Analog Corner #269: TechDAS Air Force III turntable and Graham Engineering Phantom III tonearm

It was great fun having our editorial coordinator, Jana Dagdagan, shoot a video profile of me in my listening room. As I write this, it's had more than 88,000 views. While the ratio of thumbs up to thumbs down has remained consistently around 10:1, some of the negative comments, particularly about our industry and about this magazine, do enrage me.

Being called a "snake oil peddler" and a "haberdasher to emperors" is bad enough, but having high-end audio characterized as "the biggest shill industry ever to hit humanity since the age of alchemy," and as one based solely on greed, sets me off. I don't know anyone who got into this business to become rich.

I get angry when people write that they prefer science to observational reviewing, and that I "lose them" when I claim that power cables "sound," though they can't be bothered to take a listen because they "just know" power cables can't possibly affect sound quality. After all, science is based on (or is nothing without) observation and inquiry.

Stereophile takes hits from some as being "anti-science" because we almost never conduct blind listening tests. That really sets me off. "So Stereophile is a credible, peer reviewed, scientific source in the fields of psychoacoustics and audiology. Who knew? Lol." When did the magazine make that claim? My final comment to that sarcastic poster:

"Stereophile does measure almost all reviewed equipment. So you do not consider those measurements scientifically valid? Only blind tests will do? Blind tests have nothing whatsoever to do with the listening experience. Blind tests, like measurements, have their place but in the end we don't listen to measurements and they can be seriously misinterpreted and abused. There was a time when all that was measured was on-axis frequency response and that was considered dispositive . . . .but IMO nothing beats the human ear/brain particularly when it's experienced and understands the pitfalls.

"When I review a speaker I put my listening skills on the line in describing the sound I hear. The measurements come afterwards and then I get to see them in print in the magazine. Do you want to try that? I've made my share of mistakes but for the most part what I note in my observational review is confirmed by the measurements. And that's not good enough for you? I need to do blind speaker tests?

"I've done those at Harman and proven my listening reliability but for some no matter what I do and after 30 years of doing it I am asked to be a nice fellow and take shit from people and be called a 'snake oil peddler' (etc.). . . . Have a nice day!"

TechDAS Air Force III turntable
It's hardly news that designing to a price point is usually more difficult than designing without budgetary constraint. That's probably why many of us are more in awe of Andrew Jones's inexpensive ELAC loudspeakers than we are of well-respected, bank-breaking high achievers.

When I first set out to review the TechDAS Air Force III turntable for this month's Analog Corner, it was the company's least expensive model (footnote 1). But at the fall 2017 Tokyo International Audio Show, TechDAS introduced the even more basic Air Force V—they skipped over IV, which is a "bad" number in Japan—and so the Air Force III ($29,500) is now one model up from the bottom of the line. Yet it retains all of the more expensive models' key features, in somewhat simplified form (as does the new V).

Hideaki Nishikawa, CEO of TechDAS and designer of the Air Forces, is an audio legend. Formerly chief designer at Micro-Seiki, he created many of that company's turntable models of the 1970s, which are still highly desirable. Before that he worked for Stax, engineering that company's equally desirable electrostatic headphones. Between Micro-Seiki and the vinyl revival, Nishikawa took over the Japanese distribution of many of the premier brands of America's "golden age" of high-end audio—Krell, Mark Levinson, and VAC among them—from another audio legend, the late Yasuo Nakanishi, who was widely regarded as Japan's "Godfather of high-end audio."

TechDAS's parent company, Stella Inc., today distributes many brands in Japan, including Graham Engineering, Einstein Audio Components, Swedish Analog Technologies, Vivid Audio, Marten Audio, CH Precision, and, most recently, SME. Nishikawa is not afraid of distributing potential competitors. He's a good designer and a good businessman.

The growing worldwide interest in vinyl playback brought Nishikawa back to turntable design. He strongly believes in platters with air bearings and vacuum hold-down of LPs, both of which are included in every Air Force model. He wants to bring down prices, but also to stick with core technologies that he strongly believes in.

To produce an Air Force turntable with a retail price of $29,500—about $20,000 less than the Air Force II—Nishikawa reduced the 'table's footprint to 12.28" wide by 14.17" deep. The III is 6.3" tall without the tonearm base and still heavy at over 40lb, 20lb of that weight accounted for by its platter of machined aluminum. (The platter of the Air Force One is a far heavier sandwich of stainless steel and your choice of four upper-platter materials.)

To get the Air Force II's cost down, its aluminum chassis is cast, not machined. The Air Force III's chassis, however, like that of the big Air Force One ($105,000 without tonearm), which I reviewed in this column in April 2013, is machined from a solid block of aluminum (the One's chassis is of a complex, tri-laminar construction). Some people objected to the II's pebbly painted finish (I liked it). The III has the satin-smooth look and feel of TechDAS's current most expensive model; the cost-no-object Air Force Zero will arrive later in 2018.

The Air Force III's fit and finish make many other turntables, of any price, look primitive, almost unfinished. (Among the exceptions are Brinkmann Audio's Balance, Spiral Groove's SG 1, and a few others.) Some others may look chromed and jewel-like, but the III's satiny finish and gracefully machined accents take things to another level. I just kept gazing at it. The same is true of the machined control panel, and its buttons and digital display. The ways the buttons feel and work were as satisfying as how they look.

