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
Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

John Atkinson and Micheal Fremer were among listeners that sucessfully identified expensive speaker wire in a blind comparison at the just concluded T.H.E. show.

Good job!

Elk
Elk's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 9 months ago
Joined: Dec 26 2006 - 6:32am
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

Way to go guys!

And a fun article to read - nice sense of humor and curiosity.

I just hope that neither JA or MF had to agree that their abilities are due to paranormal causes.

Buddha
Buddha's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 years 8 months ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 10:24am
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

I'd like to know just a little more before I annoint them with 'oil of audio sage.'

I'm a subjectivist who believes that listening is an 'objective' experience, but I'd be happier about their "victory" if it included more than one A/B trial.

Even without listening, I have a 50% likelihood of being able to successfully identify the 'better' cables before the musical selections are even played!

Any way we can get the full scenario on this?

(I'm in favor of them being able to do it. I'd just like to know how it went down.)

smejias
smejias's picture
Offline
Last seen: 11 years 7 months ago
Joined: Aug 25 2005 - 10:29am
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

First, they had to admit that they'd be willing to eat a newborn baby if eating that baby resulted in even a tiny noticeable improvement in their systems' sound. Because that's what it means to be an audiophile.

Buddha
Buddha's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 years 8 months ago
Joined: Sep 8 2005 - 10:24am
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:
First, they had to admit that they'd be willing to eat a newborn baby if eating that baby resulted in even a tiny noticeable improvement in their systems' sound. Because that's what it means to be an audiophile.

Would that be under aged veal or over aged balut?

Elk
Elk's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 9 months ago
Joined: Dec 26 2006 - 6:32am
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

The iPod playing Wav files v CD player was reported at essentially 50/50. Thus, overall people were unable to discern a difference.

With respect to JA and MF, the author/experimenter states "easily picked the expensive cable".

I take this to mean that they had no trouble picking out the cable and that for them the differences were readily detectable.

It would be fun to know more.

Then again, maybe not. The subjectivists will declare victory. The objectivists will nitpick the protocol. Both will argue the validity of DBT.

Good things elk can run fast so that don't have to hear the fighting.

bjh
bjh's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 12 2005 - 2:33pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:
First, they had to admit that they'd be willing to eat a newborn baby if eating that baby resulted in even a tiny noticeable improvement in their systems' sound. Because that's what it means to be an audiophile.

You have a real knack for the macabre it seems, perhaps audio isn't your natural specialty.

Editor
Editor's picture
Offline
Last seen: 11 years 7 months ago
Joined: Sep 1 2005 - 8:56am
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:
With respect to JA and MF, the author/experimenter states "easily picked the expensive cable".

I take this to mean that they had no trouble picking out the cable and that for them the differences were readily detectable.

It was not really a scientifically rigorous test, but it was single-blind and one listener took part at a time with control of the switchbox. The moderator sat behind the listener so he couldn't give clues with body language, etc.

Note that the listeners _didn't_ know they were listening to different cables. All you had was a remote with 2 buttons marked A and B and you could switch between A and B as many times as you liked. The music sample I auditioned was the finale to Wagner's Gotterdammerung. After you had decided if there was a difference or not, you had to state a preference and fill out a questionnaire why you had that preference.

After I had given my completed form to the moderator, he revealed that I had been listening to 2 speaker cables, one set mid-priced Monster Cables and the other set the same length of zip cord from a hardware store, the kind that is widely recommended in the mainstream press. He told me that I had preferred the Monster cables.

Tonally, there was virtually no difference, I felt, but what
was later revealed to be the more expensive cable sounded less congested at signal peaks. The hardware-store cable consistently sounded more hashy at orchestral climaxes. As I said in the WSJ article, it was not a large difference. Doesn't mean it was not significant, however.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

Elk
Elk's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 9 months ago
Joined: Dec 26 2006 - 6:32am
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

Thanks for the additional info, John.

I liked the article, nice sense of humor and balance.

bjh
bjh's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 12 2005 - 2:33pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

John,

If the article has the details correct I don't believe that "mid-priced" is a fitting description for the speaker cables as they were said to be $2,000 for an 8 foot pair. That's getting pretty expensive if you ask me!

In any case where cables go generally I'd be reluctant to spend that much on speaker cables if for no other reason than that my experience informs me speaker cables have much less effect than interconnects and even power cords.

