: May 8 2006 - 7:23am
Re: Why should DBT interest me

Hi Clifton and Chris, I'll have to give up after this try, since I can't seem to make myself understood. Nothing you've said changes the quite narrow point I have been unsuccessfully trying to make, which I'll narrow down to:

Blind testing will result in more accurate reviews, because it reduces one (large) error in the process, i.e. bias based on knowing the brand, price and reputation of the component being listened to.

That's all I'm saying.

I'm not saying that there aren't other sources of error in reviews. I'm not saying you shouldn't also write part of the review when sighted, most obviously the bits that refer to the design, quality, feel, ease of use etc. I'm obviously not saying this would make the review perfect; but it certainly would make the review more accurate, and therefore (to my mind), better. I really can't understand why the idea of a more accurate review is such a frightening prospect for so many people!

Some responses to your comments:

Clifton, all the practical issues are irrelevant to whether this point is correct or not. In principle we can easily do good long-term blind tests, for example, with the components behind a screen and a third person changing gear when required. The fact that this is generally impractical is totally irrelevant to the principle, i.e. that a sighted review suffers from subsonscious (or conscious) bias, and those biases make the review is less accurate. So I'm not sure why you keep bringing it up?

Chris, the fact that DB tests (in medicine, say) try to remove as many variables as possible is also totally irrelevant to my point. I am just observing that blind testing will remove ONE of the many variables. I am obviously NOT implying that it will remove all variables, so I am not sure why you keep bringing that up. If reviews had one less (potentially large) source of inaccuracy, i.e. subconscious bias re price, brand, reputation, then I'd be happy. And so should you, I'd have thought!

Clifton, I think that you desire to hear reviewer's biases is flawed. Firstly, by definition, you cannot read about a bias that even ther reviewer doesn't know is there, i.e. a subconscious bias (unless you can somehow differentiate between subconscious biases due to knowing what they are listening to, versus all the other potential sources of error? That seems unlikely.) Secondly, if you want to read a biassed and less-accurate review, that's fine - that's clearly your choice and it doesn't affect me one way or the other. But it doesn't contradict my point.

Chris, I read JA's "Bad Science" article, and was quite unimpressed. Clearly JA is a smart guy, and he has no doubt forgotten more about music than I will ever know, but I think are major logical flaws in his argument. Rebutting his article would take an article of its own, but the essence is that I think that his contention that blind testing requires some form of conscious thought that isn't there when doing sighted testing is illogical. If you are listening carefully to the music whilst writing a review, how is that thought process affected by whether or not you can see the equipment? Obviously, it isn't; you are (or should be) simply describing what you are hearing, regardless of what you are seeing.

Finally Clifton, it is unfortunate that you succumbed to ad-hom attacks in what was otherwise a civilised chat. If we are mature, we can discuss our opposing thoughts and simply agree to disagree, and recognise that I am as flummoxed by your thought process as you are by mine. There's no need for personal attacks.

To clarify: I'm no more evangelical in my belief that this logic is self-evident, than you are in your belief that inaccuracies in reviews are desirable. In fact, I am not evangelical full-stop; I am merely repeating myself in a losing struggle to understand why something that is self-evidently logical to me, is so "wrong" or frightening to others.

[Note that I am referring to logic, not belief. I just can't fathom how anything I am saying is even debatable, since it just follows logically. The fact that you so violently disagree with me suggests that either (i) my logic is flawed, or (ii) that you are afraid of that logic for some reason. If the former, then my continued posting is to try to find out where my logic falls over, but none of your replies so far have done that; you bring up side issues, but fail to explain why a blind test would not be less biassed, more objective and more accurate that a sighted test.]

You say you find me naive because I understand that a blind test is, by definition, more objective than a sighted test. As far as I can see that's simply a fact; I can't see how that statement is even a matter for debate. Forget the sophistry; even if a blind test isn't totally objective, then that is again irrelevant to my overall point, which is that it is more objective.

Finally, you wonder if I "lack confidence in [my] own ability to evaluate with eyes wide open". A charming attempt at a put-down, but this isn't about my reviewing ability. Clearly, my point is about other reviewers, and about wanting to read reviews that have one obvious source of error removed. So whilst I am happy to admit that I lack confidence my ability to evaluate properly with my eyes open, my real point is that I lack confidnce in anyone's ability to evaluate properly with their eyes open. The most honest, most golden-eared reviewer will be affected by subconscious biasses, and therefore the review will be somewhat less accurate than it could have been. That doesn't make them bad reviewers, and it doesn't make them bad people, and it doesn't make them dishonest - it's just human.