Another cost-cutter: the Air Force III has no suspension. That's hardly a problem, as long as you place it on a sturdy stand, hopefully one that's in some way isolated. The chassis sits on four feet, one at each corner. Each foot attaches to the chassis well up inside the III, via a large-diameter machined spike of stainless steel. This provides a degree of isolation, and lowers the chassis' center of gravity. Four chromed aluminum posts, one at each corner of the III's top deck, let you mount up to four tonearms of any length. TechDAS supplies a single mounting.

You can always upgrade later by adding one of the isolation platforms made by Minus K Technology (prices start at $2010), or an air-suspension platform such as the Vibraplane (prices start at $2500 for audio-specific units). The review sample rested on my big Harmonic Resolution Systems base supported by an HRS SXR rack.

The Air Force III's platter is driven by an outboard synchronous AC motor that appears to be the same as the one supplied with the II, and controlled by the same or similar quartz-oscillator DC amplifier. The Air Force III uses one air pump for both the bearing and vacuum system, unlike the AF One, whch uses separate pumps for each. Motor and platter are linked by the same nonstretch belt of polished polyurethane fiber used in all Air Force models. The motor's power supply and the silent, low-vibration air pump are housed in a plain black box measuring 13.8" wide by 6.3" high by 10.6" deep and weighing 19.8lb.

Easy Setup
It was relatively easy to set up the Air Force III. Place and level the chassis, use the supplied tools to lower the platter onto the spindle bearing—the platter rests on a smooth glass disc until air is pumped in—level the outboard motor housing, then connect the air hoses and electrical umbilical from the pump and motor.


Footnote 1: TechDAS (Stella Inc.), 51-10 Nakamarucho, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo 173-0026, Japan. Web: www.techdas.jp. US distributor: Graham Engineering, Inc., 25M Olympia Avenue, Woburn, MA 01801. Tel: (781) 932-8777. Web: www.graham-engineering.com
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Jack L's picture

Hi

Don't lose sleep on those hearsayers who listen to hearsays more than music.

Blind tests, ABX etc, are not all angels. The protoco employed by most, if not all, blind tests, easily render the audition results void.

What can be more convincing than the blind test condudcted by Hiroshima University: the listeners can distinguish sounds encoded and reproduced at different sampling frequencies (48, 96 & 192KHz) under the following conditions:

(1) in a enechoic chamber.
(2) 7 young listeners of average age of 22, 2 were female.
(3) flat test signals (white noise + gaussian impulse) - no music.

None of the above IDEAL conditions can be provided by other blind tests ever carried out. How can we take all those audition findings seriously??

So whoever challenges us subjectivists with blind tests etc etc, tell them go home !

Listening is believing

Jack L

Anton's picture

You won't believe me, but blind testing can be fascinating. But, it has to be done right, then becomes highly repeatable.

First, teach someone what sounds different between two samples. Exactly what to listen for, what are the tells...and then make the comparisons.

Example: I can show someone a pic of the Rose Bowl, full of people, and make a small change. Even just changing one person's shirt color. In instantaneous DB, nobody would be able to scan and judge on that basis, unless I had taught them what the difference(s) was ahead of time. If trained in advance to spot the differences, it becomes an easy task.

Works visually and with sound.

___

Now, I do see the bullshit flying when someone tells me about the half dozen veils a given product lifts when someone knows which product he/she/they is listening to but then that vast difference disappears under the cold hard light of hearing that under blind conditions. We are audiophiles, we live to bullshit ourselves. Heck, we are so crazy that we think our system sounds different day to day but we don't hear it differently day to day.

As a famous philosopher once said, we fool ourselves plenty, “Because little thing affects us. A slight disorder of the stomach makes us experience things differently. Perhaps an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about some subjectivism, whatever their claims of infallibility are!”

ChrisS's picture

Blind listening is fine. And entertaining.

However, no one shops by doing blind tests.

JHL's picture

...just like nobody listens to music, our ostensible goal, doing them. Like I asked in another thread that risked devolving into more hair shirt 'objectivism', if it's only audible in blind testing, doesn't that infer that it's inaudible to normal use?

***

Mr. Fremer, said hecklers in the dank recesses of presumption and projection have little to do with science (and less with physics, the word they'd use if they understood or wanted to understand). They have to do with control and what the internet does best, which is the bad driving out the good. They are not even scientisim-ists, to coin a phrase.

I refer us to think pieces like these papers on "science" abused as a decidedly unscientific cudgel. https://theethicalskeptic.com/

The first rule of Skepticism is that it observe a strictly ethical code. That's interesting because the first rule of optimizing the sound of reproduced music is that it reflect a strictly open-minded code, meaning that we allow it to happen instead of constantly telling it what it can or must do, especially over the learned reports of those on the forefront of those experiences who consistently find otherwise.

Glotz's picture

"hecklers in the dank recesses of presumption and projection have little to do with science"... is a fantastic and beautifully written statement.

I just love it! In fact, anytime JHL posts, I read it.

Jack L's picture

Bingo !!!!

Long-time listener's picture

"...they can't be bothered to take a listen because they "just know" power cables can't possibly affect sound quality..."