That said I must add, in harmony with you statement, that the changes I've experienced with speaker cable, even if less pronounced that those with ICs and PCs, are not insignificant.

tom collins
tom collins's picture
Offline
Last seen: 9 years 9 months ago
Joined: Apr 3 2007 - 11:54am
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

great article and replys so far. my experience with cables has to do with my system. when i upgraded my speakers, i was using runs of cable that was custom made by my dealer (around $100) for a pair of Advents that i had been using, it had made a huge difference compared to the radio shack standard. when i bought my new Aerial speakers, that wire sounded like there was a comforter over the speakers. he has worked with my brand of amplifier and these speakers for some time and got me in a set of biwired nordost blue heavens (list was around $800, but demo, so got for $200). the difference was beyond belief.
now, the question is would any of the other premium cables in that range have done as well, maybe, probably. could i then have heard such a dramatic improvement with $2,000 cables, probably not, maybe just a little.
in any event, no one in a blind test would have missed the differnce in my system. i think it really helped that i had a dealer who knew the equipment well and what would go well with which components.
so, i am a qualified believer in speaker cable.

tom

bifcake
bifcake's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Nov 27 2005 - 2:27am
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

The article states that the comparison was made between the $2k Monster cable and a 14 gauge zip cord. I wonder how significant the differences would be if they were using a 10 gauge zip cord. Do you think these differences would be diminished?

rvance
rvance's picture
Offline
Last seen: 8 years 10 months ago
Joined: Sep 8 2007 - 9:58am
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:
I wonder how significant the differences would be if they were using a 10 gauge zip cord.

10 ga. zip cord! Is that what they use for grow-lights in Brooklyn?

KBK
KBK's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 30 2007 - 12:30pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

I think the differences would be more pronounced with the 10 guage cable vs. the Monster. 10g multi-strand 99.9x% copper is really nasty sounding, once you've had a taste of a well designed and executed cable. (It's almost impossible to get below 99.99% copper these days, with modern manufacturing processes)

bifcake
bifcake's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Nov 27 2005 - 2:27am
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:

Quote:
I wonder how significant the differences would be if they were using a 10 gauge zip cord.

10 ga. zip cord! Is that what they use for grow-lights in Brooklyn?

That's what they use for Xmas lights in Brooklyn.

bjh
bjh's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 12 2005 - 2:33pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:
The article states that the comparison was made between the $2k Monster cable and a 14 gauge zip cord. I wonder how significant the differences would be if they were using a 10 gauge zip cord. Do you think these differences would be diminished?


Adopting the objectivist leaning perspective on such things I guess the correct response would be ... 10 vs. 14 ga zip cord shouldn't make any difference.

This asumes that the zip cord was roughly the same length as the expensive wire, i.e. around 8 feet. You can take a look at the wire length chart in Roger Russell's paper on speaker wire, a popular document amongst speaker wire naysayers.

It shows maximum lengths for various wire gauges and speaker system impedances (i.e. low points in the impedance curve for the speaker system). We find by referencing the chart that provided the speaker system impedance stays above 2 ohm that the max. length for 14 ga wire is 20 feet, and 40 feet if the impedance stays above 4 ohm.

Consequently, adopting the so-called scientific perspective, because many claim that Russell's document (and other similar analyses) is completely sufficient from the technical/scientific perspective, a change to 10 ga zip should not have made any difference whatsoever.

BlackstoneJD
BlackstoneJD's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Dec 26 2007 - 11:25pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

Have you ever been to the eye doctor when he uses that machine that lets him flip through prescriptions really fast? You look at the eye chart and he asks "which is better, 1 or 2" and flips them back and fourth. Eventually, he gets to down to fine tuning the prescription at increments so small that you can see there is a difference but you can't really say what it is.

Speaker cables are sort of like that. There is a difference but it is like that last set of lenses. You have to sort of know what to listen for and how to listen. You aren't going to miss any essential detail either way, but at the same time you want your vision to be as sharp as possible so you tweak.

With cables you may have to strain to identify the difference in a test but on some recordings those kinds of tweaks and tiny details really impress and sometimes surprise. It may be 5% but sometimes that last 5% is what makes it worthwhile.

I use Transparent Audio cables, however, which have some sort of network box on each cable so there may be more going on there.

dbowker
dbowker's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 4 months ago
Joined: May 8 2007 - 6:37am
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

I recently went to an eye doctor for a routine check-up. He clicked down a couple of charts, which I read with ease. He finished and said- "Great, you have 20/20!" I was curious and asked if there were charts that went smaller-- i.e. to test for better than 20/20, to which he said Yes. So he showed me the next down, which I passed as well, and then finally to the smallest. Now here I had to really work at it, but I did read it off with about 9/10 correct. This really surprised him and he said- "Wow, so you have 20/10 vision; not many people have that." For me, as a visual artist (3D animation), I wondered how much of this was purely anatomical/genetic ability and how much might be training to see fine details?

So let's apply this to the cable/DBT debate. If a number of people were with 20/20 vision were given a DBT of say DVD players and they couldn't tell any difference, but I could, who's right? The average viewer who can't see beyond a certain level, or the rare viewer who can? The same could be applied to sound. So many DBTs "show" that most folks can't hear differences in sound. Not surprising really. I'm not really concerned about "average", or I would have $12k plus of gear in my living room? In fact, why is anyone here if not because they care more, can hear more and looking for that last, sometimes difficult to define difference in sound that makes a system sing?

Personally, I've never bought cables just because they are more expensive, but I have bought more expensive cables because I readily heard better sound out them. Not ALL cables that cost more, just some. In fact I heard a number of cables that cost more than I've bought and didn't like their sound at all. I've always found the "well they cost more so of course you say they sound better" ridiculous. I never buy cables with auditioning them first, which any good dealer will let you do. But hey, if you can't hear anything then save the money and don't buy them. But don't tell me I shouldn't either!

bifcake
bifcake's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Nov 27 2005 - 2:27am
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

I agree with you. It's a marginal difference and it's up to the individual to decide whether that marginal difference is worth the extra cash.