So, in turn, I wonder if you lack confidence in your own ability to evaluate with your eyes closed - or more importantly, on other reviewers' ability to evaluate with their eyes closed. Maybe you shouldn't be foisting that insecurity on us in the interests of illogic.

Editor
Editor's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 9 months ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 8:56am
Re: Why should DBT interest me


Quote:
Blind testing will result in more accurate reviews, because it reduces one (large) error in the process, i.e. bias based on knowing the brand, price and reputation of the component being listened to.

I have been following your arguments with interest, Roger, as this subject, for obvious reasons, concerns me. I do note that you, like many other critics of sighted listening as practiced by review magazines, make a general case. However, for my own interest are there any specific reviews that have been published in Stereophile that you know (not conjecture) have misled readers due to the reviewer's listening not being blind?


Quote:
Clifton, all the practical issues are irrelevant to whether this point is correct or not. In principle we can easily do good long-term blind tests, for example, with the components behind a screen and a third person changing gear when required. The fact that this is generally impractical is totally irrelevant to the principle, i.e. that a sighted review suffers from subsonscious (or conscious) bias, and those biases make the review is less accurate. So I'm not sure why you keep bringing it up?

Probably because Clifton, like me, is dealing with the practicalities. I have been involved with a grerat deal of blind listening tests, both for Stereophile and with other organizations. Done right -- and if you are going to do them at all, you have to do them right if you are to produce meanignful results -- such tests are hugely consuming of resources. So much so, that if a magazine like Stereophile were to switch to the blind test regime you demand, we would have to drastically increase our staffing level with an attendant price increase in the magazine. Yet the blind tests we have published have been very unpopular with readers, meaning that I cannot make a case to the magzine's owner justifying that investment. I feel it sufficient, therefore, to offer our tests for what they are worth, assuming that Stereophile's readers are perceptive enough to recognize the shortfalls and judge our conclusions accordingly. If our listening is flawed -- and again, you have not actually offered any specific examples of such flaws -- then readers as a whole will find our conclusions unreliable and will stop reading the magazine. The law of the marketplace in action.


Quote:
I read JA's "Bad Science" article, and was quite unimpressed.

Sorry.


Quote:
Clearly JA is a smart guy, and he has no doubt forgotten more about music than I will ever know, but I think are major logical flaws in his argument. Rebutting his article would take an article of its own...

Without such a rebuttal, I have nothing to go on, Roger. But consider a judgement made about the quality of a stereo image, the precision, for example, of the image of an instrument or singer. There is nothing, repeat, nothing in the soundwaves perceived by the listener that corresponds exactly to that imaging precision. It is is, as I wrote, an illusion based on an illusion. That quality is, I would say, impossible to detect in a formal blind test -- in fact, almost all the formal blind tests that have been written about are done in mono, which eliminates such distinctions by definition -- but perceived differences in that illusion are most definitely real and can be easily perceived in normal listening.

This subject is uppermost on my mind because I am editing the next Cantus CD. Some splices work but others fail because of tiny differences in the perceived image -- differences that I am confident would completely fail to be picked up in a formal blind test -- that are nonetheless annoyingly audible in sighted listening.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Jim Tavegia
Jim Tavegia's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 4:27pm
Re: Why should DBT interest me

Quote:
This subject is uppermost on my mind because I am editing the next Cantus CD. Some splices work but others fail because of tiny differences in the perceived image -- differences that I am confident would completely fail to be picked up in a formal blind test -- that are nonetheless annoyingly audible in sighted listening. Quote

John,

I would add that one of YOUR problems is that you recorded it and know what the original sounded like. I know, we are getting in the area of "memory", but you know more about, or know closer to what is closer to the real thing.

That is the cross you bear in trying to capture and then pass along to us as much of the "there" that was there. If it wasn't for quality recordings you and other engineers agonize over there would be little to argue about with DBT. It is like you mentioned before with one of your first amps, a Quad, that you respected the manufacturer, but over time, you fell out of love with a decent sounding amp to be sure. Of course "decent" is not what this hobby or Stereophile the magazine is about.

We should thank you for agonizing, but I do not envy you as this level of scrutiny has a very low enjoyment factor. Looking forward to hearing your work...again.