The measurements-above-all people deeply enjoy their sense of superiority -- they have the knowledge and the rest of us are just dimwits for refusing to see it. They, however, refuse to see the same psychological biases in play in their own responses that they accuse others of. Measurements don't show any differences in the frequency response of two interconnects, they say, so you can't be hearing any difference of any kind. With their firm belief, they refuse to listen or in fact to hear any differences. They use 14-guage zipcord with $10,000 speakers, and brag about it. It's so tiring. I look at Audio Science Review sometimes to get information about equipment not covered elsewhere, and I think it's important to know whether or not something performs well technically, but it's so tiring to hear them insist that ONLY SPEAKERS can really sound different from each other. You should buy amps only for their visual aesthetics, since the sound of any two amps is in fact indistinguishable. Myself, I hear clear, consistent, and repeatable differences between interconnects, even on different amp and speaker combinations. If listening doesn't tell us anything, then what are we doing?

Glotz's picture

"If listening doesn't tell us anything, then what are we doing?" Well said.

I agree with everything you wrote there, and your statements about ASR are utterly true. Shame, really. I liken it to politics. Audio politics.

Jack L's picture

Hi

Very true.

That's why I only use interconnects I design/built using 99.99% pure solid silver conductors for my rig (totally 9 pairs of them), many years back as I DO hear the superior sound of pure silver over non-silvers.

You don't want to know how expensive to buy a pure silver cord assuming it were available in the cable markets.

Am I nut to burn my hard-earned money should I not hear the subtantial
SONIC difference ?????

Listening is believing

Jack L

PS: the detachable power cord I used for one of my tube power amp is also 99.99% pure silver as well. My home=brew.

Valter's picture

Hi Michael.
ABX is not a scientific valid test for audio listenings.
We have many universitary research, not related to hifi interests,
that explain the complexity of uman brain working.
in summary,
ABX is not a valid scientific method to compare the sound with small differences or when it has different characteristics concerning the 3d and all the other characteristics of the sound, because the memory of a "sensation"** lasts only a few seconds.
** what is remembering a sensation? it's such an intangible thing that you can't rely on.
ABX is a scientific method valid in other situations where you don't need to remember for example,
you want to compare quality of 2 photographs and judge without conditioning derived from the different price of the printer or camera with which the photograph was taken.
Anyone who proposes ABX as a scientific test does not know science.
ABX is suitable for confusing the senses and blinding judgment.

JHL's picture

...supporting ABXism is that we have no retention. Yet I remember the sound of things I haven't heard in years right after they're fired up again. Obviously this is because of their particular sound. It's like recognizing a photograph.

***

Another myth sometimes crops back up; being prohibited to engage any other sense at the same time. This dogma dictates that you must not see what you hear yet I remember in re-hearing a component what I'd completely forgot about its sound, and it can take time to re-acclimate to what ends up being the same sense I had the previous time.

I'm not expecting or projecting it because I've also physically recognized it. I'm simply experiencing its particular, unavoidable sound. This observation frequently extends to others, where in independent auditions they'll use the same words for the same component and its effects.

This is normal and expected. Imagine the deprivations one must ascend to in audio in order to partake in any other human pursuit ... and in audio in what's already been declared to be inaudible, whether by technical ignorance or reciting and professing some great human incapacity to simply experience.

Outside of audio it doesn't happen. Like a great audio reviewer, a chef's career depends on his speaking for the whole room for all the years of a long and illustrious career. Only in audio is this forbidden for mysterious reasons subscribed to by faith.

Valter's picture

I'm sorry but you show, like so many of you who are fond of the abx method, that you don't know what you are saying and you don't even have the humility to want to learn something.
You didn't say anything of scientific value.

JHL's picture

...think ABX does more harm than good. I know what I'm saying because the subject matters and because the underlying logic is sound.

Learning is the inevitable product of the objective pursuit of how audio works. And I didn't intend to say anything of strict "scientific value", whatever you mean by that.

Maybe you meant to reply to another comment.

Valter's picture

if you are also not in favor of abx, maybe I have misinterpreted your previous post.

Anton's picture

Sense and insensibility?

A good way to validate our subjective expertise is to see how long any given 'day and night,' 'lifting veils,' 'opening a window' type things we do stay in our listening routines.

Remember when cable lifters were the new indispensable things to make your system sound better? We saw floors that looked like we were trying to build miniature tramways between amps and speakers. Sound wasn't valid without those magic lifters.

Fast forward to this past month.

AXPONA's covereage revealed no cable lifters in sight. A recent pic on one of my favorites reviewer's room....no cable lifters on a million dollar plus system.

I guess the sound of cable lifters either doesn't exist or we forgot about it.

Remember reviews of Tice Clocks? Their time has passed.

Another good test for a piece of gear is whether it has staying power. Is anybody still sticking Harmonix discs in their rooms? Shun Mook floor rollers?

This is a leisure hobby, so no lives in danger: we can just let the 'crap filter of time' help show the path that hews closest to the truth.

ChrisS's picture

...represent your "average" listening room

or man cave.

What does the lack of Miles Davis music played at this AXPONA mean to you?

Anton's picture

The average price for the gear at Axpona does not represent your "average" listener's room, either.

The exhibitors are trying to make their gear sound as good as possible and in the past we were overrun with various types of cable lifter rigs, yet none now.