However, I think that the mainstream folk wouldn't focus on whether or not one can hear the difference in cables if the price of "good" cables vs zip cords was within $20-$50 per 25ft. They would probably just nod, take your word for it that there is a difference and move on to something else. However, when there's such a price gap between a zip cord a boutique speaker cables, there's much greater focus on "quality delivery" as in: "2k for cable??? Wow! I need to hear this!!" and so they do and they don't hear a difference and they call you a sucker for spending 2k on a cable where they feel there's no difference. If the boutique cables cost let's say $100 vs $50 for zip cord, then I think that most people would just say: "Hmmm... I don't hear a difference, but perhaps there's something I'm missing. Who knows?"

So, price definitely plays into the argument.

KBK
KBK's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 30 2007 - 12:30pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

I thought I was good, at 20/15 vision. Good thing too, being in the video business, not just audio. I don't know if I've ever been tested down to the 20/10 level. Might be able to do it.

Although, I suspect it's a bit like hearing tests.

Unless you SPECIFICALLY ask and demand fully blown hearing tests, all you'll get are the basics. Those basics require little beyond you being able to tell which direction the explosion occurs from, in the industrial work space.

This kind of basic audiology tests mean absolutely zero to a person who uses their ears at a professional level on a daily basis.

Makes one automatically wonder about the meaning and/or intent -as well as the design of- of standardized visual acuity tests.

Correlating either test to the demands/needs of an audiophile, or a videophile - is another thing altogether.

dbowker
dbowker's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 4 months ago
Joined: May 8 2007 - 6:37am
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

Yeah -it IS all about price differential. Personally I can't ever see spending $2k for any cables, IC or speaker even if I had money to burn. I did spend about $450 I think for my Stereovox speaker cables though, which some would find crazy, but damned if it wasn't like getting a better amp or CD player in my system! So much detail and space while taking out grain, I knew as soon as I heard it I HAD to get it. So I did and have been happy ever since. If it had cost me $50 I'd have bought it too, but from my understanding the technology that goes into them (very thin hollow core copper wires) is indeed expensive to make and I'm OK with it.

absolutepitch
absolutepitch's picture
Offline
Last seen: 4 days 48 min ago
Joined: Jul 9 2006 - 8:58pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:
"Wow, so you have 20/10 vision; not many people have that."

The 20/20 and 20/10 refer to visual acuity, how fine a detail one can discern. As you and KBK are in the A/V field, detail is important. But so is contrast, like what you see on a CRT screen vs. a plasma display or a LCD. The ophthalmologist can do a contast sensitivity test; I'd bet you both would score well.


Quote:
For me, as a visual artist (3D animation), I wondered how much of this was purely anatomical/genetic ability and how much might be training to see fine details?

This is interesting. We know that the brain adapts and learns. So does the visual system, neurologically. There could be a component of the system adapting to your demands of the job to be able to "see" better. However the 20/10 part is limited by the spacing of the receptors in the retina, but does not exclude the neuro-enhancement or brain processing that may occur. I am not aware of any research showing that this enhancement occurs, but I also have not searched the literature on this.

Typically, 20/20 is considered the normal vision. Actually the retina will allow about as fine as 20/08 or so, which means 20/10 is not out of reach, in "good" eyes.

There are other reasons why some people cannot see better than 20/20, and many cases involve the aberrations on the cornea of the eye (the clear front part where the contact lenses are placed). Small amounts of astigmatism can cause degradation, as can myopia (nearsightedness) due to the image being smaller through glasses though much less so through contact lenses. The more myopia, the smaller the image formed, so a larger 20/25-sized letter is projected as a smaller 20/20-sized letter on your retina, and you've used up your visual ability on a larger-sized letter.

I suspect that the ear-training that is often referred to in audio may be linked to the neuro-adaptation-like phenomena that helps those with long-term experience to discern the differences in audio that many others cannot. This could imply that whether the test is sighted or blind, those experienced people would be unfazed in easily picking one cable over another, provided the test is done correctly and fairly.

absolutepitch
absolutepitch's picture
Offline
Last seen: 4 days 48 min ago
Joined: Jul 9 2006 - 8:58pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:
The article states that the comparison was made between the $2k Monster cable and a 14 gauge zip cord. I wonder how significant the differences would be if they were using a 10 gauge zip cord. Do you think these differences would be diminished?

The difference between the two with respect to gauge is that the resistance is different, higher on the 14 gauge cable. This presents a lower damping factor to the amplifier, which may or may not be significant - it is different.

Another aspect is that the cable construction may present different impedances to the amplifier, hence introduce differences in sound.

I personally have tried two cables made from so-called hardware store wire. One is 10 gauge single cable that I doubled-up to form two conductors, in a low-pitch helical arrangement of 8 feet run. The other is a 12 gauge cable formed like the first, but a run of about 24 feet. I can hear that the 10 gauge is clearer sounding than the 12 gauge.