Regards,

ChrisS
ChrisS's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 hour 26 min ago
Joined: Mar 6 2006 - 8:42pm
Re: Why should DBT interest me

Hi Roger,
The unfortunate thing about internet communication is that I can't invite you for a coffee (I'd be drinking tea because coffee gives me sinus congestion and and blocks my eustachian tubes so I won't be able to hear you very well) or a beer (I'd be drinking club soda because alcohol gives me a headache and I won't be able to follow what you're saying) and have a frank discussion with you about the physiological, neurological, and psychological aspects of hearing and about testing methodology. If you happen to be in my area of the world and we happen to get together, then I'd have to be brutally honest with you and tell you that you don't seem to understand the nature of hearing and the proper use of DBT. I'd haul out my undergraduate textbooks on the "Perception of Sound" and "Psychological Research Methods and Statistics" and point out that the "objectivity" and the "accuracy" you are asking for in the way you want DBT's set up for audio components does not exist!. You seem to think that ignoring other sources of variance (you call them "inaccuracies") make your test results "more" accurate- in fact, without controlling the other variances, you now have absolutely no idea how accurate your results really are. You don't seem to know how hearing works and how many influences there are on the perception of sound and how those influences "subjectifies" that perception. And in most areas of scientific research, the test results generated by one listener or even a small panel of listeners will be considered by almost everyone to have a degree of certainty just a little above "chance". However, I don't think a face to face meeting over tea and cheesecake (oh yeah, dairy also plugs up my ears) would help. If you think John Atkinson is a smart guy, but not smart enough to convince you that your particular proposition of DBT for audio components won't work, then none of us are... Perhaps contacting someone in your local university who does research in hearing and auditory perception and hearing the information from someone else or even going to the university bookstore or library and seeing the studies and research in front of you in black and white might help you understand that much of what you say here are unproven suppositions or just plain wrong.

However, we may have you wrong here... On re-reading your last post, it sounds like you actually want to have the reviewers "reviewed" and not be testing equipment at all! Then by all means, DBT is an excellent method for doing that.... So, in regards to the above exposition, I'll quote Gilda Radner from the original cast of Saturday Night Live, "Never mind."

Editor
Editor's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 9 months ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 8:56am
Re: Why should DBT interest me


Quote:
Done right -- and if you are going to do them at all, you have to do them right if you are to produce meaningful results -- such tests are hugely consuming of resources.

I meant to say that this is because if they are not done right, all you end up with are null results. And with null results from an inadequate test, you have no way of knowing whether the lack of identification is due to there not being an audible difference or to the test not being sufficiently well-designed to reveal a small but real audible difference.

The bad science practiced by those who hang their hats on a blind test producing a null result comes from the assumption that the result validates the test methodology.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Editor
Editor's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 9 months ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 8:56am
Re: Why should DBT interest me


Quote:
I would add that one of YOUR problems is that you recorded it and know what the original sounded like. I know, we are getting in the area of "memory", but you know more about, or know closer to what is closer to the real thing.

I know that you make recordings, too, Jim, so are well familiar with the process of making a large number of decisions on the fly, based on small differences. Should I move the mikes back 6"? Forward 6"? Are they in the correct absolute polarity? What if I asked the soloist to take a step forward? Or the backing singers a step back? Is that a slight slap-echo?

Imagine how cumbersome making a recording would be if for every one of those decisions you had to organize a formal blind test to prove that the problem you thought you were hearing and trying to solve was real or not! Yet with a commercial recording, there is a large amount of money hanging on the outcome of those subjective decisions.

Instead, you trust your hearing and your experience and hope that you are not fooling yourself. Which is basically what audio reviewers do.

What I find revealing is that in arguments I have had on other forums with those who demand that reviewers use blind testing, it was revealed that they, too, use sighted listening exclusively when spending their own money, when making their own purchase decisions. "Not practical," is their defense. :-)


Quote:
That is the cross you bear in trying to capture and then pass along to us as much of the "there" that was there. If it wasn't for quality recordings you and other engineers agonize over there would be little to argue about with DBT.

Thanks.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Buddha
Buddha's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 years 10 months ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 10:24am
Re: Why should DBT interest me


Quote:

Imagine how cumbersome making a recording would be if for every one of those decisions you had to organize a formal blind test to prove that the problem you thought you were hearing and trying to solve was real or not!

Yet with a commercial recording, there is a large amount of money hanging on the outcome of those subjective decisions.

Instead, you trust your hearing and your experience and hope that you are not fooling yourself. Which is basically what audio reviewers do.