Like I said, fads come and go.

ChrisS's picture

...last year's cars.

Not very exciting.

These shows aren't for "fads".

Or average.

Just new, bright, and shiny.

Anton's picture

Yeah, a fad.

ChrisS's picture

...like "stereo".

Let's go Mono!

Anton's picture

When does stereo not become a fad in your time line?

How does that compare to Mpingo disks, Harmonix dots, Tice Clocks, and cable lifters?

ChrisS's picture

...and goes.

For many different reasons.

Your definition of "fad" as audio show exposure is extremely narrow and meaningless.

Anton's picture

Loaded with fads.

I guess the hobby will never run low on bitchy so called audiophiles, that’s for sure.

ChrisS's picture

...so.

Jack L's picture

Hi

Sorry, disagreed.

Not "everything" is a fad. Just like my love to my wife & family, my
love in music listening & in my audio electronics hobby that started when I was a junior school kid, will stay with me until my last day.

Listening is believing

Jack L

PS: I sincerely hope you were still single, unmarried.

Jack L's picture

Hi

Sorry, I can't laugh at yr humour !

Stereo is NOT a fad, pal. It is already 141 years old & is kicking around like nobody's business.

Let look back stereophonic longevity history:

Back in 1881, C. Ader demonstrated the world's first 2-channel stereophonic sound system in Paris.
In 1930, Alan Blumlein invented modern 2-channel stereophonic technology in EMI & also patented stereo records, stereo films & surround sound !!

They are still around, profoundly improved in performance. What fad ??

Going back "Mono"? Can we still get any new mono audio gears nowadays ?

Listening is believing

Jack L

Glotz's picture

It's getting me kinda excited! Lol.. jk

Long-time listener's picture

... is an excellent antidote to the idea that we must use instantaneous A-B testing to distinguish between components. It's a method that actually works.

ChrisS's picture

...do.

Jack L's picture

Hi

Yes, but SIGHT, not blind A-B tests !

Jack L

friccolodics's picture

...as well and thoroughly as you do test other components.
As for the nuances, qualities and differences your staff is hearing, but the measurements don't validate:
i am all for John Siau's statement:
"When we hear something that we cannot measure, we are just not doing the right measurements."

Jack L's picture

........ doing the right measurements." qtd friccolodics.

BINGO !

Jack L

Mars2k's picture

Oh please…insisting that everyone on the planet force their unique and delicate inner ears to listen to a glaring brittle DAC with .0000001% SND just because it’s cheap enrages me as well. There is one audio site in particular whose entire raison d'être seems to be extolling the virtues of $25 stereo DACs over 32 channel AV processors. Their followers castigate anyone who mentions hearing over hard analytics. These audio scientists wail over the cost of more expensive equipment with no understanding whatsoever of the market forces that drive prices associated with bringing hi quality gear in limited numbers to sophisticated listeners.
Did I mention actual listening over looking at graphs? I defy anyone who would tell me that swapping out a set of rectifier tubes wouldn’t change the sound of a certain DAC I own. How different is that from cable matching in a complicated system?
I am not criticizing these guys for crunching numbers I’m only criticizing their narrow-minded lack of empathy. Their motto, “If we don’t get it, it shouldn’t exist”. I say let them love their number crunching. The rest of us can use that data within the larger scope of a delightful hobby we love.

teched58's picture

I don't begrudge anyone their subjectivity. But it must be said, from these comments, you guys doth protest too much. If you're secure in your subjectivism, why does ASR trigger you all so much?

Lest you jump down my throat because you think I'm an Amir fanboy, I will tell you that I am an objectivist (because I'm an engineer and that's how they train you). And, while I don't buy into audio woo, I also don't feel the need to seek out amps with SINADs of -170 db or whatever nonsensical number which is way below the threshold where anyone can tell the difference.

That's why I'm mostly into vintage electronics, which I restore myself.

Anyway, I do think it's funny that everyone here seems to be so sensitive to criticism that they want to blow the mortgage money on some shiny new gear.

If you're a subjectivist, what do you have to be ashamed of? Nothing. Yet you all seem very, very sensitive.

Anton's picture

Tell me how true objectivists shop or form opinions about the sound of their systems/gear?

JHL's picture

...and one at the heart of the matter. I'd like to see it well met and answered.

Since fine audio is for authentic sound, when audio instead becomes a blinded zeal for detached numbers, naturally we must ask ourselves how we'll protect fine audio.

When numbers abuse become an activist movement, subjective and projecting things that simply do not exist, then we know fine audio is being challenged, which means that so too is authentic sound being challenged.

And when those attacks become personal and presume incompetence and fraud as a matter of course, then we know that while the adherents of authentic reproduced sound didn't do it, battle lines have been drawn.

The comments threads attract drive-by snipers, which is bad form, lacks objectivity and wisdom, and detracts from the goal.

Glotz's picture

"Presume incompetence and fraud as a matter of course"... That is the case of the trolls in most audio sites. And the 'measurements-only' crowd usually pushes that dogma.

It's objectivists rigidity that prevents harmonious dialog of the dichotomy of subjective and objective. In a hobby context, there really isn't much of a discussion with them. We, by reading Stereophile, inherently appreciate both sides of the argument, as it provides both. HFN does as well. ASR does not.