So comparing the Monster cable to a 10 gauge zip cord would be more fair, but does not eliminate the possibly different impedances presented. I think the objectivists would argue that if one were to compare cables of different construction (and greatly different price) that have the identical impedance characteristics that there would be no difference to be heard - meaning that the audible differences are impedance-driven. I'm not convinced that this construction is possible to do such a test.

Elk
Elk's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 9 months ago
Joined: Dec 26 2006 - 6:32am
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

Great two posts, WTL.

Xenophanes
Xenophanes's picture
Offline
Last seen: 11 years 6 months ago
Joined: Sep 7 2005 - 2:48pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

This test establishes absolutely nothing about the audibility of cables. According to Lee Gomes's article in the Wall Street Journal, there were two systems with identical components used, differing only in the cables. They could switch between the systems.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120044692027492991.html?mod=hpp_us_inside_to

Therefore, the most that can be said is that some people (including John Atkinson and Michael Fremer) could tell the difference between the set up of the two systems.

What could account for the differences heard besides the different cables?

First, the speakers could not have been placed in the same place, and this should be audible.

Second, manufacturing tolerances would might result in differences between the various Totem Forest speakers that would be audible.

It is also possible that the electronics sounded different, though this should be unlikely--but without proper controls, it cannot be eliminated.

It simply was not a properly set up test, and I am somewhat shocked that John Atkinson and Michael Fremer did not notice this.

absolutepitch
absolutepitch's picture
Offline
Last seen: 4 days 48 min ago
Joined: Jul 9 2006 - 8:58pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:
Great two posts, WTL.

Thanks Elk. I forgot to mention that some manufacturers claim that a damping factor over 10 or so is enough, and that anything over that does not matter. I don't know. I have a setup with theoretically a 500 damping factor at mid-frequencies. At low frequencies ...?

absolutepitch
absolutepitch's picture
Offline
Last seen: 4 days 48 min ago
Joined: Jul 9 2006 - 8:58pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:
This test establishes absolutely nothing about the audibility of cables. According to Lee Gomes's article in the Wall Street Journal, there were two systems with identical components used, differing only in the cables. They could switch between the systems.

I agree with your interpretation of the article. It struck me odd that two systems were used instead of one with a switcher for the cables. Unless they did some matching of the two systems beforehand and could not tell them apart, then the test is more fair with different cables. They do not say one way or the other in the article. Has anyone corresponded with the author to find out?

KBK
KBK's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 30 2007 - 12:30pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:

Quote:
This test establishes absolutely nothing about the audibility of cables. According to Lee Gomes's article in the Wall Street Journal, there were two systems with identical components used, differing only in the cables. They could switch between the systems.

I agree with your interpretation of the article. It struck me odd that two systems were used instead of one with a switcher for the cables. Unless they did some matching of the two systems beforehand and could not tell them apart, then the test is more fair with different cables. They do not say one way or the other in the article. Has anyone corresponded with the author to find out?

The problem with many folks who refuse to, or do not understand the audibility of sonic differences between cables or speaker wire, is that the introduction of the switchbox clouds the issue noticeably through the change in sonics brought about by the inclusion of the given switchbox.

Ie, their own methodology gets in the way of what they are attempting to define or test for, via a lack of understanding of the mechanism or effect at hand.

Two differing systems can be more correct than multiple use of switchboxes in the given systems. In all seriousness, 100% so - yes, yes, yes.

It's like testing for the placement and layout in the innards of a given set of tiny bugs via subtle and delicate operations to expose these tiny differences to the eye, thus the mind, so they can be discerned..by smashing the bugs open with the heel. The result will be two messes which cannot be distinguished apart other than noting that they are two smashed messes.

Delicate measurements, in this case, by the ear brain combo- require delicate and correctly implemented instruments. In this case, no freaking switchboxes, thank you very much.

A given switchbox MAY be used, but only if the given group of audiophiles are familiar with the given switchboxes colorations and have tested to their own satisfaction that the switching tool can be 'clean enough' to discern differences in cables-of some sort.

The problem, once again, is that the given group of folks who do not 'get it' aren't familiar with the function that is being tested and therefore strip away the validity of the test by insisting on, or feeling that invalid components be included in the test.

The other part can also stem form an ignorance of the design of the ear-brain function, and how that pair differs CONSIDERABLY in 'how it hears' and 'what it hears',and that compared to the linear measurements that are utilized throughout audio and electrical measurement systems.

Those last two are not in any way equal. What shows up in the measurements, the ear only hears and deals with about 10-15% of that. And within that 10-15%, the ear is incredibly capable, and thus distortions the ear hears are not weighted properly in the linear measured and weighted test and evaluation systems..and thus the measurements don't really ever have much to do with what the ear hears.

What it comes down to is being a wholly inadequate equation between how the ear hears, compared to the basics of measurement and science that is tied to the situation. And this, tied to those who are even bothering with the attempt to understand what audiophiles hear.

This is not exactly the perfect explanation, but it does encompass the basics.