What I find revealing is that in arguments I have had on other forums with those who demand that reviewers use blind testing, it was revealed that they, too, use sighted listening exclusively when spending their own money, when making their own purchase decisions. "Not practical," is their defense. :-)

Thanks.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Well, well.

I gotta give this one more try, but I don't want to sound like the harpies I see here and there having at you for sport.

Hopefully you trust me/us enough to know I love Stereophile and would not snipe just to try and hurt your feelings, but I disagree on a couple things you say.

"...Imagine how cumbersome making a recording would be if for every one of those decisions you had to organize a formal blind test to prove that the problem you thought you were hearing and trying to solve was real or not!..."

JA, you are making a sweeping statement to discredit calls for some blind reviewing.

Nobody wants you to have to reinvent the wheel every time you make a recording. Your experience is a great labor and time saving device for getting to the realm of hi-fi recording quickly and efficiently.

"...Yet with a commercial recording, there is a large amount of money hanging on the outcome of those subjective decisions..."

Exactly.

However, is this the case when you receive a box with an audio component in it?

Is there a cotterie of people sitting there waiting on you to quickly unpack it, make a decision, and you are spending money even as you look at it?

Reviewing is far less time and money sensitive, the decisions you make are not required to be done "on the fly" during a critical review.

I bet you don't call Wes and say, "Dude, there's a large amount of money hanging on your review of the Thiels - you've had them ALL DAY, and the whole magazine is paralyzed while you try to ponder if Dengue Fever sounds better on them than on the B&W's. Come on, Wes, trust your experience and review on the fly!"

________________________

Also, I think you are glossing over what many audiophiles have in mind about reviews.

"...if for every one of those decisions you had to organize a formal blind test..."

We don't mean to paralyze you, we mean for you to be willing to challenge yourself.

I have never had an audiophile buddy who wasn't interested in this. You are right, doing it with every move, ever, would be torture; but trying it here and there is part of challenging one's listening skills. Just via human curiosity I would expect slightly more interest on your part.

I'd bet Lars and Sam have tried it on each other. (Lars lives on in my brain, the greatest audiophile I never met, by the way.)

I don't expect every test to be a journey of a thousand unpleasant steps, but these questions, no offense, seem a little threatening to you.

Then again, perhaps I am reading your reaction to tiresome needling as 'threatening,' just out of your frustration at the thought that every review must be blind.

JA, blind listening is fun. Really.

I bet you do it when we're not looking.

Don't you compare different LP pressings to each other blind?

With a friend playing one disc and not telling you which?

I know that you can't sit there and say, "Sighted listening only."

That's as bad as someone insisting all listening be blind.

______________________
______________________

A little more: No fair complaining that consumers make decisions with sighted listening, so they can't complain.

We are the consumers, you are a reviewer.

Different expectations. Fair or not, you're held to a higher standard. You're ears will be challenged because you publish critical evaluations of equipment - experts get challenged.

I wish this was generally done in the spirit of good fellowship, but nonetheless, you knew the job was dangerous when you took it.

For a normal consumer, doing your measurements, getting a 100,000 dollar turntable delivered to listen to, or having the maker of a 30,000 dollar speaker to install his product is "not practical," either.

Practicality is my problem, not yours. You can't use the fact that since something is not practical for the consumer, we can't ask for it from you.

You have an army at your command. If I have a problem with my amp, I pray I can find a way to get service. If you have a problem with a review amp, the manufacturer personally comes to your house to check it out and hand you a replacement, and he brings alcohol!

Don't complain to me about "practicality."

Lastly...

"...you trust your hearing and your experience and hope that you are not fooling yourself. Which is basically what audio reviewers do."

That's fine, but if you trust your hearing, why not a little blind listening here and there to check yourself out?

I think I know part of it.

If my buddy, Big Mike (the Lars of Las Vegas,) and I listen blind and are "wrong," the stakes are lower. Nobody cares. If YOU blow it, the stakes are higher. That would make me nervous, maybe enough to change the way I hear things and make proclamations in the comfort of my basement, holding a beer.

Again, not my problem, though.

You have to "perform" under more pressure than I do. You get paid to do what I do for fun and for free. So, even though I think they sound mean, people "insisting" on you exploring blind testing is fair.

I'd call it that, too: Exploring.

If you find a way to make it fun to do, it will be fun for me to read.

I don't need white lab coats and grinding process - find creative ways to toss this idea around. We will love you all the more for it!