And 'protecting fine audio' is a cause for sensitivity, much like the "Loudness Wars" are on a similar front. When subjective audio fidelity is lost, the numbers will continue to 'lie' to all music lovers and we could all suffer a loss of choice some day in the future. (I think vinyl's current success is a response to this in part.)

RH's picture

"It's objectivists rigidity that prevents harmonious dialog of the dichotomy of subjective and objective. In a hobby context, there really isn't much of a discussion with them."

Having been part of countless discussions in various audiophile forums for decades, I find you have misdiagnosed the problem.

If we for sake of clarity and argument talk about two competing camps - objectivist/subjectivist - (even though many of us exist on a spectrum between these), yes people in either camp, by personality, can be extreme or inflexible.

However, in terms of the actual system of inquiry each represents, it's actually the Subjectivist camp that tends to be the more dogmatic and inflexible, and which is often the source of "cable discussions going to hell."

The dogmatist is one who holds his/her beliefs either without any way of being shown to be wrong, or who resists any such attempt.

The non-dogmatist starts with accepting his/her fallibility and seeks ways of "finding out that I am wrong, you are right."

So to examine the two different attitudes, take this proposition:

I perceive a sonic difference between Cable A and Cable B in this system.

The Objectivist may be skeptical of this claim. The skepticism comes from what we seem to know about electrical properties and their audibility, and the implausibility in this case that cable A is audibly altering the signal vs cable B.

BUT...says the Objectivist...I COULD BE WRONG. And HERE is how you can show me, or I can find out myself, that my skeptical conclusion is wrong:

Examples:

1. Show a measurable difference in the audio signal using the different cables, especially a difference in the known-to-be-audible range.

Or, failing that:

2. Show me that I, you, or anyone else, can reliably detect an audible difference between the cables under conditions controlling for our tendency towards sighted bias.

Either or both of these will be taken as some evidence for the claim, and so the Objectivist can modify his belief based on these methods.

IN CONTRAST:

The pure subjectivist has assumed his subjective impression as the Final Arbiter Of The Truth Of The Matter. "If I Heard It; It's Real!"

How can you indicate this assumption is in error to the subjectivist?

If you produce objective measurements showing the cables measure the same, the subjectivist says: "That just means you can't measure what I KNOW I hear!"

If you suggest testing controlling for bias, he replies "Blind testing is too different from the way I actually listen to music, so I will reject the relevance."

If you even try the same approach as the subjectivist to vet the claim, that is rejected to. Example, if the objectivist listens under the same conditions and says "I listened - the cables don't sound different" then this too can be waved away as "All that says is you don't have the listening acuity necessary to hear the difference!" Or "your system clearly isn't resolving enough. How do I know? I know because I hear a difference!" <-- just more question -begging.

The "objectivist" has told you what it would take to change his mind. The subjectivist has not. In fact for years I've been asking Golden Ears subjectivists of this sort "What would show your perception is wrong?" and not ONE has ever provided and answer to this question. It is either ignored, or I just hear a restatement of the confidence "I Trust My Hearing."

Now...WHO is the dogmatist there?

It' aint the objectivist.

(And the dogmatic faith-like claims underlying the pure subjectivist approach go completely unnoticed by many in that camp. It's just assumed that their approach to vetting gear Is The Right One and if an objectivist dare voice a contrasting opinion skeptical of a claim, well it's just the objectivist muckracking. And given the subjectivist has no actual way to provide evidence beyond his say-so and self belief, his usual recourse is to take questioning his perception as an insult, and to leap to ad hominem attacks on the objectivist...calling him "troll" or blaming him for ruining threads or disparaging his hearing or gear etc.

Most of the rancor in cable/tweak threads tend to go off the rails. because the ad hominem replies usually start from the subjectivists, with pile-ons, utterly blind to this fact. Subjectivist claims are taken to be just fine; objectivist opinions are taken to be an attack.

JHL's picture

...is challenged by the common objectivist canard that an undefined 'measurement' - mostly simple amplitude - can rationally be projected; asserted where it's yet to exist and until it does that related phenomenon shall not exist.

Further, that anyone who does not produce this as-yet missing 'science', in an abuse of the definition of actual science, may be assumed or even declared to be imagining things.

"Prove it. Ergo, then it doesn't exist". This forms the basis of some objectivist assumptions about reproduced sound and how it's made. However at each of its discrete steps this runs afoul of the actual scientific method.

From there the myths of rapid challenge-testing, sighted bias, the inaudibility of passive elements and break in, and listening for random simple change instead of passively tuning for effect are freighted in with this undefined but missing 'measurement' to create the common front end bias and its dogmatic application that defines faulty objectivism.

All are beliefs and unscientific. The supposed fail-safe "what would show your perception is wrong?" is then illogical.

It's a fallacy where the claim made, per above, obviously shouldn't be assumed to be missing a related phenomena, where it doesn't have to be proved before it is, and where the obvious answer is axiomatic: If it's *inaudible* it's inaudible, which is itself still not a proof of missing phenomenon. Maybe I just can't taste an extra ten grains of salt.

The only pertinent questions are who cares and why. The proof is already in the pudding using the only metric that matters. It's heard.