Xenophanes
Xenophanes's picture
Offline
Last seen: 11 years 6 months ago
Joined: Sep 7 2005 - 2:48pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:

Quote:
This test establishes absolutely nothing about the audibility of cables. According to Lee Gomes's article in the Wall Street Journal, there were two systems with identical components used, differing only in the cables. They could switch between the systems.

I agree with your interpretation of the article. It struck me odd that two systems were used instead of one with a switcher for the cables. Unless they did some matching of the two systems beforehand and could not tell them apart, then the test is more fair with different cables. They do not say one way or the other in the article. Has anyone corresponded with the author to find out?

Good suggestion. I wrote the author and will see if I get any reply.

I seriously doubt that he could get speakers in different locations to sound the same. Maybe it can be done, but I seriously doubt a WSJ journalist could do it. For blind speaker testing, I understand the NRC and Harman International place speakers on a turntable behind an acoustically transparent screen so that the different speakers can be tested from the same location--and speakers really do sound different. Different speaker locations for a cable test: forget it.

A good switcher would enable the different cables to be heard through the same speaker(s) and the fast switching would increase the sensitivity of the test.

Elk
Elk's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 9 months ago
Joined: Dec 26 2006 - 6:32am
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:
and the fast switching would increase the sensitivity of the test.


Actually, no.

We listen differently with quick changes between sensory inputs and longer periods between changes.

Quick v. slow is simply different.

Xenophanes
Xenophanes's picture
Offline
Last seen: 11 years 6 months ago
Joined: Sep 7 2005 - 2:48pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:

Quote:
and the fast switching would increase the sensitivity of the test.


Actually, no.

We listen differently with quick changes between sensory inputs and longer periods between changes.

Quick v. slow is simply different.

Every expert in the field I have come across up to and including James D. Johnston says quick switching considerably increases the sensitivity of the audition. For maximum sensitivity, the switching time should be no greater than about 1/10 of a second. Accordingly, I see no reason to believe your opinion on this.

For example, according to David L. Clark, some tests were done with both the The Audiophile Society (TAS) from Long Island and the Southeastern Michigan Woofer and Tweeter Marching Society (SMWTMS) to see they could detect when a distortion box was in the signal path. The SMWTMS group did both a take home test and an ABX test on a familiar system. The TAS group refused to use a switcher but did a manually switched pair test and the take home test. TAS group could not detect the difference in either test. The SMWTMS group also did not detect the difference in the take home test. "However, using the A/B/X test, the SMWTMS not only proved the audibility of the distortion within 45 minutes, but they went on to correctly identify a lower amount. The A/B/X test was proven to be more sensitive than long-term listening for this task."

Reference: "Ten Years of A/B/X Testing" by David L. Clark, Presented at the 91st Convention 1991 October 4-8, New York, Audio Engineering Society, AES Preprint 3167 (K-1).

Elk
Elk's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 9 months ago
Joined: Dec 26 2006 - 6:32am
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

There are many papers and other materials on this issue. It comes down to what you are interesting in testing. Some sensory inputs are best tested quickly; others, more slowly. Human perception runs along an extensive gamut.

Your assumption that any potentially detectable cable differences in this example fall in to the first category might indeed turn out to be correct, for example if the differences are more akin to the distortion described in the Clark paper.

However, the potential differences could also be psychoacoustically available to the observer only after longer term listening. If this is true, quick switching and brief listening will serve only to actively conceal the differences.

As we don't know what the differences are, we don't know what type of test to design.

As. Mr. Clark observed: "The A/B/X test was proven to be more sensitive than long-term listening for this task". He did not conclude that quick switching is the proper procedure for all such testing.

As a default I would tend to favor longer term listening as this is how an audiophile listens to music. If there are differences in cables this is when it will matter - I would argue that differences we can only hear in very short term testing have no real world application.

There is an additional problem in that psychoacoustic testing is generally properly performed knowing that there is a difference between two options and knowing what the difference is. What is being tested is the ability to perceive, not whether there is a difference.

A/B cable testing as proposed by many "objectivists" turns the proper protocol on its head. They expect to determine whether there is a difference and what this difference is by subjecting various people to a test, not knowing what they are capable of perceiving. We now have a minimum of three variables. Potentially fun, but far from scientific.

Now you are free to reject my "opinion" as you state. This immediate decision that my comments are mere opinion to be tossed aside if the reader doesn't like what he reads is one of the reasons why I tend to stay out of SBT, DBT and ABX discussions; they quickly turn into emotional argument predicated on preexisting bias, rather than rational, knowledgeable discussion.

Perhaps someone else will enjoy sparring with you.

Xenophanes
Xenophanes's picture
Offline
Last seen: 11 years 6 months ago
Joined: Sep 7 2005 - 2:48pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:
There are many papers and other materials on this issue. It comes down to what you are interesting in testing. Some sensory inputs are best tested quickly; others, more slowly. Human perception runs along an extensive gamut.

Your assumption that any potentially detectable cable differences in this example fall in to the first category might indeed turn out to be correct, for example if the differences are more akin to the distortion described in the Clark paper.

