Do you consider yourself an audio subjectivist or objectivist?

The battle rages on in the audio shops, the pages of <I>Stereophile</I>, and in the online news groups: Subjectivist (relies on direct experience to judge audio quality) versus Objectivist (relies on experimental evidence to judge differences and quality). What are your tendencies?

Do you consider yourself an audio subjectivist or objectivist?
29% (68 votes)
6% (14 votes)
Mostly subjectivist
34% (79 votes)
Mostly objectivist
9% (22 votes)
Equal amounts of both
16% (38 votes)
5% (11 votes)
Total votes: 232

James's picture

As my system has improved, it has become much easier to discern the differences that each change renders. Therefore, I've become much more of a subjectivist. I trust what my ears tell me.

ron atherton's picture

I believe there is an inherent bias in the chosen terms. Subjectivists should more properly be termed observationalists, as there is nothing subjective about the listening process, in and of itself. It is only the VALUE we choose to grant to each aspect of observed performance that becomes subjective. This is no less true for the so-called objectivist who must chose which measurements are to be given the greatest priority. Let's ignore the fact that these measurements are completely inadequate to the task of fully describing the observed experience. (Can anyone measure image placement within the recorded soundfield, or describe by measurement why one component reveals recorded details which are completely lost by another?) The objectivist supposition that the human ear/brain system cannot be trusted to observe the performance of an audio system is ridiculous. Even more ridiculous, is the belief that an oscilloscope can do better (and is more meaningful)!!

Craig's picture

I'd never buy any gear based on specifications or any number of great reviews or test results without first hearing the supposedly great results for myself. And that in most cases would include an audition in my system. True High End is based on how something actually sounds not on indirect experimental "evidence". It's got to "move you". There is not a lot of soul in experimental evidence.

Andrew Hon's picture

As a cognitive scientist, I find the distinction between subjective and objective becomes increasingly blurry.

Guido Roemer's picture

I'm a psychology teacher. I teach my students that people make serious errors of judgment. For the most part, people see and hear the things they want to see and hear. We contruct our reality in concordance with our prior beliefs and conceptions. I think that high-end reviewers must overcome their test anxiety and conduct blind testing procedures on a more or less routine basis. I think that claims made by cable/interconnect manufacturers are unrealistic. The same goes for all kinds of CD preparation methods (demagnetizing). These will most certainly not hold up under blind test conditions. I like to read Stereophile, but I also think that sometimes the magazine takes part in creating some of the "high-end myths".

Werner's picture

Get the balance right.

MyronC's picture

There is no substitute for 'perfect ears'!

Robert's picture

The final decision must be based on direct experience.

Woody Battle's picture

I approach tweeks with a bit of skepticism. I have found some that work and some that don't.

Barry Krakovsky's picture

I think the question of objectivity versus subjectivity is more important for the hardware and software manufacturers than for the average listener. As a listener I only have two requirements: My gear must be reliable and it must serve the music. If the designers of my gear prefer measuring to listening, or vice versa, that's up to them. As far as I'm concerned both methods are simply means to an end. The only thing that's really important is the validity of the information -- not how they got it.

Alan Matheson's picture

If you are not listening,you are not enjoying!

Francesco's picture

I think objectivists had lost the primary objective: the listen of music in a domestical environment.

Peter MacHare's picture

Neither. Music lover.

Brian's picture

Direct experience is all that matters: you can't listen to experimental evidence.

Chris S.'s picture

My response to music (and sound) is purely emotional. Every component in my system was purchased because of how I felt when I listened to it. If something tests well in a review (I rarely give creedence to manufacturer's ratings), I will take that into consideration when deciding what to audition. But how a component or accessory sounds is the most important thing to me.

Rob Damm's picture

Well, it should be simple. You hear something you like, that means it's good, right? Well, there are a few problems with that: 1) What I like might be different from what someone else likes, making subjectivist reviews problematic. 2) I like different things at different times, making my life in general problematic. That being said, I buy what my ears tell me to buy, but I don't totally ignore measurements and tests.

Sam T.'s picture

Neither. I make a living writing about hi-fi, but I am so cheap, I only buy what's on sale at Radio Shack.

Ron Conterio's picture

It's the music that counts! The technical data only gives a starting point, but it's the musical result that ultimately makes or breaks the effectiveness of a component or recording. HDCD has suffered from the technical viewpoint! Eventhough it sounds great NOW, we ignore it beacuse the numbers are better on the upcoming formats.

Andrew Dyrda - Aberdeen's picture

Mostly subjectivist-because the really complex stuff can never be measured and even if it could, it would be different for each individual. But you need the meters to measure the basic parameter in this type of consumer mag. simply to assist buyers in identifying which component is properly engineered.

Leslie Williams's picture

Being neither a physicist nor a businessman, I tend to be a realist. "Objectivists" too often neglect psycho-acoustics and the transient content of music. "Subjectivists" too often live in fantasy. Both sides all-too-frequently ignore the impact of rooms and halls.

Ed Strnad's picture

If it sounds good to you, that's all that matters. Not everything is measureable, but EVERYTHING makes a difference.

Chris Weber's picture

I rely on technical info in audio publications to point out any glaring technical deficiencies.

JV's picture

Subjectivist since component matching is so important.

Ralph Perrini's picture

Since there are no places an audiophile can go to do the kind of testing objectivists would like, subjective evaluation is the only practical way the vast majority of us can make a judgement.

Stephen Curling's picture

One's personal preferences must be added to the equation along with the physical data in order to establish some kind of reference between components.

Nicholas Fulford's picture

If art effects me emotionally, or challenges my beliefs and thoughts; I consider it valid art. The question is: Am I listening to music or a medium? Both. Am I being objective or subjective? Again, both. The equipment and environment are part of the experience, and while they may be objectively considered, that which is presented through them is art, which is highly subjective. Perhaps it would be different if I only listened to Morse code, but then who would care about the quality of reproduction?

CSO's picture

If it sounds good, it is good.

David L.  Wyatt jr.'s picture

I was trained in grad school to be an empiricist, and I think the same things ought to apply in audio. Let's face it, tweaking is fun and the placebo effect does apply. How else could Shun Mook exist? A lot of audio talk is just that, talk.

M.S.'s picture

I like what I like, but I can develop a tste for new things.

Bob Jordan's picture

All audio equipment, reqardless of price, will add some coloration to the final output. If it doesn't sound as you wish it would, no spec sheet will ever make you think it sounds better.