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dcrowe's picture
Last seen: 1 year 5 months ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 9:39am
Horses for Courses

In his essay titled, "Horses for Courses," John Marks points out that an all-around test that is representative of everything a car (or audio system) is asked to do may be preferable to just acceleration times (or distortion measurements). I am also reminded of how computer benchmarks show one winner for some tests and may show another winner for a different test that emphasizes I/O data transfer instead of CPU speed, for example. Each of these makes the term Horses for Courses a relevant subject.

I agree with the essay that there is no obvious test for audio equipment that is both objective and all-encompassing. I think it would be at least entertaining, however, to see data taken in a recording venue (such as a concert hall) that compares a live recording with that same recording played back through a few audiophile systems, and a very low cost system or two as well. Equalizing the recorded levels as well as possible to minimize differences, but then looking at the live recording minus the playback recording for each system, would give some indication of the feasibility of measuring overall performance. Some systems may win at chamber music or solo classical guitar, while others may win at hard rock or full symphony orchestra. Horses for Courses.

Buddha's picture
Last seen: 9 years 7 months ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 10:24am
Re: Horses for Courses

Hi, Devon. That was a great post.

The more I read John Marks' stuff, the more I like it. It was a good "As We See It," as well.

I agree with you how people put together systems to match their musical preference. Horses for courses is fair. Some cars like dirt track, others like off road, others like smooth road courses, others prefer a quarter mile drag, others like to ride low and slow, etc...

In the article, though, I tended to wander off his analogy.

I started to think about the course - it seems it was set up to minimize differences. Which is not what Hi Fi is really all about.

I wondered about the length of that track. Thinking if it were a one mile course, and the course record was 26.84 seconds...

Then the average speed of the fastest car would have been one mile in .447 minutes, or 134.23 MPH. 2.238 miles per minute. 197 feet per second.

Lets call the fastest car the "musical signal," and say that the slower cars were trying to "reproduce" that signal.

The Porsche was 1.079 seconds off the "musical signal pace," or 212.56 feet behind the "musical signal."

I could tell that difference watching the track with my naked eye.

The Bugati would be 646 feet behind the musical signal.

The Bugati would be 56 feet behind the Jaguar, and the Jaguar 590 feet behind the Porsche.

The Bugati was 12% slower than the musical signal.

The Porsche was 4% slower than the musical signal.

These differences seems large to me.

And that's on a track designed to take away an acceleration advantage (macrodynamics?) from a standstill and acceleration/braking differences on a more difficult course (transient speed, microdynamics?).

Even on a test course that would be the Hi Fi equivalent of a 1kHz sine wave, there were blatant differences that you could tell visually, or even if you closed your eyes and listened for different arrival times.

On a more complex course (musical passage,) the differences would be even more pronounced.

Setting up tests that are designed to mask differences in performance is not the greatest analogy for talking about Hi Fi - it's still too simple a "measure" of performance.

Yes, it's a step up from measuring those one dimensional things you mentioned, but it still falls far short of being a "complete" test.

The article was terrific, and John made it a treat to read, but even that brilliant "hollistic but objective test" is still too coarse for judging the Hi Fi horse.

He concludes perfectly, though: We just have to keep listening. I guess each of us has to fit our horse to our unique course.


dcrowe's picture
Last seen: 1 year 5 months ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 9:39am
Re: Horses for Courses

Hi Buddha!

Excellent post. I guess wine enhances calculating ability?

There is no road course that can measure driver enjoyment simply through lap times, of course, which is what really corresponds to the audiophile case. And there is no electronic measurement [of the equipment, at least!] that quantifies listener enjoyment. The "Absolute Sound" idea is based on the assumption that the most accurate reproduction will maximize the audiophile experience. I also think that is true, and so while we don't have a really good measurement of accuracy at the system level, measurements are still valuable. In the end though, it will always come down to personal preference. I would rather drive a Ferrari F430 at a slower lap time than a NASCAR entry. And I would rather listen to my AKG K701 headphones driven by my tiny Emmeline Hornet than listen to a blaring show car with the bass boosted about 30 dB.

Cheers Buddha!

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