I *will* agree that an argument about what is or is not audible (like the familiar performance ceiling heard around objectivism) is pointless. Nobody should care and ideally nobody should engage. The obvious progress made by good audio scientists is clear evidence that audio can rise to a high level, one not heard from supermarket audio and associated dogmatic views on how things must work and what they cannot sound like per its 'science'. To each their own. C'est la vie.

The physical difference lies in the sound, with a related problem that the objectivist doesn't allow or honor it because he can't or won't hear it and hasn't found an associated science. The rational issue lies in the objectivist assumption that the science, as he wrongly calls it, must precede a permissible, pre-formulated outcome. You as much as said so. What would convince you it doesn't exist is purely rhetorical. It's biased against occurrence.

PS: There's a sea of 'objective' but incorrect assumptions about audio related to the simplistic belief system that common, existing, discrete measurements define whole sound when in fact they provide insight into snippets of engineering. But *objectivism* is itself quite guilty of actively projecting and presuming a knowledge and understanding of the physical natures of things, presumably leading to sound, that simply are not so.

Jack L's picture

Hi

"If I heard it, it's REAL" to ME. Period. Who cares whoever else like it or not.

Music goes to MY own ears, not whoever's. I hear it good, it is good. Do I NEED to prove it to whoever else???

Likewise, I love my wife & family, do I have to prove it to whoever ???

Likewise I dislike coffee, & alcohol, only organic tea & maybe hot chocolate when I feel hungry, do I have to prove to the world my likes & dislikes.

Music enjoyment is a personal thing, having nothing to do with anybody else. When I like it, it is REAL to ME.

Even the whole world does not like it, do I need to care ??

Listening with my own ears is believing

Jack L

Glotz's picture

You owe nothing to anyone to justify your perceptions of what is great sound.

RH's picture

All of which misses the point.

You can like whatever you want of course, and buy whatever you want, for whatever reason you care. There are no jack booted thugs waiting outside your door to take you away for "not buying something the right way."

However, if you want to use your own impressions to claim to others some truth about how a piece of audio gear actually works...then, depending on the claim, some may rightly ask for more evidence than your say-so.

For instance, if you say "I love my Harbeth speakers more than the B&Ws I heard recently" then I'd say: Cool.

If instead you said "these audio tweak stickers pasted on my walls or audio component vastly improved the soundstaging, and increased dynamics and clarity of my sound system"....then I'd say: I'm not aware of any established engineering theory that would support such a phenomenon. And since people's perception can be fallible, I'll want some stronger, more reliable evidence. Is there any evidence beyond your personal impressions? Measurable changes in the signal? In your measured room response, any cogent technical theory, anything else?

I hope that would be ok with you, and not taken as an insult.

What you believe is what you believe. That's fine for your personal needs. But audio gear is not magic, doesn't come about by pure subjective impression or wishful thinking, and so it might not help anyone else understand what's actually happening in a particular piece of audio gear, or tweak, to just offer "this is what I believe."

And certainly for people trying to design audio gear, pure subjective claims can only go so far. It's not for nothing that even Magico finally got around to purchasing an expensive Klippel analyzer system to measure and help design the speakers.

Jack L's picture

............the different cables" qtd RH

My simple answer to whoever objectivists: FYI, there is no measurement gears existed yet to measure the audio cable difference. In the mean time, use of ears.

Listening is believing

Jack L

RH's picture

"My simple answer to whoever objectivists: FYI, there is no measurement gears existed yet to measure the audio cable difference. In the mean time, use of ears.

Listening is believing"

Right. So here we are again. Nobody can imply you are wrong by showing the two cables in question produce exactly the same measured signal. You'll reject that as irrelevant. Even if I listen to the two cables myself and they sound the same, you can just wave this off as my own lack of hearing acuity: "Too bad you can't hear these things; but I know I hear!"

I simply have to take your word that you hear things that can't be measured.

Just as I wrote earlier: it's a closed system. Impervious to counter- evidence or skepticism. Like a religious belief system.

It's been fascinating, yet totally predictable, to see my initial points being proven even in this comment section.

Anyway, we've been here before, so goodbye for now.

Jack L's picture

.......... be measured." qtd H.R.

No, you don't have to take any cable yeasayer's word if you don't hear the difference.

It is a free world here. It is your own call. If you can't hear the sonic difference among cables, there's fine. Then don't worry about it.
Stick with the cables you are using & be done !

Again, nearly everyone on this planet drink coffee, but I don't. Nobody ever challenges me why not ?? Nor I would ever want to challenge any coffee lovers.

Audio is personal. Why worry about whoever else likes or dislikes !

Listening with my own ears is believing.

Jack LK

RH's picture

I'm afraid you are still missing the point.

Of course you have yet again simply implied that if you hear something and someone else doesn't, then the explanation is that other person "can't hear" it, whereas you can. This is the inflexible bubble you are reasoning within. The I Can Not Be Wrong bubble.

"Audio is personal."

No it's not. That's a confusion.

Buying gear is a personal decision.

Understanding how gear works, or doesn't, whether any claims made by an audiophile or manufacturer about gear is true is NOT just a "personal" fact. THAT is the point I have been making.

Whether cable A actually alters the sound vs cable B or not isn't a "personal" issue, there is a fact of the matter. And this is relevant for both consumers and manufacturers and engineers.