________________________

OK, one last last thing: I buy medicines sighted, as well. It's more "practical" than doing a placebo controlled double blind challenge every time I have a headache.

My buying sighted does not mean I don't want the product tested in a blind fashion. There are people whose job it is to do that, so I don't have to. I'd like a little of that arrangement in my hi-fi reading, is all.

I wish I could pour you a glass and serve food while I said this. I mean it in a friendly manner. I have great affection for the magazine and the reviewers I am lucky enough to get to "visit with" each month.

Cheers.

gkc
gkc's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Feb 24 2006 - 11:51am
Re: Why should DBT interest me

Roger,

I tried answering this yesterday, but couldn't get it to post. So here we go again. The "practicality" issue is important. As a chief executive, JA mentions feasibility, which is a legitimate offspring of the larger term: when you have to execute a budget, allocation priorities dictate the practicality of realizing ideas into the realm of concrete existence. DBT sounds like a good idea until you try to bring it into a concrete reality on the printed page. Then it becomes a money hole, a nightmare drain on the resources of the magazine that surely can be put to better use elsewhere. When you assert that "...all the practical issues are irrelevent to whether this point is correct or not..." you imply that you are more interested in being "correct" than actually executing an abstract idea in some concrete embodiment. Like Arny, it appears you merely want to argue "correctness" in theory and win the argument.

The reason for the snide comments (what you so quaintly call "ad-hom") stems from your misrepresentations of what I said in context. My use of "bias" slides into what you call "your (i.e. my) belief that inaccurate reviews are desirable." Structural linguists call this semantic leakage and I just hate it. Bias is not inaccuracy. ST is biased towards Triangle and Musical Fidelity, as am I. Blind or sighted, this bias is the result of listening experience. AD is biased towards Lowther and low-powered amplification. So am I, because I believe (based on my listening experiences) that high-sensitivity speakers put life into musical dynamics. JA is biased towards Levinson electronics and owns several pieces wearing that logo. All reviewers are biased, and those at Stereophile are both open and opinionated, which I admire. A life without biases is too dreary for me to contemplate. Bias may generate inaccuracy or discover accuracy, blind or sighted. And yes, I can read all of this without resorting to mind-reading games. All motives are easily discovered in the text. This isn't poetry, where metaphysical antinomies are imaged to the point "...where logic cuts its own throat..." (Yeats). These are honest opinions expressed honestly by honest people who just happen to be, er, opinionated and biased. That's why I value them. I WANT to know their biases, so I can test them myself.

If you regard my remarks as "vehement," you are both biased and inaccurate. Remember, as the "should" in the title of this thread denotes, you're the one who is selling. And I'm not buying. On the other hand, I'm not selling anything. I realize full well that you will pursue your DBT visions, seeking absolute, verifiable truth in an area of experience that I believe is relative in its very nature. I have no desire to keep you from what I see as an absurd quest. You say the "logic" of your claim is "self-evident," and that "practical issues are irrelevant." I guess that's a good place to stop. Perhaps all music and music equipment reviewers should write only syllogisms. Clifton

Monty
Monty's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 16 2005 - 6:55pm
Re: Why should DBT interest me

Here is a simple blind test idea: Stuff an equalizer in the system and ask each reviewer to dictate what adjustments are needed to create a flat frequency response in the room. Then, ask each reviewer to dictate what adjustments are needed to reach the most pleasing sound.

Then, pass the results around to each other without identifying which findings belong to which listener, crack open a few beers and laugh at each other.

JoeE SP9
JoeE SP9's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: Oct 31 2005 - 6:02pm
Re: Why should DBT interest me

I like that idea. I think I will ask my audio buddies if they are interested in trying this at our next informal music and beer session. The only problem is that none of us owns an equalizer. Most of us have no tone controls either.

Buddha
Buddha's picture
Offline
Last seen: 2 years 10 months ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 10:24am
Re: Why should DBT interest me

JoeE, I gotta ask, have you ever had one or listened to one, or do you just unquestioningly follow the "audiophile orthodoxy?"

We need beer, wine, rum, and time hanging out to work out the gospel of hi-fi.

Too bad we are all so spread out.

I have an old Audio Control C-101 that was the actual top secret unit used to room tune a "best of show" room from back in the day.

"Judge not lest ye have listened."

(Not an equalizer fan, but a fan of "The Toy of Hi-Fi.")

Pages

  • X
    Enter your Stereophile.com username.
    Enter the password that accompanies your username.
    Loading