However, the potential differences could also be psychoacoustically available to the observer only after longer term listening. If this is true, quick switching and brief listening will serve only to actively conceal the differences.

As we don't know what the differences are, we don't know what type of test to design.

As. Mr. Clark observed: "The A/B/X test was proven to be more sensitive than long-term listening for this task". He did not conclude that quick switching is the proper procedure for all such testing.

As a default I would tend to favor longer term listening as this is how an audiophile listens to music. If there are differences in cables this is when it will matter - I would argue that differences we can only hear in very short term testing have no real world application.

There is an additional problem in that psychoacoustic testing is generally properly performed knowing that there is a difference between two options and knowing what the difference is. What is being tested is the ability to perceive, not whether there is a difference.

A/B cable testing as proposed by many "objectivists" turns the proper protocol on its head. They expect to determine whether there is a difference and what this difference is by subjecting various people to a test, not knowing what they are capable of perceiving. We now have a minimum of three variables. Potentially fun, but far from scientific.

Now you are free to reject my "opinion" as you state. This immediate decision that my comments are mere opinion to be tossed aside if the reader doesn't like what he reads is one of the reasons why I tend to stay out of SBT, DBT and ABX discussions; they quickly turn into emotional argument predicated on preexisting bias, rather than rational, knowledgeable discussion.

Perhaps someone else will enjoy sparring with you.

If you don't wish to "spar," then you shouldn't start.

You seem to accept my contention that the WSJ test was invalid for testing for audible differences between the cables used. At least you do not question it or the reasons I gave for it.

You have provided no evidence at all that fast switching times between the devices under test will obscure anything. I have pointed out that experts in the field don't think so and I even provided an example where it did not.

I suppose perception is different in long term listening than in short term listening. That's one way of enjoying music. As well, such long term listening is a way of forming a preference for this or that piece of equipment. But perception is not the issue. Perception is affected by many things besides sensory input, the sound waves hitting the ear drums and so on. The issue is hearing, whether people can actually detect the differences between equipment based on the sound alone. Some may not care to know, others may.

The differences between various pieces of equipment, including wires, can be measured very precisely by those with the knowledge and the right equipment. Many people will perceive differences even when there is no difference. Some have called that a trick, which is irrelevant. But this happens in blind tests as well, including the infamous amplifier test run by Stereophile a number of years ago. The statistics show many people said A-A or B-B were different. The amps in fact did sound different, BTW, though this was better shown by a smaller, better designed test run by Banks and Krajicek:

http://www.stereophile.com/features/587/index.html

Well, what do you know? The blind test didn't obscure the differences.

Elk
Elk's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 9 months ago
Joined: Dec 26 2006 - 6:32am
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

You are absolutely and completely correct.

You have fully understood and appreciated all of my points and have successfully and completely destroyed them.

Feel better?

KBK
KBK's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 30 2007 - 12:30pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

isn't it like an Objectivist to be so deeply steeped in the inapplicable Newtonian works that they constant seek black and white while not even knowing what either actually truly are. Or that color even actually exists. Or not. We don't really know.....

I apologize if my comment seems out of line or uncalled for, but it is a truth that many an objectivist seemingly refuses to wrassle with.

The point is, you have defined what an audiophiles capacities are - with respects to their cranium combined with their ears - without even knowing the extent of such, and summarily decided what is 'known' betwixt the measurements systems vs the hearing of the said audiophiles - without even known the relationship or limits of such.

Then.. devised a test based on these two farcical points of objectivist imagination and then provided a result or more specifically a defined area for the test to 'land in'..once again..with an incomplete knowledge of the two points of origin which are supposed to be the defining points of the test.

Hhmmm..lemme think about that for a while.

KBK
KBK's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Sep 30 2007 - 12:30pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

Another point to be understood is that objectivism is an incredibly good minutiae type 'take apart tool', when attempting to strip something down to it's component parts.

It absolutely sucks as a 'put together tool',and that 'put together tool'...is the art of well applied subjectivsm.

forest-trees and all that stuff.

Objectivism, in it's more extreme forms, could be considered the "ADD" of scientific philosophy.

I cannot recall, at this time, where the census was taken, but it was found that the highest levels of predicable and repeatable ADD in children was found in the places where both parents were intelligent and linear objectivsts, with technical backgrounds.

Essentially, the point is, that before ADD was coined as a term, it was known as "Engineer's Disease".

bifcake
bifcake's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Nov 27 2005 - 2:27am
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

KBK,

If one is not to measure, then one is not to improve. You slam objectivists' viewpoint, but if your manufacturing criteria is purely subjective, there is no way you can consistently reproduce a product. Every sample will be different from another. If you were to come up with cable A and say that it's good and then come up with cable B and say that it's better, how would you know that cable B is actually better? You may fall victim to:

a) Changing tastes
b) Reduced hearing capacity
c) Differences in playback equipment
d) Room acoustics
e) Voltage fluctuations among many other variables.

So, it may be perfectly acceptable for a user to say that he hears a difference and that's all that matters, but that's not an acceptable stance for a manufacturer to take.