Take for instance, an audio designer who really cares to produce a cable that "cleans up the sound" in an audible way, and they have developed a technical theory for how to address this, gone to lots of trouble to develop your cable. The cable is very thick with a shiny coating. It looks expensive. Now, just relaying on the subjective reports of some audiophiles to see if the design is successful. They audiophiles you test say "Yes, that big, thick, beautiful cable really does clean up the sound, that's what I hear!"

Well, what if you tested the same audiophiles, gave them an off the shelf cheap AC cable that had nothing to do with your technical design, but disguised it as the expensive cable. Then the audiophiles still report "yes, that beautiful looking cable really does clean up the sound!"

If you are a thinking person at all, that right there suggests you've got a major variable happening. It seems that the mere LOOK of the cable, and the belief it is of higher quality, seems sufficient to produce this perception of the sound being more clean and clear! Therefore, how do you know it isn't the LOOK of your cable design that isn't causing these positive reports and descriptions?

If you are the manufacturer who has gone through all this trouble developing a theory and engineering the product, and you don't really CARE whether it's the success of your actual theory and product design, or whether it's just the imagination of audiophiles based on how something looks...then you have a very strange relationship with the truth. Like, after all that effort, you don't care if it's true your design works...delusion is just as good.

As it happens, the propensity for human beings to imagine things just like the above is well established. The fact you and some others may ignore this variable in your method doesn't mean others ought to.

Knowledge is power, whether you are a manufacturer or consumer. As a consumer analogy,: if you were looking for a stone for your fiance's ring, and you were at a gem market where some where selling real gems for thousands of dollars and others were selling cheap fake gems for the same amount, most rational people would actually care whether they are getting a real or fake gem for their money. They want a real gem, that is actually rare enough to be 'worth' thousands of dollars on the market, not to be fooled in to just BELIEVING they bought a real gem. A vendor selling the fake gems doesn't get off the hook saying "well, BUYING GEMS IS PERSONAL, so if you are happy with what you bought...what's the harm?" The harm is the people didn't really get what they want, and that if they actually wanted a fake gem they could have spent far less money to get the same thing. That's why knowledge is power - delusion is not. If this huckster points to plenty of "happy customers" who bought his fake gems believing they were real, we would hardly say "oh, well that settles the issue. What really matters is what anyone happens to believe, whether it's true or false doesn't really matter."

And that's the point of caring about what is actually happening with audio gear.

Yes, buying anything in audio is a personal decision. But please stop confusing that with a goal that many have of actually understanding how audio works, or with getting at what is true or not about audio gear. Purely "subjective" audiophiles make truth claims all the time, echoing the claims of manufacturers - "This tweak REALLY DOES change the sound of a system!" If those audiophiles want to treat this all like a religion "hey, if I feel it it's true" they can do so. But realize plenty of other people, for very good reasons, care about understanding whether the claims made for a product are true or not, and why.

Long-time listener's picture

"If you're secure in your subjectivism, why does ASR trigger you all so much?"

If by "triggered," you mean having gripes about the extremist positions on ASR, then OK, we're triggered. The final comments in your post are a good example of why. You grant us our subjectivity – you say – but the whole purpose of your snide, condescending post is to assert that surely we must be secretly "ashamed" of it. Ashamed of our reasonable position that science doesn't know everything, ashamed that we're not willing to let science completely override our subjective experience.

Me, I value measurements. I've learned that they help me make good buying decisions, and I never buy anything these days without seeing some measurements. They're very useful. But I'm sorry to say -- no, make that "ashamed" -- that I also hear distinct differences between interconnects, speaker cables, and power cables. I'm not going to disregard what I hear because science can't measure it in the cable.

To the objectivists I would say this: Science cannot explain why or how the non-sentient, non-conscious materials that make up our physical bodies can generate consciousness, and why we have a consistent, persistent sense of self. This is known in science as "the hard problem of consciousness." Yet here we are, conscious beings, all of us. Call me silly, but I'm not going to deny my subjective, personal belief that I possess consciousness because science can't explain it. But I'll bet people over on ASR sure would. They'd say, "your belief that you are conscious is just a delusion, generated by ..." Their extreme positions seem silly to me, and unhelpful to audio enthusiasts. Scientifically-oriented people, more than others, ought to have a rational awareness of the limits of science. They don't seem to.

RH's picture

"If by "triggered," you mean having gripes about the extremist positions on ASR, then OK, we're triggered."

What exactly is "extreme" about looking for how measurements correlate to subjective impressions? In looking at how those measurements correlate to currently known thresholds for audibility, so as to get a better idea which measurements to care more about?
In acknowledging the fact humans are fallible, including our perception? We know this from the fallibility of human experience, not to mention there are countless scientifically demonstrated ways in which human bias can skew inferences.

What is "extreme" about actually having ways of finding out you are wrong?

The alternative seems to act as if audio exists in some privileged bubble, outside everything we've learned about human error and limitations. Why treat it like a religion? How does that make sense?

"I'm not going to disregard what I hear because science can't measure it in the cable."

In other words, your position is that your subjective impressions are RIGHT, and no counter-evidence can be given to make you shake your belief.

Unshakable beliefs of that sort, unassailable by any objective evidence, are usually found in religious dogma.

And you are accusing "objectivists" of being "extreme?"

Glotz's picture

Objectivists literally ignore all of the subjective. It misses the entire point of listening to music.