Xenophanes
Xenophanes's picture
Offline
Last seen: 11 years 6 months ago
Joined: Sep 7 2005 - 2:48pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:
You are absolutely and completely correct.

You have fully understood and appreciated all of my points and have successfully and completely destroyed them.

Feel better?

Yes, I know.

BillB
BillB's picture
Offline
Last seen: 10 years 1 month ago
Joined: Aug 15 2007 - 2:04pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

Hm, without trying to resolve the whole obj v subj thing - just one comment, re your statement:
"The differences between various pieces of equipment, including wires, can be measured very precisely by those with the knowledge and the right equipment".

I don't think that's factually correct, in that it is incomplete. We can measure many many things and many differences - but we can't claim that we can measure all differences. We see a zillion stars through our telescopes - but we shouldn't claim we have seen them all and may as well stop searching for more...

In other words, there can be differences that are not well enough described by existing measurements. There may be measurements to come which will better illuminate the perceived differences between cable A and B. Perhaps you can agree to that?

Elk
Elk's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 9 months ago
Joined: Dec 26 2006 - 6:32am
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

We have been playing with and studying the behavior of electricity for many years and understand how it works very well. I doubt that there will be too many more surprises as to how electricity behaves in a wire.

However, we are still learning how wire, components, circuit design, etc., affects the reproduction of sound and our perception of it. Thus, there continue to be improvements in equipment.

The advancement of scientific knowledge begins with observation and the curiosity to explain what has been observed.

We've got lots of work to do. This is what makes science fun.

Xenophanes
Xenophanes's picture
Offline
Last seen: 11 years 6 months ago
Joined: Sep 7 2005 - 2:48pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:
We have been playing with and studying the behavior of electricity for many years and understand how it works very well. I doubt that there will be too many more surprises as to how electricity behaves in a wire.

However, we are still learning how wire, components, circuit design, etc., affects the reproduction of sound and our perception of it. Thus, there continue to be improvements in equipment.

The advancement of scientific knowledge begins with observation and the curiosity to explain what has been observed.

We've got lots of work to do. This is what makes science fun.

Yes, it does seem wire can be measured extremely accurately, though all measurements have limits. Jneutron at Audioholics.com knows how to do such measurements. The last I knew, he was working on blind tests relevant to the audibility of wires in his spare time at home--and he can set up such an experiment. I haven't heard of any results.

The most relevant parameter of speaker cable performance seems to be resistance, though apparently a few amplifiers don't like high capacitance loads. Too much resistance can change the frequency response into many speaker loads sufficiently to be audible, since most speakers have a far from flat impedance vs. frequency curve.

Stereophile reviews cables but does not regularly measure them. Audioholics has done quite a few measurements on speaker cables and 12 gauge wire from the hardware store does just fine. I haven't seen any blind test on them over there, however.

No one says that different speaker cables never make an audible difference under any circumstances since under some circumstances some they do.

"However, we are still learning how wire, components, circuit design, etc., affects the reproduction of sound and our perception of it. Thus, there continue to be improvements in equipment."

There is certainly research on what affects the perception of sound but I don't think research on wires is a major concern. Here is a system I would have liked to hear--Wes Philips and John Atkinson seemed to have been impressed:

http://www.onhifi.com/features/20010615.htm

rvance
rvance's picture
Offline
Last seen: 8 years 10 months ago
Joined: Sep 8 2007 - 9:58am
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:

Quote:
You are absolutely and completely correct.

You have fully understood and appreciated all of my points and have successfully and completely destroyed them.

Feel better?

Yes, I know.

Xeno- Your vapid wit is exceeded only by your humility and grasp of irony.

absolutepitch
absolutepitch's picture
Offline
Last seen: 4 days 48 min ago
Joined: Jul 9 2006 - 8:58pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:
The problem with many folks who refuse to, or do not understand the audibility of sonic differences between cables or speaker wire, is that the introduction of the switchbox clouds the issue noticeably through the change in sonics brought about by the inclusion of the given switchbox. ... A given switchbox MAY be used, but only if the given group of audiophiles are familiar with the given switchboxes colorations and have tested to their own satisfaction that the switching tool can be 'clean enough' to discern differences in cables-of some sort.

Thanks for your details. Of course a switch can introduce some effects. I had in mind something else.

Some years ago, Doug Sax tested switches and found some that were inaudible enough that he could chain several of them in series and not detect a difference (if memory serves me correctly), and then could claim one switch is inaudible; he presented this at one of the audio seminars at a stereo shop attended by the public. I would suppose most switches are not in this class that he talked about. I guess the point is that the test in the WSJ had issues. Perhaps the two systems are sufficiently similar in sound that the difference of cables stood out and could be identified correctly, as JA and MF did.

Xenophanes
Xenophanes's picture
Offline
Last seen: 11 years 6 months ago
Joined: Sep 7 2005 - 2:48pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:
Xeno- Your vapid wit is exceeded only by your humility and grasp of irony.

No one is more humble than I.

andy_c
andy_c's picture
Offline
Last seen: 3 years 4 months ago
Joined: Dec 25 2007 - 12:48pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:
Thanks for your details. Of course a switch can introduce some effects. I had in mind something else.

Some years ago, Doug Sax tested switches and found some that were inaudible enough that he could chain several of them in series and not detect a difference (if memory serves me correctly), and then could claim one switch is inaudible; he presented this at one of the audio seminars at a stereo shop attended by the public. I would suppose most switches are not in this class that he talked about.

Also, keep in mind that almost every solid-state power amp on the market has a relay at its output. The relay usually serves at least two purposes. At power-up, the relay temporarily disconnects the speaker from the amp's output to prevent turn-on thumps. A similar thing happens at power-down. Also, there is often DC detection at the amp's output. If excessive DC is detected, the amp's protection circuitry opens up the relay, which disconnects the speaker to keep it from being damaged.

Some relays actually have considerable measured distortion, due to oxidation of the contacts forming a nonlinear resistor. Sensitive distortion analyzers must be used to determine the best relays. Very good relays have measured distortion very near the residual of the best available measurement equipment. The distortion (as a percentage) introduced at the speaker is much lower than the distortion of just the relay itself, because the AC voltage across the speaker is much larger than the very small AC voltage across the relay. That's why the distortion of the relay must be measured by itself and not at the speaker. The distortion introduced at the speaker by a very good relay will be below the residual of most distortion measurement equipment.

There are some interesting measured results of relay distortion here. These measurements were done in support of a test setup that was used for amplifier comparison listening tests at RMAF 2006 by Bob Cordell, described in this PDF file.

If one takes the view that any relay in the signal path to the speaker will obscure all speaker cable differences, and combines that with the information that nearly every solid-state amplifier has one, that would lead to an interesting conclusion .

tomjtx
tomjtx's picture
Offline
Last seen: 8 years 4 months ago
Joined: Nov 12 2006 - 2:53pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:

Quote:
Xeno- Your vapid wit is exceeded only by your humility and grasp of irony.

No one is more humble than I.

wanna bet?

I'm more humble and less competitive.

Xenophanes
Xenophanes's picture
Offline
Last seen: 11 years 6 months ago
Joined: Sep 7 2005 - 2:48pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:

Quote:

Quote:
Xeno- Your vapid wit is exceeded only by your humility and grasp of irony.

No one is more humble than I.

wanna bet?

I'm more humble and less competitive.

Impossible! Besides he said I have a grasp of irony, which I suppose means I have a mind like a steel trap.

tomjtx
tomjtx's picture
Offline
Last seen: 8 years 4 months ago
Joined: Nov 12 2006 - 2:53pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:

Quote:

Quote:

Quote:
Xeno- Your vapid wit is exceeded only by your humility and grasp of irony.

No one is more humble than I.

wanna bet?

I'm more humble and less competitive.

Impossible! Besides he said I have a grasp of irony, which I suppose means I have a mind like a steel trap.

Or like an iron kettle.

rvance
rvance's picture
Offline
Last seen: 8 years 10 months ago
Joined: Sep 8 2007 - 9:58am
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:

Quote:

Quote:

Quote:

Quote:
Xeno- Your vapid wit is exceeded only by your humility and grasp of irony.

No one is more humble than I.

wanna bet?

I'm more humble and less competitive.

Impossible! Besides he said I have a grasp of irony, which I suppose means I have a mind like a steel trap.

Or like an iron kettle.

You guys have too many ironies in the fire.

Xenophanes
Xenophanes's picture
Offline
Last seen: 11 years 6 months ago
Joined: Sep 7 2005 - 2:48pm
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud


Quote:
You guys have too many ironies in the fire.

That's the spirit!

You have to expect this sort of thing when the discussion is about a nonsensical test set up. Apparently no one wants to discuss it anymore so they move on to their favorite hobby horse.

[Let's see now: I just made "they" refer to "no one."]

gkc
gkc's picture
Offline
Last seen: Never ago
Joined: Feb 24 2006 - 11:51am
Re: Atkinson & Fremer Do Community Proud

Might I offer a humble suggestion, concerning the audible differences among wires?

Plug 'em into your system. Listen. Don't worry about what the switching relays in your amplifier are (or are not) doing to the sound.

Listen for a couple of hours, to your favorite music.

Then, the next day (or night -- the presence of sun or moon MAY affect the sound, but sidereal doings are beyong our control, so don't fret), plug in another set of wires.

Did you enjoy the change more? Less? About the same?

Choose accordingly.

Resist the urge to prove everything you hear. Just plug in the damned cables and play the damned music.

Enjoy.

I missed all the ironies. And I read the book on irony (William Empson, I believe -- 7 types of irony, as I recall). This makes sense -- I am a notoriously slow learner. You don't have to explain -- just give me another shot at the anvil.

Atkinson and Fremer do, indeed, do the community proud. They listen and report. So do Wes Phillips and Art (the "Ironic Bunny") Dudley.

Enjoy your tunes. Please. Do not go forth and spin "The Anvil Chorus," especially in the name of irony.

Cheers and happy tunes.

Pages

  • X