To deny listening appreciation in and of itself is extreme. It completely replaces listening with measurements.

Such behavior in buying stereo gear leads to a falsehoods about the way their newly-purchased gear sounds, by falling back on the dogma of theory and measurements dictating their opinion (about the sound of that gear).

Measurements sets only look at a fraction of the total picture. Measurements sets tell you what is measurable, not what is heard.

Simply, listening over time bears all of the truth any component or product possesses. No matter the parameter you listen for.

HR's column in this month issue speaking of his friend Gaucho:
"I am a physicist and know everything we hear can be measured. What should I measure to fully characterized a sound system?

What is the complete set of measurements that would uniquely allow me to identify good sound? That I do not know.

What I do know is that scientific pursuit is about accurately describing what we observe, not aligning observation with model-driven expectations."

Nothing says it better, and all high-end audio manufacturers use both listening and measurements in tandem to produce the best sounding gear.

Most, if not all, prefer listening over measurements. None create on measurements alone.

Therefore, no one should judge on measurements alone.

Glotz's picture

By all logical reasoning, ASR should not state they are creating stereo component reviews.

They are merely providing data and definition commentary of that data, nothing else.

All of the measurement sets reports that I've read superficially speak of the sound in the most minimal ways possible, if at all.

What then occurs in their comments section is almost entirely assumptions and conjecture of what the measurements 'mean' to the sound, and in reference of some measurement 'ideal'.

This process completely ignores how sound and music is heard.

I speak from experience in blindly trusting their data sets. The Schiit Modius has nigh-perfect measurements for $200, and yet aurally, it has issues in a number of areas I heard, tone and dynamics being two. After a subjective review dropped weeks later, they reported many similarities. I now trust that review more than the data drop commentary.

ASR's entire process of objective data provision, editorials defining the commentary sets and resultant reader commentary is comprised largely of dross and of destructive proclamations to respective buyers and students of music appreciation.

Teaching music listeners both sides of the subjective and objective coin is crucial.

JHL's picture

https://www.hifiwigwam.com/forum/threads/is-asr-right.106085/

Neither of your assessments are in any way surprising. This is simply the nature of the beast.

RH's picture

Objectivists literally ignore all of the subjective. It misses the entire point of listening to music.

I'm sorry but these type of criticisms deserve to be called out as utter nonsense and cited for what it really is: A type of audiophile virtue signaling, especially meant to make the person feel "better" than someone else. "I'm a sensitive soul in it for the MUSIC, THOSE audiophiles have lost sight of THE MUSIC and are all about techno stuff!"

No "objectivist" (and certainly not anyone I've seen on ASR) actually fits the silly caricature you are painting. Music is art; audio is engineering. Mixing this up is a source of lots of audiophile confusion. Understanding how my phone works doesn't impede me from using it to have deep conversations with my loved ones. Understanding how a piece of audio gear works doesn't impede a deep connection with MUSIC played through that gear.

Try to see people with a different viewpoint as actually human. The "objectivists" love music, just like you do.

And no they don't just dismiss "listening." OF COURSE listening is important; the whole point is how something SOUNDS to a listener. The point of the objectivist's approach is to try to more reliably identify, understand and predict "how things sound" so you can achieve those goals. The only reason measurements have any place at all is in HOW THEY CORRELATE TO LISTENING IMPRESSIONS.

Jeebus cripes!

RH's picture

*note, forgot formatting: the first sentence in my reply above was quoting Glotz.

tonykaz's picture

Audiophile Testing, in all the various methods, has always been more informative than what Reviewers report.

Store samples & pieces owned by others will probably sound different than the same item a Reviewer is evaluating.

Some reviewers i.e. John Atkinson will make insightful observations. Mr. HR & a good many other Stereophile staff seem to present useful points of view that are well worth reading and considering.

Stereophile's reporting on Industry and Culture make the Publication worthwhile. ( Planet seems Status and Ego based ) Analog is still an outstanding format with the latest vinyls at $50 ea but the Gear is fragile and exorbitantly priced, well out-of-reach for anyone not owning a Citation Jet. However: Mr.HR's reporting on the LINN LP12 is probably Stereophile's best writing of this last Year. ( the bar keeps raising , phew )

The ABYSS lads just did a brilliant YouTube analysis of all our Audiophile Formats. These 3 lads compete with Stereophile's best writers and reporters . ( they exceed the great reporting by Tyll and Steve G. )

There is plenty of recorded greatness to go around, money isn't the critical ingredient, knowledge is only a few clicks away.

Tony in Florida

Anton's picture

I recently read a review wherein the reviewer mentioned being able to hear a fade out word repeated one more time than other devices might make clear.

I find that when I hear something on a system that I previous hadn't noticed, I can then almost universally listen to the same recording played back in my car and hear what I had thought was previously unnoticeable.

Have any of you ever experienced this sort of thing? Once you hear a new detail, you can then hear it even on low quality gear?

I find this fascinating.

Glotz's picture

Bass response will mask some of the midrange and treble in some recordings, despite really great transparency throughout the FR spectrum.

Reflections against the curved windshield also have a tendency to bring out smaller, less audible musical details and cues and reflect them back with greater clarity. In a way, closed vehicles are really just very asymmetrical small rooms.

X